Monday, April 23, 2012

Game 7 Is More Than A Win or Go Home Statement for Caps

Game 4 was fun to watch in person, Game 5 was awesome to see the Caps not give up after blowing a 2 goal lead and Game 6 was another OT thriller that the Caps unfortunately came up on the wrong end of.

If you haven't been excited or entertained by this series you either hate sports or don't know shit about it. As much as I hate that the series is now going 6 games, that its lacked fights and that there has been a lot of inconsistency in officiating this has been a great series which will end, fittingly in Game 7.

Its been quite eye opening to see how fans react from both teams on certain plays. In Game 4 Ovechkin ran into the back of a Bruins player and pushed him to the ice. All the Caps fans signaled for an interference, ,one came, and the Caps ended up scoring a goal. If you listen to the Bruins fans it was evident that Ovechkin should have been called for the interference. Maybe it could have gone either way, since it was right in front of me at the game I saw it clearly as the Bruins player slowing down and trying to keep Ovie from getting to the puck and Ovie saying f**k you its mine at all costs. I think in the end the no call was the best one.

Game 6 we had more questionable non-calls. The Bruins scored a goal after an illegal screen, that should have resulted in an interference away from the play, went uncalled and the the Bruins took the lead. Late in the 2nd period the Caps headed up ice when Bergeron collided with Chimera and went down to the ice. Chimera raced up the ice to score on a pass from Backstrom while Bergeron got up with a bloody mouth. Replays showed Chimera barely touched him, definitely not up high, and Bergeron spun around, as he's done all series at the Caps defensive blue line, and went to the ice, where one assumes he either bit his tongue or had one of those blood packs that wrestlers use.

In the end it was a bad pass up ice by Nick Backstrom, a bad defensive angle by Dennis Wideman, and a bad decision by Braden Holtby to come far out of the net to try and stop Tyler Seguin that ended with the Caps heading back to Boston for a Game 7.

The Caps entered yesterday's game with a ghastly 2-4 record in Game 6's when they lead the series 3-2. Their record in those Game 7's that followed? A dismal 0-4, in fact they have one only one Game 7 since Dale Hunter lead the Capitals over the Flyers in 1988 and that came in 2009, and 2-7 overall in Game 7s. Needless to say the Caps were hoping to buck the trend and take Game 6. Instead they will need to look at rewriting history by giving all they have to take Game 7 from the Bruins in Boston, where they are 4-1 this season.

That gives me hope but I also can't get myself to believe too much that this team will be any different than any other we've seen or just about any DC area team that chokes under pressure or in big games. I've been disappointed too many times rooting for my teams but I'll still be rocking the red and pulling for them all the way. I even went so far as to plea with all the local media, via Twitter, to not bring up, ask or talk about in any fashion, the Capitals failures in Game 7's in any other year. Why be so negative? The team is under enough pressure from themselves and the fans and they know the history and what's at stake so why bother adding to it? Hell the last four times all the media talked about was the team's inexperience and then their inability to win that 7th game so why not try to reverse the curse?

Karl Alzner has already said the team is going to come out and give it their all. Well I sure hope so and I hope they start off with more energy than they have most of the other six games, then again they've looked like they don't care and won some of those games. John Carlson said that the players know what they have to do in Boston...I hate those damn cliches. We all KNOW what you have to do and SCORE and WIN should be the top two things. In order to do so the players can't be tentative, they've got to take advantage of Tim Thomas challenging and leaving the net exposed, they've got to put home the shots that are there...I'm looking at you Marcus Johansson, they've got to clamp down defensively...I'm looking at you Dennis Wideman and they've got to control rebounds and not attempt the poke check so much...yeah I'm talking to you Braden Holtby, though less so than the rest.

Things this series has done is gotten people off the back of Sasha Fierce (Semin for you new readers) and his play has not only guaranteed an NHL payday it may lead to an overpayment by a franchise not named the Capitals, but would he be willing to stay for less and play with his best buddy? While Semin has played great he has not alleviated the pressure that is on Ovechkin to bring the Cup to DC. Regardless of the reasons he's been benched Ovie will not change how he plays, which is to say he'll either gamble badly and be lost and out of position on defense or he won't play any at all and on offense he'll try to beat anyone on him whether he should or not. The series has shown that Green is a capable defender and may finally be turning the corner offensively. Its brought Jay Beagle to the forefront of the fourth line and shown how hard he hustles to get to pucks and can annoy opponents with his tenacity. We've seen that Joelle (Ward) played himself into that contract in last year's playoffs and oh how I wish there was a way to sucker the Blue Jackets to take him and two 1st round picks for Nash, regardless of cap issues. This series also showed that Dale Hunter doesn't fully grasp match-ups and what it takes to win games. It took the suspension of Backstrom to get Knuble back in the line-up and he's managed to score and be physical. His veteran presence and leadership is exactly what they need right now. The other thing was putting Schultz out there instead of Erskine. With as physical as this series was expected to be and how dirty the Bruins can be Erskine was a must to be out there on the ice and finally in Game 4 he made his first appearance since February 12th and seeing him out there and getting at the Bruins players it has definitely played into them going after the Caps less because they know they'd have to answer to him.

