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.