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 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 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:

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 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 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 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, 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 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.


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. 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?