Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Leaving Today for Pittsburgh!

Hello mother puckers! My flight leaves at 7:50 p.m. tonight for Pittsburgh. I will be among the rest of the media members and Caps and Pens nations ready for Saturday's golden matchup between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I've done so many pieces already on the Winter Classic this week, and if you haven't checked them out yet, you're behind.

First is a piece on the "hype factor" of this year's Winter Classic and the rivalry between the Penguins and Capitals on Toronto Maple Leaf reporter Steve Dangle's site as a guest blogger. Apparently, I'm Dangle's "favourite Twiterererer":
http://www.stevedangle.com/guest-blogger-angie-lewis

From last night on The Hockey Writers, I did an in-depth look at the history and dimensions of the rivalry between the Caps and Penguins. Trust me guys, having grown up a Capitals fan, it was hard having to post videos and recaps of those heartbreaking moments of overtime goals and losing to the Penguins. Oh well, such is the life in objective sports journalism:
http://bit.ly/fN0SpX

Doing double-overtime for THW, I also posted this afternoon 5 things to know about the Washington Capitals. I share with the world 5 things besides Alex Ovechkin to pay attention to regarding the Washington Capitals: goaltending, the Capitals improved defense, the Alex Semin situation, the possibility of the Caps being dethroned in the Southeast Division, and what the Caps will need to do if Bruce Boudreau is to remain head coach of the team. I added an "extra attacker" section as well, looking at the interesting situation of special teams, since the Caps have extraordinary penalty killing this year, but dismal power play numbers by normal Capitals standards:
http://bit.ly/gLufoL

My partner-in-crime for this, Mike Colligan, THW's Penguins correspondent, will be joining me at the Winter Classic and has his articles as well. Read them for a well-rounded look at the Winter Classic and two teams that could make a run at the Cup this year.

It should be fun, and I'm EXTREMELY excited. I'm in my early-20's and I'm going to Pittsburgh to cover the Winter Classic on NHL credentials. I won't lie, it's almost surreal, but I'm keeping it in check.

By all graces, the game should be on Saturday with no delays and no shenanigans. I'm more than ready. I'll be back in DC on Sunday, but for now, thinking about Primanti Brothers and Quaker State & Luke -- before I get my puck on, I've gotta get my grub on!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Caps, Penguins -- We'll puck again soon

Hockey fans were begging for more pucking after last night's Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins game needed a seven-round shootout to decide the score. Pittsburgh ended up winning 3-2, but that, by no means, meant that Washington didn't show up.

Finally coming off their eight-game losing streak with a comeback 3-2 victory in Ottawa and returning home to destroy the lowly Devils 5-1, the Caps were handed the Penguins for a Winter Classic preview and test to see if they were truly back. The game write-up is on The Hockey Writers.

It was definitely good to see Mike Green get a goal on the power play, especially for all the flak he gets for being an nontraditional type of defenseman. With Schultz returning very soon and now the "weight off his shoulders" as Bruce Boudreau put it, Green should be back to his old scoring-with-defensive-improvement self. That might also help other slumping players such as Backstrom, Semin, and Ovechkin to get back on their game as well.

Regardless, the atmosphere in the locker room remains positive. The Caps are really proud of themselves for not being so emo anymore, and that's a great thing. Green, who was my favorite interview of the night because of his bluntness, believed the team's best aspect of the whole night was their "Overall competing."

"We competed to the max, and we need more consistency with that," said Green. "If we can do that we're going to be successful, and we're going to get some bounces and we'll start winning. We have the skill and the talent and the vision -- we just need to work hard."

When I asked him if this was just another game in a long season, or if it was more than that because it was against the Penguins, he said it was a little bit of both.

"It's a bigger game in the sense that it was a good challenge for us and that we're a good hockey team. We wanted to come out and test ourselves," said Green.

On the flip side, "at the end of the day, it's a regular season game and we learn from our mistakes and we move on. And that's the great thing about 82 games."

Definitely a fun game to watch even as a neutral observer.

Can't wait to go to Pittsburgh in less than a week for the Winter Classic and see Round Two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While some may have recognized me on television during the post game as I was walking behind Karl Alzner (I got 2 texts this morning about it), I'm hoping that next week's HBO 24/7 episode will feature Bruce Boudreau's post game news conference, as I did see the HBO cameras in there filming it.

The significance of this is my puck-up in my question by using the word "foreshadowing" to talk about the next few games. Watching it on the video on the Caps' website was even funnier, as I watched his face tremble with disdain for my question. He blurted, "I don't know what 'foreshadow' means, so..." I put my head down, kind of laughed, apologized, and then rephrased my question.

Afterward, I got the looks from the other writers, some "womp womps," and sarcastic "nice jobs." But for the most part, I laughed it off. He hit me in the nuts with that one, but Boudreau couldn't get me down for long. It was funny, and it happens to the best of us; the words of wisdom from Caps News Network's Dave Nichols on Twitter later on. Fellow THW and now-Capitals Outsider writer Keara Dowd keeps me chuckling on the matter as well. So no worries. A Caps reporter's growing pains haha.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Caps Ready to Puck For Real?

As we all know, I've been a little more heavily involved with the Washington Caps in light of the Winter Classic coming up (next week) and the HBO 24/7 series. So all NHL news from me will return in a couple of weeks, but for now, I'll be a little monogamous in my pucking.

Recently though, all anyone wanted to pay attention to anyway was the recent losing streak by the Capitals. Further brought to the light by the HBO special, juxtaposed with the Penguins' success led by Sidney Crosby, talk of Bruce Boudreau being fired and trades dominated hockey news. I can't remember one hockey show last week that didn't highlight their struggles.

The Caps then responded Sunday night by finally breaking that eight-game losing stretch with a 3-2 comeback-win in Ottawa against the Senators. That win gave all DC-area sports teams a 3-12 record for December (Yeah Cowboys!).

Following that victory, Washington then showed that they can win by more than one goal by defeating the New Jersey Devils 5-1 in front a loud home crowd. Even though the expected scorers didn't do much, they received much help from players brought up from Hershey and other players who stepped up significantly. All those notes can be found from my post-game piece from The Hockey Writers.

With all the hoopla from the HBO cameras around Verizon Center, the team seemed to be in an obviously better mood than previous games with folks running around, laughing, and someone singing "Hallelujah" in the hallway. Not to mention that I guess it's okay for Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin to be hanging out in front of the media lounge in just towels (I'm sure it's camera worthy).

Anywho, while I encourage letting the masses know of this improvement by the Caps and signs of confidence returning (hell I did it last night), this should all be taken with a literal grain of salt. This is considering the last three teams the Caps improved against were either struggling mightly (Boston), or just plain old aren't good (Ottawa, New Jersey). Thursday night, the Capitals play the Penguins, who have been 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and have two more points (46) than the Caps (44) in the standings. While the Penguins don't lead anything in terms of standings, they're definitely playing better than the teams Washington has played lately.

As a result, the Caps can't afford a pooper in front of the home crowd, cameras, and NHL Network watchers against the Pens if they don't want to make things more difficult for themselves and to be turned into a sideshow. Of course, you and I, the rational observers, know there are teams doing worse than the Caps, and that the Caps will most likely still make the playoffs. There are other things the NHL and its people can focus on (like the Dallas Stars, or anything Leafs-related that has nothing to do with breakfast food).

However, the reality is that because Washington is receiving so much attention as is, once again, their failure will be showcased. If the Caps win though, I'm pretty sure no one will care and it will be spun as just having won one game out of four with Pittsburgh (I'm strictly going by what a smug fan told me last night).

