Number of People Nice Enough to Stop By....

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Recap 12/30 Live by the Sword, and beat the Sabres

Finally!  Back to back wins.  Now that's more like it.  It could possibly be the beginning of something good.  For those of you who might be a bit confused let THIS be your guide to what I'm talking about.

Won't bother with a full rundown--anyone who saw the game knows what went down.  And for anyone who didn't, well here's pretty much how it went:

Early PP goal by the Captain to set the pace, with some help from Christian Erhoff
Lots of fighting, hitting, and tough play in the first period
Backi gets a pretty tic-tac-toe goal, his career 100th,and makes it 2-0
The screw up fest begins as the Caps sit back and let the Sabres dictate the play
Result--outshot 24-10 for last two periods and one goal against
Only one GA? Why?  Because Evil Kounevil has his swagger back, that's why
Caps only committed one minor the whole way, naturally they killed it off
On the same note, Joe B and Locker mentioned that Dmitry Orlov, in his 18 games in DC has Zero (0) PIM
Mr. Semin, are you taking notes?
You are?  Good.  We thank you for the assist on the last goal
And we thank you, Captain Ovechkin for bringing the thrill back to Verizon Center
It must have been a good night--Roman Hamrlik even had an assist, two blocked shots and a hit
King Karl got his customary four blocked shots
One case where plus/minus doesn't tell the whole story--Brooks Laich
So except for the middle 25 to 35 minutes of the game, a great win

Call this one afternoon quickie if you have to.  Try explaining that one to the kiddies....

So now it's off to Columbus and the NHL's perennial whipping boy, the last-place Blue Jackets.  As in dead last...in the league.  This could be a tale of two games: great opportunity exists for another win, and yet it's just as great an opportunity for a letdown.

Already there's some news as far as the lineup:  Last night Cody Eakin was recalled from Hershey.  The consensus that he's to serve as a spare forward with Matty Perreault still hobbled.  In even bigger news, guess who will be in the lineup for the first time in a long time?  According to the PreCap show it's Jeff Schultz, with John Erskine to sit.  A chance for redemption no doubt and against a low-quality opponent.  This is most likely Sergeant Steady's last chance to shine for the new coach.

The optimism is growing and the Caps seem to be shaking off the doubt. Last night proved that they don't have to play perfectly for 60 minutes as long as they believe in each other.  And of course it didn't hurt that the goaltending came through...again.  Which is something they haven't had in a while.  So we have the offense clicking, the defense clamping down, the goalies playing their level best and even the special teams chipping in. The time is ripe for a long-absent winning streak.

It's the Blue Jackets.  Please don't blow it.

On a final note, I could have sworn I heard "Red Solo Cup" last night at the game during a break in the action. It's a safe bet that wherever most people go tonight, there will be plenty of those around.  Some even with beverages designed to make you forget where you are.  Make it a Happy New Year for yourself and those around you--if you happen to have one or more of those drinks tonight, please let someone else do the driving.  We at the Blueliner OnPoint want to keep you around for as long as possible.

I need all the readers and listeners I can get.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Powerplay Point Podcast--Show #3

A few days overdue, yes I know.  But given the holidays and all the niceties that go with it and....you get the idea.

Anyway here's another review of the past month's events both around the NHL and with your favorite team and mine...enjoy:

http://blueliner77.podbean.com/2011/12/29/show-3/

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recap 12/28 vs New York Rangers

Aaaaand up we go once again on the roller coaster known as the Washington Capitals 2011-12 season.  At least you can't complain about the result.  This was nearly a carbon copy of the game against Nashville.  One wonders whether or not they can make more like these.  Observations are nigh......

The lone goal that was given up--Have we or have we not seen this before?  Hard shot from the point, which results in a block.  This is turn results in a turnover into the neutral zone, which in turn results in an odd-man rush the other way.  End result?  Puck in the back of the Capitals' net and the sound of 18,000-plus people letting out a frustrated groan.  Again. Might want to try faking those shots sometimes, boys.

Otherwise it was a pretty good game between two teams that seem similar on paper.  Some speed, a good transition game, star power at the forward position.  Although I wonder what the result would have been had Coach Tortorella decided to start Henrik Lundquist instead of Martin Biron.

How about Sasha Semin?  Good indeed!  Did he look motivated or what? That was no doubt his best all-around game ever.  Backcheck and forecheck, he did it all.  What more can you ask?  Oh yeah goals--in this case two of them!  Ably set up by his partner in crime, El Capitano himself, he had his first of what I'm praying will be many multiple-goal games this season.

Another Capital who was on a mission was Tomas Vokoun.  Remember him?  You won't forget now after his latest effort--31 stops on 32 shots. He stopped just about everything that came his way.  All of the easy ones he should have gotten and all of the tough ones he needed to get.  Most importantly he was clutch in the third period, stopping all 15 shots that came at him. Does he want his job back?  I would say yes.  He and Michal Neuvirth may both be Czech, but they're certainly not brothers.

While not the first, second, or third star, he played like he should have been one of the three.  I'm talking about Jeff Halpern of course.  It was his hard work that led to Marcus Johansson's opener and he also had a hand in the game-winning goal by Troy Brouwer.  He's continuing to surge in importance and keeps showing why he deserves his extra ice time. He's a gopher, scooping the puck out from wherever to either kill off a cycle when on defense or create chances when on offense.  Here's a thought--you can have him at center, put him with a winger that can move the puck like say a Jason Chimera or a Brooks Laich. Put those two together with Mike Knuble for some extra havoc in front of the net and you just might have something there. No, my last name is not "Hunter."

Speaking of Knuble, I have to join the chorus that is collectively scratching its head over the man's ice time. Last night he got only 9 minutes and 25 seconds of playing time.  Only the returning Jay Beagle got less.  I like so many others haven't the foggiest why this continues to be. Unless of course the logic is to save him for a late season push.  By which time it may be a too-late season push.

Karl Alzner may not have had his best games recently, but the man is still a stud.  Case in point--last night he finished a plus three, the highest of all Capitals in the game and added an assist.  Forget that first penalty--in my opinion it was suspect to say the least.  Add in his four blocked shots and he still had a hell of a game.  Makes me feel bad that I tried to trade him recently.  No, my last name is not "Milbury."

Dennis Wideman meanwhile had a relatively quiet game for his game-high 25:47 TOI..   This excludes that elbowing call he took, of course. All things considered, I guess that's a good thing.

It's good to know that when Jason Chimera doesn't score, there are others who can.  Even if if takes them several chances after missing open nets like Troy Brouwer did.  Sorry Troy, had to toss that one in there!

The Penalty Killers got their swagger back.  They almost let one in towards the end but got a break when Ryan Callahan momentarily forgot he was playing for the Rangers and not the New York Red Bulls.  Five PP chances for the Rangers (some very much deserved, others, not so much) and they killed them all.

Brad Richards of the Rangers had a terrible night, finishing minus three and getting just four shots on goal.  Not to mention getting run over by Alex Ovechkin which led to Semin's first goal.  This tells me that Dale Hunter was able to take advantage of having the last change to get the matchup he wanted.  Now if only we could get a similar result on the road, where the team has a certain, shall we say, phobia about winning. Not easy but they have to find a way to get things turned around.

Spectacular game overall in front of the home crowd.  And here I go again:  I'm happy with the result of course, but we have seen this before. They get a big win again a club ahead of them in the standings, then a letdown in the next game.  Sp pardon my skepticism, but let's see some wins strung together before we get too excited this time.

So here's my final question--do we keep riding up the hill or are we headed for another huge, stomach-turning dip?

PS---I and my co-workers would like to take this time to thank Alexander Semin and Papa John's for the reduced price pizza!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Recap 12/20 vs Nashville Predators

A win.  Now there's a novel concept.

Okay, I'll dispense with my usual sarcasm because that was actually a damn good game the nation's Capitals played last night.  So I'm happy.  Or should I be?  Forget it, I'll just enjoy this one and wait to see what happens Friday against the Devils.  But before that....

Here's something for the "I-can't-believe-it's-finally-happened" category: Roman Hamrlik got an assist.  For those of you who are rubbing you eyes and not believing it, let me say it again.  Roman Hamrlik got an assist last night.  Only took him what 28 games to do it?  Better late than never I suppose.

How about that goal by the Captain?  Slowly but surely he's getting back into form; in the closest thing I can scrape together as a scoring streak he's got goals in three out of the last six games.  Kind of a convoluted version of a scoring streak, but right now I'll take it.  Even better, as opposed to they type of goals he was scoring earlier in the year, he used his speed and skill to undress rookie defenseman Jonathon Blum at the blueline, race into the zone and slip it past Anders Lindback.  Classic. More of that, and quick!  And let the haters be damned....

Even more good news is the fact that Alexander Semin scored.  This will make back-to-back games for Sasha.  Like I said, grasping at streaks here, but I'll take it.  The goal capped off a schizophrenic night for Semin as he had earlier been called for an inexplicable boarding penalty against Jordin Tootoo.  I don't know about you, but Tootoo is the LAST guy I would want to mess with. Kinda like trying to punch a fire hydrant.  As has been said, Sasha taketh, and Sasha giveth back.