What does Game 7 hold? History says a loss...hell the Caps have yet to win, or maybe did once, the night before I have an event at work. I have events Wednesday and Thursday this week so here's hoping that history doesn't play into the outcome. Many people believe its safe money to assume this game will be decided by one goal since the first six were, a record. I don't think that will be the case and I don't think it'll take an empty netter to make it a two goal game. The Bruins head back to Boston with the momentum of an OT win and their home crowd supporting them while the Caps head back probably a little deflated after the loss, in a game they probably should have won, back to being the underdog and with the pressure of their fans and a possible off-season roster shake-up looming. Neither team wants to see their season end now and I can honestly see either team moving on in the next round, and even to the Cup finals, regardless of who the opponents are over the next two round. I obviously want the Caps to win and will pull for them despite the history.

At some point you've got to break a trend and what better time than the present? Its time to put up or shut up. No more talking, no more excuses. If you're going to go down, make it respectable and go down fighting but winners find a way to win (yes so damn cliche) and the Caps have the ability to do it and the want to do it but will they give the effort to do it? No playing turtle in this game. If you take the lead, go for the jugular while still playing smart. Pressure, forecheck, backcheck, hit, shoot, block, score, do whatever you have to do but don't take penalties. Make this the statement for those NHL "History Will Be Made" commericals

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Backstrom Gets Suspended and The Officiating Continues to Suck The Gloves Come Off *Warning Strong Language*

Allow me to start off with a giant FUCK YOU to Brendan Shanahan and Gary Bettman.  The NHL decided to uphold the one game suspension that accompanied Nick Backstrom's match penalty at the end of Game 3 of the Caps/Bruins.

In the video statement that Shanahan released, around 11:15pm Tuesday night (really you wait till that late? Avoiding all day scrutiny you jackass?), Shanny states that he took into consideration the fact that Peverley wasn't injured and Backstrom had no prior history of discipline. This is the same reason he did not suspend Shea Weber who at the end of Game 1 of the Predators/Redwings punched the head of Pavel Datsyuk into the glass and then grabbed it and slammed it twice more into the glass. Weber received a fine for his actions, Shanahan received a lot of criticism. In Backstrom's case Shanahan also says that Peverley did raise his stick toward Backstrom's face but that the Backstrom was the aggressor and at fault.

I've watched the video of the hit many times and Peverley trips Ovechkin and Backstrom comes in for a high know a hockey play...hits Peverley in the shoulder and it rides up into his face. Suspendable? Perhaps! Fine worthy? Definitely.  (For a great take on the play look up former Caps player Alan May from his appearance on CSN Sports Night with Chick Hernandez)

Let's take a moment though and look at what how Peverley's stick was at Backstrom's face. Did Shanahan forget that Backstrom just returned from missing 40 games due to a concussion? You know the Bruins haven't forgotten that. If you watch the series they've targeted his head many times and rarely drawn a penalty. I mean he got clotheslined in Game 3 which drew one but he's also been hit by, at the least, Lucic, Bergeron, Marchand and Thomas all in the head. On multiple occassions, including Game 3, Lucic has made it a point to grab Backstrom by the head and rip his helmet off and follow it up with a punch. In the Game 3 incident Lucic got a roughing call on the play...but Backstrom got penalized too even though he didn't do anything..and even if he did its not unusal when officials let it slide. In Game 2 they locked him up at the end of the 2nd period and then grabbed him by his face mask. Late in the 3rd period of Game 2 Bruins goalie Tim Thomas hit him in the face with his blocker and that was followed up with a cross-check from another Bruin, and a third grabbing Backstrom from behind, around the head again, and tackling to the ice while hitting and shoving on him. NONE of those earned penalties nor did any earn a suspension. So even what if Backstrom was reckless at the end of Game 3 after putting up with that shit the first three games he didn't know what Peverley's intentions were. Add to it that in Game 2 Thomas kicks Troy Brouwer, that warrants a match penalty, and not only does it go uncalled the NHL doesn't review and fine or suspend Thomas nor any other Bruins player for any of the shit they've done to Backstrom or any other Capitals player.

There have been a lot of head shots that have gone uncalled in the series on both sides. Then you have Lucic taking down Brooks Laich before the face-off in Game 3. Instead of calling Lucic for a penalty they decided Laich needed to come off too. I believe both received unsportsmanlike I guess being thrown to the ice is a penalty now...God the Caps are screwed if that's the case. Or how about when Chara tackled Laich, behind the net, next to the ref, and nothing was called. Chara laid on top of him on the ice and was hitting him and wouldn't get off and allow him to get back into the play (interference much) and nothing was called. So where is the punishment of the refs?  Twice this post-season the refs have missed an off-sides that lead to a goal, one of which lead to the game winning goal for the Bruins in Game 3...the call was missed by the same official that missed the one in Game 1 of the Penguins/Flyers series. Where the fuck is the fine or suspension of that ref?  Or what about the goal waved off in last night Predators/Redwings game? The puck was in the net and the ref blew his whistle and signaled no goal because he didn't think it went in. Why was he not behind the net? Why are they blowing the whistle so quickly now but at the end of the season the whistle didn't blow on two goals the Sabres scored when they played Toronto and Washington? Why are refs not punished when they continue to miss obvious calls game after game and let series get out of hand. Where is the spineless weasel Gary Bettman in all of this?

Also on the flip side in the Penguins/Flyers series James Neal, who has a previous history with the league, was suspended one game for multiple hits, one of which he left his feet. Yes that is a one game suspension, for two hits, for a guy with a prior history ...the same fucking punishment given to Backstrom. Let that sync in.  Of course if you listen to the pundits like EJ Hradek who tweeted that "having Dale Hunter support you can't help your cause #PierreTurgeon." That doesn't fucking matter asshole.

