Time To Walk Away? December 25, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Washington, I need your help.
Some of you may or may not have noticed my absence at a couple of recent Caps games. I was actually down in Florida for a week and a half visiting my girlfriend for as close to Christmas as the schedule would permit. I scheduled my flight home on the 20th, the last possible day before the next home game. Well, forty has a way of making you pay for thinking you’re still twenty, and come time to get dressed for the game the next night, I was more road-weary than usual, and I had absolutely nothing left.
I was in my usual spot against Anaheim on Monday night, and, well, we all know how that turned out. And then, on the way home, somebody on the Metro was giving me a bunch of guff that my magic wasn’t working. Well, no kidding, Kojak, you didn’t say anything I probably hadn’t told myself more than once before I even got on the train.
I’m sure there are a few of you who are dying to know how Florida was. Well, in a way, that’s kind of what got me writing this post, although this is certainly not going to be a recount of my travels.
I suppose I’d better just come right out and put all my cards on the table. I’ve been out of work for several months, and I’ve been drawing down some money my father left me when he died. That money is almost gone. Absent some new income, soon, I can’t afford the place I’m in much longer.
Meanwhile, word going around amongst all the people I met in Florida was that the VA at Bay Pines was desperately in need of veterans to fill some of their job openings. Civil service pay goes a lot further in Florida than it does in DC. I actually found a place 15 minutes away from Bay Pines by bus that was offering 2-bedroom apartments for 33% less than what I’m paying for my current 1-bedroom set-up, with in-unit laundry.
Yes, I really did look into it that seriously.
Meanwhile, the only thing keeping me here in DC has been the Capitals. I don’t really have any close personal friends here in DC, my immediate family is all overseas, and I have no extended family in the area. And, well, since I’m putting all my cards on the table: I’m a bit of a hermit with the exception of Capitals games, and I don’t have any close friendships in DC, either. And while that is admittedly on me, if I’m too terminally shy to get out of the house all that much, then DC, Florida, what difference does it make, aside from the rent?
As for the Capitals. (This is the hard part.) I’d like to think that I’m doing some kind of good for the franchise. Now, obviously, if we’re going to go by the scoreboard, then it’s an easy decision. Whatever I’m trying, isn’t working as well as I’d like it to. Believe me, Caps fans, if I could will the team to victory all the way from Section 417, we’d be taking victory parades for granted by now. But with 30 teams all competing for one championship, there’s so much cross- and counter-intent going around that it would take more skill than I currently have to take it all on all by myself. (Which is not to say that I don’t try.)
So, if not the scoreboard, then what? What good am I really doing here? Any at all?
And here, DC, is where you come in. This is where I need your help.
First, business. If you are, or know someone who is, hiring, drop me a comment and I’ll get you my resume. Comments are set to full moderation, so for the business replies, no one will see your post but me. You know the passion I bring to Verizon Center on game nights? Give me a chance, and let’s see if I can do the same for you.
And now, to my fellow fans, this is where I need to hear it all. Am I doing any good here? If so, then what good is it?
Look, I know I’m yesterday’s news: that news, by itself, is already yesterday’s news. I just need to know that what I’m doing isn’t in vain. That’s the one thing that keeps me up nights: the idea that all I’ve ever done here, is ultimately worthless.
But no one person can know the entire answer to that question, which is why I have to kind of crowdsource it.
I know there are some who are going to see this as an exercise of ego on my part. I have to shake my head at the cynicism, but I’d have to be as blind as a hockey referee to not see the nattering nabobs ready to pounce on a post like this.
But post it I must. I have to know where I’d be doing the greater good. And that really is the whole dilema: How do I know where the greater good is, if I can’t even quantify how much, if any, good I have done (may do?) in DC. I know what good I can do if I get out of DC. What I don’t know, is how much good I could do if I stay. So…the more I know, the better-informed my decision will be.
So with that, I suppose I’d better stop talking and start listening.
–Christmas Day, 2013
Some Random Search Results September 15, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I was poking around on YouTube, and decided to run the Capitals’ regulars past the search box and see what the most popular video subject was for them.
A couple of the defensemen and goalies were in there by name only; and a pair of defensemen did not auto-complete.
The list is below. For “Highlights” and “Goal”–two common search terms–I also listed the second-place result, if there was one.
Nicklas Backstrom: Highlights, Commercial
Jay Beagle: Knocked out
Troy Brouwer: Gangnam style
Jason Chimera: Goal
Martin Erat: Highlights, injury
Eric Fehr: OT goal vs Bruins
Mikhail Grabovski: Highlights, interview
Marcus Johansson: Highlights, goal
Brooks Laich: Goal, Highlights, First Pitch
Alex ovechkin: Highlights, Top 10 Goals
Mathieu Perreault: Celebration
Aaron Volpatti: One punch
Joel Ward: OT goal
Tom Wilson hockey: Fight
Karl Alzner: Goal, Draft
John Carlson: Winning Goal
John Erskine: Fight
Mike Green: OT goal
Jack Hillen: Ovechkin
Tomas Kundratek: Goal
Steve Oleksy: Fights
Dmitri Orlov: (Name only)
Cameron Schilling: (Nothing yet)
Patrick Wey: (Nothing yet)
Philipp Grubauer: (Name only)
Braden Holtby: Highlights, Doesn’t Flinch
Michal Neuvirth: (Name only)
Make of it what you will, Caps Nation.
