Posts Tagged ‘nhl’

Best in the World?

In case you missed it Tuesday, the NHL nominated Ovechkin and two other guys for the Hart Trophy. The Capitals’ captain and centerman is up against Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla.

Honestly, I’m pretty sure they only added Malkin and Iginla because they had to have three nominees.

Yes, yes, I’m solidly in favor of Ovechkin snagging this trophy, despite being a solid Penguins supporter. But I also acknowledge talent; Ovechkin personifies the essence of the Hart and he deservedly should win it.

It’s indeed fortunate that Washington made it to the playoffs – I highly doubt Ovie would’ve been nominated otherwise, though that travesty would’ve been unforgivable, I think.

We’ll find out for sure on June 12 in Toronto, when the 2008 NHL awards are doled out. And if you didn’t know, Nicklas Backstrom is up for the Calder Trophy for top rookie, too – but he’s going to lose that to Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.

Another Capitals member is an awards finalist – Bruce Boudreau was tagged today as a Jack Adams finalist, which goes to the coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.” Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon in late November last year, where the Caps lay belly-up in the Southeast cellar at 6-14-1. Since then, he led the Caps to a 37-17-7 regular season mark (with seven straight wins at the end of the season) and three hard-fought playoff wins before succumbing to the Flyers in Game Seven. He was also the fastest coach to 20 victories (34 games) in Caps history.

Ovie’s already snapped up the titles for most goals (65) and points (112) on the season. The sole reason the Caps even made it into the playoffs by a hair was because Ovechkin carried them on his back. If Ovie wasn’t playing, the Caps would deservedly be in the dregs of the league along with Tampa and L.A.

Ignila makes sense as a nominee – second career 50+ goal season, 98 points total, and spearheading the Flames’ own run into the playoffs. But he didn’t electrify his team or the home crowds like Ovechkin did.

The sole player at a shot of sneaking away with the Hart is the Penguins’ Malkin. And really, despite locking in 106 points with 47 goals – 46 points and 20 goals during a 28 game stretch that kept the Penguins on playoff afterburners when Crosby went down – the only real reason he could skate away with it is if the Penguins win the Cup.

But even I don’t think that’s likely to happen. I foresee quite the Caps ‘sweep’ of the awards in June.

So my heartfelt congratulations to Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Caps for an electrifying season. I truly hope you all keep that fire lit for next year; it’ll make some awesome match ups for me and my Penguin friends to look forward to.

Unleash the Beast?

Photo courtesy of island_explorer

So the Capitals are sliding behind the playoff 8-ball. Hammered last night in Philly by a final score of 6-3, where Brière has lit a fire somewhere and Biron’s thrown up a Berlin-esque wall, the hometown hockey heroes has looked more like the ice-capades on a road trip.


Where’s the fire that exploded from this team in the third period of Game One? Watching Sunday’s game was like watching the Caps back in October, when the team was terrible and looking to beat Columbus down the standings.

Last night was marginally better, but only just.

The Caps got behind early on Sunday and never recovered; Ovechkin was double-teamed and his support cast was nowhere to be found. That’s not how you win playoff hockey – it’s how you give the opposing goalie a shutout. Guess what happened?

I’ll give Washington credit, they did try to stage another late rally, closing the gap to 4-3 on Laich’s goal at 4:34 remaining. But Philly rallied quick, with Mike Richards zinging Huet on a penalty shot less than two minutes later. Nail? Meet hammer.

Biron could’ve taken naps in his goal – the Caps had a total of 16 shots on the evening. Compare that to the final games of the regular season, when Caps opponents were seeing flurries of 30 and 40 shots.

Where have the Caps disappeared to?

Now, not all is lost. The series is only 2-1 in the Flyers’ favor. But they face another rough game ahead in Philadelphia before coming back to the Verizon Center. Which could be the Caps’ swan song…or not. Honestly, it’s really up to the rest of the team.

You can’t hang all the pressure on Ovechkin – though ineffective since his game-winning goal in Game One, he’s hardly at fault. The Flyers defense has been tightly focused on shutting him down (even after losing Timonen), and they’ve done so with frightening ease. In times like this, it’s dependant upon the superstar’s supporting cast to step up and make a difference. We know they can – we saw ample evidence of it in the last month of the regular season. Semin, Kozlov, Federov, Backstrom – pretty much non-existent forces on the ice right now. I’ll give a pass to Mike Green – his sniper shots are still scary as heck, as we saw last night.

So don’t despair quite yet, Caps fans. If the Flyers dominate to another win on Thursday, however…

Maybe the Pope could swing by the Verizon Center on his out-and-about birthday tour and toss out a few blessings…

IMG_5190 copy, courtesy of island_explorer

So It Begins…

ovechkinOne down, three more wins to go.

In case you missed it, your Washington Capitals came from behind and stole Game 1 from the Philadelphia Flyers. They stole it like Ovechkin stole the puck in the waning minutes for his first playoff goal. Seriously – it’s a gorgeous move and great goal. You’ve got to see it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It’s not going to be a cakewalk, though. The Flyers came out gunning, hopping up to a 4-2 lead before the Caps finally got their jitters behind them and surged to a tie. Mike Green netted two, and Ovie had 43 hits – 43! – on the night. Think he’s a tad excited?

