The Opening Salvo

I am here to pop my capslock cherry, and also to announce that rumors of the Caps demise have been greatly exaggerated. The fact of the matter is that Alex Ovechkin and the Caps spoiled us the last two seasons by playing a style of hockey that not only made them Presidents Trophy winners, but also made them the most exciting team to watch in the NHL. Unfortunately this style was blamed for their premature exit from last seasons playoffs, and the Caps listened to their critics. In the beginning it seemed to be a mistake, but as a wise man once said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.”

The funniest thing about all this is that the critics weren’t just the national and mainly Canadian hockey media. Caps fans were highly critical when the team lost a game 7 at home for the third season in a row. This caused Caps fans to push the same company line we heard about the Caps every time they were talked about, ” They need to become a better defensive team” and ” You can’t expect to win 5-4 games in the playoffs”. Defenseman Mike Green seemed to be the poster child for the teams struggles in the postseason, and evidence that maybe a shift in strategy was necessary.

Well the fans got what they wished for, and the team decided to change its identity seemingly on the fly. From the wide open style through which they swarmed opponents with their seemingly overwhelming talent, to a more conventional style of play. The games were no longer as exciting, and to make matters worst the results weren’t coming in the same matter fans grew accustomed to. The Great 8 was no longer putting together a personal highlight reel every night and offense that seemed to be the best in the NHL now seemed merely average.The Caps had gone from being lauded for being an offensive juggernaut that considered defense an afterthought to a team that struggled to score 3 goals a night and played a style of hockey usually suited for the mid-90s New Jersey Devils. This all happened seemingly in a matter of two months.

Obviously it doesn’t help when you have a December like the one the Caps had. Their 5-6-3 December also included a stretch where they went winless for eight straight games. However the misconception was that the style of play was to blame. Fact of the matter is that the team was not putting forth the kind of effort necessary to play that brand of hockey. If any lesson should have been learned by this team in the three straight losses to the Canadiens its that you have to earn it. Now it seems that over the three weeks the team has seen the error in their former ways. The effort level is up and while the team may not be playing the exciting brand everyone loved them for, the results are starting to improve.

While the transition has not gone as smoothly as a lot of people would have liked, there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel. With the trade deadline on the horizon GMGM is likely to add another piece to the puzzle, and the push for the Cup will be soon after that. A team that at times seemed disinterested and hopeless in December now looks like a team that knows that their chance for redemption is on the horizon. The chance to silence the naysayers who question their mental toughness, and a chance to make DC home to a champion for the first time in what seems like ages.

Fake Juice

F*ing Restless

Dear Washington Capitals,

Please forgive my short-fuse with you this season. Despite the text messages I send out [seemingly every game night] that read ‘These guys fucking suck,’ or ‘It feels like the Caps just kicked my dog,’ or ‘I’d rather take a haymaker from Fedor Emelianenko than watch another Caps shootout,’ I’m not going to jump ship to another team anytime soon, or ever really. But I, along with many Caps fans (it would appear), am getting fucking restless for a Cup.

Maybe it’s living in the DC area for coming up on 25 years now. The last time a major franchise won a championship in DC was when the Redskins won in ’91*. I was 4 years old and barely remember the house I lived in, much less the Skins hoisting Joe Gibbs after winning Super Bowl XXII. The previous time before that? Again the ‘Skins in ’87 and I had lackluster motor skills and was deucing all over  myself at 9 months old.

The Wizards/Bullets have made it to the playoffs 7 times in my lifetime. They have made it out of the opening round once. They are currently in the midst of a “skid” where they have lost 25 games in a row away from Verizon Center. Their overall win percentage is .271. There’s a better chance of a sequel to Kazaam being released before the Wiz bring home a Larry O’Brien.

