Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Penguins

Re: Max Talbot

Much has been said about Talbot’s comments about Alex Ovechkin in the last few days. Ovechkin said he read them and added “there is nothing to reply. A person can say all he wants. The ice will show everything.” – Puck Daddy

That pretty much sums it up. Christmas comes a little early this year folks. Only 153 more days.

- L.A.

ESPN Players Poll

Straight out of the “Tell us something we don’t know” file, Alex Ovechkin was named the best player in the NHL by 64% of players polled. That figure jumps up to 73% of players who picked either Crosby or Ovechkin, which should serve as a further reminder to Pittsburgh fans everywhere that Crosby can’t hold Ovechkin’s jock. Here are the results:

BEST PLAYER:
1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington: 64 percent
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh: 24 percent
T3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh; Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit: 4 percent
T5. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit; Joe Thornton, San Jose: 2 percent

Other funny/interesting notes

-“Who has the hottest spouse?” which goes to Mike Fisher, who’s currently dating Carrie Underwood. Surprisingly, Sidney Crosby received some votes, due to his romantic link with Evgeni Malkin.*

-Bruce Boudreau was tied in 2nd place with Pittsburgh coach Dany Bylsma for smartest coach (with 16% a piece, behind Mike Babcock)

-The Verizon Center received 8% of the vote (T4th) for the “Worst Ice” honor. Give these guys some good ice (hopefully now that Ted Leonsis will own the Verizon Center), and you may see a boost in production.

-Chris Pronger checked in atop the “Dirtiest player” leaderboard with 22% Sean Avery coming in 2nd with 12% wasn’t a big surprise, but Ovechkin tying for 3rd “for his grabbing and hitting from behind” certainly elicited a “wtf?” reaction.

-Derek Boogard was voted as the best fighter in the league. Matt Bradley was inexplicably absent.

-Kerry Fraser was voted as the best referee, while Stephane Auger took home the “Worst Referee” title. An unnamed Eastern Conference center had this to say about Auger (aka Bert): “He’s terrible at everything. Nobody likes him.”

-The Capitals received only 14% of the vote when the players were asked “Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?” Behind Chicago (32%), Pittsburgh, and San Jose (both with 16%). The Penguins don’t have a win in 10 games against the Caps and Devils this year, but continue to be overrated by almost everybody, based on some “you have to beat the champions”, and “they just know how to win” fairy dust nonsense. They’ll be bounced in the 2nd round this year, bank on it.

*That may or may not have happened

-Nasty Nate

CAPS 4, Penguins 3 (SO)

We all said tonight’s game was “just another game.” The players said it (it only took two periods for one, Eric Belanger to admit that it was “fun” and a playoff-like atmosphere), coaches said it, and even as fans we said it. But we were just trying to kid ourselves. It was evident minutes into this match-up that tonight’s game between Washington and Pittsburgh was anything but. Here are a few notes/observations/mindless ramblings from the game:

