Now That Everyone Has Caught Up, This Blog Is Probably Not Relevant Anymore, Unless You Like Absurdly Long Entry Titles

There are few things I like better than feeling smug and superior. So it brings me great pleasure to direct you over to this post by Caps Nut (who, incidentally, is doing the Lord's work when it comes to arguing against fighting in the NHL). In it, he discusses the various ramifications of the NHL's current system of awarding standings points. He discusses point inflation, record inflation, and the diminishing significance of the above-.500 record. For some reason, it all sounds vaguely familiar. Almost as though someone else I know was talking about the same thing all the way back in January... Oh wait, here it is. Also, here. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Smug superiority intended solely for comedic effect.)

Given that the topic is suddenly relevant again, I decided to revisit the revised standings I put together back in January. Like I did then, I've taken a look at each Eastern Conference team's record, and adjusted it by taking away shootout wins (converted to ties) and overtime losses (converted to regulation losses). The results this time around are even more dramatic, no doubt owing to the larger sample size. Check it out (in newfangled Google Spreadsheet form!).

The real standings have seven teams within six points of each other fighting for the final two playoff spots, whereas the adjusted standings have six teams within seven points duking it out. Seems like that race is tighter than it would have been. However, as Caps Nut so wisely pointed out, the difference in points is a much bigger gap when the teams you're chasing can earn points without ever winning a game.

So, thanks to Gary Bettman, instead of the defending Stanley Cup champs trying to hold off the upstart Thrashers in the Southeast division, you've got the Hurricanes languishing in 11th place and in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Instead of a down-to-the-wire race for the Northeast Division crown (as well as the top spot overall) between Buffalo and Ottawa, you've got the Sabres running away with it. Instead of the stupid f'ing Panthers, one of the hottest teams in the league, making a valiant run at the final playoff spot, you've got them virtually eliminated and coasting through meaningless games like last night.

But at least the New York Rangers get to sneak into the playoffs. Hockey fans everywhere are rejoicing over that one. Yup, this whole shootout thing makes everything waaaay more exciting.


And I Really Mean It

I'm not going to lie. I, like the obviously-fake Caps fan I am, missed most of tonight's game. I only caught the last fifteen minutes of the third period, and even then, I had to endure the rather distracting taunts of a Pittsburgh native (one who had never watched a Penguins game in his life, no less).

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to sum up the game in two simple words.

F*ck. Pittsburgh.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Bleatings From a Caps Nut
-Off Wing Opinion
-The Peerless Prognosticator



(Special disclaimer: This is a post about fighting in the NHL. For excellent coverage of the issue, and perhaps some perspective, go here, here, here and/or here. Also, this post is shamefully long, so you should probably go get some coffee and find a comfortable seat.)

AP writer Ira Podell has a column up on Yahoo! Sports taking a look at the "current" issue of fighting in hockey, and I think it's a pretty interesting read. Not because it covers any new ground, really. For the most part it is a rehash of all the various arguments for and against fighting in the NHL. The thing that caught my eye, though, was a quote from NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell regarding the Todd Fedoruk incident:

"The last time Philadelphia was in there ... the same player came out of the penalty box and went right for Jagr and hit him real hard on probably a borderline charge or a major for charging," Campbell said. "I think it's incumbent on the Rangers to protect their players in ways they can."
No, Colin, you nitwit, it is incumbent on you, and the NHL as a whole, to protect the players in any way you can. If it was, as you say, a borderline charge or a major for charging,why didn't the on-ice officials in your employ call a penalty? And if it was an offense so grievous as to require another player to punch him in the face, shouldn't it also be grievous enough to deserve some sort of suspension? Colin Campbell, in another article, has pointed to the lower number of suspensions this year as an indication that the game is getting cleaner.

While there have been other ugly moments this season, Campbell says supplemental discipline has dropped "tremendously" since the lockout.

Campbell handed out 31 supplemental suspensions in 2003-04 (not counting automatic suspensions), which dropped to 21 last season.

Amazingly, despite all the headline bad behaviour this season, only nine supplemental suspensions have been handed down this season.

I've got news for you, Colin. Improvement would be if you had issued more suspensions this year than last. Given the current state of the game and its current level of popularity in the United States, you should be putting more pressure on the players to clean up their acts, not less.

