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Ovechkin That I Used To Know January 30, 2013

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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A discussion of this season’s underperformance by the Capitals would not be complete without wondering, in print, what in God’s name has happened to Alexander Ovechkin.  It wasn’t too many seasons ago that the man brought home four player trophies in one year.

This year?  Six games in, and all he’s got to show is 1 goal, 1 assist, six penalty minutes, and a -2 rating.  The Alex Ovechkin that broke the Capitals record for goals by a left wing, who took home the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophies in the same year, is currently eighth on the team in points.

Who’s that impostor in the #8 sweater, and what the heck did he do with the real Alexander Ovechkin?!

I remember those seasons not too long ago when Ovechkin looked like he was having all the fun in the world out there on the ice.  The hockey world was his oyster, and he had the point totals, goal celebrations, and ear-to-ear grin to prove it.  Nowadays, his goal celebrations (what few I’ve seen recently) have looked like the fun has gone out of it for the Great 8.  I’m not sure what’s going on; but based on what I’m seeing, it doesn’t look like Ovechkin is having any fun anymore.

And if I had to guess, that may be a contributing factor to his diminishing numbers.  If it’s happiness that breeds success, as some have argued, then Ovechkin’s diminishing numbers may correlate with him not having as much fun as he used to have.

Yes, NHL hockey is a business:  a highly competitive business that can be as heartless as it is fun.  But go pull the video of the goal Ovechkin scored against Buffalo on Sunday:  there was no joy in his celebration.  He took the traditional hug from the guys on the ice, and skated past the bench, without any evident pep in his step.  Had the Alex Ovechkin of a couple years back gotten off to a slow start, he would have shown a lot more emotion on scoring his first of the season.  This time?  Meh.  Another day at the office.  Look at the video of his reaction to that goal, and try to tell me this is the same Alex Ovechkin who used to be lighting up the celebration reels as much as he was lighting up the scoreboard three, four, five years ago.

I don’t know about you, Caps Nation, but I want that old Alex Ovechkin back.

Anyway, I was sitting at a pharmacy waiting to pick something up today, wondering whatever happened to the old Alexander the Gr8, when the radio overhead started playing “Somebody That I Used To Know.”  I thought to myself, “I just want Ovechkin that I used to know,” and the resulting parody pretty much wrote itself.  (Yeah, I know…”and it shows.”)

So, here you go:

“Ovechkin That I Used To Know”
Parody of “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye

Now and then I think of when you won the Calder
And how the future looked so bright for Washington
You played with passion and a joie de vivre
It seemed your scoring touch would never leave
Those days were hopeful, and that hope I still remember

You can get addicted to a certain kind of iffy
And being just another player, just not so great
But we can’t seem to get past early May
At least you can still collect your pay
I just miss the days when you could score one in a jiffy

But you didn’t have to lose your touch
And drive DC completely nuts with your lack of performance
We may not need a hundred four
But you make six million plus ’cause you get paid to score

No, you didn’t have to fade away
And leave us wondering if we should have picked Evgeni Malkin
They can’t move your fat contract, though
So now I need Ovechkin that I used to know

Now I need Ovechkin that I used to know
Now I need Ovechkin that I used to know

Now and then I think of all those playoff series losses
And wond’ring if another goal from you’d have won some games
The Cup won’t come to Washington
If you keep doing what you’ve done
I know that you’re much better, though
So I need to see lots more of the Ovechkin that I used to know

Because you just don’t have to play like this
Make out like you just don’t care and leave your fanbase hungry
You may not score three every game,
But who you are and who you were just simply aren’t the same

No, you don’t have to score every goal
Just be the player that deep down inside you know you can be
I’ll be right there to cheer the show
When you bring back Ovechkin that I used to know

Ovechkin, that I used to know, etc. (Outro)

—————–

Look, I like Alexander Ovechkin a lot, as a player and as a citizen of DC.  He’s a genuinely good guy, and we’re lucky to have him here in Washington.  But I miss those days when walking into Verizon Center always meant wondering, “Okay, how will Alexander Ovechkin amaze us tonight?”  Nowadays, I’m wondering, “Okay, will Alexander Ovechkin even score tonight?”

