Monday, December 30, 2013

Why It Sucks to be a NOVA Caps Fan

Start rant here:

Since Alex Ovechkin broke into the league, Caps fans have been crawling out of the woodwork. There are Caps fans everywhere it seems, in the DMV, Sweden, even Pittsburgh.

However, this article is for the group (which includes me, by the way) of Caps fans that are always forgotten, it seems: those of us who live in Northern Virginia.

Let me explain. Since Ted Leonsis announced the 2015 Winter Classic would be hosted in DC, many bloggers have been trying to push the Caps to host it in Baltimore. BALTIMORE!! As in 53 miles from DC. As in:
  • 79 miles from Loudoun County
  • 57 miles from Fairfax County
  • 76 miles from Prince William County
  • 84 miles from Fauquier County
  • 44 miles form Arlington County
All of these counties in Northern Virginia have sizable populations of people and Caps fans. Considering that probably around 50% of the Caps fans in the DMV are from those five counties, it seems completely illogical to host the Winter Classic in Baltimore, right? 

Yet, we have people such as Greg Whyshynski of Yahoo Sports talking about how amazing Camden Yards of M&T Bank Stadium would be, especially because it's central to the Caps and Philadelphia Flyers (because that is who we are apparently playing) fan-bases, although I don't know why the organization would push for as many Flyers fans as Caps fans, especially when there are more than enough Caps fans to fill a stadium.

Heck, even the good guys at RMNB recently tweeted that they would have preferred the game to be at Camden Yards. It was probably a joke, but it kind of proves my point: nobody cares about the NOVA guys.

The main reason this happens is NOVA is all suburbs. We just don't have the big-time city here to have a professional sports team, and therefore can't have a big time stadium here. But say blowing the top off of the Ballston mall and playing in Kettler was an option (hey, that would actually be pretty awesome. Think about it: you're shopping for whatever, and Tom Wilson comes flying and smashes Claude Giroux through the glass. I'd go see that). All the NOVA guys would love it, but there would be a huge backlash from all the Maryland fans, and I would agree that it shouldn't be held in NOVA.

Even now, when Nats Park is all but confirmed as the location, the reason is not the commute for the poor NOVA fans, but instead the opinion (a very valid one, I might add) that a DC Winter Classic should be held in DC. Not in Baltimore. Not in Landover. Not in Arlington. In Washington DC. 

Besides, Baltimore already has a special game each year. Yes, it is a preseason game, but that doesn't change the fact that the Caps already do a lot of marketing in Baltimore, when there is an untapped gold mine in Northern Virginia who the Caps should try to expand out towards.

Somehow, to the rest of the hockey fans, Caps fans are either from DC or Maryland. They seem to forget the rather large contribution we Northern Virginians make to the fan-base. Usually, that doesn't matter much.

But hopefully the Caps organization will remember that there are more fans than just those in DC and Maryland.

End rant here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Circling Back: Best Caps Games from 2013

It's hard to believe 2013 only has four more days left. Since the start of the 2013 season on January 19 until, well, today, we have seen some of the most emotional, nerve-wracking games in recent memory, otherwise knows as Caps hockey.

What follows is my opinion of the best of the best this year.

5. WAS @ PIT: Mar 19; 2-1 Pittsburgh
Why did a loss get in here? Two main reasons. Although this was a loss, this game began the resurgence of both the Caps and Alex Ovechkin, who went on a tear after the game, scoring 23 goals in the last 23 games to win the Rocket Richard trophy and lead the Caps to the playoffs. Although they lost this game, the Caps were arguably the better team, despite playing one of the best teams in the league, and this game started the Caps on a rampage where they only lost four more games, and didn't receive points in only two more. This was the most complete game of the season to date for the team, and they have been playing much better since.

4. April 23 vs. WIN: Apr 23; 5-3 Caps
This game was for all the marbles, as the top two teams in the Southeast Division went at it. If the Caps won, they clinched the final division title ever, while if the Winnipeg Jets win, well, with tough games against Ottawa and Boston on the docket, things don't look good for the Caps. However, after blowing a two goal lead, the Caps scored two straight and held on to beat the Jets and complete their stunning comeback from the bottom of the standings to win the division.