Or, let's consider for a moment that perhaps Fedoruk's hit on Jagr wasn't an illegal charge. If it was a legal hit, it was a legal hit, and everyone needs to get over it and move on. I hate Jaromir Jagr just as much as the next person, but I feel pretty confident that he can take a hit, and if he can't, then why should Todd Fedoruk be punished for it in the form of a concussive blow from the right hand of Colton Orr? In sports like football and basketball, if a team is bigger, stronger and/or more physical than your own team, you don't get to start bashing people's faces in to level the playing field. You either find a way around the oppositions physical play, whether it be toughening up and being just as physical, or you find a way around it with speed and skill. (Please note that, in this case, "physical play" and "fisticuffs" are two distinctly different things.)

Imagine, if you will, that you are watching a football game (Half of you have just stopped reading. Please come back!) in which Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher comes off the outside and levels Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning with a bone-crunching hit from the blind side. Manning is one of the NFL's biggest stars, and arguably the most important player on the Colts' roster. Now, imagine if one of the offensive linemen, on the next play, were to completely eschew his run-blocking duties and instead made a beeline straight for Urlacher and started throwing punches. Sounds absurd, right? In the NHL, it would not only be unsurprising, if would actually be expected.

And therein lies the problem. We can talk and talk (or write and write, as it were) about banning fighting or increasing the penalty for it or finding some sort of compromise, but nothing will work until the overall mentality of the players (and the idiots in charge (and the fans (and the on-ice officials who are, for the most part, grossly incompetent, thus necessitating the self-policing by the players in the first place))) changes. One of the chief arguments for keeping fighting is that, without it, there would be more cheap shots and dangerous stick infractions. How about instead, the players have enough respect for each other that they simply don't specifically try to badly injure each other? Is that too much to ask? Shouldn't simple sportsmanship, rather than a goon's fists, be enough of a deterrent?

Apparently not. The culture of incidental, gratuitous violence is so ingrained in the NHL at this point that it may be impossible to ever fully extricate it. I'm guilty of it myself, having started this here blog in the joyous delirium that followed the Great Brawl of Atlanta. This in spite of the fact that I am a rather big proponent of phasing fighting out of the league, as any right thinking person should be. That is what the league is working against, and given the people currently in charge, I'm not especially optimistic about the prospects of improvement. Although, to be fair, Gary Bettman has never seen a hockey tradition he wasn't happy to piss all over. So maybe there's hope yet.


If You Live In Virginia, Stop Reading This, You Traitor

I generally try to avoid talking about politics the same way I avoid things like the plague, or Pittsburgh Penguins fans, but the issue of D.C. Voting Rights is something that is rather close to my heart. It is also an issue that I think everybody, at least around here, can agree on regardless of political persuasion.

As such, I think this is the greatest thing ever. If you live in D.C., I sstrongly encourage you to participate.

Today In Theatres, And Not a Moment Too Soon

Perhaps Glen Hanlon should take his team to see this instructional video, because last night was kind of sad.


The Season Isn't Over Yet? Seriously?

Many people never quite understood my exasperation with Dainius Zubrus. Or, if they understood, they probably didn't agree. But tonight, during the first period, Joe Beninati uttered the following words: "Zubrus has his stick lifted by a back-checking Alexander Semin." No, that isn't a typo, you read "Alexander Semin". This may be the only instance in the history (and the future) of hockey that anybody has been succesfully defended by a back-checking Alexander Semin, and I defy you to find another forward in the NHL besides Dainius who could make it happen.

In other Caps-Sabres news, I went ahead and granted commenter/younger brother/sometime contributor DefDude a reprieve over on the left side of the page, replacing him with Brian Pothier immediately after a Pothier turnover resulted in the Sabres' second goal. Just three minutes later, he goes and scores a goal. Do not doubt the power of the KHFC Whipping Boy© award. (Please note that the Capitals are 2-1 with a total of 14 goals scored in the three games since the inception of the KHFCWB©. I don't think it is too far out of the question for me to take full credit for the wins over Toronto and Tampa Bay.) (No, his goal is not enough to earn him a reprieve. A poor decision by the judge of a certain nickname contest might get him off though.)

In other news, I get the chance to say, once again, that "All [Donald Brashear] does is score goals!" Also, shots to the head of Andrew Peters, who is going to need some Advil when he gets home tonight. And then again some more a week from now. If ever you find yourself wondering "Would it be a good idea for me to get in a fight with Donald Brashear?", I beg you to watch a video of tonight's fight. Because you, not being a professional hockey player, will probably be killed.