  • Tom Poti, you are my boy, and you made up for it later on, but I wanted to lose my mind when that puck shot over the glass not two and a half minutes into the game. Luckily, “There ain’t no Poti like a DC Poti,” and I was only mad at you for the next 2 minutes.
  • Tomas Fleishmann’s tripping penalty in the latter half of the first saved a goal and preserved Theo’s incredible first period shutout after facing 17 shots in the first 20 minutes.
  • Mike Knuble may have unintentionally written some new lyrics to Shaq’s (in)famous freestyle on the first goal of the game – insert ‘Fleury’ for Kobe and ‘a**’ for ‘jock’. That was such a Mike Knuble goal, too. Step 1) Crash net. Step 2) Locate puck, even if 7 feet in air. 3) Put puck in net.
  • Of course, the answering goal a little over a minute later by Max Talbot is something that occurs way to often for my liking. Even a few casual fans (shout-out to my Pops) noted how the team often gives up a goal shortly after scoring one of our own.
  • While I’m being a constructive critic – is that even a real thing? – our first (and only – more on that later) powerplay did not look particularly sharp. Not a whole lot of time spent in our offensive zone in possession of the puck and at least one shorthanded opportunity arose for Pittsburgh.
  • I always love the intensity the boys bring to start the third period. They were firing a lot of shots at Fleury and hitting the Pens hard in those first couple of minutes.
  • Whoever taught Crosby to act must have a few Academy Awards under their belt. That head-tilt whiplash effect on the Jeff Schultz holding call sold Mr. Devorski’s crew as the hand didn’t go up until his thespian skills shined.
  • Semin’s shorthanded goal. What.Did.He.Do? I would have been happy with a simple clear there but the individual effort was unbelievable. That goal was dirtier than a Metro handrail. I keep checking the score sheet though – why wasn’t Crosby credited with an assist there?
  • The Belanger-to-Green-to-Fehr tip in was pretty to watch. I find myself saying that a lot about goals that Belanger assists on.
  • In the first two periods alone, I counted 5 missed calls by Mr. Devorski and his crew. There was a trip early in the first period, a slash on Ovechkin after the play midway through the first, a hook on Ovechkin about 5 minutes into the 2nd down in our defensive zone corner, a high stick on Fehr during a rebound opportunity, and a hook that incidentally led to the high sticking call against Semin. Kudos to your crew, Paul, I actually expected you ti miss more That said, I was impressed with out PK throughout the night (although up against an admittedly struggling Pittsburgh PP unit without Malkin).
  • Finally, I know our Player of the Game was Alexander Semin, but for the first time in theCAPSlock history (the whole 20 days or so) no player received a 3-to-1 or 4-to-0 vote for the award. Stick-taps go to two other players: Mike Knuble who had the first goal of the game and the last – his first career shoot-out goal (good call Bruce). Secondly – a goalie stick-tap to Jose Theodore as he made some amazing saves once again en route to a 39-save victory.
  • One final note – get well quickly Brooksie. It was good to win without you, but it’s better to win with you. Hats off to your streak of 257 consecutive games played.

- L.A.

Michael Wilbon is an idiot

Just look at that face up there. Just look at it. The guy looks so undeservedly smug; i’d bet he DVRs episodes of Pardon The Interruption and replays them while masturbating furiously as he stares into a full length mirror.  And if there’s one guy around the DC area that should not be doing that, it’s him. After reading his articles and blog posts that deal with the NHL, I can say with confidence that he is among the worst around. Wilbon is a basketball guy, and just how little he actually knows about hockey becomes more and more painfully apparent with every passing sentence. In this post I will attempt to tackle his most recent atrocity, entitled “Crosby Miles Ahead of Ovechkin” Beware though, extended exposure to Michael Wilbon’s hockey writing has been known to cause AIDS in lab rats, so read at your own risk.

Wilbon doesn’t even give us enough time to buckle our seat-belts, before assaulting us with a heavy-dose of Stupid.

One of the biggest Olympic winners has to be Canada’s Sidney Crosby, who at 22 years old has already won Olympic Gold, the World Championship and the Stanley Cup. And for the second straight time Crosby went through Alexander Ovechkin en route to winning. If this doesn’t make Crosby the preeminent player in the world, I don’t know what does.

Though I have to give credit where it’s due- at least Wilbon admitted he doesn’t “know what does”…because he doesn’t. Ignore for a second all the other details that go into determining who the best player is. Ignore Crosby and Ovechkin, Canada and Russia, Pittsburgh and Washington. From these very first lines it appears that Wilbon is going to compare two individual players, by using TEAM SUCCESS as the measuring stick. That is prima facie idiocy.

Crosby didn’t exactly light it up, in terms of scoring; he’d have gone three straight games without a point had he not scored the game winner in OT against the U.S. But he did. And before that, Crosby’s team trashed Ovechkin’s Russian team, just as Crosby’s team went on the road to beat Oveckin’s team in a Game 7 during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Right, Crosby didn’t light it up, far from it in fact. Going into these Olympic games everyone knew that Canada had one of the most talented teams ever assembled in international competition. Their defensive and forward depth were simply amazing. Russia, on the other hand, lacked any semblance of shutdown defense, and aside from their top 2 lines, their forwards were not very scary. Perhaps those facts had something to do with Canada winning 7-3? Crosby went pointless in the game, which had become the norm for him during the elimination rounds, but that hasn’t stopped idiots like Wilbon from saying “Crosby went through Ovechkin again!” The media’s infatuation with “well his team won therefor player X must be better” is becoming very tired. I don’t know, call me crazy, but I find that giving an enormous amount of credit to one player for his team’s success when he wasn’t even one of their top 6 forwards for the tournament is the definition of stupidity. I guess that’s why I’m not a sports writer though.