3. Game 5 vs. NYR: May 10; 2-1 Caps (OT)
One of the most heart-stopping games all year, in Game 5 of the playoff series against the Rangers, with the series tied at 2, the Caps shook off a goal by Brian Boyle in the first minute to tie it up on the power play in the second period, then after great performances by Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist, send the game into overtime. Another heart-pounding nine and a half minutes ensued, with both teams getting good chances, until finally Mike Ribeiro pounded a rebound past Lundqvist to give the Caps the victory and series lead. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Caps weren't able to complete the series win, but that game at least gave Caps fans reason to cheer.

2. WAS vs. TBL: Dec 10; 6-5 Caps (SO)
Alex Ovechkin's individual effort alone sends this game near the top of the heap for the year. After going down 3-0 early to a Steven Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning team, OV scored four of Washington five goals, including the tying goal with thirty second left in regulation, to send the game into OT and eventually the SO, where the Caps completed the stunning comeback to defeat the Bolts. Nick Backstrom also had a phenomenal game, assisting on all of OV's goals and adding a goal himself to boot. Although it wasn't really important, it was incredible, and that's good enough for me.

1. Game 2 vs. NYR: May 4; 1-0 Caps (OT)
Of all of the emotional, nerve-wracking, heart-stopping, or whatever other adjectives I've used so far games, this was the most. Lundqvist and Holtby stood on their heads for 68 minutes, until Mike Green's overtime power play goal off the crossbar beat King Henrik and the Rangers to give the Caps a 2-0 series lead. What made this game number one, though, was not just all of this, but the controversy that ensued with the delay of game penalties. First, the Caps killed off a slashing penalty late in the third. Then, right after that, Karl Alzner seemed to have batted the puck over the glass, but the referees decided the puck was tipped (Rangers fans are still crying about that call). Then, less than two minutes into the extra frame, the Rangers did get a power play, when Steven Oleksy went off for delay of game (irony, huh?), which the Caps killed, and then the Caps got a power play when Ryan McDonagh went off for delay of game (I'm sensing a pattern here). Green scored, and Caps fans went home happy.

Honorable Mentions:
WAS @ PHI: Nov 1; 7-0 Caps
WAS vs. BOS: Mar 5; 4-3 Caps (OT)
WAS vs. PHI: Dec 15; 5-4 Caps (SO)
WAS vs. STL: Nov 17; 4-1 Caps
WAS @ NYR: Dec 8; 4-1 Caps

What do you think? Anything else you would add? Any games you would replace in the Top 5? Tell me in the comments.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pre (Well, Sort Of)- World Junior Championship Caps Prospect Rankings

The World Junior Championship got underway today, with Canada and the USA already winning as of this writing.

Five Caps prospects are participating in the Championship also, three for team USA and two for hosts Sweden. How will the Championship change the positions of these prospects in a post-Championship list? Let's find out with the first list, a prelim.
*Note: Anybody currently on the Caps roster (including Wilson, Latta, and Grubauer) or anybody injured (Kundratek) were not included in this.

1. Evgeni Kuznetsov
2. Andre Burakovsky
3. Riley Barber
4. Madison Bowey
5. Nate Schmidt
6. Connor Carrick
7. Thomas Dipauli
8. Stanislav Galiev
9. Christian Djoos
10. Patrick Wey

Stay tuned to see how the World Juniors change this ranking, and follow the Championship on NHL Network and NHL.com.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Presents for Each Team: Metropolitan

Merry Christmas, everyone! Finishing off the divisional looks at every team's Christmas wish, we come home to the Metro. Here we go:

Pittsburgh Penguins: Health for Crosby. Honestly, it's hard to find anything wrong with the Penguins right now. Despite a lot of injuries on the blue line, the Pens still hold one of the best defenses and penalty kills in the game, and obviously their offense is awesome, including a power play that is second in the league. Really the only thing they can wish for is hope their best player stays healthy, but with the wealth of weapons they have, they could probably muddle through it.

Washington Capitals: DE-FENSE! All Caps fans know the chant right now. Despite having an offense that's just rolling right now, and a goaltending squad that hasn't been bad, with all three with a save percentage above .910. However, the Caps need to improve their defense. It's not for lack of stars, as much as it is for lack of good shutdown defensemen. Their giving up more than 30 shots against per game, second worst in the league. The Caps probably have been asking Santa Claus for somebody to help out with that for a while now.

Philadelphia Flyers: Goalie Depth. The Flyers have only played two goaltenders so far this year, and other than Steve Mason who has been excellent, their backup is Ray Emery who has been, well, not. Their offense and defense, while not great, has not been bad, in the middle of the pack in most important stats. Mason has done much better this year than he has for much of the past few years. Emery on the other hand has a save percentage at .885, and is probably best known this year for his beat-down on Braden Holtby. The Flyers need somebody more capable of backing up Mason.