See you at Verizon Center Friday night.–CS
As The Dust Settles April 28, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Who’da thunk it?
Take a look at the NHL standings as they existed on March 14th.
The Capitals were down in 14th. They were 5-5-0 in their last ten games, were on a 3-game regulation loss streak, were playing .500 hockey at home, and had only won 3 of the 11 games they’d played away from Verizon Center.
They were also a single point away from being tied for the worst record in the NHL at the time. The Caps stood 3 points behind Calgary and Colorado, who were tied for the worst record in the West at that point. All three of those teams–Washington, Colorado, and Calgary–had 25 games played at that point.
The three teams’ records since then? Colorado, 6-14-3; Calgary, 9-14-0; Washington, 17-4-2. The Caps went on a points pace just north of 78%, for just under HALF OF THE ENTIRE SEASON. That would be something like a 61-point pace in just under half of an 82-game season. That’s practically video-game good.
Have the Caps been letter-perfect for the second half? Not quite: there are still a few rough edges here and there which I hope are addressed over the coming few days’ practices. There were a few passes to nobody in particular Saturday night, a few spots where the Caps got bottled up in their own end, some scary chances against at period starts, and a few discipline bullets that Braden Holtby managed to dodge on behalf of the rest of the team. I’m sure there are many, many nits that could be picked with this team, but that’s not why I’m writing this.
The Washington Capitals have suddenly Gotten Good. Not perfect, no. Not unstoppable force, no. But they are a very, very good hockey team at just the right point in the season.
By way of comparison, the Rangers–so, we meet again, Mr. Bond!–were 13-10-2 on March 14th; they’ve been 13-8-2 since. So if you want to look at the macro trend, over the latter half of the season, the Capitals have been doing better than the Rangers over the past month and a half. And that despite the fact that the Rangers have been hanging around the cut line for most of the season, and have been above it much more than they’ve been below it. For the Blueshirts, it’s been more of a nail-biter than perhaps they would have liked, but I don’t think anyone was calling the Rangers a lost cause.
Washington? Yeah, not so much. Even as the trade deadline approached, the conventional wisdom was that there would have been no shame in calling this season a lost cause: brand new coach, new system, new players, injuries to key players, some guys having to re-adjust to the North American game after playing overseas…the list of crazy new stuff happening all at once was very, very long. If there was ever any one season the Washington Capitals could have been forgiven for chalking up to experience, this one would have been it.
Instead, what did they do? They clicked; they jelled; they went on one hell of a tear; and they’ll get to hang the very last Southeast Division championship banner next fall.
Oh…and they’ve also drawn the New York Rangers in the playoffs, again. Only this time, they have home ice advantage for the series. The Caps and Rangers have played several memorable series in recent years, but two stats jump out at me about the recent, Ovechkin-era history: the higher-seeded team has won every series; and–this is the REALLY weird stat–the series has been decided on the winning team’s ice. Look it up: the Caps won game 7 at home in 2009; won game 5 at home in 2011; and lost game 7 on the road last year. And while there’s absolutely no guarantee that any of that history will repeat itself, it is, I should think, an interesting stat at the very least.
A month and a half ago, I don’t think there were too many who thought the Capitals could even make the playoffs. And if there was anyone back in March who said “Caps will win the Southeast” with no irony whatsoever, I’d love to see the date stamp on it. Division champions? Back in March, that was a punch line, not a possibility.
And yet, here we are. Who’da thunk it?
What really got my attention in Saturday night’s game was how the Caps, who had absolutely nothing to play for (other than avoiding injuries, and perhaps putting on a good show for Fan Appreciation Day) came back from a 2-0 deficit at the 2nd intermission. As with the season generally, I doubt anyone would have complained had the Caps simply played to stay healthy. Guaranteed the 3 spot regardless of the outcome, there was no NEED for them to try for the win.
Let me repeat that for emphasis. The Capitals did not NEED to win Saturday night’s game. As far as playoff standing was concerned, they literally had nothing to gain if they won, and nothing to lose if they lost. There was no NEED to try to come back from a 2-0 hole at the second intermission.
The Capitals didn’t NEED to win. But they WANTED to win. And even though it would mean a lot more work than simply playing to stay healthy, the Caps still went out, contested the game, and ultimately won it–even though the result had absolutely no bearing on their playoff standing.
There have been Capitals teams in recent seasons who might very well have conceded Saturday night’s game as a throwaway. This year’s team did not do that.
And it is that attitude which I submit should have the rest of the league on notice. There have been Capitals teams in recent years that have coasted when given the chance, and which ultimately did not succeed. This team could have coasted on Saturday, and chose, as a team, not to do so.
So, work ethic? Check. Compete level? Check. (If these guys can come all the way back to win a game that’s meaningless, imagine what they’ll do now that the games matter a lot!) Power play? Check and check. (All 3 goals Saturday were scored on the man advantage.) Scoring? Check. (Ovechkin’s getting another Rocket Richard trophy, and Mike Green is back to his old scoring self.) Defense? Check. (And Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy have been revelations, haven’t they?) Goalies? Check, check, check. (If Holtby keeps playing like this, Neuvirth may end up with the best seat in the house for a long playoff run. And somebody needs to get John Erskine some pads for all the goaltending he’s been doing lately.)
