Goodbye, Cruel Year

I am trying to think of an uglier hockey game that I have seen, and nothing is coming up. Not just the way the two teams played, which was pretty unimpressive on both ends. That may have been one of the most poorly officiated games I've ever seen. From penalizing Brashear after sticking up for one of his teammates who had been on the recieving end of an unpenalized hit from behind all the way to the unacceptably lenient punishment doled out to Colton Orr. (To be fair, they were pretty crappy in the Caps favor as well.) That third period was a perfect example of something the NHL needs to get rid of if it ever has any aspirations of getting anywhere near the same level of respect as the other major sports.

As for the Caps' play, I don't have much to say. They were unable to establish any sort of consistent forecheck or get shots to the net. It is not a coincidence that the Caps have run into a string of "hot" goalies over the course of the current losing streak. Lundqvist wasn't particularly impressive, but the Caps didn't really make him work. For all the flu-induced inexperience on the backline, the offense seems to be proving just as troublesome of late.

More importantly, I'm sick. I slept through the first period, and so far, this entire recap has been nothing but a series of unrelated sentences. So I'm going to go ahead and cut it short now. Have a happy New Year, don't do anything too stupid, and I'll see you back here in 2007.

Recaps From People That Matter
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-The Peerless Prognosticator


And So It Goes

There was very little reason to expect the Caps to make very much noise tonight. Given all the injuries and call-ups and the brutal schedule, if you had told me you thought the Caps would win this game with any sort of ease, I would have immediately had you institutionalized. So the final score is no surprise. What did surprise me, however, was the fact that the Caps managed to hang with the Devils for most of the game, losing on a few isolated defensive lapses rather than being outright dominated like I thought they would be. And at least they made it interesting at the end.

So why am I so disappointed by this loss? Under the circumstances, it is definitely a moral victory for the team. Thing is, I don't know if I can be satisfied with moral victories anymore. I know the Caps are "rebuilding" and at this point it isn't necessarily justified to expect a team that will compete for the playoffs, but here I am, growing increasingly frustrated by their current slump. They really could have used a win in this one, especially after scoring first. They now face the daunting task of going into Manhattan needing a win to avoid going 0-4 in the first four games of the five in seven stretch.

I guess it's just a question of expectations. At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me the Caps would be where they are at this point in the season, I would have been encouraged. But somewhere along the line (probably the 7-1-1 stretch) something changed. Suddenly, I look at games as "should win" rather than "could win". Am I wrong to have these sorts of expectations? Or are the Caps really that far ahead of schedule in their development that they (and I) should expect better of themselves?


My Trip to New York City, in Photographs

Outside The NHL Store at 47th St and 6th Ave in Manhattan:

Inside The NHL Store at 47th St and 6th Ave in Manhattan:

And that is pretty much all you need to know about my trip to NYC.


Highlight Night

Well, that was interesting. After an exhausting day, the first thirty minutes of tonight's game nearly put me to sleep. Thankfully, I was able to struggle through and get rewarded by witnessing three beautiful Capitals goals. It ended up being much closer than it really needed to be, something that is somewhat troubling given the tough stretch the Caps have ahead of them. I would have liked to have seen them able to take it easy there in the third, but as the Caps have learned a few times this season, you just can't do that.

As for the penalty shot awarded to Mats Sundin. Rule 25.8 Subsection iii:

The player in possession and control (or, in the judgement of the Referee, clearly would have obtained possession and control of the puck) must have been denied a reasonable chance to score (the fact that he got a shot off does not automatically eliminate this play from the penalty shot consideration criteria. If the foul was from behind and he was denied a "more" reasonable scoring opportunity due to the foul, then the penalty shot should be awarded)
I suppose you could look at what happened on the play and interpret that a certain way so as to justify the awarding the penalty shot, but given the quality of the scoring chance Sundin managed to get, I'm going to go ahead and get up on my high horse and say that I don't care how many games you've officiated, the right call there is, at most, a two minute tripping call. (After watching the replay, I actually think the right call would have been a two minute diving call on Sundin, but that is neither here nor there.)