Loved the setup on that goal by Marcus Johansson.  A pretty crisscross pass to Semin who unleashed that patented, smooth-as-silk wrister that tucked in just over Lindback's glove and under the crossbar.  Funny thing was, wasn't Alex Ovechkin supposed to be on Johansson's opposite wing?  Not that I'm complaining but that was Coach Hunter's plan so I understood it. In any case, MJ90 may not have scored himself but he had a pretty good game collecting two assists.

The star of the game was, as he has been all season, was Nicklas Backstrom.  A workman like goal he got by crashing the net and following through on a wraparound.  He also started the breakout that led to Semin's goal.  In fact, about the only thing his line would do wrong would be not clearing the zone in the fifth minute of the the third, which led to the lone Nashville goal.  The loss of Mike Green may be hampering, but were it not for Backstrom's consistent play, it's safe to say the season would pretty much be in the toilet.

Have to mention Michal Neuvirth of course, Neuvy just keeps chugging along, making the timely saves, even looking spectacular at times.  He stopped 20 out of 21 and never seemed to be out of sync, even when his team had those long sustained drives in the other end.  Hot hand indeed. This spells bad news for Tomas Vokoun naturally (and my fantasy hopes too!) but at this point it's no contest who the Caps would rather play in front of.

Even the special teams chimed in, with the Penalty Kill unit continuing their awesome work.  They completely stifled what has been the NHL's best power play over the past month.  The Caps have now gone five full games without giving up a power play goal.  Yes that includes that horrible game against the Flyers.  Meanwhile, the power play added a marker from Troy Brouwer to improve to 17.2% efficiency.  This puts them in the extreme center of the league.  Of course, assuming they survive to play for the Cup, this can always change.

On a personal note--THANK YOU FOR THE PIZZA, TROY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My coworkers enjoyed it.

The Caps have certainly had dominating performances before in the season so far. So while personally I'm still skeptical about their having finally turned the corner, I'm willing to hold out more than a little hope. Consider that, with the exception of the Flyers game, the Caps have given up no more than two goals in each contest.  The defense has adapted and the offense seems to be catching up.  But we all know the Caps need to play better than .500 hockey if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Recap 12/17 Rocky Mountain Slide

Not much to this one, only three goals combined and lots of tight defensive play.  A Dale Hunter type of game for sure, except they didn't come away with a win for Dale Hunter.

That first goal probably defines this season.  It comes out of nowhere and everybody, most of all the goalie is left standing around wondering what the hell happened.  It was scored by an Avalanche winger by the name of Cody McLeod who apparently hadn't scored in some 37 games.  Maybe Michal Neuvirth had his head in the McLeods on that one for all we know. The winning goal was scored by defenseman Erik Johnson.  He broke a 38 game goal scoring drought with that one.  You know the moral of this story as well as I do:  In a slump?  Play the Caps, we'll help you out.

To be fair the defensive game for the Caps was otherwise stellar.  They could have allowed a few less shots, but it wasn't as if they played a horrible game.  Of course it was two lapses in concentration totaling just over a minute's worth of game time that did them in.  But in the NHL, that's how fast things happen.

Speaking of slump, it was nice to see Alexander Semin get on the board finally after so long.  Too bad his goal only held up for all of 54 seconds. Something else from the "Fat Lot of Good that Did" department:
Marcus Johansson was the only Cap who finished the game winning more than half of his faceoff draws.

Semin has proven to be a streaky player in his days here.  We had all better hope that he gets on another hot streak because the rest of the offense has suddenly (well maybe not suddenly) gone cold.

Jeff Schultz was scratched again last night...no surprise there.  Barring an injury I think we've seen the last of him for this year.  Now if only someone were willing to pick up the last two years of that contract he's on....

It was hard not to get fired up watching Matt Hendricks in his scrap with Cody McLeod, got to love the never-say-die mentality.  But it needs to become a bit more infectious and believe it or not, time is already starting to run out as we're approaching the halfway point of the season.

According to Joe B and Locker, Matthieu Perreault had to leave the game due to an illness.  Hope that includes being sick of having no offensive impact.

While the Caps didn't get blown out, the end result is still the same.  This was a game where they should have come away with at least a point, but failed.  If they miss the playoffs--and it's beginning to look like they're on pace to do so--they can look back on games like this and figure out why.

Just to let you know, yes I realize I've included some extra sarcasm in my commentary.  It's only because I figured the Caps could start building something good off of the crowd-quieting win against the Jets.  They didn't.  One has to wonder whether or not that will be the hallmark of this year's Washington Capitals--snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  They were playing a team that's damn near scraping the bottom of their conference and they let them walk away with the two points.

When are they finally going to look in the mirror and figure it out?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Point Shots from around the League

A tour of the NHL, B.OP style.....so much garrr-bazh has gone on in the last week or so...

The Philadelphia Flyers have now lost both Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger.  Giroux for nobody knows how long, and Pronger possibly for good.  And yet they keep on winning.  One wonders for how long.  A better question would be how long before Paul Holmgren decides to shore up his backline corps through a potential trade.

Lots of eyes as well as ears on Teemu Selanne's much anticipated homecoming to Winnipeg.  I for one wouldn't be surprised if the fans there boo the hell out of him the whole game.

Fresh off the wire--the Montreal Canadiens have become the latest team to give their coach walking papers.  That's right, Jacques Martin, he of the miracle 2010 playoff run, is now the former coach of Les Habitants.
The interim coach, Randy Cunneyworth, immediately faces a language barrier.  Not exactly a good first step. Here's a good first phrase:  Je deteste perdre.  It means, "I hate losing."

From the "so sad I had to laugh but not really" department.  First we have one of my least favorite people Matthew Barnaby making an ass out of himself with his vehicular antics and possibly getting deported.  Now we have another idiot talking head who is well known for his hatred of the Caps in trouble with the law.  Mad Mike Milbury it seems has finally met his equal--a twelve year old.  Seems while serving as the assistant coach of his son's peewee hockey team he interceded on his kid's behalf when he physically assaulted an opposing player who was "jawing" with his son. Not funny, I know.  But what's more surprising in this case?  Is it that he would stoop so low as to manhandle a preteen or that he only managed to be an assistant coach of a peewee team?

The Coyotes' Kyle Turris just recently ended his holdout and signed with his team before the league mandated deadline.  Now he's been dealt to Ottawa for blueliner Dave Rundblad and a draft pick.  You know who figured this would happen and called this?  Doug Stolhand over at the Puck Podcast.  So, Mr. Glenn Healy, please just keep on saying how fans in so-called non-traditional markets know absolutely nothing about hockey.  We all need a good laugh every now and then.

The Sidney Watch, part deux:  Mr. Crosby is out again, obviously not good for the league.  The obvious and painful question is, how long will be long enough before he returns?  Never mind a certain other question that none of us, no matter how we feel about the Pens, wants to ask.

Back to the coaching carousel we go.  So far Davis Payne, Bruce Boudreau (temporarily), Paul Maurice, Randy Carlyle, Terry Murray, and now Jacques Martin have all lost their jobs.  The next?  No, not Columbus' Scott Arniel. Not Calgary's Brent Sutter either.  It'll be Colorado's Joe Sacco.  In a matter of just over 2 seasons, he's gone from low expectations to high, now back to low.  The Avalanche have gone about as far as they'll go with this guy and while he may last the rest of the season, he'll be gone before next season. Too bad for the ex-Cap as the team's woes are more the fault of poor management than anything else.

Lights, Camera, Action!  All of it will be on the Rangers and Flyers for HBO's 24/7 special.  Anybody want to take any wagers on how long it takes before John Tortorella smashes a camera?

The team that gets it done--Minnesota Wild.  Even with Dany Heatley the Wild aren't exactly lighting it up, so they're relying on solid defense and crazy goaltending.  They're second in the league with a Save Percentage over 93%.  It sure would be nice to be able to have something even close to that.....









Friday, December 16, 2011

Recap 12/15 Forget the Jet, We're Riding the Neuvy Train

Obvious point of the day....This article's theme: Vehicles

In what was supposed to be a juggernaut of a season, it's become apparent that the Washington Capitals are going to treat their fans to the oddest roller coaster ride ever.  And that's saying something coming from a 34- year fan. Win one game, lose two...Win two games, lose three, then win another game.  Their master plan is either to confuse the hell out of everybody or maybe it's that they have no plan whatsoever.

Last night, thank goodness, they came away with a win.  But no one would be sure until the last few seconds ticked off, which is seemingly the way the Caps like it.  That they can still win the close ones or at least keep games close after the sickening performance against the Flyers earlier this week is encouraging.

Dale Hunter is a master at keeping things simple.  Mark your man, win your battles, do all the little things right.  Keep your end clean, zip it out of your zone and the scoring chances will come.  Can't make it much simpler than that.  Last night's game was probably the most perfect example of that.  Except that the Caps weren't getting it done--at either end, at least not in the first half of the game.  Somehow they still managed to get the result.  As usual I will explain as only as I can.