The Capitals are definitely not invincible. They still have a few things that need to be worked on before they welcome the Rangers to the Phone Booth. But of all the Capitals teams I’ve seen in recent years, I’m hard-pressed to pick a squad that looked better than this team looks right now. And that’s with Joel Ward and Brooks Laich in the press box!
There have been seasons in years past when it seemed like the Capitals were somehow lacking in the intangibles: perhaps the young guns didn’t quite have the experience, perhaps the chemistry on some of the forward lines wasn’t quite what it could have been, perhaps this, perhaps that, perhaps something else.
If you asked me to name the one thing that could doom the Capitals this postseason, I would have to think long and hard, and reluctantly point behind the bench. No disrespect to Coach Oates at all, but this is his first Stanley Cup Playoff as a head coach. True, first-time coaches can be successful–just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins–but in the long run, there’s no substitute for experience. John Tortorella has forgotten more Stanley Cup Playoff games than Adam Oates has ever been a head coach for. The first round, at the very least, is going to make for an extremely intriguing coaching matchup, but on paper, it’s hard to avoid giving Torts his due.
So, all that having been said…
Now that we all can look back and smile at it, I think we can say that this has been a regular season that we’re glad to have been here for. There have been a number of trying times, and the way we got here is not the way many expected we would. But we’re still standing, while 14 teams are already going home.
Who’da thunk it?
Now the season really starts: that second season played for keeps.
I’ll end with a question: will this finally be the one?
AT BREAK OF DAY, UNTIL THE LIGHT FAILS, MARCH EVER ON
Maybe It’s Mawkish April 18, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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But I think this is the right thing to do, somehow.
Earlier this season, I got a couple of ridiculously huge poster boards. The idea was to come up with some huge signs for major events.
I haven’t been as good with those as I’d planned to be, but I do have one board left, and this one WILL be put to good use.
But not to cheer on the Capitals. Wait, what?
Also, for those who know my pre-game routine, I’m normally stationed at the Caps blue line when they come out for warm-ups. A bit of encouragement, not that I think any of them ever notice me standing there. But for the final game of this regular season, I’m going to be standing by the visitors’ blue line. Wait, what?!
For those who haven’t looked at the schedule lately, our final game is against the Boston Bruins. I doubt I need to recount the tragedy that took place in Beantown earlier this week.
The front of the sign–which I’m going to hold so that the Bruins can see it–says, “Boston, you are in our prayers.” I admittedly freehanded the last word a little too sloppily–the Y is a mess–but it’s legible.
The back, though, is where I’m going to need help from you, Caps Nation.
I’ll be bringing the sign with me to all remaining home games, along with a couple of Sharpies. What I’d love to have happen, is for fans at the game–regardless of fandom–to sign the back. After the Caps-Bruins tilt on Saturday night, I’ll go straight to my local FedEx and ship the whole thing to the Bruins organization.
Sound like an idea? Or am I just being too sentimental?–CS
A Boredom Buster While The Caps Hit the Road April 17, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I’ve written before about the connection between our thoughts, words, and actions, and how the Capitals do on the ice.
I’ve been researching the subject again a bit over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve got a few further ideas on the subject.
To begin with, we can all agree that there are only a finite number of wins to be had in the NHL. Only one team can win a hockey game.
Now, can the thoughts of a fan base affect the outcome of a game?
Let us suppose that the Capitals are playing, let’s say, the Senators. And let us also suppose that Senators fans all over creation Believe, on balance, that the Sens will win the game. Meanwhile, let us suppose that Capitals fans, on balance, take the Missouri approach: we’ll Believe when we see. Oh, and by the way, Chris Rooney is one of the refs, so we fully expect the other shoe to drop at some point, while we’re at it.
Suppose Washington scores early in that game. Caps fans are excited, but Sens fans don’t despair: they take the line that the Sens are just working on their come-from-behind stats. No worries, thinks Ottawa; Can they hold this?, worries Washington.
Let us then suppose that the 1-0 nail-biter holds for most of the game; up to say the 10-minute mark of the third or thereabouts. Senators fans intend for their team to get a power play, while Capitals fans are simply hoping our men won’t make mistakes; but we wouldn’t be surprised one iota if they did, or, for that matter, if they got hit with a phantom whistle.
Now, put yourself in the position of some higher power. Call it God, call it Gran Met, call it Ahura Mazda, call it Eywa if that’s your cup of tea, whatever, I don’t care. Just whatever fits your view of a higher power.
Now, suppose you’re this higher power, and you see Senators fans expecting a late power play; on the other side of the game, Capitals fans are expecting one of their men to be handed a stupid penalty any second now. If those are the intentions of both sides, how easy would it be to grant the Senators a power play? Maybe Erskine is a bit too thorough with a body check, maybe the bench can’t hear who’s in and out and it’s a too many men penalty…whatever. Pick something sketchy, and the more questionable, the better. The point is, if both sides are expecting the Sens to get a power play–Senators fans consciously, Capitals fans unconsciously–then how easy is it, for you as a higher power, to give both fan bases exactly what they expect?