Of course if you listen to the Bruins and their fans the Caps have been the only ones that have done wrong in this series. The Caps have taken at least one shot at the head of a Bruins player in every game of the know compared to the eight that Bruins have done every game, many of which I've documented in previous posts. You'd think that a team such as the Bruins, who saw teammate Marc Savard have his career ended due to a concussion on an illegal hit by the Penguins' Matt Cooke, would have a little compassion and not target Backstrom's head. Nope! They're as classless as I expected them to be. I get trying to win at all costs but where is the line that shouldn't be crossed?

Shanahan is trying to get the players to respect one another and show that certain types of plays won't be tolerated. Apparently grabbing a guy's head and slamming it into the boards will be allowed but other plays that occur hundreds of times a week will get you punished. I'm not sure where the line is then because I consider Weber's actions much worse than Backstrom did and even Neal...and I HATE the Penguins. This really intrigues me to see what kind of hammer will be dropped on Raffi Torres who hit Marian Hossa late, after he had moved the puck, and left his feet to do so. Torres has a history and anything less than the remainder of the playoffs and part of next season will be deemed light.

For now Caps fans are livid at the double standard in this series. The Bruins target heads and connect every time. Game 4 is a HUGE game for the Caps and it just became that much more difficult. Down 2 games to 1 the Caps will now play without their top center and arguably their best and most important player.  The Bruins did their job, they got into the heads of the Caps players, caused them to lose their composure and got one of their main players removed from a key game. If the Caps win Game 4 it will definitely ease the sting from the suspension. It will also send the series back to Boston without really any momentum. While the Caps would have the advantage from winning the last game Boston would have home-ice and crowd support which would neutralize the Caps momentum. Then again maybe the return of Backstrom would give the Caps the edge.

Regardless injustice was served to Backstrom, Caps fans, and the NHL Playoffs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Washington Wizards...A Franchise Going Nowhere Fast

For years I have been a Bullets/Wizards fan. Mind you in my early years I suffered through rooting for teams that had  Mitchell Butler, Ladell Eckles, Tom Hammonds, Harvey Grant (the lesser of twins), Larry Stewart, Michael Adams, and Pervis Ellison, who I couldn't stand, so yeah not house hold names but that was the roster we had. Then in 1993-94 I started really getting into basketball and by the following season I was sold on a team that had added Chris Webber to go with Juwan Howard and also had my favorite player at the time...Big Ghitza...Gheorghe Muresan. Add Rod Strickland and the outside shooting of Tim Legler and this team had playoff potential for years to come but, much like the Wizards teams of the mid to late 2000s, they managed to underachieve.

Those early 2000s teams saw the Wizards get THE Michael Jordan, first as an executive, then as a player, then as neither. The executive drafted Kwame Brown, in an overall underwhelming draft, and pulled a trade Wes Unseld would be proud of by sending young Richard Hamilton to the Detroit Pistons for Jerry Stackhouse. Not the Jerry Stackhouse that lit the league up when he entered with the 76ers tho. Of course this trade would work out, why not they always do when the Wizards trade youth for veteran leadership. Ben Wallace for Ike Austin..oh um...Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond...darn um...Rasheed Wallace for Rod Strickland..yeah not so much when you look at the end results for all those players after the deals.

Jordan did make one great move as an executive though, and its probably the only one he's made as a GM or owner, which was to unload Juwan Howard's seemingly unmovable contract to the Dallas Mavs and bringing back Etan Thomas and Courtney Alexander...veteran for youth and Thomas was actually a serviceable and reliable big man..when he wasn't hurt.

The early early/mid 2000s I loved if only because they team drafted my all-time favorite player, Juan Dixon, and Steve Blake, and even brought in Lonny Baxter, he of one semester at Springbrook High School..go Blue Devils. Unfortunately for me and him, despite Juan Dixon being a key member of the Wizards bench and winning a game for them in the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls he was not long for the team, despite two stints with the team. The mid/late 2000 teams were built around Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Larry Hughes (one year) then Caron Butler. Each year that they made the playoffs they had the look of a team that could go pretty deep yet they always seemed to lose to LeBron James and the refs Cleveland Cavaliers.

Significant injuries to Arenas pretty much crippled this team's playoff hopes and he never got back to being the same player, his alter-ego Agent Zero, then was involved in a terrible turn of events involving guns in the locker room and eventually, miraculously given his contract, traded. This trade taking place after Jamison and Butler had been moved by the trade deadline the year prior and so ended the Big 3 era and ushered in the John Wall era which has essentially just been a run into a wall.

The season started off terribly and I constantly referred to the team as the Izards, because they had no W's, or the Lizards, because they kept racking up losses. Coach Flip Saunders had named Andray Blatche a team captain, ballsy considering his work ethic and lack of maturity over the years, but Blatche had been trying during the lockout to get all the players to come to DC and practice so that they'd build some chemistry. Only a few players showed up and that may have hurt the team.

There's no doubt John Wall is talented. Before the Wizards received the 1st pick in the 2010 NBA draft I wasn't a big fan of his but once we got it I started checking some videos and was quickly sold on the kid. The problem now is he's not progressing. The lockout last off-season and the ridiculous schedule this year surely isn't helping his growth but it would have been nice if instead of running around the country in pick-up and charity games, though I can't blame him there, he had spent more time working on his jumper. The face of the franchise has about as consistent of a jumper as Rajon Rondo but can't compile stats nearly as identical regardless of the difference in talent each roster has. Add to it that while he's quick he's also very out of control on the break and will miss lay-ups regularly and can lose his composure which can completely take him out of a game mentally. Hopefully this off-season the team can get him to stay close to DC and work with whoever the coaching staff will be to work on his game.

