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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ReCap 1/29 vs Ottawa

Maybe it was the Beavertails.  Maybe it was the flight from Dulles.  Perhaps they were held over a ridiculously long time at Customs.  It could be that the officials there forgot all about hockey no thanks to the lockout.  Whatever the reason, the Capitals completely squandered a great start to a game they seemed to be winning handily.  They started out so well, dominating both ends of the ice.  And then over the course or forty or so minutes of play, they faded like an overly bleached pair of jeans.

Perhaps the "O" on the Senators' sweaters were subliminal messages that told the Caps how much they'd have left in the tank by the third period.  Because they certainly looked like they were OUT OF GAS.

Last night was yet another refrain in the song we fans kept singing about this team--why oh why can't they put together a solid 60 minute effort?  That song may have ended on a horribly sour note with a highly dubious penalty handed out to Joel Ward towards the end of the game.  However, as is often said, the good teams tend to rise above bad officiating.  Last night was no exception. I am referring of course to the bad officiating done by Don Van Massenhoven and Wes McCauley.  The truth is that the Capitals had ample opportunity to put the game away despite that and simply did not.

Yet another game where Alex Ovechkin got around 20 minutes of ice time.  Here is what he accomplished: One hit, one minor penalty, and two shots.  In other words, exactly squat.  Perhaps what many are starting to say about him really is true.  Only one man can properly answer the challenge.  But he's only had two points in the first 6 games of this season.  That puts him on pace to finish with 16 points.  I don't have to tell you how embarrassing that is for someone that's supposed to carry this team at times as its Captain.

Wojtek Wolski set up Troy Brouwer's opening goal, but was also on the ice for the equalizing goal by Kyle Turris.  Wojtek giveth and Wojtek taketh away.

The Caps did manage to get a few chances courtesy of two power plays of their own.  But they limited their own opportunities by taking too long to set up.  Then, when they did have a shot on net, Craig Anderson, he of the daunting save percentage and GAA, slammed the door shut for good.  Why he wasn't named the night's First Star is beyond me--all he did was stop 31 of 33 shots.  But make no mistake about it--his performance last year was definitely no fluke.  As long as he is backstopping the Senators, this team has a chance to go far.

The Caps' best player up to this point, Mike Ribiero was far from it for this game.  In addition to having his point streak snapped, he was a minus one defensively.  He was also atrocious in the faceoff circle, only winning one draw...out of ten.

Mercifully this game may spell the end of the Eric Fehr experiment, as Brooks Laich will probably return to the lineup (hopefully) soon.  And by soon I mean for tomorrow night's match against the Maple Leafs.  Meanwhile, for Marcus Johansson, it was another night of nacho nibbling.  If he hasn't gotten the point by now, he probably never will.

Matthieu Perreault...another game, another unneccessary penalty.  He's like Alex Semin without the goals.

So to sum up, the game lasts for three full periods of 20 minutes each.  It is also played on a surface that is 200 feet long.  So all this team has to do, is figure out how to play like they did for the first 18 minutes for the entire 60 minutes of regulation.  And do that over all 200 feet of the playing surface.  Simple, right?  If only.

Matt Hendricks is showing them the way....but nobody is following.  If the rest of the team had his heart, they'd be running away with the whole thing instead of foundering.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

ReCap 1/27 vs Buffalo: Goodbye Goose Egg!

It didn't always look great. It wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch.  And it certainly wasn't what was expected at this point in the season.  But the drought is finally over, the Caps finally got their first win in five tries this season.

Of course I'm deliriously happy.  I'm literally jumping up and down.  But I'm keeping it inside.  Goodbye goose egg from the win column, hello reality. Because there's still work to do, and lots of it.

I will of course begin with the good.  Let's get the obvious one out of the way, that being who authored the game winner. Actually it's the who and how that is giving us Caps fans some hope.  El Capitano himself, Alex Ovechkin looked like the Great Eight of old with a blast from the left point (that's right the left point) on the power play.  Shame though that it took him five games to get on the board. Now that the tinkering appears to be over, he should be able to get back to doing what he does best--driving to the net, creating chances and getting his customary 4-8 shots a game, right?  Right?  Left?

