Monday, November 23, 2009

Story of a Card

For the briefest of moments in early 1992, televisions in the US were tuned in to the Winter Olympics in Alberville, France. Bonnie Blair and Kristi Yamaguchi were on their way to winning gold medals for Team USA. And a little known, journeyman minor league goaltender named Ray LeBlanc was backstopping US Olympic hockey team to a 4th place finish. To quote his Wikipedia page: "At the 1992 Winter Olympics, LeBlanc appeared in all eight games for the United States, compiling a record of 5–2–1 with two shutouts. The Americans finished out of the medals, however, as they lost 6–1 to Czechoslovakia in the bronze medal game." This US team wasn't supposed to make the medal round. They were bad. Ray stole 4th place for them. As a reward, the Chicago Blackhawks put him in for one game later that season.

Later that spring, at a community card show, I happened across a booth selling hockey cards. Sitting there, for a whopping $3 was a 1990-91 Fort Wayne Komets IHL team set. The sticker on the box cover said "With 1992 US Olympic Hero Ray LeBlanc!" I stupidly bought the box. I was 13 years old, without a clue. LeBlanc played 1 NHL game and his 15 minutes of fame only lasted 8. The set quickly went into a box with all my other cards. It sat there.

For 17 years.

Then, something strange happened. A few years ago, another journeyman minor leaguer-turned coach made the jump to the NHL. In his first season as an NHL coach, he led his team to the playoffs and won the Jack Adams award as coach of the year. Fans of his team became rabid and his stature continued to grow. He's now an icon in the area; a regular guy who made it and who everyone loves. People he's never met call him by his nickname, Gabby. Coincidentally, when he wrote a book about his life, he chose his nickname as the title.

That man is Bruce Boudreau.

About a week ago, I was deep into reading that autobiography when I came across the chapter in which Bruce describes his final few minor league playing seasons. He talked about playing with his best friend, John Anderson, who is now the head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers. He talked about his last seasons in Fort Wayne, playing for the Komets.


Where do I know that team from?


I raced downstairs to the garage where my box old box of hockey cards sits, gathering dust. I rifled through the older cards and found that old Fort Wayne team set. Ray LeBlanc's card sat at the front of the stack. I quickly shuffled through the cards until I stopped at the two cards I was looking for. John Anderson...

and our own, Bruce 'Gabby' Boudreau.

I no longer collect cards. Sure, I'll buy the odd pack every now and then but I miss the days of bubblegum and cardboard-colored cards. I love my old cards: Bobby Orr, Cam Neely, Ken Dryden. But every so often, I'll find a reason to go digging into the big old box of cards and find a treasure.

Bruce never mentions poor Ray LeBlanc in his memoirs. I wonder if he even remembers him. He retired in 2000 with a career NHL record of 1-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .955 Save%. But if it wasn't for Ray LeBlanc, I wouldn't have these awesome Bruce Boudreau and John Anderson cards.

Thanks Ray!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I consider myself a student of the game. I grew up watching the Washington Capitals of the early 1980s. I collected hockey cards, and studied the statistics on the backs. I heard stories from my older cousins about some of the players they watched growing up: Hull, Orr, Howe, Sittler, Perreault, LeFleur, Bossy, Dionne. I learned as much about them as I could. It's helped me undertstand the game a little more.

It troubles me that many of my own peers, hockey players born from the late '70s-'90s, have absolutely no understanding of the history of this fine game of ours. It's hard to understand how far the game has come without understanding its past. Fortunately, in this world of the NHL Network, YouTube, and, we have all the tools we need to find out about everything 'Hockey'.

As I grew up watching videos and reading books on the subject, I think that's the best place to start. Below are a few of my recommendations, just in time to add them to your Christmas Wish-lists.

Putting A Roof On Winter
The history of hockey from the first indoor game to the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR, this book is hands-down my favorite hockey history book. Finally, I have stories to go with the names on all the NHL trophies. An excellent read.