The Washington Nationals are still like a new puppy to me. I can’t get mad at them for losing because some schmuck in Montreal destroyed their franchise after the strike. At least they are living up to their expectations, as low as they might be, on a yearly basis. But even before then, when the Orioles were the local team for DC fans, there’s been few chances for a World Series banner around here. Since 1997, the Orioles and Nationals have combined for 19 seasons without finishing above .500.

Maybe I am taking it out on you, Washington Capitals, because you are arguably the most talented DC franchise I have seen in that span. You were the best team in the National Hockey League last year over 82 games, then shit the bed in games 83-88. The roster this season is largely unchanged from last year’s. Lost a few, gained a few, but the nucleus of last year’s President’s Trophy team remains in tact.

Take a page from New England here. The Boston/New England area franchises hadn’t won a championship in 15 years prior to the Patriots’ 2001 Super Bowl. Since then they have added 2 more rings, the Celtics have won a championship, and the Red Sox have two World Series trophies. Six titles for one area in 9 years isn’t bad. Maybe the Capitals and their talent are the spark the other franchises could use to spawn more titles.

So what do you say fellas? How about you start playing with as much energy that Verizon Center crowd gives you on a nightly basis? How about we play full 60-minute games? How about we start winning games prior to overtime where we are 4-5 [dropping 5 straight before we head to the shootout].  And if we should have to go to a shootout, how about we do a little better than the abysmal 2-6? I assume you’ve all grown up playing hockey – how many times in your life have you gone one-on-one against a goalie? It certainly isn’t anything new. Those are 11 points left on the board after going into OT, guess how many point we’re behind for the top spot in the NHL? Crazy coincidence.

Just something to think about.

You shitbums.

Love,

Lester Averman

* I realize DC United has won the U.S. Open Cup twice since the inaugural 1996 season. I also realize I said “major franchise.”

Physical Education

When the CAPS traded for D.J. King this offseason, I was pumped that a bruising physical presence was being added to the lineup. Like most fans I knew he likely would not contribute many points or even many minutes (relatively speaking) to the team, but I felt that the lack of an enforcer-type player last season needed to be addressed for the 2010/2011 campaign. (I’ll reference the February 13th incident involving Quintin Laing and Cam Janssen after Janssen hit Matt Bradley. Great to see Lainger step in for his teammate, but he wasn’t exactly the ideal candidate to square off with Janssen.) What has pleasantly surprised me though is that it hasn’t been just D.J. King (only two bouts thus far this year) dropping gloves and slinging more weight than Nate Newton, but the team as a whole seems to be playing with more of an edge than last season.

The CAPS engaged in just 21 fights last season, 20 in the regular season. Only the Red Wings (19) fought less as a team than Washington. Some may attribute this to good team discipline, not allowing themselves to be baited into giving their opponents any unnecessary momentum. The 12 fighting majors in just 18 games this season points to a more physical style of play that I feel will only help us down the road. Granted 4 of those 12 came in just one contest against New Jersey. Some highlights so far include:

  • Newly acquired Matt Hendricks leads the team with 4 fights. When the CAPS signed Hendricks this summer I admittedly knew little about the 29 year-old center. His career stats didn’t imply an immediate impact, but Hendricks’ blue-collar style of play has quickly made him one of my favorite players on the team.
  • Mike Green entered this year with one career NHL fight. He as already dropped the gloves (and helmet per Junior Hockey etiquette) twice this year. While his fighting style against Kovalchuk resembled a kitten batting at a ball of yarn who can also headlock someone, it’s good to see Greenie ready to throw down when necessary. Matt Bradley should open up a school for fighting on skates to help Green and Semin. Hell,I’d enroll in his inaugural class for sure.
  • Nicklas Backstrom has even thrown his frame around on the ice as of late, delivering a few checks against Tampa Bay’s Dominic Moore on Thursday night.
  • Tyler Sloan followed suit last night against the Thrashers, according to Steve Kolbe of Capitals Radio as I listened to his emphatic call of number 89 clearing out an opponent in front of Neuvirth.
  • Last and certainly not least, John Erskine and his mustache engaged in what some (Japers’ Rink; Puck Daddy) are calling the early Fight of the Year frontrunner with Eric Boulton of Atlanta. 

