Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pothier Nominated for Masterson


As expected, Brian Pothier will receive the Capitals' nomination for the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy tomorrow when the team formally announces its decision.

Per Tarik

"...if there is anyone who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey," that player is Brian Pothier, who, of course, returned last month from a 14-month layoff with post-concussion syndrome and then scored his first goal since December 2007 in Friday's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay."
Pothier joins Boston's Pierre Bergeron, Buffalo's Teppo Numminen, Montreal's Patrice Brisebois, Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson, Toronto's Ian White, New York Islanders' Mark Streit, Philly's Mike Knuble, New Jersey's Scott Clemmenson, New York Rangers' Blair Betts and Pittsburgh's Mark Eaton as a nominee.

The remaining nominees will be named by the end of the week.

April Fool's 2009 - Best Images and Videos of 2008-2009

We could have been jerks and tried to trick you by saying oh..."Jose Theodore to wear a Kicking It mask tonight!" or "Capitals Kremlin is announcing a new 'Club Kremline' for women," but that would require lots of work and photoshopping.

So instead we've decided to post some of our favorite sports images, memes, videos and other jokes this year.

So without further delay, some of our favorite images from the CK archives this season. Here's to many, many more.
Our first image, an attempt at adding a phrase to the Capitals lexicon. It failed, but the image is still gloriously goofy. Let's unleash some dragons, Ovie.

The image that put CK on PuckDaddy, exposing us to the masses.

Advice Ovechkin was born from the "Advice Dog" Internet meme; we used this to hype Ovie's breakaway challenge.

Ovechkin is supposedly a dirty player, but that can't be true, at least this picture says he isn't!

The demotivator generator is a beautiful thing.


Steven Stamkos has found his game as of late, but when this originally published the Lightning still hadn't seen him.

Time for some non-CK images and videos.

It's not NHL-related, but the comedy isn't lost on us because it's football. (It's Terrell Owens if you're wondering.)



Why you haff to be mad?



Stay classy, Philly


Turn your sound down, trust me.



Watch your kids grow up with Mario! This commercial is all sorts of creepy.

Michael Nylander -- The Square Peg in the Round Hole

Awhile back, Bruce Boudreau described Viktor Kozlov as "that round peg in that round hole," citing his size, playmaking and ability to draw defenders as keys to the Capitals game plan, despite a dip in point production this season.

You'd be hard pressed to see Boudreau make such a comment about Michael Nylander, the Swedish center who has handcuffed the Caps with his infamous no movement clause.

For much of the 2008-2009 season, Michael Nylander has been the opposite of Kozlov: His style of play doesn't fit the Caps system, he's had a carousel of linemates and his "circle-first, shoot-later" style has slowed down the Capitals rather than helped them. Fans lament about his line pairings, which frequently match him with players who can drive the net or set up for rebounds, but he never shoots for them.

In more ways than one, Michael Nylander simply doesn't fit this Capitals team's makeup. But to be fair, Nylander does have 22 assists, three less than Kozlov's 25, so to say he's the worst Capital on the team isn't completely justified.

So would it surprise you if I told you that Nylander could be a game changer when the playoffs roll around?

Consider this: Of all current Capitals skaters, Sergei Fedorov's 169 career playoff games leads the team in postseason experience. Nylander is the third most experienced Caps forward in the postseason with 44 games (Brashear is second). In those games, he's registered 12 goals, 22 assists for 34 points and is a plus two.

OK, but that was Nylander then; how about Nylander now?

The key difference in the Nylander we have now, and the Nylander who averaged over a point a game with the Rangers in their postseason attempt two years ago is his linemates. On that team, he was centering Jaromir Jagr; on the current Caps team, it's a rotation of Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, a Hershey call-up and the press box.

In Nyles' defense, he hasn't had much of a line to gel with, but when you have guys like Fehr and Laich, dirty workers who specialize in dirty goals, you simply need to shoot more often to make those guys effective. Unfortunately, shooting isn't Nylander's forte.

The Capitals desperately need secondary scoring; they simply cannot expect Ovechkin, Green and Semin to provide every goal in the postseason. If Nylander can find his groove in the postseason, it could change the Capitals' offensive makeup from a two-line scoring team to a three-line scoring team.

The playoffs are a chance to start anew, and for Nylander a few key assists or a timely goal would wash away his regular season sins -- at least for a moment.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Clean Slate - Rangers Win

The Magic Number is Three

Per Tarik
"...any combination of three points won or lost by Carolina will clinch [the division]...If the Caps beat the Islanders on Wednesday and the surging 'Canes lose to the Rangers on Thursday, it's over."

They Don't Call It Wacky-pedia for Nothing!

Today's eye-catching Twitter of the day?

Eric Fehr on Wikipedia.

Gotta love Wikipedia, where Eric Fehr has "supposedly" recovered from his herniated disc injury in 2008.

With One Month Left, A Look at the Hart Front Runners

It's only a matter of time before the puck drops on playoff ice and the NHL's second season begins. But as the regular season draws to an end, the debates for the coveted award trophies begin, and as usual, the Hart Trophy is a hot topic of discussion.

Much has been said about the two front runners for the Hart Trophy, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, but it wasn't until early March that the Penguins sophmore center became a true candidate for the Hart.

Most had already written off the award as Ovechkin's after a dominating February campaign which saw him record a point in every game but one that month (he did this again in March), but Malkin has been the spearhead of the Penguins playoff push, leading his team in goals and assists.

So let's take a look at the two leaders point progression from opening day to March.

Points By Month

Ovechkin

(G, A, P, +/-)

Malkin

(G, A, P, +/-)

October

2, 3, 5, +4

3,13, 16, +3

November

11, 14, 25, +9

2, 16, 23, +8

December

12, 7, 19, -1

5, 13, 20, +9

January

8, 5, 13, +1

6, 10, 16, -3

February

12, 7, 19, +1

7, 7, 14, 0

March

8, 11, 19, -3

5, 13, 18, 3

Total

53, 47, 100, +11

33, 74, 107, +20


One glaring blemish sticks out on Ovechkin's chart. His month-long slump in October, the longest of his career. The fact that Ovechkin achieved 50 goals, and 100 points after spending a month below his expectations is astounding.