Jordan Crawford stated he wanted to be better than Jordan. The kid has a big pair to make that statement, too bad he's going to be nothing but a role player for his career much like Damon Jones, Mike Miller, Jamaal Crawford and Quentin Richardson. JC is a streaky wing shooter, we had that in Nick Young, but he also has a weird jerky jump shot and take some awful shots at the worst opportunities. Until the coaches reign him in he's going to keep going that route...then again the coach is an interim one so he won't be listened to much.

As for Blatche? I've loved him since we drafted him, despite his stupidity and immaturity off the court and his self esteem issues on the court, thanks Eddie Jordan, he showed a couple year's ago when Jamison went down that he was on his way to reaching his potential. Alas it all slipped away. Every time he touched the ball at home this season the fans booed him and his performance warranted it or was a product of the fans reactions. Regardless he'd been out of shape, made comments speaking out against the coach in terms of getting the ball in the paint and then once he did he still settled or chose to take it out and take bad shots, and has since been shut down for the season. If the team can move him they'll be lucky but I fear his career won't end well and we're going to hear more about him with off-court issues once he is done.

Rashard Lewis. Overpaid, overrated, washed up, shut down, and soon to be amnestied. Yeah that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the forward that can't rebound, can't score and can no longer shoot.

Brian Cook and Mo Evans. Can't stand them, don't need them, next?

Roger Mason Jr came back after a few seasons away and hit some clutch shots in a few games this year. Now he's out having finger surgery, was released today and replaced by Morris Almond...Almond? Really? How about you bring Dixon back to at least put a few asses in the seats for these last few home games?

Chris Singleton has been as good as advertised on defense, better than expected on offense, but I fear he's settling for 3's he shouldn't be. Should be a viable option at SF in a role similar to Shane Battier.

Shelvin Mack has been a solid PG back-up. I haven't watched him much but he's played well when I have seen him. The same can be said for Jan Vesley. He's done some things right, some things wrong but he's still raw and hasn't had enough playing time for fair assesment.

Kevin Seraphin is a player that came in raw and while he still has a lot of room to grow he has been the best player on the team many nights, including that game against the Lakers which seemed to be his coming out party. I think he could be a very solid center option in a league lacking quality centers.

Nene is new to the team and injured and will probably get shut down for the year. I'll admit that I didn't care for the trade when we made it. Much like I did with the way fans felt about Arenas before he was traded, I was one of the few supporters of Nick Young and JaVale McGee. McGee is very talented but reckless. He tries to run fast breaks and makes stupid goaltending plays and has had a few other mental lapses but the potential outweighted them to me. This was a team that SUCKED and was usually getting killed every night and he at least brought some personality on the court. Young on the other hand was the same type of player as Crawford, a streaky shooter but more accurate, or so it seemed. He also could throw down some ridiculous dunks but much like many other players on the team he was very immature.

Finally there is Trevor Booker. He has been my loan bright spot for the team the past two years.The kid can jump out the gym, throw down some sick dunks, block shots and hustles. He just can't seem to stay healthy. I really hope the team doesn't decide to move him because it would just add to the mistake in the front office from over the years. If Wall can get taught, Booker stays healthy, and Seraphin continues to progress then those three players would make this team much easier to watch.

Right now they're just fucking awful though, I mean to the point I can barely watch any games. How many times has this team blown a 20+ point lead, usually in a half, this season? Its gotta be some kind of record. Every team gets lucky a few times a season and that's how you have to explain them beating the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the year. When the season started I thought the team could win 20-25 games. After they imploded in the opener against the New Jersey Nets I changed that to maybe 15 wins. After their first 5 games I thought they'd be lucky to win 5.

Of course not all the blame should be the players. In the mid-90s before the team played at the Verizon Center I read a story about how the players hated playing for Washington and how terrible the atmosphere was because Abe Pollin, then more like the Mr. Burns of the NBA, had training camp held at the gym at Bowie State University. The gym had no air conditioning, holes in the windows, broken showers and players were not happy. Once the Verizon Center opened I started hearing better things and when Arenas joined the team the free agent market at least had reason to look at coming here. Now the team is owned by Caps owner Ted Leonsis and we'll have to see what he does. His plan is to let his execs do their jobs since they have the basketball knowledge and he'll pay the money. The problem is he has the wrong guys in place but may not know it either because he's very loyal or not knowledgeable.

The front office has been a constant sore spot with Wizards fans. First it was former player Wes Unseld calling the shots in the 90s, then Jordan, now Grunfeld and he has lost a lot of player for comments he's made and for allowing Arenas to get away with a lot of the stuff he did during his time here, whether it was his call or Pollin's it happened. Fines and suspensions by the coach were overruled and that is just bad all around.

You also have to look at the quality of coaches we've had in DC since the mid 90s...Wes Unseld, Jim Lynam, Bob Staak, Bernie Bickerstaff, Jim Brovelli, Gar Heard, Darrell Walker, Leonard Hamilton, Doug Collins, Eddie Jordan, Ed Tapscott, Flip Saunders and now Randy Whittman. The only guys on their worth a damn is Doug Collins and Flip Saunders and Eddie Jordan isn't bad but his dog house killed so many players.

