Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hold The Calder

With his winning resume, John Carlson's first full season in the NHL has been greeted with hope and quite a bit of fanfare. His offensive performance in his first 4 games of the season is nothing short of impressive, as he currently leads all rookies and is tied for the lead among defensemen in scoring (the 'P.K. Who?' shirts will be printed shortly).

But lost in the hype is the inexperience in Carlson's game and his frequent positioning issues (hint: he's in the 'Bad' section). So far this season, the Capitals have surrendered 9 goals. Carlson has been on the ice for 6 of those goals (67%), highest on the team by 2 goals. By comparison, Mike 'no defense' Green has only seen one opposition puck behind Michal Neuvirth while on the ice. Jeff Schultz is still defensively perfect on the season.

Much like Green, things happen when Carlson is on the ice. Of the 23 total goals scored for and against the Caps this season, John has seen 13 while on the ice (56%). Tied for next highest? Yeah, the Alexes, with 9. For reference, last season Mike Green was on the ice for only 44% of the total goals scored in Caps games. And in Paul Coffey's most adventurous season, he was also on the ice for 56% of all goals scored.

We simply need to remember that, despite winning a WJC, 2 AHL Championships and playing big in last year's NHL playoffs, John Carlson is still a rookie with only 33 NHL games under his belt. He'll get better, but he's going to be a bit of an adventure in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Commercial Break

In the announcement from the Washington Capitals indicating postponement of the annual Season Ticket Holder Party, one bullet (probably the one that will upset the most fans) jumped out at me:
The Capitals would like to apologize in advance as Alex Ovechkin and Semyon Varlamov will not be in attendance on this date due to a previously scheduled commitment.  Both players will be at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, shooting a TV commercial for ESPN.
Ovie and Varly? Together in an ESPN commercial? While I'm guessing the plot will have something to with being Russian, knowing ESPN it could be absolutely anything. If it's a SportsCenter commercial, it's sure to be comedy gold. Some ideas for the shoot:
  • Ovie and Varly getting ready to take on Lebron and Dwayne Wade in a game of Scrabble, complaining about the lack of Cyrillic tiles.
  • Alex painting Varly's new mask with butterflies and bunnies. Varly is ecstatic.
  • Varly shooting pucks at Ovie (in Varly's gear) while laughing manically and yelling 'FIVE HOLE!' over and over again.
  • Ovie, Varly and Barry Melrose discussing how The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a methaphor for the left wing lock.
  • Ovechkin: "Russian machine never breaks!" Varlamov: "I'm Russian, and I break..." Ovechkin: "Are you sure you're Russian?"
  • Ovie working with Varly on his English, having him repeat the phrase 'I'm Siiiicck!' over and over again.
  • Ovie jumping against ESPN office windows while Varly holds up scorecards. None of them are over an '8'.
  • Ovie, Varly, Crosby and Fleury discussing warm clothing options for the Winter Classic. Ovie keeps recommending feather boas to Sid.
  • Ovie and Varly as SportsCenter anchors, showing only hockey highlights while Stuart Scott and Steve Levy are tied up in the corner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Affordable solutions for better living"

This afternoon, Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner Tweeted the following:

Is there an IKEA anywhere around here?
For a player who shuttled from Hershey to Washington multiple times last season, finally being able to say you have a place to call your own is a big deal. Much like graduating college, you find yourself with the sudden need to turn your new space into your home.

Since Karl's tastes clearly fall into the realm of 'Scandinavian modern style furniture and accessories', we're here to offer some suggestions from the blue and gold catalog of goodness.
  • Get a nice rug, like this one. It'll make a room!
  • Practical storage is a must. If you're looking for something modern, check this out. Just be careful... these things are known to have weird things in them...
  • I understand you recently got engaged. Congrats! Just make sure your fiancee doesn't make you buy this. Call me old fashioned, but it just doesn't scream 'rugged defenseman'.
  • Did you know Ikea does whole kitchens? Did you know you can make your whole kitchen RED!?
  • Actually, almost everything at Ikea is offered in red. Something like this is always a good bet to store all those trophies you're gonna win.
  • A tip: having two sinks can save a relationship, especially if you're always clogging the drain when you shave your playoff beard.
  • Lastly, when you're at Ikea you may be tempted to check out the cafe, featuring all sorts of Swedish food. STAY AWAY FROM THE CINNAMON BUNS! You'll put on 20 pounds before you know it! If you don't trust me, just ask Mike Green.

Three For Three

For the duration of this season, I'll be attempting to write something about every single game played. But since my son's bedtime often falls in the middle of a game and I coach every Tuesday evening, it may take me some time to see every minute of every game. So, rather than provide my version of a game recap for every game (something done better by dozens of other bloggers and MSM outlets out there), I'm going to focus on 3 individual Capitals for a 3 game stretch. My hope is to be able to show a player's improvement, trends in his play and hopefully notice something insightful.

For Games 1-3, The Three were Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera and Tom Poti.

Johansson - Can Marcus play the NHL game already?

In one word: raw. He's making some great plays with the puck, plays a very heads-up style, isn't afraid to forecheck and finish his checks and is finding teammates open. He probably should have a few points by now and I'd expect he'll start finding his offensive touch soon enough. Defensively, he's honest in his own end and covers the slot quite well. But he's also making some bad decisions with the puck in his own end (Jersey's 2nd goal came directly from such a decision) and will need some time to adjust to the speed and creativity of NHL players.

The one thing that jumped out at me was how much he reminds me of a certain player. No, not Nicklas Backstrom. It pains me to say, but when Marcus has the puck he reminds me of Sidney Crosby. Except, you know, likeable.

Chimera - How would Chimera do starting his first full season as a Cap?

Not since Al Iafrate has there been this combination of size and speed in a Caps jersey. Springing from the box and blowing a shot past the best goalie ever, beating out icing calls, forechecking relentlessly, standing up for teammates and doing so without one hair on his head. Chimera is playing like the perfect complimentary piece for this Caps team. He's taking advantage of having defenses focus on the two lines in front of him, exactly as a good 3rd liner should.

Chimera's play through the end of last season and these first 3 games is making GMGM look quite smart in making his controvercial trade to obtain the speedster. Chimera fits.

Poti - Donning a visor for the first time, would there be an adjustment period?

Playing in only 2 of the first 3 games, Poti seemed quite confident handling pucks in his feet (frequently an issue for those new to a visor). He was on the ice for 2 goals against in his two games (both in game 1), played ~19 minutes in each contest and blocked 2 shots. Poti missed game 3 with an undisclosed injury, but he doesn't appear to be hindered by last season's injury or the visor.

With the only set defensive pairing being Green/Schultz, Poti's experience is an asset in helping both Alzner and Carlson develop. Hopefully his injury is a minor one.

For games 4-6, The Three will be Tomas Fleischmann, Jeff Schultz and Karl Alzner.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Well, the 2010-2011 NHL Season is finally upon us and with it comes the wave of predictions: award winners, final standings, division winners and, most importantly, the winner of the Stanley Cup. Without further ado, I enter the Capitals prediction fray!

-The Caps will finish second in the Eastern Conference and first in the Southeast Division.

-They won't score as many goals as last season, but goals against and PK% will both be much better.

-Semyon Varlamov will play 60+ games this season. That is including the playoffs. And rehab games in Hershey.

-Alex Ovechkin will again lead the Capitals in points, but will not lead the team in goals.

-In a related note, Alex Semin will score 50+ goals.

-Ovie will not be suspended this season, but loads of people will insist he should be.

-John Carlson and Karl Alzner will answer any questions about the Caps blueline youth.

-GMGM will make no moves at the trade deadline. Or 3.

-The Caps will not run into Pittsburgh in the post season.

-Brooks Laich will be the most focused human being ever and keep it up for the whole season.

-Marcus Johansson will be better than you expect... more than 50 points, +/- of +20 or more. And he'll do something jaw-dropping at least once this season.

-The Winter Classic will be a blowout. Also, it'll be almost 60 degrees in Pittsburgh that day.

