Saturday, December 31, 2011

Caps/Jackets, 12/31/11

It's been a tough year for the Washington Capitals. Things haven't been quite as pretty as we'd gotten used to as fans. We weren't quite the '70s Caps--but we weren't the '09 Caps either, and it's been a longer and harder transition than most of us were probably ready for. But you know what? We ended it with a bang, not a whimper. The Caps reminded the world that they're here.

Things are looking up in a big way. What more can you ask? I know some people would disagree with me, but at the moment I am less concerned about the team's progress than I am about their direction, and for the last few games, it's all been beautiful.

Happy New Year.

What a game.

The first period is unbelievably boring. There's a guy in a Pens jersey right behind the bench. He's probably lost--he is lost in his sports fandom, if nothing else.

You don't even go here.

Roman Hamrlik is unexpectedly beneficial for ten seconds with the team's only real chance so far! We'll take it.

We are reminded by the broadcast team that Chimera used to be a Blue Jacket. This is momentarily disorienting as he is so very good at being a Capital. I believe that he was a Capital in his soul, even when he was a Blue Jacket.

Somebody's glove is in the middle of the ice. They probably need that. Unless they're Steve Mason, he's not using it anyway.

The Jackets are playing the boring, unhappy hockey of a team that has already lost 22 games this season.

Grant Clitsome does a few things, and I am impressed by Joe B's ability to call them with a straight face. This guy is a solid hockey player, but it's still hard to believe there is a person actually named Grant Clitsome and that it's not a porn star pseudonym or something.

In Jeff Schultz's first game back after four scratched, he promptly tries very hard to provide the other team with a goal. Thank God for Vokoun. The period ends 0-0.

Ovechkin and Dorsett get into a shoving match early in the second period. Oh fuck, look how scary that Derek Dorsett is, Ovechkin had better watch out.


Not a hell of a lot going on otherwise. Caps are playing geriatric hockey. They are down in chances.

To the Blue Jackets. Yep. 

Yawn. Snore. I blame this on Columbus.

Unfortunately we already know there's no rule against being boring. Tampa Bay, we're looking at you. 

The Meat & Potatoes line briefly starts some shit, and it's the most interesting thing that has happened since I can remember. Being on Twitter making fun of the Blue Jackets is much more interesting than actually playing the Blue Jackets. Ted Starkey with the comparison of the night: 

Given the fact that I can barely keep my eyes open, perhaps it's not a surprise that the Caps are lulled into a bad turnover. Rick Nash takes it in for Moore, because Rick Nash is the entirety of the Columbus Blue Jackets. There are no other players. 

0-1. Whatever. 

Knuble is on the third line tonight and that's not quite as good as him being on the first line again, but he is taking advantage of it, as Mike Knuble often does. He's the guy who will use every single inch of slack that you give him, and he's getting better quality chances than almost anyone on the ice anyway, because fuck you. #FreeKnuble

Pahlsson scores to make it 0-2. This is the first time in my life I have ever thought about Samuel Pahlsson. I had to look up his first name. 

The refs do not exist. There have been no penalties called since the Ovechkin-Dorsett incident. None. There's a woman with a pet Pomeranian in the stands. What the fuck is this game?

But Alex Ovechkin never sleeps. He is like a shark. He is not okay with losing games to the Blue Jackets when nobody even knows what the hell a Blue Jacket is.

Salvation comes in the form of your captain, as it does so often these days. 2-1.

The solar flare of Ovechkin's goal pulses through every Capital in the arena. They stretch. They shake their heads. Time to play some hockey.

First order of business: kick every Blue Jacket's ass, as they have just realized that they are losing to these clowns. Sort-of line brawl. Everyone tries to tackle everyone else, Brouwer-Ehrhoff style, and Orlov ends up bleeding all over the place. He should be comforted knowing he helped blaze the glorious path to victory.


SASHA. 2-2.


There are no pictures of any of these goals, because the press had not yet realized that the action had finally started. Here's a picture of a supernova instead.

Fuck you, 20 minutes of Capitals is better than 60 minutes of Blue Jackets. The Caps were furiously catching up on their napping between periods and now they are guns blazing. In less than 3:30, we go from losing to winning. Surprise!

Locker: "If you turned away from the TV for a moment...Caps have scored three goals."

Finally, there's a penalty. Not even the refs are immune to the Ovechkin Surge.