The last time that Ovechkin was held to single digits in points during a full month of hockey (not including abbreviated months i.e. April and Olympic Breaks), was 2006-2007, the year he didn't break 50 goals or 100 points.

What also sticks out is that Malkin didn't best Ovie in February or March in terms of points. Those were the two key months that Malkin supporters believe lock in his bid for the Hart. In fact, in the month of March, fellow center Sidney Crosby matched Malkin's points with 6 goals and 12 assists and was a +4.

Of course we must remember that points alone do not earn a player the Hart Trophy.

Another look at the Hart race can be seen by the NHL's star ratings. While they are not "real" statistics, and are subjective to the opinions of those who choose them, they do provide insight into how the league views a player's accomplishments throughout the year.

Let's take a look at those.

Star Ratings

Ovechkin

Crosby

Malkin

Total Points

240

210

100

Place

First

Third

17th

Times Named First Star

5

6

0


Even though Malkin has outscored Crosby and Ovechkin in points, the NHL star rating group has not once selected Malkin as the best player (first star) at any given time during the season.

So given the stats and trends of the two front runners, is the Hart still a lock for Ovechkin? Or will Malkin steal it away in his sophomore year?

Bring Your Fiddle Because April is a Dance with the Devils

If you ever needed a night to cheer for Sean Avery or the Rangers, let it be tonight.

With a Rangers win against the Devils, the Rangers give the Capitals a "clean slate" to work with. A chance to sit in front of the Devils with the same amount of games played and the opportunity to control their own destiny.

Much has been said about who the Caps want to see in the first round and who they want to avoid. We touched on it a few days ago and, since that post, the playoff picture has drastically changed.

Unless a slump hits the Bruins, Boston will take the top slot in the East, but the recent falters of the New Jersey Devils have created a tight race for an all-important second slot. Home ice advantage is on the line for later rounds (the Caps are guaranteed it in the first round) and a date with either the Habs, Rangers, Panthers or possibly even the Sabres is the prize.

Here's the Devils' remaining schedule after tonight's game.

Two guaranteed playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina), three bubble teams (Ottawa, Toronto and Buffalo) and one cupcake (Tampa). The Devils also have a back-to-back set of games, while the Capitals do not.

Now compare that to Washington's remaining schedule.

Three teams with lottery tickets for this year's draft (Tampa, Atlanta twice and Long Island) and two bubble teams (Florida and Buffalo).

Whose schedule would you want?

The Capitals are in complete control of their playoff positioning, and they'll only have themselves to blame if they take the third seed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

CK's Video Game Hockey Hall of Fame

As much as Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin are parts of hockey lore, so are the video games that the sport has inspired. Countless puckheads spend lazy weekends playing as their favorite teams in virtual ice rinks around the world on their Xbox 360s and Playstation 3s.

It's not surprising that hockey games are popular amongst sports gamers, in fact the two go hand-in-hand. Hockey games don't require much knowledge of the actual sport, have simple control schemes, are often high-scoring and hard-hitting affairs.

In some ways, the NHL's best form of advertising the sport is the video games for the sport.

So in honor of those great past and current ice hockey games, here's our Video Game Hockey Hall of Fame. Enjoy your Sunday, and break out the old NES or Genesis and enjoy!

Ice Hockey
Nintendo Entertainment System (Famicom)
1988
Available on Nintendo's Virtual Console and via Emulation

Ice Hockey was an innovator in sports gaming and to this day still retains the charm it possessed in 1988. The game is famous for being the first hockey game that allowed a user to choose his players and introduced a two-button control scheme that would be copied by most hockey games until the late '90s.

The game also had a degree of depth thanks to the player selection. The combinations of Fat Man, Skinny Man and Middle Man created various strategies a player could employ. The game did not feature NHL cities but used countries instead, leading to many "Miracle on NES Ice" games between the USA and USSR.

Believe it or not, despite the friendly nature of the game, Ice Hockey featured fighting. After consecutive body checks, the teams would meet in a cartoon-style dust cloud with one player being sent to the penalty box.

Honors: Was ranked 142nd in Nintendo Power's "Top 200 Nintendo games list"


Blades of Steel
Nintendo Entertainment System (Famicom)

1988

Available on Nintendo's Virtual Console and via Emulators


While Nintendo's Ice Hockey embraced the wholesomeness of pond hockey, Blades of Steel brought a more "realistic" look to gamers. Using the same two-button control scheme as Ice Hockey, Blades of Steel made its mark in the hockey gaming world by making fighting a prevalent part of the game.
In fact, what most gamers remember about Blades of Steel is that if you lost a fight, you had to serve a penalty, which turned games into constant fistfights. It also was the first hockey game to include NHL cities, although only seven cities were used and the teams used the local football team's colors instead of NHL colors.

The little-known innovation that this game made is the use of voice samples. Sound effects such as "FIGHT!" and "With the pass..." would play during the game. This was a rarity for the 8-bit gaming era, as most games just used basic sound effects, not actual voices.

NHLPA '93
SEGA Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PC

1992
Available via Emulation

NHLPA '93, simply put, is the reason hockey games in the '90s are so fondly remembered. With more powerful systems came better, faster and better-looking hockey games, and NHLPA '93 ushered in a new era of hockey gaming.

The new gaming engine that NHLPA '03 introduced would be tweaked and used by countless games until the dawn of the Playstation and Nintendo 64.

The game used the same two-button control scheme as Ice Hockey and featured numerous game modes, where previous hockey games just had simple playoff and single-game modes. The Sega Genesis version of the game also included the ability to save a player's progress. Previously (and on the SNES version), a player would need to write an unnecessarily long password down if they wanted to resume a playoff series.