-The Caps will play more than 16 playoff games.

-Carlson, Ovechkin and Green will be finalists for NHL awards.

We'll see how everything works out next June...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sasha vs. Sasha: Fists of Fury

At Saturday's Caps Convention, during the always-entertaining Kids Panel, the following question was asked (from Rock The
Q: If you could fight anyone in the NHL who would you pick?

Ovechkin: [quick to answer] Semin
You know what this means... another installment of Sasha vs. Sasha!


In their careers, the Sasha's have combined for 2 regular season fights. Ovechkin took on Paul Gaustad of Buffalo in December, 2006 (with 75% of users choosing Gaustad the winner) wile Semin had an infamous bout with Mark Staal of the Rangers in January of 2009 (with 48% choosing Staal the winner). And, of course, Ovechkin tried to take on Steve Downie of Tampa Bay last season, with Matt Bradley jumping in before punches were thrown. But in a head-to-head match, who would win?
Size: While both Alexes are listed as being 6'2", Ovechkin has a sizable weight advantage (25 lbs) over Semin. Advantage: Ovie
Reach: Unlike the NBA, the NHL doesn't list a player's wingspan. But with all the offensive-zone holding and interference penalties Semin gets, he clearly possesses Go-Go-Gadget Arms. Advantage: Semin
Footwork: Both players exhibit their tremendous foot-speed and lateral ability on the ice. Advantage: Push
Conditioning: Semin spends the off-season relaxing, vacationing and fishing. Ovie spends the off-season doing cardio with the ladies training. Advantage: Ovie
Hands: Ovechkin's short, quick release while close to opponents suggests a jabbing style boxer. Semin, on the other hand, has a large wind-up and huge, sweeping release. Ovie would tire Semin down with lots of strikes while Semin would be throwing haymakers. In a hockey fight, where you have maybe 40 seconds worth of true fight time, you simply can't rely on jabs. Advantage: Semin
Intangibles: Ovie's willingness to take on an established fighter such as Downie speaks to his toughness. Semin, on the other hand, has shown that he'll go Donkey Kong-mental when tested. And there's nothing scarier than an angry chimp. Advantage: Semin
So there you have it! Semin wins 3-2-1 in a battle of the Sashas. Granted, Ovechkin would probably be laughing the whole time, but Semin 'The Siberian Tiger' should score the TKO.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brunch & Hockey

"It's too early!"

In the hour or so before yesterday's Caps 12:30pm preseason game, that was the most overheard phrase in the Verizon Center area. Bleary-eyed Caps fans, half awake from late Saturday nights, streamed into the arena like zombies in Dawn of the Dead. Only it seemed like these Red Undead all headed for the Dunkin Donuts kiosk inside Verizon Center, the line at times being 50+ people deep.

On any ordinary 7pm game day, there are a multitude of options for pre-game food and libations with friends. But for a 12:30 Sunday game, the available options are far fewer. Sure, most restaurants in the area open at 11am, but judging from the coffee-mad lines at DD and Starbucks, most Caps fans aren't quite ready for a big salad, burrito or burger yet. It's Sunday. We need Brunch.

Fortunately enough, local vendors have noticed. Here are a few spots that cater to Bloody Mary drinking, eggs and sausage eating Caps fans.

Ruby Tuesdays: They have the distinction of being the only option that opens at 9am. Ruby's has a decent brunch Menu and a full bar. Plus, it's right across the street from the VC entrance.

Clyde's: The pricier option for Brunch spots, they have a great menu that includes a Kid's Brunch. One of the few Brunch options that opens at 10am.

Checking out the Waitresses at Matchbox

Matchbox: Also opening at 10am, this excellent Pizza joint has a fine Brunch Menu and a great list of Brunch Cocktails. Or, if you're like me one of those people who likes beer at 10am, their draft list includes some great micro-brews. Plus, from personal experience, Matchbox is very kid-friendly (my son enjoyed flirting with smiling at the waitresses all morning yesterday).

Jaleo: Opening at 11am for Brunch, this Tapas joint offers much of their main menu to go with Brunch-specific items. Plus, their juice and cocktail list is great for pre-gaming it.

Austin Grill: Yes, they have Brunch! Starting at 11am, this Tex-Mex restaurant serves classic items and things like Huevos Rancheros. Add a cold Shiner, and you're getting your Sunday started right.

Fado Irish Pub: Guiness and Irish Breakfast. I shouldn't have to say more. Fado opens at various times, depending on sporting events, but as they play soccer everywhere in the world, they'll probably be open.

District Chophouse: Opening at 11am, this brewery/restaurant has a fantastic Brunch menu with options ranging from omelets to Porterhouse steaks. And did I mention they brew their own beer?

(I'm sure I haven't covered all the great pre-game options in the Verizon Center area, so if you know of any, let people know with a quick comment)

While only 2 games are currently slated to start at 12:30 this season, the Caps popularity will inevitably get another Sunday game moved for TV purposes. So don't be afraid to set the alarm a little earlier than you'd like and head down to grab some Brunch before Rocking the Red.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Truth or Dare

This past Tuesday, former NHL defensive forward and Selke Trophy recipient Michael Peca said on TSN that thinks Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is a bit overrated. It was a slightly harsh, yet honest criticism that has brought the wrath of the Calgary Flames brass. One line jumped out at me from Peca's critique (transcribed by Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy):
"I enjoyed playing against him. He turned pucks over. He made the game easier to play."
Which got me wondering: how much experience does Peca have against Bouwmeester in his playing career. As it turns out, Peca isn't quite the Jay Bouwmeester expert.

In the 6 seasons the two players' careers overlapped, Peca and Bouwmeester met a grand total of 10 times, with Peca's teams enjoying a 5-3-2 (2 ties) record in those games. Peca himself put up 1G, 3A and an even +/- rating in those 10 contests while Bouwmeester had 3A and an even +/- himself. To me, none of these numbers seem to back up Peca's claims.

Peca's career record and lack of experience against Bouwmeester doesn't exactly help Peca in his agruement. So while Peca is allowed to say the thing's he said about the flaws he sees in  Jay Bouwmeester's game, perhaps throwing around lines like "He wasn't a tough guy to play against" and "He's one of those guys you looked forward to playing against" should be reserved for players Michael Peca actually played against more than a handful of times in a half dozen seasons.

I would dare say that several current members of the Washington Capitals, a team that actually played Bouwmeester's former team, the Panthers, quite frequently, would be a better judge of whether he was tough to play against.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dwayne & Dustin

The off-season acquisition of D.J. King triggered the salivary glands of many a Caps fan who has longed for the physical, pugilistic side of hockey. The man is massive; a "heavyweight among heavyweights," and his size, grit and intimidation factor should open up a lot of space for teammates.

But could he be used in a more Caps-type role as well? There is a player, new to the Southeast Division, who provided the same size and physical presence to last year's eventual Stanley Cup Champions. This player put Chris Pronger on his tail bone several times and scored 11 goals total in 22 post season games, including 5 playoff game winners.

Could D.J. King be the Caps' Dustin Byfuglien?

Byfuglien, the defenseman-turned-right winger, hammered opposing defensemen down low. He was impossible to move and when the play entered the corners, he dropped even the biggest and toughest of opponents. While he only managed point totals in the mid-30's in his time in Chicago, he proved invaluable to the success of the team. He created space for his superbly talented teammates. And he did so without great hands or speed.

At 6'3", 230 lbs, King gives up 2" and 35 lbs to Byfuglien. But from what I've witnessed, he might be every bit as strong and just as immovable in front of the net. While he was brought on to be a "big brother" to the Caps' more skilled forwards, he himself could prove to be just what the doctor ordered, offensively. Just as Mike Knuble has made a living within 5' of the net, King could establish himself as the massive screen that all goalies hate. He could draw penalties by simply standing stationary atop the crease. Oh, and he can fight.