I will say that the Caps were 3-0-1 the year they lost to Pittsburgh in the second round. While it may seem like the Caps are eternally cursed in the playoffs in general, much less the Penguins in the playoffs, bad things happen to good teams. Just throwing that out there for the sake of saying that it actually isn't the end of the world if the Caps lose tomorrow, but they, and all watchers, shall be prepared for questions. It's just the reality of pucking in the NHL.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night in Washington against Pittsburgh, I'm sure I'll be declaring shenanigans somewhere.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Second Radio/Podcast Appearance

Last night, I was honored to be featured on Rink Side Rants (click the link to listen to the show) with Frank Rekas of The Rat Trick and The Hockey Writers, and Tim Redinger of Sabre Noise. Along with shenanigans and the like, we talked about everything hockey that's going on.

Main questions included inquiries about the Winter Classic and whether it should be annual, if we should alternate between the East and West coasts, the truth behind the Sid/Ovie and Caps/Pens rivalry, the separation between the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic, and what I'm doing to prepare.

The second half of the show was devoted to discussing other NHL happenings, such as the recent failings of the Caps who are now on a seven-game losing streak (I did a piece on The Hockey Writers Wednesday night), the NHL ignoring other stars like Steven Stamkos and Taylor Hall, and the Linus Omark something-out-of-nothing nonsense that we concluded was just another little battle in the War on Personalities.

Yes, I've been a busy gal lately, getting more prepared for my trip to Pittsburgh in now exactly 13 days, getting everyone else ready for the Winter Classic, making my rounds around league events, Caps games, working at the Post of course, and this holiday season (Christmas for the Roman Catholics!), where I have not completed any shopping.

And still, I'm having a helluva good time right now, just because it's all for hockey! After all, all I do is puck all day and all night ;).

So listen to the puck session with Frank and Tim on Rink Side Rants, and not even as a fan, but for the sake of sports journalism and the HBO special to avoid becoming one-sided, I need the Caps to win. Thank you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Breaking: Here is my post from USA Hockey Mag!

Remember that story I worked oh-so hard on that kept me away from here for that period of time (back when this was still Crashing the Net)? Well, here it is! From me, to USA Hockey, to you all.

I just want to say that this was such a cool experience to be able to go and cover this story, and to meet such great people. Ironically all of this occurred at the rink where it all started, at Laurel Gardens Ice House. It was there where I started my ice experience, and now I'm in the middle of my career as a hockey writer going back to that same rink to cover a story for USA Hockey Magazine.

I definitely want to thank Monica McAlister for letting me know about the story in the first place, Mark Miller, Mike Hickey, Harry Thompson of USA Hockey Magazine, the Washington Junior Nats team and staff, Jake and Ariel who helped me get to and from the rink, anybody who proofread the piece, and all the support from everybody in general. Of course, a special individual thank you to Joe Howe for being as awesome as he has been for the Ice Dogs and the Junior Nats!

So here yall go! Hope you really enjoy it, and pass it along! This is your holiday story for the year from me!

http://www.usahockeymagazine.com/article/2010-12/not-your-average-joe

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Defunct Funk

I chatted with my buddy Justin the other day about those good old days when the Winnipeg Jets were once an NHL team. Then we got into the Hartford Whalers... and then the Quebec Nordiques....

We came to the conclusion that these teams all needed tributes and some love. Well, here we go (in no particular order):

This first one is for the Hartford Whalers, who became the Carolina Hurricanes when their lifetime ended in 1994. Raleigh, North Carolina has become a hockey-appreciative city. With two Stanley Cup final appearances, winning it all once, it wasn't a bad place to move the team. Nonetheless, a part of me still misses those wicked jerseys and Pucky the Whale up in Connecticut. This video tribute is made extra special, as it's backed by Brass Bonanza, the spectacular New England theme. I'm dedicating this one to you, Zarley Zalapski:



Tribute #2 belongs to the Quebec Nordiques, the Northern Men or Men of the North for you non-Francophones/French Speakers. This franchise moved in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche. It made sense to move a team back there since Colorado lost the Rockies in the 80s. As soon as the team moved, they were already a Western threat, having won a Cup in 1996... that wasn't going to happen if they were still in Quebec, seeing as there is no way in bleu, blanc, et rouge hell the Montreal Canadiens were going to trade Patrick Roy to a team in the same province. Nonetheless, the Nordiques were a competitive team and check out the awesome Coldplay song:



The Winnipeg Jets, now the Phoenix Coyotes as of 1996, are probably the most missed defunct NHL team. The Coyotes, even though they have been a decent team over the years, have failed to draw in crowds over 12,000 people consistently, and they hardly sell-out games during the playoffs. I feel for the team (I mean, I really like those non-Picasso-looking jerseys), but it's gotta be rough for those fans in Winnipeg seeing this, knowing very well they would watch their team. But nobody stepped up to buy the team, and moving was the only option they had. This tribute, although I think the music sucks, is still awesome in content:



... And then the Minnesota North Stars packed up and moved to Dallas to become the Stars in 1993. The team was decent, and had a pretty good following (it's Minnesota, guys!). The North Stars, led by Mike Modano, were definitely a more exciting team than the "poor substitute" as Justin called the Minnesota Wild. Aside from the fact that the Wild are a little boring, at least hockey is back in Minnesota. This tribute video though was probably the best tribute, surprisingly:



Finally, we have the Colorado Rockies, a team long defunct since 1982 after relieving the Kansas City Scouts of their duties in the NHL in 1976. This was a team before my time, but they became the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have replaced them well though, so we're not crying too many tears. Here's a nice short one:



My favorite defunct team: tied between the Hartford Whalers and the Winnipeg Jets.

Hope you all enjoyed the tributes, and as an update on PK Subban, the man will return to the Habs' lineup tonight. #freePK must have worked!

And check out my appearance on The Rat Trick, a Florida Panther's blog by Frank Rekas. The Caps lost to the Cats 3-0 last night, so disregard my 3-1 Caps win prediction. No worries though: panic I will not do. Disappointed, I will be.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Don't Expect Me to Slip This Under the Rug

I'm about to put myself in the minority-room...

I'm not interested in trying to get anybody any bad press, or to necessarily expect people to agree with me, or to provide you all with a homily. I just need you to listen and to think from another person's perspective on this

As much as I have entrusted my hockey learning, my hockey life, and my old hockey video game color commentary with former goalie Darren Pang, I am quite disappointed in him as of tonight.

For those who are unfamiliar with the incident, this evening on TSN, Darren Pang was talking about the emergence of the young and talented defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens, PK Subban. As a player who is not only known for his on-ice performance but his often controversial" behavior, PK has, of course, caused concern for the conservative hockey community.

Here are the comments by Panger:



Of course, what everybody is going to think I'm referring to is the Freudian slip Pang makes, but you wouldn't listen to me if I just told you he's racist because he said that Alex Pietrangelo does things the "white way."

Instead, I have more issue with the things he said leading up to it. Implying that there is a "right way" for one, when there are other paths other players have taken to make it to the NHL is a problem for me. For all the players who made it to the NHL a not-so-mainstream way, through different programs, did they not do it "right?" Does that make them a lesser player?

Even as a player who came up through the juniors, how did he not do it the "right/white" way? Why should he have to follow the example of another player?

Well, notice how Pang, and of course everybody else comments on Subban's behavior, need of "settling him down." The same conversation has happened with Russian Alex Ovechkin's personality and party-boyish ways. While it is understandable in the case of Subban in a community where everyone else doesn't act the way he does that he should be mindful of this for the betterment of his team, it is still troublesome that he has to do so.