The game is remembered by most for features that would be removed in the next season's game.
NHLPA '93 featured NHL players, but not NHL teams. This led to a bit of controversy when the NHL decided to get in on the video game craze. The key issues the NHL had with the game? Violence. NHLPA '93 famously encouraged players to injure stars in the manual, claiming "its part of the game." After running a player, the injured would lie in a pool of blood, twitching. A favorite target of this game play feature was Wayne Gretzky.

The game's legacy still lives on today. Thanks to emulation software, the game still has a following and some have even hacked the game so they canupdate the rosters (see photo above and injury photo).

NHL '94
SEGA Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PC

1993

Available via Emulators


Until NHL '09 released in 2008, many considered NHL '94 to be the greatest hockey game ever made. Built upon the same engine as NHLPA '93, it featured graphical tweaks and the introduction of the one-timer shot.

NHL '94 did not feature the violence of NHLPA '93, but it improved on virtually every other aspect of NHLPA '93. The inclusion of the one-timer shot changed the game drastically, and the improvements to the game engine created a more fluid experience. The atmosphere became more authentic, and the players were easier to control. The game also supported four players at one time, allowing friends to play as a team or against each other.

NHL '94 still has a cult following that organizes online tournaments and roster updates at NHL94.com, and the two-button control scheme would be included in next-gen NHL games to appease older fans of the series.

Fun Fact: The game released in 1993, the same year Gary Bettman became NHL commissioner, and was the first EA NHL game to feature the shootout. Did we just blow your mind or what?

Honors: #47 on IGN's Top 100 Games List


Mutant League Hockey
SEGA Genesis

1994
Available via Emulators

If "The Monster Mash" and "Slap Shot" had a video game baby, it would be Mutant League Hockey.

After NHLPA '93, Electronic Art's NHL games were considerably less violent due to the NHL's objection to the bloody Gretzky incident in NHLPA '93. In NHL '95, fighting was removed completely (but blood returned). So EA knew they needed to quench the blood lust of hockey fans that the NHL wouldn't let them include in their games.

Mutant League Hockey embraced and showcased hockey violence like no other game in hockey gaming history. It is the only hockey game to be rated 16+, an equivalent to the "Teen" rating today. MLH deviated from the two-button control scheme, introducing a third button that was devoted to violence (a major step forward in sports gaming). It allowed you to punch players on the ice and wield weapons that were thrown on the ice, such as chainsaws.

Breaking from traditional hockey games, the road to victory in MLH was paved in blood. You could either play the game as you would any NHL hockey game, with the introduction of a two-goal shot from behind the blue line, or you could kill every player on the opposing team, resulting in a forfeit.

Many chose the latter.

MLH was a parody of the NHL, poking fun at team names such as the Mighty Ducks (Mighty Weenies in MLH) and Montreal Canadiens (Montroyale Cadavers). It allowed players to bribe the refs, sneak weapons on the ice and kill the referee if they were on the opposite side of a bribe.

What made MLH hockey an important game wasn't its violent content, but that it inspired many arcade-style hockey games in future gaming generations. The NHL Hitz series embraced violence much like MLH, and the turn-of-the-century NHL series was a more comedic affair than today's ultrarealistic hockey games.

MLH also was the best-looking hockey game on the market at its time, and the significant graphical upgrades in MLH would be applied to future EA sports titles such as Madden and the NHL series.

That's our first-ballot admissions to the VGHHOF (Video Game Hockey Hall of Fame). If your favorite wasn't listed, let us know about it in the comments!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Congrats Brian Pothier;
Normal Posting Resumes Sunday

First off, congrats to Brian Pothier on his first goal since his return from injury. Unfortunately, as I am still in Syracuse, I was watching the Orange b-ballers get crushed by Blake "First Overall" Griffin. I would love to know if Potsy got to jump into the boards like he said he wanted to.

Another quick thanks to TillyCapsFan, who held down the fort here at CK these past few days. What you may not realize is that TCF is a huge part of Capitals Kremlin, and this blog wouldn't be half of what it is without his help.

We'll be resuming normal posting Sunday as we try to keep our sanity during the long grueling bye days that nobody enjoys.

We've got lots of great features coming as the playoffs approach and, of course, your regular pre-Caps and, uh, TCF's "Corgi ratings."

Let's go Caps!

Reed - "CK"

Syracuse may be Orange, but it has shades of Red too

Hey guys, writing to you from Syracuse, N.Y., where March Madness is at fever pitch as the Syracuse Orange takes on the Choke-lahoma Sooners at 7:30 p.m. today. (We're Nebraska boys on this blog: We support ANY non-Big XII team that plays the Sooners.)

It's quite a sight up here, and it's something we don't see at VCU -- school spirit. Everyone is in orange, the tour guides for my girlfriend's visit to the law school were clad in orange, you simply can't escape an orange T-shirt, jersey or someone yelling, "GO ORANGE!"

So what did I wear today? Red -- Capitals red. In a quest to see if the Capitals had any fans in Syracuse. Dressed in a sporty windbreaker with the letters C-A-P-I-T-A-L-S and the WEagle, I took a stroll up and down Syracuse's hilly campus in an attempt to experience the school for myself.

Within five minutes of walking up the stairs toward the campus, I hear "LET'S GO CAPS!"

I turn around and two students, head to toe in orange, are walking toward me.

"Caps fans, eh?" I said.

"I am," said one of the students, "but this guy here's a Maple 'Laffs' fan."

His friend looks down in shame and chirps back, "We aren't THAT bad, but the Caps are my second team, plus I'm a big Semin fan."

After a quick exchange of words about the team, and my reason for being there, we part ways. I ascend farther through campus and the Carrier Dome comes into sight. I turn to my right and see the Law School overlooking a valley and as soon as I take a step in its direction I hear another yell.

"Ovechkin is my boy, dawg!"

Yet another Orange student, this time in a Johnny Flynn jersey and holding a basketball. I turn around and start talking with this student as well, probing deeper into his fanship for the Great 8.

"So why do you cheer for the Caps?" I asked.

"Ovechkin is just so exciting. I stopped watching hockey around the lockout, but since Ovechkin came I can't stop watching."

"Who'd you cheer for before the lockout?"

"No one really, I just watched for fights. Now I watch for Ovechkin's goals."