Speaking of shot totals, the Caps got good results and finished the game with 30 shots on net.  Good things happen when you get the puck to the net.  Have I said this before?  If I haven't I know someone else has.  At least 4,000 times.

It was a much better overall effort by the team, the beginnings of which we saw in the previous game against New Jersey.  Much better effort overall especially on the forecheck and puck pursuit.  And though the defensive side had a shaky start, giving up 24 shots through three periods is far better.

Joel Ward continues a comeback season of sorts, getting his third goal of the season.  Comeback?  No, not really because he never really went anywhere.  That's right, I'm looking in your direction those of you that wrote him off because he spent most of his time on the fourth line last season.  With haughty derision, I might add. As Mike Vogel said during the radio broadcast, put him in the hands of a coach that knows how to use him effectively, and he will produce.  He proved that in the playoffs. He's proving it now. Oh yeah, by the way, he added an assist making him one of three Caps finishing with a multi-point total for the game.  The others were.....

Mike Ribiero who is also continuing what hopefully is a trend that lasts all season and beyond--at least one point in every game he's played.  Against the Sabres today, he began the play that led to both the first and third goals.  Conveniently, he also went 7 for 11 in faceoffs.  Let us also not forget the third multi-pointer in Jason Chimera who earned his first two points of the season with his usual brand of panther-like speed and strong play along the boards.  Together, these three have easily proven to be the best line combination Coach Oates has put together so far.  More of that, please.

Mike Green = minute muncher.  Upwards of 28 on the ice for this game. On top of that, he was double-shifted by defensive Coach Calle Johansson at the end.  Too early to call him Iron Mike, but great to see nonetheless.

Great not to see was Marcus Johansson on the ice.  Whether this proves to be a message sent due his all-too-familiar ineffectiveness or a permanent thing, you can't argue with the result.  Not as much so for Tom Poti, though.  But he may get another look as the season wears on.  Call him a decent insurance policy for the playoff run.

Finally, cheers to a 22-save effort by Michal Neuvirth, who has by now earned the title of hot goalie and will therefore be the go-to guy for the foreseeable future.  But fear not, Braden Holtby fans, as a 48-game season is still long enough to wear out one goalie and so he will be sure to get another look later on.  Neuvirth in the meantime, continues to make the game-preserving efforts. His penultimate save came on a point-blank chance from Sabres rookie Mikhail Grigorenko in the third period.

Now for the was yet another rocky start for the whole team, especially on the defensive side of the puck.  Yet again they left the ice after the first period giving up a double-digit shot total.  John Erskine contributed a surprise goal and was a good counter to the Sabres new-found physical game.  But John Carlson still looks somewhat lost on the ice and not very confident in either his puckhandling or positioning. Too many times, what should have been a smooth first pass has been a bobble at his own blueline. Karl Alzner, meanwhile seems to have found his groove but must now get used to playing with new partners as the Caps brain trust seems to want to keep things fluid a far as the defensive pairings go.  Either way, both Carlson and Alzner will need to get their game going if the Caps are to continue to improve.

The Caps did a much better job staying out of the penalty box this time and killed off both Buffalo power plays.  And while it's true that your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, he doesn't have to be your only penalty killer.  More than I cared to see, Neuvy had to come up with the big save because the Caps couldn't clear the puck out of their zone.  This more than anything has to get better before much longer.

Matthieu Perreault has tried to make a case for himself for a larger role on the team for some time now.  But a larger role under Coach Oates means you have responsibilities at both ends of the ice.  Perreault appeared to have momentarily forgotten that on the Sabres final goal.  Not only did he lose his draw against Marcus Foligno, he covered him poorly enabling Foligno to get around him in his own zone, which led to the goal. That kind of effort gets you a bowl full of pretzels in the press box, Perreault.

Results are all that are going to matter, though, no matter the looks from the old rear-view.  And the end result after today's win:  out of the Eastern Conference cellar.  Out of the Southeast division cellar as well. Now begins what will hopefully be a long climb towards the top of both. Forty-three games to go.  Now that you've tasted victory, it's time to keep it going.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

ReCap 1/25 vs. New Jersey: Caps Make a Point, but Devils Get Their Due

Still not pressing the panic button over here at Blueliner's Bunker (AKA my humble abode).  In fact, I may have pulled my hand away from the big red switch of AAAAAAAAGGGGHHHH! for the time being.  Yes the playbook that had appeared in the previous three games yet again reared its ugly head.  To explain:

1. Play well enough in the first 10 minutes or so as a start.
2. Give up a goal and fall behind after said good start.
3. Get yourselves into penalty trouble and fall even further behind.
4. Get a late goal to make it look somewhat respectable.