This all goes under this concept of "conformity"... the idea that the right, proper way to do everything is to assimilate by conforming to the Anglo-Canadian style of play, attitude, training, etc. And this concept appears in many forms in our daily lives, and it is hard to detect by others on the outside because of the idea of privilege... unfortunately, this is All We Do Is Puck and not sociology class, so I won't explain all of it here, but it is something to be aware of.

Hockey is obviously still a sport run almost entirely by old white men, with a majority of white players in 2010. So yes, the ideas will be antiquated, with a fear of the game being taken away from them, the game changing too much, new types of players and personalities coming in, Ochocincos and T.O.s, and all of these things if non-traditional types come into the game. Still, you cannot ignore the concept of race in this, because who are they scared of t going to? Yeah, I said it - race. Say it with me now! I'm not scared of it!

Even though this issue goes much deeper than what was said here, and it seems like a "gregarious" problem to fix, do understand that it can't be totally ignored, denied or minimized either to make it okay. It is the way it is, but that doesn't make it right. It's Subban doing all the talking, but let's try not to blame the victim or his "ways," or call it something else Let's not say "it didn't count because he didn't mean it." Trust me, it won' get you off the hook.

As much as people are going to label this incident as "just a slip" and that "he didn't mean anything by it" are missing the bigger picture; that this isn't okay, and that he had to apologize because it's inherently wrong to say. However, not just the slip, but everything else before that, which leads me to believe that of course Pang wouldn't want to say "white way" on television. I still trust Panger with my hockey analysis -- after all we short goalie-types must stick together -- but I call it like I see it and this was inexcusably wrong.

Sermon - done.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stay tuned later for a post on the polling of YOUR favorite defunct NHL team. Cause I know I have one, and I'm not telling you until I post!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We Just Pucked All Day and All Night

Once again, we were faced with a barrage of pucking Friday and Saturday from daytime all the way through the night.

Friday night's highlight was Washington's 6-0 destroying of the Tampa Bay Lightning who came in on a five-game winning streak that meant absolutely nothing to the Capitals. Alex Semin had his third hat trick of this season in this game - a natural hat trick at that - all in 4:29 in one period. The Caps clearly didn't care, and put on that killer instinct, scoring in every period of the game, including four in the second period.

Aside from the obvious offensive numbers that Washington is known for, the Capitals put on some spectacular defense. Along with Tampa's winning streak, they came in scoring the most power play goals in the league and a 32% efficiency rate during the five-game winning stretch. And yet, Washington held Steven Stamkos, the intruder in all things Ovechkin/Crosby, to no points for only the fourth time this year. The Lightning power play went 0-for-5. All the while, Semyon Varlamov only saw 17 shots, which is awesome because it's less work for him; thus, less likely to get hurt.

Varlamov looked much healthier though, and more confident, as his goaltending seemed more refined and polished. He had much better save selection, and didn't lunge at every rebound around him (and miss it). If he out-performs Michal Neuvirth, I'll be the first to congratulate him, but I'll wait. I'm waiting... I'm gonna sit here and wait... *looks at watch*

Saturday's main event for me was the late game in Los Angeles featuring the Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks where the Hawks took the game 2-1. This game had everything a neutral fan would want: hard hits, a close game between two legitimate teams that went down to the wire, huge saves, and uh... this (check the bottom part of your screen). Kevin Westgarth vs. John Scott



This certainly was one of the best fight moments I've seen in a while, as the refs decided to stand back and let the two players go, even though clearly Westgarth's face got shattered. Nonetheless, Westgarth still had some fight in him until he chose to exit the bout, tapping Scott and giving him the acknowledgment of his victory. Scott isn't that great of a player (like, at all) but I sure wouldn't want to take him on the ice... okay I'm not taking anyone on, with me and my 4'11'' self.

Anyway, the rest of the game, though slow right after the fight at a 1-0 Chicago lead, turned out to be a great one. The Hawks eventually scored another goal from Patrick Kane to go up 2-0, but the Kings' Anze Kopitar made it a one-goal match with about six minutes to go in the game. However, the Hawks held on for the 2-1 victory.

And if you haven't read it yet, I did a guest post a couple of weeks ago for the folks over at Hockey Community. Check out how to build a backyard hockey rink, and see what true love for hockey looks like! Video is courtesy of Ross Bergen from Massachusetts.

I hope you enjoyed all the pucking the past two days. We get less of a load on us tomorrow with only three games all starting at 5 pm. Find me on Twitter and we can chat about the games!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Almost Everybody Pucks Tonight

To begin the heavy night of pucking, the Capitals went into Carolina and played one hell of a game, almost losing entirely a 2-0 lead, but keeping enough composure together to win 3-2 against the Hurricanes.

Washington was coming off of a 3-game losing stretch, going down 5-0 in Atlanta Friday night, losing 5-4 in the shootout a hard-fought match with the Flyers at home, and then dying in New Jersey 5-0 again at the hands of the Devils. All we could do back home was go, "What the puck is going on here?!"

Bruce Boudreau apparently had no particular answer either, except for a comment about how Alex Ovechkin wasn't pushing enough pedal; seeing as Ovie was laughing, joking around with the enemy while being down a gazillion to nothing.

Hilariously enough, much was made about the incident and people drew to the fact that Ovie has been slacking in general, and hasn't been the same exciting player that we have all seen up to two years ago, and even last year. Many arguments can be made on this, but we'll save for another day.

So today comes and Washington is in Carolina. Ovechkin only did what the special players do, and that was rise to the occasion. He assisted on all three goals, set up a ton of opportunities, made a few bone-crushing hits and played a smart game overall. Ultimately, it all led to a Capitals victory. So suck on that.

All in all, the Caps seemed all right tonight, meaning that they continue to arguably be the biggest enigma in the NHL. Now tied with the Flyers for the league lead in points with 32, the Capitals have a lot wrong with them, but you can't quite put your finger on it if you don't watch them on a regular basis. Even then, you can't say it's one thing or another. Again; the team that's "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," to quote Winston Churchill in reference to the Soviets in WWII..... Carry on.....

Anywho, the Caps weren't the only team that played tonight. In fact, 12 other games were on tonight, so it was an all-nighter in terms of pucking. A good number of slumping teams got out of their slumps actually...

The Canucks had a four-game skid, but were able to break out of it winning 4-2 against the Avalanche tonight, who were actually doing fairly well recently on a four-game winning streak

The Sharks played at home in a good one with the Blackhawks, who have faced their own inconsistencies this year. With the Sharks uncharacteristically low in the qualifying group of 16 at 15th, they showed remnants of the usual Sharks in their 5-2 win, creating opportunities and scoring with the extra man.

The Blues got Barrett Jackman back from a knee injury, and it seems they'll be able to get a lot of guys back from injury soon, probably helping their cause for being relevant in Stanley Cup run-talks again. They won 2-1 over Nashville in the shootout.

Other teams weren't so lucky. The Western Conference leading Red Wings got whooped today by the Thrashers 5-1. Atlanta may not always be able to demolish the Caps 5-0 and get the Red Wings like this, but they seem to be making a good case for not being an Eastern Conference pretender.

Minnesota Wild lost 6-1 to the "I'm gonna establish my dominance in every damn game" Flyers, and the Kings lost to the Canadiens, who are also pulling major success (my love for Carey Price grows with each game). Tampa Bay also seemed to be picking up where they left off prior to coming to Washington, as they beat the "pretending to win for now" Rangers 5-3.

Other games included a 4-3 Blue Jackets win over the Islanders (more fail unfortunately for the Island); the first win in the Blue Jacket's new third jerseys that look ALMOST EXACTLY like the Panthers and Predators blue jerseys with the circle in the middle. But the subtle differences make the jersey still look pretty cool (I have the inside info like that *wink*).