Now suppose the Senators are on the power play. Ottawa fans are thinking, “This is where we score to tie it up, let’s do this!”; Washington fans are thinking, “It’s always the ticky-tack calls that end up as PPG’s for the other team.” Both sides expect the Sens to score on the man advantage: Sens fans consciously, Caps fans unconsciously. Once again, how easy is it for you, as a higher power, to give both teams exactly what they expect?
Now the score is tied 1-1, it’s getting late in regulation, and Senators fans smell blood. Their Belief goes into overdrive: “We’ve got them now!” And Washington? “Well, here we go again…seen this movie before, Caps will give this one away, I’m sure of it.” Again, how easy would it be to give both teams what they expect?
See, it’s very, very easy to intend a loss. If Ottawa fans are thinking “win” while Caps fans are thinking “lose,” be that consciously or unconsciously, it is very, very easy for a higher power to get both sides exactly what they expect.
Now, when you’ve got both sides fully intending a win, it gets dicey, and this is the part where I’m having trouble figuring out the nuts and bolts of it. Obviously, both teams cannot win; so THEN what?
That’s the part I’m still trying to figure out. Is it strength of intent? Is it number of intenders? Is it the quality of the intention, or the frequency of the intenders? What is it, exactly?
I need to do some more research on this as time permits; but I will maintain that intending a loss is an almost sure-fire way to receive one. Intending a win may not be enough by itself; intending a loss usually is. We have to stop intending losses, be that consciously or subconsciously. I’ve written on this before, so I see no need to belabor the point.
But this time–drum roll, please–I will now give you a method to demonstrate, for yourself, that thoughts influence reality. I’m indebted to Pam Grout for this one.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Two wire coat hangers you don’t mind destroying, a pair of scissors, and a drinking straw.
(Yes, this experiment does involve the sacrifice of two harmless and innocent coat hangers. I suspect I will get quite an earful from Koncerned Voices for the Ethical Treatment of Coat Hangers.)
WHAT YOU DO: First, untwist the coat hangers so that you’re left with two long wires. Form the best letter L that you can with each hanger. Cut the straw in half, and put one half each on the SHORT ARM of your L-shaped wires. Once each half is in place, fold the ends of the wire over so that the straws won’t slip off. (You’ll be using the half-straws as grips.)
Now, hold your L-wires our in front of you, short side (with your grips) vertically, and the long side pointing away straight in front of you. Wait for them to stop flopping around (taking a few deep breaths to quiet yourself and your energy helps.) Now, keep your eyes pointed straight ahead, and think of something that causes you negative emotions. I used, no joke, Capitals playoff losses, and hat tricks by Sidney Crosby. (I’m a Capitals fan, what do you want?!) Watch what happens: your wires will start pointing inward, and may eventually touch if you get enough negativity going (which I do not recommend.)
Now reset your grip, keep looking straight ahead, and start giving yourself positive emotions. For this, I actually imagined, I kid you not, what John Walton might sound like calling late-round playoff victories for the Caps. In my case, when I got to the part where Gary Bettman said, “Alexander Ovechkin, come get the Stanley Cup,” the wires were pointing out so far I almost couldn’t hold on to them.
Try it yourself if you don’t believe me.
Now try this: while holding your wires straight out, and looking straight ahead, focus your attention on something to either side. Look at where the wires go: they follow the direction of your thoughts.
Try it, folks. Don’t just take my word for it (not that anyone ever does.) You’ve got nothing to lose but a couple of cheap wire hangers. And maybe, just maybe, you might begin to accept that what you think REALLY DOES MATTER.
I’ll intend the best for the Caps in Thursday night’s contest with Ottawa. Two final road games, and then the Caps will be home for the balance of the season.
Now, you, reading this: Go find two coat hangers, get a straw, and try that experiment. Go.
Scenarios for 3/24/13 March 24, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Oh, while I’m at it–and I’m doing this in prose, much, I’m sure, to everyone’s relief–some scenarios for Sunday. The Capitals obviously need a win here, but let’s run the scenarios…
WSH would take 10 East from BUF (idle). WSH would be within 1 point of NYR (vs WSH) and CAR (idle). NYR would hold at 9 East. If TBL defeat WPG in regulation, WSH would also be within 3 points of SE leader WPG. If TBL defeat WPG in extra time, WSH would be within 4 points of WPG. If WPG wins, WSH would remain 5 points behind WPG.
WSH O- OR S-WIN
WSH would take 10 East from BUF (idle). NYR would take 8 East from CAR (idle). WSH would be within 1 point of CAR (idle), and within 2 points of NYR (vs WSH). Scenarios of WPG-TBL game as in R-win.
CAPITALS O- OR S-LOSS
WSH would take 10 East from BUF (idle). NYR would take 8 East from CAR (idle).
WSH would move to within 2 points of CAR (idle).
If TBL defeat WPG in regulation, WSH would close to within 4 points of SE leader WPG. If TBL defeat WPG in extra time, WSH would close to within 5 points of WPG. If WPG wins, WSH would fall to 6 points behind WPG.
