Monday, November 28, 2011

Goodbye Bruce Boudreau...It's Time For A F***ING Adjustment

Since the Capitals got blown by a group of AHL players in Buffalo I have had a hollow feeling deep inside. That was by far the worst work ethic I have ever seen by this team since Glen Hanlon...right before his firing. In the locker room the players reiterated what the coach had been saying, they didn't work hard enough, they lacked confidence, doesn't matter what else...they QUIT on their coach.

Last night as I went to bed I read that former Cap, now hockey analyst, Nick Kypreos had said that Boudreau would be gone within 24-48 hours and that Dale Hunter could be the next coach of the Washington Capitals. As I read through info that other reporters were writing, including that of Puck Daddy, I felt a little assured that Boudreau may once again survive the team's tailspin. What I did know what that if it was going to happen it would be done before the team's next game or after the team's homestand, because they would not give the Penguins the satisfaction of putting the nail in the proverbial coffin of Gabby's tenure in Washington.

Having met Boudreau a few times at Caps events I have always found him to be a jovial guy. He was more like you're crazy uncle, a goofball, who didn't really care how he came across. He has done so many commericals that just left you laughing...I wonder how long before they get pulled.

Four years ago Bruce Boudreau was hired at Thanksgiving. The Capitals were a terrible team at the time, wasting Ovechkin's talents while being bottom dwellers of the league. At the time of Bruce's hiring he had been the coach of the Caps minor league affiliate, Hersehy Bears.  While die hard Caps fans, the whole handful at the time, and Bears fans, may have known who he was, no one else did. A ton of who is this Boudreau fellow articles would pop up in the days after his hiring. He wasn't a big name hire, not that the Caps were a team to do that anyways, but this was a city where the coaches are sometimes more well known than its players (Joe Gibbs, Wes Unseld, Doug Collins). 

After Boudreau came in the team took off, so much so they made the playoffs, thought to be a long shot when he took the job. Boudreau and his wacky quotes, jokes and facial expressions endeared him to the DC media and the Caps fanbase; one that had been lost from the lockout, Jagr acquisition, and fire sale. He was a breath of fresh air to a city who has had a bunch of big name, big ego, no result coaches.  Just last week Boudreau became the quickest coach to win 200 games in his NHL coaching career but that should have been reached weeks earlier.

Last season the Caps struggled leading up to the Winter Classic. Fans called for Boudreau to be fired at that time but the Caps stayed the course, got hot once the HBO cameras finished rolling, and took the top spot in the East again.  Hell this is a team that just two years ago was the BEST team in all of the NHL during the regular season. Unfortunately when it got to the playoffs the team couldn't peform like it did during the season and quickly was taken out either in the first or second round, those most series went 7 games. Some losses came from bad calls and some came from the team failing to adjust.

Adjust - that is the term that will describe Boudreau's tenure in Washington. When he came in the team adjusted, scored and the team quickly became BIG TIME. The Ovechkin vs Crosby rivalry had quickly turned into a pure hatred between both the Caps and Penguins and the NHL decided to Capitalize on it. Two years ago when the Caps were ousted by the 8th seed Canadiens the team failed to adjust its playing style and was elminated in 7 games.  At that time teams learned how to shut down Ovechkin and in turn the Capitals. Back to the drawing board next season and the Caps were to learn from their mistakes.  After some early season struggles, and offensive struggles of Ovechkin and Backstrom the team adopted a defensive play style and learned to score and then clamp down and not try to not win at a fast paced game. It worked! The team got hot and back to the playoffs they went. This time to the second round where they were shut down by the 1-3-1 defense of Tampa Bay because the team failed to adjust throughout the series. The team came back this season and started a team best 7-0-0 but after they smoked the Red Wings something changed. Boudreau had shown he wasn't going to play favorites and that everyone, even the team's captain would be held accountable. That didn't sit well with Ovie, as he demonstrated on the bench, and while he said after the game that he should be and had said in pre-season he'd be fine with it it was obvious that actions do speak louder than words. Since the Caps played Detroit and have been in their free fall the Caps once again did something the they failed to do consistently under Boudreau. They didn't adjust. For consecutive games the team failed to get the puck out of the defensive zone which in turn lead to goals by the opposition. Add to it the team failing on the Power Play and allowing 4 shorthanded goals in the past week it was clear things weren't working.

Many games it seemed like certain players on the team had checked out, mainly the leaders, Ovechkin the Captain being the main one. Whether it be not shooting, not getting back on D, freelancing or giving up on the puck after he lost it in the offensive zone he just wasn't there. I thought after the Caps came back against Phoenix they had turned a corner, I was wrong.

At 8:15am this morning I got a text from Pam telling me Japer's Rink was reporting Boudreau had been fired and Hunter had been hired. Sure enough that was the case and I just felt bad for Bruce. He didn't deserve this. It would appear that he lost the team a while ago, or at least some of them, but if they aren't going to listen its easier to find one fall guy than 25. Maybe this will put coach out of his misery. He can now concentrate on the holidays, watching his kids grow up for the next few weeks or months, and getting Hagen Daas at 9am, rather than having to treat his players like they were kids...and honestly I think that remark by him is what lost the team, but he was correct. There is no doubt Boudreau will find another NHL head coaching job if he wants it. I hope he goes into doing some commentary for a bit, either for CSN Washington or ESPN or the NBC Sports Network or the NHL Network. I also hope he dishes some dirt on what went on behind the scenes and gives his honest take on certain players and how things were run. I'm not sure he will though because that could hamper his chances of getting another job in the NHL but man would it be fun.

Part of me hopes the Caps continue their freefall under former Cap and new coach Dale Hunter, but the Caps fan in me hopes the change in voice leads to a resurrgence. If it doesn't then its more proof that it was the players than the coach, though some will say that Hunter doesn't have any solid coaching experience outside of his 10 years in the OHL and the Caps just wanted to bring in a former player to help stabilize the fan base.

I love Dale Hunter, he was a hell of a player and one of the best Capitals in the team's history. Dale knows what its like to play with that "C" on his chest and how to rally his team. He's going to be able to teach Ovechkin that and he'll lay into his team much like he did his teammates back in the day. He's hard nosed and won't take any shit and I like that. Its a shame that it came to this though. When it comes down to the coach or the players though it'll be the coach 11 times out of 10.

Come next Tuesday I will be picking up the HBO 24/7 Caps vs Pens DVD just to relive some of Bruce's funniest moments. Again I want to thank Bruce for all he did for this team, the players, the fans, and the DMV area. You are once FUCKING good coach who didn't FUCKING deserve to go out the way you did. Its a shame you couldn't get a Cup in DC but I have little doubt if you stick to coaching that you should be able to.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If The Players Won't Drop the Gloves and Throw Punches Then I Will

No more Mr. Nice Caps Fan Blogger.

I haven't updated this in some time because I've just been left dumbstruck by how the team has played. Usually I want to give myself a day or two to sit on the team's performance before I even consider writing. I'm writing this with over 7 minutes remaining in the 2nd period of a current 4-1 deficit to the Maple Leafs.