Also, the Stars defeated the Senators 2-1, the Devils win over the Flames 2-1, and the Bruins beat the Panthers 3-1.

For Turkey Day, the only game that will be featured will be the Avs killing the Oilers. I certainly hope it's not a bloodbath like the Coyotes 5-0 win over Edmonton on Tuesday, the other one-game day (Read THW's Jim Neveau's piece on the Coyotes that he wrote last night to get an idea of where the Yotes stand).

It was a crazy fun day in hockey for sure. But what's even crazier for me still is the fact that I was notified on Monday, the 24th that I had been approved to receive credentials for the Bridgestone Winter Classic in Pittsburgh that will feature the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field! I will be representing The Hockey Writers, and you bet I'm extremely excited :).

I'm currently searching for plane + hotel deals that I shall figure out as soon as next week. But if anyone has any suggestions for things to do in Pittsburgh, hotel parties on New Year's Eve, hotels, deals, bars, anything, please let me know! Cause it would suck to be in my early 20's on NYE drinking champagne by myself in a hotel room XD. Nonetheless though, that's not the point. I'm there for a job, and a really cool one at that! I'm really excited and it'll be a great early birthday present for me!

Until next pucking session, pig out! Happy Thanksgiving!
,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Caps get it handed to them

For your first post on "All We Do Is Puck," I will focus on what the puck happened in the Caps/Thrashers game.

The Washington Capitals lose 5-0 on the road against the Atlanta Thrashers. Against a team who is second in the league in 3rd period goals allowed, the Caps were not able to pull anything against the usually struggling defense of the Thrashers. The Caps sure weren't the only team to get their asses handed to them tonight, as the Chicago Blackhawks lost 7-2 to the Calgary Flames (ouch!) and the New York Rangers were defeated 5-1 by the Colorado Avalanche.

Granted, the Caps have played poorly in their last game in Atlanta for the first game of the season in a 4-2 loss. The Caps also struggled mightily in the last two Thrashers games at home, winning 4-3 in OT after a comeback effort, and winning a wacky 6-4 match earlier this week. Of course though, none of them takes the cake like this one.

Bruce Boudreau, believing he is making some kind of magic trick, switches up the lines about 500 times a game, much less throughout a period of games. Well, tonight proved he was no Houdini, clearly getting no results on the board.

It's not like the Caps played THAT badly either tonight. Braden Holtby, who I say should become the Caps backup netminder, made some small rookie mistakes that resulted in 3 goals on 7 shots. Such mistakes included lunging after a puck about 5 feet from the crease, and not watching the player with the puck. The defense probably did a better job tonight than they did Wednesday night against the Sabres.

This game was just one of those games. The Caps clearly looked like they just didn't really care and were just looking forward to tomorrow night's matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers at home. Throw-away game much?

The Capitals are arguably "the worst-best team in the NHL" this season, having only less than a handful of definitively won games. When they do win, it looks like a fat kid trying to run to the top of a hill, and making it to that very top just before they pass out. I don't know. People say take the two points and run, but I'm pretty sure that won't get the Caps further than they've been in the playoffs.

Yes, there goes that word again: playoffs. People say, "They'll turn it on in the playoffs. They'll peak later in the year. You don't want to peak too early after all." But the question is, do you want to suck until you get to the playoffs?

That's what nobody wants to hear or talk about in Caps Nation, because it's been talked about, and people get high-up in emotions about it. Who wants to complain about their team all day after all? Caps fans should not be mistaken with Cubs fans, or Leafs fans for that matter.

Nonetheless, it'll be on their minds. A proper attitude might get you somewhere, but I'm going to say it again and again: there are pieces the team needs before people can legitimately talk about playoffs. Package: Varlamov and Fleischmann.

Awww crud! One more thing: Alex Semin's point streak comes to an end after tonight.

But not to worry. I'm not one of those people who like to complain about their team after one game! So before I pass total judgment on the Caps, I'd like to see some trends. So meet me at The Hockey Writers tomorrow for that.

For the Caps' sake let's hope there's less "pucking" around in their own zone against the Flyers. We all know what happened to them last game.... *channel inner 1974 type offense*

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hey! I've been gone but...

Hey readers of Crashing the Net! I'm sorry, I've dissed you guys again. I haven't written here for a while, as hockey season has started so I've been on The Hockey Writers for most of my time. Any other time has been spent in class at American and working at the Washington Post, as many of you all are familiar with now.

Aside from THW, classes and the Post though, I've gotten a nice opportunity to write a story for another publication. I'm sure you've heard of the good folks at USA Hockey Magazine before, right? Well I'm doing a nice little story for them that I should be finished with by next week on the 8th of November.

"What's it about," you ask? Well, remember last December where I wouldn't tell you all about the Fort DuPont story? This year...

I'M NOT TELLING YOU EITHER!

It's all out of love though, and once it's published, I will redirect you to the original publication of the story. I'm just doing a lot of running around and it's hard to have a moment like this to sit down and go on here (after all, this is all-nighter time anyway).

So I look forward to seeing it done, and ready to share. But for now, sit tight until the story is complete, and probably read the latest at TheHockeyWriters.com where I wrote my last piece on the Caps' recent road trip.

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People are knocking the Capitals for winning 2 out of 3 games on this trip, but as I was talking to the Goalie Guild's Justin Goldman, we agreed that any hockey team's goal is to go at least .500 on a road trip; especially on one as long distance-wise as this last one across timezones. For Washington to have to play in Carolina as hard as they did, and then in less than 12 hours play a trap-defense team on bad ice in another time zone is a lot for any hockey player of any caliber.

It's a dumb argument considering the day after the Caps played like crap, they went and kicked the Calgary Flames out of their own building 7-2. It was very fun to watch while out on Halloween trips as well.

But hey, you're either kissing ass when you praise the Caps when they do well, or you're too harsh on them when they play poorly. That's the view of people, especially the Caps own fans, when writers report what they saw. I saw upside from the trip, and all of a sudden, I'm being too positive O_o... Everyone is afraid of being the honest one, and would rather remain skeptical for no reason, just to be safe when the Caps, in fact, lose it all. However, I recommend doing this NOT at the expense of seeing the team from all sides. So folks loosen up... it's only been 11 games this season!

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And congrats to the San Francisco Giants for defeating the Texas Rangers four games to one in the World Series... too bad I only watched one game because Texas wouldn't make it interesting. Hmph. Oh well... Red Sox 2011!!!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quick Notes

The Caps won their last preseason game against the Nashville Predators 2-1. Washington's goals came from Jay Beagle and Mike Green, and goaltender Michael Neuvirth was 13/14 in saves, as he started the entire game.

Today, Matt Hendricks, the LadyHatTrick award winner of the preseason (he scored a hat trick in Washington's 6-2 win over Columbus) signed a one-year contract with the Caps.

In case you were wondering, one of the Caps' blast-from-the-past players, Brian Willsie, was released and places on waivers...
...Okay, I didn't think you cared either. I just thought to let you know.

Tomorrow, the Capitals play their first game at the Verizon Center this preseason against the Boston Bruins (1-1-1 in preseason) at 7:00 pm. By now, the Caps have cut their roster down to 33 players in time for tomorrow's match. Washington will follow tomorrow's game with another face-off against the Bruins on Wednesday, this time in Boston.

Finally, as a sidenote, there's an on-going battle among outsiders about who is to be the #1 starting goalie this season for Washington: Semyon Varlamov or Michael Neuvirth. Both have been very good in their first two starts (Varlamov played 30 minutes in Columbus and stopped all shots), and both have seen significant time with the big club. Now that the job is between the two, I will ask you which do you think should start for the Caps.