Alexander Ovechkin is better than this.  I know it.  Caps fans know it.  I’d bet money the whole hockey world knows it.  And I’m pretty sure that in his heart of hearts, Ovechkin knows it, too.

Look, I know some of this is a bit heavy-handed–the Malkin reference is probably a bit much–but darn it, I know there’s a world-class hockey player in that #8 sweater somewhere.  I just hope I get to see more of it, especially given how badly the Caps are doing at this point in the season.

So, yeah…I want to see Ovechkin that I used to know.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
WEIRD AL I’M NOT

Better Find That Panic Button January 30, 2013

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No, Caps Nation, don’t HIT the panic button just yet. But make sure you know where it is, because we may have to hit it pretty darn soon.

Like most of you, I saw the ending of the Ottawa game, a 2-2 tie broken by a power-play goal off a sketchy call. It wouldn’t be a full official season of Capitals hockey without at least one game being stolen by the officials, or so it seems as of late.

But with 1/8th of their season already in the books, the Capitals have managed all of 3 points. That puts them on pace for 24 points, which would nearly bring the team full circle to its historically stinkeroo inaugural season.

With Alexander Ovechkin, a former 4-trophy player, on the roster.

So, yes, this is very, very bad. How bad? Here’s the current playoff chart for the Eastern Conference, and please don’t run away screaming when you see it.

Team Max Pts Curr Pts Magic Num Which Does What? C/E
BOS 95 11 +75
FLA
+Clinch
14E
N/A
TBL 94 10 +76
FLA
-83
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4SE
-Elim
1E
N/A
MTL 94 8 +78
FLA
-83
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
N/A
NJD 94 8 +78
FLA
-83
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
N/A
OTT 93 9 +77
FLA
-82
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
N/A
WPG 91 7 +79
FLA
-80
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4SE
-Elim
1E
N/A
NYI 91 7 +79
FLA
-80
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
N/A
NYR 90 6 +80
FLA
-79
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
N/A
TOR 90 6 +80
FLA
-79
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
N/A
PIT 90 6 +80
FLA
-79
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
N/A
CAR 90 4 +82
FLA
-79
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4SE
-Elim
1E
N/A
BUF 89 5 +81
FLA
-78
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1NE
-Elim
3E
N/A
WSH 87 3 +83
FLA
-76
BOS
+Clinch
14E
+Clinch
4SE
-Elim
1E
N/A
PHI 86 4 +82
FLA
-75
BOS
+Clinch
14E
-Elim
1E
N/A
FLA 86 2 -75
BOS
Elim
1E
N/A

NOTES:
TOR/NYR tie break is head-to-head
WPG/NYI tie break is head-to-head
MTL/NJD tie break is ROW
TOR/PIT tie break is ROW
Current PT favorite CHI not considered this East-only chart

Okay. So, right away, some good news: the Caps aren’t the worst team in the East, and they’re actually ahead of Philadelphia in terms of points available. Don’t forget, the Panthers charity-pointed their way to the division title last year, and the Flyers, well, are the Flyers, who you normally expect to see much higher up the chart.

Small comfort, that, but at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get.

Notice that as of right now, there’s not a lot of wiggle room between 1st place and 8th place, or between 15th place and 8th place. And with a conference-only schedule this year, every team’s win is going to be someone else’s direct loss. This isn’t a season where you can write 2 points off to a Western Conference powerhouse because, well, you’re not going to be playing anyone in the West. It’s also not a season where you can hope for help in the standings off of inter-conference games: if there are two teams ahead of you, and they go to overtime, you fall that much further behind, no questions asked, with not as many games available to hold your position.

The bottom line is that with the Caps standing 13th in terms of points available, they’re already in a position where they need to win, win a lot, and do it now. And they could soon find themselves no longer in control of their playoff destiny if they keep losing.

I don’t like being an alarmist, but at this point, I can’t argue with the math. And here’s what the math is telling me right now:

If the Capitals continue at the pace they’re now on, they will be eliminated from playoff contention on March 24th.

