Thursday, April 16, 2009

We MOVED On Up

To a deluxe blog hosted by Bloguin.

That's right. Capitals Kremlin is now a member of the Bloguin.

So what are you doing here anyway! Get over to the NEW Capitals Kremlin!

Just click on the jalopy to your left, or any of the links we scattered about.

- Reed "CK"

How Thin is the Ice For Theo?

Today's big topic of discussion? Varlamov (or if you're Lisa Hillary, Var-MA-lov) or Theodore in Game 2?

There's no beating around the bush here. Theodore was awful in his Capitals postseason debut. Just about as awful as he was in his Capitals regular season debut, but to his credit, the defense didn't exactly show up to play either -- on both occasions.

In the last two games, Florida and New York, Theodore has more than lived up to his nickname, "Three Or More," with a 5.00 GAA. The save percentage isn't much better, it's an embarrassing .838.

Looking at Theodore's recent postseason past, last night's game isn't exactly a far cry from what he's used to.

He opened last year's playoffs with a 3-2 win over the Wild, and then dropped two straight one goal games, 3-2. After that, he won three straight with 5-1, 3-2 and 2-1 margins of victory. He then dropped all four to the Red Wings, allowing more four or more goals in all of those games.

No word on how soft those goals were, but considering how many one goal games he had, and he was on a defensive minded team in Colorado, there's room for optimism.

Considering that in spite of a Theodorian effort in net, and a non-existent defense at times, the Capitals only lost by one goal. Theodore doesn't need to play like Vezina for the Capitals to win this series, he just needs to be decent. The Capitals offense is more than capable of carrying Theodore on their backs, but the jury is still out on if Theo can carry the Capitals.

So given last night's performance, and Theodore's past, is it really plausible that the Capitals should take the risk of running with Varlamov in the aftermath of a one goal game?

The Aftermath: Game One

Clunk...rump....clunk...squish

Hear that? That's the sound of Theodore being thrown under the bus. It's okay, he already threw himself under there, so go ahead and stare as the Caps Fan Express repeatedly rolls back and forth over him.

While many fans, bloggers and analysts will continue to bang on the "Theo sucks!" drum, allow me to deviate for a few moments before I grab my mallet and start hitting with you.

The Good

Caps outshot the Rangers 14-4 in the first period. Not scoring with that sort of offensive production is rare. If the Caps did that every game, good lord.

Alex Ovechkin showed up to play: He had two assists and 13 shots on goal. Henrik isn't going to stop 13 shots from Ovie every single night, and it's amazing he was able to stop many of them tonight.

Alex Ovechkin also led the team in hits given, 6. Yeah, he's in playoff form.

The next man behind him? John Erskine, with 5. Erskine needs to bring his physical game every night if the Caps want to win; this is a great start.

Viktor Kozlov got his first NHL playoff goal. Good on him. He also got the goal at a key time, when the Caps were down 3-1 going out in the second. His goal created an enormous amount of momentum, and the Caps need guys like Kozlov to contribute.

The Caps destroyed in the faceoff circle. Boyd Gordon was 80% on the night, and the Caps as a team won 70% of their faceoffs.

Speaking of faceoffs, the Capitals won 80% of their shorthanded faceoffs. Glad to have you back, Boyd. Seriously.

Caps power play went two for seven, which is good and bad. Good because the Rangers were called for lots of penalties, bad because, well, you can see below.

The Bad
Jose Theodore's first goal: Seriously?

In his defense, the officiating was horrible on that first goal. The refs missed two calls, a trip and an interference (correct me if I'm wrong), which enabled Gomez to have that breakaway.

Still, that wasn't the hardest shot in the world, and you need to save those in the playoffs.

Jeff Schultz's jock is still somewhere in the Verizon Center. If you find it, burn it, he doesn't deserve it after that play. He got schooled by Brandon Dubinsky with a through-the-legs pass, and then fell to the ice and watched.

But enough joking around on Schultz. To be honest, Sarge didn't have such a bad game until that moment, but sadly, you're remembered for what you didn't do when you lose. I expect Schultz to bounce back, but let's be honest, that was a nightmare of a play for Schultz.

Live, learn, move on.

What good is it to have Brooks Laich screening Lundqvist on the power play if you're not going to shoot at him. Memo to Green and Ovechkin, don't pass back-and-forth nonstop when you have a guy screening, unleash that dragon and let Laich collect the rebound/deflect it!

Okay that's not really bad, just an observation, Caps could stand to shoot more on the PP when Laich is up front.

Tonight's Avery Effect Scale: Category 2 Avery.

Avery went after Mike Green (called it) and was the perfect pest. His late game spat with Theo looks like trouble, and Ovechkin is actively trying to clock Avery with a big-rig check. Yup, we're playing into his hands, boys.

Also, the DC Sports Bog, almost on cue, has a story about Avery and his agitation. Category 2 Avery confirmed.

In conclusion
Tough loss in a game that started as pure domination, turned into dominated, and then went into a hair-raising third period.

If the goaltending was just a little bit better, and the defense was a little bit sharper, this would have been a win -- an ugly win, but a win.

Theo needs to get focused, the defense needs to tighten up, and the Capitals need to keep pounding away at Lundqvist with shots.

Hey, at least we weren't as bad as Philly. ::shutter::

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why We'll Lose -- Five Playoff Pitfalls

We're just about an hour away from the puck drop, and judging from some of the fans' attitudes toward the New York Rangers you'd think that rose-colored glasses were the fan giveaway.

I'm a fan myself. I want to win as much as you do, but for a moment let's be realistic. Fans are at their best when they are being critical of their own team, and it's for that reason I've decided to list the five reasons the Capitals will exit the playoffs.

#5: Discipline
If you're like me, then you're getting sick of offensive zone stick penalties. The Capitals have earned the second highest amount of PIMs this year, and they're not doing it through fighting majors. Skill players can often get caught being desperate when they blow an assignment or get caught off-guard. Considering the Capitals' penalty kill is not in the top half of the league, if the Caps are on the penalty kill consistently, the Caps will lose consistently.

#4: Falling off the system
The Capitals don't necessarily lose to bad teams -- it's more or less that they beat themselves in those games. The Capitals' offensive system is a flashy, exciting brand of hockey, but when the Caps find the offensive wheels spinning in mud, they resort to selfish plays and high-risk passes. If the Capitals fall out of their system, their offense falls apart, and then it's up to Jose Theodore to save the day. Whoopie.

#3: Run Run Theo
The Philadelphia Flyers absolutely had their way with Cristobal Huet. They ran him left and right, they got in his face, they never gave him a chance to settle down and play. Did Erskine dish out any punishment? Did Brashear get in the Flyers' faces? No. When the Caps finally began to stick up for Huet, it was Game Seven. So does it surprise you that if Theodore gets the Huet treatment, they'll have one shaky goalie between their pipes who's not focused on stopping the puck?

