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Scenarios for 3/24/13 March 24, 2013

Posted 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 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.

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.



Some Really, Really Bad Verse March 23, 2013

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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.


INEXCUSABLE March 13, 2013

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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.


Whew! March 8, 2013

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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)

BOS 87/33
MTL 82/34
PIT 80/32
NYR 78/26
CAR 77/27
TOR 76/30
OTT 76/28
NJD 75/27
WPG 73/23
WSH 73/21
NYI 71/23
PHI 69/23
TBL 69/21
BUF 67/21
FLA 67/19

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.