Capitals fans might as well stop with the argument that Ovechkin is a better player; sure he is a bigger scorer and more entertaining player. But he can’t get his team past Crosby’s teams and they’re undeniable rivals and will be for the length of their careers. Right now, Ovechkin would need a telescope to see Crosby, who’s that far ahead in this race.

So you guys know all those other things, that we can quantify, that show Ovechkin is the clear-cut better player? Well, you can THROW THOSE ALL OUT! One Calder, two Hart trophies, 2 Pearsons, an identical point per game average as Crosby while scoring close to 100 more goals in that time period? Whelp, those mean nothing because the Penguins beat the Capitals in a coin-flip game 7 last season, and Canada won the gold medal! Grit, clutch, desire, and “Good ol’ Canadian Boy-ness”, well those are the things that REALLY go into to determining who the better player is.

First, he shoved a female fan’s camera and reportedly she suffered bruises in the incident. Now comes the news that he broke the camera of a man asking for an interview. There is video of each incident.

Bruises? Comeon Michael, that’s patently ridiculous. I’ve watched the video, and I find it hard to believe that a 2 second encounter like that would result in bruises, nevermind that the burden of proof is on you if you’re going to be throwing those accusations around. Now I’m not really excusing his behavior, but you’re talking about a guy who’s coming off the worst loss of his career, in a place where he can’t walk a millimeter without getting cameras shoved in his face. He took the loss badly and made a mistake. It’s hilarious that Wilbon of all people would really hit Ovechkin for that when he’s notorious for carrying water for two of the biggest assholes in professional sports- Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. But hey, it’s pretty obvious that consistency isn’t paramount for writers:

Wilbon several weeks ago had this to say: Ovi is the best player in the NHL…The rage he plays with is irresistible.

And this: “Ovechkin is a beast. He explodes, like a tornado. Ovechkin is scary. His shot is scary. There’s an aggression about him, a barely controlled fury that Crosby, great as he is, doesn’t have. Nobody else has it … He’s the fastest, toughest guy with the biggest shot, the fewest teeth. Every great player wants to win. Ovechkin wants to beat you down.”

So all of that gets thrown out the window because the heavily favored team won the Gold Medal? Simply preposterous.

If Crosby is a rough equivalent of a young Kobe Bryant, in terms of talent and results, then Ovechkin is a rough equivalent of LeBron James, which is to say young and physically unstoppable but as yet undecorated.

That’s a comparison I can deal with, but the funny thing is that it’s pretty obvious Lebron is simply the best player in the NBA right now, and Wilbon doesn’t even realize the comparison contradicts everything he’s been saying. The difference between Lebron and Kobe isn’t some mythical BS about “clutch” or “grit”. The difference is that while Kobe has been on teams with an absolutely dominant Shaq, and another with Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum,  Lebron has played with Delonte West, and Anderson Varejao. It doesn’t take a genius to see that one player has had a clear advantage when it comes to surrounding teams. Put Ovechkin on Canada, and Crosby on Russia and what happens? Russia still gets demolished, and Canada still wins the Gold medal. If Max Talbot doesn’t score 2 goals in game 7 of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals does the sports media make Crosby answer for his woeful 3 points in 7 games performance? I know I would. The difference is that the rest of his team showed up, so him sucking gets swept under the rug. That is why doing what Wilbon is doing in this article- trying to use team success as the determinant of “who’s better?” is the epitome of hack-writing.

Somehow, Ovechkin’s lapses in judgment (or was it a disregard of civility?) went largely unnoticed. Ovechkin is damn lucky he’s not black and playing basketball; my brethren in the national (and local) media would have put on their Sunday church robes and preached him to death by now. We’d have read about “those thug basketball players” and such. Ovechkin, apparently, is for whatever reasons, beyond their reach. He’s untouchable. All these folks writing and talking about the Winter Olympics and I haven’t seen a word of criticism directed at Ovechkin, famous as he is.

