The Board is Set, the Pieces are Moving

Washington Capitals team owner Ted Leonsis stated that the return on investment (ROI) for his team can be measured by the number of priceless moments created between parents and their children, fans and their friends, and complete strangers who happen to sit next to each other watching a game, and second, winning the Stanley Cup.  Tuesday night’s dramatic comeback, overtime win over the New York Islanders delivered on the first and laid down a marker for the second.

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin did what the Great 8 does and that’s searing the highlight reel by putting the puck the net for the game winner in spectacular fashion, another contribution to ROI number one.Before Tuesday night’s game the team’s fate rested  on Monday’s 3 pm trade deadline, which sets the pieces put forth by each team to make a run at the Playoffs and the Cup.  Being true to form Caps General Manager George McPhee kept his cards close to the vest, first by setting the table by picking up veterans LW Marco Sturm off the waiver wire from the LA Kings and then completing the meal with deadline moves that added Defenseman Dennis Wideman from the FL Panthers and Jason Arnott from the NJ Devils.  The troops have been reinforced and have taken the ice. Tuesday’s win made the statement, the playoff run first, then we consider ROI number two.

Bobby Orr’s Landmark Season | The Hockey Writers

This Hockey Writer’s post captures the finest single effort by any player in any season in the National Hockey League. The likelihood that another player replicates or surpasses the impact that Bobby Orr had on the game of hockey is slim to none.

Bobby Orr’s Landmark Season | The Hockey Writers.

As Much As It Hurts…

I’m a life long Pats fan, last Sunday hurt, and it’s time to let it go.

This is my recognition of last Sunday afternoon’s New England Patriot collapse at the hands of the AFC Championship game bound  New York Jets.

What I saw happen was Jet Coach Rex Ryan’s  defensive scheme shut down Tom Brady and the Pats Offense, the Jets played better football, the Jets made fewer mistakes, and the Jets won the game.

Our  coach, Bill Belichick, is known for saying the next game is the hardest one and for Pats fans that game happens at the start of September 2011 because the Jets played better last Sunday.

Pitchers and Catchers will be in Florida in a little over a month, here we go Red Sox, here we go!

The Silver Lining of My L5 S1 Eruption

With the exception of an occasional hockey musing it’s been way to long since I’ve posted on my blog so I want to provide an update and say thank you.

As many people who cross my path know, I’ve been wrestling with a back injury since April of 2010.  Up until that point I wrote off what were occasional aches and pains as the byproduct of leading an active life, commuting to work on my bike, running the 5k route I have mapped through my neighborhood, or waltzing around 18 holes on a golf course were no brainers, they just happened.

That all changed when I found myself in the middle of a round on the Northwest Park golf course experiencing searing pain the length my left leg.  The golfers among you will appreciate this; I was crushing the ball so I finished the round.

I next found myself at the doctor’s office being diagnosed with a bulging disk, L5 S1, that was crowding out my sciatica nerve, which was causing the discomfort.  The conservative treatment approach that I chose included physical therapy, a couple of steroid epidurals, Vipassana meditation and twice-weekly acupuncture.   I discovered that it was important to treat the physical impact of the injury and the emotional impact of such an extreme change in lifestyle.

As the months started adding up 2 things became clear to me, the first being that I really like meditation and the second being that a more aggressive approach was necessary for me to recover from this injury.

Successful micro discectomy surgery was performed on December 9th and I continue to experience the ups and downs of recovery as I write this, but I’m on the road to recovery.  Sitting still has never been a character attribute used to describe me so judging some activities as excessive has been learned the hard way.  With that said, I’m confident in my treatment plan and in the not so distant future I’ll regain many of my preferred activities.  I’ll be taking my first dip in the pool later this weekend.

This leads to the silver lining in all of this for me.  I’ve always valued and loved family and friends, even if I didn’t tell them enough.  Because of the surgery I’ve been leading a dependent life for just over a month.  I couldn’t have survived on my own and the result is my appreciating everyone at a deeper level.  My sister came down from New Hampshire and stayed with me after the surgery, filled my refrigerator, and spruced the place up so I could recover in a comfortable condo.   I was able to travel north for Christmas and the blizzard enabled me to stay at Mom’s house a few extra days and it wasn’t until I got back to DC that I realized how much I needed that time with her.  I also had the chance to connect with my brothers, my other sister, brother in-laws, nephews, and the crew that serves coffee from behind the counter at Breaking New Grounds.

I have the best work colleagues ever, they have offered hope and humor from the start of this ordeal back in April and a couple of them have contributed to fattening me up with food deliveries after surgery.  We even had someone on the inside at the hospital, my boss’s mother is an OR Nurse and she recommended my surgeon.

My friends, yup, you got it, best ever, some have given me rides to just about everywhere, some delivered tasty treats, others have kept in touch over the phone, email, or an occasional text message.  It felt like each time I heard from someone it was when I was supposed too.

I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon after completing my first week back at work and yes I’m a little sore after a full week but I’m full of gratitude for everyone who’s offered their prayers, their hearts and their help, thank you.

Hockey’s Brian Burke

Being a passionate Washington Capitals fan my blog postings generally handicap the ups and downs of the team but today’s post addresses a far different issue that has a high-profile advocate in the NHL – Gay Rights.

There are many activities in life that are impacted by government and politics and in many cases for good reason.  The recent debate on Capitol Hill that resulted in enough votes to overturn the Defense Department’s discriminatory don’t ask, don’t tell policies on gay people serving in the military is one of those cases.  The vote left me proud of the President and Congress for standing up for the rights of people to be who they were born to be without fear of recrimination.