#2: One Liners
Not only can the Capitals not fall into a one-track-mind offensive system, but they also need to rely on secondary scorers if they want to advance. Let's face it, when Mike Green, Alex Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are on the same line, it's usually because a) it's a power play or b) we are desperately looking for a goal. If Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich, Sergei Fedorov and Tomas Fleischmann don't step up and put goals in the net, it's going to be tough to advance. It's possible, the Ottawa Senators advanced years ago with one line, but they didn't win a Cup. Just marinate on that.

#1: Don't put it all on Theo
Here's my favorite prognostication that EVERYONE is making. "Theodore has to be great if the Caps wan't to win." Um, no, how about the defense needs to give Theodore a chance? I'm not saying Theodore is the greatest goalie ever, and I'm not excusing soft goals and poor play, but I will say this: Theodore's play is almost always connected to the defense's play. If the defense is poor, how can you expect Theodore to be great? Great goaltenders usually have great defenses in front of them; do you think Marty Brodeur wins every game by himself? Theodore needs to be good, he could be average and the Caps could still win, but if the Caps defense doesn't give Theo the support he needs, we're not going anywhere this postseason.

If we can avoid those pitfalls, who knows what we can achieve? This team has the talent to do great things, that is, if they can focus and play smart hockey.

T-minus one hour til puck drop.

LET'S GO CAPS

Hard Rocking the Red

h/t to Eric McErlain

It seems that the rock band persona that the Capitals embody for their pre-game videos has inspired actual rock bands to don the team colors on stage.

Meet Misery Index, a group of scruffy hard-rockers who love the Caps as much as we do.

Check out the article here.

"But the metal band doing the most day-to-day grunt work to support the Caps is the Baltimore-Silver Spring four-piece Misery Index. Guitarist Sparky Voyles can usually be found sporting one of his many Caps or Hershey Bears jerseys on stage — often tailoring what he wears to provoke the crowd if he's in a rival town, or to pay compliments to a current Caps player who made time in other cities (i.e., he dons Donald Brasher gear in Philly, Montreal and Vancouver).

Like Misery Index bassist-vocalist Jason Netherton, Voyle has been going to games since the early 1980s, living and dying with every Capitals playoff heartbreaker."




"Ovie and the Caps" might be able to get a party started, but these guys look like they'll kick your teeth in and then wail out a slick guitar solo if you so much as look cock-eyed at their Caps jerseys.

For some reason I keep getting the image of the Guitar Hero commercial where Coach K and their others slide out in the underwear, only to be told by Metallica that in order to rock out pants must be worn (The Red Hot Chili Peppers disagree).


I just imagine the Caps sliding out holding their little guitars and then Misery Index looking at them and face palming. Yeah the boys could use some serious help in the "rocking out" department.

Perhaps Misery Index could provide some tips.

Blogger Superstitions

Do you wear a specific jersey to a game? Do you have a special chair that only you may sit in? Have you ever thrown a hissy fit because something wasn't exactly as it was supposed to be before a game?

Just like the NHL players we adore, fans adhere to their own strange and odd superstitions. Others take pleasure in seeing others torture themselves with stupid beliefs that are usually futile.

As someone who follows a few quirky pre-game rituals myself, I decided that I would go in search of other hockey bloggers who may be a little loony before the puck drops.

We asked some of the blogosphere's best to contribute, but just a few schmoes responded...

Greg Wyshynski - Editor of Puck Daddy

"I will reveal two superstitions from when I was a wee lad in Matawan, NJ that I'm not sure I ever revealed before on the Web.

I used to believe that the New Jersey Devils' play could be affected by my drinking pink lemonade from a specific plastic cup in the house, with ice cubes. If I failed to properly execute this voodoo ... well, how do you think Matteau scored in Game 7 of the Rangers series in 1994, huh?

It was my fault.

Once in a while, when the Devils would be playing poorly (as they would occasionally before ruining hockey with their defense), I would throw a tantrum. Tossing the remote control, telling my father how gutless the team was and how I was revoking my fandom. I would do this because I felt it would, again, somehow affect the team. When they'd rally ... well, obviously my vibes traveled all the way to Edmonton through the Sportschannel feed. When they didn't ... well, I'd just get back in front of the TV with my lemonade and do it all again next game."

DC Sports Chick - On Frozen Blog
My husband is significantly superstitious when it concerns the Capitals. He frequently only wears certain jerseys, T-shirts, or hats (or combination thereof) if it "works" when the Caps win. If they lose, I'll never see him wear that combination or even various articles of clothing again, even when the Caps aren't playing or if hockey is out of season. In fact, we just had a long conversation yesterday where he was debating the merits of wearing his red Clark jersey or his Ovechkin "Rock the Red" shirt to tomorrow night's game. Normally I just laugh at him when he has these discussions, but I know the playoffs are serious business.

Vance and Denson - BanginPanger.com
It's funny. There's two of us that write over at BanginPanger, and we couldn't be more polar opposites when it comes to superstitions. Myself? I don't buy into it, as a matter of fact, I will literally antagonize anyone into doing their little sideshow good luck dance a) because it's funny as hell and b) they actually believe knocking on wood will alter the course of the contest. The closest thing a superstition I've got? Well, I do go by hunches as to what jersey to wear, does that count? No? Oh well, still don't care.

So if you couldn't figure it out, Denson goes all out, constantly knocking on wood, wearing the same clothes - down to the socks (unwashed), sitting in the same seat for each game, drinking the same drinks, it goes on and on. One time, one of his buddies wasn't there, but I wasn't allowed to sit in his seat, I sat in it anyway. They still won. I must've upheld the spirit of the Pittsburgh fan, or something. Oh well, still don't care.


Kevin Schultz - Barry Melrose Rocks
Playoff superstitions? You kidding me? PLAYOFF superstitions? I just hope we can win another game!


It's kind of hard to have any playoff superstitions when you're an Islanders fan. I've been to exactly one Islander playoff game in my life. That was Game Three against Toronto back in 2003. That was a special season and it was the first playoff game at the Coliseum since 1994 when we got embarrassed by the Rangers. It was EPIC. It's the only game I've been to (the following postseasons blew and did not necessarily warrant shelling out money to see) but it was awesome. I've got no superstitions. One game in addition to a crappy team to root for, no traditions or superstitions can really get started.

But one game is enough to realize what makes the playoffs, and the Cup, so awesome. Any taste of the playoffs means your team has a chance. And any taste of the playoffs is probably going to have it's fair share of epic moments. Even if your team loses in the first round, it can make all the suffering, all the horrendous seasons, all the bad, worth it.

Notice how I said "it can." That doesn't necessarily mean that it does.