Ultimately, though, I think the Caps have to be pleased with this one. Especially given the depleted defensive corps and the questionable officiating. It's also a big win because, as has been mentioned already, the next week or so is going to be absolutely brutal, what with the five games in seven nights.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Capital Punishment
-On Frozen Blog

Standings Watch: I Watch So You Don't Have To (Because You Shouldn't Be Watching To Begin With, Probably)!
The Caps didn't pick up any ground tonight in the Southeast Division as the Thrashers were winners over the Devils. In terms of conference standings, the Caps managed to knock the Leafs out of the logjam at eighth, but remain tied with the Islanders.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby Again Some More

At the Christmas Break:
-Ovechkin is 24-23-47 in 35 games. He is now tied with Marian Hossa for the NHL goal scoring lead.
-Crosby is 17-38-55 in 31 games. He stands atop the points scoring leaderboard.

I will be out of town for Christmas, so you won't hear from me again until Thursday night. Lucky you. Happy Holidays!

Are We Being Called Back Home?

J.P. is already all over the recent news about the NHL's potential realignment, but I felt compelled to chime in with a quote from a Canadian Press report (emphasis added):

The new divisions in the East: one would feature Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh and Western Conference alumni Columbus. The other division would include the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina. The Caps rejoining their old Patrick Division rivals was a popular sentiment at Wednesday's meeting.
Kudos to the NHL for finally getting it. No matter how hard he tries to prove it isn't so, Gary Bettman is actually occasionally capable of a thought that isn't completely idiotic. Although, to be fair, this proposal still ends with the Caps two most prominent rivals in other divisions. Heck, it actually sends Atlanta to another conference altogether. So it's not completely lacking in Bettman-esque stupidity.

Of course, this will probably all change when the Penguins end up in Kansas City. But I'll save that discussion for another time.


Seven Outta Ten Ain't Bad

Okay. I'm going to go ahead and take the optimistic, big-picture look at this game. The Capitals are so talent-laden that they can very nearly beat a decent hockey team despite only playing roughly fifteen minutes of hockey.

Okay. Now for the realistic look. The Capitals once again came out of the locker room flat. The Lightning are a much better team than the Flyers and the Caps can't afford to come out and fail on three straight penalty kills while also failing to get any pucks towards the net or win any faceoffs. To be fair, from where I was sitting, it was tough to tell wether the Caps just sucked in the first two periods or if the Lightning were just that good. They certainly looked pretty good on those three first period power plays. However, the Caps were unable to develop any sort of consistent forecheck and I can't help but wonder how much of that had to do with the fact that Donald Brashear was out of the lineup. (Anybody wanto to give me a pointer as to why that was?) Recently, Brash had been doing a great job of getting the puck in deep and setting a tempo for the Caps, and without him, it seemed like just a lot of dumping and chasing the puck back towards their own end again.

Also, it was tough to tell from my seats, but it certainly seemed like the officiating was questionable at best. I recall seeing not one but two Tampa defenders put their arms across Alex Semin's chest and basically wrestle him to the ground in front of the Lightning goal during the second period without any sort of call.

All in all, I'm going to go ahead and chalk this one up to the inevitable speed bumps a young, developing team is going to run across.

(EDIT: I forgot to mention this story. During the first admission, after the Olympia ice resurfacing machines had finished their work, I watched to ice technicians walking the ice looking for ruts. I saw one of them point to a rather large, rather obvious rut in between the circles at the end the Caps would be shooting at in the second period. The other tech, who had a water bottle for filling such ruts, walked up to it, put his finger in it to demonstrate how deep it was, and then proceeded to ignore it. The rut would later go on to cause the puck to bounce over Chris Clark's stick after a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin on a two-on-one.)

(EDIT #2: It has been brought to my attention that it was, in fact, Dainius Zubrus who, when faced with a wide open net and the puck on his stick in the waning moments of the Caps final power play with his team down a goal, shanked it off of the post. I've ranted before about my frustration with Zubrus' inability to convert chances, and I'm now officially declaring that his KHFC nickname shall be "Esa" until further notice.)

Standings Watch: I Watch So You Don't Have To (Because You Shouldn't Be Watching To Begin With, Probably)!
Atlanta and Carolina both won tonight, so the Caps are back in third in the Southeast, seven points out of first. They have two games in hand over both Hurricanes and the Thrashers. As for the conference, they find themselves once again tied with the Islanders and Maple Leafs.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby Again Some More
Ovie had a goal and an assist while Crosby added an assist in a 4-1 loss to St. Louis. Their stat lines are 23-22-45 and 16-37-52 respectively. Ovechkin is one behind Marian Hossa for the NHL lead in goals, while Crosby remains the NHL points leader.