I'm not saying Coach Boudreau should put King on the second line by any means. But he could add to the productivity of the already skilled 3rd or 4th lines. At the very least, when Atlanta is in town, he can saddle himself next to Byfuglien (returned to his original defensive position) and create some havoc in front of the net.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Killing Time

After killing penalties at a poor 78.8% success rate last season, the Caps coaching staff is apparently changing the penalty kill. Gone will be the passive, " if we make them pass it one too many times, maybe they'll mess up" defense of Alex Semin's offensive zone stick work man-down situations. This season's penalty kill will be aggressive and will challenge those with the puck.

Here are some of the modifications to the Caps penalty kill this season:
  • A small electrode has been added to Top Poti's stick that will shock him if he holds onto the puck instead of clearing it immediately.
  • With the loss of Shaone Morrisonn via free agency, the Caps will have taught their younger defensemen how to deflect pucks into their own net.
  • The Caps will have someone stand at the top of the left faceoff dot when playing New Jersey, leading to retaliation penalites when Ilya Kovalchuk starts yelling "They can't stand there! That's my ****ing spot!"
  • Each Caps player has been taking shot-blocking lessons from goalie coach Arturs Irbe. The players are really starting to listen to Irbe: Alex Ovechkin has been seen hand-stitching up the holes in all his Dolce & Gabbana jeans.
  • Alex Semin will be asked to clear pucks on the penalty kill this season, since he showed he could dump the puck long distance directly at opposing goaltenders in last year's playoffs.
  • When playing the Penguins, the Caps penalty kill scheme will be the 'let them pass it for 2 full minutes and miss the net on the one shot they take' system.
  • At the start of every power play, Semyon Varlamov will be replaced with Michael Neuvirth. Statistically, it's the right thing to do.
  • Just before the puck is dropped, someone will tell Brooks Laich that the other team works for HBO and was walking on the ice.

The Start of Something Great

When I was a school-aged kid, the summer was a often a time you lost touch with some of your friends. It didn't mean you weren't still friends, but with vacations and summer trips, you just never had time to see each other for those few warm months. Then, in September, we all headed back to school and greeted each other like only a few days had passed. Old friends shared stories. New friends introduced themselves and quickly became part of the group.

With tonight's first home pre-season Capitals game, the start of the DC hockey season officially opens. It's a time of year that many, including myself, look forward to all summer. Such is the life of a hockey fan.

Metro cars will again be full of red-clad fans eagerly heading into the city and, later, heading back home exhilarated and (hopefully) happy. Local bars and restaurants will awake from their summer lull and will again see scores of Caps fans eager to share a beer and a burger with their friends. New fans will walk the Chinatown streets with their fresh, new jerseys and old fans will flaunt their worn sweaters with pride.

Inside the Verizon Center, old friendships will be renewed. A horn will sound and everyone will look over and smile. A bearded man with a bellowing voice will awaken the arena and 18,000 of his friends will return the favor.

Over the long summer, much has happened in Caps Nation. New Caps fans have been born. Some have traded in their season tickets while others have jumped at the change to claim those same seats. Just as players have come and go, Caps fandom is also constantly evolving. It's what brings a constant feeling of excitement and freshness to the start of every season.

It was a good summer and a needed break for everyone involved. Now, it's back to doing what we all love. It's back to doing more than write about the Caps. It's time to cheer for the Caps.

It's time for hockey. Oh boy, it's time for hockey.

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Owner, Two Different Schedules

Last spring, everyone was delighted to learn that Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Capitals, had also become the owner of both the Verizon Center and the Washington Wizards NBA franchise. Caps fans rejoiced at the end of the team's 'second class status' as far as arena revenues, publicity and scheduling. But with the rather short amount of time from his taking possession of the arena and the Wizards, was there time to even out the schedule for both teams?

Looking at the official Verizon Center Schedule of Events, I looked at the number of times the Caps play a game the day after (and in some cases, the evening after an afternoon game) either an NBA game, Georgetown Hoyas game or a concert. Then I did the same for the Wizards. I excluded pre-season games, unless one of the teams was playing a regular season game the next night. Here's what I found:

  • Wizards Games: 20
  • Hoyas Games: 3 (2 of which are played at noon on the day of a 7pm Caps game)
  • Concerts: 4 ('The Wall' Live, Minister Dr. David Jeremiah, a choir competition and Lady Gaga)  
  • TOTAL: 27 games

  • Capitals Games: 15
  • Hoyas Games: 4 (3 of which are played at noon on the day of a 7pm Wizards game)
  • Concerts: 1 (Trans Siberian Orchestra)
  • Others: 1 (2nd Round of NCAA March Madness)
  • TOTAL: 20 games

So there you have it. The Caps play 7 more games after another Verizon Center event than do the Wizards. And, speaking with no experience in the matter, I'd imagine a basketball-to-basketball change-over is less intensive, yet still affects the ice surface below it. With so many floor-to-ice transitions throughout the season, it's no wonder that the Verizon Center ice's quality is questioned from time to time. It's a credit to the fine change-over crew at the arena that there were far less complaints last season than in seasons prior.

Hopefully with a full season of full ownership under his belt, Ted can ensure that the Caps and Wizards will have a more balanced schedule for the 2011-2012 season.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


As I've posted previously, making the trip down to Kettler is a bit more than a short trip on the Metro. So when I found myself with a day off yesterday, I decided to keep my 8 month old son home from daycare, brave the Tuesday morning traffic and make the trip down to watch the Caps practice and scrimmage. Let's just say it was an eye-opening morning.

I almost always head down to the far end of the rink. I'm not sure why, but for me I like to just sit quietly and watch practice (and take some mental notes). Plus, there is usually plenty of free space along the glass for my son to sit and watch the players lights and colors move around quickly, making banging noises along the way. Upon sitting down, I noticed I was near a bunch of fathers with their young children (10 months to a couple years old). Unbeknownst to me, I had ventured into (wait for it)...


Apparently, there is some online listserv for stay-at-home dads in the Arlington area. They look for interesting, time killing things to do throughout the day to stay sane keep their kids active and yesterday was Kettler day. They introduced themselves to me and explained the culture around being a stay-at-homer. Some had lost their jobs, others had households where mom was the breadwinner. Either way, they were Mr. Mom and, being guys, were a bit bored of the options on PBS and the Disney Channel.

This is where it gets weird: they had no idea about Kettler. One of them 'stumbled' upon the rink when his kids wanted to ride the elevators on a trip to the mall. One kid hit G8 and POOF! ice rinks. They knew absolutely nothing about hockey, the Caps, or what was going on. One guy admitted he didn't understand what the players were doing and had always made fun of hockey, but the kids liked it so why not come watch.

"Who do these guys skate with?"
The Caps.
"All of them? I don't know any of their names, but this looks like a lot of people."
It's training camp. Some are THE Caps, some are trying to show the coaches they deserve a spot.
"So where would the others go?"
Canadian Juniors, college, or the minor leagues in Hershey or South Carolina.
"OH! Hey guys! This guy says the ones that don't make it go to Hershey!"
"In Pennsylvania!? Wow!"

It went on that way for a while. After explaining the game and the team a half dozen times, I came to a rather startling realization:

Not everyone in the area Rocks The Red. They're not hockey fans, fair-weather or otherwise. They don't care about the Caps, know who Mike Green or Alex Ovechkin are (I had to point out who 'the good one' was), and could care less about learning. There are just some people who aren't ever going to be on board. So cherish the Caps. Spread the word, educate the masses and sell as many people as you can on how great hockey is.

And if that doesn't work, just tell them there's a place where their kids can ooh and aah when grown men hit each other. And it's free.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making Strides

For most hockey fans, a player’s skating ability is an afterthought. Sure, some players are faster or shiftier than others, but so are players in sports where running is the preferred form of propulsion. Skating ability is assumed; if you can’t skate, you can’t play ice hockey at a high level. But for the professional hockey player, it isn’t that simple.

On March 11, 2010, Dan Steinberg of the always excellent D.C. Sports Bog write an article entitled ‘Brooks Laich is a skating scientist’ in which he profiled Brooks’ off-season sessions with Liane Davis of Liane Davis Power Skating in Regina, Saskatchewan to improve his skating technique. The article also focused on Brooks’ constant analysis of his own skating technique to ensure he hadn’t “reverted to his wide-track”, inefficient stride as the season progressed.