In fact, if your team has been good for almost as long as you can remember, screw you. Success probably doesn't taste that good to you. It's the norm. You haven't suffered. You haven't lived.

And I'm jealous as hell.

Reed "CK" - Capitals Kremlin

Back during the Jagr days, my Dad and I would watch games together on two easy chairs in our basement. These chairs were a link to the Caps, and when the Capitals (i.e. Jagr) were playing particularly poor, we'd switch chairs in hopes that our good vibes would be broadcast to the team. When our switch-a-roo worked, we'd be filled with pride, as if we had assisted that game-tying-goal.

In fact, the scoresheet for many games in the early 2000's should read, (Bondra 12, Oates 9, Easy Chair 10, 18:36 Third Period).


These days I'm a bit nutty about which Capitals attire I don for a game. I have an Ovechkin and Laich t-shirt, and i
t's my personal belief that jerseys should only be worn when at a game. Only on special occasions may a jersey breach the living room.

So when it comes time to choosing a shirt to wear I weigh in various factors such as point streaks, recent playing trends, and if I think the player needs that extra "supernatural" boost from me.
Most of the time I just go with the shirt that was involved in a recent win, although my Laich and Ovechkin are both tainted with losses.

This can't be good...

Got a superstition of your own? We'd love to hear it! Have at it in the comments!

(Thanks to our guest blogger panel, they're not really schmoes, except for that Caps Kremlin guy...be sure to check out their sites for daily content during the playoffs!)

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Rangers - Game One

And so it begins.

Just about everything there is to be said about this matchup has been said over the past five days. The Caps need strong goaltending, the Rangers need to keep pace with the caps' offense, the Caps need to punish on the power play, the Rangers need to keep the puck out of the Caps' stars' hands.

The laundry list of "do's" and "don'ts" is pages long, but at the end of it all, the team that simply comes out the hardest will take home a Game One victory. Setting the tone of the game in each period is just as important as the goals that are scored in that period.

The team that sets the tone each period and forces the opposition to play their game is likely going to win this game and series.

The Capitals need to come out and make the Rangers play the Caps' game, a fast, skill-based offensive system that exposes defenders who can't cover the Caps' stars. The Rangers offense is balanced, but it's not nearly as explosive as the Capitals.

If the Capitals can make the Rangers spend most of the game playing from behind, then the Rangers will never have a chance to contain the Capitals stars because they'll be too busy trying to even up the score.

With regards to Jose Theodore, when the Capitals offense is clicking, Theodore is clicking. When the Capitals offense is stymied, then Theodore often falls victim to lazy defensive plays, leaving him wide open. The stronger the Caps play, the stronger Theodore plays.

Given the potency of the Capitals offense, the Rangers can't afford to get into a shootout with Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin. So they'll likely come out looking to frustrate the Capitals stars and throw them off of the Caps offensive system.

Think back to the Colorado Avalanche loss in February. The Avalanche stuffed the neutral zone with defenders, making it hard for the Caps to move in to the offensive zone. Eventually the Capitals got so frustrated they resorted to end-to-end passes that were often intercepted and turned into odd-man rushes.

If the Rangers can slow down the pace of play, then goalie Henrik Lundqvist is going to have a much easier time dealing with the Capitals offense as he'll likely see less quality shots on goal against him.

Of course another intangible factor is the stress level for each team. The Rangers come into this series having almost missed the playoffs. Analysts are already writing them off as first-round exits and I doubt Ranger fans will be crying many tears if that does happen.

But for the Capitals, they are opening the playoffs in front of a sellout crowd that won't settle for a first-round exit. They won't even settle for the fact that they have back-to-back division titles. This Caps team is expected to do great things, and analysts are calling for them to go as far as the Stanley Cup.

For the Caps, this opening night is a statement about whether or not the fans' and analysts' good faith is warranted. For the Rangers, hey, they're just happy to be here, and they'll happily send the Caps out if given the chance.

The playoffs are a marathon and a sprint all at the same time. And what's true in racing, is also true in hockey. How you start each race, is just as important as how you finish it.

It's imperative that the Caps hit their stride early and not stumble off the blocks.

LET'S GO CAPS

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dog vs. ESPN Analysts -- The Picks Are In!

Is this the year that a dog outsmarts the ESPN analysts?

Alright, you've seen the dog video; now see the analysts' picks!

Here's an easy-to-read chart to help you keep track of Rodney's progress against the analysts.

Rodney is going against the grain, choosing the Blues when everyone chose the Canucks. Blues fans should be so honored. Barry Melrose and Rodney could be big winners if the Ducks pull through with a first-round upset, and Buccigross and Rodney are both feeling kinda Devil-ish.

Rodney took the company line with the Capitals, Bruins, Red Wings and Blackhawks, but if you want to win these bracket things, you've gotta choose the upsets.

Pretty strong bracket for a dog, if I may say so myself.

Here's the video for those who are just joining us for this feature.

It's the Freakin' Playoffs...Update the Logo!

Barry Melrose and E.J. Hradek break down the Caps and Rangers series, but it's hard to take them seriously when they still think our team wears black and gold.



Gee, I think I remember seeing this somewhere...

Don't let the still image behind the play button fool you either.

Big posts for tomorrow, make sure to check out CapsFans and, for the record, 24 hours until the drop of the puck!

LET'S GO CAPS!

Introducing @CapsFans -- A Caps Twitter Community

If you haven't heard, Twitter is kinda a big deal, like Ron Burgundy big deal. So if you're one of those people who love their Twitter accounts and love the social community that Twitter provides, then you'll love this new feature we've cooked up.

Introducing CapsFans. CapsFans is a Twitter bot that re-tweets messages sent to it and broadcasts them to every follower of CapsFans. CapsFans makes it possible to connect to other fans, without having to find and follow them through your own Twitter account.

Here's how it works.


Instead of scouring the Twitter "phonebook" to find red-rockers, simply send Capsfans a message and the bot will broadcast it for you to followers of the bot. No need to go looking for other fans when Capsfans can find them for you!

Use it to talk about the game. Post a news or blog item that you enjoyed for everyone to see. Coordinate a fan movement or lead a cheer, and have fun enjoying your favorite team in 140 characters or less.

Here's our tutorial:
Step One: Join Twitter and create an account.
Step Two: Follow CapsFans.
Step Three: Tweet CapsFans by typing @CapsFans in the message field.
Step Four: Watch as your message is broadcast and see people respond!

CapsFans can be tweeted from any device you want. Use it on your laptop or desktop. Are you at the game and want everyone to watch you dance? Post a photo from your computer, or the view from your sweet seats from your camera phone on CapsFans for all to see! Tweet CapsFans from your Blackberry or mobile phone!

We'll stop acting like Billy Mays, but the point is, CapsFans is a great way to use Twitter to chat about your favorite team on the Internet's latest darling.