If you saw just the first period, you were probably wondering when the Caps would ever get out of their zone. The Jets doubled up the Caps in shots and looked dangerous on just about every scoring chance.  There was only one thing that kept the Caps from yet another rout--Michal Neuvirth's goaltending.  More on this later.

Neuvy did have some help.  Help from a Wideman. Dennis lived up to his last name and spread himself wide in order to stop a shot that was going to be a sure goal.  He should have finished a plus one even without being on the ice for the game winner.  The Jets' Mark Stuart would return the favor with an equally spectacular block in the third period on Marcus Johansson.

I hate to harp on the refs too much, but is it possible they were intimidated by the crowd?  Three straight power plays for the Jets...one of them called by a Linesman?  Sounds a bit suspect to me.

Beautiful goal by the Captain.  And it all started with a fantastic takeaway in the neutral zone by Nick Backstrom.  Add in some dazzling skating and stickhandling by Marcus Johansson and you have a game winner. The kid's got wheels better than a Ferrari that's for sure.  All finished off by a well placed shot that slipped in the old five-hole.  Not to be a downer, but it ain't exactly a good thing when it takes Ovie 30 games to reach double digits.  Just saying.  Is he out of the slump?  Who the hell knows, but scoring a goal with 74 seconds left in a game is a good sign.

The most satisfying moment?  That raucous crowd being silenced at the end of the game.  OK, I get that they simply boo everything the opposing team does to try and get under their skin.  But I still say it makes them look foolish.  A lot like a virgin who's finally gotten the hottest girl and has no clue what to do with them. Besides, did it do any good?  Obviously not--look who got the goal.  We get it--you're happy to have your team back.  Now shut up about it.

Michal Neuvirth was the star of the game, stopping all 26 shots.  I think it's too early to say he's played himself back into being at least a 1A and not the backup, but a shutout is a damn fine start.  Especially with the kind of saves he was making--the kind that defy logic.  All of those "how-did-he-get-over-there-so-fast" saves in the first period set the tone for the game. It goes without saying--no confidence in the man in net spells disaster.  That other Czech goalie hasn't exactly inspired confidence lately that's for sure.  But Neuvy's got the juice to carry the load, and much like a reliable pickup truck he won't look flashy doing it but he'll get the job done right.

So we can still win the close ones.  And both teams that gave us the horrible beatdowns (Toronto and Winnipeg) we got them back.  But we're far from figuring out where this team is headed.  The All Star break is a month and a half away.  That would be a good opportunity to do a bit of house cleaning as all the passengers should be sorted out by then.  Until then, the ride just keeps going.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recap 12/13 vs Philadelphia Flyers

I'm not going to waste anyone's time (including mine) with a detailed recap.  While I didn't see the whole game, I saw enough that made me want to vomit.

Ought to call the team the Washington Jeff Halperns.  And why?  Because apparently he was the only one that was even aware there was a game last night.  The whole team should kiss his ass right now.  Yes I'm that disgusted.

Speaking of disgusted, I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that locker room.  Damn I hope Coach Hunter ripped them a new one.

Not that all four goals were his fault, but I think it's time to give Tomas Vokoun an extended vacation.  He's too busy blaming his teammates for the soft goals he's letting in and the million and a half he's getting is starting to seem like even less of a bargain with each passing game.  The only problem is that Michal Neuvirth hasn't exactly looked like a million dollars either.  Time for some Braden Holtby action I would say.

No point in going over the stats, as I said--everybody sucked with the possible exception of Jeff Halpern.

By the way, if you want to score it might help if you SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK!


Why is it this team always forgets what it is they can do to win?

Next up is a rematch with yet another team that humiliated them--the reborn Jets.  No more nights off gents, get it done or get your golfing gear.

You'll excuse me now as I have to pay my respects to the God known as Kohler.  This team is causing me to lose a lot more than my lunch!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Recap 12/9 Sometimes You Need a Wideman to Turn on the Power and Blow Away the Leafs

Now THAT was definitely more like it!

Four goals on the power play? Unbelievable.  And a tour de chapeau by Dennis Wideman.  Never have I been prouder to call my blog the Power Play Point as that's exactly where he scored all three goals from.

Yes I understand it's still possible that Wideman's third goal could still be credited to Brooks Laich, but let me enjoy the moment, OK?  OK.

Speaking of Brooks, he was this game's unsung hero.  Anyone else see the punishment he took as the the traffic man in front of the Toronto net? Especially on Nicklas Backstrom's game winner? That's more of that classic Dale Hunter-style of play working there--get traffic in front, then get it to the net.  As just about every hockey announcer who has ever parked his or her rear end behind a microphone has said:  "Get it on net and good things will happen."  So if you want goals.......

If there was any doubt about whether or not Jeff Schultz was in Coach Hunter's doghouse, there isn't now.  Less than five minutes on the ice against Ottawa and a healthy scratch tonight.  This is more than the new coach assessing what he's got--he's clearly made his choice. Unfortunately, we're stuck with him and his $2.7 million cap hit for another two years.  I have to say I'm not the least bit surprised by any of this.  Schultz's style of play doesn't exactly instill fear in the opposition for such a big man.  It was thought that he could be a newer version of Hal Gill, but he's just never learned to use his body to shut down opposing forwards the way Gill does.  Can anyone say "buyout"?  Or "bad contract"?

In our "Man Bites Dog" department, Alexander Semin got yet another hooking penalty...I'm yawning already. To his credit, he did draw the high-sticking penalty against Colby Armstrong that led to the game winning goal.  Conveniently enough, the secondary assist went to Semin.  Take the Bad Sasha with the Good Sasha.

Both Jeff Halpern and Marcus Johansson had subpar performances in the faceoff circle.  But we're not going to make a big deal about that. Because, well...it isn't.

Haven't had much to say lately about Tomas Vokoun.  That's because I was taught that when you don't have anything nice to say, you say nothing at all.  He was shaky again on the first goal, something about those sharp angle shots seem to be stumping him.  I'm sure Messers Prior and Kolzig are working with him on that one.  Otherwise, while he may not be spectacular, he been solid at least for the last few games.  And as long as you have the goal support, solid is all you need.

How about Alex Ovechkin giving up the body?  No he only had one hit--I'm talking about the three blocked shots including the stinger in the leg he caught in the second period.  That may have been the turning point in the game because Toronto was looking strong as they had the Caps pinned in their own zone for a while.  That's what a good captain does--leads by example.  More of that to come I'd bet.  Make it a permanent habit.  Um, the effort that is, not the getting stung in the leg.  And the eight shots--love it!  Dusha, Alex, dusha.

It certainly looked like it was rubbing off as the Caps made a whole game out of winning each race and battle along the boards.  That's what leads to penalties being drawn against other teams, which leads to power plays, which leads to scoring chances and.....you get the idea.

Dmitry Orlov had yet another solid game tonight.  He still needs a bit more seasoning, but looks to be ready for the big time if not this season then certain next year.  Meanwhile the Cody Eakin experiment has probably run its course.  Not even six minutes of ice time and he still looks small out there.  And that would be because he is.  He's still a boy playing against men and some more time as a Chocolatier would  serve him well.

Taking a look at the box score you pretty much have to disregard the plus minus numbers since all the offsetting goals were scored on the power play.  Besides, no one on the team finished worse than a minus one.

Gotta get it in while I can: DENNIS WIDEMAN DENNIS WIDEMAN  DENNIS WIDEMAN!!!!!!


I'm loving the overall effort of the team.  There are a few things that could be done better, but the Caps are definitely headed in the right direction if the last seven periods of hockey are any indication.  Believe me I also love it that the power play had an awesome game tonight, but let's not go crazy and declare that it's back to the old days where we could count on a goal every four chances.  We're still a ways from that. But it's nice to know that there's still life in the PP units and they can be called upon to produce.

Next up is an extended weekend break.  Time to heal some bumps and bruises (perhaps several), and then it's Jaromir Jagr and the Flyers.  Jagr, there's a classic voleh for you.

Keep it up, Capitals.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recap 12/7 Once Again, the Senators Have the Cure for DC

Winning is about heart, not just legs.  It's got to be in the right place.
--Lance Armstrong


So have the Washington Capitals found a cure for losing?  Losing games they should be winning, that is?  I don't know if I can answer that, but they took a big step towards that goal last night. They looked like the Capitals of old from top to bottom.  In good ways as well as bad.

When Jeff Halpern scored the first goal, he drove to the net.  Hard. Sounds as if the Brooks Laich philosophy of scoring is taking hold.

Lots of guys were losing the puck when it was at their feet, especially in the defensive zone.  Might want to rid yourselves of that habit, boys.

Yep, Erik Karlsson is absolutely no relation whatsoever to John Carlson. They're not even distant cousins or anything like that.  Just thought you ought to know in case that wasn't cleared up at any time during last night's game or the game on Saturday night.  Or at any other time at all.  Nope, no relation.  None.  Got it?