Having attended the game against New Jersey last Saturday I can say the team was pathetic after the first period and the refs helped them with that by missing some very obvious penalties. This has been a huge thing for the past few games. The refs aren't THE reason a team loses but they can affect the outcome. Case in point the phantom trip call on Wideman in the NJ game, the diving calls on Semin when he's legitimately taken down but he has a reputation, the "missed" calls on trips/hooks/interference when refs are looking right at the play. Against Winnipeg Semin went down behind the net and no penalty got called on the Jets player but Semin did get one for giving the ref an earful. Tonight what should have been a hooking minor on the Leafs and a power play for the Caps was nullified because the ref felt that Semin's would need to sell the hook and chance injury by going feet first into the boards. Moments later the Leafs score.

Despite all this its not why the Caps are losing games by multiple goals. The goalies have been very sharp against the Caps but the Caps kill themselves game in and game out. Caps get Power Plays and then fail to set up or keep the puck in the zone. Failing to get shots off or take penalties early on killing any chance of success. Many are quick to point out that Mike Green is injured so the team doesn't have a major weapon offensively, a puck mover, a guy on the point...BIG FUCKING DEAL!!!! The team has had to win the past few years without Mike Green...they know how to play without him, they have a ton of veteran defensemen that can fill in. They have players in the minors that can be called up.

The Caps are missing two guys, Green (a big piece) and Beagle (easily replaceable). The Devils were missing Kovalchuk...fitting given the fight he and Green had last year, and the Leafs have 7 players out including their awesome starting goalie Reimer. Sad thing is the Caps had the stats against the Leafs backup and he struggled at home this year.

The team is lacking in fundamentals. This is not the same team we saw start the season 7-0-0. That team fucked up and managed to find win, to atone for their mistakes. Now they just bury themselves. Ovechkin continues to regress...everyone knows what he's going to do when he enters the zone and they stop zone in on him and he gives up the puck, if he doesn't lose it beforehand...wild idea Ovie...learn to ADAPT and try something NEW. I honestly think much of his problems Captain...take the C off of him.

The players keep saying that they want to be held accountable for their play but after they are they fail to respond. They aren't learning shit. Ovie sulks, Sasha Fierce continues to live in the penalty box and some others just don't step it up.

In the Winnipeg game the first two goals were scored because the team played like shit in their own zone. They couldn't get the puck out, that's been consistent most of the season, but they didn't even get it out of the corner and then Evander Kane put two past Neuvy. First goal tonight by Toronto came when Schultz tried a lazy pass that hit the coming Leafs player and lead to the score. The Caps continue to be nonchalant in their own zone with the puck as they get pressured and turn it over...quick Boudreau have them work on that in practice. I see it once, during the game, you have the fucking tapes for them to study.

Its not just the players or the injuries its also the coach. You can't have players play two games on the same line, switch it up during the game, and then change the lines in full after the second game trying to find chemistry. Do you know how you gain chemistry? You allow the same players to play on the same lines in practice and in games for weeks, not days at a time. You don't break up Carlson and Alzner, which is your top defensive pair! You don't put Knuble on the 4th line when he and the team are successful when he's on the 1st or 2nd line...and if you do and the team is sucking then you right that wrong and MOVE HIM THE FUCK BACK UP! Great the team is 8-0 with Mike Green...without him you're 2-7-1 after tonight.

The players need to have a players only meeting and call each other out. Just let it fly. Break something, hit something, put in work! Sure they haven't had the puck bouncing their way but they've also had opportunities and missed them. I can't count a handful of times the team has had an open net and either didn't have a  player in position for a rebound or made one too many passes. Hell in the Winnipeg game they had a 2 on 0 breakaway and Laich shot it high and wide, celebrated thinking he scored and it lead to a goal the other way.

I don't want to say the sky is falling as its still mid November but losing can be contagious as can winning. Glen Hanlon lost his job around this time and Bruce took over. I don't want to see that happen again. I love Boudreau but it almost feels like he's losing the team, if not the captain. They say they love him, I think they do but sometimes it takes a different voice to get through to players. I'd prefer that voice to be from one of the players and not a new coach. Its time to stop playing like you're the best team in the league. Not only have you been exposed for not being the rest of the league is considerably better than last year. There is a ton of parity right now and the Panthers, Bolts are right there with this team, the Senators and Leafs who were expected to be bottom dwellers are there too and the Rangers and Bruins have brushed off slow starts and are each riding 7 game winning streaks...hey remember when we had that?

I now miss the Cardiac Caps that were taking years off my life, but winning, with those close games late in really sucks losing years off your life in blowouts or because the team doesn't come close to giving the effort they should and one feels the need to yell at them through the TV from their recliner as if the players can hear them...maybe I want to be "that voice"

Mike Green PLEASE HURRY BACK but to the rest of the team..step it up and learn to win without him

I'll be at the game on Monday night and I expect a much better effort vs Phoenix and I expect GOAT, and many others to let the team have it if they're not

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Controversy Heard Round the Rink Follows Up A Terrible Trip Out West

I couldn't bring myself to write about the the terrible trip to Canada until now. The loss to Edmonton was frustrating. They're a young team about a year or two away from taking the next step but Nikolai Khabibulin and some stupid ass play by the Caps cost them this game. After "The Bulin Wall" allowed a shot by Karl Alzner to get past him he just shut down the Caps, then again the Caps also shut down the Caps. Giving Edmonton a ton of power play chances, they scored on two of them, and not staying out of the box the first two periods allowed the Oilers to take the lead and the Caps were never able to get a consistent flow from their guys. In the third the Caps dominated in shots and came hard but couldn't put anything in the net. Add a terribly frustrating interference call against Alex Ovechkin late in the period when the team was really putting the pressure on and you have yourself a pretty tough 2-1 loss and the last unbeaten team in the NHL is no more. I must say I was not happy with Ovie's decision there when it happened. In some fairness to the team though the refs did a terrible job in officiating and called some iffy penalties against Washington while letting some slide for Edmonton.

Next game the Caps got behind the again thanks to two power play goals for Vancouver and held a 3-1 lead after 1. The Caps lucked out on their first goal as it hit Roberto Luongo up high, went over his head, off his back and into the net. After some shaky play, one of which was the decision to play the puck as it exited the trapezoid and having it shot off his skate and in and one rocket on the PP with 4 seconds left in the period, the normally reliable Tomas Vokun was pulled in favor of Michal Neuvirth who was getting his first action since the first game of the season due to a foot injury. Whether the move was made to punish Vokun or to inspire the team a message seemed to be sent. The Caps started the 2nd with a PPG from Alex Ovechkin, his second of the game, and a penalty shot goal by Mike Knuble which hit Luongo in the glove, trickled over, and ended up in the back of the net, it was that kind of game (season) for Luongo. The tie was short lived as Edler scored his second of the game, the Nucks had 3 players score 2 goals in the game...CRAZY! Mojo tied it up for the Caps with just over 2 minutes to go in the 2nd. Unfortunately for the Caps they used up all their mojo in the 2nd period as the Nucks scored two quick goals just over 6 minutes in and added a third later to end the game. 7-3 stick taps in this game...TERRIBLE performance all around

After two days off to work on their problems the Caps hosted the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, sans Emilio Estevez. Vokun was given the start again and again the Caps struggled early on.  The first period consisted of a fight with Matt Hendricks (is this seriously the teams second fight on the season?) and two goals by the Ducks left the Caps down 2-0. The first goal was a terrible miscommunication between Wideman and Hamrlik as The Hammer cut in front of the next while Wideman passed it behind and right to a Duck for a score. In the 2nd the Ducks added a goal by Teemu Selanne, his second of the game and third for four points on the evening to go up 3-0. On a side note did anyone else thing Selanne was washed up a few years ago? He's playing like he's in his prime again and not 41. Anyways after Joelle was able to put one home I honestly felt it breathed some life into the Caps. With around 5 minutes to go in the period there was a ton of shots blasted and players getting hit hard. After the Ducks took their chances in the Caps zone the puck was played down the ice but no Ducks were back. Jonas Hiller went to play the puck as it exited the trapezoid, oh that blasted thing, but he didn't want to take a penalty, and the Caps took advantage as Brooks Laich got the puck, shot it, had it blocked, got it back and kicked it to Wideman who put it behind Hiller as he scrambled to get back into position. In the third things got crazy. The Ducks got a power play when Corey Perry was tripped up by Vokun (he dove to sell it) and then netted the team's 4th goal.