Hart Watch: Campbellnomics

Evgeni Malkin may have won the Art Ross Trophy, but the Hart Trophy is still up for grabs and, depending on which stats are most important to voters, Alex Ovechkin might be the front-runner for the league's MVP honor.

So if we were to use Campbellnomics, a stat system that judges players based on the importance of goals and points scored, who would be the front-runner?

Well two Russians lead the NHL in key goals scored. Their names? Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.

Here's what the leaderboard looks like at the conclusion of the NHL season.

So the question is: Is quality of points more important than quantity? I think yes.

Oh and before you ask, Mike Green is the Campbellnomics leader for defenders.

Welcome to the Jungle

Most analysts' prognostications are out today and, for the most part, it's nothing we haven't heard before. But The Hockey News caught my attention with one particular item about the Caps.

They call it the x-factor.

"Washington has the league's third-best home record, while the Rangers stumbled on the road, posting a 4-12-3 mark in their final 19 contests away from Madison Square Garden. Winning even one game in the jungle that promises to be Verizon Center will be a tall order for New York."

Welcome to the red jungle.

Possible Ice Sheet Disaster of Mystics Proportions?

We all know how great the Verizon Center ice is, right? You know, the ice that Chris Clark dubbed the worst he'd ever played on, the ice that may or may not have contributed to at least one Olie Kolzig injury, and the ice that sparked an opposing player to ask, "How do you play on this?"

Well, the slop and slush that the Capitals have played on for far too long is about to get some time to sit dormant, chill and set.

Monday night, the Washington Wizards concluded their abysmal season with their final home game against the Toronto Raptors. With no postseason for the Wizards this year, the Capitals will have exclusive use of Verizon Center through April.

That means no changing a b-ball court to an ice rink in one day. If anything, the Verizon Center should be at peak ice conditions by next week for a possible game five, seven, and future playoff bouts if the Caps can stay alive.

Imagine that, an entire month devoted just to hockey and to cultivating a perfect pond for Ovechkin to blaze across. The only hiccup in this dream is when "The Boss" comes to D.C. in May.

On May 18, Bruce Springsteen comes to town. After the 18th, if anyone is going to blame anyone for the ice quality, it's only fitting that someone from New Jersey, a possible late playoff opponent, could be the culprit.

After the Springsteen show, there's a short layoff in Verizon Center usage, and if the Capitals are playing hockey in late May, they may grow accustomed to the better-than-usual ice -- that is until the Washington Mystics start the WNBA season.

The Mystics are scheduled for a preseason game May 28, and a regular season game June 7. Both dates could fall during the Eastern Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals and at critical times in those series.

Great, the Mystics, the team that embarrasses our fair city with "Attendance Championship" banners that were earned by giving out free tickets, could indirectly cause the puck to bounce and bobble in Game Seven and prevent a worthy banner from hanging from the rafters.



We all know how great the Verizon Center's ice is when the Capitals are sharing with Georgetown and the Wizards. Granted it's not basketball's complete fault, but given the fact that the Verizon Center ice still has not improved despite frequent outcries from fans and players, I'm not optimistic.

To be fair, this could all be sour grapes grown from numerous stories of bad ice. In the end, the Mystics may not influence anything at all. But to go from having the Verizon Center exclusively to sharing it with a WNBA team during the most important time of the NHL playoffs is hard to swallow.

We're not trying to start a controversy. We're just stating the obvious. Basketball + Verizon Center + ice hockey = crappy ice.

So does it worry you that if the Capitals were to go deep in the playoffs, ice issues could arise at a critical time in the playoffs because of the Mystics?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cold Pizza: Onus, ABCs and Snuggies

I don't know what's worse: the Nationals' 100-loss season or Nationals "snuggies." Life foul. [DC Sports Bog]

Coach Boudreau has opened the floor for the Sean Avery debate. We here at the Capitals Kremlin Avery Awareness Center (CKAAC) are calling for a category two Avery appearance on Wednesday. Please take proper precautions. [Capitals Insider]

Jimmy Jazz has a rundown on some of the best Capitals goals of 2008-2009. [Tic Tac Toe Hockey]

Fanhouse has simulated an entire season of NHL 09 to see who will win the Stanley Cup! The Eastern Conference Finals was a Boston vs. Washington series that went to seven games and saw the Caps falter in the seventh. [NHL Fanhouse]

BMR and Greg Wyshynski have a preview of the upcoming snoozefest exciting playoff series between the Devils and Canes. [Barry Melrose Rocks]

Learn your ABCs Captals style. [The Hockey Writers]

Check out who's the "Onus" at Bangin Panger! (And yes, we almost typed anus) We guest blogged our choice and join other greats like Cycle Like the Sedin's there. [Bangin' Panger]



Hey, how'd that awesome video that is single-handedly taking down Maggie the Monkey and the TSN analysts get there?

Dog vs. Analysts: Rodney Picks First Round of NHL Playoffs

We've all said it or heard it:

"A dog is smarter than that guy! His picks are stupid!"

With the Stanley Cup playoffs come analysts whose picks don't always go over well with the fans. Be it Mike Milbury, Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun or homer newspaper sports columnists, analysts make picks that sometimes make us scratch our heads and let out a collective "Huh?"

Let's face it, being a hockey commentator is like being a weatherman, but with even less accountability. No offense, but it's time to put the age-old phrase to the test.

That's where my dog comes in. Rodney is a 2-year-old, 20-pound Pomeranian. He's a great dog (he watches televised games with me), so when it came time to make first-round picks for the NHL playoffs I could think of no better candidate to put the "pros" in their place.

Here's how it worked: I took a Milkbone, split it in half and placed the halves on pieces of paper labeled with the teams in question. Rodney was removed from the room while I set up the matchup. When all was ready, he was brought in. The first treat he put in his mouth is "the winner."

Without further delay, Rodney the Pomeranian vs. the Hockey Analysts. (Run time 2:14)



We'll be keeping track of how Rodney does in the first round, and when the second round is set we'll have his picks up as well.

Want to challenge Rodney?

Check out our friends at The Pensblog! They've set up an incredible "Rinkotology" application to benefit the Mario Lemieux Foundation. It's free to play, and they're raised over $7,000 for cancer research.

Also, you can play round-by-round at NHL.com.

Got an animal that you think can best Rodney? Send us the video/photos and we'll post it up here on CK. Email us at capitalskremlin@gmail.com

Here's one challenger, Daisy the Pug.

Eric Fehr: Grimace of a Champion

("...of a Champion" is a feature focusing on Capitals who are key cogs to a playoff run, but not point leaders)

He may not be the Caps' most prolific scorer, he may not have the playmaking abilities of those above him on the depth chart, but Eric Fehr is the type of player who can decide a series on one hard-hustling shift.

