Monthly Archives: April 2012

Is Alex Semin being held to a higher standard than other Caps players?

My brother Pat wasn’t happy with Alex Ovechkin’s effort defensively on the Rangers first goal in Game 1 of their second round playoff series. He tweeted, “The listless, one hand on the stick effort in support of his D man who was clearly beaten is not really my thing.”

I hadn’t noticed this during the game. I was mostly focused on watching Artem Anisimov out-muscle Mike Green. But I tend to agree with my brother on this one. Where was the Ovechkin that seems to relish crushing opposing players with an explosive hit? This would have been a great time for one of those. At the very least, just a solid shoulder or a strong poke check might have done the job. I can’t help but wonder if Ovechkin would have had more spring in his step had this instead been an opportunity for a big play in the offensive zone.

Artem Anisimov scores in Game 1

Somewhat related to this, Alexander Semin has been demoted to the fourth line for Game 2.

Semin took two penalties in Game 1, one for unwisely retaliating after being slashed by a Ranger player and another for tripping a player while forechecking. The second penalty didn’t bother me much, as it appeared he was going for the puck and got too aggressive.

Caps’ Coach Dale Hunter told reporters regarding Semin, “We need him to score goals for us, we need him to play good on the power play.” (Note: Semin leads the team in both goals and power play goals so far in the playoffs.)

As I said via Twitter earlier today, I don’t care a great deal either way about Semin’s move to the fourth line. Maybe it will pay off through a more balanced set of lines or perhaps it will motivate Semin and we’ll see a big game from him. However, I do find it odd that Semin gets banished to the fourth line, while other highly-skilled offensive players on the team often don’t when they’re guilty of less-than-stellar play. Nor do I think they should necessarily.

For example, Nicklas Backstrom’s lack of hustle cost the Caps a goal in Game 6 against the Bruins (I’m not talking about the game-winning goal that was a result of his turnover and was easier to forgive). Marcus Johannson has been giving the puck away far too often these playoffs with careless passes. Ovechkin took a bad penalty Saturday against the Rangers for tripping, put in a questionable defensive effort on the Ranger goal highlighted above and was kept off the score sheet like Semin, but there’s no way Ovi or Backstrom is going to get demoted to the fourth line—and for good reason. Yet Semin does?

Maybe there’s more to the Semin story than I’m aware of as a spectator who isn’t in the locker room, but the higher standard Semin seems to be held to confuses me. Even the league seemed to have something against the guy when he was the first 40 goal scorer I know of to be left off the All-Star ballot the next season (I don’t mean Semin just didn’t make the game…I mean he scored 40 goals and then you couldn’t even vote for him unless you wrote him in).

NBC’s Pierre McGuire doesn’t give Semin a break, even when he’s scored a goal on more than one occasion right after McGuire calls him out. As NHL.com writer Dave Lozo recently noted, “Alex Semin is the only guy who can score on national TV and have people spend the next 5 minutes questioning why he doesn’t try. Amazing.”

ESPN and Washington Post contributor Neil Greenberg said on Twitter today, “Surprised ppl continue to underappreciate Caps Semin’s contributions beyond points (and off zone penalties). If he walks, tough to replace.” Greenberg also did a statistical analysis last fall about how the criticism of Semin is unfair.

I don’t deny that there are occasions when Semin is—like many players—deserving of some criticism. However, I find it odd that other key Caps make mistakes and it doesn’t become half the story it does when Semin isn’t playing the way people would like him to.

But putting all that aside, if the demotion of Semin to the fourth line for tonight’s game results in a two-goal night, Hunter’s a genius.

Caps fans share their keys to Game 2

Ovechkin Waits for Faceoff

Ovechkin Waits for Faceoff (Photo credit: clydeorama)

This morning, we asked Caps fans on Twitter, “what is one thing the team must do differently in Game 2?”  Here’s some of what we got back:

 

Here’s one from my brother and fellow BrooksLaichyear blogger…

And there’s the obvious one I’d expect we might get…

…but then some more detail…

Thanks to everyone who responded.

Answers on where Dmitry Orlov is

Orlov’s absence from the lineup for the entire Boston Bruins series and Game 1 against the Rangers is a bit puzzling considering he was one of the most pleasant surprises on the blue line during much of the regular season. He had three goals, 16 assists and a plus-1 rating in 60 games.