But this time Coach Oates was able to find that spark that had been eluding him and his team so far. At least between steps 3 and 4.  The Caps stuck to their guns and through a lot of determined and gritty play, eventually forced overtime on a Mike Green goal with 2:56 left in the third.

Game Extended, Green.  Not as good as "Game Over, Green" but I will take it.  Let's hope this means he's back for good.  His shot and skating certainly look like it.

As Coach Oates mentioned in his postgame presser, both goalies played very well last night.  But Michal Neuvirth was on fire last night.  The Caps found themselves in penalty trouble early in the extra session that forced them to kill off a dreaded 4-on-3 against one of the league most consistent, if not dangerous, power play units in the Devils. Neuvirth was amazing, covering as many angles as he could.  The ones he didn't he recovered with near-perfect lateral movement.

By the way, the Caps performance on that very same penalty kill is yet another reason for hanging on to optimism.  They did everything right blocking shots and standing their ground, and when they did lapse, Neuvirth was there to make the key stop.  Inevitably, they would kill off the disadvantage, even surviving Jay Beagle's stick breaking.  And though he would eventually give up the winner off Ilya Kovalchuk's patented sharp angle blast, Neuvirth did well for himself by finishing with 32 saves, eight of which came in the OT session.

Whoever picked the three stars last night, a suggestion: lay off the controlled substances.  Are you serious?  Jacob Josefson as the third star? And neither one of the goalies who each put on a spectacular show as one of the three stars?  Come on.

Faceoff performance has been something of a weak spot (among others) but was much improved last night. All but two Caps either broke even or won the majority of their draws...except for two.  Mike Ribeiro was one of them.  Can you guess the other?  I'll give you a hint, his name rhymes with "Choke-Man-Son."  No, not the assistant coach.  Ribiero can at least be excused as he potted the first of the Caps' two regulation goals.  The other.....yeah, not going there today.  We've beaten that horse to death.

What I liked was the surge in the Caps' effort in the last period.  Though they were down by two, they upped the intensity of their attack.  This in turn led to a couple of power play chances, one of which would be converted by Mike Ribiero.  In all, they would launch 13 shots at Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur, one short of their combined total from the first two periods.  It was a hell of a lot more fun to watch than their usual half-assing that we've been treated to in the previous games.

Of course there's still more work to be done.  Though the Caps got the loser point, they remain, well, losers. Four games in and one point and no wins to show for it isn't very good, but it can be turned around.  And the Caps seemingly are on the way to doing that.  But they will really have to start earning it as the road gets increasingly tougher: back home against a gritty Buffalo squad, then a quick road trip into Canada to play Ottawa then Toronto.  Good things are starting to happen, let's see if they can keep it going.

Friday, January 25, 2013

ReCap 1/24 vs Montreal

OK, I'm not panicking just yet.  But I'm damn sure not happy with what I'm seeing.

You can't chalk up the kind of sloppy play that was the Capitals' effort last night to just another round of lethargy.  Not only is it too easy, it's just not accurate.  Although players missing assignments and being out of position can be the result of being out of game shape, the fact that it's happening consistently over the course of several games points to an internal flaw, not just worn parts.

Still...three flops, however colossal, does not a season make.

Last night seemed to be a carbon copy of the game against the Jets.  Hence why I will keep this post short--there's really nothing new I can add! 

Seriously though, it followed the exact same summary, except for the fact that the Caps actually played well in the first period.  But again, they got themselves in penalty trouble and the rest went down the crapper.
And how ironic (as in not the ha-ha type of funny) was it that Matthieu Perreault, who has been grumbling about his role recently, began the parade to the penalty box?  This makes two ill-advised and horribly timed penalties in three games.  Not the way to impress the coaches or the fans, Monsieur quatre-vingt cinq.

And yet you get the sense that this team could be on the verge of righting the ship.  Well, I do anyway. The reason is because there's just too much talent on this team to squander a wide-open opportunity.  There are flashes of brilliance; who'd have thought Joey Crabb would be the only one to get on the board?  Just another example of how the newcomers seem to be leading the way.