When the Caps win, Fehr is usually in a victory photo, grimacing. It's just photographic evidence of how hard he battles. Consider this: The Caps are 39-16-6 when Eric Fehr is in the lineup, the Caps are 11-8-2 when Fehr is absent from the lineup.

Here's another photo of Eric Fehr grimacing.

This time, he's grimacing as he drives the net. Most photos of Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin driving the net feature them with their tongues out, eyes wide open and a dead-eyed stare at the corner they're about to pick. Eric Fehr's grimace is that of someone who literally has to work to get a goal, and when Fehr scores the Caps win. The Caps are 10-1-1 this season when Eric Fehr scores, and 16-3-1 when he records a point.

Here's a rare picture of Jeff Schultz clearing someone while Eric Fehr grimaces and chases the puck. Fehr is tied with Alex Ovechkin at plus 8 on the season, although he only averages 11 minutes of ice team a game. But keep this in mind: His season-high ice time (15:51) was recorded in the Dec. 23 comeback victory over the Rangers, a game that Fehr scored a goal in.

Here's to you, Eric Fehr; may your grimace lead us to victory in the first round and beyond.

NHL Playoff Commercials: Bruins

When the playoffs approach, each NHL team must prepare commercials and marketing plans for their playoff runs.

Some teams, such as the Panthers, will never have those ads see the light of day. But for teams like the Bruins and Capitals, it's time to enjoy the hard work that was put into these ads months ago.

As they come out, we'll post them here for your enjoyment. Our first entry into the playoff commercial world:

The Boston Bruins





Hilarious.

"Scientifically" Measuring the Avery Effect

Sean Avery. The very mention of his name makes Marty Brodeur annoyed, Dion Phanuef jealous and every Dallas Stars fan convulse in fits of rage until a nurse can properly administer a dose of morphine.

The chance for Sean Avery to do something outrageous this postseason is high, but just how much damage will Avery cause to any one team?

To better help fans gauge and understand Sean Avery's antics, we developed a damage measurement system that clearly outlines when a player or team has been “Avery’d.”

Never before has Sean Avery been put under a microscope for the benefit of sports science, but thanks to the slave-labor hard-working staff at Capitals Kremlin we now have the A.E.S.

The Avery Effect Scale (AES) will accurately gauge the damage caused by an Avery attack in your city on a scale of one to five. The AES number is compiled by determining the severity of numerous events that occur before, during and after a game.

There are many factors that we could list, but instead, we have this handy outline of what each Avery category usually consists of.

Category One Avery: Team is unfettered by Avery’s antics. Avery is ineffective on the scoresheet and in the minds of opposing players. Fans are mocking his lame attempts to goad players into fights and minors, and his own teammates are embarrassed to be near him. Avery is not talking trash.

Category Two Avery: Minor role players are targeted and annoyed. Avery is backing down from confrontations with bigger players. Analysts are commenting on Avery’s amount of “energy,” and Avery is on the scoresheet. Fans are annoyed, but they are far from ready to cry foul. Avery is making snide remarks that are dismissed as “nothing.” Fans are doubting that Avery is going to be a factor in the series.

Category Three Avery: Star players are somewhat annoyed. Role players are frequently goaded into bad penalties. Avery has scored a key goal. Avery is hanging around the crease far too often. Avery is barking at your players from the bench and his post game comments boarder on “jerk” to “douche bag.” Analysts won’t shut up about how great a pest he is. Fans are complaining but believe their enforcers will "handle the situation."

Category Four Avery: Star players are visibly annoyed with Avery. Avery is on the scoresheet more than once and may or may not have been the key player in the game. Enforcer players are useless as Avery is turtling and finding ways out of physical altercations. The goalie is now annoyed, and Avery is in his crease 24/7. Before the game, Avery has made a cryptic attack at a player on your team. Don Cherry has mentioned he is “unhappy” with Avery. After the game, Avery is swarmed by media and in the lead of any game story. Gary Bettman is worried. There is a possible new rule in the making. Fans are on message boards and blogs crying foul and booing Avery every time he touches the puck.

Category Five Avery: Hell on ice. Avery is the game's first star. Star players are useless as Avery’s douche-baggery has stunted their production completely. Goalie is being screened, hit, and constantly throwing fits to referees. Analysts are disgusted over Avery. Avery is the lead story on "Hockey Night in Canada,” and Don Cherry’s suit reflects the seriousness of the rant. Gary Bettman is scrambling to create a new rule. Fans are slitting wrists in stands while bringing signs depicting Avery as Meryl Streep from "The Devil Wears Prada." Women’s rights groups are picketing Rangers games. Sean Avery's name is one step closer to being on the Stanley Cup.

As you can see, the Avery effect is no laughing matter. Just ask the denizens of Dallas, whose team was left in a smoking, smoldering heap of failure and disappointment.

We’ll keep you updated here at CK after each game to determine the severity of each Avery attack. Remember to board up your windows, lock up your daughters and if your pet senses danger, believe it. Pets have a natural ability to detect Avery attacks long before the local douche bag weather machine detects them.

Goodnight and good luck.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Caps' Top 10 Games of 2008-2009, Part II

Continuing from where we left off...welcome to our countdown of the Capitals' best regular season games of 2008-2009. Clicking here will take you to the first part of this feature.

And now we continue...

#5. Oct. 13, 2008 - Capitals vs. Canucks - 5-1
The Capitals fan base was in panic mode after a humbling 7-4 loss in Atlanta and a hair-raising win at home against the Blackhawks. The jury was still out on Jose Theodore, and on Oct. 13 the Capitals turned to Brent Johnson to guard the pipes.

Alexander Semin opened the scoring in the first, but the Canucks came roaring back and tied the game on a power play goal from Alex Edler. The Canucks goal came on the very first Vancouver shot of the game, the third time in a row that it had happened this season.

The fans were restless.

Ultimately, Edlers' goal was the only shot that truly tested Brent Johnson. For the rest of the game, Johnson just watched his teammates skate circles around a highly touted Vancouver team.

The Capitals only allowed a team record setting 10 shots on goal that night, breaking the previous mark of 11 set in 1995 against the Florida Panthers. Alex Semin finished the night with two goals, and Alex Ovechkin's historic slump began.



#4. Jan. 14, 2009 - Capitals vs. Penguins - 6-3
There was enough hype going into this game that it could have been a Pay-Per-View.

It was a revenge game. It was Ovechkin vs. Malkin and Crosby vs. Semin. It was supposed to be the Penguins bashing the Capitals into the boards as payback for an earlier loss at home. It was the most hyped game of the month as virtually every Caps and Pens blog went into overdrive covering this game.

Too bad it was a blowout, and a significant one. The Capitals were in the midst of a minor losing streak and, after a particullary bad loss to the Oilers, many wondered if the Capitals would be able to right the ship for the Pens the following day.