Well if you’ve ever read a Wilbon column you knew that was coming- the obligatory race card and NBA reference. That is what’s called “grasping at straws” Michael. Pushing a camera, while not admirable behavior, is far from Earth-shaking, but I suppose your entire career is based on making mountains out of mole-hills. Would you prefer if it was front page news? The headline on Around the Horn or Pardon The Interruption?

The fact of the matter is that Michael Wilbon knows two things about hockey: jack and shit. He simply doesn’t have a clue of how to judge and compare players, so he sticks with the embarrassingly simplistic “well Crosby’s won” justification. Perhaps that justification would hold water if he actually showed up in the Stanley Cup Finals, or the entire elimination round of The Olympics, but in reality he didn’t. It’s just amazing to me that these writers attempt to compare individual players using essentially the least-optimal point of comparison. I’d laugh, if it wasn’t so tragic that the people with the power to influence millions of minds everyday thought on such a 1st-grade level.

-Nasty Nate

My Take On The Hart Trophy Race

We’re three-quarters of the way through the season, the home stretch is looming, and the cream is rising to the top. At this point in the season is where you see the elite players begin to separate from the pack and assert themselves as legitimate Hart Trophy candidates. Gone are the Anze Kopitars, Patrick Marleaus, and Marian Gaboriks, while the Ovechkins and Crosbys remain. That’s not intended to be a slight against those players, but that’s just the reality of the situation. First things first: this is going to be a piece rife with opinion, so I don’t want people to think I believe what I say here is gospel, even though I will likely say something to that effect several times. Honestly, we all know that winning a Stanley Cup is the #1 priority, but you can only talk about needing a physical defenseman, or another center so much, so let’s not continue beating that horse to death. A third straight Hart Trophy for Ovechkin is historic, and places him in the company of some of hockey’s all-time greats, so it’s worth talking about. With that being said,  let’s take a look at the tale of the tape of who I believe the top 3 contenders for the award (in no particular order):

Alexander Ovechkin

Games played: 54

Goals: 42

Assists: 47

Points: 89

Points Per Game: 1.65

Plus/Minus: 43

Goals Versus Threshold (read this link to know what I’m talking about): 25.6

Ovechkin started the year like a house on fire (notching three straight three point games to kick off the season), and he never seemed to let up. He was on pace for career highs in goals, assists, and points (yeah, no kiddin’) before taking an injury, and missing 2 games due to suspension. In all, Ovechkin sat for 8 tilts, but never seemed to miss a step, scoring on his first shot back from injury/suspension. Despite spotting the league 8 games, Ovechkin sits atop the points leaderboard with 89 (9 more than 2nd place Henrik Sedin), while maintaining a Points Per Game average (1.65) that is the highest the league has seen since Mario Lemieux’s 1995-1996 campaign. His +/- rating is tops in the NHL at 43, with Mr. Nasty Jeff Schultz coming in second at 37. So far, it has been an absolutely dominating season from #8, and if not for the vacation he was forced to take in November, there was a solid chance he would have set career highs in virtually every statistical category. Currently, the Capitals sit atop the NHL with 90 points.

Ryan Miller

Games Played: 52

Record: 30-14

SV %: .930

GAA: 2.16

Goals Versus Threshold: 29.1

Miller is the reason why the Buffalo Sabres sat as high as second in the Eastern Conference for a good percentage of the season. He spent a significant portion of the year north of a .940 SV%, with a sub-2 Goals Against Average. He hasn’t been as sharp in the past several weeks, which has caused his SV% to drop to .930, but he’s still been the best goaltender in the league for the season, and is getting a lot of buzz.