NYR would take 8 East from CAR (idle).
WSH would hold at 11 East if FLA (at NYI) wins in regulation, AND if PIT wins.
WSH would fall to 12 East if EITHER: NYI (vs FLA) do not lose in regulation; OR if PHI (at PIT) wins.
WSH would fall to 13 East if BOTH NYI (vs FLA) do not lose in regulation, AND PHI (at PIT) wins.
If TBL win in regulation, WSH would remain 5 points behind SE leader WPG. If TBL wins in extra time, WSH would fall to 6 points behind WPG; if WPG wins, WSH would fall to 7 points behind WPG.
Now, wait a minute, you’re saying, the Bolts are only 2 points back, so where are they in these scenarios?
The Bolts have one less ROW than the Capitals, so if they win in a shootout, they stay put. However, even if they win in regulation or overtime, they can’t catch the Capitals. The next tie break is head-to-head. The series is tied at 2 points apiece; HOWEVER, both games were played in Tampa Bay. The rule is that if teams are tied head to head, and have not played an equal number of home games, the first “extra” game is ignored. Well, the first “extra” game in Tampa was Opening Night, and the Bolts won that: that win gets ignored, so the Caps retain the standing for head-to-head purposes.
All that having been said…let’s hope for a regulation win by the guys in the white sweaters Sunday night.
ON A SUDDEN BLOGGING BINGE
Some Really, Really Bad Verse March 23, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Had anyone told me on Wednesday that the Caps would be in their current position,
I would probably have told them that there’s a long, long way between predictin’ and wishin’.
Still, two convincing romps on two consecutive nights in Manitoba,
And now it looks like our season might suddenly not be oba.
With Braden Holtby doing his best impression of a reinforced bank vault,
Jets fans only got one chance to do their version of “all your fault.”
This season has been one of so many highs and lows,
There are nights I can’t tell if the Caps will be the Terminators, or the CurlyLarryMoes.
I hope most fervently that the Caps have finally found their stride,
Because if they have, the next month (or three?) could turn out to be one hell of a ride.
Now, had you asked me last Wednesday what the Caps should do at the deadline,
I most likely would have said that the Caps should walk into a Metro station and toss their playoff hopes in front of the next Red Line.
But then the Caps went into Winnipeg and opened up a two-night, 10-1 can of Redi Whip,
And it may not be foolish optimism to think the Caps are somehow, at this stage of the game, suddently figuring out how to right the ship.
And now comes arguably a season-deciding contest at MSG.
Question: Which Capitals team is going to show up? Answer: Beats the 8-shot iced Americano outta me.
If it’s the same bunch that got Manitobans crying on their Tim Horton’s, that would be totally swell.
But given how up and down this season has been for the Caps, there’s just no way, right now, to tell.
There’s no reason they CAN’T kick the snot out of the Rangers:
They’ve played each other in several recent playoffs, so these two teams sure aren’t strangers.
And the Caps have, for the most part, come out on the right side of that match-up;
This will be the part where we see how well they can play there when they have to play catch-up.
Game 7 last spring was the most terrible, awful, no-good, very bad way to begin an overly extended summer.
We had them, dagnabbit, and losing that game was a woody parsnip, a Chinese wax job, and a nitchen schwag bummer.
So now, here we are, back on Broadway, playing for the regular season’s version of “next round or the putting green.”
Our last visit to MSG was a dud, and a win today may require an effort from the Caps that we may not, this season, have seen.
Sixty-minute game? Please. That’s only where the effort should begin.
The Caps need to treat this like a playoff multi-OT if they want to get a convincing win.
And I’m sure that the players know what the coaches, management, and the fans all would beseech:
Get two unanswered points here, guys, and suddenly, the postseason may be well within your reach.
As for what to do at the deadline, that is currently no longer a slam dunk;
But it might end up becoming one if the Caps go into an unexpected funk.
One game at a time, yes, absolutely: it does no good to look too far ahead.
But the game at hand now is one that could raise our chances considerably, or leave us all but dead.
It’s never a dull day
When there’s hockey on the Great White Way.
The Caps need to win this one if they hope to have April jumping on F Street.
A bad game here, and there may be some fans who decide to spend the rest of the season dressing like a seat.
When it’s all said and done, this could be another epic chapter of the battle of the red, white, and blue.
Or, who knows, it may end up being just another footnote. I personally have no clue.
I know what I’d like to see from the boys from DC.
Whether or not I will see it is beyond me.
So, in closing, I want to wish the Capitals all the very best,
As they take to the ice in Manhattan for a potentially season-deciding test.
May your passes be crisp, may your hits be solid, may the saves be simple, and may your goal-scoring highlights be glorious.
And may you come out of the most famous arena in sports, victorious.
OGDEN NASH WOULDN’T APPROVE
INEXCUSABLE March 13, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Caps Nation, I don’t know what to tell you.
Coming out of Thursday night’s 7-1 dismantling of the Florida Panthers, the Caps suddenly looked like they had a genuine shot at turning their season around. (Note well the use of past tense.) Up ahead, a visit to the Island, where the Islanders had struggled; a home game against the Rangers, who hadn’t exactly been tearing up the pea patch away from MSG; and a home game against the Hurricanes, which everyone knew would go a long way in determining the Caps’ chances of winning the Southeast Division. The games against the New York teams were “should win”; tonight’s Carolina game was effectively “must win.”