For a moment it looked like the Caps were still slumping. Evgeni Malkin sent a shot past Jose Theodore in the first and it was 1-0 Malkin. In the second, Viktor Kozlov and Alex Semin tallied for the Caps, but Miroslav Satan's goal in the middle of the period kept the game at a draw.

Then Alexander Ovechkin struck. In the third period, Ovie scored just two minutes into the game and hushed the rowdy Mellon Arena crowd. Ryan Whitney matched Ovie's marker, but Ovechkin and the Caps roared back, scoring three unanswered goals in the third -- stunning the mob at Mellon Arena yet again.

Ovechkin finished the night with two goals and one assist and Alex Semin tallied just one goal. The Capitals took both games against the Pens on the road, but it wasn't their only masterpiece in Penguin slaying.



#3. Feb. 22, 2009 - Capitals vs. Penguins - 5-2
Another Pens game? Why not? This game gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead in the season series and on national television displayed Alexander Ovechkin as the best player in the NHL. It also showed how much of a force the entire Capitals team was and was a declaration to the rest of the Eastern Conference that a powerhouse was born.

While Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin had made peace after the All-Star Game, there was no love lost between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, as their rivalry burst into outright hatred of each other in this game.

The game got off to a fast-paced start. Alex Ovechkin struck first on the power play, and the Penguins answered back. Then Alex Semin struck on the power play and the first period closed out 2-1. A minute into the second, Sergei Fedorov unleashed a beautiful slap shot and set the game a 3-1, but the Pens answered back from Sergei Gonchar. After that, it was all Capitals.

The secondary scorers got the job done as Brooks Laich and Shoane Morrisson recorded goals. In the last half of the second period, Crosby and Ovechkin met at the half-boards and a small altercation ended with Crosby skating to his bench dejected and Ovechkin waving "goodbye" with a wide grin.

The Caps closed out the second with a 5-2 lead and the frenzied crowd of red was pleased with the effort. In the third, the Capitals continued their domination and walked off the ice the winners of the game and of the season series.

It was a total team win from the Caps against their most hated rival on the national stage. What can't you love about that?



#2. Jan. 31, 2009 - Capitals vs. Red Wings -4-2
In the previous year, the Capitals met the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena and played them to a shootout. It was an improbable point earned, but it served as a signal that the Capitals could hang with the best of the best.

When the Red Wings came to Washington this year, the ante was upped due to the fact the Red Wings are the reigning Stanley Cup Champs. The Capitals were sitting atop their division, near the top of the league in points, but if they wanted to make a "statement" about their worth beating the Red Wings would be loud enough to garner some attention.

The Caps came roaring out in the first, but goalie Ty Conklin was sharp and robbed Semin, Ovechkin and Flash. Then the Red Wings took to the attack and Red Wings forward Ville Leino got his first NHL goal with a sick move that is usually only seen in video games. Viktor Kozlog answered with a tip-in goal, and the period ended 1-1.

The second period wasn't quite as fast paced as the first, but then Mike Green opened the scoring late in the second. A power play goal from John Franzen tied the game at two, and then the third period was all Caps.

Ovechkin recorded two goals in the third period, and the Capitals beat the Red Wings with an inspired and convincing third period effort. The win sent droves of Red Wing fans who had made the trip to Washington home disappointed, and it made analysts in the NHL turn their eyes to the Caps as legitamate contenders in the East.



#1. Dec. 23, 2008 - Capitals vs. Rangers - 5-4 OT Win
The MSG Miracle. Miracle on 34th Street. Ovie-time.

It was the worst and best Capitals effort all in the same night. It was Jose Theodore's rock-bottom and shining star. And to cap it all off, Shoane Morrisson scores the OT winner on his 26th birthday.

The first period was an absolute mess. Theodore got off to a rough start and let in a goal from Naslun in the first five minutes. The Capitals tried to answer back but Henrik Lundqvist stoned the Caps shooters and then the Rangers were back on the offensive. Michal Rozsival and Ryan Callahan scored within 14 seconds of each other late in the first and Jose Theodore was pulled.

3-0 after the first.

Johnson was called upon to relieve Theodore late in the first, but Brent Johnson aggravated an injury, and Theodore had to relieve the Caps backup.

Five minutes into the second period, Ryan Callahan recorded his second goal of the night and the game was looking like it was more than over. A goal from Alex Ovechkin in the middle of the second gave the Capitals some momentum to build on, but it was the Caps' stunning third period turnaround that made this game truly classic.

Two minutes into the third period, Tomas Fleischmann scored on a power play, putting the game at 4-2 and well within reach. Five minutes later, Viktor Kozlov scored on a power play and put the Caps just one goal away from the comeback, and then five minutes later Alex Ovechkin completed the surge with an unassisted wrist shot to make it 4-4.

One minute into overtime, Shoane Morrisonn sent a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist and was mobbed by his teammates. Happy birthday.

This is easily the most important Capitals game of the season because afterward Theodore's play changed drastically and he gained some much needed confidence. The No. 1 goalie slot was never in contention again after this game.

The game was also important because it proved just how valuable Ovechkin is as a leader on the Capitals team. Fans began to rumble about Ovechkin wearing a C instead of an A. This game also followed a humiliating 7-1 loss at the hands of the Flyers, a game that had some wondering if the Capitals were headed in the "crash and burn" direction.

The Miracle at MSG. Has a nice ring to it. If the Caps ever do a "best Capitals games ever" DVD, this should be on it.

Caps and Rangers Schedule Released

The schedule for the Capitals and Rangers series has been released. From Blue Notes. Sounds official to me, but it's currently unconfirmed so it's subject to change. see update.

"Game 1 - Wed. 4/15 at WSH
Game 2 - Sat. 4/18 at WSH (NBC)
Game 3 - Mon. 4/20 at NYR
Game 4 - Wed. 4/22 at NYR
Game 5 - Fri. 4/24 at WSH
Game 6 - Sun. 4/26 at NYR (NBC)
Game 7 - Tue. 4/28 at WSH"

Caps record while on NBC this year? 1-0, a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Saturday's game is rumored to be a 1 P.M. matinee game. I hate matinees.

UPDATE:

Schedule Confirmed!


UPDATE:

Double confirmed. Just got my press release from the Caps. Times and broadcast locations follow dates.

Game 1 Wednesday, April 15 7 p.m. at Washington Comcast SportsNet, TSN WJFK, WCBM

Game 2 Saturday, April 18 1 p.m. at Washington NBC, TSN WJFK, WCBM

Game 3 Monday, April 20 7 p.m. at New York Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN WJFK, WCBM

Game 4 Wednesday, April 22 7 p.m. at New York Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN WJFK, WCBM

Game 5* Friday, April 24 7 p.m. at Washington Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN, RDS WJFK, WCBM

Game 6* Sunday, April 26 2 p.m. at New York NBC, TSN, RDS WJFK, WCBM

Game 7* Tuesday, April 28 TBD at Washington Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN, RDS WJFK, WCBM

Caps Top 10 Games of 2008-2009, Part I

(Due to the heavy use of YouTube, we've split this feature in two; the second half will run Monday night.)