The Senators first two responses were disturbing to say the least.  Both times the goal scorers treated the Caps' zone coverage like their own personal pylons.  Erik Condra (rhymes with Bondra) in particular made all five skaters look just plain silly.  This is back to back games that this has happened.  This potentially cost them the game.  This....is simply unacceptable from a Dale Hunter-coached team.

Might as well get it out of the way--I'm sure the incident between Chris Neil and Alex Ovechkin was just a misunderstanding.  You see, Alex just temporarily forgot how to poke check and.....
But in all seriousness the officiating was ca-ca last night.  Just awful.  Both refs missed calls and called things that should not have been.  Was Neil pitchforked in the gut?  No sense trying to avoid it--hell yes he was. Should Ovechkin have been called for that?  Definitely.  But I also have no doubt that Neil unnecessarily embellished the result after an obvious delayed reaction to the play.  So at least they got that right. But don't get me started on the other calls, worst of all the second Joel Ward slashing penalty.  Ticky-tack in my opinion.  It would help if the Sens had sticks that also didn't conveniently break so easily.  For the record the referees were Eric Furlatt and Dean Morton.  Don't expect these two to be on the ice anytime after April.  If you know what I mean.

How about Troy Brouwer with the Gordie Howe Hat trick?  Kudos to him especially for going up against a Winchester and doing well.  Not sure how he would have fared against an Uzi. I heard somewhere that he's the first Cap to get once since, wait for it, Jason Chimera two seasons ago.  I'm trying to confirm this.

The Caps even managed to score a power play goal.  Let me say that again--the Capitals scored a power play goal.  It's nice to type a sentence that has "Caps" and "power play" and "goal" in it.

I heard Locker and Joe B as well as Alan May (wouldn't HE look great behind the Caps' bench as well?) after the game mention that the key to the Caps' offense was how quickly they were able to move the puck out of their zone.  The blueline quartet of Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Dmitry Orlov is certainly getting it done.  All except Alzner got at least one assist in the game, but don't feel too badly for King Karl.  He finished a plus two and led everybody in TOI with 27:40 logged. The man is a stud.

But the Caps being the Caps they just HAD to make things exciting late in the game.  Alexander Semin (who else??) took yet another hooking call. Six seconds later, BOOM, Ottawa came within one goal of tying it with over three minutes left.  It was pretty scary up until John Carlson put it away with a seeing-eye shot from his own blueline into the empty net.

We talked about what Ovechkin did wrong, now here's what he did right. First and foremost shooting and lots of it.  Lots of skating and a push to get to the net.  There's a word in Russian that's pronounced Doo-sha:



Its meaning is a cross between "drive" and "soul" and make no mistake the Captain came loaded with both.  The goal he scored was a masterpiece. He owned the ice from the moment he got the puck in the zone until it was in the back of the net.  THAT is the Alex Ovechkin we all know and love (and most Canadians seem to hate).  Well, I say let them.  Because when Alex is getting boos, he's also in your head--believe it.  He only got in one hit (not counting his imitation of Farmer Brown), but I'll take one hit plus seven shots and a goal any day.

This year's edition of the Washington Capitals has surely had its ups and downs.  It's difficult to say whether or not they've finally conquered their rough patch with their new coach.  But I do know this much--if the team that showed up for the third period of these past two games shows up consistently for the rest of the season, we may well see progress like we've never seen before.  Most importantly we will be witness to a team that knows not the meaning of the word quit--a valuable asset to have come playoff time.  They've found their legs and their heart, it's time to go the distance.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Recap 12/5 Sunrise, Florida is not a Good Place to be Left Behind

Let's just get it out in the open--this year's Florida Panthers are clearly not last year's Florida Panthers.  Any evidence to the contrary should have been thrown away after last night.

I'm feeling frustrated yet hopeful.  The game quickly turned into a disaster after about a period and a half, something I've seen more than once in watching gazillions of Caps games.  Sad but true.  So I flipped away from it for a while because it was just too awful to watch.  Turns out it was Holiday Special night.  Nice of Channel 7 to cut out a piece of the classic Charlie Brown Christmas.  Blah.

So being the masochist that I am, I flipped back to the game.  Did the Caps play like they were defeated?  Surprisingly no. Even more surprising was the furious comeback they launched from the last minute of the second period to the end of the game

Too bad it wasn't enough.  Or that it didn't happen earlier.  You have to wonder why hasn't this team learned to put together a 60-minute effort in most of its games.

It all started with a Cody Eakin goal that was classic.  Matthieu Perreault used his speed to set things up in Gretzky's office while Mike Knuble set the screen.  Perreault eventually zipped a pass to Cody Eakin who was waiting in the high slot.  Eakin's shot made it through the maze of Mike Knuble and his defender and into the net.

We should all be a bit perturbed that the first line was actually the worst line.  All three finished with minus 2 each, though Alexander Ovechkin managed four shots and four hits.  Anytime you guys want to chime in would be nice.

John Erskine collected a whopping 17 penalty minutes in his fight with Bracken Kearns and therefore got to watch a good chunk of the game from the locker room.  Keep it up John and you'll pass Alexander Semin in no time.

The goaltending....ehh.  Not sure what the mentality was with starting Neuvirth other than he happened to have the hot hand.  If you can call a win against Ottawa hot.  But he looked way below average last night. The Mike Santorelli goal in particular was suspect.  I'm not sure if there's an injury or what's going on but this is far less than acceptable even from a backup.  It's also far below how Neuvy played last year, begging the question...what happened?

For all the things we've heard about the new emphasis on man-marking, how was it that Tomas Fleischmann was allowed to walk through all five Capitals skaters in the offensive zone then dished off to Steven Weiss for what would inevitably turn out to be the game winner?  I guess I should be thankful though.  Both Steven Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov had a great game which vaulted my fantasy team from fourth in my league to a second place tie.

Speaking of great performances how about John Carlson?  Eight shots, three assists, a plus three and he even took a faceoff (he lost).  Can't ask for much more than that.  Except to have that in every game if possible.

The good thing to take away from all this is that indeed the Caps are very capable of a comeback.  So what we thought was a dormant and anemic offense is obviously very much alive.  And this without a lick of a contribution from the top line.  Good news for when everything finally comes together--which it will.

In closing, I just want to say I truly appreciate the sense of history and tradition that Dale Hunter brings now that he's calling the shots from behind the bench.  But this whole thing of bringing up who he's fought with in the past that he's either coaching with or against now is getting old.  I mean, it was funny maybe the first few times it was mentioned. Not only is it no longer funny, it's just plain irrelevant.

Looking for win number three against the Sens tomorrow night.  Maybe the third times a charm.  Just hope it's better than watching what happened in Sunrise.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recap 12/3 Senators try the Filibuster again, but get cut off in OT

Finally!  A win for Dale Hunter and the Caps.  And you know what?  They actually looked good doing it.  Before that it was back to back 2-1 losses in which their offense looked about as healthy as an anorexic.  A bit of luck sure didn't hurt either as Laich took advantage of  Erik Karlsson stumbling as a result of losing an edge.  This created an odd-man rush, something Dale Hunter's new strategy will empahsize.  Jason Chimera, already a faster than most when they're not on their butts, streaked around him and down the left wing.  He dispatched a brilliant pass to a waiting Laich who promptly put it away.

Speaking of Karlsson (and our Carlson....John) did we we really need to be reminded about 9,742 times that they're NOT related?  Joe, you're off your game a bit.

I was happy with how the game was played.  Yes it's always the how. The Caps owned the game except for perhaps whenever they were on the power play (which needs work like the Baltimore Orioles need pitching).
They were shooting, hitting, skating, backchecking, moving the puck and doing all of it well. Let's see more of that, gents.

Poor Sergei Gonchar can't catch a break.  He ended up a minus 2 and still has to hear the catcalls of the Verizon Center faithful every time he touches the puck. A bit of recent history here: Sergei Gonchar used to be a top D-man for the Caps PO (Pre-Ovechkin).  He had a nasty habit of turning the puck over at the worst possible moment.  Like in overtime in an elimination game of the playoffs.  And since Larry Murphy retired, the taunt for this kind of a problem has since been passed down to Gonchar.  So if you were watching the game and were wondering what that strange whooping noise every time Gonchar had the puck was now you know.

Next up is Florida tomorrow night in a four pointer game.  Time to spring back into the playoff race.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bruce Boudreau, California Dreamin'

Bruce Boudreau didn't have to wait long to get another job...we should all be so lucky.

Was it Ken Hitchcock who said he wouldn't be surprised to see the Bruce behind another bench within 72 hours?  Ought to ask him what today's lottery numbers are!

I couldn't be happier and not just for the obvious reason.  Ryan Getzlaf is on the Bumblers, my fantasy team and he's frigging killing me with his hideous play.  I've been trying to trade the SOB, but no one else in my league wants him.  But now with the Bruce calling the shots in Anaheim, I'm going to bet that his numbers will improve if not skyrocket.  Happy me.