Their numbers for the month of December:
Ovechkin: 7-11-18 in 8 games played (2.25 PPG)
Crosby: 6-15-21 in 10 games played (2.1 PPG)

Recaps From People That Matter:
-Capital Punishment
-Japers' Rink
-Off Wing Opinion
-The Peerless Prognosticator
-Puckhead's Thoughts


Ask Not For Whom the Alex Tolls...

... He tolls for thee. One night after Alex Ovechkin single-handedly beat the Atlanta Thrashers, Alex Semin decided he would not be outdone and scored two pretty goals to provide all the offense the Caps would end up needing. That is, of course, not to ignore the contribution of Alex 1.0, who added a highlight reel goal of his own along with two assists, and just like that the Caps have won seven of their last nine, recording 15 out of a possible 18 standings points (that's 83.33% for those of you who were wondering).

Ignoring, for a moment, the first ten or fifteen minutes, this was one of the Caps most complete wins of the season. The offense seemed to be clicking on all cylinders, generating a lot of zone time. The defense did a good job of forcing shots to the outside, allowing only one real scoring opportunity which resulted in Mike Knuble's goal. Olie had a pretty good night, though it's tough to tell as he was never really tested. The most impressive thing about the defenseive performance was the fact that the Caps played much of the game shorthanded on D, with Erskine hiding out in the dressing room (being joined briefly by Mike Green).

Next up, the Caps face Tampa on Tuesday, followed by back-to-back games against New Jersey and Toronto. These are games where they are really going to need to record some wins, as their schedule after the Christmas holiday is absolutely brutal (five games in seven days after Christmas, followed by a stretch where they never have more than two consecutive days off all the way until the All-Star Break).

Standings Watch: I Watch So You Don't Have To (Because You Shouldn't Be Watching To Begin With, Probably)!
With the win, combined with losses by the Devils and the Penguins (YAY!) the Caps find themselves tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. As for the division, the Thrashers got blown out by the Islanders and the Caps are now just five points back with two games in hand.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby Again Some More
Ovechkin in the month of December: Six goals and ten assists for sixteen points in seven games (2.286 PPG). Team's record: 5-1-1 (Ovie is now tied with Marian Hossa and Brendan Shanahan for the league lead in goals.)

Crosby in the month of December: Six goals and fourteen assists for twenty points in nine games (2.222 PPG). Team's record: 4-4-1 (He's still leading the NHL in points. I am nothing if not fair and balanced.)

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From The Cheap Seats
-Bleatings From a Caps Nut
-Capital Punishment
-On Frozen Blog (Empty Maybe)
-On Frozen Blog (pucksandbooks)
-Off Wing Opinion
-Puckhead's Thoughts

Best. Rule. Ever.

With 1:19 left in what looked like a sure Thrashers win, J.P. Vigier hoisted the puck up over the glass, earning himself one of those newfangled delay of game penalties that the NHL stupidly brilliantly added to the rulebook after the lockout. After that, it was all Alex Ovechkin proving yet again why he is the best player in the NHL. Give me a clutch goal to tie the game followed by an overtime winner over a stat-padding one goal three assist night in a blowout win anytime. Since ESPNews seemed to be very much in a "Let's compare Crosby and Ovechkin since they both had big games tonight", I'd like to point out that for the month of December, their stat lines look like this: Ovechkin - 6 Games, 5-8-13, 2.16 PPG, 1 GWG; Crosby - 8 Games, 6-13-19, 2.375 PPG, 0 GWG. Their teams have records of 4-1-1 and 4-3-1 respectively.

I won't spend too much time recapping the actual game. You probably saw it, and if not all the links you need are below. The only thing I have to add is my rant about Dainius Zubrus and his inability to convert quality scoring chances. By my count, there were at least three instances in last night's game where the puck ended up on his stick with a wide open net staring him in the face and I don't think he got a shot off on any of them.. If he converts just one of those chances, the Caps have a good chance of walking out of Atlanta without even giving them a point. (Yes, I am aware Zubie had two important assists. I don't care.)

I will, however, recap "Caps Bloggers Unite! (Beta Test Version)". Blogs in attendance included myself, A View From The Cheap Seats, The Bench Minor, DCSportsChick and 1/2 Asian Man. My goal was to manage to scrape together four people including myself, so I'm glad to say that the evening was an unmitigated success. Especially since, as it turns out, these people are just as much fun in person as they are on their respective blogs, if not more so. Heck, even ESPNZone didn't totally suck. Sure the service was lousy and we had to deal with the Wizards game being up on the main screen (apparently, people didn't realize that they could walk four blocks to Verizon Center and take in the game live). But they did have the decency to show two other hockey games, Islanders-Penguins and Maple Leafs-Hurricanes, both of which had standings implications for the Caps. And they didn't kick me out for throwing my hat. Twice.