The Caps had quite a few chances in the third to tie it at three but failed and on many a rush by Ovie he lost the puck as he tried to drag it past a defender. As has been the case since the Montreal series two years ago, it seems teams have figured out what Ovie is going to do...shit the fans know what Ovie is going to do...and he loses the puck, fires it wide or has it blocked. Late in the third the Caps cut the deficit to one when Troy Brouwer netted his first as a Cap . Brouwer ended up sitting for the final 2+ minutes of regulation after being driven into the boards and suffering what seemed to be a shoulder injury. In the final minute the Caps called a time out, pulled Vokun, and sent out 6 guys to try to tie it up. Normally at this time you'd see the Caps top 2 defensemen, and 4 forwards (Semin, Ovie, Backstrom and a grinder). Coach Boudreau decided to go with Chimmer, Laich and Joelle since they were playing the best on the night and his fourth forward was...Backstrom? Yup apparently Gabby had a guy feeling that Ovie didn't have it going on that game and benched him, which didn't sit well with Alex. With 42 seconds left though Backstrom netted the tying goal and sent the Caps to overtime. Ovie sat for about the first two minutes of overtime before getting on the ice. Sarge went down to the corner, threw the puck weakly towards the net, it ricocheted off of Ovie to Backstrom who netted the game winner. The games stick tap goes to Backy for a hell of a job leading the team to a comeback victory while Laich's line gets one too for getting the team back into the game.

After the game though all the talk has been about the benching of Ovie. I'll start off saying not only do I support Boudreau's decision to do it I also say its about damn time. I love Ovie but he's been a bit out of control at times and the team has allowed him and some of the other stars to get away with things but this year the coaches said things would be different. It didn't matter what your name was or how much money you made you had a chance to be punished. Last night was Ovie's night and hopefully it sent a message to him and the rest of the team. As I said Ovie was hot and he seemed to call coach a "fat fuck." So be it, chalk it up to frustration, or passion. I'd prefer Ovie get pissed and say something he may not mean or something he'll regret over just sitting their and taking it like it was no big deal. Last night Boudreau did something he should have done two years ago and that's discipline the team's biggest name because he wasn't playing well. Ovie needs to lead by example and there is little doubt in my mind the play from Vancouver had something to do with this decision too. Last night I believe Boudreau grew as a coach. Last night I believe the Caps grew as a team. I'm hoping last night Ovechkin also grew as a leader.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Upward Movement

7-0-0 that is the Caps current record on the season. A team that struggled in the preseason and looked a bit off the first couple games snapped out of it quickly.

The Caps went up against Florida with a 4-0-0 record and the Panthers coming off a game the night before where they beat Tampa Bay 7-4 and killed it on the power play. Vokun, was getting the start against his former team, while former Cap Jose Theodore sat this one out giving a rookie goalie his first start and Jacob Markstrom was solid but he gave up two goals and Vokun..well he gave up none. Caps got the shutout 3-0 and Marcus Johansson continued his impressive play since the Game 1 benching.

Next game the Caps took on the Philadelphia Flyers who came in at 4-0-1. The Flyers got on the board first thanks to a turnover by Sasha Fierce that lead to a breakaway and a 1-0 Flyers lead. Perreault tied it up for the Caps and Alex Ovechkin put the team in the lead with both goals coming in the final two minutes of the 1st frame. After a relatively quiet 2nd period the Caps came out firing in the 3rd period scoring 3 goals in less than 2:30 minutes with Hamrlik, Ovechkin and Joelle finding the back of the net and the Caps sucking the life out of the fans in the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers added one late goal in the 3rd but it wasn't enough. The Caps moved on and had their first and most convincing victory of the season after that dominating 3rd period.

The Caps returned home to face the Detroit Red Wings (5-0-0) in what was expected to be another huge test against one of the NHL's perennial powerhouses. The Wings had played the night before so the Caps were not only facing a tired team but also a back up goalie. For the first ten minutes the Caps played right into the Wings game plan but then the Wings started to get sloppy and started taking penalties. The Caps scored on the Power Play when Mr. Game Over, Mike Green, blasted one past Ty Conklin to give the good guys a 1-0 lead. Sixty-one seconds later MoJo scored on a wrap around and the Verizon Center got loud, even on my TV I could tell, and the wheels started to fall off for the team from the Motor City. 5 minutes into the 2nd Mike Green added his second PPG of the game and the game was essentially over. The Caps did commit some stupid penalties and gave the Wings two 5-on-3 opportunities, one of which they cashed in on and which looked like it could breathe some life back into the veteran team but MP85 sucked the last remaining bits of air out of their tired lungs scoring a goal with only 8 seconds left in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Joelle, Matty P and Backstrom added tallies and the Caps spanked the Wings 7-1. While I try to not get too caught up in this result because as I mentioned it was a back-to-back and a back-up goalie, the win was convincing and a confidence booster.

The Caps are now the final undefeated team in the NHL and headed West to face Edmonton and Vancouver before returning to the phone booth to play the Ducks on November 1st.

Not sure how much of the Edmonton game I'll catch and I hope to stay up for the Vancouver one and will try to update this a bit more regularly. I also intend to do a 3 stars thing for the players I feel played best that night for the Caps, which I will call Stick Taps.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Week Or So That Was

Yeah I've fallen behind a bit. I love my Caps, I love writing, I just seem to sometimes hate writing about my Caps at least when it feels more like a chore and a passion but forgive me I'm still early with writing about the team.

That said let's go to a recap of the first four games of the season. Opening night against the Hurricanes was a game you came to expect out of last year's Caps. Caps start slow, fall behind, take lead allow Canes to tie it up, Caps take lead then allow them to tie it in the final moments which leads to overtime...yay free hockey. Biggest concerns heading into OT were that Staal scored twice and both were on the Power Play. Semin was the best player on the ice, except for that stupid penalty he took at the end of regulation and Chimera showed off his speed on his goal with 21 seconds left in the 2nd frame.

In OT the Canes couldn't capitalize on their PP and gave the Caps one and while on the PP Mr. Game Over, Mike Green, rocketed one basted Boucher to send the fans home happy. Neuvirth got the surprise nod to play, which didn't sit well with Vokun, and he wasn't great but got the win. The belief is Neuvy got the nod because of it being the home opener and what he did for the team last year.