So what happened? The Caps proceeded to lose all three games by an aggregate score of 13 to 3.
9 of the Capitals’ next 11 games are on the road. The Caps’ current road record is an abysmal 3-7-1. I might still have held out hope for a sudden reversal of fortune; but the Caps’ “efforts” tonight–and even using quote marks here seems an insufficient negation–have more or less disabused me of any hope I might have had left for this season.
The third goal was the final straw: Carolina iced the puck, but Jeff Schultz did not get back to touch up in time; the puck was in the Washington net within a matter of seconds.
I’ll be blunt: Jeff Schultz owes Braden Holtby a steak dinner and a public written apology for such a half-hearted, piss-poor play. There is NO excuse for that. None.
Regarding Holtby–he did absolutely everything he could to keep the Caps in this game. A bank shot from behind the net, a deflection, Schultz’s brain-fart, and an empty-netter is a horrible way to watch a sailboat go up on the scoreboard. Holtby deserved much, much better than this.
So where, exactly, was the urgency from the rest of the team? And where do I begin? To start, I have to say, I haven’t seen that much swing-and-a-miss since the last time I took batting practice in Little League. And the rest? The passing was atrocious, the Caps couldn’t seem to get past the neutral zone, they weren’t working hard enough to draw penalties, only three of them (Ward, Chimera, and Beagle) won the majority of their faceoffs, and the cycle game looked about as suspicious as Lance Armstrong’s.
All this, in a game the Caps knew they had to win, and on the day after they were given a day off to boot.
And so I have to start re-thinking what’s come so far this season.
The assumption was, that the Caps’ 2-8-1 start could be explained away by a lot of new players playing for a brand new coach, who was teaching a brand new system, and that by the time the Caps finally “got it”, they were already in a 2-8-1 hole. After the Caps won 8 of their next 11, the assumption was that this was the new normal, and they were going to start making their way back into contention.
In light of the most recent three games, all of that needs to be re-thought.
Now, to be fair, the Capitals have been facing more extenuating circumstances than most teams ever see in one season. Short season, new blood, less than a week to learn a new system, injuries to key players, weird schedule, and the list probably goes on.
But true champions do not give in to circumstance: they OVERCOME circumstance. Not these Capitals: tonight, they played a must-win divisional game like it was some meaningless preseason game up in Baltimore.
The Stanley Cup isn’t coming to Washington this year. Period. If the past three games have shown me anything, it is that this team, as constituted, simply does not have what it takes.
Now, I’d love to be wrong. I’d love to see the Capitals take to the road, break hearts at a lot of Eastern Conference barns, and go into April with a legitimate shot at a playoff spot, and a roster full of players with a champion’s heart. I’d love to be able to anticipate hockey in June in DC, and I’d love to look forward to breaking a serious sweat in my cloak.
But after watching the Capitals stink up the joint in a must-win game, I must admit, I’m already looking around for the mothballs.
Do not misunderstand: I still love this team, and I will continue to intend the best for each and every one of the players for as long as they’re with the Capitals. I’ll still be at every game I am physically able to attend, cheering the Caps on to whatever victories they choose to pursue this year. The players may very well have given up on this season, but I’m not giving up on them.
But I cannot, and will not, defend the indefensible. I cannot, and will not, accept the unacceptable. And I cannot, and will not, excuse the inexcusable. The Capitals have much, much to be called to account for in these most recent three games. The level of play has been inexcusable.
But, as I said, I’m not leaving. I thoroughly expect to have my heart broken many, many times in the next month and a half. I expect there will be nights when I’m one of the last few fans in their seats at the final horn. I expect that some of the men on the current roster will be playing elsewhere by this time next month. And I expect that for most, if not all of them, I’ll be genuinely sad to see them go.
This season has been a very, very difficult one. And I know there will be many more difficulties to come.
But o, how I wish that this team, and these players, could have done something special this year. And while the possibility of that is yet still there, it is distant, and fast receding. O, how I wish that this could have been the year I at last got to hear, “Alexander Ovechkin, come get the Stanley Cup.” And while that may yet happen, the impediments to be overcome are now nigh on insurmountable. O, how I wish that this could have been the year when I got to experience firsthand the drama, the passion, the pageantry of the Stanley Cup Finals here in Washington, DC. And while that may yet happen, I cannot believe right now that this team, the team that I watched perform so horridly at Verizon Center tonight, has within it the makings of a champion. And o, how I wish to be wrong!
If tonight was the first game of the rest of the Capitals’ season, then o, what a long and lamentable season it will be!
Tonight, I mourn, for hope for this season is far removed from me. This season is scarcely halfway run, and already, I weep for all that might have been.
WHAT A SAD NIGHT!
