Thursday, April 30, 2009

Second Round Predictions

I went 7-1 in the first round, including picking the right number of games for the Blackhawks and Hurricanes.

Here's what I got for Round 2 ( know. Just look at the bracket):

Bruins/'Canes: Bruins in 6.
Caps/Penguins: Caps in 6.
Wings/Ducks: Wings in 6.
Canucks/Blackhawks: Canucks in (wait for it, wait for it) 6!

We'll revisit these predictions in a week or so.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pre-Game: Capitals vs Rangers Game 7

After the Capitals battled back from a two game deficit (twice), the stage is set for a 7th game. The scenario is perfect for Washington, a little too perfect.

The favorite falls flat on their face in the first two games, then suddenly turns it on to force a Game 7 at home with a hot new goalie and rejuvenated offense.

Will the Capitals be able to keep Uncle Mo or will Henrik Lundqvist be able to lift the Rangers to the second round?

For this pre-game, I'm going to look at two posts I've done in the past that contain keys for the Caps to pull this one out.

With the Capitals down two games to zero, I wrote an article, Far From Over, in which I looked at the five things that Washington needs to do in order to get back in the series. Let's take a look at those five things:

1. Offense- After scoring four goals in the first two games, the Caps have been able to put the puck in the net and have exploded on offense. In their three wins, they've scored 13 goals, from eight different players.

2. Discipline- Washington continues to take penalties, but the Rangers power play isn't ranked second-to-last for nothing. New York's power play in the playoffs is third worst and has just two power play goals since Game 1.

3. Goalie Situation- Oh it's resolved. The Caps have their goalie (Happy Birthday yesterday to Varly!) for the playoffs and for (hopefully) a long, long time.

4. Playing at the Garden- A split in Game 3 and 4 was all Washington needed to stay alive. Then blowing out the Rangers on their ice has led the match-up to a 7th game.

5. Solving Henrik Lundqvist- This is last, but certainly most important in the Capitals want any chance of winning Game 7. Lundqvist has been extremely inconsistent compared to the first few games. The fate of the New York Rangers depends on which Henrik Lundqvist shows up.

Finally, with the call-up of Artem Ansiminov, here is my report on him from when I went up to Hershey to watch the Bears play the Hartford Wolf Pack:

Artem Anisimov- A towering figure at 6'4", 205, he picked up a garbage goal in the second period. I was somewhat disappointed with his performance, because of my high expectations. He needs to work on his skating if he wants to make it to the next level. He only registered 2 shots, and I think he just had an off-game. I think he's good enough to play in the NHL, but he's still pretty raw. This is his second season in North America, and he could use one more after this one. Expect to see him in the NHL around 2010.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Post-Game: Capitals @ Rangers Game 6

Here is the post-game from Game 6 from THW:
It seems like this Washington Capitals team performs best with their back against the wall. Once again facing elimination, the Capitals found a way to get secondary scoring and won Game 6 5-3 at Madison Square Garden.

I know I've been posting a lot at TheHockeyWriters, but as soon as Finals Week is over on May 7th, you can be assured to get daily postings here as well.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

What is Going on Here?

'Canes fans sure do have interesting ways of celebrating!

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post-Game: Capitals vs Rangers Game 5

Check it out over at TheHockeyWriters:
Unlikely hero Matt Bradley scored two goals and Simeon Varlamov recorded his second shutout in three games as the Caps dominated the Rangers in a 4-0 victory to force Game 6 in New York on Sunday Afternoon.


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Friday, April 24, 2009

Pre-Game: Capitals vs Rangers Game 5

Did you miss Sean Avery putting his stick to the throat of Alex Ovechkin? Well, so did Ian Walsh. How many more times can Avery get away with these cheap shots?

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wait, When is Game 7?

I guess a mid-week matinee would be better than no Game 7 at all.
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Post-Game: Capitals @ Rangers Game 4

Check out my post over at TheHockeyWriters for the post-game:
Everyone knew Henrik Lundqvist would be the key for a Rangers’ series upset, and thus far, he’s done just that by stealing the show from the high-powered Washington Capitals. Lundqvist held the Caps to one goal on 39 shots, while getting offense from Paul Mara and Chris Drury along the way. A late furry by Alex Ovechkin and company fell just short as the Rangers are just one win shy from advancing to the second round.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Simeon Varlamov Interview

Great stuff from over at OnFrozenBlog:
Varlamov: "This morning right before the morning skate the coach told me that I would be playing."

DC: Did you expect to play in tonight's game?

Varlamov: "Hmm . . . I did, but usually I am told a day or so before a game whether I am playing or not. But it was different now. When I wasn't told I thought maybe Theodore would get the nod.?