The regular season is over, and now the Caps have a few days to recover and refocus as the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup begins. It's time for us as fans to reflect on our favorite games, favorite moments and heroic efforts that made this 82-game campaign feel like it only started yesterday.

Join us as we count down the top 10 Caps games of the season, and feel free to comment on your favorites below.

10. Nov. 10, 2008 - Capitals vs. Lightning - 4-2
The Washington Capitals met up with former goalie Olie Kolzig for the first and possibly last time as opponents. Donning black and blue instead of red and white, Olie admitted to being nervous before his first game against his former team.

In the first period, Tom Poti and Mike Green blistered shots past their former teammate. Eric Fehr added another goal in the first, and Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal since the Caps home opener.

During the first period, a tribute to Olie ran and proclaimed him "always a Capital." Even though Olie was a Bolt, the fans and players treated him like a Cap.

While it wasn't Olie's best game, the Tampa Bay Lightning did little to help their goalie, who was barraged by the Caps in this emotional game.



9. Nov. 12, 2008 - Capitals vs. Hurricanes - 5-1
After the shellacking of Olie Kolzig and the Bolts, much of the media's focus was on the Capitals star Russian winger, Alexander Semin.

While Alex Ovechkin was slumping, Alex Semin carried the Capitals offense on his back, and on Nov. 12 both Russians turned in one of their best performances of the year with Nicklas Backstrom centering the duo.

The S.O.B. line was born, and Caps fans were treated to some of the cutest and most beautiful looking hockey they'd ever seen. It was like when your three favorite superheroes team up to kick ass. It was that awesome.

This statement game saw Alex Ovechkin strike first, officially breaking his slump (one game is not a trend), and the S.O.B's combined for 12 total points. The three stars of the game? 1: Alex Semin, 2. Alex Ovechkin, 3. Nicklas Backstrom.

The Capitals marched all over the Canes, and the Southeast Division could only look up in awe of their ruthless rulers.



8. Feb. 14, 2009 - Capitals vs. Lightning - 5-1
In front of his father, Mike Green etched his name into the history books with his eighth consecutive goal, a league high for defensemen. Green's goal was assisted by Alex Semin in the second period, but it wasn't the only milestone the team earned that night.

Michal Neuvirth earned his nickname, the Czech Cobra, as he robbed Vincent Lecavalier on a breakaway and earned his first win in his first career start. Neuvirth was the second rookie goaltender on the Capitals to earn a win this season and became an instant Facebook celebrity after the game.

The Capitals continued their dominance over the Bolts, but it was Green's milestone that will make this game stand out as one of the best.



#7. Jan 6, 2009 - Capitals vs. Flyers - 2-1 SO Win
The previous meeting between the Capitals and Flyers saw the boys in red get bombarded in a 7-1 loss. It was a humiliating loss, and it only opened the playoff wounds from last April wider.

So when their second meeting of the season rolled around, many thought it would be a wild, high-scoring affair with enough rough stuff to spark the "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out" joke. Only that's not what happened.

Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring in the first period, and then the Capitals never struck again. The team played solid defense, holding the Flyers onslaught back, which eventually lead to a wild overtime. That overtime turned to a shootout, and then something strange happened.

After the zambonis left the ice, Philadelphia Flyers goalie Martin Biron threw a fit over the quality of the ice in front of his net. The zamboni was dragged back onto the ice to a hail of boos, and the drama meter was kicked up a notch.

The re-resurfacing of the ice didn't help the Flyers, though, a Viktor Kozlov beat Biron and Theodore shut the door on the Flyers. Epic.



#6.
Oct. 16, 2008 - Capitals vs. Penguins - 4-3
It started like a typical Caps and Penguins game. The Capitals went down by three, Alex Ovechkin was frustrated, and then Penguins were getting any and every break that was available.

When Tomas Fleischmann put a goal past Marc-Andre Fleury in the second, it just seemed like one goal to make the game look like less of a blowout. In the third period, the Capitals rallied back with three goals courtesy of Alex Semin, Michael Nylander and Boyd Gordon.

The Gordon goal dejected the Penguins faithful. As Gordon entered the offensive zone, he fired a wrist shot past Fleury that left the net as quick as it came in. The goal-scoring judges didn't even see it in the net. The Capitals began to celebrate, while the Penguins held their breath in hopes that it wouldn't be reviewed.

The goal was reviewed, and the Capitals completed an unlikely comeback without the help of Alex Ovechkin on the score sheet.

The Capitals marched out of Pittsburgh with an improbable win, but the game also started the Ovechkin vs. Malkin feud as Ovie spent most of the game squashing his fellow Russian into the glass boards.

Malkin's reply? "Ovechkin is a great player, but every time he hits me - I don't know why."

Maybe it's because you had the puck.

Breaking Ground for Hockey Town

Verizon Center on a weekend is a sight anyone who thinks the NHL can’t thrive in Washington should see:
a red crowd moving up and down Seventh Street, restaurants filled to standing room only, and fans talking puck outside the arena’s entrance.

Four years ago, the fans wore bleak black and gold jerseys and were uncertain of where the franchise was truly headed. They knew they had Ovechkin, but they could only go on faith alone that the rest of the prospects were as good as advertised.

The words “hockey town” and “Washington” were a pipe-dream that many from Washington and abroad thought would never be uttered in the same sentence.

Home-ice advantage in a first-round matchup with the Rangers is a chance for Capitals fans to show the world just how far we’ve come. This playoff series is more or less a coming-out party for Washington hockey fans. It’s our chance to declare our stake as a “hockey town,” or at least our version of it.

A few months back, I argued that if Washington is to be a hockey town it needs to be of its own design, not a carbon copy of an existing one. I’d like to think we’ve created a unique atmosphere that is truly Washington.

I’ve seen various fans around the NHL ridicule our fans for thinking they can be a hockey town, but they should be reminded: a city is born from a colony, and that’s what we had four years ago -- a die-hard hockey colony just waiting to thrive.

To a member of a “true hockey town,” something as simple as ringing a cowbell, blowing a horn, red-outs and drum-lines might seem like minor gimmicks, but to a fan of the Caps, they are rallying cries. We have a fan who dons a cape, fans who wear fur hats, fans that sport Mohawks and fans who paint themselves red, all in the name of hockey.