Stay tuned for more Caps' notes/news soon. Just an update to make sure everyone knows I'm alive.

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NFC East Notes:

The Dallas Cowboys finally won their first game of the season by the way in a solid 27-13 victory over the Houston Texans. The Redskins and Giants both lost, however, and the Eagles continue to perform strongly with Michael Vick as their starting quarterback. Nonetheless, the Eagles have had the easiest schedule in the division, so I'm not putting too much weight on that.

Just thought I'd share.

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MLB Notes:

You'll get MLB notes once the playoffs begin.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Caps win first preseason game

Put one in the "win" column for Washington as the Caps ran through the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight 6-2. Tonight's goal scorers were Tomas Fleischmann (2), Matt Hendricks (3), and Cody Eakin.

However, my top player for the game was Marcus Johansson. I planned on scrutinizing him during this game to see how he would show up in real in-game situations. When I saw him during rookie camp, he was impressive, but I never put too much weight on how he would perform for the actual team. He had a solid game with two assists and finishing +2 for the night. His passing and playmaking was what I hoped to see from a center who wants a spot on the big squad.

Semyon Varlomov was also solid through 30 minutes, allowing no goals and going 20-for-20 in net. Braden Holtby came in for the next half of the game and stopped 17 shots allowing in only two goals.

I was least impressed with Alex Semin, who took half of Washington's penalties, including a late slashing call. I don't understand how he continues to make these silly stick infractions, and I understand it's only preseason, but if Flash can at least show up during the preseason, it would be nice for Semin to as well.

Otherwise, for a first game, the Capitals looked pretty good. Next analysis of the team will come at the end of preseason. Definitely happy that hockey is back. So necessary... now to get these preseason games on TV... *spoiled*

Caps Preseason to Begin Tonight - mini analysis

Hello everyone! I'm finally back to writing about the sport that brought all of us together on this page - hockey! Last night, I caught myself watching the few preseason games that were televised, specifically the Flyers/Devils game where the Flyers won 4-3 in a shootout) and the 5-0 demolishing of the Maple Leafs by the Senators. Tonight, the Washington Capitals begin their exhibition season in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

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The Caps will start tonight despite a quiet offseason in terms of a lack of moves to the roster. No new additions were made, and only until later did Washington lose a player. Of course, we all know now that player was Eric Belanger, who was promised a trade would be made so that he can remain on the team, but that that trade was never made, and Belanger moved on to sign with Phoenix, angry as ever at the Caps' organization. Unfortunately, I am not in the front office, and General Manager George McPhee has not said much about the lack of roster additions/trades/etc., so not much else can be confirmed about the situation; although some details that aren't really worth going into have emerged.

With Belanger gone now, the solidity of the center position is now further weakened. Other than David Steckel and the oft-injured Boyd Gordon, the Caps are left with Tomas Fleischmann, Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson to fill in the remaining spots at center. With the team in "Win Now" mode, this may be seen as a questionable approach to the team's concerns regarding center.

However, as I mentioned way in the beginning in the offseason, people should hold their horses in lacking faith in the team. It should be noted that this does not mean that someone won't become available during the season. McPhee has been a fan of renting players, and may be just saving space for someone acquired before or by the trade deadline. There does not seem to be a question whether the Capitals will have the ability to win the division and do well in the playoffs. So with Washington staying competitive during the year with what they have, the mentality could be that there is no rush to improve until there is more of an indication of players' abilities and the market.

Of course, this season, most people are not going to expect the regular season the Caps had last year. Especially because the rest of the Southeast Division improved immensely during the offseason, there is no way the Capitals are winning the division by 30 points again... I don't want to say that last season was a fluke overall... But it was a fluke. This doesn't mean that the Caps weren't that much better than every other team in their division and most teams in the Eastern Conference, but just that the numbers were slightly inflated and most likely won't be repeated.

Nonetheless, the Caps' chances to win it all this year are still high. Tom Poti in his new two-year extension took a pay cut to stay in Washington because he feel his best chance to win is with Washington. Although, it should be noted, the window for winning is only open for so long. During the firesale years, fans of the Capitals were promised a Stanley Cup by now, and at this point, the Caps have had the ability to do it in the past couple of years. With enough frustration from early playoff exits, the squad probably has the drive now built up to make it as well. The ultimate judgment will come soon enough.

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By the way, in case you were wondering, the Washington Post job has been working out really well :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The State of Women Sports Writers Just Got Really Messy

There are somethings that I can't ignore in this world: I am very, very short; I am loud; I am a woman; I am a person of color; and that somethings will never change. One of those things that will never change seems to be that the world will never be fair enough to truly accept a woman who does her job alongside men in a male-dominated field. That's just the way it is. As proof of this, this past week I have been faced with numerous people coming to me for my opinion on this matter of Ines Sainz and a few players on the NY Jets.

A recap of the incident (as many tend to just hear and never read themselves), Sainz was present at Jets practice when apparently, head coach Rex Ryan had players run drills in extremely close proximity to the sideline where Sainz was standing. Following this incident, the New York post reported that Jets players were "catcalling" Sainz and that when Sainz was confronted to see if she was okay, Jets lineman Kris Jenkins said, "This is our locker room!"

As a result of her discomfort, Sainz wrote on Twitter in Spanish about how uncomfortable she was in the locker room as she was trying to do her job, while adding that she felt that was appropriately dressed (interesting she has to add that).

A couple of days later, Redskins running back, Clinton Portis, was asked to give his thoughts on the situation (here from DC Sports Bog). His words, however, only turned this issue into an even bigger one, saying that essentially, women shouldn't be in the locker room unless they expect to get hollered at because men and women just have this undying lust for each other at all times....

Now this is a personal issue for me, and we can't get around that because, like I said, there are things I cannot ignore. Being a woman is one of them. And it is difficult for others around me to ignore that I am a woman as well. So with this knowledge, many people have asked for my opinion and wondered if I felt this was a real issue.

Having been in professional team locker rooms, specifically the Washington Capitals' locker room, I am in there to do a job. I repeat: A JOB. There has NEVER been ONE moment in my short-but-thus-far-successful sports journalism career where I spent lusting after one of the players in the locker room. When I go to cover hockey for The Hockey Writers, I don't go to the locker room with hopes of finding [insert player] putting their shirt on and that he will wink at me or something. I'm there to get some sound bites just like the rest of the writers in there so that I can complete my story efficiently.

So it hurts when someone says that I don't act professionally in a locker room because supposedly my mind is on a player's body than what my JOB is.

The other implications of what Portis said adds to this "she was asking for it" mentality. Ines Sainz is gorgeous. She is absolutely beautiful and there's not much she does to hide it; after all, why should she? Yet, according to what Portis says, because she's beautiful and walking into a locker room, if she gets disrespected, she deserved to be disrespected.

My response to that is, regardless of what she wore to Jets practice or any Jets event, the only thing she deserves is respect. When I go to Capitals games, or any sports game representing the media, I tend to dress more on the conservative side, with slacks and button downs. However, I might don the occasional business skirt, and I deserve the right to be able to walk to the locker room without fearing that some player or person is trying to find a way to look up my skirt. This code of respect toward women extends beyond sports journalism, but for now baby steps, we're just talking about at the workplace - the locker room.

Then, to add fuel to the fire, here come the media personalities (yes, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh spoke) and the real thoughts of men (message boards and post-article comments) coming to give their opinion on Ines Sainz. I heard talk that made me feel like I needed to be put back 30 years ago - people actually have been asking "should women even BE in the locker room?"