This style of play is awesome to see out of our team. As long as they keep breaking opponents’ faces and not their own hands I hope to see this continue well into our playoff-run in 2011.

– L.A.

3-0 Homestand

It is friggin nice to have the Caps back. After the slow start in Atlanta (See Nasty Nates Description of the game) the Caps got things on the right track during the home opener.  To starts things off, the opener was on a Saturday night and it was a beautiful day in DC.  The atmosphere downtown was awesome and it was good to see the streets of D.C. draped in Red again.

The rookie, Marcus Johansson, got off to a poor start with a terrible turnover right in front of Neuvirth that lead to the Devils first goal.  Carlson quickly followed with a wrister from the blue line that was just nasty to set the score even. The devils notched their second and final goal around the 14 minute mark which put the score at 2 to 1 for the remainder of the 1st.  After that the Devils might have well just packed up and gone home because the final 2 periods were just hilariously awesome for Caps fans.

The second period contained 4 Capital goals: Flash, Ovechkin (2), and Chimera.  Ovie is such a beast.  On his first goal he had the entire Devils team around him and he still managed to get the shot off…so Nasty.  Chimera scored on a breakaway from the penalty box that was pretty sweet.  Ovie followed with a breakaway that lead to a penalty shot which he nailed which lead to Brodeur getting the hook.

Brooksie and Fehr added goals in the fight filled 3rd period (all of which are in the Beltway Brawls section).  These fights were pretty hilarious and the matchups were pretty unusual. The only fight I had a problem with was the one on Johansson…Seriously Devils?  Johansson apparently stated in the faceoff that he did not want to fight and you guys attack him from behind, real classy..You better believe that D.J. King will suit up next time we see them in late November.  All in all it was an embarrassing night for the Devils and a great home opener for the Caps.

The 2nd game in the home stand was a nail biter that ended with Ovie coming to the rescue in OT.  Bruce had some pretty interesting comments about Ovie’s performance, basically saying that only a guy like Ovechkin can have such a terrible game and end up being the hero.  Ovie said that he was just really tired and wanted to get off the ice..feel free to put it in the net anytime you feel like you need a rest..fine by me.

The Islanders came in to town for another close game to wrap up the home stand.  Ovie notched another goal and then had the assist on the game winner that reflected off of Backstroms skate for the 2-1 win. A few other notes are that Nuvy has looked better each and every game.  Mike Green left with a shoulder stinger, so we will have to see how long he is out for.

Alright time for a few beers in DC…Peace.

Thrashers-4 Caps-2

FINALLY, Nasty Nate has COME BACK to THE CAPS LOCK! You saw the score, so I won’t bother posting paragraphs about a game that was equivalent to a positive HIV test. Notes:

– It looks like the team took the “regular season doesn’t matter” mantra a bit too far. They looked very sloppy

-Get better Pavelec.

– Alex Semin looked very, very good. Flash made a slick pass on the first goal, but Semin batting the puck down at the blue line, and making a good pass through traffic to 14 was very nice. A secondary assist that was really worth the 1 point.

-To quote new Caps Lock team member Cliff “Fake Juice” Ngwafon: “Flash giveth, and he taketh away”. What an awful fucking giveaway right to Evander Kane for Atlanta’s first marker. Flash had a solid assist, was winning faceoffs, and still looked poor. Enough of this fucking experiment. Fleischmann is a hack.

-Evander Kane is a beast, and is only going to get better. He really endeared himself to me last season by one-punching noted NHL scumbag Matt Cooke, who took umbrage with him throwing a clean body-check at Sidney Crosby. He’s incredibly young, can skate, stick handle, and shoot. I really like that guy.

-What was with the top line? Backstrom looked like ass, Ovie looked disinterested, Knuble looked old. However,  8’s sauce to Knuble was a thing of beauty. I want to see Backstrom carry the puck more.

