Monthly Archives: March 2012
The image below was captured on March 30, 2012 from the Verizon website. I believe the last time the Caps wore that jersey was almost five years ago. Perhaps it’s time for Verizon to update the old image library. Washington rocks the red now and has since 2007. Related: the Washington Capitals play at Verizon Center.
Life was good for the Caps as tonight’s game went to a TV timeout with a little over 13 minutes remaining in the 2nd period. The team was up 3-0, outshooting the Jets 16-9 in the process. Alex Ovechkin had two goals and it looked as if he and his teammates may blow the Jets out of the building. They didn’t. The Caps were outscored 4-0 the rest of the way and outshot 33-7, losing a standings point along the way. What went wrong?
-Two words: Dennis Wideman. Wideman’s consistent indecision and ineffectiveness with the puck when exiting the defensive zone proved especially costly tonight on the winning goal. He had two chances to get the puck out and failed miserably both times. About 30 seconds before the goal he tried to skate the puck out 1 on 3 and got his pocket picked just inside the blue line. #6 has to make a better decision there. Lob the puck out, ice the puck, chip it forward four feet to clear the zone. Just don’t turn it over 2 feet inside your own blue line
in that situation ever. Still, Wideman had a chance to make amends. Alex Ovechkin mishandled the puck above the faceoff circle but made a decent recovery and chipped the puck back to Wideman. At this point the Caps were in scramble mode so Wideman needs to, again, just get the puck out, even if it means taking an icing. Instead he weakly chipped the puck off the glass to the feet of a covered Ovechkin. Turnover, Jets win 4-3.
-The way in which the Jets cut the deficit from 3-0 to 3-2 looked entirely too easy. It was the kind of thing that makes Brooks Laich do this. In less than two minutes the game went from being firmly controlled by the Caps to a dogfight.
-Dale Hunter made coaching decisions that were
wrong questionable perplexing. There was plenty of talk about the tactical approach by the Caps in the second half of the game, and rightfully so, but not much talk of Hunter letting his timeout go to waste when his team was under relentless pressure. As Caps Season Ticket Holder Joe Holden (Dad, as I call him) questioned after the game, why didn’t Hunter call a timeout at any point in the 3rd period with his team under siege in an attempt to slow the momentum? The Jets called a timeout with the Caps up 2-0 and buzzing for more goals. True, the Caps did then go up 3-0 but the end result was a 4-3 Jets win. Maybe the Jets timeout had nothing to do with the change in momentum, but it would have been nice to see Hunter use his timeout in an attempt to calm his team down since nothing else was working. Oh, and as J.P. already pointed out. Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks (as well as Troy Brouwer) skated more minutes than Alex Ovechkin.
The Caps have let two points inexcusably slip away at home against the Jets this year while the Jets have escaped DC with four points that they’d be all but out of the playoff race without. No sense in dwelling on any of this any longer with any sort of closing paragraph. Next up: Minnesota.
- Some highlights from Saturday’s Caps win over the Bruins (brookslaichyear.com)
- Looking back on Winnipeg, looking forward to Chicago (brookslaichyear.com)
- Hendricks, Laich, Semin and a gritty goal to like in Montreal (brookslaichyear.com)
There was a lot of talk after the Caps 3-2 loss in Winnipeg last night about a possible suspension for a Jets player and a stick-holding incident, but there were a couple of things that bothered me more than either of these because they were within the Caps control:
- Why was Troy Brouwer sent out to take the offensive zone faceoff at the start of the Caps PP with 2:22 remaining in the game and the Caps down a goal? The Caps lost the draw and the puck was cleared, ticking off the first 20 seconds or so of a PP with the game on the line. One reason for this, directly or indirectly, is the decision to scratch Jeff Halpern. It’s doubtful that Halpern, who is one of the top faceoff men in the league, would have been out because of the PP and the need for a late goal. However, him not being in the lineup pushes everyone up a spot on the faceoff depth chart that led to a winger, who took one other faceoff the entire game, on the dot at a crucial time in the game. Mathieu Perreault was also on the ice, and may have been tossed out before the CSN camera panned to the dot, but the fact that Brouwer was even put in that spot, whether being first or second choice, is questionable coaching.
- The Caps were rightfully upset with Mark Stuart for his high and late hit on Marcus Johansson in the 1st period. Unfortunately, we only came to find out after the game that the Caps were upset, since there was absolutely no visible response from the Caps during the game. Is this team aware that you don’t have to wait for a player to be traded to Montreal in order to respond to a dirty play on a teammate? The Caps and Jets meet again next Friday and there may be a response then, but why didn’t that happen last night? That’s the kind of hit where I’m okay with a Caps player immediately charging at Stuart and risk giving the Jets a five minute PP.
- Let’s be totally clear about this, Caps fans: “Crosby Sucks!” is not an appropriate chant on Friday when the Jets visit DC. I’ll be at the game and will personally remove anyone from the arena who participates in this.