All of a sudden, all that I have worked for, all that I have done to make it this far to become a true sports journalist, is being questioned. People don't think I should have access to the same information as my male counterparts because I'm a woman!?! Because I have different sexual organs!?!? I have never been more appalled in my life that in 2010, we are questioning whether women should be near locker rooms because there is no way that either party can act professionally. Not 1678, not 1894, not 1950... 2010 we don't think that women are capable of accomplishing what men can because we're different.

Pardon me, but then it would be pretty easy to justify that women shouldn't be in the same press box as the male writers because we lust after each other too much; then we easily have something against women becauseItalic if they don't receive the same access as the men do, they can't report as fruitfully as they potentially could have with the access. This leave ground for women not writing anything good and then passing it off as, "Well they couldn't handle writing for a sports team"... Just remember, you would have to ban men from women's locker rooms as well.

Finally, a point that exists, but isn't as emphasized here is the exotification of Ines Sainz. The woman is Mexican and reports for a Mexican outlet, TV Azteca. Let's be honest; in America, there is a culture where men have their fantasies about women from other countries and ethnicities. If you've been to college and taken a few sociology/gender studies courses, there's proof of it there. Having parents from South America, when I tell people this, all of a sudden there becomes this aura and out come the words: Ooooh, that's exotic... I'm not a plant or an animal, I am a human being; thus, I'm not exotic. Of course Sainz being a beautiful woman, she is objectified from the start. But the further objectification allows things like this to become acceptable, like she's a real novelty (sociology minor at American - had to note this).

I haven't even gotten into all of the problems female reporters face covering sports. But this issue between Sainz and the Jets brings out a lot of elephants in the room (it's like a herd I tell you!). I shake my head furiously at those who want to come at me for sounding like a feminist. You're absolutely right - I am a feminist in the most broadest of terms: someone who simply just wants equal rights for men and women. I will say that I certainly do not want sameness. I want my prerogative to get pretty for a night out, wear makeup and dresses, and I like getting in places for free on weekends.

But when it comes to my JOB, I take that very seriously, and as with every other job, there needs to be a sense of respect and equal treatment toward every person in that environment, man or woman. And I hope that this is not just the way it is, and that instead of blaming Sainz because of how she looks or her sexual organs, we can acknowledge that we need to focus on treating women with that respect while in the workplace. After all, We're only respecting you men by not staring at all of your "packages."

Friday, September 03, 2010

I got this job at this place... you might have heard of it...

Hello all! I know it has been a RIDICULOUSLY long time since I last wrote for you all on Crashing the Net.


Well, this post is to say that the oddities in my life that have been keeping me from posting have been resolved and I will be back on here delivering the hockey gospel that you all are so desperately waiting for. No worries - September 16th is the rookie camp for the Washington Capitals and you WILL be reading updates from here...


However, there is bigger news: I am now officially an employee of The Washington Post!!!!! Albeit, it's with high school sports, but that's how everyone gets their start. Nonetheless, I'm in! It's been a long time dream of mine to be working with them in the sports section, and finally, as a college student, I am working an entry level job at The Washington Post.


Again though, don't worry. I will continue writing for Crashing the Net and The Hockey Writers. In fact in both publications, I will have rookie camp information for you. I can't forget all of you anyway!


So I'd like to thank my readers of both Crashing the Net and The Hockey Writers, because with you reading, it kept me motivated. That only got me to do bigger and better things as time went on. It's only been just over year ONE with Crashing the Net and already I feel like I've done a lot with it. Thus, in a way, I couldn't have done it without you.


Okay enough cheese here. I will see you all at the Caps' rookie camp in a couple of weeks. Until then, sit tight, and I will return soon... *music plays*

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's been a long time...

Hello readers, new and regular:

It's been a while since I wrote my last post on Crashing the Net, or on The Hockey Writers. Many of you have contacted me about doing a new post, and trust me, I've been wanting to do another post more than anything. However, sometimes, it's not even that easy to just up and write a new post.

It is a personal issue, and I am trying my best to deal with it. I want to have time to write like I did before, and I will soon enough. But things have just been so hectic it's been hard to even go on the internet to read anything. With my classes at American about to start and my hopes of getting everything taken care of before then, I have to focus on that first and foremost.

Yes, I know you are specualting what it is. Well guess what? I'm not telling you! But regardless, it's important to me and it must be handled before I take care of anything else.

Not to worry, I will return. I'm telling you: I WILL RETURN! It may not be until the end of September or whenever, but I will be back, so stick with me! All I ask of you all is to hope everything works out for me. The sooner the better.

Thanks for your understanding guys, and I look forward to being able to give you more of what you want - MOAR HOCKEY!

Love,
Angie

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Eric Fehr Returns!

Eric Fehr signs with the Capitals for $4.4 million for two years. Needless to say, I'm down with the cause.

Last season was the first chance folks got to see a healthy Fehr on the ice. When Fehr was in Hershey, he dealt with injuries that hindered his full skill set from coming out. Even in the beginning of this season, the 24-year-old's ice time was very limited because of injuries as well.

As mentioned before in my pre-signing post, despite Fehr's little ice time, he proved to be very efficient, if you look at his production for the time he was on the ice. He's also fantastic defensively, as a potential two-way forward is always welcomed in Washington.

I look forward to seeing him on the ice even more next season.

So Tomas Fleischmann is left to re-sign... I may have mixed feelings about him like I have mixed feelings about whether I like Jefferson Starship, but there must be something worth re-signing - I feel it. Plus, with the Caps' love for re-signing players grown within the system (the past three signings example enough?), I would assume Flash sticks around too, leaving probably 3 million for someone else...

Stay tuned... the saga will continue...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Jeff Schultz re-signed

" If Schultz deal is as reported #Caps would have about $10.8 million left to sign Fehr and Fleischmann and then fill the last 3 roster spots."
@Bmcnally14 - Twitter around noon today

Today the Caps re-signed Jeff Schultz for a 4-year deal for up to $3 million. With this piece of information aforementioned, it seems there probably is a plan in place to make some kind of move to obtain players for the Caps.

As mentioned before, Schultz has slight potential to be a solid guy on the team. A four-year signing would say Washington would say the same. I still think that Schultz's numbers were inflated because of the entire team's performance early in the year. However, I will give him full credit for 129 blocked shots, which is more of an effort from him to do so than a lot of other defensemen on the Caps (129 blocked shots is pretty below average for what the Caps could be doing in that department). Maybe that stat will go up this year.

Once the Caps accomplish re-signing Flash and Fehr then, there is room for a cheap outsider, or two reeeeeally cheap outsiders. I sure hope whomever the Caps get is quality and will be a difference-maker and not a random Joe-Coschmo... Speaking of which, Joe Corvo signed back with the Carolina Hurricanes for $4.5 million today. I didn't want him back anyway.

I can just see this method of signing though being like waiting to get a new game console or a phone. You see the console or phone, and you think it's cool, and you'd love to have it, except you know that paycheck is for other things like groceries or your girlfriend (t-he-he). So you have to wait for the price people pay to go down, and then once it's at your liking, you go get it. It is in hope, however, that by the time the price goes down a bit, the product doesn't suck or have issues because the better ones are gone already... I digress...

So two moves in two days, we will continue on with this saga of WTF Caps. Until later... or until Ilya Kovalchuk signs with someone... *turns television to ESPN 10 to watch hour long announcement of where he will play - in Russian*

*Evgeni Nabokov signed in the KHL btw. Sorry teams that need a goalie. He probably is on the downside anyway.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Boyd Gordon Counts in the Offseason, Right?