DC: After the last game you must have had a lot more confidence.

Varlamov: "Yes, I was a little bit more confident. I was skating around before the game and saw all these banners up top with all these great names like Mike Richter, Mark Messier, other players. I really wanted to win tonight. It was my first game at Madison Square Garden , and I am extremely happy. I used to watch on TV all these great games at MSG, and now I had a chance to be out there on that ice and play a game in this unbelievable atmosphere."

DC: When did you get your first thought that you might be getting a shutout?

Varlamov: "The last five minutes of the game I was thinking about it, that it was close. I really wanted it to happen. Of course I didn't think about it before the game, I was only thinking about the win. But with about five minutes to go I realized that I had a really good chance to post a shutout, and I didn't want this chance to get away."

DC: It looked like all the guys were really playing well in defense.

Varlamov: "Yes, definitely. All the guys played really well in defense as well as in attack. It was so great that all the guys converted lots of chances."

DC: Tell us about the episode with Avery.

Varlamov: "Well, everyone knows that he skates around trying to get everyone fired up. And I know about it. We talked about it at the team meetings as well. That's why I do not pay attention to such incidents. Yes, I know and actually saw how he was swinging his stick in front of Brodeur. I am ready for his provocations."

"I just touched him a little bit. And that's it. He reacted with a lot of emotion. He started yelling something. Of course, I didn't understand half of it."

DC: It looked like he hit you really hard.

Varlamov: "It was a good [punch]. It didn't feel nice. But there's nothing serious. A game is a game. My main objective is to catch pucks and concentrate on my own game and not to notice what he does."

DC: It looked like nothing was going to throw you off tonight!

Varlamov: "I try not to react to these incidents."

DC: After the game you let out a "Woo."

Varlamov: "All the guys came to congratulate me. To be honest with you it felt really good. The whole team congratulated me. They even took the puck from tonight's shutout. Now I will get a nice frame and keep it in my house."

DC: Did you get a pie in the face after the game?

Varlamov: "No, there was nothing after the game. The guys left a lot of emotions out there on the ice. No one even thought about it. But there was a lot of media in the locker room after the game asking a lot of questions."

DC: Of course, you're the first star of the game.

Varlamov: "Eh, really?! Wow, that's great! I didn't even know."

DC: What did the coach tell you after the game?

Varlamov: "He said 'Good job.' Nothing else. But what else can he say? The whole team played really well. We won tonight. And that's the most important thing."

DC: We will probably see you on Wednesday again now.

Varlamov: "Maybe. I don't know. I will probably be told either tomorrow or the day after during the morning skate. Am I ready? Of course I am ready. And if I am selected to play, I will try to show a good game."

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Interference Goes Unnoticed As Callahan Scores

While listening to Bruce Boudreau's post-game press conference, he said something that I had not noticed while watching Game 2 in real time or on replays. I went back and saw exactly what Boudreau was talking about:

As you can clearly see, Michal Rozsival steps in front of Ovechkin as he is attempting to help Tom Poti on defense. At this freeze frame, Ovechkin has not yet been bumped by Rozsival, but is about to hit full stride as he attempts to catch up with Ryan Callahan. Before Callahan takes off, he has about a step on Ovechkin.

In this frame, you can see Ovechkin gets off-balanced as there is contact with Rozsival. The speedy Callahan is now at full speed as Brandon Dubinsky takes the puck into the offensive zone.

It is too late for Ovechkin to catch up, and the Rangers have a 2-on-1. Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Viktor Kozlov can only watch the Rangers score the only goal of the series.

I'm not here to beg for a call on the contact away from the puck, but had Ovechkin not been bumped, it would have been a race between Callahan and Ovechkin to the slot and I know who my money is on. If Kozlov gets whistled for a nudge in the back that is apparently a cross-check, the trailing referee should be aware of Rozsival's intention as he cleverly cuts off Ovechkin's path back on 'D'.

You can decide for yourself here.

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Pre-Game: Capitals @ Rangers Game 3

Here are my keys for the Capitals to win Game 3 and get back on track from TheHockeyWriters:
With the Rangers stealing both games from the Capitals, they now hold a two-game advantage as the series heads up to the Garden. Rangers fans are celebrating, but this is not a best of three series, and Washington is nowhere near showing its true colors.