Game 2 vs the Lightning was not for the faint of heart. Vokun got the start and Mojo, who sat the first game because Coach wanted to send a message, took the lesson out on Roloson with a beautiful goal to tie the game at 1. The Caps trailed 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 5-4. Lucky for the Caps their fourth and fifth goals were scored by Jason Chimera who passed 100 career goals. The game went through OT with the Caps not only shorthanded for a portion of it but then the majority because of Too Many Men on the'd think that is one thing this team would work on as it seems to happen more than I've ever seen since Boudreau took over. In the shootout the Caps escaped with the victory as Vokun came up BIG. While at least 3 of the goals scored, maybe 4, came from at or behind the red line and deflected in off of a player (Green) in front or Vokun himself it was the Caps going 0-7 on the PP that really highlighted the teams struggles. Both needed to be worked on with Pitt up on Thursday.

Thursday it was Caps and Pissburgh and the Caps got flat outplayed for the second straight game but even more so. Malkin wasn't expected to play for the Pens but he did and the Caps D had to stick to him like glue. For the 3rd straight game the Caps gave up the first goal, to James Neal, and again it was a soft one by Vokun and it was the first shot by Pissburgh...oh how it felt like it would be a long night. If this kept up the Caps may have to turn to Braden Holtby because Neuvy was out with an undisclosed lower body injury (possibly foot).  In the second the Caps tie it up in the third the Caps take the lead after a blast by Green is deflected by Ovie. At first the ref waived it off, emphatically, but after the next stoppage the replay showed the puck did indeed go in the net and pop out. Late in the third Jay Beagle is hit by Kris Letang and hits him back, high and knocking his helmet off. Next thing you know here come Aaron Asham to confront Beagle. Asham says Beagle came to him and started it but come on a guy with 0 fights isn't going to challenge a guy with 60-70 career fights. Well the gloves drop and Beags starts getting some solid hits on Asham while Asham tried to get his right arm loose and all I could think was please don't let it get that far. Unfortunately for Beagle, Asham got that arm free and got two hard shots to the face of Beagle. The first stunned him, the second sent him face first to the ice. "He's dead!" is what I'm thinking but luckily when they pull Beags face off the ice he's awake, but blood started pouring out of him and onto the ice. As he skates off, looking dazed and I still fully believe he was concussed, he takes out his mouth guard, more blood, and possibly a tooth. Pens tie it up on a PP, again James Neal. So to OT we go. After penalties were virtually non-existent for the Pens they picked some up quick in OT, Green had Johnson beat but hit the post. A few second later Wideman blasts one past Johnson and the Caps are 3-0-0 with all 3 games going to OT.

After the game the Caps took exception to Asham's taunts at the end of the fight, he made a sleep, gesture. Asham quickly apologized and even reached out to apologize to Jay Beagle. Brooks Laich also commented on the leagues concussion policy saying they are babied by the league. Sorry Brooksie but its not just about knowing the risk and possibly nutting up. This is for long term health and look no further than Crosby. Better to be safe than sorry and don't let your testosterone and "masculinity" or ego get in the way of it.

Game 4 I attended with my cousin Pam. We sat in Section 105, Row Q...18 Rows behind the glass and just behind GOAT...who my cousin and I really creeped on and I feel really bad about. Anywho the Caps started the game off strong, though I can't figure out why on their first offensive zone faceoff they didn't have the top line out there but whatever. Backstrom got the scoring started on the PP and less than 4 minutes later Mojo came around the net for a wrap around and the Caps took a 2-0 lead. With less than 30 seconds left in the 1st the Caps failed to clear the puck, Vokun was down and out and somehow, after some near misses, the Senators were able to make it a 2-1 game. The Caps outplayed the Sens in the period, as they should have, but in the 2nd and 3rd it was all Ottawa. The Caps couldn't clear the zone and the Sens kept applying pressure and Volun was more than up to the task even with a late flurry by the Sens in the final two minutes. Throughout the game the refs missed quite a few penalties including a few boarding, tripping and interference calls while at least one was looking directly at the play or all 3 were looking somewhere else. It was quite pathetic honestly. The Caps also lost Wideman and Chimera to knee injuries but both quickly came back. Wideman actually turned the puck over while limping around and Chimera lucked out after crashing into the boards. In the end the Caps won and OT was finally not necessary.

One thing I couldn't figure out with the game though was why DJ King played, especially in the 3rd. I get that Ottawa was coming off a 7-1 loss to Colorado and may be frustrated but they're a quick team and Perreault would have been there with speed instead of the guy that just lumbers up and down. That said only put King on the ice if he's going to fight.

Most of the entertainment during the game came from the stands. One moron wore a Flyers Briere jersey and was sitting down behind the glass...oh and he showed up late. GOAT kept giving him shit which all of those around him loved. We later learned that some other moron was wearing a Malkin jersey in the 400 level seats and 3 different sections were giving him shit. Good job Caps fans.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Let the 2011-12 Washington Capitals Season Begin

I will do my best to post the day after most games with my thoughts of the game and what went on with the team in the time since my previous post though that by no means is certain.

After months of waiting the season is finally upon us. I was at the game on Sunday and the team player relatively well with only a few small blips which I felt was a huge positive, especially scoring 4 goals vs the Blackhawks as the team had been struggling all pre-season with scoring. The team's strongest member was no doubt their goaltender...but not Vokun...NEUVIRTH! After such a great pre-season it was announced this morning that he would start the the surprise of many, myself included, if only because speculation was Volkun was the #1 from the time he signed. Goalie controversies are nothing new to the team or fans under Boudreau, then again who's to say that there is a controversy right now? Maybe Vokun starts the next 5. I guess we'll find out in the days and weeks to come but hopefully no matter who is in net the starter plays great and the back-up is fine with their role.

Now let me touch on my expectations for the members of the team for this year.

Nicklas Backstrom - Unfortunately I fear that last year may not have been a fluke down season but then again that's kinda how I am with things. I'm hoping he goes back to the Backstrom of 2009-10 but I think we'll only see a return to that if Ovie bounces back. Projection: 30 goals, 55 assists

Jay Beagle - Well the coach loves this hardworking kid but lets be honest, he's replaceable if he doesn't produce. Sure he's a 3rd/4th line guy but the team can't rely on it's top 2 lines to get them through games. Beagle will do the little things though and could be what Brooks Laich was a few years back. I don't see him getting 20 goals but 15 is possible. Projection: 13 goals, 22 assists

Troy Brouwer - I'm becoming a total mark for this guy. He can score some and he can hit. He's a grinder down low and can play on any of the 4 lines. Against Chicago he turned the puck over in the offensive zone but stuck with it and stole it right back before the Blackhawks could even move it down the ice. Its the little things like that which will prove beneficial AND he didn't take a penalty doing this man Sasha. Projection: 24 goals, 32 assists

Jason Chimera - He's fast, he's bald, and if he was a little more rugged looking he'd be Jason Statham. Another grinder, I don't know that Chimmer does anything particularly well but he does enough to play as high as the first line. Projection: 14 goals, 20 assists

Jeff Halpern - The hometown boys comes home again. The Potomac, MD native is coming toward the end of his career and he came home to finish it where it all began. Halpie will center the 4th line, the hard nosed blue-collar guys who aren't flashy but they can set the tone and get crowds and teams right back into the game. Injuries made it look like he was done a few years ago but Jeff bounced back nicely in Montreal last season. He'll see limited ice time playing on the 4th line but could get more on other lines as the season goes on. Projection: 12 goals, 36 assists