The Game
Written by Hall Of Fame goalie and lawyer Ken Dryden during his last season on the Montreal Canadiens, it is possibly the best book ever written on the game. Introspective, funny and touching. Also, it provides excellent insight into hockey in the '70s and just how different today's NHL Players have it.

The Best Of Bobby Orr
There is a reason I consider Bobby Orr to be the best hockey player ever: I saw this on VHS when I was a young kid. You can probably find rare YouTube footage that rivals some of the video found here, but as a one-stop shop for greatness, this is it.

Ultimate Gretzky
For those who consider Wayne Gretzky to be the greatest who ever played, this DVD certainly won't sway your opinion. Some truely remarkable footage of the Great One, from his early days in Indy to Edmonton, LA and beyond. A great look at the speed of the game in the 1980s. Compare the game to that of Orr's day, and you'll be stunned at the differences.

A little self-flattering, but interesting none the less. Ok, honestly, this book marks my least favorite moment in hockey. Standing mere feet from The Great One at an book signing, Wayne decided to end the session with roughly 200 people still waiting. A few of us kids snuck past the ropeline and got to Wayne, politely asking to have our books signed. One kid in our group had an old wooden stick for Mr. Gretzky to sign. Gretz looked at him and said "I only sign Easton sticks" and walked away. It taught me that you can be a great hockey player, but still be a failure as a human being.

Legends of Hockey Seasons 1 & 2
This is pretty much the video version of Putting A Roof On Winter. Old archival photos and film footage of the early game, it does a fantastic job of putting faces to names and asking the question "who really was the greatest to every play?" You'll see names pop up on the screen and literally get goosebumps.

Hockey: A People's History
No one takes the game of hockey more seriously than Canada. From the title of the book, it's easy to figure out that this book reads like a love letter/thank you card to the game and all it's done for the country (and the country for it). To know hockey is to know Canada. The history of the country is reflected in the way the game has changed over the years.

Do You Believe In Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
The moment that changed hockey in the US (and Russia, for that matter). Honestly, if you can find a copy of the original broadcast, it trumps this documentary. But as those copies are very rare, this is a great #2 resource.

Slap Shot
No hockey history lesson is complete without this gem. As funny and extreme as it is, it's also a great look at the minor leagues in the 1970s; a far cry from the modern AHL (or even the ECHL).

A great companion to Slap Shot (written by film extra, career minor leaguer, NHLer and current NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau), the book is a fantastic mix of funny and touching stories, interspection about lost potential and redemption as a coach. Plus, if you're a Caps fan, it's just cool.

The Physics of Hockey
Ok, more of a science book than a history book. But the concepts of friction, kinetics and momentum as they relate to hockey are awesome to read about.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts on the Weekend

So, 2 games, 2 completely different efforts. I'll keep it quick...I missed the Devil's game because I have Fios so I'll have to stick with the highlights.

-For the record, the fact that the Washington Wizards are allowed to have any games televised, much less in place of Caps games, is insane. The product on the ice is obviously better than the product on the court. At this point, the only thing on two legs that shoots more than Alex Ovechkin is Gilbert Arenas and their shooting percentages (16.3% to 40.9%) are far too close by their respecive leagues' standards.

-For those who criticize Forty's tendency to give up weak goals, his lone goal-against vs. Minnesota showed me two things. 1) His angles are solid. He was square to the shooter and followed him all the way. 2) He is working on a few things. He's getting his pads to the ice quicker than before, but that's making his arms do some work to. On that goal, his blocker hand moved just slightly away from his body. That was all it took. In a few games, you'll see those mistakes go away.

-Also, keep in mind that over 117 minutes in his last 2 games (+OT and Shootout), Varly has stopped 64 of 67 shots (.955 Save %). And I know at least 11 of those were of the breakaway variety.