I listened to the Capitals Report this morning and I heard Mike Vogel say he wasn't a big fan of Alex Ovechkin playing the Penalty Kill.  I have to say I agree.  I think his talents are better suited to switching him off with your top four wingers and giving him his minutes that way.  By the way, Marcus Johansson would not and should not be among those forwards.  Those familiar with my work should know that I have never really cared for his supposed talents.  Some of the regulars over at Japers Rink call him Marcus Nohandsson.  Last night for the gazillionth time he showed why.  Can we finally cut our losses with this guy?

I remain for the most part optimistic.  But like a fart in the wind, that optimism is fading quickly.  And like a fart, the Caps are becoming scary good at clearing a building early.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

ReCap 1/22 vs Winnipeg: Home Cooking Tastes Terrible

Any one who saw last night's game, well...there's not much that can be said.  The way they played pretty much said it all.  It was yet another Classic Capitals Collapse.

What bothers me is, as much jump as they seemed to have in the season opener against Tampa, they were severely lacking in any urgency or energy last night against the Jets.  Save for perhaps Matt Hendricks (one assist short of a Gordie Howe hat-trick for his efforts).

Al Koken astutely pointed out several key issues during the second intermission.  The two factors contributing the most to this now 0-2 hole are:  1.  The dearth of players that are in actual game shape  2. The complete 180 degree turnaround the team has been asked to do in terms of the system of new coach Adam Oates.  Regarding the latter, it may not be surprising that two of the newcomers (Woltek Wolski and Mike Ribiero) are having the least amount of trouble keeping up with the play, at least in the offensive zone.  Unlearning something and then learning something new can be a million times harder than just learning a new skill.

Losing a home opener and going into a 0-2 hole to start the season is uncharted territory for the Caps.  This 48-game season is going to prove anything but conventional for the entire NHL.  Given that, it would obviously behoove this team to knuckle down and figure things out as quickly as possible.  There are 10 games left to the first quarter pole of the season and it will be there that a true team evaluation can be made.
It's not presumptuous to say that if the Caps aren't faring much better by then, the playoffs may be out of reach.

Look, I get that I'm playing the role of Mr. Obvious here.  But if it were really as simple as correcting the problem, it would have been done by now.  Time is against them, but will also help cure their problems.  As in time spent together as a team and learning where everyone will be on the ice.  Right now, they're still bumbling  like Keystone Kops in their own end.  And we all know what happens then. Also right now they still have the advantage that the other 30 teams haven't pulled away just yet.  But that won't last very long. Especially if this trend continues.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ReCap 1/19 vs. Lightning: Raising the a Storm

While it's certainly good to be back recapping games, I had certainly hoped for better.  To say the Capitals defecated all over themselves would only be a slight understatement, unfortunately.  Overall, the only good thing I can take away from this is that the curtain was finally raised on this season.  We can now see what the Caps' have to offer.

And folks it's sad to say, but it's not much.

I can't really break out the "I-told-you-sos" though this might be an appropriate alternative.  But I can't since I never bothered with a season preview or anything like that.  Now if I had, what I would have said as this was my observation was that this team was headed for failure.  Adam Oates has the potential to be a great coach.  But he needs to figure out a scheme that suits his personnel better.  The up-tempo style he wishes to implement requires a commitment from everybody.  And even when they all buy in there are still risks.

Case in point was Cory Conacher's goal in the third.  Braden Holtby was having more than an off night anyway (more on this later), but he was pretty much left out to dry on this one.  And it was far from the only incident where a Cap would get caught out of position, thus creating the dreaded odd-man rush.  Here's one last hint--try not to let Steven Stamkos alone in front of your net...with the puck!  If your defensemen are going to jump in on the play, they have to be smarter, faster, or both.  Or get help from the forwards somehow.  None of that happened.

The Comcast folks described Oates' philosophy as defense-first.  Really? Well I can't say I saw a whole lot of that last night.  They ended up giving up a total of 34 shots last night.  Not good at all, even if your goalie is on fire, which Mr. Holtby was most certainly not.  What I did see was a fair amount of jump on the offensive side.  At least Captain Ovechkin looked to be on his game again, hitting and shooting.  Only one problem: no goals, no assists and therefore no points in over 25 minutes of ice time. And as we all know, when your best player isn't on the scoresheet (for the right reasons anyway--nice diving penalty, Alex) it's awfully hard to win.