So I can say with some confidence that the next version of "Caps Bloggers Unite!" will be even more fun, and you should mark your calendar now for January 16th and stay tuned here for more details.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From The Cheap Seats
-Capital Punishment
-On Frozen Blog
-Puckhead's Thoughts


Caps-Thrashers Viewing "Party" Update

Okay, looks like everything is set to go. Word on the street is that we will have to settle for ESPNZone (11th & E St, NW, near Metro Center or Gallery Place metro stops). It goes without saying that I probably could have planned this out a little better, but this is what we get the first time around. (Hey, it would have been a lot worse if not for all the work CapsChick has also put into it. In fact, should you decide to show up, I would highly recommend buying her a beer.) I will try to show up around 6:45 (faceoff is 7:30). Wondering how you'll find us? Look for the red-white-and-blue baseball cap with the old-school Caps logo on it. The one with Craig Laughlin's autograph on it. That will be me.

Any questions, comments or complaints should be directed towards kevinhatcherfanclub (at) gmail (dot) com.

I realize, based on the comments under the original announcement, that many people wont' be able to make it due to the incredibly well-thought-out combination of last-minute notice and holiday-related obligations, and I promised that I would make sure this happens again sometime soon. I'd like to make this a monthly thing, if possible, and with that in mind, I've got a tentative schedule for future Caps Blogger Get Togethers:

Tuesday, Jan. 16 - vs. Ottawa @ 7:30
Tuesday, Feb. 20 - vs. Montreal @ 7:30
Monday, March 12 - vs. Atlanta @ 7:00
Wednesday, April 4 - vs. Atlanta @ 7:00

Obviously, this is all very tentative. Especially the February one. The Caps play the Penguins twice in February, and both are weekend day games that, as near as I can tell, won't be competing with any other big sporting events. So I might try to put something really big together for one or both of those games. Also, one of those dates might get replaced by a Blogger Get Together night at Verizon Center for a home game.


Worthy Causes

This is the part where I take a break from my hectic holiday schedule to take note of a few things that you've probably already seen, but I feel strongly enough about them that I think you need to see them again.

First, Caps Nut is all over the current fiasco that is the NHL's online All-Star voting. In case you haven't noticed, the general populace is horribly disrespecting Ovie and we, as Caps fans, need to do something about it.

Second, the guys over at On Frozen Blog are keeping tabs on an even more important fiascotasterastrophe, the NHL's planned sweater change. This is something that we, as hockey fans, need to make sure never actually happens. Not because we would have to look at it, but because if we ever want our sport accepted as anything other than a joke, we need to make sure the players we root for don't look like clowns out on the ice. (EDIT: They've done it again. I can't let their rant about the "O" go unnoticed.)

And last but not by any means least, something that actually matters. Because, in the grand scheme of things, all of our concerns about sports pale in comparison to real issues.


Caps-Thrashers Viewing Party

It is a true testament to my disorganized ineptitude that, in spite of the fact that this was my idea and I have been largely involved in trying to get it organized (with much help from CapsChick), Eric over at Off Wing Opinion still managed to beat me to it. I hope everyone else finds that as hilarious as I do. Moving on...

I am a big fan of meeting other bloggers. I've done it before on a few occasions, and it has never resulted in anything other than unending hilarity. And drunkeness. Bloggers like to drink, apparently.

So it is with that in mind that I extend this formal invitation to any of you Caps bloggers who would care to join me this Friday to watch the Capitals on the road against their heated rivals the Atlanta Thrashers. As of the writing of this entry, the actual location of such a gathering is still somewhat up in the air. I have a place in mind but there might be a band playing during the game, which is problematic. I'm shooting for a bar somewhere around U Street or Chinatown. But rest assured I will come up with something soon. Just, you know, make sure you're schedule is clear Friday night. And check back here. (Also, if you have any suggestions as far as a particular place you think might be a nice place to meet, send them along to the newly minted kevinhatcherfanclub (at) gmail (dot) com)

Okay, maybe one or two things...