-I'm convinced we need a calming influence on the blueline. I'm also wondering if Brian Pothier might be just that influence. He's had a very solid week's worth of games and the defense as a whole has been better for it. They looked calmer with the puck, less likely to throw it away and more effiecient in moving it up the ice. Granted, that was against Minnesota. Against the Devils, obviously not the same.

-Or maybe it was just Jose Theodore.

-Please look at the standings right now. Have you noticed that Atlanta is actually quite good, and just finished a stretch without their superstar? 3 fewer games, 7 fewer points. A better PK and PP ranking. It's not going to be as easy as come people think to run away with the SE Division. Peverly is the real deal, Enstrom and Bogosian are studs, and Kovy is obviously awesome. Keep an eye on the rearview mirror.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thoughts on the Game: Islanders, 11/11

It seems like everyone wants to write about Russians and Russia after last night's game. I think I'll mix it up a bit.

-Is it me, or does Tomas Fleischmann look like he finally gets it? He's going to the net hard, getting tons of quality chances and playing good defensive hockey. I know Backstrom did 90% of the work on Flash's goal, but he still had to be in position and get the shot off. The fact that he ended up in the crease after the goal speaks volumes to how his game has changed.

-I'm still thrilled with Perreault. He forechecks like a maniac and creates chances. Clark and Fehr are looking good again, thanks to his work at center. He's very calm with the puck, even when he's stickhandling around guys. Ovie is right; this kid has a very bright future.

-Theodore looked VERY weak last night. His rebound control was poor and his lateral movement was off. I can't tell if he's tired or whether his back is still bothering him, but it was clear he needed to be pulled after goal #3.

-If I said that I'd prefer we not re-sign Jurcina or Morisson, what would you think. Juice takes ill-timed penalties, is quite slow, and has been a defensive liability recently. Morisson simply thinks he's better than he is. He should not be rushing the puck up the ice, or trying 1-on-1 moves.

-While we're on the defense, I noticed 2 things last night. 1) Mike Green is getting pressured every time he touches the puck. 2) Mike Green doesn't know what to do when pressured. His passes are often very weak or of the no-look variety and he's been turning the puck over quite a bit lately. He's getting the assists, but with only 2 goals on the season, something is amiss.

-Ok, now for some Russians. Forty stood on his head. His rebound control was off on a few rising shots, but he stayed focused and played those rebounds well. Varly's been taking more shots to the chest these days, so his tendency to over-explode seems to be reined in by Irbe.

-For people who say Forty carries his glove too low: a proper butterfly for a goalie emphasizes keeping ones body square to the shot and as closed-up as possible. Carrying his glove high would lead to some more glove saves, but you'd see those 7-hole goals (above the pads & under the arms). On the one goal he allowed, the shot was perfectly placed...not many goalies have a chance at that.

-For the record, the most Heads-Up save I have ever seen occurred last night. During the shootout, Varly made a save but carried a lot of backward momentum towards the goal line. Had he not done something, he and the puck would have ended up in the net and the goal would have counted. Varly threw his arms in the air and accomplished two things: 1) his thrust upwards slowed his momentum enough that 2) when he got to the goal, he was able to push his arms against the crossbar to stop himself. Seriously, I'm sure goalie coaches everywhere will be teaching goalies that move from now on.

-Last Varly note: anyone who has questioned his focus in the past can put down their pitchforks. I think I speak for all Caps fans when I say that it was incredibly stressful watching turn after turn of saves, knowing that the next one against would mean a loss. Imagine the concentration it takes to not have the thought of 'don't mess up' repeat constantly in your head. The built up tension was released when Captain Clark seemed like a playoff OT goal rather than a simple regular season shootout goal.