Matt Hendricks - The guy that came out of nowhere last season to make the team as a non-roster invitee out of training camp and won over the fans with his hitting, flair to score, and his willingness to drop the gloves when needed. With Matt Bradley gone and DJ King most likely being DNP-CD bound for most of the season Hendricks will probably be the main fighter on the team. I think he has the ability to score 20-25 goals but its far from likely Projection: 16 goals, 24 assists, 15 fights

Marcus Johansson - He was surprise #2 last season. MoJo had never played a second of hockey in America when he made the team out of training camp last season. After a slow start some fans were questioning Boudreau's decision to keep him on the roster but as the season went on and Johansson got more comfortable he showed why he was playing with the big boys. This pre-season hasn't been as kind and its questioned whether he is 2nd line Center material, heck he's even been on the 1st line with Ovie, but he's not producing as expected and he's not great in the dot either. Projection: 17 goals, 33 assists

DJ King - On the team because they need to have 23 active bodies without hurting the progression of guys like Perreault, Eakin, Bourque and some others that should be on a roster and actually playing. He's also good for about 2-3 shifts for games where the Caps need an enforcer against another team with a goon or goons. That said he'll be lucky to play more minutes than his jersey number (17) than games. Projection: He may get time vs Pittsburgh, Anaheim and that could be it since the Rangers dumped that numbnuts Avery.

Mike Knuble - The "old man" is still out there grinding at 40 years old. He started slow last year before picking up steam. Whether playing opposite Ovechkin or dropping down to the second line there is one place you will always find Knubes and that is right in front of the net, shielding the goalie, looking to deflect a shot or screen him from seeing the puck. I really hope, as I have the last few years, that the rest of the team watches and learns from him. Knuble is everything Brooks Laich should be when his career ends. Projection: 24 goals, 36 assists

Brooks Laich - Once known as the guy that was acquired for franchise cornerstone Peter Bondra, Brooksie has done a hell of a job the past few years that not only won over Caps fans but also netted him a nice contract in the off-season. Whether he's playing the wing, or center, or even filling in for an injured defenseman Laich is a gritty hockey player who plays for the love of the game and the fans. Don't think so? What other player would stop and fix a flat tire of someone on the side of the road after their team was just eliminated from the playoffs or admit to throwing a paycheck into his glovebox and forgetting about it and not even care if he cashed it? I loved Bonsai and hated seeing him go and even held that against Laich when I first saw him I love him and want him to retire a Cap. Projection: 22 goals, 32 assists

Alex Ovechkin - Let's get it out of the way. Ovie is DONE! He'll NEVER be as good as Crosby, even with Crosby's concussion sidelining his career. Last season wasn't a down year it was a sign of things to come. Same moves into the zone that teams easily stopped, never changing, and...oh who am I kidding. Sure I feel Ovie might not produce like he used to and would be fine with that as long as the Caps win the Cup and he stays healthy. Ovie will have his hot streaks and his struggles but he should be just long as he stops partying all hours of the night and maybe he has to drop the "C" from the jersey too. Projection: 54 goals, 68 assists

Mathieu Perreault - The man looks like one of the "Three Musketeers" and he should be fencing instead of playing hockey. He's small, he's thin, and when he gets checked he goes flying about 10 yards down the ice but he is pretty good with the stick, in spurts. When he gets a hot streak "The Keystone Light Guy" scores in bunches but when he doesn't its usually back to the minors, only to be called up and then he goes crazy that first game back. Now that he's out of options sending him down causes him to go through waivers and I think he'd quickly be claimed (see Chris Bourque 2009 - Penguins). Matty lead the team in the pre-season and hopefully he takes that play into the regular season. I think MP85 will see his fair share of DNPs and may be alternating with Beagle (and at times Hendricks, Ward and Brouwer because that's just what Gabby does). Projection: 11 goals, 18 assists

Alexander Semin - While I might "get an erection for Ovechkin while screamin' for Semin" I get headaches from screaming at Semin. The kid has all the talent in the world but doesn't apply himself fully. He's been blasted by former teammates this off-season (Matt Bradley, David Steckel, Shaonne Morisson) and he says it doesn't matter..fine don't let it matter, let it burn inside you and push you. Semin is usually good for around 30 goals when he should have 50, and a dozen missed games when he should have a handful. Hey I'm fine if you don't want to rush back from injury and possibly make it worse but put forth effort at all times while out there. Too many times Sasha gives up on plays or pulls up and when he makes a mistake he then tries to fix it by committing a stupid penalty. You'd think 2 minutes in the box would teach him a lesson but no. He could be dealt at the deadline but I'm sure he'll be here through the playoffs. We'll see who shows up throughout the season but I hope he channels his inner Beyonce and goes all Sasha Fierce. Projection: 42 goals (with 2 hat tricks vs Tampa), 44 assists

Joel Ward - "Joelle" can either become a fan favorite in DC or he'll be a playoff anomaly that the fans will want gone quickly. Another guy brought in to be like Knuble and do his thing down low, Joel Ward banked in on a fine post-season in Nashville to play on the 3rd line in Washington. I will admit if he can play and pass like he did on the goal that Laich scored vs the Blackhawks in that final pre-season game I say "Welcome Mr. Ward." Most fans though will be happy if he just shows up again in the playoffs when the rest of the team tends to show up in physical form but have checked out mentally   Projection: 18 goals, 26 assists

Karl Alzner - As the left-handed act of the Carlzner duo Alzner is the defensive savant of the Caps new top defensive pairing. What Karl lacks offensively he makes up for with his defense and provides a nice balance to the pair. Projection: 6 goals, 18 assists

John Carlson - "The All-American Hero" and the right-handed half of the Carlzner duo has huge expectations heading into this year. Offensively gifted and strong defensively, fans are waiting for Carlson to unleash the fury and provide support that has been lacking the past two years on the blue-line. Projection: 12 goals, 32 assists

John Erskine - The man we affectionately call "Lumberjack" John Erskine's tenure in DC will always be remembered for two fights he had last year. Early in the year he had the "Fight of the Year" against Atlanta and on New Year's he had a great battle at the Winter Classic. Not overly gifted and more of a lumbering force John Erskine had his best year as a Capital last season. He'll start this season on the shelf recovering from shoulder surgery and will most likely be the 7th D-man on the team that will fill in for injuries/rest or based on match-up. Projection: 2 goals, 14 assists

Mike Green - Its been two years since Green had a career year and with a new contract looming I'd expect a bit of a return to form for Mike. Whether it's been stick issues or injuries to his head or lower body, Mike hasn't been the same since just before the 2009 playoffs. Offensively that's been a terrible thing for the team but last year he played better defensively than I've ever seen him. If there is a way to combine both Greenie may be in store for his best season ever. The question remains will he be back next season, especially with his injury history, declining offensive production and Orlov looming in the minors. Projection: 22 goals, 32 assists

Roman Hamrlik - The Hammer brings over a decade of NHL experience and the ability to block shots to the team. Having been on the Canadiens team that upset the Caps in the playoffs two years ago he could teach the team what they did to shut down Ovie and the Caps and teach the guys how to block shots, and not get hurt, and may be a perfect piece to this championship-caliber puzzle. Projection: 4 goals, 18 assists

Tom Poti - Great guy, busted groin, career over. Would be nice if he'd retire and come off the books and take a position on the coaching staff but that's not likely to happen. Projection: 0 games