Maybe its poor management top to bottom, maybe its bad luck, maybe its the Curse O'Les Boulez. Whatever it is its still happening and it doesn't look like its leaving any time soon

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Caps vs. Bruins Game 2 - Where Karma Happens

Is there anything better in sports than playoff hockey? Honestly I don't think there is...maybe the NCAA Basketball tournament but really most people only have investment in it if they're betting on the tourney and while the upsets are nice they aren't long lived.

Playoff hockey though...the hitting, the atmosphere, the sudden death overtime and when the Caps are involved you better have a strong heart because the cardiac Caps have a thing about making things long and interesting. Game 1 ended 1-0 minutes into overtime and today's game looked and felt like it was going to go the same way. Until around the 2 minute mark of the 2nd period when Troy Brouwer put one 5-hole on Tim Thomas and gave the Caps a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately the Caps couldn't hold the lead as the Bruins scored and were kind enough to run over Braden Holtby after the goal was scored. The play was clean though as Holtby put himself into that position. Luckily for the Caps that was the only thing that got past the young netminder in regulation and it lead to overtime where both teams had chances but none of them scored.

In the 2nd overtime I felt the Caps looked a bit more tired than the Bruins but they hang tough and Nicklas Backstrom sent a slapshot past Tim Thomas for the game winning goal and sending the series back to DC tied up at 1-1.

As the title states though that game winner had some karma attached to it.  Both teams are physical, in fact I felt that of all the teams in the East the Bruins were the most physical and dirtiest team in the East. While I may have some bias let us look at the facts. The Bruins on many occasions will gang up on a single player of the other team while no one else is around to come to their defense. During a "scrum" in front of the net, after Backstrom was trying to go for the puck but Thomas had made the save, Thomas took his blocker and hit the recently concussed Backstrom right in the face, add to it a cross check from another Bruins player as that happened and a third grabbing Backstrom from behind and putting him into a bit of a sleeper hold. Oh but this wasn't the first time in the game that happened. At the end of the 2nd period a fracas broke out after the horn and the Bruins went after Brouwer and Backstrom and Patrice Bergeron had Backstrom into a headlock then as the refs tried to separate them he grabbed Backstrom by his visor and appeared to say some unpleasant things to the young Swede...who gave a nice little shot back to Bergeron.

That's not to say the Caps weren't guilty of infractions that went uncalled, like Ovie cross-checking a guy in the face but hey the refs had already called Roman Hamrlik for a cross-check after he cross-checked two Bruins that had cross-checked him moments prior.. Obviously its playoff hockey and they let the boys play every now and then but even the seemingly anti-Caps NBC announcers, namely Mike Milbury, said as much...and I'm sure that's tough for him to do since he's a former Bruins player and coach.

Back to the play though. Alexander Semin gets criticized for disappearing in the playoffs and while he hasn't shown up offensively he was a huge part in securing today's win including sacrificing his body on a shot by Zdeno Chara, who has the hardest shot in the world. Blocking shots has been a huge key to this series too as the Caps, who gave up over forty shots on net today, ended up blocking at least 25 and held a 21-5 advantage in blocked shots...this is a team that usually has theirs blocked so its been a welcome sight. Now if we can only get that power play going.

Regardless of it all the Caps pulled out the victory, shaved some years off the life of their fans; as they been known to do over the years when it comes to playoffs; and head home with momentum. Braden Holtby has played amazing and will need to continue to do so if the Caps are going to steal this series. Here's hoping the next two games are as entertaining as the first two and that the Caps win both, preferably in regulation. I do expect the series to be even more physical and hope that the SEA OF RED in Verizon Center comes out in full force, we want as few Bruins fans as possible in that place.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Impressions From Last Night's Game 1 of Caps vs. Bruins

Despite the loss I found it to be a really great game. The hitting, the "just missed" chances, and some of the saves just made for an outstanding game.

The game was sullied, and yes I'm biased, by the refs not calling some dives, I believe on Marchand, in the 3rd, as well as the roughing Semin took after getting hit by Lucic and two other Bruins well after the whistle had blown, the hooking of Semin, and the interference and roughing by Chara on Hendricks at the players bench, the last two in the final minute of the third. Add to it the fact that the refs didn't call a delay of game on Tim Thomas for covering and freezing the puck with no one around him and the Caps definitely got screwed over once the refs swallowed the whistle, which seemed to happen after the penalty on the Caps goalie who had already been run over at least twice and been smacked in the back of the head with a stick of a Bruins I'm not bitter.

All that said, despite the Caps lack of offensive opportunities in the 1st two periods they did a great job of containing the Bruins and did the one thing they've been lacking in the playoffs and what felt like the latter part of the season which was block shots or stop them in front, despite the 30 put on Holtby during the game.

Holtby definitely rose to the occasion last night and will need to be just as good, or better, on Saturday if the Caps want to come back to Washington tied at 1-1. Outside of a few big rebounds and one playing of the puck that left the net wide open, Holtby was strong in net and the only reason the Caps remained in the game.

While you can throw the regular season statistics and records out the window once the playoffs start someone forgot to tell the Caps offense they could abandon the aspects of not shooting the puck and playing piss poor on the power play. As much credit as you can give the Bruins, a lot of the Caps ineptness falls more on their players.

While the power play struggled the Caps did hold the Bruins, who aren't very good on the PP at home, at bay by killing off all 5 opportunities including a 4 minute "high sticking" by Jay Beagle. Seriously though that PP may not be good but Lucic and Chara are big and powerful enough and Seguin agile enough get that group rolling at any time. While I expected the Bruins to cash in at least once I was pleasantly impressed and satisfied with the effort the Caps displayed on the PK.