More from Stephen Whyno in The Washington Times

Orlov Shoots

Orlov Shoots (Photo credit: clydeorama)

How Caps fans are feeling after Game 1

This morning on Twitter we asked how Caps fans are feeling after the Game 1 loss to the Rangers. The answers:

Caps-Rangers preview: The New York Rangers Blog answers our questions

New York Rangers Retired Numbers 2 + 35 in the...

New York Rangers Retired Numbers 2 + 35 in the Madison Square Garden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To get you ready for the Caps-Rangers series that kicks off on Saturday at 3, we exchanged questions with Kevin from The New York Rangers Blog. Below are Kevin’s answers to our questions.  Visit their blog to see our answers to Kevin’s questions.

Other than Ryan Callahan, since I assume he’d be the obvious answer, who is the player that most embodies what this Rangers team is all about?
Dan Girardi. The Rangers are a blue collar team that is willing to do the dirty work to get the job done. And no player does it better than Girardi. He is fearless on the ice. He’ll throw a big hit along the boards, get to the front of the net to block a shot then bust it up the ice to assist with the offense. Similar to the rest of his teammates he brings that lunch pail mentality to the rink every night. Oh yeah, and he’s a pretty darn good player as evidenced by his All Star nod.

What do you think of Chris Kreider so far?
While I expected to see some great things from Chris Kreider in the playoffs, I never dreamed he’d be dominating a Game 7 in just his fifth NHL contest. His speed is deadly. There were times in Game 7 against Ottawa where it seemed like there were three of him out there. His ability to track down pucks gave the Rangers additional puck position at key moments in third period. He’s also a sniper who will bury his opportunities. But to me the most impressive part of this kid is his character. He is very humble, is willing to learn and knows his role. John Tortorella has mentioned numerous times that Kreider won’t be intimidated by the moment. Which has been proved by his two NCAA National Championships with Boston College and his Game 7 performance Thursday night. Can you think of a more pressure situation for a young player to be thrown into? He’s been unflappable.

What is the biggest difference between this Ranger team and the one the Caps knocked out last year?
Confidence. I don’t think you’re going to see a much different game plan from last year’s series. The Rangers are very comfortable playing a low scoring, defensive oriented game. While that’s the strategy of almost every team in playoffs, the Rangers feel they’re the best at it. Last year as the #8 seed they were just happy to be in the playoffs, get their young guys some experience and hope for an upset. This year, they’re thinking Stanley Cup and are confident they have the horses to do it. They have a great mix of veteran leadership and youthful enthusiasm. Helps to have Henrik Lundqvist playing at an All World level as well.

You guys made the biggest move in free agency last offseason by signing Brad Richards.  Has he been living up to his contract?
Numbers wise Richards did not live up to his nine-year, $60 million contract. He finished the season with just 66 points despite playing in all 82 games which was his lowest output since 2007-08 when he had 62 points in 74 games. He did make his points count, however, as he led the team with eight game winning goals. Having said that, Richards’ worth to this Rangers team isn’t measured by points. The influence he’s had on the development of young players such as Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto has proved to be invaluable and will have a positive impact on the Rangers franchise for the next decade. His leadership on and off the ice has been noticeable all season and they would not be the same team without him.

Shouldn’t Brian Boyle have answered the bell again Matt Carkner?  I’m not condoning what Carkner did, but it seems like the unwritten rule is that Boyle should have accepted the challenge.
I think Brian Boyle would have answered the bell if Matt Carkner challenged him face-to-face like a man instead of jumping him like a coward. Which was proved later on in the period when he excepted Chris Neil’s invitation to dance.

Follow Lauren

Before Game 6 between the Devils and Panthers tonight, Panthers President and COO Michael Yormark brilliantly displayed to the world that he can be a jerk even when it’s completely unnecessary. See below.

Our mission? Get Lauren more followers than Yormark before the Devils-Panthers Game 7 on Thursday night. After all, should the President of a team that covers seats in their stadium with a tarp really be calling anyone out for their lack of Twitter followers? Do your part and follow Lauren on Twitter. On Thursday, thanks to Michael Yormark, we are all Devils fans.