– Why was Carlson with Poti, and Alzner with Erskine? Put the two young guns together, enough handicapping them. Erskine played pretty well, but they need to get Carlzner together.

– Is there any doubt that Marcus Johansson will be a fucking player? The future is bright with that guy. Only 13 minutes TOI, so maybe they’re trying to keep him fresh for the whole season, but if he keeps playing like he was last night then he’ll force Bruce to give him more minutes.

-David Steckel is fucking awful. His one talent is winning faceoffs, and the value of that is massively outweighed by how bad he is at everything else. He’s a horrendous penalty killer. PK’ing demands speed, and pressure, he provides neither. Rod The Bod Brindamour was an outstanding faceoff man last season, but there’s a reason why he got shitcanned this year. Hint- he was fucking terrible at hockey. And to think- Steckel makes over a million clams a year. God bless America.

-I hate Tomas Fleischmann.

– I got chucked from the bar last night for being too drunk. Oh Capitals season, how I’ve missed you.

Damn Kids…

Mr. Adam Kimelman hits up the youngins… No, not like pervo status.. check out ” Early Calder candidates..” and peep out our boyz.

I’m sure everyone is just as stoked as I am  on Carlson… but the net minder sitch is a bit concerning… BOTH of our goalies are young young young…. Young in age. Young in exp. Young in stats. True, Varly has seen some serious action with the playoffs AND winter games, but where’s that gotten us?  And sure, Neuvirth tore up the AHL.. but thats what it is.. the AHL.. The bottom line is, whoever looks good is gona play.. and we know both young stars have thier moments where they just tear shit apart… but we’ve also seen the other side. ugh.

Hockey on HB-izzO

“NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2010 – HBO Sports’ groundbreaking “24/7” reality franchise, which has captured 12 Sports Emmy® Awards, will join forces with the National Hockey League to take viewers inside one of the NHL’s great rivalries, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, for 24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC, an innovative four-episode, all-access reality series, it was announced today by Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports and John Collins, chief operating officer for the NHL”

You can read the rest here …..but none of that shit is important anyway.

Here’s what I’m hoping for on with this epic 4 series …

–         Shit is RAW.

I’m not trying to see players filtered down. Most of you probably watched, read about or heard about this year’s HBO series Hard Knocks with the New York Jets (or the million boxing 24/7’s). Now, do I care about the Jets? No. Did I like the show? Yes…. It was funny, raw, vulgar and uncut. The Jets caught fire for stupid shit like cussing, and being “wild” but it’s FOOTBALL. Like Football, Hockey is a violent, aggressive sport played by violent and aggressive men. Am I saying that hockey players are the same as football players? Not at all… but in both of these sports, there are super sized, grown ass men trying to take each other’s heads off…. Who gives a damn if they cuss, spit, fart, yell or slap a reporter in the face? They make their living putting orthodontist’s children through college. 

–         Ovie only gets minimal, off ice, air time.

Why?  Because it’s a curse.

–         Crosby gets ton of off ice, air time.

Why? Because it’s a curse

–         Hockey rating’s go up (higher).

Apparently, last year’s Stanley Cup ratings were the highest they’ve been in years which is awesome. I’ll give credit to an absolutely fantastic winter games….up until the shitastic ending.

  I don’t care about NFL guy* that hates hockey and soccer and I’m not trying to win that douche rocket over… but I do care about the fans (I’m guilty) from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s that lost their love for hockey. This is gonna be a huge boost for the NHL as long as it’s dramatic and exciting. If it’s good, it will re-ignite the flame and turn passive fans into Nasty Nate Jrs, and draw in new young and old fans in the process…even if they decide to become Pittsburgh fans (along with the Cowboys, Lakers, Redsox, Tarheels, and Florida Gaytors).

–         A win.

I’ll be there. Go CAPS

-T-rex

*I f’n love football.