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":

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:

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:

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!

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!