Ovechkin scores again, on a slapshot that Locker estimates is about 100 MPH. Back to back two-goal games! Deathly silence from the haters crowd. Where have they all gone? Wouldn't they like to tell us more about how terrible he is?



Kind of odd but exciting win! The first two periods were a joke--but in some kind of bizarre metaphor for the entire season, things worked out all right in the end.

Ovechkin was amazing. Everyone loved him. Basically anyone who is criticizing Ovechkin at this moment in time is a complete idiot. It's the best, the best feeling. We've tried to be practical. We've tried to be pragmatic about Ovechkin's changing game, but it's hard to give up a generational talent like that. The things we saw him do, goddamn--and if there's even the slightest chance that we can see him do those things again, we're going to love every minute of it.

Absence. Heart. Fonder. I don't care who our opponents were, this game was a gem. Three in a row. Come on in, 2012. We're ready.

Let's go Caps.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Caps/Jackets pregame

It's no secret that the Blue Jackets kind of suck, but we need to not take this game lightly--taking games lightly is how the Caps crash and burn. I don't need to call your attention to all the games so far this season where the Caps coughed up a lead making fun of the other team's depleted rosters, skating around aimlessly and trying out their new shootout goals while the other team was playing hockey.

Let's not have one of those nights. Let's have one of the nights where we look monstrous.


The Jackets just won their first road game in regulation on Thursday, against the Dallas Stars. Let's NOT make that a streak, shall we? The Caps have already put in their charity hours the last few months being the league's official slump-busters, we don't owe anyone any more of that. No pity for the Jackets' lame-duck season tonight. Load up the shotgun. 


Also on Thursday, the Jackets lost their power play QB, James Wisniewski, to a broken ankle. Wish him a speedy recovery, but this can only help to beef up our awesome PK stats.


Let's play a fun game of "how much would that package cost at the Verizon Center?"


Man, I really did not intend this whole thing to just be making fun of the Blue Jackets, but in my defense, they make it pretty easy. Steve Mason's sitting at an .887 SV% and a 3.29 GAA. If you're looking for the problems with the Blue Jackets, here is your principal culprit. Mason has not been the goaltender that they need.

This is a great opportunity to rack up some points, but if we're not careful, we'll walk away with zero. Stay stiff, as Tortorella would say, because that is my new favorite ambiguously sexual hockey phrase.

Make them cry.

Let's go Caps. 

Caps/Sabres, 12/30/2011

Ovechkin is scoring again.

Watch out, league. This is the only warning you will get. Lock up your daughters and your wives, Ovechkin has remembered how to score and the Caps have remembered how to win. Are these things related? Of course they are. They are more related than any related thing has ever been previously.

We have to admit, December almost killed us. I think that Taylor Swift has a song about this. But we didn't die, and there are starting to be signs that it might, might just have made us stronger instead. Wouldn't that just make it all worth it? When the Caps play like that, they really leave you no choice but to believe in them, and they'd better not prove me wrong on that. Look at those goals, look at that GRIT. There were a couple of mini-Dale-Hunters running around out there tonight, and that is nothing but a good sign.

Right off the opening faceoff, Weber rubs Chimera the fuck out. It should have been a major. It should have been the kind of penalty that bans you from the earth forever. In a gross miscarriage of justice, we only get two.

Here's a fun tip for winning hockey games that the Capitals learned and are now helpfully passing on: don't take a penalty in the first minute of play. And then don't get scored on.

Oh, and don't play the Washington Capitals in the Verizon Center.

Ovechkin scores on the PP, with an assist from Ehrhoff. It's basically an own goal, but that doesn't make Ovechkin less awesome. It just makes it funnier.

I'm sure Ehrhoff can dry his tears with his piles and piles of money.

Vokoun assists on this goal, and it's his second of the season. Alert number-cruncher Adam Vignan informs us that Vokoun now has more assists than Roman Hamrlik! Luckily Hamrlik assists later in the night to tie it up again, which is a relief. His reputation as a hockey player was at stake there.

Joel Ward gets called for slashing, and it's a Buffalo PP. Caps kill it, because they have to.

Jeff Halpern, action man.

Semin draws a hooking penalty. Actual event. I hope you were sitting down when you read that.

Caps don't score on the PP, but we are quickly distracted from that. Chimera is destroying Weber's existence, because you don't fucking do that to Jason Chimera's head, it's not acceptable. We're using that head.

via @MarkMiller

And then he flips Ryan Miller the bird on his way to the box. Oh sorry, I mean "had an equipment malfunction."