Jeff Schultz - "Sarge" is the guy we all love to hate. I'll always remember him for his fall in the playoffs a few years back that put him out for the remainder of the post-season with a bruised ego :) and for his full rink goal against Atlanta..yeah his lowest and highest point. I'm not really a fan of Schultz but he's been a solid mate of Mike Green the past few years and got himself a nice contract two years ago because he benefited from playing on the ice at the same time as Ovie, Backstrom and Green which is why he lead the league in +/-. He's expendable to me but he does provide stability and maybe he'll bounce back this year after mono kinda through him off last year...but I doubt it. Projection: 1 goals, 14 assists

Dennis Wideman - Didn't get to see much of "the fat man" last year because of injury but he gives the team 6 solid defensemen when he's healthy. Of course he left the ice early a few days ago and hasn't practiced since which should concern should the fact that we're down to Sean Collins as the back-up with Poti and Erskine out. Wideman, if healthy, should provide some help on all 3 facets of the ice (even strength, the PK and the PP). Projection: 4 goals, 24 assists

Tomas Vokun - I've never really been sold on him, probably because he's been on some dreadful Panthers teams but the stats don't lie and his contract makes him a bargain. Vokun didn't have a bad pre-season but it wasn't eye-opening either and as it turns out he's not starting tonight as expected. I'd still expect Vokun to start around 50-60 games and as long as the offense holds up their end of the bargain he should garner the win in the majority of them. Its the playoffs where he'll have to really step it up. Projection: 55 games started, 35-40 wins, 2.45GAA

Michal Neuvirth - Neuvy was amazing last season, though some stats were shown to be a bit deceiving...whatever dude played and the Caps won...til the playoffs. If Vokun plays well and doesn't get hurt Neuvy is looking at around 25 starts, more if he's the hot one down the stretch. Also the fan base loves Neuvy so once they start chanting his name he could be the man...of course the same was said and done with Varlamov and Theodor...history repeated itself last year with Neuvirth and Varlamov and look where Varly is now. Projection: 27 games started, 20 wins, 2.24GAA

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Caps STH Event at Six Flags...3 Years Running

Last night the Capitals held their annual event at Six Flags for Season Ticket Holders. This is the one event that I look forward to all year. I don't own season tickets myself but my work does so I have used their tickets the past three years. Its always awesome to see the players walking around the park and going on the rides and hanging with the fans though at the same time it can open a can of worms for some (more on that in a bit).

Two years ago when I went I had a blast. In the span of an hour or so I got autographs from about half the team and the coaches. That fed my passion for wanting to do this event every year as well as holding out hope that I could get there early enough to be one of the first 450 to get Ovechkin's autograph. In 2009, on the way back from having dinner at the park, we ran into a bunch of the players as the handlers were taking them to their spots for the autograph signings. There was Jose Theodore walking into the men's room in a fedora which lead to some laughs; Boudreau as he posed with my cousin that resembles him very much and is mistaken for Gabby quite often; Michael Nylander who was sporting the hat of a rival sports team and who I spent a good 5 minutes talking shit to because my favorite, Chris Bourque, was cut and claimed by Pittsburgh earlier in the day all because Nylander's contract couldn't be traded and he wouldn't accept a buyout; Fleischmann and Jurcina shooting baskets which I may not have turned around to see had my cousin not said to me "that guy's wearing a Jurcina jersey so I'm not the only guy who wants one" to which I had to tell him "hey stupid that is Jurcina." We headed off to get autographs and ended up with all the coaches, Sloan, Laing, Laich, Erskine (Lumberjack), Pothier, Steckel (man crush), Schultz (family whipping boy) and of all the stars we lucked into getting Alex Semin.

Last year was not nearly as pleasant. The initial night it rained so they rescheduled it for a later date. Well on that day Ovechkin and Varlamov couldn't participate because they were shooting a commercial at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT.  This left more fans to go after the rest of the players and longer lines. It didn't help that the players got off some of the rides late which got them to their tables after the 7pm start time and they didn't want to keep the players past 8pm so they started cutting some lines off at 7:30pm. I went in with plans to get two autographs, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, as I had purchased 8x10 pictures of each of them just for this event. So after dinner we went and got into Nicklas Backstrom's line and after about 45 minutes we were able to get his autograph. Across from his set up was John Carlson, but they weren't allowing anyone in that line so we headed towards the lines for Mike Green and Mike Knuble. Knubes line was shorter so I got his and we were done. Disappointed that it was less of a haul than the previous year but still happy to have gotten Nick.

This year I planned ahead. I took off from work and hoped to get there early but when it was announced that Ovie's uncle had passed away and he'd be flying back to Russia getting there early was less of a necessity. As the day went on it seemed like the wheels were going to fall off as one family member dropped out and another wasn't sure they felt well enough to go. After a bit of convincing my mother (in her Ovie), my cousin Pam (in her Knuble) and I (in my Bourque) were on our way to Six Flags.  We got there and had our plan. Pam wanted to get her Knuble jersey signed so we headed straight to his line, all the way on the other side of the park and waited about 45 minutes. On the way over we passed Neuvirth and as we stood in Knuble's line many of the players went walking by to get on the ride including Jason Chimera,  Troy Brouwer, Jeff Schultz, Jeff Halpern, John Carlson, Matt Hendricks (who high 5's some fans) and Mike Green. We also pretty much stereotyped every black guy that went by as possibly being Joel Ward (or Joelle as my cousin Alex legitimately calls him...the boy ain't too bright). In fact I really thought one guy was until realized he was much too young and he looked more like Carlton Banks from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" which made me break out in the Carlton Dance and almost had to go ask him if he'd do it since I had the people in line cracking up.

Lucky for us we were probably around 10th in line for Knuble, who was about 5 minutes late, and after we got his autograph we were off to our next goal...John Carlson aka The All-American Hero. As we were headed there DJ King and his handler were walking to DJ's table, so I made some comments about how he sucks and I don't  how he's on the roster when Bourque could be (and not be playing)...and of course I said it all loud enough so he could hopefully not hear me and I made sure to add "man you're a big dude please don't hit me." Anyways we get to Carlson's line since Alex wanted his jersey signed but couldn't make it so his sister, being the great person she is, got in line to get it signed for him. As it was he was one of 3 people I wanted to get autographs from as well. My mom on the other hand insisted on getting Jay Beagle because she's a huge fan of his...because we own a beagle...that's it, not other reason. So her and I hurry over to Beagle and Hamrlik who are the first table at the other end of where they're doing autographs...and of course my dumbass gets in the line for the coaches before quickly realizing my mistake and heading over to the Beagle line which had about 30 people in it...two years ago our shortest lines had about 10 (it was Schultz's line haha). After we got Beagle and the Hamerlik (sounds like a bad porn title/name) we ran back over to the Carlson line where we met up with Pam who had a handful of people ahead of her, got his and then had to decide if we wanted more or to call it a night even though there was about 15 mins left for autos. We headed towards King's line but opted not to get it, which I later regretted because I wanted Brouwer who was with him and decided to head into the arena to try for Mike Green. Lucky for me I had bought the picture last year I needed signed and have a Green jersey...unlucky for me both were at home so I had him sign on the poster the team was giving out that everyone else had signed for me. At that our night was done and it was a HUGE success and now I'm ready for next year's event.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Premature Fireworks This 4th of July Weekend at Kettler

So last we left the Free Agency period was upon us. July 1st was expected to be a busy day in the NHL and one that would be a necessary break for sports fans since the NBA was going the way of the NFL as the owners were locking out the players.