Now that they’ve got the return-to-playoff jitters behind them, they’d better settle into a groove on Sunday for the rematch and not fall behind often. It’s not a good pattern to get into.

So hit the Verizon Center on Sunday and wear your red. I won’t be there, though – my preferred team has some more Senator-smacking to do, so I’ll be watching that demolition from the comfort of my living room.

Go Caps! (because I hate the Flyers!)

Seeing Red in the Playoffs – Now What?

Photo courtesy of Cruel Britannia

So they did it – with some help from a faltering Carolina team – and here the Caps are, at the brink of what looks to be a very exciting NHL playoff season in the run to Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Caps haven’t faced the Flyers in the playoffs since 1989, and have split this season with them: Caps went 2-2-0, with 14 goals scored; the Flyers pulled a 2-1-1 record while scoring 15 goals. So does either team have an edge going into Friday’s Game One here at the Verizon Center?


Don’t look to the special teams to win it, though. The bruising Flyers have the second-highest power play success rate – but you have to counter that with wunderkind Ovechkin’s whopping 22 PP goals. And both penalty-killing lines enter the dance on a roll.

So what about offense?

Photo courtesy of Cruel BritanniaEven. The Flyers bring to the ice a balanced but gritty line of experienced players that, at times, can be an oppressive force, wearing down opponents in the corners. The Caps’ offense is largely inexperienced in playoff hockey, but they’ve got some dynamic players in Ovechkin, Semin, and Koslov. More importantly, however, the Caps can score goals when needed during crunch time – provided Biron’s not standing tall in net for the Flyers.

Defense is also a push. Both sides of the blue line have some big bodies to bruise with, but the Flyer’s experience can be negated with solid two-way play from Mike Green.

Goaltending? About equal. Biron’s inexperience in the playoffs is balanced by his current hot streak – he pulled out two amazing shutouts in a row and seems to have hit his stride just in time to keep the Flyers from sinking. Huet’s posted solid numbers for the Caps and has a GAA under two in his last thirteen.

Coaching? John Stevens and Bruce Boudreau are both NHL playoff rookies that have done astonishing things with their teams this year.

Emotional quotient? Definitely in the Capital’s favor. They’ve pulled out a stunning drive after the trade deadline, stealing the Southeast Division title from the Hurricanes and riding some stellar play from Ovechikin, Laich and Huet. The Flyers all but managed to keep their free-fall from kicking them out of the playoffs, so the edge really goes to the high-flying Caps. Add in Ovechkin’s first run in the playoffs, and you’re looking at one supercharged emotional team right now.

The question really comes down to this: can the rest of the Capital’s bench step up and score when Ovechkin’s buried under orange and black sweaters? Because the key to a Flyer’s victory here is going to be stifling the Cap’s superstar every way they can.

If the rest of the team can step it up and crack Biron’s wall (and avoid multiple Flyer bruises), look for the Caps to take it in six.

FlyersCapsPr2 102, FlyersCapsPr2 060 courtesy of Cruel Britannia

Win for the "Home" Team!

So Sunday was the highly-anticipated Pens-Caps showdown, at least for my household. We managed to secure some last-minute seats thanks to a timely cancellation and firmly planted our Penguin-bedecked selves squarely in Section 428.

Penguin fan central.

Though our section was admittedly more tame than that of 423-425 – sections we’ve sat in previous times we’ve journeyed to these intense rivalry games – it was still wonderful to behold.

See, Penguin fans since time began – ok, since our continual playoff clashes in the ’90s – have always made it a point to flood the MCI/Verizon Center to support our flightless birds of black-n-gold. Sunday was no exception. The idea of making the rival arena our ‘temporary home’ is always appealing. We’re like a virus, after all. Albeit a black-n-gold one.

Though I will admit, the playoff possibilities have energized Cap fans to actually, you know, show up for these games now. No longer do our “Let’s Go Pens!” chants dominate the arena. Still, from where we sat, it was like being at the Mellon Arena all over again….though decidedly more updated, with a nicer scoreboard and bigger sightlines and…

Ok, fine. I’m jealous. Until the ‘guins get their new arena, that is.

Still, I’ve always loved Pens/Caps games. The energy both sides bring to the game is just phenomenal. And wonderfully respectful. I mean, there are grumpy drunks on both sides of the fence, but at least the attacks on each other remain in the verbal realm. No need for either of us to mimic Philly fans, after all. (No offense, Philly readers. But, well, you know.)

The game was electric. Ovechkin, Semin, Crosby and Malkin were all spectacular. And for it to be decided by Backstrom’s errant shot…well, that’s the breaks in hockey. I was, at least, looking forward to an intense OT period and hopefully, a successful shootout afterwards. Though I can live with the actual outcome, too.

Needless to say, though, I do hope the Capitals can pull it together for the playoffs this year. Their trades at the deadline were magnificent, Ovie’s in top form… Yeah, I can honestly say I’d love to see the Caps get into the second round at least.

Because then they’ll face the Penguins. And oh, what a series THAT will be. So never fear, Cap fans – I’ll be rooting for you for the final three games I have tickets for (Atlanta, Boston, Tampa).

Selfish? Of course! After all, I *am* a Penguins fan.

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