Being a skills-based coach, the article intrigued me. So I decided to contact Davis and ask her a few questions on the subject of skating. Liane was very generous with her time and thoughtful in answering a Minor League blogger such as myself, and I thank her for that. She said that she has “never had so much feed-back from an article as I have had from the Washington Post blog.” Good job Dan!

With the Caps having several European superstar players, I started off wondering if she thought North American skaters had a different approach to skating than their counterparts from across the Atlantic. “I don't get a lot of European players, and I don't want to generalize, but I think that their approach is very different. I think that most of them consider themselves athletes as opposed to hockey players and are very willing to break skills down and put them back together.” I found that answer enlightening, as Caps fans always see pictures of Alex Ovechkin's off season training routine, which rarely feature on-ice training. Perhaps the Europeans are on to something?

I also wondered about the toll an 82 game season takes on skating technique and efficiency. Davis broke my question down to explain: instead of a full season, look at one shift. “I think that the players with the most efficient stride have minimal break-down during a shift - we have all seen players flying around for the first 15-20 seconds of a shift and then struggling to make it from one end to the other the next 15 seconds.” She also used Coach Boudreau’s favorite drill, the ‘bag skate’, to explain how a player’s technique starts to deteriorate. “If you have ever watched players getting 'bag-skated' the bad habits are unique to each player - knees straightening, upper body dropping forward, stride recovery very wide, skates kicking up, wild/no arm motion, etc.” Davis also mentioned how an injury can play into a lapse in technique. “Injury, minor or major, is another reason. 'Playing through' an injury often results in a compromised skating style.” Considering most players are nursing, at minimum, the bumps and bruises of the game, it’s easy to see how a player’s stride can start to be affected over the course of a season.

With the Caps defense under intense scrutiny this coming season, I was interested to see if defensemen get enough credit for their skating ability. “My players would be the first to tell you that I favour defensemen! Because their position is more reactionary I think they have to be able to execute a wider variety of skills. I am a big proponent of forwards skating all the same skills as the d-men in my classes.” The next time Caps fans pick on a defenseman for his perceived lack of mobility, just remember: most NHL defensemen are skating backwards as fast as the other team’s superstar is coming at them, then pivoting to stay in position without losing speed. It’s harder than it looks.

Since Davis is a technique-oriented skating coach, I wondered if there were skater’s who were faster than their technique would indicate they were. “I think that lots of players are faster than their style should support but I don't think that any player is more efficient than they should be.” Then she mentioned a key part of a skater’s stride: the player’s own personality. “It has been my experience that a player's personality shows up in their skating eg. Every big, smooth skating d-man that I've met has a calm, relaxed personality, at least on the ice.” This idea makes a lot of sense. The next time I watch a Caps game, I’ll definitely be looking at the players’ skating styles to see if it matches their off-ice personalities.

Davis also mentioned the Pros’ own views on skating. “I had a discussion with a group of my pro players a couple of weeks ago and they had a couple of interesting views. They all agreed that every good skater that they knew worked on their skating. They also said that once they had skated with a more efficient stride, actually felt the difference, they were hooked on working on their skating.” Davis finds that “most people think that it's the weaker skaters that spend the most time on their skating, but that has definitely not been my experience at a pro level.” It’s heartening to know that players already skating at an elite level are still never satisfied that they’re “good enough,” and especially nice to know that some of our own Caps (Davis has also worked with Boyd Gordon, Quintin Laing, D.J. King and Anderew Gordon) are those kinds of players.

Davis grew up around the video machine of the Edmonton Oilers in their dynasty seasons. With all that experience looking at film, does anyone in particular stood out as being ‘the best’ skater? Obviously those Oilers teams left an impression. “I could never pick one skater as most technically solid but I think the Oiler teams in late 80's were an interesting combination of skating styles with the effortlessness of Coffey, strength of Messier, pure speed of Anderson. The first time I saw Pavel Bure skate (at World Juniors) I was amazed, and continued to be every time I saw him play. Not often that a player can maintain high speed and pull off the moves he did with the puck.” With Ovechkin's power, Chimera's speed, and Laich's efficiency, I can start to see some similarities between those Oilers teams and the current Caps roster. And those Oilers did pretty well for themselves.

Finally, I just had to ask: Is there anyone in particular on the Capitals that Davis would say had exceptional skating technique/ability?

“If I answer your Caps question with any name other then Brooks Laich I will hear about it!”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grumpy Brooksie

It seems as if Brooks Laich is still a bit pissed by the way his season ended last year. In yesterday's Toronto Sun article, he said that he is "getting called 'Grumpy'", which is a bit understandable given last season's high expectations and subsequent poor playoff performance.

Here's Brooks. I wouldn't say he looks 'grumpy'. More like 'focused'. I'm sure the ladies would probably use other adjectives entirely. defines grumpy as "surly or ill-tempered; discontentedly or sullenly irritable; grouchy". Ok, that helps define Brooks' mood this offseason. But is he truly deserving of the nickname 'Grumpy'? I think we need some Pop Culture help here.

When I think of 'Grumpy', several images come to mind. First, of course, is Grumpy the Dwarf.

Hmm... same intense stare. Same 'I'm serious' eyebrows. Same red uniform and a serious playoff beard. But those shoes are seriously throwing me off. Sorry Brooks, close but no nachos.

Next up, is Grumpy the Care Bear.

First off, he's blue. Secondly, his logo includes hearts. I just don't see Brooksie wearing anything with hearts on it. An 'I Heart Mom' tattoo, maybe. Finally, he's in terrible hockey shape. I know you need that belly for Care Bear Staring, but someone needs to lay off the Butterfingers. Nope, doesn't fit.

Lastly we have Mr. Grumpy, created by the great Roger Hargreaves.

Once again, we have the blueish complexion as a distinct difference. Both do have the solid, square jaw and are built like bricks. I just don't think Brooks would really wear a green top hat.

Nope, I frankly don't think the 'Grumpy' nickname will stick this season. That is, unless Mr. Laughlin starts throwing it out there on a regular basis.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Casual Friday

Tomorrow is Friday, which during football season, means the majority of my colleagues will be donning their Ravens, Redskins, Giants, Steelers, Packers and Cowboys jerseys and trash talking each other in the lunch room. It's a time of year that reminds me of the second-class status hockey owns compared to the big three of professional sports.

So I'm speaking to all the managers who have the authority to declare things when I petition for "All Sports Friday" rather than "Football Friday".

Sure, attempting to remain business-like in an Extra Large, bright red Caps jersey makes you look like a 4rd round draft pick, especially with the knot of your tie poking up through the NHL-logo'd collar. But there is something cool about seeing a long sleeved, slightly baggy hockey jersey in a business meeting. It shows that you're serious. It shows that you think outside the box. It shows that you're capable of anything.

I'm not trying to fight football for supremacy or anything. I know I'd probably be one of maybe one two people to wear a hockey jersey if this request came to be. I'd be stared at and questioned by everyone with a Raiders jersey. But I'd be networking.

Maybe I'll just start wearing my jersey from time to time. I wonder how long it would take for someone to question it and tell me it's unprofessional. And they'd be lucky football jerseys aren't baggy enough to be pulled over their heads.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

STH Benefits

Upon receiving my Washington Capitals Season tickets in the mail the other day, I eagerly opened the packaging to find all sorts of goodies: lanyards, ticket holders, pins, a bag and a flash drive with the Season Ticket Holder (STH) Guide Book. All this stuff in addition to the STH Party later this season, free STH gift and other assorted benefits of having Caps Season Tickets (first dibs at playoff tickets being my favorite).

But in Section 412, there are perks that no other section in the arena has. And they're awesome perks.

-By sitting directly behind the AV guys, I can see Tyler Sloan's name the scratches before everyone else. This is a game changing perk when you know that Sean Avery is scratched in Game 5 against the Rangers before everyone in the arena.