It has been brought to my attention that my initial reaction to the Capitals' humiliating disheartening frustrating loss to the Penguins might have been a touch pessimistic. Therefore, I'd like to take a moment to highlight the positives that came from the game, in convenient bullet point format:

  • Alex Ovechkin's two assists, bringing his totals for the month of December to two goals and eight assists for ten points in five games.
  • Chris Clark's two goals, giving him a total of five goals in his last four games. (These first two are not at all unrelated, by the way.)
  • The Capitals' one standings point, moving them into a tie with the NY Islanders for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
  • The $70 or so I spent on this game, leaving a rather noticable hole in my checking account. (Okay, this isn't, technically, a positive.)
  • The somewhat nifty "jersey bag" I was given upon entering the arena. All of a sudden, my Christmas shopping is slightly more complete.
Let the record show that these positives do not, in any way, mitigate the fact that this night ultimately turned out to be some sort of hellish nightmare. But I need something to get me through to Friday.


I Have Nothing Good To Say

During the second intermission, there were not one but two text message marriage proposals flashed across the big screen. For both couples' sakes, I hope nobody said yes, because A) text messaging your marriage proposal? Seriously? B) any engagement that started at tonight's game is most certainly going to end badly. I'm thinking probably something involving some sort of decapitation.

Going into tonight's game, I thought it would be a chance for the Caps to have a real statement game, and they did. However, instead of saying "Take notice, NHL. We've arrived", they said "We all belong to some strange, Scientology-like cult in which we do not recognize the existence of anything labelled with the number two. In fact, we've never even heard of Brian Pothier." I don't know what the problem is, but something needs to be done about the Capitals' inability to put together a complete 60 minutes. With the exception of that ten minute stretch from the end of the second to the start of the third, the Caps pretty thoroughly dominated every aspect of the game. Yet here I am, lamenting yet another heartbreaking loss (albeit a somewhat contrived shootout loss, but still) to the Penguins.

This would normally be the part where I give the Penguins their due credit for their heroic comeback, but the fact is that they deserve no credit. The Capitals were the better team tonight and they flat out gave away two points. The fact that they get a point for trying is of little consequence and, quite frankly, offends me somewhat. The fact that this team will be rewarded in any way for this debacle is disgusting and the NHL needs to do away with the point-for-a-loss travesty.

Okay. I'm done. I've vented. I've said my piece. Let's take a semi-rational look. What was the deal with Hanlon's shootout lineup? Green? Clark? I love them both, and I know some of the other guys have had some issues in the shootout but I just don't get it. I get that Clark had the hot hand tonight with two goals, but they were both a result of hard work in front of the net, not his beautiful breakaway skills. I'm not one to get too upset about anything that happens in the shootout, because I still think it is a load of crap, but my opinion of it doesn't change the fact that the Caps are leaving points out on the ice. And making it absolutely unbearable to be around the Pittsburgh fans. (Thank God I can walk home because I don't think I would've been able to take the Metro. There is a very good chance I would have gotten into some sort of physical confrontation. Which is kind of scary in that I was completely sober and, even when I'm not, I don't get in fights with people.)

The worst part of the whole evening (or best, depending on your point of view about these sorts of things) is going to be the large welt I'm going to wake up with on my ankle tomorrow morning, thanks to my kicking my seat in frustration as I was getting up to leave. That was a poor decision.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From The Cheaps Seats
-Bleatings From a Caps Nut
-Capital Punishment
-Japers' Rink (Pretty much everything you need to know is right here)
-The Peerless Prognosticator
-Puckhead's Thoughts


Look Ma! No Hands!

Any time the Caps can go into Philadelphia and leave with two points, you can color me a happy camper. Or green. I would be okay with being colored green. It's a nice color.

While you're coloring things, go ahead and pull out your red crayon red, as in "red hot". Don't look now, but Alex Ovechkin has eight points in his last four games. That's a lot of points. He also seems to have regained whatever elusive quality it is that made him so much fun to watch last year. He is finally back to the point where it seems that every night he does something that makes me slap my forehead and drop my jaw in disbelief. Tonight, his beautiful pirouette goal was just another instance of just such an occurance.

The most entertaining part of the evening for me, though, was Chris Clark's dogged insistance on using his hand instead of his stick. First, there was the excellent breakout pass to spring Ovechkin for what would have been an excellent scoring chance, then there was the washed out goal. Neither time was there even any question as to whether or not it would be called back. All things considered, though, it's better than his old plan of trying to advance the puck using his mouth.

On a completely unrelated note, it struck me, as I was watching this game, that I can't remember the last time I threw a sock at my television screen in response to something Steve Eminger did on the ice. This can only mean good things for Steve. Though to be fair, I haven't had much occasion for sock throwing at all in the past six games.

