Two In a Row? Crazy!

Once again, I missed the game (acting and blogging are like oil and water), and once again I intend to attempt to recap it in my own fashion anyway. As always, this here recap is culled from the recaps you see below as well as the AP report and the box score, so anything written here will likely be a conclusion you've already reached yourself.

Big win for the Caps. I honestly didn't think they would be able to pull this one out. But they did, which is always nice. The first thing that jumps out at me as far as the numbers: Hello special teams! 2 for 5 on the power play and a spotless 4 for 4 on the penalty kill (including one penalty for a broken stick? Huh?). Being +2 in the special teams department is going to translate into wins more often than losses by a wide margin and its something I wish the Caps would do more often.

The other number that jumps out at me is Jakub Klepis' two assists. Don't look now, but Klepis has five points in his last five games for the Caps. Mark me down as an official member of the Jakub Klepis bandwagon.

Another player quietly putting together a pretty good little run is Matt Pettinger, with three points in the past two games. Semin's return to the lineup has certainly helped in terms of taking all the pressure off of the top line on offense, but I feel like Pettinger has been just as much of a factor, if not more so. (Speaking of Semin, I'm ecstatic that both his goals since returning have gone down as game winners. Not because I give any real credence to the GWG as a statistical category, but because Alex is on my fantasy team.)

Much love for Richard Zednik, who, despite the fact that some people were under the impression that he might not be able to, scored.

Lastly, I present you with this quote from Olie Kolzig, which kind of instantaneously depressed me: "It might be the last time I ever play them, too. You never know -- we don't play them next year." Sometimes I forget that there will come a day when Olie won't be our Goalie anymore.

(Editor's Note: You might not hear from me over the weekend. The play I've been working on, a.k.a. the reason I've missed the last two games, is opening this weekend and my schedule will be somewhat hectic to say the least. Sorry.)

Recaps Fom People That Matter:
- A View From The Cheap Seats
- Bleatings From a Caps Nut
- Japers' Rink
- Off Wing Opinion
- The Peerless Prognosticator
- Puckhead's Thoughts


Online Voting May Produce Skewed Results? I'm Shocked, Just Shocked!

As everyone's favorite beat writer pointed out yesterday on Capitals Insider, Alex Ovechkin has dropped to third among forwards in the Eastern Conference All-Star voting. (Even more disturbing? Marc-Andre Fleury is the leading vote getter among Eastern Conference goaltenders. When did Penguins fans learn how to use computers?) Obviously, I probably don't need to expend any energy exhorting you to stop wasting time reading this and go vote. I don't know about you, but, living in DC, this is my only chance to vote for something that actually matters.

While I'm on the subject of All-Star voting, what, exactly, does the voting all mean? I'm not entirely clear on the rules here, nor am I clear on how the votes are factored in when deciding who gets to actually play in the All-Star game. Is it just the starters who are decided by the fan vote, a la MLB? Or is it some combination of the fan vote and other factors, a la the NFL? Anyone who can refresh my memory on this one wins a gold star.

Speaking of Stars, Jeff Halpern will be wearing one when he steps on the ice at Verizon Center tomorrow night. I was never as impressed with Halpy as everyone else. I felt that the old 10-11-22 line was more than the sum of its parts and once he was seperated from Dahlen and Konowalchuk he wasn't too much more than an average NHLer who happened to be from the DC-area. Frankly, his departure left the captaincy open for Chris Clark, who has been one of my favorite things about this year's team. So I'm having a hard time getting paricularly worked up about his return one way or the other. Which is probably a good thing, since I'll be missing the game anyway.

Apropos of nothing, I was walking down 7th St tonight and the big screen on the side of the Phone Booth was airing the Flyers-Predators game. Was this game showing on Comcast down here and I didn't know about it? Or was it just on the big screen?


What Happened? I Missed It.

Back when the Capitals were winning games on a (semi) consistent basis, the common refrain among those in the know was: "Sure, they're winning, but look at those Shots Against numbers! Surely this team is a house of cards ready to collapse at any moment!" My response, generally, was something along the lines of "Screw that. Let Olie make saves and everyone else worry about scoring goals." In light of tonight's results, I throw out, for your approval, three statistics.

48 - The number of saves for Olie Kolzig on the night.

4-0-2 - The Caps' record in games where they allow 40 or more shots.

2 - Number of points earned tonight in Tampa Bay.

Now I didn't see the game, so all I have to go by are these numbers, and any other numbers that may present themselves in the box score (i.e. Alexanders Semin with a two point night, or Matt Pettinger with a two point night, or Alex Ovechkin with a two point night, or... you get the idea). Seems to me that, if the Caps want to win games, this might be the formula they want to stick with. The box score, to me, seems to indicate that perhaps the high shots against total and the four goals (as many as their previous three games combined) might not necessarily be unrelated. Perhaps the Caps should start concentrating more on scoring goals rather than stopping the other team from doing so? It seems like it would be this teams strength, after all. Obviously, this sort of strategy isn't going to get them very far in the long run (see: 2003-current Washington Wizards), but it might be their best chance to win games in the short term.