Brouwer, on the other hand, goes with the koala method of hockey fighting versus Christian Ehrhoff. It is simultaneously awesome and adorable.

Christian Ehrhoff leaves and does not return to the game. It was a very powerful hug.

Shots are 11-2 Capitals to end the period. Tomas Vokoun doesn't even remember what a puck looks like anymore.

In the second, the the top line decides that one goal is not a good enough lead, and executes a scoring drill around some unmoving pylons. No big deal.

It's Backstrom's 100th goal, and he gets a standing ovation from the VC. It's very dusty here for a moment, someone's cutting onions.

It's a good moment to stop and remember that that we love Nicklas Backstrom. Only one team in the league can have him, and that team is us.

The end of the second period is slightly more precarious--the Sabres are getting a lot of chances to shoot, but Vokoun has our backs.

And Alex Semin has his. As I live and breathe--Sasha goes down to block a shot. What? Who is this new hockey player? What did you do to him, Dale Hunter? Not that we are complaining.

Of note: Buffalo EXTREMELY TOUCHY about people getting near their crease lately. The press has hurt their feelings and they are overcompensating like crazy.

Hecht scores. It is the loneliest little goal. Nobody comes to join it.

The Caps play the third with breezy abandon. Defense? Who needs defense? They figure Vokoun's probably got this one.

They are correct. Nothing gets past the bacon pads.

Many terrifying things occur. I am actually putting my hands over my eyes for some of the Sabres' 908798 chances, which is a very bad habit, but it kind of helps.

Johansson takes a shot at Vokoun, who's a bit surprised, but gets a pad on it. Hello, Marcus, your net is over there. I am in cardiac arrest over this revolutionary new strategy of goal-scoring.

Things are looking bad. The SOB line senses that they are needed.

Hark, the sound of a game in jeopardy! It is I, Alex Semin, here to create a breakaway!



Ovechkin with a beautiful pass from Mr. 100, and he blazes it in. This goal tore a hole in the universe. It set Ryan Miller on fire and melted all the ice behind the net.

He's now leading the team in goals again. All is right with the world.


Revenge is so, so fucking sweet.

But more important than that? The Caps played well and won a hockey game, and we love it when they do that.

So I know it's still only two games, but we know these guys, we recognize them. These are the competent, game-winning Capitals that we've seen so many times before, and the thought that they might be back for good is fucking exhilarating. There were some lapses here and there, sure, but these are the Caps who have an even chance to beat anyone in the league.

Welcome back, boys.

Washington Capitals year in review

  • The year starts out on a high note. Caps leave repeated failure on national TV in 2010 and turn it around into cinematic victory at the Winter Classic. We briefly but intensely love Eric Fehr again upon remembering this day.
  • Braden Holtby is called up and is remarkable--wins two games with one goal against each. On the second of these, a game against the Leafs, 1/22/2011, Ovechkin also gets a hat trick. It's exactly as glorious as it sounds. 
  • Michal Neuvirth shuts out the Penguins back to back, which results in me buying a Neuvirth jersey, because nothing wins my affections faster than making the Penguins look stupid. Yep, that's a shaky goalie, all right. 
  • We pick up Arnott, Sturm, and Wideman at trade deadline. Arnott is a mighty elk for the time he's with us, Sturm is semi-useless, and I do not get Wideman but he grows on me. 
  • Caps finish the season 7-2-1 on their way to a number one seed. 
  • First playoffs game vs Rangers. For 18 minutes and 24 seconds, this is your nightmare. The score is tied. Shots aren't getting through. Caps can't get pucks past a hot goalie. PTSD is kicking in. 
  • Then Alex Semin answers your prayers. (You always briefly become religious during the playoffs.) CAPS WIN. 
  • Caps win the series 5-1, and everyone you know is going to hear about it, dammit.
  •  Most short-lived happiness award. Caps swept by Tampa Bay in four games. Sobbing in your car. 
  • You will never know happiness again.
  • Except that after a month of other teams salivating after Brooks Laich, the Caps resign him anyway. I am notified of this via Caps text alert in the middle of breakfast at Denny's. Some unseemly shrieking ensues.
  • GMGM makes some more nifty deals! SUNLIGHT BREAKING THROUGH THE CLOUDS OF YOUR DC SPORTS FANDOM. Maybe things will be all right. Hope. 
  • The picture of Ovechkin looking fat heard round the world.
  • Also this happens.
  • The summer takes a turn for the worse. We lose Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak. 
  • #SashaCares. During a radio interview for his new team, the Florida Panthers, former Caps player Matt Bradley says that Alex Semin "just doesn't care." Since it is summer and no actual hockey is being played, this is a Huge Story.
  • Plane carrying KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashes, killing all but one member of the team, who dies later in the hospital. Shock.
  • Bruce Boudreau comes into camp preaching a brand-new accountability. Hockey world raises an eyebrow, but he appears to be serious. 
  • Season opening. Unbridled optimism.
  • Unbridled optimism immediately validated. ALL WE DO IS WIN. Ignore flaws and faults, we're a victory machine! We will go 82-0!
  • Mike Green takes a puck to the face, somehow injures ankle? Injury ninja. 
  • Loss to Edmonton. Welcome back to planet Earth.
  • So apparently there were some flaws and faults or something. 
  • Caps lose games, and lose them badly. Family and friends wish the Caps would stop losing so that you would be less cranky. 
  • Bruce Boudreau after a crushing loss to Buffalo: "If I've got to teach them how to be tough, then I don't know quite how to do that."
  • Famous last words. Boudreau fired, Caps alum Dale Hunter hired. Back where you belong.
  • Hard times in Washington DC. It is Caps hunting season. Predators: every other team in the league.
  • Except for the actual Predators, who we proceed to have a stellar game against. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We can see it.