Now it's on to rivalry week, with Monday night's marquee matchup between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, followeed by Round II of the heavyweight bout that is Atlanta vs. Washington next Friday. (I'm hoping to get some other bloggers together to watch this game as a group. Check back here for details. Or to watch me fail miserably at trying to be organized. 'Tis not generally my thing.)

(EDITOR'S NOTE: I would like to extend my apologies to my internet connection, which I unfairly accused of being a bandwagon Caps fan, only allowing me to get online after Caps wins. As it turns out, it is actually completely useless either way. In fact, it will be a miracle if I ever manage to get this post up. So, you know, screw you Verizon.)

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From The Cheap Seats
-On Frozen Blog
-The Peerless Prognosticator
-Puckhead's Thoughts
-Ovechkin-Kolzig '08


My Internet Connection Is a Bandwagon Fan

The only thing more frustrating than an internet connection that isn't working is finding a gecko in your shoe. Or something like that. My apologies for the complete lack of a recap of last night's game. Apparently, my internet only likes it when the Caps win. Hopefully, it won't happen again tonight.


Pizza! Pizza!

There was a time when a string of games like the Caps have had would mean my family would be eating nothing but Jerry's Pizza for a week. TANGENT ALERT: I remember once, back at the Capital Centre, we rented a skybox (remember before they were called "luxury suites"?) for my father's birthday. If I remember correctly it was a game against Calgary that proved to be the last game Jim Carey played for the Caps. The Caps scored six goals and all twenty or so people at the party got free pizza coupons and they all gave them to my dad. That was kind of nuts. (EDITOR'S NOTE: It is entirely possible I imagined that story. Carey did, in fact, play his last game as a Cap in a win over Calgary, but it was a 3-2 win.)

Sorry, that was surreal. Moving on...

Fun game to watch, to say the least. Sure, the Senators played last night and they were without two of their star players, but you know what? A good hockey team takes advantage of a chance like that and blows away a team that is in that sort of whole. Which is exactly what the Capitals did. Nineteen shots and two goals in a span of fourty seconds made for an impressive first period, but what really impressed me was the way the Capitals slammed the door. The other night, when I turned the game on during the second intermission and saw the Caps with a 5-3 lead, I didn't feel remotely comfortable about it, given the way the Tampa and Dallas games had gone down. There were no such issues tonight with the Caps uickly answering both Sens goals and nailing down the win with two quick goals from Pettinger and Laich.

On TV, they awarded the "Player of the Game" to the entire Capitals offense, which couldn't have been more appropriate. Clark gets most of the love for his two goals, but I thought that the offensive output was largely due to the fact that Alex Ovechkin was all over the ice. I thought he could have easily ended up with a six or seven point night were it not for Ray Emery's relatively brilliant play. However, Emery himself said that he tends to shade a little bit Ovechkin's way, and it opened up plenty of ice for the rest of the team. (I also thought Alex Semin had one of his best games of the year, though you probably wouldn't be able to tell looking at the scoresheet.)

Special props go out to Matt Bradley. When I saw that Jakub Klepis was a healthy scratch, I was especially disappointed, as Klepis has become one of my favorites. Bradley did a good job of making me forget al about my sorrows pretty quickly. I enjoy watching laser beam top-corner wrist shots like that almost as much as, if not more than, a pretty deke. Good job, Matt.

So, here we are. Four straight. In case you've forgotten, I called it! Okay, maybe not. But at the very least I reverse jinxed the Caps and I am, therefore, solely responsible for their current success. Possibly not. Either way, the team has now won four straight, which, to say the least, is exciting. Surely, there will be fans out there who will claim that the Caps streak is diminished by the fact that three of their wins came at the expense of teams playing for the second of back to back nights. Those people are crazy and should be ignored. The Capitals beat four of the best teams the NHL has to offer to bounce back from a six game losing streak, which means that they are clearly headed for a Stanley Cup Championship this year. (EDITOR'S NOTE: I am crazy and should be ignored.)

(As yet another aside, I'd like to point out to the folks at Comcast SportsNet that the only thing more frustrating than having my cable go out right after Matt Bradley's goal is having to listen to a marginal Redskins wide reciever being interviewed by Al Koken WHILE THE GAME IS IN PROGRESS!)

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Bleatings From a Caps Nut
-Capital Punishment
-Japers' Rink
-Off Wing Opinion (taken care of by J.P.)
-On Frozen Blog
-The Peerless Prognosticator
-Puckhead's Thoughts
-All-Star Voting (Not a recap, obviously, but things are beginning to get dire.)