These were the two longest Capitals encounters I had on the campus today. I had a few more people speak to, or rather, yell at me about my sweater. Mostly "Let's Go Caps!" or "nice shirt, man," and one "Let's go Pens! Ovie's gay!"

The excitement these kids had over the Caps and the Syracuse game tonight makes me long for the playoffs and being around 18,000 red-to-toe fans cheering for Washington's finest.

Syracuse may be 10 hours away from home, but with Caps fans in the area I don't feel alone at all.

On the road with Capitals Kremlin!

CK is checking out a possible future life in upstate New York after college graduation this spring. So far, he hasn't been spotted by vigilant Sabres fans, thanks to a red cloaking device on loan from Capital Spirit (Thanks, Spirit! One game in civvies won't hurt you.)

TillyCapsFan here to take this sporty little blog out for a spin.

Let's see. What's in the glove compartment? Japer's Rink, Peerless Prognosticator, Capitals Insider, On Frozen Blog. OK, got the essentials. Let's rev things up.

What to do? What to do?

How about stats. Stats are always good. Let's take a look at the Corgi Rating. Ovechkin's Corgi Rating is .000. He doesn't have one and, frankly, I can't see him ever having one. A tall, cool blonde is more his type. Russian, of course. Boudreau, on the other hand, his Corgi Rating is . . .

What's that, JP? Corsi Rating? Oh. Never mind.

OK. What else can a guy do with a blog?

How about gratuitious shoutouts to the team owner? Ted's Take. Ted's Take. Ted's Take. That oughta do it. What? Oh, yeah. SnagFilms.

Hmmm. This is harder than I thought. A new post every day, you say?

Maybe I can pick a fight with somebody; that's a time-honored blog tradition. Let's head on over to The PensBlog. A couple quick pokes and they'll all be down here "punishing" us by buying tickets at inflated prices. Looks pretty busy, though, what with trying to make the playoffs and all. Better not start something I won't be around to finish.

OK. I'm getting desperate. I'm THIS CLOSE to linking off to hot hockey chicks.

Oops. Bet they'll be wondering where all that traffic came from.

Hurry back, CK!

And next time find somebody who knows something about hockey.

TillyCapsFan for CK

Seek and ye shall find -- at www.capitalskremlin.com

What's up, CK?

You give me the keys to the blog while you're away this weekend in upstate New York -- and when I go in to post, you've MOVED it!

What is this, "Lost"? You're Locke, right, and you've moved The Island?

Well, I've got news for you: Despite the fact that it appears to be 1970, the Caps don't exist yet and I look like a dork in this Dharma Initiative jumpsuit -- I've found the site (we're now at www.capitalskremlin.com -- reset your bookmarks, RSS feeds, Twitters and Facebook follows), and I'm going to post.

Stand by and stand back!

TillyCapsFan for CK

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Lightning

CK is in upstate New York this weekend, searching for displaced Caps fans.

Never fear: TillyCapsFan is here to guide you through the storylines for Friday's game against Tampa Bay.

Storyline: Will the Lightning retaliate for Ovie's hot-hot-hot goal celebration?
Our take: This tempest will remain in its teapot. The Lightning won't avenge what they see as a classless act with a classless act of their own. Besides, the Bolts are much too focused on their drive to secure last place in the Southeast Division.

Storyline: Wasn't THAT a classless cheap shot?
Our take: Probably. But Theo told us it would be OK.

Storyline: Well, will the Lightning at least unleash a creative celebration of their own?
Our take: Haven't heard of anything in the works. Word on the street, though, is that Canada's ultrasecretive Cherry Laboratories is developing a devastating anti-goal-celebration. This statue-like non-dance is said to be capable of sucking the joy out of a hockey arena after a goal is scored. Won't be ready for Friday's game, though.

Storyline: Will Greenie get his 30th goal against the Bolts? Will Backie get his 20th goal or his 60th assist? Will Semin ever get a nickname that ends in -ie?
Our take: Probably not, on all counts. The Caps are averaging, what, two goals a game recently? That makes milestones hard to come by.

Storyline: Will Ovie steal the Art Ross Trophy away from Malkin with a flurry of goals and assists in his final seven games?
Our take: Not if he keeps his word. In a shrewd business deal at the All Star break, Ovie traded this year's Art Ross Trophy to Malkin for a floppy hat and two Canadian flags.

Storyline: At least tell me Boudreau will get the Jack Adams Award again.
Our take: That's a lock -- once the league realizes Bruce has managed to get his team's injuries, flu attack and losing streak all out of the way in the last month of the season, cleverly clearing the way for a smooth playoff run.

Storyline: When did you say CK would be back?
Our take: Not soon enough, friends. Not soon enough.

TillyCapsFan for CK

Don't Let Gary Bettman See This



Tip of the hat to PuckDaddy

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CapitalsKremlin.com

To our CK subscribers, Twitter buds, Facebook friends, Google followers and readers:

I'm thrilled to announce that we have purchased the domain name CapitalsKremlin.com for our future blogging endeavors.

You may need to update your RSS feed (click anywhere on here) and, for passing bloggers, you might want to update your link to our site.

This is just one of many changes that will be coming over the next few weeks -- changes that I hope will not only expand our reach as a blog, but also offer our readers a competitive and unique reading experience.

In June 2008, I started Capitals Kremlin as way to write about my favorite hockey team when I wasn't working on articles for my journalism classes. In September 2008, the blog started covering the Caps on a daily basis, trying to find its own space in the Capitals large, talented and impressive blogosphere.

In January 2009, we found ourselves linked on PuckDaddy, drawing the largest audience we'd ever seen and writing about the team multiple times each day.

Just recently, I decided it was time to take Capitals Kremlin to the next level, and the blog was long overdue for its own .com.

Some of my fellow VCU journalism students are proudest of their clips in the school newspaper. I've had dozens of clips in the past year appearing in the Progress-Index in Petersburg, Va., and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but of all of those I am most proud of this blog.

I look forward to continuing to bring you my brand of Capitals coverage and am excited about what the future holds for Capitals Kremlin.