Washington and New York have faced each other six times thus far, with the past five games being decided by one goal (including one that went to the shootout and one that went into overtime). Yet in the playoffs, the Rangers have played a fundamentally sound defensive game to combat the Caps’ firepower. Here are five things Washington must do if they want to force the series to a Game 6 or a Game 7:


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Post-Game: Capitals vs Rangers (Game 2)

Another inconsistent performance leaves the Caps down 2-0 in the much for home ice advantage:

  • Simeon Varlamov played lights out this afternoon, but still took the loss after a 23 save performance. He proved that he can start at this level and deserves to start Game 3 on Monday.
  • Tom Poti was too aggressive on the 2-on-1 that led to Ryan Callahan's goal. While attempting to fend off the pass, he got caught reaching and Chris Drury made a nice pass to the wide open Callahan who put it top shelf.
  • The odd man rush came about because Mike Green pinching forward on offense. He was caught out of position and Viktor Kozlov failed to realize that he should have taken Green's spot. Koz attempted to keep the puck in the zone, but was beat, and the Rangers broke out on a 2-on-1. Kozlov also picked up two minor penalties, separated by 21 seconds of ice time between penalties. He got pushed off the puck and had a horrid game.
  • Speaking of Green, he needs to step his game up if the Caps want to push this to six or seven games. The Rangers are going after him. Green led the Caps with seven (!!!) giveaways and six of his eight shots failed to reach the net.
  • Alex Semin wasn't much better. He picked up two stupid and immature penalties. One for a hook (go figure), and one retaliation penalty via a slash to the neck (suspension? nah, but a stick to the neck is never within the rules or remotely clean).
  • Of the bright spots, Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich, and Brian Pothier stuck out. Fehr was tenacious on offense in just 8:34 of ice time. Laich showed some great moves, but still needs to get to the front of the net. Pothier played well and should have played Game 1 also.
We'll end the recap with a little numbers game:

24- Number of Capitals' giveaways (compared to New York's seven).
24- Number of Capitals' missed shots (plus 29 blocked shots by the Rangers).
24- Number of Callahan, who scored the game-winning goal in the first period and received the game's second star.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pre-Game: Capitals vs Rangers (Game 2)

For today's preview, I'm going to run down a few quick reasons to trust (or not) the Capitals' net-minders:

Three reasons to trust Jose Theodore

  1. Playoff Experience- The "been there, done that" mindset applies here for an experienced Theodore. He's got 42 playoff games under his belt and knows what it takes to win in the playoffs. Last season, his Colorado Avalanche fell behind two games to one and came back to win three straight games to clinch the series. In 2004 with the Montreal, the Habs fell behind 2-0 and 3-1. Theodore won three straight, including posting a shutout in game seven on the road.
  2. Bounced Back- Jose has only lost back-to-back games in regulation twice since December 7th. Theodore is also 12-4 this season in games that he starts following a start in which he allows four or more goals.
  3. Home Record- Before Wednesday's loss, Jose was 4-0-1 in his last five home games. Theo's home record this season was 18-8-1, one win shy of his 2003-2004 season when he went 19-10-3 in six more games on home ice.
Three reasons to doubt Jose Theodore

  1. Playoff Trends- Sure he's never lost in the first round, but he's 4-11 in his past 15 playoff starts. Jose is also 3-6 alltime in Game 2's.
  2. Inflated Goals Against Average- Here are Theodore's regular season GAA's of the years that he's made the playoffs: 2.11 (2001), 2.27 (2004), 3.04 (2006, played five games with Colorado. With Montreal, his GAA was 3.46 in 38 games), 2.44 (2008), and 2.87 (2009). Excluding 2005 when Jose played at least 10 or more games less than every other season, his GAA is almost half a goal higher this year than last season. Compared with 2001, his GAA is .76 points higher.
  3. Over the Hill?- Ever since winning the Vezina and Hart Trophies in 2002, most would argue that his game has never been the same. He has made the playoffs four times since 2002, but he's been too inconsistent to be mentioned among the NHL's elite.
Three reasons to trust Simeon Varlamov

  1. Stats Don't Lie- In six appearances (five starts), he is 4-0-1/2.37/.918. He has allowed more than two goals in just one of those six appearances.
  2. The Future- Varlamov is supposed to be the future of this franchise. He has already proven himself in the opportunities he has been given in the NHL, so it's time to use him when it matters, in the playoffs.
  3. High-Pressure Games- Yes he is 20 (turning 21 on April 28), but he's played in games that have high importance. He spent all of last year in the KHL, even leading his team into the KHL playoffs. His first NHL start was at Montreal on Hockey Night in Canada. With all of Canada watching, he turned away 32/33 shots to help the Caps to a 2-1 victory.
Three reasons to doubt Simeon Varlamov

  1. Experience- Of the six teams he has faced, only two are in the playoffs (Montreal and St. Louis).
  2. Getting Into Rhythm- He has played two games in December, two games in March, and two games in April. Attempting to throw him in raw could have negative repercussions for the Caps.
  3. Rushing the Prospects- Sometimes it's better for the future starter to watch from the sideline as the vetern leads the team (Ex: Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre.....and NO, Theodore is not Favre, but you know what I mean). If you play your prospects too early (Ex: Alex Smith, sorry last football reference), it could hurt the prospect's progression and set the franchise back.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Schultz is "Injured"

Yeah, right. Per Tarik:
Defenseman Jeff Schultz is not practicing this morning. He didn't practice yesterday, either, and I'm hearing that he's hurt. I'll post an update when I get more info.