Goodbye, 2011, don't let the door hit you in the ass. Growing pains are not so fun, and painful lessons in maturity aren't either. There were some good times--but we can do better.

2012 is going to be so great, you guys. Are you excited? I am. The Caps are going to be stunning, unbelievable, we're going to be the comeback story of the year. We haven't been the underdog in awhile, have we? But guess what, nobody makes sappy sports movies about the overwhelming favorites. Maybe tougher is better. It's about time for everything to not come so easy for this team.

I have a good feeling about this 2012 thing. Let's be spectacular.

Let's go Caps.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Caps/Buffalo pregame

Momentum, noun: force or speed of movement; impetus of a physical object or course of events.

There is only one thing that is important right now, and that is to keep. It. Rolling. The Caps have been playing well only in fits and spurts for the past two months, and now we'd like them to win everything, if that's all right--or at the very least, to have longer fits.

Buffalo vs Washington, take three. Try not to fuck it up this time, we only have so much film here. 


So our first attempt at revenge was a little lacking to say the least. That's okay. That just means that this second attempt at revenge needs to be 75% revengier. The Buffalo Sabres have absolutely no idea what's coming for them. 

I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT that when I googled "Inigo Montoya", I got this picture of John Erskine. 

I am not making this up.


Because we have an awesome record against backups this season. We ain't too proud to beg.


Caps have killed 27 out of the last 30 penalties they've faced. Let's all stand back and admire that stat for a moment. 27 out of 30. 

I am interested to see how this is going to turn out in the long term. The Caps have had all kinds of seeming strengths and weaknesses this season, but this one is telling in a different way. Here's to the PK continuing to frustrate opposing teams to within an inch of their lives, and doing it with a handsomeness and panache not seen since the time of Errol Flynn. Whatever the PK units are eating for breakfast, keep giving it to them. I suspect it's nails and 72-oz steaks. 


Let's try to win two in a row. I know, I'm getting crazy. After that performance last night, though, this would be incredible for the Caps' confidence, and also for my mental health. Consistency is the stuff my dreams are made of.

Do it for the fanbase, Capitals. We are probably about one more sharp dive away from a mental institution.

Let's be like we were on Wednesday, decisive, confident, impossible to beat. Defense, traffic around the net--desperation. We know all about desperation by now. We can do this. Buffalo is just asking to be destroyed--you don't go around kicking the Caps' ass back to back and just get away with it. That shit does not fly.

Let's go Caps. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Caps/Rangers 12/28/2011

So many things have been said about the Caps' HBO Curse--admittedly mostly by me, under my tinfoil hat over here--but even though the team hasn't fared particularly well under the bright lights of 24/7, we also shouldn't forget that Episode 3 was when things broke for the Caps--that was when we started winning, that was when we got our swagger back. Episode 3 of the Flyers/Rangers series aired tonight. Coincidence??1? (Yes.)