-You can also see the end of the 4:00pm NFL games on the Sound Guy's tiny TV. I can't tell the score or which teams are playing, but the moving colored blurs are pretty.

-Being directly below the press box entrance, I get to see Stretch and Vogs saunter up the 412 stairs at least once a game. I used to see Tarik and Corey walk those stairs... (*tear).

-Also at the top of those stairs is the in-house video replay booth, allowing the section to yell at people we don't know and who won't be influenced by our 'NO GOAL!' chants at them no matter how many beers you offer them.

-We get to sit next to two of our best friends. Unless it's a Penguins game, in which case we get to sit next to one of our best friends and the guy in the Pittsburgh jersey we're pretending not to know.

-Being at the end of the ice where the Caps shoot twice, I've seen more goals for than against. Or, during last year's playoffs, more saves than in Mariano Rivera's entire career.

-The added benefit of watching almost every other section win Section Roulette or be visited by the Red Rockers and Slap Shot with Chipotle/hats/shirts/schwag. I have enough fatty burritos and Caps gear, thanks.

-When beer bottles and other assorted items come cascading down after game 7 losses, even the weakest of arms can usually propel items over us and out of the upper deck. Heads up down there!

-I always know how much time is left at the end of a period.

-My son managed to sleep through Ovie's 50th goal last season, so apparently the section is pretty mild...

-Yet no one ever accuses me of swearing too much.

It's a great section with great people who happen to be huge Caps fans. I can't wait to cheer right along side everyone again this year. See you guys in a few weeks!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 > 40?

Michael Neuvirth already has a pretty impressive professional hockey resume: two Calder Cups, a Calder Cup MVP award, an 11-5-0 NHL record and .910 save%. This coming season, he looks to vie for playing time against fellow youngster Semyon Varlamov. Despite displaying two dramatically different goaltending styles, both have managed to work their way into a 1/1A goalie tandem.

In my previous analysis, we've already seen that Varly was susceptible to goals on the blocker side last season. But just how did the 40 goals Neuvy surrendered last season go in. Once again, we head to the video.
Using the same categories to describe how pucks got past Michael as I did with Semyon (location of the shot, whether the shot came off a rebound, was redirected or whether Michael was screened) here's the breakdown:

High Blocker - 6
Low Blocker - 9
High Glove - 5
Low Glove - 5
5 Hole - 9
Other (down and out, on his back, etc) - 6

As for the other factors, I found Neuvirth popped out a bad rebound 10 times, was screened on 7 goals and 5 goals came off deflections or redirections in front (one of which Semin knocked in after a big save by Neuvy).

What's obvious right from the start is that the 5 hole goals are concerning for a butterfly goalie. Neuvy managed to get square to the shooter on almost every one of these goals, but wasn't able to close himself up quickly enough to prevent the squeaker (most of them managed to hit the inside of his pads before going in). Neuvirth also had a tendency to pop out rebounds to the middle, leading to quite a few goals against. At Hershey, his rebound control was quite good, which bodes well for his development at the NHL level.

Neuvy, like Varly, was also vulnerable to blocker-side goals more than on the glove side (15-10). However, those who wish Varly could have Neuvirth's glove hand seem to have something, with only 13% of his goals going in high glove compared to 25% for Varlamov.

Neuvy doesn't have the athleticism or explosiveness of Varlamov. But he is a technically-sound butterfly goalie. He squares himself to the shooter well and the majority of the shots he sees hit him in the body or pads. If the two young goalies can sound up the small holes in their game (and maybe learn something from each other), the Caps could have a very solid last line of defense this season.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Frustration of a Marylander

Once upon a time, there Piney Orchard Ice Arena, Home of the Washington Capitals. Piney Orchard was a bit out of the way, but being a Marylander it was a great place to catch a practice or, as a kid, get a few autographs. A few seasons ago, the Caps bid farewell to Odenton and moved into their new facility in Arlington, VA. Kettler is nothing short of amazing; the best rink in the area and a state-of-the-art NHL practice facility. But is has one HUGE problem: It's in Virginia.

I live and work in Maryland. How the hell am I going to sneak out of work to watch training camp!?

It's not like there's a good way to get to Kettler from here. Whether I'm coming around the Beltway or braving the city, it's still an hour+ to get to Ballston Commons Mall. Most bosses tend to notice things like 5 hour lunch breaks. It's one thing to take a 5 minute walk or drive to the rink to catch an hour of a scrimmage while downing a sandwich. It's another thing to take a full day off for what is essentially a 3 hour window of ice time in the middle of the day. I know it's worth it, it always is, but it's painful. It forces you to pick certain days over others.

Which scrimmage will be the best? Who will be on the ice? When can I catch Kugryshev's hilarious dry heaving routine? What if today is THE day!?

It also makes it hard to coordinate a camp trip with friends. Camp is so much better when it's shared with a few pals, trading stats, analyzing the power play, or making snarky comments about Boyd Gordon's assorted nicknames before heading down to the Front Page or Rock Bottom. But trying to work around schedules and meetings and family requirements to take a day off in the middle of the week? Excruciating.

So rather than sneakily catch six or seven practices and scrimmages throughout camp, I'm left filling out leave requests and HONESTLY declaring my intention to attend Caps Training Camp. I'm hoping to keep my boss happy enough to forget the random days I'll take off in the middle of the season to catch a practice.

(cough cough) I am feeling a bit under the weather though. I hope I'm not coming down with something...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Case For Pants

It's not every day that I become an advocate for pants, but today is one of those exceptions. I'm writing today to urge the powers that be to include the forgotten hero of past Caps uniforms in this season's Winter Classic ensemble and further more, into the standard regular season Washington Capitals uniform.

This hero is none other than the Starred and Striped Pants of old.

Gone since the 1995-1996 season, these unsung heroes toiled away on  Tacklas and CCM Supras and Coopers of old, never seeking the attention of their chest star counterparts. Alas, when the Caps corrected the injustice of black jerseys switched back to the classic red, white and blue, only the pompous chest stars came along for the ride.

The Stars and Stripes pants were the cornerstone of Caps hockey for a generation and have been missed. I implore the Capitals, the NHL, and Reebok to bring them back as a permanent fixture of the Washinton Capitals uniform. See how good this looks:

It's a fantastic compliment to what is already one of the best jerseys in the league. It doesn't require altering the current sweater, the development of a 3rd jersey or a wholesale re-branding of the team. It's simply an homage to the teams of old in the form of a half dozen red and white stars and a couple pin stripes.

At the very least, please make sure the last thing the Penguins see when they leave the Heinz Field ice in January are the Stars and Stripes celebrating an outdoor win.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Your Hockey Friends

As hockey fans, many of us tend to hang out with hockey people. We chime in on blogs and message boards. In bars and at parties, we're the ones standing in the corner talking about starting goaltenders and defensive prospects. When people come to join in, they usually start with 'How good is that Ovechkin guy, huh!?' and get stared at. There's nothing wrong with it, as every professional sport has the same type of culture.

But with this type of culture comes a problem: what happens when your friends aren't Caps fans, or aren't the same type of fan as you? I've come up with a handy cheat sheet to help you accurately identify which type of hockey fans your friends are.

Dr. Stats: This guy can explain in depth why he thinks his team is better. He's always on every team's blogs gathering info to be smarter in conversation. Sometimes the arguments make sense, sometimes things like "Statistically, the Panthers' goaltending is just better." fall on deaf ears.

Mr. Deferential: This guy isn't looking for trouble. He's still a die hard fan of his team, but he's not the type to trash talk. Most likely, he'll say non-controversial things like "You guys are right up there with the Devils for sure. In the Eastern Conference, it'll probably be one of the two of us." and completely diffuse any argument before it begins. Also known as Mr. Frustrating.

The Belligerent Guy: We all have this friend. He's the guy who says things like "Well you guys just suck!", and "That Ovechkin guy is terrible!!" He's really annoying, but he's always picking up the tab so you keep him around. Secretly, he has a Mike Green poster in his room. The one with the tank top and tattoos.

