Tag Archives: Washington Capitals

I’ve Happily Gulped Caps Cool Aid…Again

The level-headed, long view, one game at a time rational approach to following the 82 game Washington Capitals regular season schedule is half way to the street after exiting via the window. Alex Ovechkin shows up on America soil in what is reported as the best shape ever, pot belly rumors be dammed.  Nicklas Backstrom spent the off-season training with a world-class speed skater in his native Sweden. Caps GM George McPhee picked up veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun in a deal that can only be had during the last hour the neighbor’s yard Sale and there’s been a steady stream of early arrivals to a training camp being touted like it should be on hosted on Parris Island …why shouldn’t I be excited?

I know, I know, last week’s measured expectations based on past playoff performance.  Another year with stunned silence at the last game of the playoffs serving as the tip-off to start planning beach time, I know…

This happens to me after nearly every Labor Day and this year is no different.  The nay saying is pushed aside; the countdown to game 1 is in full anticipation mode that this could be the next year we’ve been waiting for.

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Measured Optimism for the Caps

I’ve experienced more pre-season hype, regular season glory, and post season disappointment with the Washington Capitals than I care to share.  After being outclassed by Tampa Bay in the second round of last spring’s playoffs I just moved on.  Talk of super talented young guns and a solid core group of players was for someone else’s conversation.  Don’t take this the wrong way because I’ll still be in my seat cheering them on this year, it’s just that my expectations and hopes for the Caps took another in a series of season ending beatings.

My hiatus was interrupted when I lifted an eyebrow towards the Caps in early July when free agent players hit the open market.  GM George McPhee made a number of solid acquisitions combined with re-signing existing talent that few would argue make the Caps a better, more mature hockey team.

These offseason personal moves combined with veteran players showing up early for training camp talking about heightened commitments to conditioning and team attitude is encouraging, but not overly so.  This year I need more than just preseason talk; I need to see how this talk translates on the ice.

I usually greet the early fall and impending hockey season with enthusiasm for what’s to come, but for this year’s Caps it’s more measured optimism.

Related Story from the WP Capitals Insider:

Alex Ovechkin returns to Washington

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.

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.

Avs Win Game, Caps Lose Focus

This posting was written while the Capitals played the Avalanche at Verizon Center on Saturday night.  Alex Ovechkin had a great 1st period and a major cross checking penalty committed by Alexander Semin pretty much killed the second.  The team had a bit of a resurgence led by Matt Hendricks when he scored to keep it close in the 3rd but in the end they lost 3-2, their 5th loss in a row. One thing is clear from the last 5 to 10 games and that’s the Caps lack of focus.  Many of us have been left wondering who’s game are they playing anyway, because it certainly isn’t their own.

The Caps have superstar players whose collective effort as of late has produced an at beast streaky at worst average NHL team.  They used a slingshot to make their way to the top of the league standings and a borrowed used car to cough and belch their way down as the game’s elite are passing them on their way up.

From Coach Bruce Boudreau on down his lines of players the common mantra is that hard work and old school bang’em up, heads up hockey will turn the tide and I’m not so sure they’re right.  The Caps are a highly skilled hockey team where patience and precision is the name of the game and they’ve clearly lost focus on these strengths. How many give and go breakouts have been foiled by the shooter fanning on his shot? How many times have bodies reacted prematurely to set up plays that result in errant passes traveling behind or ahead of the intended target?  And how many times can power play opportunities go by the wayside before other teams stop fearing your offensive firepower?

The Caps need to refocus their effort by recognizing their inherent ability to score goals and it needs to start with their Captain Alex Ovechkin. Many Caps fans have shown a great deal of patience waiting for the Ovechkin of old to reappear in the highlight reels. There was a time when Joe B. would proclaim from the broadcast booth, “The Great 8 shoots, The Great 8 scores,” and the collective masses would see the caliber of play among his teammates climb with each tally.  Ovi the assist leader just doesn’t cut it, he’s 14 goals behind league leading Sidney Crosby’s 26 and that just leaves me…enough said, it’s time to change the mindset.

We haven’t hit the half way mark to the NHL Regular Season so panic’s not on the table, but real concerns are.  The Caps need to keep cool heads and dry pants and focus on the skills that built the offensive powerhouse that other teams have had real difficulty in neutralizing.

Please note: the post game reaction from the Comcast Crew and Coach Boudreau was positive saying the team that played tonight was crashing more nets and playing better hockey than recent outings.  I really wonder about conversations that deal with which losing team is the better losing team.  The Capitals are held to a higher standard because they’ve earned it, a loss is a loss.