Just quickly, I would like to state that the Capitals have re-signed Boyd Gordon for under a million for one year... It's a move! Be happy!

Gordon was out for a large portion of last season from injuries. However, Gordon's above average faceoff percentage, efficiency on the penalty kill and hard-nosed style for going after pucks are things the Capitals NEED going into next season.

This doesn't mean though that there's nothing else the Caps need and that there are no other holes to fill. Contrary to popular belief, the Caps have a little more cap room than we like to believe, depending on who they choose to re-sign and keep through next season. As previously stated, I would have loved to trade Alex Semin, but as we've all exhausted, no one wants to carry that burden ($$$ wise of course!). Washington will be able to make-do then with what they currently have.

In acceptance for what the situation is, I can't complain because "it is what it is."

Caps Offseason Signing Issues Continue

As if the sense of urgency folks feel for the Capitals to sign players wasn't enough, three current Caps players filed for arbitration yesterday: Tomas Fleichmann, Eric Fehr, and Jeff Schultz.

With this now becoming a primary concern, and as the Caps look into future players they must re-sign, the rush to sign outside players becomes less of an issue. While I still think Washington has holes that need to be filled by a player from the outside i.e. defense, I can vision signing these Caps more of a priority.

I'm really a big fan of Fehr. Fehr, 24, had his best season to date last year, and I think his presence will make a difference in the future for Washington. Despite his limited time on the ice, Fehr still was able to get 21 goals and finish with 39 points. The numbers seem low for the high-scoring Caps offense, but Fehr scored goals at very opportune times and made things happen when he did get out there ratio-wise. He also did show up in the playoffs when he was put on the ice. I say give Fehr more time on the ice and he'll be able to show

Jeff Schultz. Yes, I always call him a traffic cone, and, yes, I sometimes attribute his improved numbers from last year to the performance of his peers and not his own (things like plus/minus - a misleading stat I believe). But for the flak I always give Schultz, I think he could actually fully turn out in about one more season.

The Caps do need defense, and with Schultz's familiarity of the system and improving play, he could become pretty useful. For the time he spent on ice last season, the team will ability to evenly distribute time among defensemen; Mike Green can get a break!

Finally Fleischmann... I used to defend him often. My favorite showing of Flash came when he returned from his blood clot and displayed some versatility, helping the Caps power play slightly and also playing on the penalty kill. He recorded 51 points this year, adding to that necessary secondary scoring.

But the 26-year-old winger's invisibility during the playoffs put question marks around him. Almost Semin-esque, Flash can choose to show up or not; usually when he's picked on he'll show up big, but if left alone, he seems to fade away. Nonetheless, I say sign him and see what he'll do when Bruce Boudreau leaves him alone and trusts him to show up. Maybe the key will be to not pick on him and test him, but to just let him play. After all, I'll admit I wasn't the biggest fan of scratching Flash for Scott Walker in Game 7 *bitterness*.

Like I said before, however, the Caps still have holes they need to get filled now if they intend to win at all. I COMPLETELY understand that the prices that these quality players went for on the first couple days of free agency were slightly astronomical. But who wouldn't want to play for Washington? Had the Caps been in the front of the race for some of these guys, they definitely could have gotten some players for a more reasonable price. My addiction to Pawn Stars on the History Channel and experience in sales have shown me that negotiations can work in your favor, and with such negotiations, some folks will make accommodations to close the deal.

All of this just shows that Caps fans just have to deal with it (like that's anything different). None of us outside of the front office really know the plan that GMGM has for the team (of course, unless you work directly with the team). For all we know, the Caps could care less about winning the Cup this or next year and want to wait another five years... O_o... Okay, I doubt that but still...

As a fan for over a decade now, I still don't know exactly how to feel about this offseason. All year, I thought this was the Caps' best chance to win it all, and then fairly quickly, that idea was shot to hell. So naturally, I assume that next year would lead to victory with a couple of additions. Clearly though, it's not that simple. I would love to see the Caps make moves to win tomorrow, but I guess if I would take winning three out of four seasons over winning once, and never seeing it happen again.

Looking at other Caps news, rookie camp begins next week. That's about it.

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And all condolences to the family of former NHL player, Bob Probert (Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings), who passed away yesterday at the age of 45 from heart failure. About the time I began watching hockey, Probert was still playing. He retired in 2003. Can't tell you how much I loved watching those clips of his fights when I was younger. It's definitely a little more personal in actually having memory of watching the guy play.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Caps Inactivity on Day 1

So I haven't been here for a while. I've been working quite a bit, as I am on a mission. But I have a day off today so I thought I'd take advantage.

Yesterday was the much anticipated first day of NHL free agency. All the hockey fans who have gotten over the NHL and AHL playoffs and the Draft have been looking forward to this day. I personally was even more excited for free agency than the Draft.

Noon came around and I'm hearing a few deals of defensemen signing with various teams. Many who expected the Capitals to sign a defenseman yesterday were quite disappointed, and actually rather pissed off. The heavily desired defenseman Anton Volchenkov from the Ottawa Senators ended up signing with the New Jersey Devils (something NJ hardly ever lacks anyway). Former Capital Sergei Gonchar can finally dodge the hate from Caps fans as he left the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Senators, who let go of Volchenkov.

Other defenseman signings included Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin who went to Pittsburgh, Dan Hamhuis, who left for the Vancouver Canucks, Jordan Leopold who is now a Buffalo Sabre and Toni Lydman now on the Anaheim Ducks.

I, along with a few others, believe Washington could really use a quality defenseman; one who could preferably stay at home and truly play defense. I am one who advocates signing a free agent, because considering the Caps' window for being a top Stanley Cup contender, I would hope they are trying to win it all this year. After next year, I believe that window starts closing, especially after the shortcomings of the previous two seasons.

An aggressive approach to signing this free agency period would be important. The best would be gone after Day 1, and most likely none would be left after Day 2. If you know what you need and want, I say go after it.

However, I also understand the delay. Most of the defenseman signings yesterday, regardless of how quality these guys were, were in price ranges that I don't think the Capitals want to deal with right now. I am a proponent of being smart at least when being aggressive.

Nonetheless, the sitting-down-doing-nothing approach does slightly annoy me, and annoys many other true Caps fans as well (trust me, it's not just those who don't understand hockey who are frustrated). The only move Washington has made today in Day 2 of free agency was sign goalie Dan Sabourin (name sounds familiar I know). This was clearly a move to replace Michael Neuvirth, who the Caps are ready to bring up permanently to the big team along with Semyon Varlamov re: the unsigning of Jose Theodore.

Another free agency concern for the Capitals includes a strong center. I was a huge Eric Belanger fan during the season; it's always great to have another great faceoff guy on the team. There seem to be players on the AHL Champion Hershey Bears that could potentially fill that spot i.e. Mathieu Perreault, etc. I'm not opposed at all. But I would assume the window argument as well. Regardless my main signing concern is defense.

It's only 10 a.m. though on Day 2. I'll be patient and see what happens.

Monday, May 24, 2010

That Was Quick - On to the Stanley Cup Finals

So I tried to make a successful round in picking teams again, and yet, again, I failed. At least it couldn't have been as astronomically bad as the last round since there aren't as many teams to scout, analyze, and pick. However, I still managed to be wrong.

Out West, I figured the Blackhawks were too good for the San Jose Sharks. Chicago in previous series looked a little bit inconsistent, as they did during the season. Nonetheless, I just didn't see the Sharks being better than the Hawks. It was as easy as that.