Everybody with me now: exhale. The Caps have earned a stay of execution. GMGM's hand is still hovering over the big red button, and it has not been pushed, because that was some damn good hockey.

Welcome back Beagle! I know he's just a fourth liner but having a healthy roster is a big fucking deal in this league right now. We're now 3-0 with him in the lineup. Coincidence??1? (Yes.)

Safe within the womb of the Verizon Center, the first period starts out...pretty darn good. Don't adjust your monitors, this is reality. I am astounded at every moment of puck possession. It's like a beautiful, rare animal, discovered centuries after it was thought to be extinct.

For a few brief minutes it continues to be rare. The Rangers are in our zone and trying to score some kind of a goal, but there is one tiny flaw in that plan, and that is Tomas Vokoun. He's a bit aggressive tonight. Getting a puck anywhere near him is basically like waving a red cape at a bull. He hates that puck. It has done him wrong, and he wants to kill it.

There's a heart-stopping chance by Anisimov. Everybody thinks it's a goal, except for Anisimov, who is too busy fucking up.

Nice one, Rambo.

Marcus Johansson is sick of this fucking shit, and decides to be ten different people on the ice at once. Del Zotto tries to play goalie, but he should probably stick to his day job. He pretty much assists on the goal.

Words cannot do this turn of events justice. Marcus Johansson is a delight.

Alzner penalty. Don't they know he's Karl Alzner?

He'll get them for that one.

It's the most beautiful penalty kill. It should be framed and hung on a wall as art.

A few minute later, Erskine with the most hilarious tripping call in the history of the world. John Erskine doesn't go down without taking someone with him, bitch.

More PK heroics. Jim Johnson era penalty kill has been unreal. Keep it up, Crew Cut.

Carlson falls down and Dubinsky leaps over his prone body on the way to a goal. Where are his manners? I suspect he was raised in a barn. 1-1.

Bickel penalty. The PP is furious and full of life, the Caps are lining up widowmaker after widowmaker and it is just lucky for Mrs. Biron that none of them really get through. Brouwer has a goal on his stick. His name is all over it, the puck is whispering his name.

This distracts him, understandably. Miss.

The One That Got Away. He is heckled by the internet.

In the intermission, Versus broadcast team go on at length about some player named Mark Johansson. Where do they even find these people?

In the second period, Brouwer earns our forgiveness and then some. This is good because I think he would have gone on a tri-state killing spree if one more puck had bounced the wrong way on him.


There's some fuckery after the whistle. Help, oh no, the Rangers are pretending like they want to fight us.

Seeing as it's Orlov and Erskine they are hassling, I am not really worried.

Of note: Alex Ovechkin is inhuman tonight--he's creative, he's destructive, and he is out for Ranger blood. A huge hit by him springs Backstrom, who sends a Backstrom Passto Alex Semin. Alex Semin gets everyone in the stadium pregnant. It is the most glorious sickness you have ever seen.


Jay Beagle takes a penalty at 13:20. Welcome back, Jay Beagle! Your cake is in the penalty box.

Fortunately, the Caps PK has no flaws. Jim Johnson is a mastermind, and deserves his own fanclub. T-shirts and complimentary bumper stickers are free at the door, as soon as I figure out a catchy/stupid name for this.

For the first half of the third period, the Caps hold it down pretty well. The Rangers are trying to score--apparently they don't want to lose the game? Weird. Nothing night-wrecking comes of this, however. So far so good.

Wideman elbows and goes to the box. On the PP, Callahan briefly believes he's a soccer player.

It is the most fake goal to ever be not-really scored. Toronto agrees. Cry yourselves to sleep, NYR.

With four minutes to go, you are pretty positive we are going to win this hockey game. It's a great feeling--but Sasha's not done. He's just showing off now.

How about that Semin, huh? Everyone is so confused. Wasn't everyone sure he was a bad hockey player and also the devil?

Ahhh. Only some nights. And some nights he's a goal-scoring machine.




Now that, THAT was a solid game. Thank God, because I was about all out of pep talks, the tank was running pretty low. The trick will be to see if we can sustain it, but do yourself a favor and give the stressing a break for a night or two, because it hasn't been all that fun to be a Caps fan for awhile now, and tonight was--if nothing else--a lot of fun.

It's okay to enjoy that.

So here's the part where we light up and go 10-0-0, right? We've all been waiting for it very patiently. Now would be a good time.

Let's go Caps.