Gary Bettman Probably Shouldn't Read This

If ever you wanted a reason why the NHL will never acheive the mainstream popularity that its commisioner so desperately craves, you need only look at this, from today's Washington Post. Even if you ignore thre "figure skating" and "WNBA" responses (because most of those were probably girls, and girls don't matter, right?) the number for the NHL is pretty bad.

For the record, I don't really care. As far as I'm concerned, I'm perfectly happy having hockey as a "Versus" sort of sport rather than an "ESPN" sort of sport. As long as the NHL continues to exist and the Capitals stay in Washington, that's all I need. Who needs mainstream media exposure? The internet is here now and instead of reading the Washington Post, I can read one of the twenty or so Caps blogs the day after a game. Instead of suffering through an hour of some half-crazed Sportscenter anchor in hopes of catching a glimpse of some hockey highlights, I can just head over to YouTube. And, come playoff time, I'll be able to catch at least one game every night on Versus rather than having to tune to ESPN to watch the scores scroll across the bottom of the screen during yet another meaningless early season Red Sox-Yankees game.


I Am Quickly Becoming Something of a Menace

For those of you keeping score at home, this is in fact my fifth post in twenty four hours. No, I'm not proud of it, but now that my latest play has closed, I have a little too much free time. Deal with it.

Jordi, hlog's resident Montreal Canadiens fan, alerted me to this rather interesting tidbit.

Toronto coach Paul Maurice accused the Bell Centre Zamboni driver of leaving rough ice in the end the Leafs shot from in the shootout. He said they did the same when Toronto visited on Oct. 28, although the Leafs won that time.

"I asked the refs to bring the Zamboni back out," said Maurice. "It was beautiful because they left a six-inch swath, so our chute was narrower. But anyway, that didn't cost us the game."

Wow. I can't emphasize enough the absurdity of such a claim. There are only two possible ways this could possibly be true. The driver(s) would either have had to A) intentionally miss a rather large spot, which would be painfully obvious to anyone who took even a cursory glance at the ice, or B) raise the blade on the conditioner so that the machine wasn't cutting as much at the one end, then lower it back down at the other end, which is neither easy to accomplish in an efficient way nor is it very good for the long-term well being of the ice surface. Also, it is entirely possible that, like the Caps, the Canadiens don't even have a Zamboni for their ice resurfacing needs (anyone familiar with the team who wants to confirm this one way or the other, feel free), in which case, Frank J. Zamboni & Co. Inc. will be rather upset with Paul Maurice.

(While I'm at it, I'd like to say that, if you haven't already, you should definitely spend some time poking around the official Zamboni website. Also, in case you were wondering, I used to drive one of these. And one of these. So if I come off as a little bit obsessed with all things Zamboni, it's because I am.)

A Call To Arms

First person to find (or post) a YouTube version of the Caps' new "Our Birthplace; Our Legend; Our Focus Group..." television commercial earns a free beer from me. Honestly, I hadn't seen that before last night and seeing the old Capital Centre logo at center ice on the television brought an honest-to-God tear to my eye.

Speaking of television commercials, I'm posting this one because it turned up while I was looking for the current one. Also because it is one of the funniest television commercials I've ever seen. Also because I can.

First, The Goal; Now, The Hit

Okay, I just touched on this at the end of the last post but, now that I've seen the YouTube video, I wanted to give a full report on my opinion of the Ovechkin hit last night. Because, really, your life is incomplete if you aren't fully aware of my opinion.

Dirty hit. Period. The five-minute major and the game misconduct were completely legitimate. Daniel Briere (and, to a certain extent, Ovechkin) is lucky his head hit the door and the door popped open, otherwise it could have been a lot more serious. There is absolutely no place in the game for hits of that sort, and if the league suspends Ovechkin, I won't be particularly upset about it.

In situations like this, its intriguing to see the way all the parties involved react. I gained a new measure of respect for Briere when I read this quote: "It was definitely late and from behind. It's tough to say whether he deserves a suspension." It would be easy to flat out call Ovechkin a dirty player and call for a harsh punishment, but Briere takes the high road, showing that he is far classier than his head coach. Then, later on, he says "But at the same time, I’ve got to take part of the blame, too. You’ve got to protect yourself a little bit better than I did." That's pure class right there because the fact of the matter is, there is not an ounce of blame that should fall on his shoulders, but I have to imagine he knows as well as we Caps fans that Ovechkin never meant for it to be the cheap shot that it was.