I still thought that the series would be a little more competitive, predicting the Hawks winning in six or seven games, but the Sharks ended up completing a four-game sweep of San Jose. The individual games featured a Sharks team that was very good and had a lot of fight, but the Hawks were just that much better.

Chicago looked dominant, despite their slow starts. Three out of the four games, the Sharks scored first, although Chicago would often get their legs moving later in the game and dominate the remaining time.

The Blackhawks, at least, were the one team I can say I picked correctly all the way through, as I had them in the Stanley Cup Finals since the beginning of the playoffs. In fact, my Western Conference picks were not that heinous throughout the entire playoffs, so congratulations to me!

In the East, however, the mess continued for my predictions. I assumed that the Flyers would struggle mightily, as they still didn't have Jeff Carter and lost Maxim Lapierre, and thought that they spent everything they had completing the historic 3-0 comeback against the Boston Bruins. I also thought that the Canadiens would have had luck on their side, and the continuing stretch of Jaroslav Halak's impenetrability.

Boy, I was wrong...

The Canadiens decided to play dead and lose 6-0 in Game 1 to the Flyers in Philadelphia. But I wasn't moved because in the last series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Habs lost 6-3 in Game 1 and won that series in seven games. So I had no worries.

Again, I was wrong...

The Flyers continued to punish the Canadiens, winning Game 2 by the score of 3-0, giving them another record in the books in having the longest scoring stretch. I had faith after Montreal returned the favor by winning Game 3 5-1 on home ice, and figured that they just needed to change the venue.

Then came Game 4 and the Habs went back to the same crappy-crap-crapshoot style of hockey, losing that one 3-0 in another scoreless effort with only 17 shots (they call that something like the Diffusion of Responsibility in psychology). You must give credit when it is due, though. Michael Leighton, goaltender of the Flyers, has been outstanding in the place of Brian Boucher. Just imagine if he went down - Chris Pronger or something would have had to play goalie.
*Lester Patrick for the New York Americans anyone?

Game 5 was hopeful for those who picked Montreal to win, as they seemed to win every game where they faced elimination. This hope was built up when they scored first in Philadelphia. But once they let in an unfortunate goal (video coming soon), it went downhill from there. The Habs regained life after being down 3-1 coming within one goal at 3-2, but they were unable to get the equalizer and there it was - the #7 seeded Philadelphia Flyers were the 2010 Eastern Conference Champions in the playoffs.

How the hell this happened is beyond me; it baffled me enough a #7 seed got home-ice advantage in the Conference Finals.

Oh well, I am on my knees with this one to be right...

STANLEY CUP FINALS

#2 Chicago Blackhawks over #7 Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games

The Blackhawks are too legitimate to lose to the Flyers in the Finals. The Western Conference has shown to be much stronger, and that the best teams truly do win out. I will give the Flyers credit to steal one game from them, but I highly doubt they have enough to win, even though they got almost their whole team back, minus Boucher.

I don't care that Barry Melrose predicted this final from the start. I still am bitter, I will admit. Considering the Flyers ran through a team they owned during the regular season a million times in New Jersey, then played a #6 seed and an #8 seed, they were given a better path than most of the other teams playing in the playoffs for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, they got past it, and I will give them that.

Still, the Blackhawks are winning, and I'm going to need them to win anyway. I live in a place there are wayyyyy too many Flyers fans right now.

The Finals will begin Saturday, May 29 at 8 p.m. on NBC at Chicago.

And no worries Red Sox fans, hockey season is almost over, and I will be getting to baseball soon :).

Friday, May 14, 2010

NHL Playoffs Round 3 - This is getting old...

"It's the NHL Playoffs," you say. "Why would you be getting tired of this!?"

Simple answer. It's not the playoffs I'm tired of, it's that I CONTINUE TO BE WRONG EVERY TIME!

We already went through how in Round 1, the Caps, Devils, Senators, and Coyotes were my downfall, and how the Caps were the source of intense grief.

I was at least content with my Western Conference picks. The West was much more predictable since they all seemed to be seeded at their appropriate talent level.

The East, however, was a mess. According to my Crashing the Net post, I would have only predicted one series correctly. But I covered my tracks by claiming on fellow sports guy Jay Scott's radio show that the Flyers would have a very high chance of defeating the Devils because of the Devils' failure to match up well against them.

So we move on the Round 2. I should have gotten through the tough part, right? Well, not so.

I easily explained away how the Canadiens would be too tired. The Habs would have spent too much energy to come back against the Caps with all that shot blocking to play the Penguins, who seemed to handle the Senators pretty well.

Flyers were too battered after losing two big players in Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne during Round 1. Secondly, the other underdog, the Bruins beat the Sabres in five games (at least I called that one), and would probably finish off the Flyers easily.

Out West, I expected the Sharks to choke in the second round like they normally do, and predicted the Blackhawks would have just a little bit more for the Canucks in a tough six or seven game series.

So much for all of that!

Caps fans were quite frustrated after the Penguins beat the Habs 6-3 after three straight games of the Caps scoring only one goal against Jaroslav Halak. The following game, Montreal turned back to form, winning 4-3. The rest of the series the two teams traded one-goal wins and losses until the Canadiens won Games 6 and 7, winning Game 7 convincingly by a score of 5-2, now dethroning the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Bruins were handling the Flyers pretty well, and were on the verge of sweeping them going up 3-0 after Game 3. However, Simon Gagne returned to the Flyers, and so did their ability to win. Philadelphia would take over the pace early on in the next three games, and tied the series at three-all. The Bruins turned the tide very early in Game 7, and led 3-0, taking a 3-1 lead after the first period. The Flyers took the game completely in the second period though, and went on to win the game and the series 4-3 in regulation. Much to the dismay of the Bruins' home fans, Philadelphia became the first team in 35 years and only the third in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and win.

For the Sharks, I just sounded really stupid, as they ran through Detroit, beating them in five games. Needless to say, I had no founding for picking against them, and I will admit that.

At least I was accurate for once, choosing the Blackhawks to win over the Canucks in six games. I expected the individual games to be closer, as the Hawks were able to average 3.83 goals in the series (about five in every win) and won games like Game 7 5-1 and Game 4 7-4. But Game 1, the Canucks won 5-1 and won Game 6 by a score of 3-1, making me question their consistency like I did before.

So here are the Conference Finals predictions (sigh)... here we go...

Eastern Conference Finals
Round 3
#8 Montreal Canadiens defeat #7 Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games

Western Conference Finals
Round 3
#2 Chicago Blackhawks defeat #1 San Jose Sharks in 6 or 7 games

STANLEY CUP FINALS
#2 Chicago Blackhawks defeat #8 Montreal Canadiens in 5 or 6 games

I look forward to the possibility of an Original Six Stanley Cup Final. It's great for hockey to see these teams experience the glory again.

Many can make the sentimental pick for the Blackhawks considering the following circumstances: The Hawks had classic greatness in the days of goaltender Charlie Gardiner (who died after winning the 1934 Cup, in case you didn't know, new hockey fans) in the 1930s, and then in the 1960s with Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, and Stan Mikita (need I go on listing?). Then the Blackhawks had their more recent years of sucking, and now experience the possibility of winning a Cup with young superstars.

However, the way Montreal has gone back to the old ways of playing and added the confidence in young players i.e. PK Subban. You can almost put behind you the fact that they won 24 Stanley Cups, including their last one coming in 1993. Either way, it would be a great series, and definitely the best for viewers watching.

Of course, as a hockey fan, we all know I'm going to watch regardless, and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm just going to boycott a Flyers entrance to the Finals a different way.

p.s. I am working on fixing my East Coast bias, so no worries, West Coasters, I've got your coverage this round!
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