-I'm going to put my coaching hat on and talk to Semin now. I'm going to focus on a few little things at a time...too much might cause some overload. First, I always coach what I call the '3 Foot Rule', which mandates that within 3 feet of either blueline, your goal is to make sure the puck either gets deep or gets out. Last night, while Alex was outstanding below the face-off circles, he turned the puck over a few times in this space (one time leading to the Islander's 3rd goal). Dancing around in that magical 3' is dangerous because your whole team is heading into the offensive zone (or out of the defensive zone, at that end). One turn-over, and it's an instant odd-man rush or breakaway.

-Semin has also said that he prefers to skate the puck rather than dump it if there's a lane or if it's a 1-on-1 situation. With his hands and shot, I'll agree with that. Recently, however, Semin has been skating the puck in when he's one-on-two or has no skating lane. I like to emphasize that a great player shows creativity within the team's system. In this case, Semin is using his creativity too much and the system breaks down.

-Finally, Semin's stick penalty woes are an easy fix. Semin has other-worldly puck handling skills and is way above average at taking pucks off opponents' sticks. His issue is he looks for the take-away every time the puck is near him. If he used his body a bit more (angling, tieing an opponent up along the boards), he'd create just as many take-aways while keeping his puck closer to his body. Semin's penalties come from reaching for pucks, so staying more compact would help quite a bit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Nyls. Now What?

With word dropping this afternoon that Michael Nylander is most likely going to Russia, the big question is "What does that really mean?" Well, it's two fold. 1) We get to use the roster spot he's been occupying to carry another player that could actually, potentially, play for us. 2) With his cap hit gone, there is the ability to go after another player in a trade, claim someone off waivers or sign a free agent. In the long term, Nylander's departure opens up space to sign Backstrom and Semin to extensions this off-season.

So, again, what does that mean? Chris Chelios at the league minimum? Brendan Shanahan? PETER FORSBERG? Sorry, probably not. Going after an unrestricted free agent around the trading deadline? Possibly. Opening up the possibility of bringing an Alzner or Carlson type up for a cup of coffee? More likely.

Honestly, I'm not sure you notice any real changes now that Nyls is gone. It opens up possibilities, but I doubt anything happens of substance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thoughts on the Game: Florida, 11/7

Ok, so I'm super late is posting this and it's short. Sue me.

-Go Go Perreault! Not only did the kid get his first NHL goal, but he executed a perfect 'knee-down, fist pump' celebration that Ovie would be proud of (if I recall, that's the same celebration Alex pulled after his first goal). Many more young man. Many more.

-I read on Japer's Rink that Q "blocked a shot with his ribs in the 1st, broke his nose in the 2nd and scored in the 3rd." Urge to buy a toddler-sized #53 jersey growing...

-Once again, WTFD, at least through 2 periods. I guess I must be missing something about Bruce's system...I can't understand why, with the lack of speed on defense and the opponent's tendency to forecheck us them hard, the Caps' forwards start the breakout at the red line. It seems inevitable that our D will bobble the puck and either lose it or simply throw it hard-around. Unfortunately, when they do, there is never anyone on our side of the blueline to get it. A simple '1 deep, 2 high' forecheck and it's an instant 3-2 in the defensive zone.

-Semin: please do something. I know you're hurting. But you are way better than this. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

-Fleischmann has found 'it', and it certainly doesn't look like some 'taking advantage of Ovie's absence' production. Bruce has always put more faith in him than I thought he deserved. This season, Tomas has shown why Bruce is so very good at what he does.

-Finally, this went along with another Japer's Rink post about Caps Forward Prospects. Learn the name Marcus Johansson (and watch the videos!!!). If he keeps progressing, he could be very similar to Backstrom soon...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Varly and Karl

So last year, two crazy kids from MD decided to get Caps jerseys. They deliberated hard and settled on a #27 and a #40: Alzner and Varlamov. The decision was based on a trip that summer to the Capitals' Development Camp and the realization that "these guys are really, really good." The jerseys arrived sometime in January of last season; late Christmas presents for them both.