New York Rangers: Five-on-Five Play. There are two main problems with this team: their lack of consistent goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist (although his backup Cam Talbot has been fantastic), and their even-strength play, which is even worse than Washington's. Their defense under Alain Vigneault has been fantastic, and their power play has not been bad either, but their even strength play must improve or the Rangers will be in for a long season. Without a doubt, their wish for Santa is someone (or something) to help them out with that.

New Jersey Devils: More Offense. The Devils have one of the best defenses in the league, allowing the least shots per game in the league, the only team allowing fewer than 25 shots against per game. However, they are also dead last in shots per game, with just 25.4 shots per game. The Devils don't have any young offensive talent to help out; their leading scorer is 41 year old Jaromir Jagr. If I'm the Devils, I'm asking Santa for someone younger with better stamina and lots of skill to help the offensive production.

Columbus Blue Jackets: More Shots. Right now, the Jackets are carrying a fairly unsustainable shooting percentage. They are 13th in goals per game, but 25th in shots per game, with a team shooting percentage of about 10%, which is pretty high for a team. Especially considering this is a team without many offensive stars, this is a huge problem. The only way Columbus can claw its way back in the playoff race is by increasing the number of shots they send on goal. The best way to help that is probably by getting back Marian Gaborik back and healthy, which should be Columbus's main Christmas wish this year.

Carolina Hurricanes: Better Defense. Another team in need of a way to improve their shots against per game, which is 23rd in the league. Their offensive production, while not great, hasn't been bad either, and while Cam Ward has struggled a bit, his backups Justin Peters and even Anton Khubodin have been really good. What the Canes really must be asking for this Christmas is somebody to help their defense. Only 2 of their 8 defensemen have a positive plus/minus; yes, this is a flawed stat, but it doesn't change the fact that better defensive players aren't necessary to help this team.

New York Islanders: Goaltending. For as bad the offense and defense are, it doesn't change the fact that the team save percentage is less than .900, and only one of their three goalies have a save percentage above that threshold, and he, Evgeni Nabokov, has a save percentage of .901. The Isles really need somebody to help their goaltender depth, and that should definitely be their Christmas wish.

Here's wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and a happy rest of the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Presents for Each Team: Atlantic

Continuing with our divisional look at every team's Christmas wish list, we move over to the Eastern Conference, starting with the Atlantic Division. Here we go: 

Boston Bruins: Health. Quite honestly, the Bruins have been living the good life so far this year. They have had fantastic goaltending, solid offense, and little in the line of losing players, other than Shawn Thornton's 15 game ban. Really the only thing they need is a guarantee they won't lose anyone important, especially Vezina candidate (probably) Tuuka Rask. Other than that, though, the B's are in awesome shape.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos. Despite the injury to star Stamkos, the Bolts are humming right along and playing really well thanks to lights-out goaltending from Ben Bishop. However, without Stamkos, the Lightning are depending on Martin St. Louis and Valtteri Filppula, which is not a bad pair, but would be better with Stammer. The defense could also use an upgrade, but right now Stamkos is more important to this squad, especially if they want to challenge the Bruins. 

Montreal Canadiens: Better Defense. The goaltending has been stellar for the Habs, with Carey Price and Peter Budaj posting save percentages close to or better than .930, and the offensive output has been pretty good too. However, the defense has let them down so far this year, and the best Christmas gift they could have is a better defensive squad shutting down the other team. This is not the extremely defensive team we saw in 2010, but the Habs still have to get back to focusing on defense more than the have been.

Detroit Red Wings: Offensive Consistency. When you think of the Wings, you think of a star-studded team that gets it done no matter what, and is always the best at everything. This year, however, they are simply in the middle of the pack. Their power play: 16th. Their even strength play: 15th. Their defense, although not great, hasn't been bad either, and their goaltenders have been good as well, posting a team save percentage of above .910. What the Wings need more than anything else, other than luck, is some form of consistency, the kind they had in the 90's and early part of the century. Without that, they may not be able to rise to the top of a crowded Atlantic Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Better Defense. And you thought the Caps defense was bad. The Maple Leafs are worst in the league in shots against per game (yes, even worse than the Caps, who sit at 29th). Their goaltenders have been very good, posting save percentages above .920, but when facing that many shots every game, a goalie can't be expected to post shutouts or 1-goal games every day. The Leafs, despite veterans like Dion Phaneuf, newcomers like Morgan Rielly, and other capable D-men to go along with a strong offense, have been losing too many games by giving up too many shots. Toronto's Christmas gift would be along the lines of trading for a good shutdown defenseman.