Backstrom needs to redeem himself in Game 7

Plenty has been said or written about Nick Backstrom’s turnover in overtime of Game 6 that led to the Bruins winning goal. While the mistake was costly, and could look even costlier if the Bruins end up winning the series, these kind of mistakes are bound to happen. Learn from it, shake it off and move on. I’m not advocating mistakes but I am saying that even an elite player fails to execute sometimes. What I’m not willing to excuse is Backstrom’s complete lack of hustle and effort on the Bruins third goal.

Tyler Seguin made a nice defensive play to strip Alex Semin in the Caps offensive zone. Semin may be at fault for the turnover, but much like the Backstrom mistake in overtime, it’s not worth dwelling on because it’s a lack of execution, not a lack of effort. Semin did exactly what he should have done after Seguin stripped him of the puck; He hustled back to avoid giving the Bruins an odd man rush off of his turnover. If Backstrom had given an effort similar to Semin’s then Andrew Ference wouldn’t have been able to skate wide open into the slot to deposit the loose puck into the net. The replay of the goal from up high (at the 30 second mark of the video below) gives the best look at how Backstrom and Ference are the 4th player on each team to join the play, and Ference flat out beat Backstrom to the puck because he hustled.

I realize that the 4th and 5th players back on defense are often not skating full speed to get back. However, this is because, especially in a man-to-man defense, they are responsible for guarding the opponents’ defensemen, who, more often than not, don’t join the rush or come into the offensive zone at full speed as the trailer on the play. However, when a defensemen does join the rush or hustle up the ice as a trailer, the forward responsible for him needs to match that hustle to ensure that defenseman does not skate into the slot unmarked looking for a loose puck. What happens if the forward doesn’t? Exactly what happened on the Bruins third goal.

Nick Backstrom is as at fault as anyone for the Bruins 3rd and 4th goals on Sunday. The turnover on the Bruins 4th goal is frustrating but excusable because it happens to everyone at some point (although you’d like for it not to happen in overtime of a Game 6). However, the lack of hustle and effort on the Bruins 3rd goal is completely inexcusable. Backstrom owes us one. I’m looking for him to bounce back with a great effort in Game 7 because, if not for his lack of effort in Game 6, the Caps just may have clinched the series on Sunday.

Boycott Boston until after Game 7

Boycott Boston

There are over 48 hours to go until the Caps and Bruins meet Wednesday night in Boston for Game 7 of their first round playoff series. There’s a lot at stake and there’s also a lot of time to fill between now and then; we suggest you spend it NOT consuming any products from the Boston area.

BrooksLaichyear.com is calling for a boycott of all things Boston between now and Wednesday night. To get this started, below we’ve listed some things to avoid and have suggested a local DC area product as a replacement. Boycott Boston, Support DC!

Drop the Dunkin’ Donuts
Giving up delicious Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for a few days will be tough, but we suggest the excellent Rockville-based Mayorga Coffee instead. You can get Mayorga from their local locations in the DC area and on the shelf at many local grocery stores. Or maybe you have your own local favorite…but avoid Runnin’ on Dunkin’ until this first round series is over.

So long, Sam Adams
I’m actually not a huge Sam Adams fan to begin with (take that, Boston!), so this will be a smaller sacrifice for me personally. But this gives me another reason to support local brewers DC Brau! I’ll be picking up a couple six packs of The Corruption between now and Wednesday.

See ya, Staples
Need office supplies between now and Wednesday night? Avoid Massachusetts-based Staples. We’re not sure about a local substitute you can use instead, so just avoid doing any office work between now and Thursday. There’s a Game 7 to focus on anyway.

It’s your turn…tell us what other Boston products to avoid
Now we need your suggestions for other products to boycott plus a DC area replacement for it. Use the comments to make your suggestions, email them to us at brookslaichyear AT gmail.com or tweet them to us at @brookslaichyear. And thanks to Adam Vingan for inspiring this with a tweet.

Big TV ratings for Caps-Bruins Game 6

The game drew an 8.6 in Washington, a new record for a non-Stanley Cup game in the market. Washington’s only advance to the Final was in 1998. It drew better numbers than the 2011 Winter Classic, which scored a 7.9 in Washington.

via Puck the Media

Troy Brouwer’s game winner seemed familiar

Troy Brouwer’s game winning goal in Saturday’s Game 6 for the Caps in Boston…

…was reminiscent of this Game 7 game winner in 2009 by Sergei Fedorov for Washington against the New York Rangers:

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