I just hope you enjoy reading CK as much as I enjoy writing it.

Let's Go Caps!

-Reed "CK"

We Got X, Still Waiting on Y


With Florida's loss to Buffalo, the Capitals have clinched their playoff spot for the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

LET'S GO CAPS!

The World Speaks: Hot Hot Hot was A-Okay

ESPN polled the "Sports Nation" about Alex Ovechkin's celebratory dance in Tampa, and these results were returned.
The only state "objecting" is Pennsylvania, where the vote was split 50/50.

What's even funnier is that Florida was cool with it all. I guess all 10 Tampa Bay fans couldn't outweigh the millions and millions of Ovech-o-holics in the Sunshine State.

Shooting % Doesn't Mean Jack to MVP Voters

There's a stupid belief that the only reason AO has so many goals is because he shoots so much.

NO RLY!?

Okay, but it's not just that he shoots so much, some critics of the Great 8 argue that Ovechkin's shooting percentage is a detriment to his chances of becoming MVP.

Here's the shooting percentages, shots on goal and total goals of the past four MVP winners.

2008 MVP Ovechkin: 14.6/446 SOG/65 goals
2007 MVP Crosby: 14.7/250 SOG/36 goals
2006 MVP Thornton: 14.9/195 SOG/29 goals
2004 MVP St. Louis: 17.9/212 SOG/38 goals

So which stat of those three do you think stuck out to the voting committee? Or better yet, what's the name of the trophy they give to the player with the best shooting percentage?

Now let's take a look at this year's scoring race.

Alex Ovechkin: 10.7/475 SOG/51 goals (7 games left)
Zach Parise (NJD): 12.8/320 SOG/41 goals (9 games left)
Jeff Carter (PHI): 13.3/301 SOG/40 goals (10 games left)

Ovechkin has taken 155 more shots than the next closest competitor, who he leads by 10 goals. Barring a huge setback, Alex's name should be etched onto the Rocket Richard trophy today. It's even possible that Ovechkin could be the only player to reach 50 this year.

Of all the MVPs and goal scorers we've seen today, only one had a shooting percentage above 15%. So between shooting percentage and goals, which stat did those players' coaches care about most?

So what does shooting percentage tell us? Nothing really.

Instead of looking at the stat as "oh well he misses so much," why not look at it as "man defenses really have a hard time controlling him if he gets to shoot that much."

After all, someone great said "100% of the shots you don't take, don't go in," and if you're a offensive forward on the ice and you're not trying to score goals, then why the hell are you playing at all?

(stats provided by hockey-reference.com)

Why does the Y take so long?

I've taken to checking the NHL.com standings page every morning, searching for something.

The San Jose Sharks have it.

The Boston Bruins have it.

The Detroit Red Wings are one letter away.

When, oh when, will the Washington Capitals have it?

I speak, of course, of The Y.

In the parlance of the official standings, Y=Clinched Division. (X, the letter currently next to the Red Wings' name, =Clinched Playoff Spot, almost as good. And don't get me started on Z=Clinched Conference.)

The Caps have had a good season. They're within a whisker of 100 points. They only have seven regular season games to play. And still no Y, which means some Southeast Division team out there could still catch them (it does happen: remember last year when the Caps stole Carolina's Y on the final day?)

I suppose the Caps have a Magic Number, the number of Caps wins and or Hurricanes/Panthers losses that will give us that coveted Y, but I can't calculate it.

Why, oh why, is the Y taking so long?

TillyCapsFan for CK

Daniel Sedin Celebrates Hockey's Greatest Tradition: Losing Teeth



It's not often that we post about Western Conference teams here at CK, but this is a special exception.

In Tuesday's Canucks vs. Stars matchup, Swedish forward Daniel Sedin took a nasty high stick to the mouth, removing two teeth. After a quick patchup from the team doctors on the bench, Sedin went out with the power play unit and scored by deflecting a shot.

He finished the night with a goal and an assist and was even on the night. The Canucks went on to rout the Stars 5-2.

That's just pure guts right there: to lose some teeth, spit up blood on the bench and not miss a shift -- then stand in front of the net to screen the goalie, with the very real possibility of having the puck smack you in the face.

We may not be fans of the Canucks, but we appreciate guts when we see it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs

"We're still waiting, too, Bones; you're not alone"

Washington Capitals (45-23-6, first in SE, third in EC)
vs.
Toronto Maple Leafs (30-30-13, fifth in NE, 12th in EC)

Probable Goalies
WSH: Jose Theodore (28-16-4, .902%, 2.81 GAA)
TOR: Martin Gerber (8-12-1, .901%, 2.91 GAA)

Games of importance
Minnesota vs. NYR
Atlanta vs. Montreal

If a casual observer were to ask how the team was doing, depending on who you talked to you might hear "they suck and we're not going deep" or "we've won five of our last seven but the effort has been questionable in the losses."

Basically, two major losses admist a long road trip -- one to a nonplayoff team and the other to a potential first-round opponent -- have polarized some Caps fans.

Capitals fans are famous for their negativity and, following the Carolina loss, many felt that they have been watching the team through rose-colored glasses.

So that's what makes tonight's game against the Maple Leafs a must win to some fans. The Leafs have a 4-4-0 record this month, they aren't a playoff team, and it's the final game in a long road trip. If the Capitals win this game, they come home as heroes after a crusade in the south, but if they lose the wild speculation continues.

If there is any cause for concern this month for Caps fans, it's not that the team lost two games in the past seven, but that in 11 games this month the Caps have only averaged 2.36 goals a game, a mark that puts them second to last in the East for scoring in March.

Guys like Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr and Michael Nylander need to start contributing to the scoring. To put it more bluntly, if your name is not Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom or Alex Semin, the Caps need you to put the puck in the net.

And so that's what the focus of tonight's game should be.

The last time the Capitals played the Leafs in early March, they lost 2-1 and were Ovechkin-less. This time, they might be missing Alex Semin, but if there was ever a time for secondary scorers like Fehr and Flash to rise to the occasion, tonight's the night.