Jay Beagle was my forward of the night till that 4 minute minor, that's the kind of penalty that will keep you from getting a sweater in the next game. Hello Mike Knuble please pick up the white courtesy phone. Also seeing Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson come back from some hard shots to the ankle and head respectively earns them major props. Both of those little rag doll midgets have taken quite a few hits and pucks to the head, its like their is some kind of magnetic force or something. If either of them goes down you have to wonder if maybe they'll throw Mattias Sjogren on the ice, they could...they won't, but it would be an interesting debut for sure.

The toughest thing about the loss was that it was a bad transition goal where Dennis Wideman didn't get back or into position, but at least we didn't deflect it past our own goalie as we've done in the past. The opportunity for a save by Braden seemed like it would be one of the easier ones for him..alas it wasn't and the best thing to come out of it, besides the Caps going out on the ice to show their appreciation of his effort, was the glass falling David Krejci...that's what you get for going after Holtby early...that and roughed up by John Carlson *stick tap*

Hopefully Game 2 is as good and exciting as Game 1 was. I'm sticking with my Caps in 6 belief but they'll definitely have to get to Thomas, screen him and run his own guys over him. I also expect that there will be at least one fight as both teams are definitely getting chippy with one another and there is still some bad blood from their last two regular season meetings.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Brace Yourself DC...She's Back!!!

I'm classifying this as an EXCLUSIVE

Just weeks after it was reported that Britt McHenry would be leaving the DC area to work for Fox Sports in San Diego and the Padres it seems there has been a change of plans.

On the ride home from work tonight I came across this blog stating Britt was no longer with the Fox team. I thought it was odd Britt wasn't doing the Padres game yesterday and had been quiet on Twitter tha past few days. So an inquiring mind, mine, wanted to know more and I went straight to the source.

After being surprised that I had heard the news Britt did confirm to me that she had an opportunity to come back with ABC 7 and that she realized how much she truly loved DC, the variety of sports and that she had a good thing here. She loves the in-depth reporting and anchoring. Britt also told me the following "I want to clarify that I wanted to stay here, felt a commitment to DC and the viewers in this stage of my life. Just felt like home."

There you have it! The queen has returned to her media market..sorry Dan Hellie...and it looks like she's prepared to stay for a while. Welcome back Britt! Can't wait to see you doing Caps games, the Junkies and everything you loved doing here. Its gonna be great to see you on TV locally and not losing hours of sleep to catch the Padres play..sorry San Diego but those first few games were rough.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Britt McHenry I Bid You Adieu

In the world of news media turnover is not uncommon. Reporters come and go and every once in a while some find their market and never leave. The Washington DC area has been blessed to have news anchors such as Jim Vance, Doreen Gentzler, Andrea Roane, JC Heyward, and Gordon Peterson as local anchors for the better part of the past 30 years or more. In sports we had the late, great, George Michael.  When it comes to weather and sports many believe that the women that do the reporting are all looks, little brains, and know virtually little about what they are reporting on. The DC market is far from that though. Over the years we've had Lindsay Czarniak move from NBC to ESPN, Sarah Walsh move from CBS to ESPN, Sage Steele move from CSN to ESPN and now we're losing my favorite, and the best looking of the bunch, Britt McHenry, to Fox Sports San Diego.

Brittany May McHenry grew up in Satellite Beach, Florida and in 2007 graduated magna cum laude from Stetson University, where she played soccer, before earning her master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She interned at ABC News and Fox News in Washington DC before joining the ABC7 and News Channel 8 teams in DC. She began as a community reporter and anchored weekend morning shows on Channel 8 before doing weekend sports reports on ABC7 and hosting New Channel 8's High School Sports Final. Among the sporting events Britt has covered are Super Bowl 42 and the 2008 Men's NCAA Tournament.

Let me get the obvious out of the way. Britt McHenry is a freakin’ HOTTIE, easily one of the most beautiful women that I’ve ever seen.  Fans of Britt have compared her looks to that of Katherine Heigl, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and a blonde Rachel McAdams which is not too shabby of a hybrid if you ask me. In fact to think that Britt isn't on the rise because of her looks would be short sighted. "Sex" sells and in this case it’s in the gender format. Everyone can agree that one of the best ways to get people, mainly men, to keep an interest in a sporting event is to have some eye candy. Football and Basketball have cheerleaders, Hockey is starting to get Ice Girls and in the Caps case Red Rockers. On TV it’s the hot sideline reporter, and watch out Erin Andrews you're about to become forgotten…fast.  Britt has quickly risen up on lists of hottest sports reporters on sites such as BleacherReport and Busted Coverage, and deservedly so although I would beg to differ with any list where she's not at the Top or in the Top 3-5, though I'm heavily biased. Plus it’s only a matter of time before other online sites and magazines that appeal to men, like Egotastic, Maxim, and Playboy begin to take notice if they haven't already. I also share the sentiments of Twitter user @robyontz “Feel sorry for Britt McHenry's parents knowing every red blooded male under 65 has impure thoughts about their daughter.”

I was late to the game with Ms. McHenry, only happening upon her in June of 2011. The former college soccer player won me over beyond just her looks with her array of sports knowledge, enthusiasm, pop culture references, smile and laughter that she displayed with every report that she did. While sports reporters are supposed to be impartial they are also fans and she never had a problem letting people know that she's been a long suffering fan of the Miami Dolphins and the Chicago Cubs.