Much has been made about the Caps supposedly being able to get their Power Play on track this season. And so far they're off to a decent start, converting one out of four last night. However, special teams has another side to it and that's the Penalty Kill.  Two goals allowed on six power play chances is not good at all. If the Caps expect to keep up, this has to get better and in a hurry.

Speaking of being shorthanded, there is one great way to not allow power play goals--and that's to not put people in the penalty box in the first damn place.  Can we say lack of discipline?  Two tripping calls plus a roughing minor in the third when you're trailing?  Terrible.

All right, on to what was supposed to be a strength but was clearly the biggest weakness last night--goaltending.  To be sure, neither goalie looked all that sharp last night.  The Lightning's Anders Lindback looked shaky and a bit shellshocked after the first period, but held his ground and kept his team in it.  Braden Holtby on the other hand just looked shaky. Yes he was screened on a couple of goals, but still didn't seem to have his angles covered.  And having that much trouble with your sight lines even after some games in the minors is more than a little concerning.

Yay--Tom Poti made his way back into the lineup after a two-year absence and got an assist.
Boo--He looked a step slow and ended up a minus one.

Games like last night are why no one should have penciled in Holtby as the outright number one this year.  And that's because this is the kind of thing he did last year.  It also gives fuel for those that argued it was the previous coach's system that helped him and not his own stellar play.  Can Holtby bounce back and prove he can handle the more wide-open style or will he end up riding the bench until the playoffs?  Yes of course it's far too early to say "goalie controversy," but at the same time, there are only forty-odd games to work with.  That leaves next to no time for a bad slump.

Again, if there's anything good to take away (other than we have actual NHL hockey again) it was the fact that a lot of the guys had a good amount of jump in their legs at least in the early going.  And who knows? A better bounce here, one less penalty to kill there, the game might be different.  At the very least there was no sign of the lack of effort that was painfully obvious at times last season.  These guys know the intensity level has to bury the needle right from the off.

Look, I get the fact that they have only been a team for six days, and they sure played like it.  But there's not a whole lot of time to work out the rust. Worse, there's precious little time to make adjustments for a system that may or may not work for this team. For example, the coaching staff may want to rethink the ideas of seven defensemen or Ovechkin on the Penalty Kill. But kinks like that have to be worked out on the fly if they want a shot at the playoffs. It's too early to panic, but it's certainly not too early to be concerned.

One down, forty-seven to go.  Next is the home opener is Tuesday night against Winnipeg.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Let There Be Hockey

We are hours away from the dropping of the puck to finally open the 2013 NHL season, the 96th one in its history.  I couldn't let it go however without posting my own response to the (insert laughter) advertised apology recent seen in major news outlets across North America.  Enjoy.

Let there be the donning of home jerseys, t-shirts and costumes.
Let there be footsteps boarding subways, metros, trains, and vehicles.
Let there be that knowing smile between child and parent when their home rink comes into view.
And yes, let there be the ringing of coins and cash and the swiping of cards as the teams collect our hard won wages.

Let the arenas swell with crowds of fans young and old.
Let the ticket takers' smile be like home as they welcome us back.
Let the anticipation be like never before, the buzzing of people like sweet music.
And yes, let there be lines longer than city blocks to all concessions and bathrooms.

Let us all roar when our teams take the ice.
Let there be oohing and aahing as we watch the warmups.
Let there be that familiar wince hearing the puck clink off the glass.
And yes let there be apologetic ceremonies to open a season we once thought was lost.

Let them drop the puck at center ice.
Let there be skating and scoring and sweat towards one common goal.
Let red lights indeed flash and the sirens so sound
And yes let there be the shaking of entire buildings and communities when the home teams score.

Let there be those who watch from far and away.
Let them connect through devices; the fruits of technology's wonder.
Let us all suffer, willingly or not, through talking heads and pundits as they babble and bloviate.
Let us all enjoy this majestic spectacle, a quest for a Cup; this grand dance, this awesomeness that is NHL hockey.