Captian Sarcastic: This guy asks loaded questions, such as "Why are there only 3 games pre-Ovechkin in your '10 Greatest Games box set? Didn't you guys start playing in 1974?" but you know he's just bitter because one of those 3 is Hunter beating his Flyers in OT.

Ms. Transplant: She'll always root for her how team, but her allegiances are torn. She'll wear her Red Wings jersey to a Caps/Wings game, but jump up and cheer when Semin puts one in. She REALLY loved it when Fedorov was here.

Mr. Friendly Fire: This guy IS a Caps fan, but his reasons for liking or not liking the team are always different than yours. He'll say things like "They just need to trade Green!" when you try to argue that #52's presence on the blueline is necessary.

The Fantasy Islander, aka 'Tattoo': Also a Caps fan but he'll root for anyone on his fantasy team, even if they're playing against the Caps. "GO BOGOSIAN GO!" should never be yelled by a guy in a Laich jersey. Ever.

Kenny Rogers: This guy is a gambler. He's willing to bet you on any game or game-within-the-game. "$20 says Bradley doesn't get any assists tonight!"

Darth Vader: He's always trying to get you to say his team is better. "Come on. You know Pittsburgh is better. Just say it." But don't worry and hold your ground... The Force is strong and the Dark Side will be defeated.

Hopefully you'll now be able to identify your friends and respond accordingly.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Goals (From The Other Side)

So far in the video analyses I've performed on various players from last season, I've stuck with 'goals scored'. For my next video session, I decided to flip things upside-down: I'm looking at every goal scored ON the young Caps goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth. Today, we'll look at Varly.

Varlamov is a reflex goalie. His reaction time is off the charts, as is his lateral movement. He was criticized early on in his career for having a wear glove hand, but those feelings seemed to subside as last season progressed. So how does Varly get beat? Are the goals put past him his fault, or is his defense leaving him out to dry. Let's look at the tape!

I had to come up with a variety of categories to describe how pucks got past Semyon: Location of the shot, whether the shot came off a rebound, was redirected or whether Varly was screened.

Looking at location, this is what I found:

High Blocker - 14
Low Blocker - 16
High Glove - 15
Low Glove - 4
5 Hole - 6
Other (Varly down and out, on his back, etc) - 10

As for the other factors, I found Varly popped out a bad rebound 7 times, was screened on 11 goals and 7 goals came off deflections or redirections in front.

So what does this mean? While Varly is vulnerable to shots high glove, most of the goals against of that variety came off a good, hard shot rather than some misplay by Varlamov. The majority of his goals against last season found their way in on his blocker side, several of which came from areas of the ice where a shot to that side is a relatively routine save. Coach Boudreau's reactions to those goals should speak volumes to their lack of difficulty to stop.

Varly's athleticism often has him driving laterally from one side of the crease to the other, so rebounds or redirections back to the other side frequently leave him down and out in his net. It also doesn't help that on a number of goals, his defensemen either screened his view of the shot, or knocked the puck in their selves. It's encouraging that so few of Varly's goals against came from rebounds, as it shows his rebound control to be fairly solid.

Overall, Varly had a relatively solid season. With some attention to certain areas of his game, his stats this coming season could be excellent. Hopefully the defensive corps around him can help eliminate some of the need for him to have to make so many highlight reel type saves.

Friday, September 3, 2010


For most Caps fans, the word 'giveaway' conjures up images of Mike Green at his own blueline or Alex Semin at the point on the powerplay. But it also means 'cool promotional items'! Magnetic calendars, posters, drink koozies, scarves and more. It's like the surprise in the box of Cocoa Puffs!

There has been a lot of speculation (ok, I've been wondering) about which current Cap gets his likeness on a bobblehead this season. With Alex Semin and John Carlson already on their own Inova Blood Drive bobbleheads, consider them off the Fan Giveaway list. Let's take a look at the candidates!
  • Nick Backstrom - Your odds on favorite. Successfully translating his blond locks into plastic sculpture could be tough, but it can be done.
  • Semyon Varlamov - If done right, goalie bobbleheads are cool. If done wrong, they end up looking a lot like Michael Neuvirth.
  • Brooks Laich - I would personally go for a 'Brooks Laich Tire Pressure Gauge Night, sponsored by AAA', but I'm sure the ladies would like a mini-Brooks to put on their night stands. Ok fine, I would too.
  • Matt Bradley - Everything needs more Bradley, but now your bookshelf will have just enough. The real question is: is the bobblehead bleeding or not?
  • Karl Alzner - Get Hertz Rent-a-car as your sponsor and include The Beard and you're gold.
  • John Erskine - You could pretty much just change the name on this.
  • Mathieu Perreault - Technically, it would have to be 'Mathieu Perreault Mini Bobblehead Night'...
  • Eric Fehr or Tomas Fleischmann - Coach Boudreau isn't too high on the Fehr bobble, but would happily endorse the Flash version.
Of course if the Caps are budget-savvy, they'll just hand out an empty base with the Verizon logo and call it 'Second Line Center Bobblehead Night'.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Color Man

Yesterday's announcement that Rob Dibble would no longer be broadcasting Washington Nationals games didn't come as much of a surprise to most MASN viewers. Dibble's often style as an analyst was home-team slanted and often abrasive or controversial. As an experienced ex-player, his knowledge of the game often got in the way of being an unbiased commentator.

Dibble's short run for the Nats lies in stark contrast to the extended engagement of another Washington, DC sports color analyst: the Washington Capitals' own Craig Laughlin. Laughlin has now presided over the telestrator for Caps games for 20 years and managed to do so under several play-by-play men. He has survived despite being a frequent home-team sympathizer, possessing quite possibly the worst voice in broadcasting (sorry Craig, but it's a bit piercing), and frequently pimping his own business interests on-air.

Unlike Dibble, Laughlin is likable. His slang hockey terms are endearing to Caps fans, as are his cutesy nicknames for certain players (usually just shortening or adding a 'y' to the player's last name). His use of the telestrator has become proficient and his style is certainly that of a hockey coach; thoughtful and instructional. Laughlin seems to want his viewers to love the game of hockey as much as he does. His banter with play-by-play man Joe Beninati keeps the game interesting, even during the middle of a boring or blow-out game. Oh, and he was once a Cap, which goes a long way in connecting him to Caps teams of old (and the fans of those teams).

Once upon a time, Caps fans weren't the hockey-educated, statistics-minded group they are today. They were occasional viewers who needed someone to educate them on what they were seeing on the screen. They needed entertainment in the form of a goofy, munchkin voice with some hockey savvy. They needed Craig Laughlin.

Dibble didn't have to go far to find a good sports color man to emulate. By simply watching a few Caps games, he might have extended his stay in DC and endeared himself to Nats fans the way Laughlin has to us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stat Swapping

I like to sometimes have fun flip-flopping certain players stata to see what they'd look lik under different circumstances. Today's bit of fun: adjusting Alex Semin's shots per game totals to match Alex Ovechkin's, keep Semin's shooting % the same and see what Semin's goal totals look like.
  • 2009-2010: 73 games, 373 shots, 54 goals
  • 2008-2009: 62 games, 414 shots, 63 goals
  • 2007-2008: 63 games, 343 shots, 48 goals
  • 2006-2007: 77 games, 368 shots, 57 goals
See? Now isn't that fun?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Passing Lane

Alex Ovechkin enters this season with 269 career goals and the 3rd highest Goals Per Game rate of players since 1931 (only Bossy and Lemieux are ahead of him). Looking at the list of Career Goals Scored, Ovechkin looks to pass the following well-known players this season (# of goals needed to pass in parenthesis):
  • Bobby Orr (2)
  • Howie Morenz (3)
  • Red Kelly (13)
  • Larry Murphy (19)
  • Neal Broten (21)
  • Mike Ridley (24)
  • Ulf Dahlen (33)
  • Dennis Hull (35)
  • Martin Gelinas (41)
  • Denis Potvin (42)
  • Dave Gagner (50)
  • Clark Gillies (51)
  • Bobby Carpenter (52)
  • Dale Hunter (55)
  • Adam Graves (61)
It's a pretty impressive list within Ovie's reach, with a number of Hall of Famers and quite a few former Caps. Of course, none of the players on this list are close to Ovie in games played (Orr is closest with 657 to Ovie's 396).