Britt isn't just an athlete and reporter, she's also done modeling and been a cover girl. In DC you could find Britt on the February 2012 cover of Washington Life Magazine, on the March 2012 cover of On Tap Magazine and a few years back you may have seen Britt on the cover of Prevention Magazine. Britt has also been the emcee for events in the DC area, most recently Alexandria's Toast to Fashion. Remember how I said Britt was an athlete? She isn’t afraid to show off her sports skills or admit to her struggles. In the past year she’s played in Mia Hamm’s Charity Soccer game, taken part in a Wounded Warriors Softball Game at Nationals Park, done a little batting practice in heel/boots and tried her hand at golf.

As I stated earlier Britt’s appeal goes beyond her looks. She’s not one that has to read from a script written by someone else or that gets put in front of a camera just because she's pretty, or at least that's what most stereotypes would lead one to believe about the majority of attractive sports reporters. Britt is one of the more approachable and outgoing people I've come across.  She has always been one to invite fans to meet her at an event or game she's at, though I’m sure the pepper spray and taser aren’t too far away in case someone tries to get touchy feely. She’s also active on Facebook and engaging on Twitter. Britt comes off just as humble and sweet as she appears when she does her newscasts and as many of the other local media have reported her to be, namely The Junkies. While we have conversed via Twitter, follow Britt at @brittmchenry, and Facebook (fan page in the past and she has even used one of my quotes during her one of her sports reports, I have not yet been lucky enough to meet her. Though it seemed like my chance was going to come March 14th at a charity event that my work held it did not come to pass due to an opportunity of a lifetime which presented itself to her and I for one cannot blame her one bit for jumping at the chance she was presented. So while I myself have not yet had the honor of meeting Britt I’m sure that will change one day down the road. During our interactions Britt has always been cordial and even agreed to do the following Q&A session for my blog. I brought the hard hitting questions but settled on these:

On her time in the DMV

David - What have you enjoyed most about your time in the DMV?
Britt - I've enjoyed the sense of community. When people think about big sports markets, they usually think Boston or Chicago (with good reason). However, I'd argue Washington fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans out there. If anything, Redskins fans are loyal, and most importantly, patient.

- Do you have any regrets from your time here?
Britt - My regret is a catch-22; leaving. I worked at a great station, developed a lot of friendships, and thoroughly enjoyed going to work each and every day. But, I'm also confident in the choice I made. It's an exciting opportunity to cover the San Diego Padres, as well as national college football games in the Fall. Plus, I am from Florida. The beach is like a second home.

David - Could you see yourself back here one day?
Britt - Never know what the future holds.

David - Favorite place to be in the DMV?
Britt - W Rooftop; you can't beat the view and atmosphere.

David - Favorite moment during your time here?
Britt - Playing in the Mia Hamm's Celebrity Soccer Game. She single handedly inspired my love of soccer and the career I have today.

David - Worst moment?
Britt - Any time I had to shoot my own video in the rain or cold. Fortunately, I'll be around a camera man at all times now.

On Her New Job
David - When do you leave/start?
Britt - Technically, I already have. I flew out to Phoenix to meet the team in Spring Training, and I start covering games opening weekend (including their exhibition game on April 3rd). However, I'll still be on the air in DC till the end of April.

David - How did this opportunity come about?
Britt - Call from my agent

David - Why did you decide to take this offer now?
Britt - I felt like the opportunity was just too good to pass up. If I'm not going to take a traveling reporting position like this now--at 25--when will I? It's not every day you get to meet a legend like Trevor Hoffman and know that you'll be working with an organization he helped build. Plus, I'll still be covering football, now in a network capacity. I did what I thought would best develop my career in the long-run. Even though, from a personal standpoint, it was extremely difficult to leave my friends and colleagues here.

David - Will you be going on the road with the team?
Britt - Yes. We go to Wrigley on my birthday, May 28th. I'm looking forward to that.

Job Related
David - Do rival reporters really get along as it seems you guys do or is a lot of that just for show?
Britt - We get along. All of us can relate to the crazy work hours, and I find that most people who genuinely love sports are pretty down-to-earth.

David - Why did you get into the profession?
Britt - I love telling stories, and I love informing viewers, listeners, or readers about something they may not have already known. I also naturally ask a lot of questions. Put all those things together, and I'm pretty sure you have a reporter.

David - What is one aspect you feel you still need to improve on professionally?
Britt - Honestly, what I'm about to do. While I've done a lot of live reporting, I've never explicitly done sideline reporting. There will also be some hosting opportunities as well.

David - Is radio something you’d really like to do?
Britt - Absolutely, I love radio--and I love the Junkies!

On Modeling
David - You’re a reporter, you’ve played soccer, you’ve done modeling…which do you prefer and which is the most difficult?
Britt - I prefer reporting and feel it's what I'm most talented at among the three. Soccer is by far the most difficult, and modeling is more cut-throat (laugh).

David - What are your thoughts on the notion that you’re viewed a certain way as a reporter because you’re extremely attractive?
Britt - People are going to assume things about me because I'm a woman and because I have blonde hair. I just ignore it. Hopefully, my reporting and background as a Division I athlete will speak for itself.

David - 5 things you can’t live without?
Britt – Family, my phone, my computer, sour candy, and make-up

I personally don't believe the last one to be necessary since Britt is a natural beauty.

David - What’s your worst habit?
Britt - I'm a bit type A, so I tend to overanalyze.

David - Biggest pet peeve?
Britt – Arrogance

David - Why do you seem to wear blue so much? Is it your favorite color or Cubbies Blue?
Britt - Haha, I didn't notice I wore blue that often. I generally like wearing brighter colors.

