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

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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

$#!!!*** My Captain says

I promise you this will be the shortest post I've ever written. Why?  Because it is about a non-issue.  Much ado about nothing. Nada.  Zip. Zero. Call it what you like, but enjoy it while you can because this is the last time it will be discussed on my blog.

I'm speaking of course about the alleged flap between Coach Boudreau and Alex Ovechkin over the latter's temporary benching.  I mentioned it in passing in the last game recap, not knowing certain idiots both in and out of the hockey media would use it as something to talk about.  Well it's time to shut the hell up about it because there's nothing to it.

For the record, yes Alex Ovechkin called the Bruce a "fat F*#%" in reaction to his being left on the bench in the last minute of the game.  What the hell else is he going to do, whistle a happy tune?  Boudreau doesn't care, he got the result he wanted.  Ovi is moving on becuase now he's motivated.  So much an authority as Barry Melrose agrees it's a non-story so why can't eveybody else shut the hell up about it?

What really bothers me is people who weigh in on it without knowing what in fact they're talking about.  If you go here you'll find that it's par for the course.  But I was listening to Elliot in the Morning this AM and his producer Tyler felt like what Ovechkin said was "disrespectful."  Not only that he was "worried this would be the start of a slippery slope that would lead to a rift" between Captain and Coach.  Bullcrap.  Open mouth, insert foot, Tyler--bad on you.  We're not Ovechkin apologists or team apologists--WE JUST KNOW HOCKEY.  If someone is lucky enough to have recovered the audio, you can hear how Elliot shoots down this ludicrous argument with ease.  Besides, does anyone remember Kovalchuklegate?  Or rather, any fallout from it? Yeah, me neither.  Same thing here--a non-issue.  Elliot was right about at least one other thing--the local media around here doesn't know jack crap about hockey.  That's one reason why you've got blogs like Japers' Rink, Kings of Leonsis, and Red Line Station to fill in the gap.

And so what even if there is a so-called rift?  I'll leave you with a short history lesson to explain why it doesn't matter if there is. And it's appropriate because it proves you can have success despite the coach and the players not exactly being butt-buddies.  Sorry Tyler, but you don't have to exchange sweet nothings with your coach or your boss, for that matter to be successful. Scotty Bowman is, without question, the most successful coach the sport has ever seen.  You know what?  His players couldn't stand him. Yet somehow he managed to win 9 Stanley Cups.  You want to read more about it--go here.  So I'll say it one more time--if putting some gluteus maximii to the wooden pony is what the Bruce has to do to get results, then so be it.

Results, folks....that's all that matters.  Ever.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Recap 11/1 vs Anaheim Ducking a Loss

Last night's game was another character win for the team that started out as 25 minutes of questionable play. This of course is not exactly breaking news for we who have followed this team for a while now.  We can't expect every game to be a masterpiece or a dominant effort.  But once again, it's the bad habits that have me shaking my head (and smiling).  So yes, this is another one of those "Yeah we got the win, but....." games.

The first period and a half was pure torture to watch.  Nothing good happened, not if you were a Caps fan anyway.  Somehow I could hear Doug Stolhand of the Puck Podcast snickering as his Ducks built a lead of 3-0. The Caps were giving a decent effort, but were getting caught flat-footed and making passing and positional mistakes.  I heard Locker say something about the first game back from a road trip always being the toughest.  Maybe that was it.  In any case the spirit looked willing, but the flesh was weak.

As awful it it was to watch the Caps failing, it sure didn't look like the on-ice officials were interested in calling penalties.  I can't remember who said it before as I heard it said on one of the podcasts I listen to, but I'm certainly not the only one who feels that Don van Massenhoven is one of the worst, if not the worst referee in the league.  He was ten feet away when Cody Eakin did an involuntary face plant into the glass by the half boards.  Welcome to the NHL, Cody.  Twenty seconds later Alex Semin was tripped up. STILL no call.  The crowd objected loudly in a collective howl I hadn't heard since I walked by that adult bookstore.  That must have woken the refs up because they finally called something when Matthieu Perreault was tripped by Corey Perry a half minute later.

I know Gary Bettman keeps on saying that the refs are constantly evaluated and only the best get to work the playoffs, etc.  I guess there's a "best-of" in anything, even if it's piles of garbage.  Kinda like how even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while. OK rant over

Let's talk face value for a moment.....

Hot in the dot--Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, and Marcus Johansson.
Not so hot--Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich who were a combined 8 for 24.  El Yucko.

Funny though these two sure did come through when needed most.  Laich had a stellar night finishing with a +3 rating and three assists to match. And of course Nick Backstrom pretty much carried the team in the dying minutes of the game, something he's starting to become known for (think first game of the dreaded Montreal series in OT).

Johansson by contrast wasn't so great aside from the the faceoff circle. But let me tell you something--I'm really starting to love this kid's hustle and willingness to get down and dirty in the circle, along the boards or wherever.  His last faceoff he won by sheer guts and determination.

Is anyone else as unimpressed with Roman Hamrlik as I am?  Really, what has the guy contributed and why exactly did we get him?  Wasn't he supposed to be an older and wiser Mike Green?  Do we really need to forget that he is the one that caused this reaction from an angry fan not too long ago?  Piss poor play is excusable in the regular season, but never in the playoffs.  Who better to remind us than a Montreal fan clearly preparing himself for a coronary episode?

There are those out there boo-hooing the development caused by the stir that was the Bruce's decision to move Mike Knuble to the fourth line and bench Ovi for the final shift of regulation.  I've got three words for those people--get over it.  If going with the hot hand equals winning the so be it.  If a guy is unproductive, he will sit.  Sound simple enough, Mr. Bradley?  I hope so, now shut your hole.  That goes double for all the other jackasses who don't know what they're talking about.

Speaking of non-productive it was another Bad night for Sasha.  Minus one rating and practically invisible for the run of the game save for three hits and three shots.  He might be next for the Boudreau Benchwarmer batch. Wonder how well that would go over?  I bet he would learn a whole lot of new English words then, none of which could be printable.

So long Sean Collins....welcome back, John Erskine!  Damn we missed you!  Speaking of the blueliner corps, perhaps Nick Backstrom earned the hard hat, but he would not have gotten there without an excellent keep-in play by Jeff Schultz followed by an alert pass that led to the OT goal. Nice job, Sarge.

And let's finish with the last line of defense, Tomas Vokoun.  This time around the Caps' D-corps did a lot better job of keeping the shots away, yet four goals were surrendered on fifteen shots.  The third one had to be the absolute worst.  The whole damn team pulled an ole routine and Vokoun looked like he never saw it. I have to agree with the Japers' Rink recap--Vokoun looks worn and it's about time for the Bruce to give him a break.  Take a look at the schedule--there's several weekends worth of back-to-back games.  It's a classic breeding ground for injuries.

So ten games in, a healthy record of 8 wins and two losses.  The cracks are already beginning to show, but then so is a hell of a lot of character. It takes a strong foundation to build something great and that just might be what the Caps have here.  So long as they don't take a wrecking ball to it accidentally.