What started as an advertising slogan is now a phrase to identify with. Ask someone in Washington if they “rock the red,” and they will probably ask if you’re a Caps fan. Or just honk your car horn three times while driving down Constitution Avenue, or I-66, or F Street and see what happens.

Actor and gross-out artist Tom Green probably has no clue that his line “unleash the fury” has been immortalized on t-shirts, signs and in-game videos. It’s probably the highest celebrity he’s achieved in years.

Just because our traditions and trademarks are not born from decades of hockey history doesn’t mean they aren’t special. Just because we don't throw an octopus on the ice doesn't mean we can't be just a fierce as any group of fans in the NHL.

Last year’s playoff series was a signal, a light in the sky to say “we’re here, and we’re for real.” This is the postseason that we collectively break ground as a hockey town and begin to establish the new traditions and values that will stick with us for decades.

This playoff series is more than just four wins to move on.

It’s our chance to stand in line with the best of the best and to make Washington, not New York, Montreal or Detroit, the grandest stage in hockey.

Let’s Go Caps

(photo by OFB)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Panthers

Second Seed (EC) in NHL Playoffs

vs.

NHL Dead Zone: Just outside playoffs, too far from a top pick

It's got to be tough for both teams to get up for this game, especially for the Caps since it's on the road. The playoffs are just days away and the best you can hope for is that everyone makes it off the ice alive and in good health.

The Caps will probably use this game to experiment with some line combos, see who's gelling with who, and get a feel for where they are as they enter the postseason. Alex Ovechkin may try to make a run at Evgeni Malkin for the Art Ross trophy, but don't hold your breath. The best the Capitals can hope for is a win and more secondary scoring that will keep guys like Flash and Laich hot for the postseason.

For the Panthers, it's the finale of a season that woulda, coulda and shoulda been. After making the "Panther Promise," the Florida fans can at least be happy to know they get to attend four games for free next year. What a crappy consolation prize.

Panthers fans may also be seeing the last day of Jacques Martin's (former coach and current GM) career with the Cats. It was rumored that if the Panthers did not make the postseason this year, he'd be cut loose.

Another farewell Panthers fans will likely be bidding is to Jay Bouwmeester. The highly touted defender will be a free agent at the end of this season and is not likely to resign with the Panthers. Many wonder if the Panthers' plan to hold on to him in hopes of making the playoffs was a mistake as they will likely dish him in a trade at the NHL draft.

This game could have been so much more than a farewell for the fans. The Panthers were eliminated when the Canadiens earned one point in an OTL, nullifying any chance for the postseason. What could have been a game that might have started the first true Southeast Division rivalry is now just another boring tilt between un-evenly matched teams.

Let's just get the two points, get everyone off the ice in good health, and get focused on the goal: The Stanley Cup.

Panthers blog
Litter Box Cats

To everyone out there who has been reading CK since our very first pre-Cap, thank you for your time this season. 82 pre-Caps, wow.

It's been an absolute blast to blog for you and I am looking forward to blogging the playoffs, summer and the following seasons. Thank you so much for your support, comments, e-mails, links (you guys know who you are) and subscriptions.


Once again, thanks for everything, and for the last time of the regular season . . .

LET'S GO CAPS!

Cold Pizza: Predators Caught, Take Seat Outside Playoffs

The Nashville Predators will miss the postseason for the first time since 2003. As you would expect, the fans range from disappointed to frothing at the mouth. These guys give a great perspective on the season though. [Preds on the Glass]

Whitecaps fans take on the Fifth Third Burger



Good Lord. The Fifth Third Burger was unveiled at a minor league baseball game. As if being seen with the burger wasn't embarrassing enough, finishing it gets you a t-shirt to wear. God Bless America.[Deadspin]

Ted Leonsis is famous for trying to prevent rival fans from buying tickets. Nationals owner Stan Kasten is now famous for opening the door for drugish fans from Philly to invade Nationals Park. Ted, have I ever mentioned how much I appreciate you? [DC Sports Bog]

Ovechkin has already won the Hart of Eric Duhatschek. Hurr Hurr, that was awful. [Globe and Mail]

Ilya Kovalchuk might be able to give Ovie commercial AND fighting lessons. [NHL Fanhouse]

Barry Melrose Rocks has the screen-cap of the day concerning Don Koharski. [BMR]

We've been invited to guest blog over at Bangin' Panger, so expect some content to go up there. Myself and many other bloggers are contributing so it's going to be like "Around the Horn," but more informative and with less Jay Mariotti. [Bangin' Panger]

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sergei's Penalty Problems?

Last year, Alex Semin was a liability for lazy hooking, tripping or holding calls. It seemed hopeless -- a player with immense talent was frequently spending time in the box, not on the ice.

So when George McPhee traded for Sergei Fedorov at the deadline, the Caps thought they were getting an old dog with one trick left. Instead they got a mentor who turned the young Russian into a mature NHL-er.

But as of late, the former MVP has been falling into the lazy habits that plagued his younger half last year. Sergei Fedorov has been a frequent staple in the penalty box for the Caps this April. In the abbreviated month, Fedorov has 16 penalty minutes in four of his five games.

A stark difference from previous months in the season where the most penalty minutes served were eight in February across four games. In March, Fedorov only had four PIM's across 10 games. Yikes.

Yeah, it's been bad as of late.

The problem is Fedorov is taking numerous hooking, holding and tripping penalties, (HHT's) which are usually committed when a player is either lazy or mis-matched. Considering that Fedorov is considered one of the best defensive players on the Capitals, it's a bit alarming that one of our defensive forward cornerstones is struggling so much as the playoffs approach.

But as Japers' Rink has documented before, the entire team has a discipline problem, not just Fedorov.

Ice hockey is a team game, and as a team the Capitals are averaging 12.8 PIM's a game, and are sixth for most minor penalties in the NHL. The entire team as a whole needs to rectify their penalty problems, not just for the sake of the team as a whole, but also for their penalty killers.

The Caps penalty killing is 17th in the NHL with an 80.8 kill percentage, and they've allowed 74 PPG's this season. The teams in front of them for PPG's allowed? Anaheim, Edmonton, Toronto, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Yes it's alarming that only one team from that list is a playoff-caliber team, but also keep in mind, right behind Washington is Detroit.

But getting back to Fedorov, all of the worries that Fedorov will be a liability this postseason might be shed based on his past playoff performances. In 169 playoff games, Fedorov has only 121 PIM's. Of course before you release that sigh of relief, keep in mind, before last year, Fedorov hadn't seen the post season since 2003.

After Saturday's game against the Panthers, the Caps will have a few days to re-focus and re-tool their game as they enter the playoffs. For Fedorov, it's a chance to catch his breath and get started on the right track in the second season.

If the Capitals want to go deep, they'll want Fedorov on the ice using his veteran leadership to keep his teammates cool, not in the box serving time for a desperate hook.
 
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