Overall, I’m still upbeat about the Caps chances of making the playoffs. There is plenty to like about the way the Caps have played in this most recent stretch of games. Additionally, Nicklas Backstrom has been skating and ramping up his workouts. While no return date has even been discussed yet, this is significant progress for the Caps number one pivot.
The Caps now look forward to the Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday night. Almost two years ago to the day, on a Sunday in Chicago, Backstrom provided the Caps with a thrilling overtime goal to end a game that is one my favorite post-lockout Caps memories.
- Three things that have to improve for the Washington Capitals in the “second half” (brookslaichyear.com)
The Caps did a lot of little things well in yesterday’s 4-3 win over the Bruins in Boston. Here are a few of them that really jumped out at me:
- The Caps stood up for their goalie beginning early on in the game, shoving away many Bruins that got near Tomas Vokoun
- John Carlson was especially impressive during one segment of a first period penalty kill, tying up the puck along the boards to waste some of the Bruins’ power play time, then roughing up Lucic a bit in front of the net as he tried to settle in there, and stepping up to block a shot to close out the sequence
- As Russian Machine pointed out on Twitter, Mike Knuble had some great puck possession time in the game.
- Alex Semin’s pass to Jay Beagle for Washington’s 3rd goal was excellent, not to mention the work to get that puck before making the pass
- Brooks Laich’s tip-in for the 4th goal was nice to see — he was set up by Alex Ovechkin for what appeared to be an even easier tip-in the previous game but missed
- Troy Brouwer’s play with one second left to knock away a puck that was about to become a shot on goal showed the Caps fighting until the very end.
I did get nervous when the Bruins pulled within one, especially after the Caps’ third period collapse at home versus the Jets a few weeks ago. But the Caps held on. We’ll see if playing back to back days affects the team’s ability to stay focused on the important details during today’s game against Toronto, who’s coming off a Saturday afternoon game against the Flyers.
Check out yesterday’s Caps-Bruins highlights on NHL.com.
Other Notes: For some great analysis, check out this post by WNST’s Ed Frankovic and his theory on why the Caps have played better this week. >>> I was really impressed with Dmitry Orlov in overtime during the Caps win against Tampa on Thursday night. Mike Vogel has a nice look at the rookie defenseman on the Dump ‘n’ Chase blog. >>> Finally, what would it take for CSNWashington to give us a Caps pre-game show before every game? As I noted on Twitter yesterday, it seems there’s been enough interest in the Caps to justify it and these five minutes intros we get before the puck drops for some games, like yesterday’s, feel very rushed.
Looking for a sign to take to tonight’s Caps game, in the wake of Caps players asking for a “Scratch Hunter” sign to be removed Tuesday night? Here’s one…
Download the PDF for printing here at this link: Ignore this sign
Let’s Go Caps! Win. This. Game. One solid shift at a time.
- Free Knuble (knightsofknuble.wordpress.com)
I’ve been a huge Caps fan for a long time and I always will be. I’ve been a big believer in “The Plan” and a strong supporter of most of what the organization has done the last few years. But lately, a few things have been bothering me:
- Though I’ve long been a big fan of Alex Ovechkin and the take-no-prisoners approach he took the NHL by storm with, I haven’t been impressed with him lately and his inability to take responsibility for some of his actions, act like a team leader publicly, etc. The organization and some fans seem OK with him doing whatever he’d like. Mike Wise recently dubbed these people Great 8 enablers, during the skipped All-Star Game debate. As Caps fans, we all need to take a break from the red Kool-aid often enough to see things objectively.
- The Holden Family season tickets in the 400 level, which my father owns and generously lets his whole family use, have gone up 90.7% in five years. Professional sports is a business, I love what Ted Leonsis has done for the Caps, and this team has become extremely popular. However, now in their fifth straight year, these constant and sometimes rather steep increases have started to feel excessive—and like the type of thing that could come back to haunt the organization if they hit a prolonged rough patch.
- I’ve watched the Caps exit the playoffs in an uninspiring fashion for three straight seasons. As I wrote the other day, (see ‘90.7%’ link in the bullet point above): “Not since the 2007-08 playoff loss in seven games to the Flyers has it appeared as if the team left it all out on the ice as they were eliminated. In series losses to Pittsburgh (’08-’09), Montreal (’09-’10) and Tampa Bay (’10-’11), the team looked flat and unable to push over the hump to take their post-season game to the next level.” Yet still today, even under a new coach and with a variety of veterans and role players brought in over the last few seasons, the team does not seem to have learned to seize opportunities, finish opponents when they have them down or play a full 60 minutes on a consistent basis. There are times when the Caps don’t even seem present.
Then this afternoon, I read something that further irks me and it relates especially to that third and final bullet point above.
I was following a story Tuesday night about two Caps bloggers, known as Knights of Knuble, who were asked to take down “Free Knuble” and “Scratch Hunter” signs they brought to the game. It was reported by Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times that this was due to some Caps players requesting the signs be removed during warm-ups.