Update: It doesn't look like Schultz is going to play tomorrow. The Caps did not comment on the nature or extent of his injury, saying only that he's day-to-day. If Schultz is indeed out, Brian Pothier will get into his first playoff game since 2005-06 with Ottawa.

An "injury" in last year's series against Philadelphia was also the reason he only played two games.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

People You Would Like to Punch in the Face

Man this is anti-Jeff Schultz at its finest. Most likely because they didn't have any or Tim Peel or Sean Avery mug shots.

BallHype: hype it up!

Post-Game: Capitals vs Rangers

A disappointing and somewhat predictable Game 1 leave the Capitals in a must-win scenario Saturday afternoon. Here are some post-game observations:

  • Jose Theodore did what some thought he would and lost the game for the Caps. Jose allowed three goals on 11 shots in the second period, all were momentum-killers. One came 1:09 after Washington took the lead, the other two came back-to-back in under two minutes of each other.
  • Jeff Schultz...Tisk, tisk. I like to be as optimistic as I can when dissecting his game, but there was certainly nothing to like about Brandon Dubinsky doing his best Nate Robinson impression on poor old Schultz.
  • Sean Avery is a prick...but you knew that.
  • Really? penalty on Avery for shoving Mike Green back into the Rangers' bench when the puck is nowhere in sight? Or how about when Avery tripped Green on the blueline giving Scott Gomez a clear path on net? Or Nik Antropov running over Tomas Fleischmann on that same play when the puck is 50 feet away? The refs blew a few soft calls in favor of the Caps, but swalling the whistle for the rest of the game is just flat out not fair.
There were a few bright spots for the Capitals last night:
  • Congrats to Fleischmann and Viktor Kozlov for scoring their first career playoff goals.
  • Nicklas Backstrom has a five-game point streak dating back to Game 4 against the Flyers. Backstrom's assist to Kozlov pulled the Caps to within one goal with :49 seconds left in the second period.
  • Matt Bradley made the most of his 7:01, throwing his body around as seen here at the :15 second mark. The longer the series goes on, the more the Caps will need his physical style of play.
  • Alex Ovechkin had an MVP-calibr performance. Two assists, 13 shots, and six hits in just over 26 minutes was what the Capitals needed. If Henrik Lundqvist wasn't ridiculously good, this game could have gone to the Caps.
  • The Capitals dominated the face-off circle, winning 70% (46/66) of the draws. They were led by Boyd Gordon (4/5, 80%) and Backstrom (13/18, 72%). It should be noted that the Caps went 19/21 (90%) on neutral zone draws. Sergei Fedorov led the team in the neutral zone, winning 10/12 (83%) draws.
  • This game did not go to Overtime, therefore Green does not need 30:47 minutes of ice time. When Bruce Boudreau gets desperate, he leaves Greenie out there, which just tires him out even more. He did have two assists, but the 25-28 time-on-ice mark should be the amount Green should receive.
There are still a few lingering questions that Boudreau and his staff need to figure out by Game 2:

Which forward should get a jersey: Gordon, Donald Brashear, or even Chris Clark?

Who is the odd man out on the blue line: John Erskine, Milan Jurcina, or Brian Pothier?

Who to start in net: Simeon Varlamov or Jose ThreeOrMore?

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hockey Bracket

Click to zoom in.

Biggest surprise: Blackhawks. They'll give San Jose a run for their money.

Biggest disappointment: Devils. This series could go either way, but you have to score to win and Zach Parise can't score four goals a night for New Jersey.

Conn Smythe: Jose Theodore. For the Capitals, it's going to be Jose Theodore or bust. Sure Ovechkin will light up the scoreboard, but goalies win (and lose) playoff games, so it's all riding on Theo.

BallHype: hype it up!

Pre-Game: Capitals vs Rangers

Over at THW, I've collaborated with the Rangers' corespondent to look at the match-up:

Washington Capitals (ML): All eyes will be on Alex Ovechkin in this series, but Washington’s offense is much more complex than just the League’s reigning MVP. Nicklas Backstrom has been the catalyst for Ovechkin and others, but was pushed around in last season’s match up against the Flyers before scoring in the final four games of the series. Mike Green will lead breakouts, but if New York can slow down these three and Alexander Semin, the Rangers’ job has just gotten a whole lot easier. Brooks Laich will...