This makes me want to get a Twitter account because I actually heard this late last night on SportsCenter All Night on ESPN radio of all places.  This while I was out.  Of course poor Jay Reynolds had trouble pronouncing Bruce Boudreau's name.  Must be some sort of ingrained thing at ESPN--must screw up everything hockey.

So tonight it's the rejuvenated Pens.  We need to start racking up the wins and tonight is a perfect place to start.  As always, the opening few minutes will be key.  And if anything, if the Caps hope to have ANY chance of winning they need to play as close to mistake free hockey as possible.

Me personally as far as the starting goalie I would put in Neuvy.  Vokoun looks like he's had a rough time of it lately and could probably use a night off.  Besides, there's no doubt that Neuvy gets jazzed for these games against Pittsburgh ever since Disco Dan Bigmouth Bylsma called him a "not very good goalie."  Make it happen, Hunts.

Speaking of hunting, Crosby says he wants to be tested.  While I don't approve of "targeting" players, I say give him what he wants.  Lay a body on him and sooner or later he'll wear down.  Well maybe his legs won't, but his arms will.  And if he doesn't have arms he can't shoot or pass can he?  Don't give him too much respect--we've all seen what he can do if he has enough room to work.

The overall strategy?  Attack, rush back, then counterattack.  Never over commit, even on a power play.  ESPECIALLY on a power play.  THIS MEANS YOU, OVI!

Maybe it's too soon to say the season's on the line, but it sure does feel like it doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recap 11/19 Can't beat the Blues....

Washington Capitals.  There was a team that tried its hardest, it really did.  An honest effort led to...well, not nearly as ugly as loss as last week. Still, it was yet another marker in the "L" column.

I hate to sound like I'm mailing it in, but it's been a pretty hectic week with it being the holidays and all.  Besides, no one does Caps game summaries better than Japers Rink, so here you go.

I will say this much--I liked the overall effort from the game last night. Save for one brief moment when John Carlson had an inexplicable brain fart, that is.

And not that you can ever blame a loss on the refs (Lord knows I've tried) but no penalties called on one team until two and a half minutes left? Puh-leeeeeze.  You CANNOT be serious.   We're talking Blaine Angus level of incompetence.

So far Hunts has an 0-1 record but fear not.  If last night was any indication that the winds of change have shifted then we're due for better days indeed.  Just hoping that those winds blow a bit faster because an old familiar foe comes calling tomorrow night with full force.  Should be a good one.  I hope.

Just a bit more I thought I'd add....I hate to kick someone when they're down, but pushing out Bob Woods was a very good call.  Honestly, I really don't think he added much if anything at all to the Caps.  He ran the defense but seemed little more than a yes-man to the Bruce.  He's built up something of a resume with his AHL results, there's no need to worry about him.  Worst case scenario he'll ride Boudreau's coattails to his next job.  But I'm glad he's gone because it shows the team is serious about a fresh start.  And Jim Johnson will serve as an excellent guide for the D-corps.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is Two-Way the Best Way?

Now that the first phase before blowing up the team has been done, it's time to take a look at how things will be turned around.  It's always been about the how with this team--that's the one constant.  Aside from the coach and that has finally been changed.

So with that said, how should the Caps play it from here on out?  Return to "run and gun"?  Nope, Coach Hunter has already said that's out.  Or is it? Maybe the first task is to build a bridge to the Captain, not to burn it. Hunts has been there himself so he knows the Captain has to be on the coach's side.  I'm not saying turn Ovi totally loose, just let him take chances within reason.  Give him a reason to want to play, to want to adhere to the system, whatever it may be.  Give him the minutes, but make sure they're quality minutes.

If this team has the skill then it merely lacks the will.  If only it were that easy to nail down.  We Caps fans know it's not.  But if  Hunter can get Ovechkin to buy in, so will the rest of the team. That much is easy to figure out.  Ovechkin has said as much that he's not as interested in personal achievements so either he's lying or there is/was some other unseen issue that has made him not want to play hard.  I'm no psychologist so I'm not going to even try figuring that one out.  But if he doesn't see a reason to give it his absolute best why should the rest of the team?

Perhaps the Gretzky approach might help as a different method.  It's not what you think.  Early in his career Wayne Gretzky had a fear of flying. Playing most of career in the Western time zones he obviously learned to deal with it.  But how you ask?  By learning about how the whole thing worked.  On long flights he would sit in the cockpit with the pilot and copilot of the plane and observe them going about their jobs.  The whole science of flight became less of a mystery to him.  So maybe have Ovechkin sit in on a few of the coaches meetings and such and have him bounce some ideas around and see what happens.  Something like that. At the very least keep the lines of communication open.  Anything to help this coach/player relationship get off on the right foot.

Something else I just thought of that's along the same vein.  I wonder how often Ovechkin studies tape of past games.  It might be an eye opener for him.  He could even get his brother Sergei to help him out.  That's his job, analyzing tape....for the Washington Mystics.  Just trying to be original.  But in all seriousness it could help him come up with some new tricks to get around defenses.

None of this is to absolve him of helping to allow a bad situation to get worse.  Far from it.  The onus is still on him to get out there and produce. But what does it prove if the new boss is worse than the old?  Where does that leave the team?  Reason is called for here not so much a hardline approach.  Still, it's on Ovechkin to get it done on the ice. Hunter may just be the guy to coax it out of him from what I hear.  His resume isn't all that bad when you look at it.  He's already turned out future stars like Rick Nash, Corey Perry and Patrick Kane just for example.

So which way will the Caps go?  While it's yet to be determined, one thing is for sure.  Dale Hunter will put his stamp on this team.  And that means a much better effort overall.  By everybody.

Monday, November 28, 2011

So Long, Gabby

And just like that, it's all over.

Geez, couldn't they have waited a week?  I mean I just did my second show and every thing!

Of course I'm joking a bit, because as I said in both the show and my post before that, something had to be done.  I figured it would be more along the lines of a "Come to Jesus" meeting like what Elliot in the Morning was describing.  But it never happened.  Maybe it still needs to happen, because I have a feeling a new voice may not be the tonic the Caps need, but I've been wrong before.

Speaking of that new voice, welcome to Dale Hunter--well known to Caps fans my age and older as the scorer of "the goal."  That's just one reason why his number hangs in the rafters.  His number one quality?  Leadership. Without a doubt, he remains one of the greatest captains in the whole history of the team.  I said one of them, of course I haven't forgotten Yvon Labre and Rod Langway.

Leadership...that's what this team needs.  They're not getting it from the guys on the ice.  They weren't getting it lately from the bench boss, though he genuinely tried his best.  More on this later.

I'm just glad they decided not to go with Mark French from Hershey.  I mean if you think of it that was their go-to solution for literally EVERYTHING.  To wit:

1.  The original--Glen Hanlon not taking you to the next level?  Hire the guy from Hershey.
2.  One of the assistant coaches not working out?  Hire the head coach from Hershey to run the defense.
3.  Not happy with the radio play-by-play announcer?  Hire the guy from Hershey.
4.  Veterans not playing up to their level?  Call up some farmhands from Hershey.

And for the most part, if you look at everything as it is now, not much from that has worked out.  In fact NONE of that has worked out.  I don't much care for John Walton, sorry.

All twentysomething members of the roster should collectively hang their heads in shame.  They got a good coach fired because they just stopped caring.  And though it's not good form to dump on your own in a tough situation, I believe it's called for.  Alex Ovechkin is most to blame for this debacle.  He is the captain.  He knows therefore that he must set a good example for the other members of the team.  There are now no more excuses--this team must look within, just as Boudreau said.  Besides, you've already fired the coach, what else can you do at this point?  Who else can you look to?  Don't even get me started on a trade--too many issues with the salary cap and too many undesirable bodies at this point. Just one thing though--before the season started I said Alexander Semin would be and should probably be gone before season's end.  Could there be more carnage now that the coach has been canned?  Methinks 'tis very possible.

And yet....this team STILL has a long way to go before it even hits rock bottom.  But the Caps better treat this moment like they've already hit rock bottom.  Because they need to start moving upward.  Fast.  So yes there's hope but time is very quickly running out.  There's only one other option left and it will cause the team to go nuclear.  Who of us wants that?  Not I.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Powerplay Point Podcast Show #2

Show #2 of the Powerplay Point Podcast.  My nickname for this one is the "Venting Machine" and if you listen you'll soon hear why.  Follow the link for the description and the download.  For your convenience, it is also available at the iTunes Store.

Enjoy!   And please let me know what you think, good bad or otherwise.

Recap 11/26 Skewered by the Sabres

Here we are again, with back-to-back losses.  No, it's not a streak until it hits three.  That's a matter of fact, not me being optimistic by the way. Because the way the Caps have been playing it certainly looks as if they're headed that way anyway.  I'll be honest, I found it hard to keep interest right after the Sabres third goal of the game.  It really looked like they were going to make a game of it after Jason Chimera's awesome penalty shot goal.  You would think that would have fired the team up. But no. Literally seconds later someone named Zack Kassian (whoever the hell that is) caught Tomas Vokoun napping and pretty much killed all twentysome seconds worth of momentum they had.