Yes, you read that right. If they keep playing like this, we’re going to end up with a month of meaningless hockey games here in the District. Not exactly the way to continue (ahem) a sellout streak.

Now for some good news.

The Caps will play a majority of their February games at home, which should–I hope!–give them time to hold position, and hopefully pick up a few spots in the standings. They’ll need every point they can spare, as they’ll only have half a dozen home games in March. And while the Caps are slated to spend the majority of April at Verizon Center, that home cooking isn’t going to mean much if they’re out of contention and the fans decide they’d rather watch the Nationals.

Look, I’m not a panic-monger by nature. I’m usually quick to offer some variant of “keep calm and carry on my wayward son.” (Which might make for a nice bumper sticker on the back of a Chevy Impala…)

But this is no ordinary season due to its shortened length. And even though the Caps, by all appearances, seem to be rebuilding, they cannot afford to take too many more notches in the L column if they still consider themselves contenders. They need to win, they need to win a lot of games, and they need to do it now. There is simply no time left to lollygag.

Gentlemen, either go hard, starting now, or just admit you’re playing for ping pong balls so we can get ready for the Nationals to start Spring Training. You have no margin for error, for the rest of the season. Get it together, now, or admit right now that this is going to be a rebuild year. And since I know you’re too proud to quit, then that leaves exactly one option: get it together, gentlemen.

This isn’t panic time, yet. But it is definitely very highly concerned time.

I want to wish the Caps all the best Thursday night in Toronto, and then on through the upcoming homestand and beyond. I believe this season can be salvaged despite the rough start, but the turnaround needs to happen soon.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
EXTREMELY WORRIED

Metro Alert for Sunday’s Caps Game January 25, 2013

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This will no doubt be done better by someone else, but here’s my crack at it.

RED LINE.  Metro advises that they will have service back to normal by noon on Sunday, so fans taking the Red Line shouldn’t be affected.  RECOMMENDATION:  Red Line riders may want to add a “just in case” 15 minutes to their travel time in case Metro runs into trouble clearing out the work zones.

YELLOW LINE.  No work scheduled; normal service intervals are scheduled on the Green Line.  Yellow Line riders should be unaffected.  RECOMMENDATION:  Expect normal service.

GREEN LINE.  Work scheduled between <b>College Park</b> and <b>Greenbelt.</b>  Only station affected is Greenbelt, which will be served by every other train.  Normal service intervals are scheduled for College Park and all points south.  RECOMMENDATION:  Avoid Greenbelt if possible.  Metro officially advises allowing 10 minutes additional travel time.

BLUE LINE.  No work scheduled; Orange Line trains running at reduced service, so overlap should not be an issue.  RECOMMENDATION:  Expect normal service.

ORANGE LINE.  <b>TWO SEPARATE WORK ZONES.</b>  Work zone on <b>WEST</b> side between <b>East Falls Church</b> and <b>West Falls Church.</b>  Work zone on <b>EAST</b> side between <b>Stadium-Armory</b> and <b>Cheverly.</b>  Includes <b>Minnesota Avenue</b> and <b>Deanwood.</b>  Trains running <b>every 24 minutes.</b>  RECOMMENDATION:  Bus or park and ride passengers on the west side may want to consider the Red or Blue lines.  Official Metro advisory for travel through the work zone is 20 minutes.  Park and ride passengers on the east side should consider the Blue Line, or the Green Line from College Park and points south.  Bus passengers may also want to consider using the Red Line.  Official Metro advisory for travel through the work zone is 20 minutes.

See you all at the game.–CS

Cue Edith Piaf January 7, 2013

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Those of you who saw the movie “Inception” will get the reference right away, but for the rest of you, I need to explain that title before I dive into the meat of this post.

In the film, dreamers are reminded that it’s time to wake up when they hear “Non, je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf.  There’s subtext in the usage of that song:  part of the plot involves how one of the characters recovers from a lot of moments that he regrets.  And if you listen carefully, the horns at the very beginning of the film sound like the horn part of “Non, je ne regrette rien” slowed down–which is how they would sound to dreamers in “Inception.”  And finally, at the end of the credits, the song is played at normal speed, signalling us, the “dreaming” audience, that it’s time to “wake up” ourselves.