The debate also reminded me that the fight to end discrimination is not over and on how important it is to do the right thing in the circles we travel in.  A recent GQ story on Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke and his son Brendon speaks to the fight to change the attitudes and actions that populate the testosterone-laden landscape of professional hockey.

Brendan was met with love and acceptance when he came out as gay to his family, friends, and most of the hockey world.  His young life was tragically taken in a car accident last February and since that time his father has been sharing his story through the media and public appearances to fight discrimination.  Brian Burke is a leading figure in National Hockey League and he’s a leading figure in the fight for equality, he does the right thing in the circles he travels in.

GQ – Out On the Ice, by Mary Rogan

The Clouds Parted, the Caps Debacle Ends

The skid mark created by the Caps losing streak spanned nearly 3 week and 8 games and their nightmare ended Sunday night with a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in Canada. Thank you Jesus, Buddha, Allah, and Einstein.

Generally it’s good form for the Caps legion of bloggers to launch into the ups and downs of the previous game time performance of the Red brigade, but due to off ice distractions and dismay that’s encircled America’s Hockey Capital, today’s posting is departing from the norm by including hockey musings and the Caps Grammar Breakdown.

First, the Caps weekend: split decision.

Saturday night: Bitten by Bears in Boston, Caps lose 3-2

Lethargy describes the Caps effort after the puck dropped in Boston and it stayed that way until Matt Bradley dropped the gloves and went all Marquess of Queensbury on Bruins brute Adam McQuaid in an attempt to motivate his brethren on the bench. He ended up getting his butt kicked and followed suit by scoring a goal keeping the Caps in the game.  His reward from the team for this gusty performance was a spirited but failing 3rd period comeback attempt that fell short of placing that elusive notch in the win column.  The skid mark was extended to 8 games when the horn blew on this one. The game started with the Caps sitting on top of the SE Division and now has them occupying the 7th of 8 seeds in the Eastern Conference.  What a tale, showing up to play for half or two-thirds of a game will do this for you.

Sunday night: Redemption in Ottawa!  Caps win 3-2

Before the Sunday night game in Ottawa I heard speculation that the Caps left the country by choice but I can assure everyone it was the schedule that dictated the trip.  The lethargy cloud picked up in Boston reappeared during the first period with in Ottawa with the Senators closing out the first 20 minutes up by two.  The Caps came out in the second and never looked back by scoring 2 goals in 46 seconds before the period was a minute and a half old.  For the rest of the game they played with passion, they shut down Ottawa in the neutral zone, they killed off penalties, scored on a Power Play of their own and they crashed the opposition net repeatedly. This win enabled the Caps to end the weekend where they started, in first place in the SE Division.

Notes from the weekend:

With the assist he picked up in Ottawa Ovi now has at least a point in 18 of 19 Capital victories this season.  CSNwashington.com Corey Masisak stated on the Caps pregame show that Ovichkin, the 2-time MVP 50+ goal scorer is on pace to score 29 goals this season, that’s no misprint, he’s on pace to score 29 goals. Clearly, he’s key in righting the ship and he need’s to step up his performance.

And finally, today’s Caps Grammar Breakdown: we wont know if Coach Boudreau actually said this until the next addition of HBO’s 24/7 airs on Wednesday night but I suspect his post game thoughts from Boston or his reaction to Jason Chimera’s late game penalty in Ottawa went something like this:

F__k you, you f__king f__k.

If you can identify the grammatical uses of the word f__k in this statement not only do you have an impressive command of the language but someone, somewhere will give you prize.

The Captain and his Caps are Stuck in Neutral

I mistakenly thought the gift to be found in the Capitals tragic tale of last season’s first round ousting from the playoffs is in its use to exorcise the resulting demons of loss, disappointment, and distraction and by adding a necessary chip on their collective shoulders.  After witnessing the mid-level New York Rangers school the supposedly elite Caps with a 7-0 thumping last night I’m clearly wrong.  This 6th loss in a row for the Caps highlighted a scoring champion who plays with heart but scored no goals, goaltenders who show sporadic evidence of greatness but lack consistency, and top line stars that seem to grow dimmer when the lights come up. This team is stuck in neutral behind it’s all business Captain Alex Ovechkin.

Truth be told, when Ovechkin raises his game to higher levels his teammates follow suit. The foundation of the Capitals’ reputation of bringing unrelenting offensive firepower to bear was built on Ovi’s ability to score goals from everywhere on the ice regardless of double and triple teaming.  His boyish enthusiasm and ready smile has made it a joy to watch him play hockey.  So far this season his passion for the game and his desire to win is unfailing; it’s his inability to score goals that has him stuck and seems to be sucking the joy from his game. His shots aren’t reaching the back of the net and the caliber of play from his teammates is following suit.

There’s an elephant in the room and it need’s to be called out because Ovi has changed his game.  He didn’t start the summer of 2010 by hoisting the Stanley Cup, he wasn’t named MVP for the 3rd consecutive year, and he didn’t win gold for his country in the Olympics or the World Championships as planned, a tough year by any standard.  Hockey is a team sport and no one person can carry teams to these heights and it seems that Ovi has taken to much responsibility for last year’s disappointments.   It appears he mistakenly changed his game to compensate. When he takes the ice this year he’s all business, he doesn’t look like he’s having any fun, he doesn’t look happy.  For the Caps to shift gears from neutral to drive with their foot on the gas they need the high scoring, buoyantly enthusiastic, and happy Alex Ovechkin to return to the rink.