This game made the Toronto debacle look like watching a sunset.  I think this team is starting to find new ways to disgust its fans.  For your perusal....

What turned out to be the winning goal was a joke.  Jason Pominville pretty much had what Joe B and Locker would call a "Layup" because amazingly enough, nobody wearing a throwback Caps jersey (on the ice anyway) could figure out where the puck went.  Certainly Dennis Wideman couldn't figure it out.  He was swinging at air like a certain character of a certain TV show that I love.   Just horrible.

Not that Tomas Vokoun was blameless either.  To say he had an off night would be an understatement.  To see him continually play like this is frightening.  That million and a half he's getting paid is starting to look less like a bargain.  But it's nice to know we won't be hearing from his agent anytime soon.

Nick Backstrom a minus FOUR????!!!!?  He gets the Mr. Yuk sticker despite pretty much being the MVP of the quarter-season.  Japers Rink is right--there's almost no sense in having your top line on the ice if they:
A. Can't score and B. Can't keep the other team from scoring.




Speaking of the top line, in games like this there always seems to be a kick in the ol' groin to being down the curtain on things.  This game was no different.  The Caps were on a power play late in the third when everyone's least favorite point man, Alex Ovechkin took his position there, tried to make some sort of cross-ice pass and it was promptly scooped up by Jochen Hecht for the fifth and final damn goal of the game by the Sabres.  So again, a unit that is supposed to score goals is only helping the other team score goals.  See how everything makes good sense when you keep it simple?  Might want to pull a few pages out of that book, gents.

Oh yes, I'm putting an awful lot on the players here.  And why is that? Because ultimately they are the ones one the ice that have to get it done. But what about the coaching?  What is their part in all this? Keeping it simple, the job of the coach is threefold:

1. To get the team prepared before the game
2. To make adjustments during the game when necessary
3. To analyze what went wrong and how to correct problems before they become long term after the game

Sad to say but the Bruce has failed on all three for too many games lately. This team looks out of focus and it was never more apparent when they got their asses handed to them last night.  Boudreau has tried just about everything in the coaching bag of tricks and nothing seems to have any long term effect.  To be sure, I for one (as have many others) applaud his willingness to ensure more accountability throughout the whole lineup. Therefore the players should bear the brunt of the blame.  But if the guy giving the marching orders is being tuned out, well....you need to call a different tune.  And you know what that means.  Not only is everyone thinking it at this point, it's being discussed loudly and openly.

While it would be unfortunate to see him go, you can't argue with what the short and long-term effects could be.  The most classic example of course is the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins.  They were on the edge of missing the playoffs when they fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Dan Bylsma.  The rest is history.  Problem is, who do you replace him with? Do you go inside or outside the organization?  George McPhee has less time than he thinks because before he knows it, it will be the All Star break and if nothing is done by then the season will be lost.

In other words the time to do something is now.  These kind of losses should be the result of an off night, not bad habits that seem to be ingrained.  These guys are playing like the sulking, spoiled fat cats everybody says they are and it's on display for all to see.  The man behind the curtain has been exposed and the players are no longer receiving his commands.  The question is, now that they've looked within, will they solve the problem from without?  It may be the only way at this point. Either way something has to be done because I've honestly never been more ashamed of this team than I am right now.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Howl-la

Back in the win column, I love it!  Except supposedly now we're a team full of squabbling egos.  I'll talk about this in a later post, I want to savor this win right now.  Especiaally since the Caps scored four goals--and you know what that means!

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.  We should not kid ourselves here.  It was a great, hard working character win to be sure.  But it could have gone either way.  Those first two goals were a result of putting the puck on net--always a good thing.  However, they were also the result of some fortunate bounces.  On top of that, they shouldn't have been digging themselves out of a hole caused by what was technically two shorthanded goals.  Yes I know one of them was a penalty shot.  It was a disastrous start to the game to be sure, but at least they overcame it.

THE RUNDOWN:

Matt Hendricks' fight with Kyle Chipchura was the defining moment in the game.  It didn't look like Chipchura exactly volunteered, though. Nevertheless, it was a much needed shot in the arm for the team.

Jeff Schultz redeemed himself at least temporarily.  He set up Cody Eakin's goal and did a much better job keeping his end clean.

You had to feel at least a bit sorry for the Coyotes' David Schlemko when he got that penalty that put his team two men down.  There he was on his knees, making a clearing attempt and it sails over the glass.  Yeah I felt sorry for about five seconds, then I cheered Brooks Laich's power play goal.

Speaking of that goal, it was a good showing (for once) from the Power Play unit.  As much crap as I give Brooks, that was one hell of a goal.  A beautiful drive from the point on the Power Play. Can't beat that with a
bataka bat.

Your Caps goal scorers in order:  John Carlson, Cody Eakin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Brooks Laich. In other words, youth dug them out of the hole and experience closed the deal.  Which makes you wonder--if the Caps have younger legs, how come they look so sluggish sometimes?

Tomas Vokoun wasn't exactly stellar, but he stopped all the shots he needed to.  Sometimes that's all good goaltending is.

Dmitry Orlov's much-awaited debut didn't have its bumpy moments.  He certainly looked like he was fighting off the jitters and actually booted the puck towards Lauri Korpikoski thereby allowing the third (and luckily last) Coyotes goal.  Still, he's worth an extended look-see.  At least as long as some of the blueliner corps
needs rest.

Meanwhile, his fellow Chocolatier, Cody Eakin, had another solid outing scoring one goal and finishing a +2.  Some have said he looks out of place.  I say give him time and he'll do just fine.  Conn Smythe said youth is the easiest way to light a fire under a team.  He was right.

John Carlson is slowly earning his way back to respectability.  He had a much better game overall.  I'm hoping for a return to last year's form.

And that'll do her.  Sorry this was a little late and sloppy, but I'm a bit off my game if you haven't noticed.
Much like our favorite hockey team.

This just in--no recap of our revenge against the Flying Machines.  I will say awesome work to Jason Chimera, who in my eyes has worked himself into a close second as far as being the Caps' MVP at the quarter pole.  He got the OT winner, once a slam dunk for either Messers Green or Ovechkin.  Goodbye firewagon hockey....


Just want to close by wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving.  Please indulge with a little sense, love your family and above all...as always.  ROCK THE RED!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can We Panic Now?

I'm going to dispense with the usual game recap because we all know what happened last night. A freaking disaster is what happened last night. If there are any fans of the PuckPodcast reading this, then you would know that the Caps got "boat raced" (definition #3).   I could spill out every obscenity known to man, I mean I could make a hardened sailor blush right now and it would not even BEGIN to describe how mad I am at this team.

Here's what I saw (and what the box score says):

First of all, any team that plays so poorly that you allow Joffrey f'ing Lupul to be the first star of the game ought to be ashamed.

Jeff Schultz looked like he was skating in mud all night long.  Finished a minus two and it was easy to see why.  A lazy breakout pass led the first goal and lazy play overall the rest of the way.  Shape up, or ship out, Sarge!

Caps had five--count 'em--five power play opportunities and got what Charlie Brown gets for Valentine's Day--nothing.  The power play has been complete suckage this whole losing streak, going a combined 0-for-15 in all four losses.  You want a place to improve?  There's a good start.

Too many undisciplined penalties, leading to three Maple Leaf  power play goals.  'Nuff said.

You know Phil Kessel would eventually get in on the act, which he did with his league 14th.  This kills me to say it, but it's still got to be said: Who's laughing now, Ovi?

PS--Hurry back Mike Green!

Speaking of Mike Green--the game's final knee in the groin?  Dave Steckel scoring the seventh and last goal for the Leafs.  It gets better...it was while shorthanded....AND ON A BREAKAWAY!  I've got dead relatives who move faster than Steckel and could have caught him, but evidently the Caps' power play couldn't.

That's enough of the bad (though I'm sure I could find more), now for some bright spots...with a twist.

The Caps at least made Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson look like a monster and earn the win by firing 40 shots at him.  If only they had made more of their chances.

I guess I'm really reaching here, but the Caps did win the faceoff wars.  In fact every Capitals player who went to the dot more than twice in the game came away with a .500 or better faceoff percentage.  Except of course for Marcus Johansson.  But, as I keep saying...fat lot of good that did.

Incredible as it may seem there were three Capitals who managed to finish the game at a +1 rating.  Karl Alzner, Jason Chimera, and Brooks Laich.  Good on all them, but Toronto's remaining big guns still won the day.  So the old saying is still true--never bring a Swiss Army knife  to a gun fight.

Alexander Semin has given my friend Bryan a nice money-making idea--an office pool for what penalty and when in the game he will be called for in the game.  Okay, now, I'm reaching.

So make it the fourth straight loss, three straight in regulation.  And the last two games have pretty much been lost by the midway point of the game.  I'm not liking this trend at all.  Add to that the fact that this team just doesn't seem to have any sense of direction only compounds the problem, which at this point is more than just not having Mike Green. The Bruce is putting his usual positive spin on things, but really the only good thing we can take away from all this is that it's still early in the season. Which of course means that there is plenty of time for adjustments.  But the Caps are already halfway through matching their horrific eight game losing streak from last year.  Now it's been said that you can't win the Cup within the first two months.  But you can sure as hell lose it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Game recap 11/17 vs. Winnipeg Jets

I'm not as organized as I'd like to be.......call it "Upset Caps' Fan's Syndrome."