Then the jerseys made their way to Verizon Center. Over a string of 4 games, the jerseys proved to be a curse: if the player on the jersey didn't play, the team lost. Toronto, Colorado...the worst teams in the league were beating us at home, all thanks to our new jerseys (I'm being tongue-in-cheek here people...we obviously have nothing to do with the product on the ice and I know it).

Then came the 2009 Playoffs. After a terrible Game 1 against the Rangers, I showed up to the game in a Caps sweatshirt only to find that Varly would be starting Game 2. NOOOO! A 2-1 loss later, and Superstitious Me was convinced I was at fault. I wore my jersey for every game from then out. A game 5 shutout. An amazing Game 7 win. After the game, one fan 4 rows behind us piped up: "VARLY!!!" I turned around. "I saw you with that jersey at Game 1! You KNEW SOMETHING! YOU'RE AWESOME!" I'd never stopped a puck, but I got "Dude, nice jersey" and "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT"'s from dozens of fans.

Meanwhile, my poor wife's #27 sat quietly in the closet. Karl had been called up for the playoffs just to sit in the press box. Upon his return to Hershey, he got a concussion and missed several games. Fortunately enough, we got tickets to a Calder Cup Final's game and she got the chance to break out the Alzner jersey and have it on for a critical game Game 4 victory. As Hershey went on to win the Calder Cup, we both knew that our jerseys had both seen wins for our players and the Curse was over. A pre-season win reinforced that belief.

Since then, Varly has started a few early Caps games to mixed results, but Karl has been down in Hershey, unable to break the Caps logjam at defense. We're both eager for the two teammates to reunite in DC and prove our jersey decisions correct. For those of you looking for the next 'cool' jerseys, my I recommend the following names: Carlson and Perreault. Maybe a Wilson or Della Rovere.

Or maybe an Alzner or Varlamov...they're still cool.

Thoughts on the Game: NJ, 11/4

Well, I missed last night's game thanks to a totally worthless informative meeting down at the rink last night (if you say '6:30', don't mean '8:30'). I will comment on a couple things I read from the game.

-The Toe Drag Monster was out last night. 3 minor penalties and a benching for Afinogenov Semin? He's in a contract year...given the opportunity, if they charge the same $, would you pay Kovalchuk over Semin? (The correct answer is 'YES!')

-Reader Scott Tweeted yesterday "You know I love the short guys" in response to Perreault being called up. First game for the kid, 2 assists. Said J.P. in his post-game write-up: "His saucer pass to Tyler Sloan was a thing of beauty, and his effort on the six-on-five goal (in Semin's place, to boot), was stellar." Mark my words: this guy's hands, speed, hockey-sense and vision have all the markings of a St. Louis-type player. He's gonna be really, really good, and sooner than I thought.

-Hats off to Varly: Last night was his first loss in regulation. Looking at my handy 'Varly Tracker', that drops him to a .76 career regulation winning % (.66 overall).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


There is perhaps no greater enigma in the NHL today than Washington's own Alexander Semin. Originally selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Semin's early career showed promise before being derailed by a series of questionable decisions off the ice (a missed flight, failure to report to Hershey, missing a year due to 'military obligations'). Since then, while the product on the ice has often been a display of stunning offense, it has been interspersed with periods of 'bonehead-itis'. With Ovechkin on the mend for a while, many are looking to Semin to show his true potential.

Semin seems to be a quiet person. He prefers to play the ‘Teller’ to Ovechkin’s ‘Penn’. He’s been more accessible recently, with the influx of Russian-speaking media members assigned to the Caps (Dmitry Chesnokov), and made some news last season with his opinion of Sidney Crosby. His opinions, like his game, are distinctly Russian. His style is a hybrid of Alexander Mogilny and the Pavels, Datsyuk and Bure. His hands are super-soft, his skating is effortless, and his shot…well, we’ll get to that.