David - Favorite type of music/musician?
Britt - I like everything. In my iPod right now: Black Keys, Carrie Underwood, Gotye, Lil Wayne (told you, I like everything).

David - You’ve made it known you’re a bit of a SciFi dork and love the Underworld movies. After them what would be your next favorite genre and your favorite movie(s)?
Britt - Not really sure about genre's. My favorite movie of all time is The Cutting Edge. Still not helping my nerd cause ha!

David - Can a sense of humor win you over?
Britt - Yep, that's what I look for in a guy. My boyfriend Max is pretty funny. 

Sorry fellas she’s taken!
David - How’s that golf game coming along?
Britt - Terrible as always; I once managed to hit a ball into an adjoining stall at the driving range. I don't even know how that trajectory is possible. I'll stick to soccer and basketball.

David - Who’s your favorite follower/fan?
Britt - David Browne…obviously! (awww aren’t you sweet..HA)
As you can tell Britt was great regarding those questions and has been kind enough to put up with me messaging her quite a bit of late. Despite all that awesomeness Britt hasn't been without her haters. Whether its harassing, inappropriate, or derogatory comments on her blog writings at ABC-7, on her Facebook page or even Twitter there will always be someone that wants to be an ass because they're jealous or wants attention but Britt has handled herself with class and dignity dealing with each and every one of them. I really don't understand how someone "likes" someone on Facebook or follows them on Twitter or goes to their blog just to bash someone and say they're conceited or seeking attention by asking people to read what they wrote or posted a new picture of themselves on their page. What kind of friggin' psycho dumbasses are some of these internet tough guys? Sorry back to what matters...

For months fans, mainly male, have been saying/fearing that they expected ESPN to come calling for Britt, though I never really saw her as the ESPN type, and based on some of the things I've read about what happens up there I had hoped they wouldn't come calling despite the ABC/ESPN connection.  Instead the call came from Fox Sports and Britt accepted the job as a sideline reporter for the San Diego Padres and also will do reporting at college football games on Fox. This means I will now have to drop money on the DirecTV Sports Package, I'm too cheap to do the MLB Extra Innings offer. There is no doubt that DMV is losing one of their best and most underrated talents and our loss is San Diego's gain. Also if there is one person would be most happy about Britt’s move would be NBC4’s Dan Hellie because now NBC can get their ratings back on weekends from Britt’s domination (opinion not fact - and its always fun to kid Dan).

I'm sure a few people are asking is a "weekend anchor" ready for a bigger stage...I think the question should be is the bigger stage ready for the "weekend anchor." In recent interviews Britt spoke of what her days consist of, the sacrifices she's made for her job, including working holidays and days off, shooting her reports and editing her reports herself and just displayed a rare ambition, drive and work ethic that is rare in someone of her age, 26 in May. So yeah I think she's ready. Plus Britt, admittedly, isn't one to get "star struck," as she claims to have it only happen on two occasions, meeting Don Shula and her idol Mia Hamm...and mind you this is a girl that got to have her picture taken with Dirty Harry Mr. Clint Eastwood.

Like many I found out about Britt leaving via Twitter and actually was commenting on it when she direct messaged me about something else. I'm sure many people in the DMV had the same feeling, heartbreak, and thought, why couldn't it have been Tim Brant that was leaving and Britt taking over, as I did. In fact I feel partly responsible since on New Year's Day I tweeted "Fearless predictions for 2012 - @BrittMcHenry will receive a proposal to good to pass up tho hopefully not one taking her out of dc area," to which she replied "hmmm... you may be on to something ;) !" So look at me finally getting something right...dang it. A change and move this big is far from an easy decision to make. How difficult of a decision may this have been for her? Well Britt posted this in the days before it was announced "sometimes the hardest decision is the right one, but that never makes it any easier to make." So if that was in response to her decision it speaks volumes.

There is little doubt in my mind that the people of San Diego will fall in love with Britt from the first telecast, and it seems that many are already supporting her hiring, even if most are all for it because she is a hottie. San Diego is a beautiful city that has gorgeous weather year round and being a Florida girl I'm sure she won't mind the opportunity to have fun in the sun and lounge on the beach. The Padres team leaves something to be desired but in a few years they may turn the corner.

Of course selfishly I'd hope by then Britt decides to return to the DC market, I still can't believe the Nationals didn't hire her after dumping their terrible sideline reporter from last last year and hook her up with a radio show much like Amber Theoharris has gotten in Baltimore.

Finally wrap your head around this. One day years ago, as Britt stated, Mia Hamm for inspired her and that lead her to where she is today. One day, maybe its now, maybe its in the future or maybe its already happened, some young girl or young boy is going to look at Britt, see how she conducts herself, see how cool and calm she remains under pressure, and sees how good and confident she is in the job she is doing and at that moment they look to Britt as inspiration to follow their dreams or to go into sports broadcasting. How awesome must that feel?
Britt I want to thank you for all that you brought to your telecasts here, for the interactions, for the work you did in the community, for your kindness, your dedication to your craft, and for reigniting the passion in me to get back to doing some of the things I love – like this blog and doing the Q&A with me, YOU ROCK GIRL! I really feel I focused too much on the wrong things with this blog entry and didn't do you justice but I do have the utmost respect for you, what you do and what you've done. I wish you well in San Diego and San Diego you better treat her well. As the outpouring of support and well wishes showed on Twitter you are loved here and are always welcome back. Enjoy this new chapter but don't forget those you left behind.

Your #1 fan - David