Oh right... Also, the Caps lost by a wide margin. The result is pretty much irrelevant, so I don't particularly care to comment on it other than to say that, if a few bounces in the first period go another way, the Caps probably jump out to an early lead and end up at least taking the Sabres to overtime. But they didn't, so they didn't. Oh well.


"Oh I get it, it's very clever."

The first rule of Kevin Hatcher Fan Club is: You do not talk about Kevin Hatcher Fan Club. (Not really, but just roll with me here.) The second rule of Kevin Hatcher Fan Club is: You do not correct Biff's grammar and/or spelling.

And so it is that commenter/younger brother/occasional contributor DefDude came to be the newest KHFC Whipping Boy©.


We Get It. You Wish You Were Actually Irish.

You know how DCSportsChick is constantly railing on pink sports merchandise? Well I'm sick of letting her have all the fun, and I'd like to take an opportunity, after seeing a whole lot of them in the stands in Boston last night, to rant about the Green Hat phenomenon. As near as I could tell, they must have been giving away green hats with a Bruins logo on them at the game, because it seemed like everybody was wearing one. There was even a Caps fan in an old school RWB sweater with one of the green monstrosities perched atop his head.

Please, sports fans, I'm begging you. Stop. For God's sake, stop. You look rediculous. Unless you are a fan of the Boston Celtics, New York Jets or Hartford Whalers, there is no excuse for this kind of behavior. Your team does not wear green. You look like a drunk buffoon. Which offends me, as an Irish person, because you are perpetuating the myth that all Irish people are drunks. (To be fair, all the ones I know actually are, myself included. But I'm sure there's someone out there who isn't.)

Most importantly, the green hat phenomenon was started by the Boston Red Sox, who wear the things every year in spring training on St. Patrick's Day. Do you really want to be asocciated with Red Sox fans in any way? (For my own, personal, opinion of the city of Boston, click here and be sure to focus on the two paragraphs about Boston). You'd think mispronouncing the word "Celtic" would have been enough for them, but the people up there seem always eager to bastardize their famously Irish heritage.

As a quick aside: Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!


CapsChick has announced the winner(s) of her little nickname contest, and guess who was Winner #1? Not me! I call shenanigans. Nobody makes Biff number two!

As retribution for this injustice (and mostly because I feel bad about putting him there in the first place), Steve Eminger's reign as KHFC Whipping Boy© is over after just twelve hours. Take that, CapsChick!


Caps Finish Season Series Against Bruins At Even .500

Sort of. If you want to count 0-0-4 as an even .500 record. For the purposes of making me feel better, I'm going to go ahead and do just that.

It would be easy (and kind of lazy) to pin all of the blame for tonight's loss to the Bruins squarely on Steve Eminger and his prodigious ability to whack opposing players in the face with his hockey stick at the worst possible moment, but it is exactly what I am going to do anyway. Because that is just how I roll. In fact, I am going to go so far as to give Stevie E. the dubious distinction of being the inaugural Kevin Hatcher Fan Club Whipping Boy©. "What is the Kevin Hatcher Fan Club Whipping Boy©?" you ask? The premise is simple. Now, instead of having to actually read my blog to figure out which NHL player I derive the most enjoyment from disparaging, you can simply look to the right side of the page and see that it is Dainius Zubrus. Or, rather, would have been, if I had gotten off my ass and instituted this beguiling feature before he got traded. Because I really did take all kinds of perverse pleasure in finding new and creative ways to deride him. (I also missed out on John Erskine. Which is a shame.)

To be fair, I actually like Steve Eminger and feel most of the harsher criticism directed his way is unwarranted, and he had a pretty good game tonight if you take away the two minutes he spent in the penalty box watching the Bruins storm back to tie the game. Actually, if you take away the two minutes Eminger spent in the box, the entire team played really well. The defense (most specifically Eminger, in fact) looks a lot better with Olie "God" Kolzig between the pipes. They were much more aggressive physically, and one can only assume that much of this derives from the feeling of security that comes from having an extra safety net in front of the... ummm... net.