In his rookie year, it seemed like Semin would be a player in the mold of Peter Bondra; not the best passer but certainly an exceptional shooter. His second and third seasons did little to sway that opinion. But a funny thing happened last season: Semin’s passing ability went through the roof. His vision seemed to come into focus and suddenly the passes he rarely ever attempted in previous seasons were not only going tape-to-tape, but we getting him assists. His game was beginning to round out. Semin also started getting time on the Penalty Kill and showed his above average defensive skills. His knack for the well-executed take-away led to scoring chances that would normally have vanished into the defensive zone.

While Alex was enjoying a career season in all areas of his game, he was also on his way to a slightly less appealing career high: Penalty minutes per game. Late in shifts, Semin became prone to using his take-away skills more and his skating ability less. The stick penalties increased, putting the Caps down a man. Like Ovechkin, Semin started taking long shifts that his body simply wasn’t able to handle if a defensive situation arose. So far this season, those penalties have taken a noticeable drop (1.24 to .5 PIMs-per-game). Semin is currently on pace to set career highs in goals and assists and career lows in PIMs.

One other frustrating aspect to Semin’s game quietly crept up as the season progressed: his tendency to attempt One-on-One moves to get around defenders. His signature toe drag, one of the most sublime of any player in the NHL, began to be used on what seemed like every other rush down the ice. Rather than continue in a skating lane or dump the puck into the corners and fight for it, Semin began seeking out defenders and attempted to deke them. Rather than creating time and space for his teammates, Semin was being more and more selfish with the puck, even as his assist totals increased. So far this season, Semin’s take-aways are down but his give-aways are up. While he’s no longer reaching for pucks and taking penalties, he is using his toe-drag more and more frequently to mixed results.

The thing to remember about Semin’s toe drag is that it can be used for good or for evil. It is not a high-percentage move in attempting to make a defender commit. A well-timed poke check easily leads to odd-man breaks back up the ice and scoring chances against. When used to create space and separation for Semin’s uniquely amazing shot, it is a thing of pure gold.

Alex Semin almost always shoots his modified wrist shot off the wrong foot (the right foot for a right-handed shot) but the torque he generates by kicking his left foot is immense. Directly following his toe drag, Semin seems to be almost vertical, leaning to his right as if to get his stick parallel to his body. Only the toe of his stick is touching the ice and the puck is generally no more than a foot or so behind his right foot. It’s generally right at the height of the toe drag that Semin unleashes his shot: totally unexpected, incredibly hard and usually quite high. I’ve never seen a simple wrist shot break NHL glass, but Semin has done it on numerous occasions. The only problem with the shot is its tendency (since it comes directly off the toe) to fly high of the net.

Yet, with all that talent in his possession, something has been missing. Whether it’s the constant oneupsmanship of Semin, Ovechkin, and Backstrom or a general philosophy about offense, it needs to change. In the already linked article, Semin has this to say about offense:

And in Russia people like beautiful hockey, and not dump and chase. I just don't get it, why when a player is skating up the ice and no one is attacking him, he dumps the puck into the offensive zone and then chases it? Why would you do this if there is no one forechecking you? I understand that if there is someone coming at you and you don't know whether you can get past that player, then you can dump the puck, pass it or shoot. But if not, then hold on to the puck, skate forward, create a chance.
Why would you want to dump the puck and then chase after it and crash into the boards? I don't know. But that's just my opinion.
Hopefully Semin will realize that with the teammates he has, sometimes dumping the puck in and gaining numbers will lead to more scoring chances than taking the skating lane and ending up 1-on-3. In my opinion, Semin has the potential to equal, if not surpass, Alex Ovechkin. Oddly enough, all it seems is missing is the ability to simplify his game and exercise a small amount of restraint.

Will we see Super Semin, or the Toe Drag Monster?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ovie Who?

