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.