(If, by the way, I am completely off base on anything I may have surmised based solely on the box score and the AP report, please don't hesitate to lambaste me in the comment section. Thanks.)

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Bleatings From a Caps Nut
-Japers' Rink
-The Peerless Prognosticator
-Puckhead's Thoughts
-On Frozen Blog (not really a recap, but it'll do)

Hockey Fight!

Via The Mighty MJD (Via Pulled My Groin, apparently. Oops.)


I Coulda Been A Contender

If you are reading this, I feel pretty confident in assuming that you have already read April Witt's feature on Alex Ovechkin from the Washington Post's Sunday magazine. So you don't need me to tell you about how fantastic it was. Not that that's going to stop me talking about it, but nevertheless.

The best part, for me, was reading about Young Alex, and the way his parents dealt with him when he was just a young boy who couldn't even skate backwards.

"I tried not to praise him," his mother said. "After a win . . . the next morning over breakfast I could tell him: 'You know, you did okay. But right there you made a mistake. And there you didn't skate hard enough. And there you didn't go all the way to fight for the puck. And you were lazy in that episode, so work on that.'"
Wow. Tough love much? Actually, my parents were the same way when I was playing youth hockey. Minus, you know, the astute knowledge and wisdom regarding the game of hockey or sports in general. I still remember the first time I ever got called for a penalty. My mother spent the entire ride home that day making me feel as though I had just killed several puppies as well as a baby seal. Never mind the fact that I took a roughing call because I got into a tussle with a kid from the other team who had been making runs at my teammates all game. Heck, I managed to draw him into getting a matching minor, so it didn't even hurt the team in terms of manpower.

But I digress. The point I'm trying to make, aside from the fact that I would have been a heck of a hockey player if not for the misguided notions of my parents, is that much of what we see on the ice on gamenight from Number Eight is owed largely to Tatiana Ovechkin. Which, given the rumors that have been flying ever since Ovie fired his agent, is, at the very least, reassuring. She seems to be genuinely concerned for his best interests, and she definitely knows what's what when it comes to the business side of sports as well.

My mother? She's a heck of an accountant. Which is why, at age 18, Alex Ovechkin was being drafted #1 overall in the NHL Draft, and I was driving a Zamboni in Wheaton.


A Look Ahead: It's All Downhill From Here

The Capitals, with their loss last night, have now lost six straight games against five different teams. Those five teams (Atlanta, Boston, Carolina, NY Islanders, Toronto) have a combined record of 62-40-16 for a .593 winning percentage. Those are pretty respectable numbers and its understandable how thet Caps could have trouble with them. Nothing to be worried about, right? Just a tough stretch of the schedule, it'll all get better...

What's that? You say the Caps' next five games are against teams with a combined 73-32-10 record for a staggering .678 winning percentage? And they have to face, in Anaheim and Buffalo, the two best teams in the entire league? Wow. This is likely to end up looking like a fight between Donald Brashear and Vitaly Vishnevski, and the Caps are definitely not Brashear in that analogy.

If you need me, I'll be visiting my shrink.


Six Is the Lonliest Number

Tonight was the sort of game where, if it weren't for the fact that the Caps went into it with a five-game losing streak, I would have chalked it up to bad luck and a hot goaltender in Rick DiPietro. As it is though, well, I'll let Bill Murray sum it up for you: "Dogs and cats, living together... Mass hysteria!" God, I love that movie.

To their credit, the Caps played pretty well. They were doing a good job of generating chances and there were stretches where they were completely in control of the game. Unfortunately, DiPietro kept coming up with big save after big save, and Olie didn't. Not that Olie didn't play well, but with the way the team is playing right now, its starting to look like the only thing that is going to pull them out of this tailspin is some sort of miracle performance from either him or Brent Johnson.

Or, you know, some semblance of a competent power play system. Once again, a lot of credit goes to Rick DiPietro, but when you get four full minutes of power play time (including two full minutes of five on three) you really need to make something happen, and the Caps didn't. They still look lost at times when trying to get the puck across the opposing blueline. For the life of me, I can't figure out how it is that they have now scored power play goals in something like six straight games.

The other interesting thing I noticed tonight was Brendan Witt's wearing number 32. I don't generally follow the Islanders or Brendan to any particular degree, and I wasn't aware of it until tonight. As soon as I saw it, I knew something was different (obviously, he wore 19 in DC) but the reasoning behind the change never occured to me. Thankfully, Joe B. and Craig were on top of it, pointing out what should have been obvious, informing us that Witt is wearing number 32 in honor of Dale Hunter. Now I've said a lot of things about Brendan Witt in the past, even the most polite of which are simply too vulgar to reprint here for fear that some young Caps fan somewhere might stumble across it. But I gained a whole new level of respect for him when I saw that.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Bleatings From a Caps Nut
-Japers' Rink
-On Frozen Blog
-Puckhead's Thoughts

My All-Star Ballot

In the interest of full disclosure:

Forwards - Alex Ovechkin(WAS), Daniel Briere (BUF), Rod Brind'amour (CAR)
Defensemen - Bryan McCabe (TOR), Zdeno Chara (BOS)
Goaltender - Olie Kolzig (WAS)
Write-In- Dainius Zubrus (WAS)