Sidney Crosby

Games Played: 61

Goals: 42

Assists: 36

Points: 78

Points Per Game: 1.28

Plus/Minus: 9

Goals Versus Threshold: 21.3

Crosby did not start the season very well, as he was just around 1 point per game for the first quarter or so. Since then he’s been scoring at an elite rate, including a stretch that saw him score 18 goals in 18 games leading up to the Olympic Break. He’s currently 3rd in points, behind Sedin and Ovechkin, but will likely surpass the former following the Olympic Break. Crosby broke his previous career-high of 39 goals, and seems to be in a good position to post his first 50-goal year.

So who should the winner be? Well, first things first- the Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player “adjudged most valuable to their team” in the NHL. There’s that damn V word again- “valuable”. No other word in sports causes such a shit-storm when it comes to awarding hardware at the end of a season. How is “most valuable” to be evaluated? And how does “to their team” change things? If we’re going with a strictly mathematical approach then a goaltender should win the award literally every year, because the impact of a goaltender is so much greater than that of any individual skater. If you head over to www.behindthenet.ca and check out their GVT rankings (you did read that link I posted…right?) it shouldn’t come as a surprise that out of the top 10 most valuable players according to that catch-all statistic, seven are goaltenders, while the first skater checks in at #4 (wanna take a guess at who that is?). For these reasons I have decided that if I were given a vote, I would not vote for a goaltender over the top skater, unless they put up a historically great season. Goalies have the Vezina, much like the MLB where pitchers have the Cy Young to win, and virtually never win MVP awards. Ryan Miller’s season is not historically great, and it could be argued that Vokoun’s season is just as good. In light of that he gets tossed.

So now it comes down to Crosby and Ovechkin, the two remaining skaters. In keeping with the traditions of the award, which of these two should be “adjudged to be the most valuable to their team”? Well, again this brings up a lot of questions. How is “valuable” compared between skaters? Crosby supporters will argue that he has been more important to the Penguins’ offense than Ovechkin has been to the Capitals’ (based on % of goals contributed to) and, after all, isn’t that what the award says? Well, if that’s the case then shouldn’t Gaborik take the trophy home? He’s contributed to an even larger percentage of the Rangers’ goals than Ovechkin or Crosby have to their respective teams, so why not him? A common response to that is because the Rangers aren’t a playoff team, and that changes everything. Oh. So the trophy should go to the most valuable player on a playoff team then? Well, Ovechkin has put up the best numbers virtually across the board, and plays for the team with the most points in the NHL so there you have it, right? “Well no, his team is loaded with stars, and his team was still pretty good without him so he shouldn’t get it.” Ignore for a second that Crosby also plays with a bona fide superstar (who he shares 40% of his points with), and plays for the defending Cup champions who were picked by virtually everyone to be the best team in the NHL coming into the season, and we get yet another qualifier that further muddles the argument. Ok, so it seems that in order to win the Hart you should be an elite player, on a good (playoff) team, but not a team that’s so good that the “they’d still be decent without him” argument could be used by drunks in a Pittsburgh sports bar.
STOP.THE.MADNESS.

The spirit of the award is so completely arbitrary that everyone jumps through semantic hoops to justify why their favorite player really is more “valuable”. It’s stupid sports writers racking their brains on the correct interpretation of that word that results in Jimmy F’ing Rollins winning the MVP trophy over someone like Albert Pujols, or why Joe Thornton won the Hart over Jagr in 2005-2006. My opinion is this: outside of extreme cases, the Hart Trophy should simply go to the best player that season, no questions asked. If you follow that rule, then the likelihood of making a decision that will make people in the future go “what the fuck were they thinking?” drops precipitously. For that reason, at this point in time, the only possible answer for the “who should get the Hart?” is Alex Ovechkin. The funny thing is, out of ALL of the arguments I’ve heard for other players deserving the Hart trophy, not a single one of them was “X has simply been the best player in the NHL”. I literally don’t think I’ve heard that argument made for Miller, Crosby, or Sedin (the odd-man out) so far. That should show us something. Ovechkin has dominated the league in a way that hasn’t been seen since Mario Lemieux was still skating. He has missed close to 10 games, but leads the league in points by a solid margin, is tied for the league lead in goals and +/-, and has lead the Washington Capitals to first place in the NHL. Yes, there are 20 games left in the Capitals season, but I have a hard time believing anyone will overtake Ovechkin as the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy.

-Nasty Nate