But, alas, you can't take away the two minutes Stevie E spent in the box. Unless you are magic. In which case, I would appreciate it if you would go back and take away those two minutes. Because Olie really deserved to win this game. As much as I like Brent Johnson, and while he did a more than adequate job in relief of Kolzig, Olie is simply on a whole other level. Without Olie in net, this game never even goes to overtime. In fact, if I had been living in a cave the past month and had just now emerged, you would have had a pretty hard time convincing me that he had missed any time at all.

Also, to whoever out there is magic and is planning on going back in time to change the outcome of tonight's game, I ask that you also find away to make sure Marc Savard becomes a free agent this offseason. Because... well, yeah.

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



I imagine that I am in the rather small minority that hope that this turns out to be nothing more than another stupid ploy for the Penguins to get a sweeter arena deal than the one they already have.

That said, "we have no choice but to declare an impasse and to notify NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that we will aggressively explore relocation" sounds pretty damn serious.

Here We Go Again

If you're anything like me, and God help you if you are, the Caps' recent performance has probably caused you to become a fairly heavy drinker. Or not. Either way is cool.

The point I'm trying to make is that one week from today (Monday, March 12) you have a rather excellent opportunity to do some good old fashioned drinking with some fellow Caps bloggers at the fourth (and possibly final (for this year, at least)) Caps Bloggers Happy Hour, where we will be watching the Caps take on the Hated Atlanta Thrashers. This time around, we will be taking over the Grans Slam Sports Bar (because nothing says hockey like baseball) in the Grand Hyatt hotel at 1000 H St, NW in downtown DC. It's within walking distance of both the Gallery Place and Metro Center Metro stations, so there's really no excuse for you not to be there. (As per usual, I will be there early wearing my red-white-and-blue hat with Craig Laughlin's signature on it.)

And before you say anything, you are absolutely right. It was rather brilliant of me to schedule this on the day between Selction Sunday and the first day of the NCAA Tournament. It didn't happen through sheer coincidence at all. I swear.


The Ugliest Thing You'll See All Day

Unless your team is the Buffalo Sabres.


(EDITOR'S NOTE: I have absolutely no reason to believe this is anything other than a Photoshop mockup of what a new Caps jersey could look like. I just put it here because I was bored.)


The Jiri Novotny Era Begins

Well that was interesting. Whichever member of the Panthers coaching staff was blackmailing the officiating crew with pictures of one of them in a compromising position with a farm animal must have accidentally left the pictures behind at Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Because blackmail is more or less the only explanation I can come up with for the bizarre ending that befell tonight's game between the Caps and the Tampa Bay Lightning. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that. First, the Caps find themselves witha 5-on-3 in the final minutes, only to pull the goalie for the uber-rare three-man advantage. Then, they somehow manage to allow one of their skaters to get double teamed along the boards anyway and turn the puck over for an easy empty net goal. Then the trail official makes a game-saving stop in place of Brent Johnson.

And then there was the ten-round shootout. Not really the refs fault, but bizarre none the less.

The trade deadline may have passed on Tuesday, but there is still one important trade the Caps need to make. The sooner they send John Erskine to the Hershey Bears in exchange for Mike Green, the better. Erskine was absolutely awful tonight, getting burned in the final minute of the second period for the Lightning's second goal and then taking a stupid (although eventually, fortunately, harmless) delay of game penalty in the third. It was just another of a string of poor performances by Erskine.

Speaking of poor performances from defensemen, Brian Pothier has also looked pretty bad of late. Against the speedy Lightning, he looked very much as though he were skating in some sort of molasses. Or perhaps someone replaced his skate blades with lead.

But let's not dwell on the negatives. Overall, this was another good performance from the Caps. Save for the last few minutes of the game, they just couldn't get the bounces going their way. I eventually lost count of the number of great scoring chances that where whiffed, muffed and/or shanked. The most blatant of which was newcomer Jiri Novotny in the third, sitting at the top of the crease when the puck came to his stick with a yawning net staring him in the face. But maybe I just noticed that one more because it was exactly what Dainius Zubrus would have done.

That said, I'd like to commend Lightning goaltender Daniel Tarnqvist. When the Caps were actually managing to connect on their shots, he came up huge. He made several huge saves right before Vinny Lecavalier's shorthanded goal that probably won the game for Tampa Bay.

Next up: The New York Ex-Capitals. Get ready to roll out the red carpet for Chris Simon, Brendan Witt and Richard Zednik.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Capitals Corner
-Capital Fanatic
-Japers' Rink
-The Peerless Prognosticator