Whew! March 8, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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Back in 1979, CBS rolled out a game show called, “Whew!” (I know that sounds like an extremely odd opening for a hockey post, but bear with me.) The main game worked like this: the challenger selected whether to start as the “blocker” or the “charger.” The charger was put in a soundproof booth while the blocker set up “blocks” on the game board. The board consisted of 5 rows of clues worth 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 dollars, plus a sixth row at the top with clues of 200, 300, and 500 dollars. The blocker got to place 6 blocks: no more than 3 in any row of 5, and no more than 1 in the top row. The charger was then brought back onstage, and had 60 seconds to get to the top of the board. Each clue had an error that was underlined; the “answer” was the correct word or phrase. For instance, if the clue was, “John Erskine had his #4 retired by the Boston Bruins,” the correct answer would be “Bobby Orr.” If the charger landed on a block, they were given a 5-second penalty. If the charger thought they didn’t have enough time to finish, they could take a “Long Shot”, stop the clock, and go straight to the top row. The blocker was then given one additional block to secretly place on the top row. If the charger made it all the way up the board in 60 seconds, or successfully answered a Long Shot, they won; if the charger ran out of time, picked a block on the Long Shot, or got the Long Shot answer wrong, the blocker won the game. Players traded roles for the second round of three; if a third round was necessary, the defending champion chose which role to play for Game 3. Best 2 out of 3 won the match; and if the winner could solve ten clues in the bonus round, they won $25,000. That may not sound like much today, but $25,000 in 1979 would be almost $79,000 in 2012 dollars.
As you have no doubt figured out from that long-winded description, my theme for this post is going to be “blocking” and “charging” with respect to where the Capitals are situated in the standings.
Okay, first, let’s look at where the Caps stand right now. The Caps are now at 21 points, which is the same total as Tampa Bay and Buffalo. However, because the Caps have played fewer games than either of those two teams, they’ve just charged to the 12 spot in the Eastern Conference.
But when you look at the number of points each team has available, the Caps are actually in even better shape than that. Here’s the raw list:
(Format: TEAM, Max Pts/Current Pts)
So in terms of playoff potential, the Caps are in a position right now where they have more control of their playoff fate than they did even a few weeks ago. Being one of the hottest teams in the conference over the last 10 games, while some of the teams nearby have been struggling, has been good medicine.
I’m looking at the Caps’ next few games, and what I see is the potential for either a whole lot of charging, or some very, very big blocks.
First up is the Islanders this Saturday, at the Vet. If the Caps win that game in regulation, they will charge one spot in the Eastern Conference standings for sure. If Philadelphia loses in regulation on Saturday, you can make that a 2-spot charge.
But even before that happens, watch the Panthers-Jets game Friday night. If the Panthers beat the Jets in regulation on Friday night, the Caps could pick that spot up on Saturday, as well.
In other words, if the Capitals take care of business on Long Island on Saturday, and they get some help from out of town, they could theoretically be standing–you sitting down, Caps Nation?–NINTH when they come home to face the Rangers on Sunday.
Speaking of the Rangers, they host Ottawa on Friday night. Now, if you look at the standings, it’s easy to favor the Rangers going into that game. The Rangers are 9-4-1 at home, while the Senators are 3-7-2 on the road; the Rangers are coming in on a 4-game streak, the Senators, on a 1-game skid. However, the Senators win with defense. It’s technically accurate to say that only Boston has allowed fewer goals than Ottawa in the Eastern Conference. But it’s only 1 goal, and the Bruins have played 3 fewer games. The Senators are actually giving the Chicago Blackhawks a serious run for the Jennings Trophy right now, and the Rangers aren’t exactly shooting the lights out on Broadway. That game could easily go any number of different ways on Friday night. A regulation win by the Senators would be a HUGE help to the Capitals.
That would set up quite a showdown at the Phone Booth on Sunday morning.
(And pardon the rant, but it is a morning game in my book: thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it’s going to feel like an 11:30 start, meaning it’s going to feel like 10:30 doors at Verizon Center, and oh by the way, Metro is going to be a mess this weekend. Caps Nation, what do you think: maybe we should all show up for the game on Sunday in our pajamas?)
Ahem–as I was saying–quite a showdown at the Phone Booth on Sunday morning.
If the Senators beat the Rangers in regulation, and the Caps take care of both teams from New York over the weekend, the Caps could, with a little help, quite possibly charge all the way to–would you believe this?–ONE POINT out of playoff position.
If the Caps lose both games this weekend, and the out of town scoreboard piles on the insults, the Caps could conceivably be all the way back in 14th by the time the Hurricanes arrive to kick off a home-and-home Tuesday night–two quick games that could decide if the Caps are going to be charging in the Southeast, or staring down a very, very serious block.
Reasons to hope this weekend: the Islanders have been HORRIBLE at home this season, which may play to the Caps’ favor on Saturday; and the Rangers have not been very good on the road coming into Verizon Center on Sunday, where the Caps are now 7-5-0.
What worries me about Saturday is the Caps’ road record, a very pedestrian 3-6-1 so far. That road record has GOT to improve this month if the Caps are to have any chance of–yes, I’m going there–charging all the way into the playoffs. That said, the Islanders aren’t much better at home than the Caps have been on the road, so even this may be worrying too much.
So, keep an eye on the scoreboard Friday night, Caps faithful. If the Panthers win in regulation, the Caps could jump two spots, and possibly three, with a win at the Vet on Saturday. And don’t neglect to look in on the Rangers-Sens game, as that game could set the table for Sunday’s game here in the District.