So sit back and enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sticker Shock

Being a Caps season ticket holder is a wonderful thing. You get tickets to 41 Caps home games, a wonderful Season Ticket Holder present, a huge party (last year, at Six Flags), first dibs at the Caps equipment sale, and the ability to gloat to all your friends. But it’s fairly costly. Some view it as an investment, selling various games for a profit and breaking even on the season. Some simply take the hit, and spend even more money on concessions and souvenirs. But there is another hidden cost that hits us all: getting to Verizon Center.
I myself take Metro to and from games. Living up the I-95 corridor in suburban Maryland, Greenbelt Station is my station of choice. It has a direct exit off 495, making it easy to get to, and always has sufficient parking. But Metro isn’t cheap. It’s one of those expenses that you just assume into your cost for a game and coming off your Smart Trip card, you rarely ever see the cash leave you hand. But just how expensive is it?

Get ready to get sick.

The Caps have 25 games that fit Metro’s ‘weekday’ pricing (27 actual weekday games, 2 of which fall on a holiday) and 16 games that fit their ‘weekend’ pricing (including those two holiday games). Assuming you leave for DC at 4:00pm on a game day, park at the station and leave downtown for home after 9:00pm, these are the full-season costs from the system's end stations:

Greenbelt: $632.25 for a couple w/ parking; $1158.25 for a family of 4 w/ parking

Shady Grove: $682.25; $1245.75

Vienna: $676.00; $1239.50

Glenmont: $659.75; $1200.75

New Carrolton: $546.35; $986.45

Franconia Springfield: $676.00; $1239.50

Largo Town Center: $622.25; $1138.25

Branch Avenue: $528.85; $951.45

(Oh, and with Metro’s new $0.20 ‘Peak-of-the-peak’ fare increase, if you’re leaving for DC between 4:30-6:30pm during the week add on an additional $5 to the total.)

Insane, right? The cost of Metro for a family of 4 is nearly the cost of a season ticket. During the week, it’s actually more expensive for a couple to park at Shady Grove Metro Station and take the train in ($20.25) than it is to drive to Chinatown and pay $10-20 to park in a garage (granted, you eliminate the hassle of dealing with rush-hour traffic if you train in).

Fortunately, there are ways of lessening the blow from Metro costs if you’re willing to do some work.
Take a look at stations a little further down the line, closer to the city. With fares that are $0.60 less than Greenbelt’s, taking the train from College Park Station will save you $201.80 over the course of a season. The same holds true for Twinbrook ($30) and Grosvenor ($95) on the Red Line, Van Dorn St. ($90) and Morgan Blvd. ($171.80) on the Blue Line, and Dunn Loring ($60) and West Falls Church ($256.80!) on the Orange Line. Some of these stations have far fewer parking spots than the end stations, but if you’re lucky enough to get a spot it’s worth the extra drive.

You could also look for a job in Downtown DC, in which case you’d save some money by not leaving the city till after Metro’s peak fare times. You could do even better if you find a job with an employer who subsidizes Metro costs. I hear the Federal Government is always hiring!

Or you could simply drive your Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG Black Edition into Chinatown and park in the Verizon Center garage. Oh yeah... to do that, you'll need to be the best hockey player in the world.

No matter what, the cost of a Caps season ticket isn’t the true cost of the ticket and it isn't for the faint of heart. Fortunately enough, 18,000 red-clad Caps Fans think the price is worth it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Bradley

When you think of Matt Bradley, what images come to mind? Do you think of hard hits? Sticking up for teammates? A defense-first mentality? Dirty work? Certainly. But would you ever use the words 'skilled', 'sniper', or 'slick' when talking about Matt? Maybe you should.

Since Matt didn't score a lot of goals last season, we'll take a look at his last 2 seasons, including playoffs. That's a total of 18 goals. As with all our other goal analyses, we'll break the goals down into categories. For Matt, the groupings are pretty simple:

  • Skill Goals
  • Rebound/Grit Goals

You might be surprised to know that 10 of those 18 goals fall into the 'skill' category, including 7 of his 11 scored this season. Seven more fit the 'Rebound/Grit' group, and one lone goal falls into the undefined 'luck' category (Martin Broduer's flub of a partially-blocked Bradley shot).

A lot of Brads' goals aren't just showcases of skill, but show the hands and release of a sniper. On breakaways (and 'I'll do it" shootout attempts), he's not afraid to make power moves, use his backhand, or try something tricky. And of course, every time Bradley scores, Caps fans cheer that much louder.

Which brings me to the ultimate point of this post: that even 3rd and 4th line NHL players are still highly skilled and capable of much more than they might regularly show. Like so many, Bradley is dedicated to playing his role as a defensively-minded energy player and he excels at it.

But maybe he's really a 3rd line sniper waiting for the right opportunity to put the puck in the net.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Things I Miss: The Skipjacks

Ever since the Washington Capitals joined forces with the Hershey Bears of the AHL in 2005, Caps fans have been lucky to have minor league hockey within driving distance of DC. The history associated with the Bears, and the success of the team after the collaboration, have won over scores of Washinton fans who routinely make road trips up to catch weekend games.But when I started playing hockey in the early 1990's, Hershey wasn't in the picture and neither was driving 2 hours to find AHL hockey. In the early 90's, there were the Skipjacks.

Once upon a time, the Baltimore Skipjacks had better attendance than the Baltimore Bullets NBA team. Being only 30 minutes north of Landover, there was always the opportunity to head up and catch a game at the Baltimore Arena. There was also the opportunity, just as the Bears do around the community, for the Skipjacks players to do PR trips.

During my first years playing hockey at the Wells Hockey clinic in College Park, MD, several Skipjacks players made the trip down to get on the ice with kids just learning the game.

The Skipjacks sent a couple young defensemen, Jim Mathieson and Ken Lovsin, down for the PR visit. The two were just kids and acted like it. They had fun with the large group of kids, playing keep-away and stickhandling with the butt-ends of their sticks. As a kid, it was an absolute blast to see these professionals goofing off and having fun playing the game.

I was a goalie at the time and I remember Lovsin throwing harmless shots at me to stop. I yelled at him to really shoot the puck, and he did. I made a glove save on a slap shot (which I was extremely proud of) that pulled my glove off my hand and deposited it top-shelf inside the net. I think Lovsin laughed for 10 minutes while I taunted him that I'd hold on next time.

I wish the DC area had an AHL team to call its own. Sure, the Caps are incredibly involved in the community, but kids are in awe of them. Sometimes having the no-name kids come out really brings out the love of the game.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Varly: Blogger

The great Caps Blog Russian Machine Never Breaks reported yesterday that Cap’s goaltender Semyon Varlamov had begun blogging on a Russian language site. While not as quotable as either of the Sashas, Varly has certainly had his fair share of interesting interviews.

With that, I give you the top 10 things Varly will eventually blog about:

10. How “Ovie didn’t even like like Dolce & Gabbana before he met me!”

9. Clearing up that it’s not that he doesn’t like American girls, it’s that they’re all intimidated by his flexibility.

8. A poll asking readers if he should start growing his playoff beard at the start of the playoffs, or start now so he can compete with Alzner's.

7. In-depth statistical analysis on how JP’s Rink Wraps score highly in ‘Blogger CORSI’ rating.

6. How he’ll be changing his number to 80 next season, just to piss of Leonhardt.

5. How he completely understood Avery’s English, and yet none of what he said made any sense.

4. Loads and loads of jokes at Neuvy’s expense.

3. Genuine fear that he’ll catch Irbe running over his pads with a Toyota Tundra.

2. Constant posts about how “that bum Carlson keeps screening me!”

1. His frustration with the media constantly mispronouncing his name. "It’s ‘Семён’ people; it’s not that hard. Sheesh."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Z is for Zubrus

After spending the weekend traveling to Massachusetts with the family, I realized from the plethora of Boston Bruins-themed baby gear that there is almost no Caps-themed 'stuff' for my 7 month old. The book 'Z is for Zamboni' has lots of references to hockey culture, history and is Original Six heavy. We need to create something for Caps babies.