Eagerly awaiting the 12pm start for guys to be pursued by NHL clubs and sign with whatever team pitched them the most money what they wanted to hear. The big name in free agency was Brad Richards and I doubt any Capitals fan believed the Caps would consider making a move for him because of cost and not needing him on the top line, though talk about depth with him or Backstrom as your 2C...WOW.

Anyways the first deal to come down was one I had been saying needed to happen since the season ended. The Caps brought back Jeff Halpern on a one year deal to most likely be the 4th line center, replacing Boyd Gordon (good riddance) who went to Phoenix.

Next came word that Semyon Varlamov was not headed to the KHL but that the Caps had traded him to Colorado Avalanche. This was surprising since it seemed the Avs were on their way to bringing in Tomas Vokoun to be there #1 goalie but apparently the negotiations broke off. Now what was even more surprising is what the Caps got for Varly, a 1st Round pick next year AND a 2nd Round pick in either 2012 or 2013. That is highway robbery! What makes it more interesting is that had Varly been signed to an offer sheet and the Caps not matched it they would have probably gotten no more than a 2nd round pick as compensation, but the Avs GM felt the Caps would match any offer. We'll never know but what we do know is Varly stays in the US, gets $5.5 million over 2 years and the Caps could end up with a Top 5 pick in the draft next year. Now I have no doubt that Varly, if healthy, will steal quite a few games for the Avs and they are only a year removed from a fantastic showing but the fact that the team doesn't have a full-time goalie coach will hurt his learning progress and help the Capitals chances in a draft that is much better than the one that took place a week ago.

An hour and a half later we learn the Caps have signed Joel Ward, or as I said "Who the **** is Joel Ward?" and 37 year old defenseman Roman Hamrlik. After reading up on Ward and seeing some video I like the signing. I'm not sure if I like the 4 years on it but he's a grinder that will be around the net and can play the wing or center. While Hamrlik is older he's also a grizzled veteran and he's shut down Ovie while with Montreal so we won't have to worry about that anymore. Plus he turned down more money to play in DC so I can't be too upset.

Now the question becomes what happens with the defense? Mike Green, who made some interesting comments in a radio interview the other day, could be teamed with Hamrlik. Alzner is still unsigned but is expected to be back with his buddy John Carlson. Jeff Schultz, Dennis Wideman and Tom Poti currently are all under contract and will be looking at our D3 pairings. I read that John Erskine is a UFA, though I thought we had signed him during the season but if he is he could be back and Sean Collins was re-signed but is expected to be in Hershey.

WHEW...that was one hell of a Day 1 of free agency and the Caps did GREAT. They aren't the only ones though. The Panthers spent a lot of money, stupid Dale Tallon, on a bunch of second and third line guys and brought in 3 former Caps (Jose Theodore, starting goalie; Tomas Fleischmann, and Matt Bradley) which should make things interesting for the two teams.

Fast forward now to Day 2 and GMGM was not done with the roster moves. First the Caps bring back Chris Bourque, another request I've been making, who is expected to be at Hershey but could be an injury call-up and will no doubt be fighting to be on the 4th line during training camp.

Then late Saturday night comes word that the Caps had signed Vokoun, remember that name from earlier, for only $1.5 million for next year. Vokun is a great veteran goalie, despite his lack of playoff experience, who is familiar with the South East division having been in Florida for so long. So we get Vokoun for cheap and two high draft picks for Varly? Um...thank you.

The Caps still have a few more deals to make with free agents or via trade and need to build back up Hershey as their minor league affiliate is losing a lot of its core players.

I am a bit cautious as well because I've been down this road with our other sports teams where we win the "off-season championship" by signing the big name free agents or bringing in the expected right parts or making a blockbuster trade only to see nothing come of it. The goal is the Cup. That is always the goal and this team is now deeper than it has been and looking better. Now if there is any way to bring back David Steckel I'd really appreciate looking into that trade GMGM.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Trade, A Signing and a Parting of Ways

Last weekend the 2011 NHL Draft came and went and for the Capitals it was...well "boring"...according to many analysts and to some extent they are right. The Caps traded their 1st round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the rights to restricted free agent Troy Brouwer...or as I thought when I first heard the deal...WHO? I know Patrick Kane, I know Jonathan Toews but I didn't recognize the name Brouwer, even after I went to the Caps/Hawks game last season.

After a quick google search and doing a little reading up on the newest Cap I was impressed with the deal pulled off by GMGM. I immediately saw him as a guy who could produce, much like he did before making the NHL, read that he can play on any line, which is good since Boudreau LOVES to move guys around, and saw him as a viable option on a Power Play that suffered mightily last year and could use a jolt. I also saw a video of him and his Beagle and well...I'm a huge fan of Troy now. Of course it also lead me to believe this may be the end of Brooks Laich in Washington...

But Brooksie wouldn't do that to the city he's called home for the past 6 seasons. Today it was announced that the Capitals and Laich agreed to a 6 year - $27 million deal and Brooks had told the Caps before the draft he intended to stay. Its a long deal, for a lot of money, and apparently I'm one of the few or only Caps fans that like the deal. Many of the same guys saying sign him for whatever it takes are now complaining because of what it does to the cap, that he got too much money and the deal is too long. In this weak free agent class Brooks Laich was gonna get PAID whether it was here or somewhere else. I'd rather have a guy that is heading into his prime and had been dependable and is a glue guy over trying to replace him with someone older or less experienced or overpaying for what someone did somewhere else and end up getting no production out of him like has happened in the past...yeah I'm casting a death stare at you Michael Nylander. So while the deal is a bit excessive it could also be much MUCH worse and I can live with it...even if it turned out to be a terrible deal and crippled the franchise...that part won't happen. Also as seen with the trades of Brian Campbell, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter at the draft teams, especially bad ones or ones in need of taking on salary (sometimes both...well hey there Florida) trade for bad contracts down the line so Laich will be movable.

Its also been reported that the Caps and Semyon Varlamov are soon expected to part ways. I'm slightly torn on this (groin pun not intended). I fear Varly will be much like many former players from DC teams and play better once he leaves the team, in this case his health will hold up. If its true that Varly is done here because he wants to start or feels disrespected its understandable but the ice isn't always as frozen in another rink and Neuvirth has had his fair share of injuries too so Varly is a tweak away from having a shot at the starting job again. I guess we'll find out Friday when free agency begins though Dmitry Chesnokov is reporting that the situation between the sides should be resolved before then...we shall see.

Also on July 1 or within a few days/weeks I'm expecting Jeff Halpern to sign his final NHL contract, one that allows him to return home to DC to finish his career where it began, unless he's traded again. I'd guess it'll be a two year deal for around $1.5-$2 over the length of the contract

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Off-Season...Where to Start and What Should Change

So here we go with my first official Caps blog post. I'll do a formal introduction in the near future but for now I've decided to go with something I've been putting off for a while...

Once again the Capitals ended their post-season quest early. A lack of sticking to the system coupled with injuries, always the injuries, brought the season to a sudden stop and an off-season of questions to a new beginning.

The first question was: Who is to blame for the team's performance in the playoffs?

Many of the writers, bloggers, TV personalities and other "experts" said Boudreau had to go. WRONG! He's the one thing that is right for this team because his players respect him and listen to him the problem is he doesn't hold them accountable enough when they break away from what makes them successful.

Another question was: Which Caps stay and which Caps go?