Anybody else want to scream?  I sure do.

ONCE AND FOR ALL----PUT A BODY ON EVANDER KANE.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AT LEAST TRY TO GET IN HIS WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey Winnipeggers--you've been back in the league for approximately the amount of time it takes to brew a couple dozen decent cups of coffee.  What that means is, you don't know Ovechkin, nor do you even have a history with him.  So stop with the booing because it makes you sound like the idiots everyone is saying you're not supposed to be.  Just making sure you don't do anything to lose your team. Again. Thank you.

Bruce Boudreau needs to get mad at this team.  I mean like Roger Neilson throwing sticks, Robbie Ftorek throwing this, and so forth.  It may be the only way this team finally listens.

OK, time to see the good--at least Alexander Semin scored before he took a bad penalty.  What is Russian for "undisciplined"?  Baaaaaaaaaaaaaad Sasha.  A thin-skinned ref certainly didn't help his cause.

The Maple Leafs are next up.  And unlike years past they're not pushovers this year.  Still, a win is definitely possible, so let's not go O for Canada again shall we?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Game recap 11/15 Music City Meltdown

Today's title says it all.  But I have to commend the Caps for one thing--they played a solid 56 minutes, the Bruce said as much.  Too bad it's a 60 minute game.

Maybe instead of a bag skate these guys just need to learn how to count.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's sick of this kind of result.  All that effort all game long, wasted.  I mean these guys attacked from all angles--crash the net, perimeter shots, pass plays.  Nashville's goalie Pekka Rinne had an answer for just about everything.  He often does.  Goalie-wise that game was absolutely ridiculous, and I knew it would be.  It's why I started them both (I still have Tomas Vokoun) on my fantasy team and it paid off as the Bumblers earned eight points, leaping ahead to third place.

But, dammit....we still lost the real *&$%@#G game.

I'm doing much of a recap today, I'll leave the detailed analysis to the more expert sites.  Frankly they put it far more succinctly and politely than I ever could.  I will add these two things, however.  First and foremost--if you have a lead late in the game obviously it is your team's responsibility to do everything possible to protect it.  That didn't happen last night.  In fact it barely happened for more than 20 seconds.  It's old school, but back in the day some coaches would practice "situational hockey."  And it's beyond obvious this team needs to learn how to play in the third period, much less play with a lead.

Second, I keep harping on this but only because I keep on finding examples to support my argument.  The game tying goal that was scored by Martin Erat should not have happened.  At least if you believe in the importance of faceoff wins.  Nicklas Backstrom did win the faceoff however.  The win was promptly wiped out by a mistake and then some inexplicably lazy play by the top line.  I understand there may have been some confusion about a possible offsides call.  But we all know the old saying--"You play until the whistle blows.  And then you play some more." Makes our collective jaw drop and go "Whaaaa happened?"

Two points slipped away in a flash.  I'm sure there's some good that came out of it but I can't see it right now. Next up is the Winnipeg Jets.  I have no idea which Caps team will show up here.  Do you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Recap 11/12 Devils May Care

Another Saturday night and I didn't have a win to show for it.  If Bruce Boudreau were an R & B singer that would be his song.    Double frustrating considering the lead the Caps staked themselves to from the off.  Two goals by the first period's end and we were looking good.  All that was needed was a knockout blow.  A knockout blow that never came.

OK, I'm going to have to admit something here.  I did not see the whole game.  I saw up to the part where the Devils made it 2-1 in the second. I was then gradually put to sleep by tactics that reminded me of how the game was played a decade ago when it was called the Dead Puck Era.  I'm not kidding either.  The Caps managed all of two shots the second period. Two.  Unless you have a sniper scope, that kind of odds doesn't win games.  Made for a lot of snoozing from my easy chair, that's for sure.

I woke up in time to see the circus, er shootout.  I was hoping Matt Hendricks would do what he's gotten really good at--bury his first chance. He didn't.  No worries Matt, you'll get a-one and then a-two for your little girl and boy.  But Alex Ovechkin did what he had to do in burying it when it was turn after the Devils got theirs.  By the way, he got 11 hits in the game which is certainly more than this site gets in a week.  Going to have to fix that...so anyway it was back and forth for another few rounds and David Clarkson puts it away.  Crap.

It turned out Ryan Carter got the goal that sent the game beyond regulation.  That's right, the same Ryan Carter whose impression of a dog urinating in mid-flight resulted in Mike Green being out of action yet again. I understand it was a back-to-back game and they may not have been able to do a review in time.  One has to wonder, however, given this new era of supposed transparency from the new disciplinary regime AKA Sheriff Shanahan why no supplementary discipline was handed down. Since no one else seems too outraged about this, I'll end it by asking this:  can we get a video response as to why certain actions are NOT punished?

Now onto what else I saw:

Yes Brooks Laich is versatile.  Yes he can play several different positions. Yes he's proven that he's invaluable to the team because of this.  But no, I am not impressed nor will I ever be.  So can we please, please, please stop with the nauseating outpouring of man-love for him for every little thing he does?  And yes before you say anything, I do understand his importance in the faceoff circle (overrated as that stat may be).  So much so that he managed to take six draws in the game, winning half of them. Obviously he did not play the entire game as a defenseman.  Or is somebody saying that the regular center got kicked out, just happened to be subbed in by Laich, who would conveniently drop back into place on the blueline after the draw?  And that this happened six different times?  I think not.  I jest of course, but I hope you see my point.   It's too much ridiculous fuss over one guy.

The bigger issue at hand is how the now depleted defense corps will get through.  No one on CSN seemed to have a reason why John Erskine was damn-near a game-time decision scratch.  The obvious reason would be that he somehow reinjured himself, which is what it turned out to be. He's day-to-day as is Roman Hamrlik who went out sometime in the second.  Did anyone miss him other than noticing that Dennis Wideman was out there an awful lot?  It could be time for the NHL debut of  Dmitry Orlov.  Of course that still would only leave the team with five healthy defensemen, necessitating another call up.  Sean Collins perhaps?

So the other big question here is, was the Devils' stifling game plan far superior or did the home team simply run out of gas?  Two shots on net in one period isn't funny to be sure.  It's also no way to win a hockey game.
Questions are leading to more questions.  Did the recent "bag skate practice" leave the Caps bereft of a finishing kick?  Will the Bruce find a way to kill off this sudden case of inconsistent play?  I think he will but there needs to be time to heal first; from the physical wounds of course. Unfortunately a date with the Predators at the Rubber Center awaits. Three out of four points ain't bad but there's still much work to be done and it's a long season.

Just my two zinc Lincs.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Recap 11/11 vs New Jersey: Garden State Gamesmanship

While you may not like the convoluted way they got there, you have to love the Caps' return to the winning track.  I could be brief and take only one sentence to describe it all:  Subpar first period, so-so second period (featuring Alex Ovechkin's goal), fantastic finish (Jason Chimera's winner plus Marcus Johansson's follow up).  But I think you all know me better than that as I put my powers of observation to the test.  So with that, here's my take on the win:

Might as well get it all out of the way since it's on all our minds--I'm sure we all gave a collective pucker when Mike Green got hurt in the first period after a collision with the Devils' Ryan Carter. Japers' Rink calls the hit questionable.  I call it downright reckless--the guy had his knee out. Whatever the case, Green's status is once again the same as it was a few days ago--not going to play, so we'll give it a few days.

By the way, in the rematch in our house the Caps need to come out hitting--hard.  Especially by putting a body on both Carter and David Clarkson.  Those two hooligans took too far many liberties without an answer for my liking.

Much is being made of Alex Semin and Cody Eakin becoming the newest members of Boudreau's Benchwarmer Brigade.  I must admit I didn't quite see what Eakin did (or didn't do) to earn the trip, but another Bad Sasha penalty certainly took away the Bruce's smile for a while.  Being a minus one on the first goal probably didn't help his case either.  Most of the other Caps went hard to the net.  Not Sasha.  The Bruce's rule #1--play it my way or you sit.  Tough love indeed, but you cannot argue with the result.

Speaking of results and going hard to the net, it's no coincidence all three goals came as a result of crashing the net.  Ovechkin's opener was a rebound that saw him go with his gut--literally.  Chimera was part power move, part blazing speed, all hard work.  And Johansson's insurance marker was yet another example of his wonderful touch--within ten feet of the net.  All in all, the Caps only put 20 shots on net. I'm thinking that perhaps Semin's benching was perhaps something of a tactical decision as well as a message-sender.  Semin's skills may well have been wasted against the Devils' stifling defense.

The true turning point of the game--when the Caps' penalty kill dug deep and fended off those back-to-back chances at the start of the third period.  Of course that included Chimera's eventual game winner.  But even if it is against one of the worst power play units in the league, you have to be able to rely on your penalty killers in a situation like that.