Losing two out of your last seven is no reason to panic, but averaging 2.36 goals the month before the playoffs does raise some concerns.

LET'S GO CAPS

Punk Rock vs. Don Cherry

Okay, okay. Don Cherry has been discussed ad nauseam over the past few weeks, and his monumental mishandling of the "Ovechkin Coach's Corner" is just a few days old.

But that's not stopping secular punk rockers Propagandhi from serenading Hockey Night in Canada's staple segment with a song.

The song, "Dear Coach's Corner," is written to the show and subdued cohost Ron MacLean and takes this shot at Don "Grapes" Cherry.

"But I guess it comes down to what kind of world you want to live in, and if diversity is disagreement, and disagreement is treason, well don't be surprised if we find ourselves reaping a strange and bitter fruit that sad old man beside you keeps feeding to young minds as virtue."



Ovechkin approved.

Furry Fandom and Hockey Collide...

Furry (also know as Furrydom, Furries, fur dom and fur fandom): An avatar who appears in the form of bipedal fusion of human and animal.

Here at CK, we're fans of the odd, unique and sometimes cringe-inducing items we find concerning the NHL. So when I ran across a drawing of Ovechkin and Crosby as characters from the Lion King, I knew there had to be more.

Google images delivered, and now I present to you: the NHL as seen by fur fans.


I, uh...let's move on
Not a bad salute to Ovechkin, although the stars look like tears...

Happy 100 years!

Bonus points for the Adam West-era Batman WHAP

Battle axe skate blades, and I guess the Red Wing is an eagle?

Not fur-art but just as odd. A personalized Flyers jersey with a tail? Pass or Fail?


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Cherry/Ovechkin War Cools Down

Well if any good can be taken from Saturday night's loss, it's that Don Cherry has seemingly called for a truce between himself and Alexander Ovechkin.



Don Cherry isn't the type of guy to outright apologize for his actions, and he isn't the kind to back down on his word. So this is about the closest Ovechkin will get to an apology from Cherry for his comments weeks ago.

If you don't want to watch the clip, Cherry's comments were basically "it was inappropriate, you're better than this, you're the best player in the world, imagine if someone did it to you."

Can't say the man was out of line this night. Cherry's comments are just echoing what many have said over the past few days, and instead of sticking to his usual xenophobic shtick, Cherry made a good point.

But not everyone loves Grapes so if you want to feel a sense of victory, think about this.

Don Cherry just called a Russian the best player in the world.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rock'em Sock'em Techno

Well...at least the Ovie celebration was better than this.

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Hurricanes

"JUST WAIT TILL I GET MY HANDS ON YOU CAPITALS!"

Washington Capitals (43-23-6, first in SE, third in EC)
vs.
Carolina Hurricanes (38-28-7, second in SE, sixth in EC)



Thank you, On Frozen Blog, for uploading that gem. Here's my response.

A team that controlled its own fate concerning the playoffs last year, blaming the Caps for their shortcomings? Highly illogical.

Believe it or not, though, that's the basis of this reborn Caps and Canes rivalry. The Canes, desperate for every point they can get their hands on, are going to be a scrappy, desperate team until the final buzzer sounds in April. Carolina simply can't afford to give up points, even if they are sitting at sixth in the league.

Further adding to the Caps and Canes rivalry is that in their last meeting the Caps swiped a point from under the Canes. After dominating Carolina for two periods, the Canes brought themselves back from the dead and dragged the Caps into a shootout. While some would be satisfied with earning a point, for Carolina, one point could be the difference maker between golf and the playoffs.

Also at stake is Carolina's impressive home winning streak. A victory over the Caps would be the Canes' ninth straight home win and, with six home games left in the season, home ice advantage is sure to be a major factor in the Canes' playoff hopes.

The Caps may be "hot hot hot" coming into tonight's game, but with the possibility of Mike Green sitting this game out, the Caps offense might be "cold cold cold." The last game Mike Green missed? The 5-1 massacre in Atlanta. Mike Green is to the Caps offense as a support wall is to a building. Take Green away and it's possible that the offense will crumble.

Saturday night is also a busy night for the Southeast Division and its playoff hopes. Montreal plays Toronto, a game which could put the Habs on the bubble. The Panthers play Columbus and potential Calder winner Steve Mason, and the Sabres hope to stay alive when they face the Rangers.

With tons of games impacting the playoffs, expect the Canes to be desperate.

LET'S GO CAPS!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A New High and Low for Ovie



Congrats on 50 goals, Ovie.

Three 50-goal seasons in four years is something to be proud of and to celebrate, but not like that. Alex's celebration cheapened the moment; instead of his goal being about his accomplishment, it will now be about his "too hot to handle" act.

Bruce Boudreau said he is going to "talk" to Ovechkin about it. Allow me to summarize what will be said.

Never. Do. It. Again.

This doesn't compare to Terrell Owens' Sharpie hiding act. It's not as bad as a soccer player ripping off his shirt and then doing backflips or Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson doing the "Riverdance."

But it's just as embarrassing.

Here's Ovie's explanation of the celebration.

"Me, Jose Theodore, [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Mike Green] said if I score goal, Jose tell me just put the stick on the ice and try act like it's so hot. Backie stopped and Greenie stopped, so I have to do it myself."

I'm sure glad that Green and Backstrom didn't join in on the act. It's bad enough that Ovechkin did it alone. I'm almost certain that had Green and Backstrom added their hands to "the fire" that we would see a penalty, ala "The Avery Rule," added to the rule book that penalizes excessive celebrations.

What made Don Cherry's argument about Ovie invalid was that Ovechkin never premeditated his celebrations. When he scored, the following jump into the boards or tackling of a teammate was an outburst of passion. But this planned act only proves Cherry's point.

For one night, Alex Ovechkin looked like a goofy soccer guy.

Lesson learned?

Never take celebration advice from your goalie.