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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alex Ovechkin Loves Him Some Hookah

Thanks to Anna for the link to this picture.

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The ABC's of the Washington Capitals

Here is my latest post over at The Hockey Writers:

So with the playoffs just around the corner, here is an introduction to your 2009 Southeast Division Champions:

A- The Alex’s: Everyone knows about Alex Ovechkin’s game, but which Alex Semin will show up? The one that lead the league in goals earlier this season before getting injured, or the one that you barely notice is playing until you see him sitting in the penalty box?

B- Bruce Boudreau: After being promoted to Capitals’ Head Coach last Thanksgiving, he helped lead Washington to the playoffs, capturing the Jack Adams Trophy along the way. The former Slapshot extra is loved by everyone from Hershey to D.C., and even has his own bobble-head.

Keep reading...

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jeff Schultz- Love Him or Hate Him

New post up on the THW... What do you think about Jeff Schultz?

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pre-Game: Capitals @ Thrashers

With the baseball season starting up, it'd only seem fitting that we're playing the same team for the second time in a two day span. Atlanta is looking for the home sweep of the Caps, who happened to complete that feat two days ago when they beat Atlanta at the Phone Booth 6-4.

In that game, six different Caps scored...none of whom go by the name Alex Ovechkin. So now that the the Caps have proved they can provide second-hand scoring, what's the next problem to fix? Goaltending? Special teams? Defense? Probably a little of each:
Note: Stats are from regular season games during the month of April.
  • Jose Theodore: 15-8-1, 2.49 GAA, .915 save percentage, and he is also on a five-game win streak in the month of April.
  • Power Play (including last season)- 27% (10/37).
  • Penalty Kill (including last season)- 88% (22/25).
  • Goals Against Per Game- 4.00
If 'focus' was a stat, I would have included it above, but unfortunately, that is up to the Captain the players to motivate themselves to play 60 minutes every night. As you can see, Jose has been pretty solid in April, so we can just ignore that one for now.

So what can you take away from the stats listed? Well special teams for one is not nearly as bad as it used to be. They will be facing the 12th ranked Atlanta Power Play and their 29th ranked Penalty Kill. Their Power Play features four players with exactly 12 goals, even the Caps don't have four players with over 10 with the extra man. Even their Penalty Kill features Colin Stuart, who ranks in the Top 10 in shorthanded goals...That would be all their PK features...

So if the season ended today, Washington would now face the Montreal Canadiens. That is likely to change once more as the Hab's final three are against playoff teams while a team like Pittsburgh gets Tampa Bay and the Islanders before ending the season playing these very Habs.

So be it Montreal or Pittsburgh or the Rangers (who also happen to play all playoff teams), Boudreau is going to find a way to fire these guys up to play, hopefully doing it before a TV timeout during the second period...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pictures from the Caps Road Crew

So I finally got my pictures back from CRC's trip to Carolina on March 21st, and without further ado:

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Keith Aucoin - Washington's 'Little' Spark Plug

Check out my latest post over at The Hockey Writers where I look at the path that Keith Aucoin took to the Caps. Also, be sure to check in tomorrow for for some pre-game. Cheers.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pre-Game: Capitals vs Islanders

Thanks to New Jersey's recent plummet, the Capitals now control their own destiny for second place in the Division. Just six games remain for Washington, none against playoff teams, not the perfect buildup for their second go-around in as many years in the post-season.

Here's what the playoff scenario has got for the Caps as of April 1st:

While most Caps fans can agree that a series against Montreal would be more favorable, I wouldn't mind a Washington-New York match-up. The Rangers have won six of their last seven at home, but both home games against Washington have needed extra time, with the Caps winning in OT and the Rangers winning in the shootout.

See what I'm doing here?

I'm looking ahead. I'm skipping over six games against teams that the Caps should blow out of the water.

Overlooking games against the lowly Islanders has gotten out-of-hand this year. Back on December 16th, Washington allowed two goals in the last nine minutes to send the game to overtime. Alex Ovechkin helped avoid the shootout by netting a his second goal of the game with 11 seconds left.

The Caps needed Ovechkin to bail them out again when Kyle Okposo scored with less than eight minutes left to even-steven the score at 1. Ovechkin scored both Caps goals, taking just 1:46 to end the game.

So we get the Islanders and the Devils get the Penguins... Winning against the last place team in April is easy enough, right? Yeah... You would think so.

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