Let's you and me take in a game tonight...because we are hockey fans. And we are part of this greatness.

And the moral of THAT story is, if you're going to say something, think about it first before you say it.

Yes, I feel this strongly about it.  Not as strongly as I do about certain other aspects of life.  See here.  But strong enough to feel pride in a game that sorely needs it. If you're a fan, please indulge to your hearts content...if not, I pity you.  Because to me, this game more than any other is about people.  We make things what they are.  We are the memories that remain when all is said and done and we are what keeps it all going. Which is why it all exists in the first place. Make your game, whatever it is, a good one.  One worth writing about.

You folks who are staying away do as you please, I don't begrudge you. But I know what I'm doing tonight. And most important of all, who I will be with.....

Only one thing left to say...DROP THE DAMN PUCK!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

You Can Wine Me, and You Can Dine Me, but....

So I get an email this fine foggy morning from the team that supposedly contains a "Special Announcement." I figure, ok, I'm game.  I open it up and there it is...this season's schedule!   For my initial reaction to said announcement, please go here and click the play button.

But wait there was more.  Training camp starts on the 13th (that's today, so get out there, those that can and/or want to) which also happens to kick off....CAPITALS FAN APPRECIATION WEEK!  Hubba-whaAAAA???

Week?  Did that really say week?

I swear I had to rub my eyes and read that again.  But yeah, it really said the word "week."  As in seven days.  Seven days.  Insert ominous pause here.


This abomination of a lockout that is supposedly over lasted 113 days. That is well over 16 weeks.  Sixteen weeks of time lost which cannot and will not ever be regained.  And you want to insult our intelligence by trying to fool us into thinking it can all be made up for in the space of a week?  Well, Mr. Theodore John Leonsis, you are going to have to do WAAAAY better than that.

Am I giving you the impression I wasn't feeling the fan appreciation? Good.

I took a minute to calm down and I figured I would read the fine print as it were.  Well the "week" basically consists of a Jan. 17 event at the VC (that's the Verizon Center to you non-Caps hockey folk).  This will be an open practice complete with free food of the diet-ruining mentality.  Also scheduled is a Q & A with "select players," games for the kiddies, plus a meet-and-greet with Caps legends Rod Langway and Peter Bondra.  And there's also the obligatory 20% discount at the Team Store.  Do with that what you will.

The rest of the week consists of a goodwill tour by Slapshot who will be personally giving prizes away in and around the DC area.  There is also a week-long contest at the website for other assorted giveaways including luxury box tickets.  To top it all off, the Capitals will pay for all convenience fees for individual-game tickets purchased through Feb. 13. Take THAT Ticketmaster!

Okay.  Well I had to admit after reading all that it didn't sound too bad....for a first offer.  Come on, Ted.  You're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than that over the course of this season to get back on our collective good side.  If this indeed is your opening salvo then fine, let's see what else you've got.  If not, well, the way this team may be going, you're going to wish you hadn't raised ticket prices last year.  Just saying.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NHL Labor Peace at Last?

Yes the NHL lockout is over....

Oh no, it's not.

That's right, you read me right.  Look, we're all happy (well some of us are anyway) that there is an agreement on the horizon.  At least we want to be.  But let me ask you this--how many times have we been given hope only to be left hanging like a teased and jilted lover?  Yeah, you all know what I'm talking about.

It comes to this--it is NOT over.  Not until all the I's are dotted and the T's crossed.  Not until there's an officially signed agreement that's wet with the ink from the pens of BOTH Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. Not until a majority of the 700+ members of the NHLPA have officially given their approval.  Not until a damn schedule that works around the NBA, gazillions of concerts, and other such gatherings is meticulously worked out.

And most important of all, this thing damn sure isn't over until I see a man with a striped shirt and an orange armband drop a one inch thick, six ounce disk made of frozen vulcanized rubber at center ice in an official NHL game.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to be the one throwing ice water around in a whorehouse, but I will believe it when I finally see it and not one second before.  Much like how Mr. Henry Kissinger once said--peace may be at hand, but it is still not in hand. But assuming we are coming in for a smooth landing, there is one gentleman we NHL fans ought to be thanking. And that's Federal Mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.  The man definitely deserves our undying gratitude for his tireless work. Or at least a new pair of wingtips.