We're calling it 'Z is for Zubrus'.

A is for Alzner, the young Defenseman with a Hertz Gold Card.
B is for Bradley, whom everything needs more of.
C is for Carlson, the defenseman who makes Mike Green tradable in 2 years.
D is for Donald, who is gone but not forgotten.
E is for Erskine, the caveman on skates.
F is for Fehr, who is still looking for ice time.
G is for Green, who likes his sticks blue.
H is for Hunter, who really needed some anger management classes.
I is for Iafrate, who shot really hard and smoked even harder.
J is for Juneau, who put the Caps in the finals.
K is for Khristich, who loved the Caps so much, he came back for more.
L is for Landover, where Abe built his arena and loved his Bullets more.
M is for McPhee, the GM who really wishes he hadn't signed Nylander.
N is for Nylander, who never learned what 'go away' meant.
O is for Ovechkin, the best in the world.
P is for Peeters, who wore the brown pads.
Q is for Quintin, who broke his jaw and then gave an interview.
R is for Reekie, who was really, really slow.
S is for Semin, who pulls a David Copperfield in the playoffs.
T is for Ted, the owner who waits in line like the commoners.
U is for Ustorf, who was a really bad draft pick.
V is for Verizon Center, where the cockroaches roam.
W is for Weber, the great Caps radio voice.
X is for X-rays, which hockey players get a lot.
Y is for the Young Guns, Ovie, Green, Backstrom and Semin.
Z is for Zubrus, who somehow couldn't get 80 points skating with Ovie.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Willie Sign Him?

With Willie Mitchell's 'LeBron Day' approaching, I thought it appropriate to take a look back at the Capitals' history of dipping their toes in the free agent water to sign a defenseman and, more importantly, how those signings panned out. We'll take a look at the defensemen who played 50+ games in a season for the Caps after being signed, and we may as well go as far back as 1997 and the hiring of George McPhee as General Manager.

I count 10 significant free agent defenseman signings in that time frame:
  • Tom Poti ('07)
  • Brian Pothier ('06)
  • John Erskine ('06)
  • Ivan Majesky ('06)
  • Jamie Heward ('05)
  • Bryan Muir ('05)
  • Mathieu Biron ('05)
  • Jason Doig ('02)
  • Rob Zettler ('99)
  • Dimitri Mironov ('98)
Yep, everyone else was either home-grown or a trade acquisition (or never played many games as a Cap).

I could argue that the only 'significant' signings on this list are Poti, Pothier and Mironov. Only 5 players on the list had played in a playoff game prior to becoming a Cap, with a total of 143 playoff games between them (with Mironov alone playing 71 of those games). Only Muir and Mironov had won a Stanley Cup. It's a list short on impact players and long on 3rd and 4th pairing defensemen.

On the positive side, the two most recent signings (Poti & Pothier) can be considered solid moves. Also, with the most recent of these signings happening way back in 2007, McPhee has shown confidence in both the current defensive corps at the time and talented defensive prospects in the pipeline. Both Mike Green and Jeff Schultz proved McPhee's foresight correct in the past, and John Carlson and Karl Alzner will get the chance to prove him right again this coming season.

Based on his history of signing free agent defensemen, chances are Willie Mitchell will probably be skating elsewhere next season. But George McPhee has surprised us before... that Jason Doig signing caught us all off guard.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Call for References

Dear Mr. NHL General Manager,

I write this letter to you on behalf of a player who currently has no team to call his own. This player is a hard worker in the truest sense of the word; his dedication to the game of hockey, to his team and to his teammates is unsurpassed. This player will do anything to earn a spot on your team and will give it his all in every second he's allowed to skate, whether it's in a game or at practice.

I write this letter on behalf of Quintin Laing.

Quintin has earned the respect of his Washington Capital teammates through his self-sacrifice, determination, and willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team, even if that's pushing them hard in practice in preparation for a game he'll watch from the press box. Unfortunately, it appears that the Capitals' roster simply cannot hold a spot for him this season.

It is true that the things we have come to associate with Quintin (shot blocking, hard checking, defensive-minded hockey) weren't as evident in his game last season than in previous years. Perhaps Quintin has worn himself out of being an NHL player from the abuse he has subjected his body to. And perhaps an NHL roster spot is too valuable to waste on a player such as Quintin. But if you have the freedom on your roster to do so, I guarantee he won't let you down.

On behalf of every hockey player who ever dreamed of making it, we ask you to take a small gamble on the one of us who worked the hardest. The one who refused to give up. The one who never stopped working towards his goal. Your team will be the better for it.

Thank you,

P.S. Mr. Yingst, if this letter doesn't work, could you please see if Quintin might like to skate with your Bears again? At least that way I'll get the chance to see him play a few more times.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August, 1990

In August of 1990 and continuing through to mid December of the same year, the Washington Capitals seemed to continuously hold press conferences to announce the signing of some Eastern European player to a contract. First it was Peter Bondra. Then Mikhail Tatarinov. Then Dimitri Khristich. The latter two happened in-between periods of Caps games, with Home Team Sports introducing us to players with strange names and unknown skill levels. Fortunately enough, a couple of them panned out for us.

The 1990-9 season was a strange season. It was the season after the team’s first trip to the Conference Finals. It was the first season after the Caps let Scott Stevens go via free agency. It was the first Caps team in 15 years without a 30 goal scorer. It was a rough season, with John Kordic (7 games, 101 PIMs!), Nick Kypreos, Alan May, Dale Hunter and Al Iafrate all fighting anything that moved. But it was a season of potential, thanks largely to the three mysterious players the Caps had conjured up.

I remember Tatarinov and Khristich being among the first Russians allowed to freely leave to join the NHL (with Tatarinov being the first). I remember Bondra being perhaps the last true unknown star prospect; scouted by the late, great Jack Button and no one else. I was amazed that these three unknown players managed to step onto an NHL team and finish #10, 11 and 12 in team scoring. It was the beginning of something great in Washington and it was fun to watch Bondra and Khristich develop into legitimate players before our eyes.

It’s hard to believe that was 20 years ago this month.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We're Making Waffles!

Dear Mr’s Varlamov and Neuvirth,
I have heard recently that your team will be participating in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic outdoor game to be held in Pittsburgh, PA and that, as with previous participants in this annual game, you will be wearing throwback uniforms. As a longtime Caps fan, I have some suggestions to help you bring out the true spirit of the Caps teams’ that wore the jersey of old.

As goaltenders, you have the most flexibility to show your creative side. My first suggestion is that you honor the great Caps goaltenders who wore the Red, White and Blue before you. Please have your blocker pad designed to look like an old-school waffle blocker. It isn't just Mr. Beaupre that succeeded with this look. Mr. Liut did as well. And Mr. Kolzig.

If you're looking for a vintage mask design to borrow, look no further than Don Beaupre. The simple stars, stripes, and Capital Dome mask design is a must. It evokes memories of sprawling glove saves, the Patrick Division and the Capital Centre. You could go with the solid white (we know Varly, 'been there, done that') or the patterns and lines of Kolzig's rookie mask but we're fans of Mr. Beaupre (sorry Pete Peeters people).

But perhaps you're looking for a slightly more modern look. You could honor the great Jim Hrivnak and his futuristic flat-front blocker (ooh! aah!). No matter what, you can't go wrong with anything that makes Caps fans remember Jim Hrivnak fondly.
Remember guys, it's all about paying homage to great Caps goalies of the past while being yourselves. The Winter Classic is more about the fans, the retro jerseys and the spirit of the game than it is about beating the snot out of Pittsburgh winning and losing. Have fun with it.

Caps Fans