Lindy Ruff, whom I generally refer to as "Whiny Little Bitch" (or WLB) in these parts, even handled the situation with a little bit of class. "I think if they looked at it through their eyes and it was Ovechkin going headfirst into the wall, I think they'd feel the same way. We don't need those plays in the game."

So for those of you keeping score at home: Buffalo Sabres? Classy. Buffalo Sabres fans? Not so much. (With thanks to J.P. for the link. EDIT: For some other excellent takes on the unseemly nature of the Sabres faithful, go to A View From the Cheap Seats or Bettman Hates Hockey! (UGH), or just go backwards one post right here at the Kevin Hatcher Fan Club.)

Fun With Buffalo Fans

As I mentioned yesterday, I missed two-thirds of yesterday's glorious triumph over the Sabres. Luckily, reader/contributor/my brother DefDude was in the stands and he sent me his account of the game (Edited for language, of course. Because The Kevin Hatcher Fan Club is, if nothing else, a family-oriented blog.):

OK, Buffalo fans, I’ll give you this much: Brett Hull’s foot definitely should not have been in the crease.

It should have been up your collective fat, arrogant [behind].

I will not regale you with tales of the epic victory the Caps claimed Saturday night. Biff has plenty of links to people who can do that far better than I. What I will explain is why Buffalo’s fans suck, and don’t ever deserve that Stanley Cup I predicted them to win on the eve of the new season. (Editor's Note: He actually picked Calgary.)

Exhibit A: Drunk idiot behind me, first encounter- So a little good natured ribbing is OK when opposing fans come to town, right? Especially when one of them is lightly talking trash before the puck even drops. Well, apparently, once the Caps lay three early goals on the board, trash talking is no longer allowed, as evidenced by the drunk idiot behind me essentially saying, “Your team is barley above .500, how dare they challenge the all-powerful, 23-2 Sabres!!!!!!! You can say nothing to me!” Yup, all powerful right up to game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. My team is winning, it’s their house, I’ll say what I want (Especially when the worst thing said was by my buddy Joel, who after a volley of insults, responded to the idiot’s exclamation “There’s so much time left on the clock, do I have to get a calculator to help you count?” with “At this rate of scoring, yes, please do.”)

Exhibit B: Drunk idiot behind me, second encounter- After Alex Ovechkin’s questionable hit on Danielle Briere, it happened to get a little heated. The idiot was laying a slew of profanities on Joel as should not have to be heard by a man in his own arena, so I suggest to him in a forceful manner that he shut up until his team can actually get within a goal of the Caps. Which prompts him to get in my face an tell me to shut the [heck] up, or else “Or else? Or else what, you hit me? O no, I might get into a fight with some idiot from Buffalo!” To which he responds by describing my appearance as that of a “Little [punk],” and how much he’d like to beat me up as it would appear I can be beaten up (For the record, while only 5’8”, I am also 165 lbs of muscle, so while I would have gotten the [heck] beaten out of me once his friends entered the fracas, I could have taken him one on one in his drunken state).

Exhibit C: Drunken idiot to my left- After giving the idiot behind me the salutary single-finger salute, the Sabres fan next to me leans over and says, “You should probably calm down.” I calmly explain to this man I’m not worried about the guy behind me hitting me. As a matter of fact, I kind of need someone to pay for my college education anyways. The guy next to me then says “No, I mean that if he hits you, I’ll back him up, because you guys have been pissing me off all night.” O, I’m sorry Mr. Buffalo fan, am I discomforting your TRIP to MY TEAM’S arena by responding to the trash that has been talked to me, in defense of the HOME TEAM? I really do want to apologize to Sabres nation for that transgression.

There was more, but those are the big hits. Other than the ones laid out during the game, which was fantastic. I love Matt Pettinger, and Danielle Briere is a little [punk] who needs to stop hooking people and start learning how to take a hit. (Editors Note: Some quotes from Daniel Briere; Last night - "It was definitely late and from behind. It's tough to say whether he deserves a suspension." Later on - "But at the same time, I’ve got to take part of the blame, too. You’ve got to protect yourself a little bit better than I did")

Three Is, In Fact, The Magic Number

Thanks to the 8:00 start, I was actually able to catch the third period of tonights game while at a bar on U St (Solly's at 11th & U St, for those of you who care). That said, I am entirely too drunk/exhausted to put together any sort of real recap. So all you get is my usual compilation of links to other recaps. Sorry.

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