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?