All in all, this is going to be a whirlwind weekend for hockey in DC…and that’s before we play the Hurricanes.
This season is suddenly getting very, very interesting. Step away from the ping pong balls, folks: these Capitals just might be able to pull this Long Shot off, after all.
On Realignment February 27, 2013Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I saw the NHL’s proposal for realignment. If you haven’t seen it, the gist of it is, instead of 6 divisions of 5, the NHL goes to two divisions of 8 in the East, and two divisions of 7 in the West. Top four teams from each division play down to division champion; division teams battle it out for the conference; conference winners play for the Stanley Cup.
It would be an elegant format, if only the league had 32 teams. As it stands, it would be easier to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference, and harder to make it in for the East.
Frankly, I think that’s overcooking that particular casserole. You could keep the 6-division alignment by putting Winnipeg into the Northwest (keeping the Canadian teams together), Minnesota into the Central (since it’s just up the pike from Chicago), and Columbus into the Southeast.
Wait…Columbus, in the Southeast? Actually, if you look, Columbus is closer to Raleigh and Washington than Nashville; and even though it’s further from Florida, the Jackets could hit both the Panthers and Lightning on the same road swing and call it done. Columbus is also on Eastern time; Nashville, on Central.
I know the Red Wings won’t like it, but Columbus is further east. Outside the NFL, which puts more emphasis on history than on geography, Columbus to Pittsburgh may be one of the shortest distances between two conferences in all of professional sports.
And no, that does not mean Columbus to the Atlantic. With the Hudson Valley Three, and the Keystone Rivalry, the Atlantic is as good as it could be (without Washington being in it, that is.) What, do you put the Flyers in the Southeast? Um…no. There’s just too much history along I-76 to just split it up like that. The Southeast is enough of a hodgepodge already, so that’s the easiest place to put the Jackets.
That would be the best way to do it: move Winnipeg into a Canada-heavy division, shift a team on the cusp (Minnesota) into the next division over, and from there, move an Ohio team into–wait for it–the Eastern Conference. I would guess that, given a choice, Jets fans would rather travel more if it meant a more Canada-heavy schedule: ergo, Northwest. But the Avalanche have to stay put in that scenario, so Minnesota would move into the same division as Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis (oh, hi there, Nashville.) That would put the Jackets into the East, and in the interest of keeping the Atlantic together, Columbus would then go into the Southeast.
Now, if they really did end up going with four divisions only, they really would need to have some way for Eastern Conference teams to not have to beat four division teams instead of three. Here’s one way to do it:
*Top THREE teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs.
*Top Eastern wild card takes the 4 spot in its own division.
*Second highest Eastern Wild card takes the remaining 4 spot in the East, regardless of division.
*Top Western wild card takes the 4 spot in its own division.
*Next highest AT LARGE wild card takes the remaining 4 spot in the West.
That’s less than ideal–travel under that arrangement would be horrendous–but you could conceivably end up seeing teams win cross-division, or even cross-conference, titles, which might make for some interesting rafters in years to come. You might also end up seeing two Eastern rivals duking it out for the Stanley Cup.
(Memo to the NHL: that means you might end up with Ovechkin vs. Crosby for all the marbles. IMAGINE THE RATINGS!)
That’s complicated, yes. But I’m not entirely sold on the idea of teams having a 4:3 chance in favor of making the postseason out West, while Eastern teams are reduced to a coin flip. Putting an at-large wild card in play could make things slightly easier on the East, and slightly tougher on the West, which could help balance out the idea of “two divisions of 8, one of 7.”
How does it look mathematically? Well, Eastern teams have a minimum chance of 8/16 at the playoffs, which is 50%. If the at-large wild card is from the East, the East would end up with a 56.25% chance of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the West would be guaranteed 7 spots out of 14 teams–the same 50% as the East–and would have about a 57.14% chance at the playoffs if the at-large spot went to the West. I’m not quite sure how those work together, but they look awfully darn close, in my view. Both conferences would begin with a 50-50 chance at the playoffs: it would not start at 50% in the East, and 57% in the West. Looked at strictly from the math side, 8 spots guaranteed in the East, 7 spots guaranteed in the West, and the last spot in the West going to the best remaining team league-wide, is the best way to make the math work out.
The logistics of an Eastern 9 would be horrendous, but Detroit’s won one or two Stanley Cups from out West, so it can be done.
And an at-large wild card could result in some already historic rivalries in the East becoming battles for the ages. Think what would happen if Boston won the East, while Montreal survived the West as the at-large. Imagine the Rangers winning the East, and the Flyers coming out of the West off the at-large. And, I’ll try this scenario again: Penguins win the East, Capitals survive the West from the at-large, and you end up with the CAPITALS AND PENGUINS DUKING IT OUT FOR THE STANLEY CUP.
That 7-7-8-8 alignment looks like a lemon right now, but with an at-large playing in the West…that’s not just lemonade, that’s HARD lemonade.
Now, then…Caps and Flyers tonight, on Rivalry Wednesday. I’m stoked.
MY, WHAT CRUNCHY NUMBERS