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to praise the Caps' reinvigorated third period play.  According to the box score, they gave up 16 shots.  It's a damn good thing Evil Kounevil turned away every single one of them. Then again, the Caps' shooters were far more efficient, netting two goals on only four shots.  We should all be so lucky.  Odds are that kind of result won't happen all that often.  Keep the shot totals down, gents, or suffer the consequences.  Like what happened against Dallas.

Whether it was John Walton's call on the drive home or Joe B when I got in, I was hearing far too much of this kid Adam Larsson's name in the play-by-play.  Thank God Captain Ovi finally nailed him at his own blue line and essentially shut him up for the rest of the game.  Need more hard hits like that.

Mentioned the radio call and I sure was surprised to hear a mistake...but not from John Walton. Ben Raby momentarily forgot all about Jeff Halpern being on the fourth line in the intermission recap.  But he recovered nicely when he called it his own "Rick Perry moment."  The only way THAT guy will ever see the White House is if he pays to go on the tour.

Another reason I'm bummed about Mike Green's injury:  I was anticipating the debut of the Shrek pairing.  What's the Shrek pairing you ask?  Why it's a Green Wideman, of course.  Yes I've been saving that one for a bit.

Every serious hockey observer has their "pet peeve" statistic, a stat they think is convoluted (there I go again!) and doesn't have the meaning that others attach to it.  With me, it's faceoff statistics.  Japers Rink likes to point it out for just about every game and that's fine.  While I do understand it has its place, I just don't think it's all that important because in hockey, possession changes hands so quickly, especially when all it takes is a shot.  So to me that pretty much negates the so-called importance of winning a faceoff, at least in the offensive zone.  Sorry if that oversimplifies it for some of you, but that's how I see it.  That said, if there's anything to dislike about Marcus Johansson's game (and that list is dwindling with each game I have to say) it was his 28.6% faceoff percentage.  If this were Kindergarten, that would earn you a Mr. Yuk sticker.

Just have to toss one more in here--Brooks Laich was one of the few players who posted a minus mark.  Guess the ol' Swiss Army Knife could use a bit of sharpening.  But at least he wasn't benched.  Maybe he ought to ask Matt Hendricks if he was seeing double.

The rematch comes home in less than 24 hours.  Everybody get a good night's sleep and come hard at it tomorrow.  And let's all thank our Veterans for all they've done this 11th.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Powerplay Point Podcast Show #1

Hello to those of you nice enough to follow me for however long....

Here's my first ever podcast, bear with all the rough quality--I do promise it'll get better.  Don't be afraid to let me know what you think, because I do want to get better at it.  I've spent the better part of a month or so putting  it together, so I want it to be as good as it can be.  In any case, enjoy.

Listen here.

Recap 11/5 vs. NY Islanders Drip, drip, drip down the drain...

And just when we thought we've seen the absolute best....we get a game like last night.

That stinker was the polar opposite of the Carolina game where the Caps started out slowly, but finished strong and gave a dominant performance like we all know they can.  But for once we'll get the good out of the way first.

Joel Ward opened the scoring with a hell of a goal.  The assists were given to Jeff Halpern and John Carlson, but Ward pretty much got this one on his own.  He chased the puck from behind the net after Carlson's point shot bounced off Rick DiPietro. Then, surrounded by three Islanders in the slot, he then batted the airborne puck down with his right hand, corralled it with his stick and flung a wrister over DiPietro's blocker pad.
If you get a chance to catch it on the highlight reel at the official website or at Japers, please do.  It was a treat to watch.

Speaking of blocker--SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!  I would like to take this opportunity to wish my good friend Liza and the rest of the Garden State Rollergirls good luck on their upcoming season.

At least Alex Ovechkin scored and that was reason enough to hope for a win last night.  They usually do well when he scores.  He also drew that interference penalty in the third period that led to Brooks Laich's power play goal.  Lots of jump, lots of hustle in those legs last night which is an excellent sign.  But it begs the question--why the hell didn't the rest of the team follow their captain's example?    In fact, Ovechkin's goal, a blast from 50 feet, was so good, it had Islanders fans wishing Rick DiPietro was hurt again.  Well, actually not, but it was the only way I could think of working in my most favorite Podcast game show, courtesy of the Faceoff Hockey Show called (ahem): IS RICK DIPIETRO INNJUURRRRRRRRRREDDD???
In any case what the Islanders fans were calling for apparently was for a certain back up goalie with a certain last name from a certain movie we all love. Enjoy!

Scoring wise we finished with Mr. Human-Swiss-Army-Knife himself, Brooks Laich.  This one was half work of art, half just plain work.  Brooks got the pass from the point from Dennis Wideman, Ovechkin sets up the screen and SNAP, over the glove hand it goes.

All right, now for the bad stuff.

I don't know if Marcus Johansson is participating in the annual Movember charity where men grow a mustache for the month.  But he certainly looked like he had one courtesy of an Islander high stick.  The rule is clear and it's been said about a billion times--you are responsible for your stick.  There simply is no excuse for missing this call.

The rest of it simply came down to utilities.  What do you mean, "What the hell are you talking about?" I mean utilities--water and power.  As in plumbing and energy level.  Ah, I see you are still confused.  Allow me to explain.....

At first it looked like the Caps were going to take this one just by exercising there will.  Problem was they failed to connect with a knockout blow early.  These aren't the Islanders of recent seasons.  Coach Jack Capuano has this team playing competitive hockey night in and night out, something the rest of the league should take note of. So the Caps should have known they weren't going to be in for an easy night.

By about several minutes into the second, the Islanders had taken over the flow of the game and had more energy (see how that works?) By the third period it looked as if the Caps could have used some of this.  The Islanders' P.A.Parenteau and Frans (Ferdinand) Nielsen were all over the ice, and while the Caps didn't look horrible, they were clearly having trouble keeping up.  Games in back to back nights will do that to you and it doesn't let up anytime soon.  Next weekend there's the home-and-home with the Devils and the weekend after Stuff-Your-Face day there's another back-to-back set with the Rangers and Sabres.  May as well suck it up, gents.

I've saved most of my venom, however for the chief (but not only) cause of last night's loss.  That being yet another shoddy goaltending effort. Grrrrr.

Three games now out of ten we've called Tomas Vokoun's play into question.  That's not a very good trend even for a non-numbers guy like me.  At least this time he's seemed to have no trouble stopping the puck. But then something would happen.  Does he have some sort of a personal problem?  If so, I have a recommendation. Perhaps something like this would help.

Maybe it was something he ate.  I know this much, sometimes after I eat certain foods--EVERYTHING goes right through me.  Sounds like something still might need fixing though.  If he's feeling up to it, he could probably even do it himself. 



Hope that was enough bathroom humor for everybody.

In addition to a plumber and possibly an electrician, the broadcast could have used somebody else to do the intermission reports.  Can we possibly get somebody else in there that can pronounce the names of NHL players? It's really not that hard.  If you don't know you just ask.  Please do right by us Comcast.

I don't know about you but I feel a little flush.  See you next power play shift.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Game Recap 11/4 Storming the 'Canes

I'll just come out and say it:

The Washington Capitals owned the Carolina Hurricanes last night.

I don't really want to say that the 'Canes were bad, just that the Caps were that good. Now it wasn't all great as the Caps fell behind in the first.  I could have been more, but the refs had their corrective lenses on during Jeff Skinner's attempt at a goal.

I swear there was a six minute portion of the third period where the game was literally tiled in the Hurricanes' end and it looked like they would NEVER get out.  Part of that third period flurry featured the first ever NHL goal by one Cody Eakin.  Which was brought to you by...A good pass from Sasha Semin. What a way to break into the bigs.  Speaking of Sasha, nice move to the net about a few minutes later...would have been sweeter had it gone in.

So sorry 'Canes fans but last night our Jeff was better than your Jeff.

It's really simple--if the Caps can keep up this kind of play, they've got it made.  Power play knocked one home with a laser shot from the point by our favorite American pointman, John Carlson. On behalf of my fantasy team...THANK YOU JOHNNY!  Penalty kill even had a good night, shutting down the Carolina power play all four times.

Das Kapitan finished the night with 2 helpers, Nicklas Backstrom got a goal and an assist, but Troy Brouwer also got a goal (the game winner) and an assist in only 12:52 of ice time.  Talk about bang for the buck.

Something else weird--with what was until now the most productive line finished a collective minus three.  Jason, Joel, and Brooks didn't look like they were having too much fun out there, either.  But that's why we thank God, er George, for having a balanced attack.

Good to see John Erskine stand up to Eric Staal.  Hard to miss the fact that Staal wasn't nearly so effective after that.  He was so tough in fact that the Caps only had to make six hits.....wait a minute......?

Michal Neuvirth did much better for himself, stopping 24 out of 25.  He's not playing like a 1A even though he seems to have been pigeonholed in that role for now.

Next up are the men from Long Island and another star Blueliner named Mark Streit.  If the Caps can score early and keep both Streit and Michal Grabner in check, they should have a good chance to win.