Today, Leonsis confirmed this on his blog, writing: “A couple of players saw a sign at ice level during warm-ups that they felt was disrespectful toward our coach. One of the players asked one of the bench personnel to see if he could get them to take it down. One of our arena employees thought he was being helpful, and asked the fans to take it down.”
Leonsis goes on to explain that the signs should have been permitted inside the venue, which is great to hear because banning signs is Redskins-like behavior and very un-Caps.
But I couldn’t help but wonder aloud on Twitter today: “Why are Caps players even focused on signs in stands during warm-ups? Nice that they want coach respected, but why not just block it out?”
This is a Caps team that acts confused when they can’t get up for a big game. Multiple players have commented on not knowing why they come out flat some games and they’ve been uttering nearly identical quotes after some of these games for over three years now.
Recently, after a loss to the Panthers, defenseman Karl Alzner commented, “Some teams it’s just real easy to get up for and that’s because of the team that they are: the Rangers, the Canadiens. Those games are really easy and sometimes here in Florida it’s difficult to get up…”
I was dumbfounded when I read that Alzner quote back in early February. If you’re a professional athlete and you’re thinking that, don’t say it out loud. And while you’re thinking that but not saying it, ask yourself why you are a professional athlete yet unable to focus enough to get up for any game you need to get up for, particularly one against a division rival that was banging on your door at that point.
But now, when I see that there are guys on the Caps that are so unfocused on the game at hand that they’re actually going to take the time to ask that a “Scratch Hunter” or a “Free Knuble” sign be taken down during warm-ups, quotes like Alzner’s and this team’s inability to play consistent hockey for 60 minutes, or from one game to the next, makes a little more sense.
Ignore the damn signs, Caps! Or be so in the zone and focused on the precious two points up for grabs that you don’t even notice the signs to begin with. Play like you did a few years ago when you were all business, dead set on gaining two points at a time and nothing more and nothing less…until it was time to play the next game and grab those two points.
You were a machine, Caps, and thousands of people were inspired by it. But now, when I see your captain sulking, your disinterest on the ice at times and some of you actually taking the time as pro athletes to worry about what a cleanly-worded and done-seemingly-in-good-fun sign says, I can’t help but think that you sound like losers.
I’ve rooted for a lot of losing teams in my life; it’s really not hard to do. I’m not a fair weather fan, even when my teams are on a losing streak. But when a team doesn’t seem to care for stretches at a time or when they look deflated, uninspired and plain defeated, they’re not always a lot of fun to pull for. And now you want to complain about signs, Caps? Really? Seriously, guys? Is that where the focus should be as you sit outside the playoffs with under 20 games left in the regular season? (I also doubt one of the biggest bad-asses in the history of hockey, Dale Hunter, needs anyone to protect him from a paper sign. I’m also sure he saw and heard much worse than “Scratch Hunter” during his playing days).
See yourself, one solid shift at a time, winning the game being played on the ice, Caps, not what some fan is holding up to the glass surrounding it. Your season, and many fans’ patience, might be gone soon if you don’t.
Before tonight’s Caps game against the Carolina Hurricanes starts, let’s try to remember that Cam Ward is their only true star. Wait…what??? I don’t agree with that, but it’s what Washington Post columnist Jason Reid wrote in a recent column:
“A 5-0 loss against Carolina on Monday was the low point of the season — the Capitals at least hope it doesn’t get any worse. Carolina is last in the East. Goalie Cam Ward is the Hurricanes’ only true star — and he sat out because of an injury.”
Something tells me that Carolina Hurricanes fans would disagree with that statement. In fact, most anyone following the Caps and their Southeast Division opponents on a regular basis or any big hockey fan would likely say that Ward isn’t the only “true star” on the Hurricanes.
For starters, Carolina’s captain Eric Staal is a two-time 40 goal scorer and an Olympic gold medalist. He captained an NHL All Star team last season called “Team Staal.” He has scored 245 NHL goals over the course of eight seasons with the Hurricanes. Staal also racked up two goals and an assist in that 5-0 game against the Caps that Reid referenced in that column.
Jeff Skinner, who scored over 30 goals last season and was named NHL Rookie of the Year, is another example of a Hurricanes player that would be viewed as a star in many people’s eyes. Maybe he’s too new to be considered a “true star,” but the media was all over that guy last season and it hard not to hear about him if you were following the sport—he had a goal that game against the Caps too.
I’m not sure what Reid meant when he typed that about Ward and the Hurricanes, but it strikes me as another example of a Post sports columnist somewhat out of touch with hockey, yet writing about the sport. I’m not sure where the sports editor was on this one either.
From the Frederick Keys’ blog:
Hockey Day – On April 7th at 2pm, the Keys will drop the puck with Hockey Day. This special day will include an appearance by former Capital and NHL Hall-of-Famer, Rod Langway. Also, we will be giving out Keys 2012-13 Calendars (HN Funkhouser) and Magnet Schedules. Stick around after the game to watch the conclusion of the Caps season finale on the videoboard!