Well, cue Edith Piaf on the nightmare that was the lockout, because now we can wake up and get back to the game we all love.

I’ve missed the NHL for the past few months.  Not exactly junkie-jonesing-for-a-fix missing it, but there’s definitely been a hole in my getting-out-of-the-house schedule that’s been a project to fill.  To be quite candid, I was beginning to expect them to call the whole season off any day now.  So when I found out they’d reached a deal on Sunday morning, I was happier than Sean Avery at Boxers NYC.

I’ve seen the expected “I’m only going to show up to boo” comments in some quarters, and that’s too bad.  Life’s too short, and hockey’s too much fun, to pay money to go stew in your own hatred.  And in order to vote with your vocal cords, you have to vote with your wallet to get in the door–and both the players and owners will happily listen to your kvetching all the way to the bank.  So if you’re going to show up, then cheer like the season depends on it.

And it very well just might.  With a shorter season, every game is going to be that much more important.  There will be almost no margin for error this season, even in the regular season, and never mind the playoffs.  We’re about to get treated to five months or so of the most intense NHL hockey any of us will (hopefully) ever see in our lives.  The errors of a 48-game season are much more dangerous than the errors of an 82-game season.  This season is essentially going to be one long, long stretch run from the instant the puck is dropped.  I don’t know about you, but I think that sure beats the heck out of a lost season.

And as far as I’ve heard, the playoffs are going to be the same as they’ve always been:  4 rounds, best of 7.  Yes, the Stanley Cup Final could very well be in late June.  (Just the thought of wearing an all-wool cloak when it’s in the upper 80’s is making me sweat.)  But as far as I know, they won’t put an asterisk on the Stanley Cup for this year’s champions.  The playoffs are the playoffs, regardless of the format of the qualification round (i.e., the regular season.)

The nightmare is over, Edith Piaf is blasting on our headphones, and it’s time for us to wake up to the reality of the new season before us.  Is it the 82-game slate we’d hoped for?  No.  Did it start back in October when we all wanted it to?  No.  Did we get to see a Winter Classic this year?  No. 

But does all of that give us, the fans, license to hold a grudge?  No, and especially not with a very unique season about to start.  That’s not to say that we should be rejoicing that the season has been shortened.  We shouldn’t be, not by any stretch.  But it is to say that we’re not going to see another season like this–hopefully–ever again.  So while we could get down in the amen corner and weep and gnash our teeth that we didn’t get the full 82 this year, I’d like to hope that we could instead take the good with the bad, and embrace the uniqueness of the season ahead of us.  If both sides of the labor dispute have learned their lesson well, we may never again see a season like this.  So why not appreciate the coming season for its uniqueness? 

No, it’s not a uniqueness anyone would have wanted; we’re correct in seeing it as a bit of a lemon of a qualifying round.  But what manner of lemonade might we see squeezed out of this lemon?

Let’s welcome hockey back with open arms, and look forward to a one-of-a-kind regular season.  Every single game is going to matter this year.  And the Stanley Cup will not be deliberately covered in tarnish for the team that ultimately wins it this year.

No, I did not, as a fan, enjoy the lockout.  No, I did not, as a fan, enjoy long, dark winter nights without the company of the sport I love.  No, I did not, as a fan, enjoy being reduced to a betting chip in a squillion-dollar poker game.

But Edith Piaf is blasting on my headphones.  The dream is over.  Hockey is back.  And even though the regular season is going to be markedly different from a full 82-game slate, I think that just makes it a singular–and hopefully unrepeatable–experience to take in stride.

Hockey is back, finally.  And I would submit that those of us who love the game, should love the game as we always have.  The time for finger-pointing is over.  Now it’s time for stick-taping, skate-sharpening, fight-strap-fastening, and trying to develop, once and for all, some way to de-stink hockey pads.

The nightmare is over.  The season is finally at hand.  And I, for one, can’t wait to get back to the rink and cheer for the guys in red.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
HOCKEY’S BACK!