Ok, so reports are that Alex Ovechkin is 'week-to-week' with an 'upper body strain', whatever that means. DC Puckheads are fretting about what we'll do in his absence. Fear not Caps Fans, we're set. Look at the line combos from after Ovie left the Columbus game:

Laich & Laing/Steckel/Bradley

We're obviously missing someone for that 4th line (or 3rd line, if you'd rather have Laing down there), so insert Sloan or a Hershey call-up. (Update: or replace Aucoin with Perreault)

I like Flash's defensive ability (and, apparently, his offensive upside) on that top line. If Semin can do an Ovechkin impersonation and put shots on/in the net, everything will be fine.

For the Second line, I LOVE the toughness of Knuble and Laich (mark my words, in 5 years Brooks will be looked at in the same was as Knuble). They're all the same speed and tough to keep out of the slot.

The Third and Fourth lines are solid defensively. The PP will be hurt a bit without Ovie's shot, sure, but with Semin and Knuble out there, we'll be fine.

The Caps have built a team that has enough talent and leadership to succeed without Ovechkin. I think a .600 winning percentage is in the cards during Ovie's absence.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thoughts on the Game: Columbus, 11/1

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ovie's 'hurt' and everyone is worries it's serious. Serious would be if he didn't get up after he fell, or if he was slumped over on his way back to the bench. Serious is not coming back to the bench, waving both arms like a bird and wearing a suit after the game. Ovie will miss MAYBE 1 game. My bet is we see him in all his Ovieness on Wednesday.

To the notes!

-I'm not sure I've heard the Phone Booth go from 'Fedorov scores in Game 7' loud to 'Pittsburgh goes up 4-0' quiet so quickly.

-The Knuble/Laing "I bet I can keep the puck pinned to the boards behind your goalie for 2 minutes" PK was a thing of beauty. Caps fans are smart enough to know when they see hard work and rewarded the PK unit with a deserved ovation.

-Q was his typical Q: nice layed-out shot block and a prettier 'putting in the garbage' goal that SHOULD have been the game winner. No, he's not blocking shots like in previous seasons. But if you notice, teams are moving the puck away from the point side that he's playing. His shot blocking is so well known that he's dictating the direction the puck is going. Caps, take note of this and you can eliminate the harder point shots just by putting Q on that side.

-Having Flash back opens things up to interesting line combos. It was nice to see the Bradley/Steckel/Laich line back together, and Semin/Backstrom/Fleischmann put on a passing clinic early on. When Laich moved up to Ovie's spot with Morrison and Knuble, that line became the best.

-A penalty at the end of regulation? A penalty in OT? Same M.O. on the power play and same goal scored twice? Great teams just don't do these things. We're a good team, but not a great one.

-How can you let the puck get to the far side man on the PK? The Caps' defense does a poor job getting into obvious passing lanes, and an even worse job letting the D know when they have a man behind them.

-I think I'm going to stop trashing the Defense. It's getting repeditive. From now on, I'm just going to type 'WTFD' when the defense:
  • Loses battles in the corner
  • Panics
  • Throws the puck away like a hot potato
  • Makes passes through the slot
  • Loses the race to nearly every loose puck
  • Takes dumb penalties
  • Skates the puck end to end just to turn it over (coughGreencough...)
-Jose, I understand you couldn't do anything about the bad bounce behind the net. It happens. But the fact that it happened earlier in the period and you just lucked out that the puck hit you instead of carroming in front means you should have known not to come out the way you did. Also, getting your stick stuck in the net? Ugh.

-It's come to the point where if Semin and Backstrom can't stop toe dragging and behind the back passing, and Green can't stop going end-to end and then turning the puck over in the corner, I'm going to lose it. Great teams make the simple play. Great teams don't try the highlight reel play.

-Rick Nash is the quietest superstar in the game. He has great hands, exceptional skating ability and a sick shot. And, unlike a lot of superstars, he's in the first PK unit fot the Jackets.

-Speaking of Nash, I'm not sure who looked worse on his goal: Green who looked like he'd forgotten how to transition from forward to backward or Theodore, who simply fell down.