Let's start with the free agents.

Brooks Laich: He's a glue guy. He can do so much, he's a fan favorite, and if he'd be willing to be more of a voice rather than a quiet team leader he'd be the perfect candidate for being the team's captain (I chose him when Clark was traded). He won't come cheap unless he passes on millions and gives the home team a nice discount. Verdict: STAYS!

Jason Arnott: If he's willing to come back for around the minimum I think he's worth having. Arnott played well enough and was a leader in the locker room and is someone that Ovie can learn a thing or two from. The team also needs a solid Center and Arnott's probably about as solid as they'll come based on the free agent crop unless they can manage to nab someone in a trade. Verdict: Toss-Up....but again STAYS (if cheap) otherwise MP85 gets a longer sip.

Scott Hannan: Hannan isn't a point producer he's a shut down Defenseman. At times Hannan seemed to get beat easily and other times he showed exactly why the team traded Fleischmann for him and he fit perfectly with the new style that was adopted after the trade. The problem isn't so much that Hannan will cost too much money to keep or that age may soon be catching up to him, its that the team has a ton of defensemen with some rising stars set to come up in the coming years. Verdict: Adios!

Matt Bradley: Matt Bradley doesn't do anything particularly well and is a player that is replaceable but he's also a grinder. He digs deep and gives that extra effort. Perfect guy to have on your checking line and he'll occasionally mix in a fight once in a while or stand up for his teammates. Brads is loved by the fans but the Caps could use more production from his spot and there are a ton of guys in Hershey or are more than ready for an opportunity in Washington. Verdict: A painful Adios!

Boyd Gordon: Ah probably my least favorite Cap..well except for the next guy on my list. It seemed for years that every time I looked at the line-up Gordo was injured and when he didn't play he just agitated me, which was a shame because I'd have preferred he agitated the opposing team's players. Gordo surprised me this year with his play especially after the trade of Steckel (oh how I wish it was Gordo gone over Stecks in that deal). Being an unrestricted free agent the Caps only have a chance to match an offer to Gordo if he allows them to do so. I prefer they don't. I know he can win faceoffs, which is something our Centers have trouble with but I'm still bitter he's here and #39 is not so....Verdict: Adios!

Michael Nylander: Okay he's honestly only on here because of how I started my post about Gordon. Its a shame the way Nylander got hurt and the severity of the injury he sustained but lets face it, he's the reason Chris Bourque didn't make the team two years ago, got claimed by PISSburgh, and now is playing in Russia. Verdict: Good riddance now that the walk to the Electric Chair

Marco Sturm: Sturm isn't even a shell of his former self. He doesn't fit with the other Caps players, he's been more of a top 2 line talent that would now only be around for depth and would usually be a healthy scratch. Caps don't need older guys they just need hard workers and while Sturm might be that he doesn't fit the 3rd or 4th lines of this team. Verdict: Adios!

Sean Collins: Ummm...yeah next Verdict: Adios

Karl Alzner: Caps fans have been waiting for the Carlzner marriage to come to DC and it finally came this year and the young kids came through better than expected. Alzner is a restricted free agent and could be what Scott Hannan has been in the past. He won't be an offensive juggernaut but we don't need him to be. Carlson brings the offense while Alzner brings a little extra D. Alzner is a huge part of this team's future. Verdict: STAYS long term!

Semyon Varlamov: This is the toughest choice for me as a Caps fan. Varly, when healthy, can be spectacular but the problem is he's rarely healthy. He won over the hearts of Caps fans a few years ago when he kept outplaying Jose Theodore and played strong in the playoffs as a rookie netminder but in a town of "What Have You Done For Me Lately" Semyon lost his job to Neuvy and was outplayed by Braden Holtby, in some eyes, so that he's seen as #3 on the goaltending depth chart. Varly is a RFA though so the Caps can match any offer, or he could go back to Russia. I think if the right deal comes along you have to think long and hard about a sign-and-trade with a Western Conference team. If, and its a big one, his groin/knee issues are behind him Varly will be a good goalie somewhere but he also seems to be a goalie that scrambles and gets lucky more often than not when he makes those big highlight reel saves. Verdict: Sign-and-trade for more parts.

Trade Options:

Mike Green: 2010-11 was a terrible year for Mike Green. He wasn't scoring like we were accustomed to, he dealt with at least 2 concussions and a variety of hits to the head and once he was finally healthy he took a puck to the face. Its a damn shame that the year Greenie starts playing defense like the fans have been screaming he needed to do he blocks two pucks with his if only they can teach him to use other parts of his body. Mike has a wicked hard shot and its been discussed for years that maybe he'd be better served as a forward than a D-man and I think this is the year to try it out. What could it hurt? If all of our defenseman come back healthy we're going to have an abundance so why not move him up to an area where we continuously have to go down to Hershey? As a forward Green won't be expected to block as many shots like he had/needed to this year and it adds some versatility to the line-up in that he can switch back to defenseman if an injury occurs in the line-up, if the experiment fails or in late game situations when the Caps are down. Verdict: Stays and plays a new position

Alexander Semin: There isn't a more frustrating player than Sasha. He's officially the Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde of the Washington Capitals. He scores in spurts or against certain teams and then disappears for a while. He' my reasoning for why certain players should always have 1 year contracts, they tend to always show up and play better when working for a new deal (see Jose Theodore the year before he comes to DC and his last year in DC, or Larry Hughes before coming to the Wizards and his last year with them). I love Sasha even though I'll be screaming at him when sitting in Section 409 or in front of my TV to stop lollygagging on the ice, or to play it instead of waiting for it to come to him and then skating across the ice for a change or to stop trying to be too damn fancy with the puck. Verdict: While I made no case to keep him, I say STAYS...if only because I need to rock my "I Got An Erection for Ovechkin While Screamin' For Semin" shirt at the phonebooth next year

Eric Fehr: I'm not a big fan of Eric's so I could take him or leave him. He was having a slow year, as were most Caps, when David Steckel decided to go play brick wall and dislocate for Eric's shoulder. I can only invision him as a 20-25 goal 20 assist, no more than 50 point scorer. Verdict: I'd personally trade him in favor of Green and Chris Bourque...but if he stays he probably ends up on IR more than the ice

Jeff Schultz: Sarge has never been one of my favorites, especially after he fell and bruised his ego in the playoffs a few years back and missed the remainder of the playoffs. Verdict: Stays til Orlov can play

Players Up/Down/Over/In
I won't lie I'm no expert on the salary cap situation or which players can or can't play with the team this year so if some I name can't play this year we need to find a stop gap until they we go

1st Line

2nd Line

3rd Line
Chris Bourque (Fehr or Galiev)/Arnott (Perreault or Eakin)/Laich

4th Line
Hendricks/Beagle (Perreault)/Chimera

Defensive 1

Defensive 2

Defensive 3
Lumberjack aka Erskine/some free...I'm thinking Hejda or Babchuk


I also would not be surprised to see the Caps take flyers on two former Caps in Jeff Halpern and Tomas Fleischmann

Were these all the questions? No. Do I have the right answers? Doubtful. I do believe the Caps window with their current group is closing but I also don't believe a major shake-up is necessary. I don't get paid to make the personnel decisions but I surely pay enough in tickets and merchandise to feel I can be openly critical of the team and I will. More often than not common sense will give way to my personal feelings but I'm just looking to have fun with this blog.

Till next time...Rock the Red