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Lightning

Washington Capitals (44-22-6, first in SE, third in EC)
vs.
Tampa Bay Lightning (23-32-15, last in SE, 14th in EC)

Perhaps when Tampa Bay owner and horror movie producer Oren Koules begins producing the next Saw movie, the plot should revolve around a coach having to turn the Lightning into winners in one season despite the fact that very few rebuilds can be successful in one year.

Sounds like a nightmare to me.

At the beginning of this season, the Bolts felt they could contend for the Southeast Division title despite a roster filled with aging veterans and a rookie who was entering the league with as much hype as Ovechkin and Crosby.

Now on the tail end of the season, the Bolts sit where many expected them to be, at the bottom hoping to pull another first overall pick.

While much of this pre-Cap has highlighted the doom and gloom of the Bolts season this year, a few bright spots are shining for Tampa. Since Barry Melrose's dismissal, Steven Stamkos has begun to blossom into a capable NHL forward and has 35 points on the year, likely to break 40 on the season. Martin St. Louis is still a force to be reckoned with scoring 71 points this year, and his linemate, Vincent Lecavalier, has 65 points.

Another bright spot is that Tampa's special teams aren't all that bad. They have the 18th-ranked power play (18.2%) and, believe it or not, their penalty kill is only two spots worse than the Caps. The Bolts PK is 23rd in the league (79.3), compared to the Caps 21st ranking (79.8).

After a dominating shutout victory in Sunrise, Florida, the Caps need to keep their focus. If the Caps play the way they did against the Panthers, chalk up another W and two points on the season.

The only problem is that this is one of "those" games that might be hard to get excited over. In every Caps and Bolts meeting this season, the Caps have had a victory margin of two or more, and the goals for totals have been high; four, seven and five in the last three games for the Caps.

Domination leads to slacking, and that's exactly what Boudreau needs to make sure doesn't happen.

For Tampa Bay, there isn't much incentive other than pride going into tonight's game. The season is done, and the owners are just hoping to renew season tickets and win the draft lottery. Although pride is a powerful emotion, and one that tends to lead to great victories when an opponent has no respect for your club despite how poor the season has been.

With the right moves and some smart development, Tampa Bay could return to its former glory, but hopefully Oren Koules and Len Barrie have learned their lesson -- you can't rebuild in one year.

LET'S GO CAPS

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Call to Support One Underdog This Month

At noon tomorrow, March Madness will begin, and my loyalties to the Capitals and my college, Virginia Commonwealth University, will collide.

At 7 p.m., the Capitals play the Lightning in an "intense Southeast Division bout," but my mind will be wandering -- wandering because for the last time as a student at VCU, I'll be wearing black and gold in support of the VCU Rams.

At 9:50 p.m., the VCU Rams will tip off against UCLA, a historic college basketball powerhouse and winner of 11 national championships. A win over UCLA would elevate our basketball program to a new level that has only been achieved by one other CAA school, George Mason.

You might remember our team from 2007, when we ousted Duke in the first round in a thrilling game that came down to the last seconds. In the next round the Rams faced Pitt and, once again, took the game to the final buzzer, only it ended in defeat for VCU.

This year, a young VCU team is back in the tournament against another top BCS conference team, and the Rams are still led by Eric Maynor, the star point guard who made the game-winning shot over Duke.

But perhaps you need some further motivation to choose VCU as your Cinderella team, or at least your first round upset. Well, here's some things to consider...

  • Barack Obama selected VCU as a first-round upset in his bracket, probably as part of his hope and change mantra...you like hope and change...don't you?
  • The Caps have Russians and so do we! Kirill Pischalnikov is a young forward on the VCU team from Maykop, Russia. I'm sure Ovie would cheer for him!
  • Star point guard Eric Maynor is probably better than half of the current players on the Washington Wizards.
  • Eric Maynor is also likely to be the first player from VCU drafted in the NBA draft. Here's your chance to say "Yeah, I knew about him before he was a star..."
  • You won't win a bracket pool by making safe bets, and you'll impress your friends when you get to say "Yeah, I totally called VCU beating UCLA and Villanova..."
  • The Rams are playing in Philly, and a team from Virginia winning in Philly is just as good as the Caps beating the Flyers. So VCU = Caps, UCLA/Villanova = Flyers.
  • It's the only time you could wear black and gold and not feel filthy.
Enjoy the tournament and I'll have a pre-Cap up for the Bolts game later.

Also, if you need a bracket to join, Japers' Rink is running one through Comcast in a contest against the SB Nation Wizards blog Bullets Forever.

V C U

GO RAMS GO

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rule of Eights, Part 9

Keeping things in perspective: Divide the season into 10 8-game blocks (plus two "bonus" games); score 10 points per block for 100 points and a trip to the playoffs.

9th 8: 4-3-1, 9 pts. Playing good Cap, bad Cap: three losses followed by three wins, followed by a bad loss, followed by a good win.
8th 8: 5-3-0, 10 pts. Three home-game losses (Avalanche, Flyers, Panthers) as trade deadline looms.
7th 8: 5-1-2, 12 pts. Mike Green sets NHL consecutive-games goal record for defensemen.
6th 8: 4-4-0, 8 pts. Three-game losing streak broken by big wins over Pittsburgh, Boston.
5th 8: 7-1-0, 14 pts. Six-game win streak, seven of last eight, 13 of last 15 -- fastest start in team history. Fifty-five points total at the halfway point of the blocks.
4th 8: 6-2-0, 12 pts. Injured stars return, sparking a four-game winning streak.
3rd 8: 3-4-1, 7 pts. Grueling road trip produces enough injured Caps players to form an All-Star team.
2nd 8: 6-1-1, 13 pts. Semin sizzling, Ovechkin-Backstrom getting hotter, and two, count 'em, two No. 1 goalies ... got our 10, plus 3 for the "bank."
1st 8: 4-3-1, 9 pts. Injury-scrambled lines and a Backstrom-Ovechkin "dead zone" ... coming up 1 point short isn't too bad an effort.

The Playoff Carousel

When the buzzer sounds on the third period of tonight's bout, the Capitals will have played 72 games of 82 regular season games. With 10 scheduled games left, the Caps have already locked themselves in for a slot in the postseason.