Forwards - Jerome Iginla (CGY), Brian Rolston (MIN), Markus Naslund (VAN)
Defensemen - Chris Pronger (ANH), Scott Neidermayer (ANH)
Goaltender - Mikka Kiprusoff (CGY)

Not That It Would Have Helped Last Night

I have always been a touch obsessed with the idea of making the ice rinks in the NHL wider. Given the size and speed of today's players, I feel like all the rule changes in the world aren't going to get the NHL game back to the offensive glory days of the 1980's that Gary Bettman so desperately longs for. Back in May, over on the Opossum-Palooza, I did a quick, decidedly unscientific, study of what the impact of a wider rink would be. I'm bringing it up again now because I was down on the glass, thanks to a very generous client of mine, last Wednesday for the Capitals' game against the Bruins.

When I wrote that piece at the O-P, I guesstimated that a wider ice rink would result in 22 new front row seats. Looking at my ticket from last Wednesday's game, I can tell you that front row seats are worth $225 a pop.

$225 x 41 games a year x 22 new seats = $202,950 a year in added revenue

Obviously, this fails to take into account the overall decrease in the number of tickets available, but I have no doubt the seats that disappear as a result of a larger ice surface would be those of the inexpensive variety.

As for the numbers I wasn't able to particularly quantify back in May: concession sales. This time around, I went to the game with one of the sales reps from a brand we sell at my store. He has a large expense account. Given the outrageous price of food and alcohol inside the Phone Booth, I would guess that, during the course of the game, the four people in my group (including myself) probably drank at least $30 worth of beer. This is a rather conservative estimate because the truth is, I hang out with some serious drunks. This is also not counting the various libations we consumed while up in the Acela Club during intermissions, or down at the Johnny Walker Coaches Club after the game. All told, the total amount we spent on food and drinks probably came to at least $200. Bringing the adjusted total dollar figure for each ticket to roughly $275.

$275 x 41 home games x 22 new seats = $248, 050

Again, my little study here is decidedly flawed, but I think it probably paints a pretty good picture of the overall added value of a wider rink. Especially since it doesn't take into consideration the increase in size of the second or third rows, which are also outrageously-priced expense account country. It also doesn't take into account the cost of converting an arena from the current layout to the new larger rink layout. All I'm trying to say is that, when looked at a little more closely, the issue of wider rinks needn't be simply an issue of increasing the game's aesthetic value, it could potentially increase the league's bottom line.

Best $35 I Ever Spent

I wasn't going to go to the Caps' game against Toronto Friday night. I went to work with no change of clothes and no ticket, and seeing as how I don't get off until six, those factors would generally preclude my attending any sort of event at Verizon Center. But as the day wore on and I spent more time discussing Wednesday's melee with my coworker, I decided that I pretty much had to, as a show of support for the team that I was so damn proud of.

That didn't last long.

To their credit, from my vantage point in Row Q of the 400 section (also known as "as far away from the ice as you can possibly be without actually leaving the building") it looked like at least one of the goals was sort of a fluke. And up until the fateful five on three I thought they were actually playing pretty well there in the second period. The guy sitting next to me (a Flyers fan visiting from Philly) remarked that the Caps were making the Leafs look "tired". So maybe it's not quite as bad as the 7-1 final score would indicate.

Or maybe this team isn't nearly as good as I'd like to think it is. Yet. Lost in the Capitals' (relatively) hot start has been the fact that this is still a team that is quite thin on the backline and lacks any real experience up front. It showed tonight, mostly in the form of costly defensive-zone turnovers. So perhaps I need to temper my expectations a little bit, and accept the fact that, for all the excitement that came with the home opening win over the Stanley Cup champions (remember that? It seems like such a long time ago now), this is still very much a team in the process of rebuilding, and they need a few more years before they get to where I can truly be angry about a game like last night.


Allow Me to Explain

Back in April, I entered, with much trepidation, into the scary world known as The Blogosphere. My ambitions were decidedly small. All I wanted to do was bitch and moan about how much I hate Peter Angelos, and make some crude jokes about various sports-related topics. The only rule I had for myself was that I wanted to try and keep my blog neutral, rather than turn it into a blog devoted to any specific team. To that end, I did everything I could not to spend every single entry rambling on about the Washington Capitals, to little avail.

It was right around the time that Donald Brashear's fists were opening up Vitaly Vishnevski's face that I came to realize that if I wanted to keep the Opossum-Palooza relatively free of my obsession with all things Capitals, I would need an outlet through which to channel my over-active opinioning. Thusly, "The Kevin Hatcher Fan Club" was born, regardless of the fact that there are some twenty other Capitals blogs clogging up the series of tubes known as the Interweb. Not to be confused with an actual fan club, this is simply an irreverently-named blog devoted to the neurotic ramblings of a lifelong Caps fan living in Northwest DC.

So, to those of you familiar with my "work" over at the O-P, thanks for stopping by. I promise it'll keep going at its usual torrid pace. To those of you not familiar with the O-P, head on over there, then come on back here for what will probably eventually be reduced to a series of bodily function jokes and quasi-plagiaristic recaps culled from AP reports.