Boston and New Jersey have already locked in their playoff slots as well, and barring any disastrous meltdowns or slumps the Caps are pretty much playing for second place right now. It's possible the Caps could go on a 10-0 run to take first, but considering the Devils have 93 points and three games in hand on both the Bruins and Caps, it's not likely.

For the teams ranked fourth to eighth, who they will play will come down to the last game of the season, which might put the top slotted teams at a disadvantage as they may not get the matchup they were hoping for.

So exactly who should we be rooting for as the season winds down? And which matchup would be the most advantageous for the Capitals? Let's take a look at current seeds four through nine to break it down.

Currently #4: Philadelphia Flyers (84 points)
Season series: 2-2
Why we want them: Revenge. The Capitals would likely be motivated by the first round exit the Flyers handed them last year, and in both 2-1 wins the Capitals matched the Flyers' muscle and controlled those games.
Why we don't want them: While the Capitals did have two impressive 2-1 victories, their 7-1 loss and 4-2 loss make it hard to recommend the Flyers are a first round foe. The Caps have had a Jekyll and Hyde season against the Flyers, and if the wrong Caps team shows up to play it could be another early exit.
CK's Take: We're rooting for the Pens and Flyers to stay put in the fourth and fifth slots. We'd love nothing more than to see the two evils kill each other off a rematch of last year's Conference Championship in the first round.

Currently #5: Pittsburgh Penguins (82 points)
Season Series: 3-1 (SO loss)
Why we want them: The Capitals have downright dominated the Pens this season, and even in their only loss they managed to steal a point.
Why we don't want them: History. The Pens have downright dominated the Caps in postseason play, even when the series is in the Caps favor. The Pens are hotter than they've been all season thanks to their new coach and deadline acquisitions, making Pittsburgh one of the deadliest first round teams.
CK's take: This Caps team is talented enough to dispatch the Pens, but given the history between the two clubs it's best to avoid troubled waters until you absolutely must ford them.

Currently #6: Montreal Canadiens (80 points)
Season Series: 3-1 (SO loss)
Why we want them: The Canadiens somewhat resemble Ottawa of last year. A talented team that started the season hot and then hit some major bumps as the season wound down. The Caps have had a great deal of success when playing the Habs, and their only regulation loss was a one-goal game.
Why we don't want them: It's their 100th anniversary as a team, so you know the motivation to perform well in the postseason is there. Outside of the Caps' 3-0 shutout in November, games with the Canadiens have been determined by one goal or the shootout. The Caps aren't necessarily dominating the Canadiens, and a few bad breaks for Montreal got the season series to where it is.
CK's take: The Habs won't be the easiest matchup out there if they manage to stay in the playoff race. They have their 100th anniversary, a new coach, and playoff-experienced team to their credit, although their recent slides make them vulnerable. It's a favorable matchup, but given how well the Panthers, Canes and Rangers are playing, there may not be enough room for the Habs in April. Also, keep this equation in mind. Alex Ovechkin + hockey's largest stage = Great success.

Currently #7: New York Rangers (80 points)
Season Series: 3-1 (SO loss)
Why we want them: A shutout, a come-from-behind victory, a one-goal game and a SO loss. Not bad considering the Rangers have one of the best goaltenders in the world (Henrik Lundqvist) and the Caps' big wins over the Blueshirts came on the road. Much like the Canadiens, the Rangers started hot and now are on the brink of making tee times.
Why we don't want them: The Rangers fired their coach and brought in John Tortorella, the man who authored the Tampa Bay Lightning's Stanley Cup run. The Rangers also have Henrik Lundqvist, a world class goaltender.
CK's take: The Caps have one of the best power plays in the league, and the Rangers have one of the most bone-headed agitators in the league in Sean Avery. I think you see where I am going with this one. If the Rangers manage to stay in the playoff race, this is one of the best matchups for the Caps. This applies too: Alex Ovechkin + one of hockey's largest stages = Great success.

Currently #8: Carolina Hurricanes (79 points)
Season Series: 3-2 (one game remaining)
Why we want them: They're a divisional opponent that the Caps are familiar with. The Caps have had dominating performances against the Canes, and of the two losses to Carolina one came on the heels of a back-to-back set of games and the other during a four-game slump. Let's not forget Alex Semin's year-long harassment of Carolina: He has 13 points in four games against the Canes (6 goals 7 assists).
Why we don't want them: Goalie Cam Ward has been solid for the Canes, and the re-acquisition of Erik Cole brings back another veteran from their Stanley Cup winning team. There's also the issue that the Canes are just as familiar with our system as the Caps are with theirs. With a maximum of 13 games that could be played by the two clubs, sometimes it's best if your opponent isn't someone you see six times a year.
CK's take: The Canes haven't been a problem team, and when the Caps are on their game they outmatch Carolina. Many consider the Southeast Division to be a "cupcake" division, but the Capitals' worst record against Eastern Conference divisions is from, you guessed it, the Southeast. We wouldn't mind this matchup, but we'd prefer the Rangers or Canadiens.

Currently #9: Florida Panthers (78 points) On the outside looking in
Season Series: 2-2 (2 games left)
Why we want them: If the Panthers make the playoffs, they'll be one of the most inexperienced teams in postseason play. That doesn't mean they'll be bad, it just means they'll need to be quick learners like the Caps were in last year's playoffs. The Caps, already scarred from one playoff exit, have the advantage of being the "old pros" in this matchup.
Why we don't want them: Once again, they're a Southeast Division opponent who are familiar with the Caps and have authored some big wins over the Caps (6-2, 5-3). They have one of the best two-way goaltending duos in the league, and if they manage to surge into the playoffs with a streak of wins they'll likely carry that momentum into the postseason.
CK's take: Florida reminds me a bit of the Caps last year. They're a talented team that will need to play near-flawless hockey if they want to make the postseason, which could exhaust them when the puck drops in the postseason.

So, who've ya got? Are there any matchups you'd like other teams to have? Is there another reason you'd want to see or miss a certain team?
 
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