Ottawa Senators: Defense and Goaltending. In all honesty, there's no reason the Senators should not be top of the division right now. They have good defensemen, Bobby Ryan has been awesome, and they have a goaltender in Craig Anderson who was terrific last year. Instead, the defense has been allowing 34 shots a game (almost as much as the Caps) and Anderson hasn't been helping much, with a save percentage of .901. Robin Lehner, Anderson's backup, has been better, but is not really proven yet. The Senators need to step up their defensive game, and maybe shop around for a new goalie, because without fixing those two aspects, post-Christmas will be a long rest of the season.

Florida Panthers: Better Goaltending. Honestly, this was a tough call, because everything needs to be fixed for this team. They're dead last on the power play, second-last on the penalty kill, there is nobody on their team with more than 9 goals or 19 points, and their defense; well, it hasn't been horrible, but it's not that great either. In the long run, though, I settled on goaltending. They have played three goalies so far this year, none of whom have been doing exceptionally well. Tim Thomas is at a .909, Scott Clemmensen at a .892, and Jacob Markstrom at a .874. Without the goaltending improving, it doesn't matter how well the offense and/or defense is; this team will continue to struggle.

Buffalo Sabres: Young Talent. This team is a train wreck right now. They're almost as bad as the Caps in shots allowed per game, and although the goaltending has been good from Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth, two olympic hopefuls, the offense has nothing to show for it. As a team, they have 66 goals combined, less than the top three individual goal-getters in the league (Alex Ovechkin, Alex Steen, and Patrick Kane) combined by ten goals. Think about that; three players together have ten more goals than one team. To put this into another perspective, Ovechkin's thirty goals are one less than Buffalo's top FIVE goal-scorers COMBINED. Nobody on the team has more than eight goals. This offense is just putrid, the defense is pathetic, and quite honestly they're going nowhere right now. The Sabres are going to have to go aggressively after as many prospects and draft picks they can (which would also be a nice Christmas gift for them; you reading this, Santa?), because otherwise this team is just going down a spiral of doom.

Happy Christmas Eve to all, have a safe Christmas morning, and if you've got time, come back tomorrow for Metro Division gifts. Otherwise, Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Presents for Each Team: Central Division

Continuing the division-by-division look at each team's Christmas list, I travel to the Central Division.

Chicago Blackhawks: Goaltending help. Stanley Cup star Corey Crawford is injured, and the Hawks are relying on Antti Raanta. He has done pretty well, but he is unproven and probably won't do very well for too long. The longer Crawford is out, the more the Hawks will need a better goalie than Raanta.

St. Louis Blues: Continued Production from Alex Steen. Steen has been fantastic this year, already matching his career best for goals with 24. The Blues have been getting good production from other players, such as David Backes and Chris Stewart, but in the long run this team is going to depend on Steen. He will have to live up to his expensive extension by continuing to score goals and help the team.

Colorado Avalanche: More Offense. The Avs' defense and goaltending has been phenomenal this year, but the truth is Colorado is doing what the Montreal Canadiens did in the playoffs a few years back: relying on sensational goaltending and score just enough to win. It's worked so far, but will not continue for much longer. The Avs only have three players with 10 or more goals so far this year. That number must change for Colorado to truly challenge Chicago and St. Louis in the Central.

Minnesota Wild: Secondary Scoring. Two people (Jason Pominville and Zach Parise) account for nearly 40% of Minnesota's goals so far this year; they are also the only two players on the team with more than 7 goals so far this year. To really put their problem into perspective, 8th on the team in goals, with 5 of them so far this year, is Matt Cooke. High-priced defenseman Ryan Suter has not scored yet, and secondary scoring in general has been a big issue. They have to step that up, and may want Santa to bring them someone who can help fix that problem.

Dallas Stars: Goalie Depth. The offense could use a boost, but honestly it hasn't been bad for the Big D. Their main problem is goaltender depth, or rather the lack of it. Kari Lehtonen has played very well so far this year, posting a 13-8-6-1 record with a save percentage of .920. However, behind him are Dan Ellis, who hasn't been bad, but hasn't been great either, and Jack Campbell, who gave up 6 goals in his first, and so far only, career start, against Anaheim. The Stars will be in the market for something to help them with this issue.

Winnipeg Jets: Power. Overall, the Jets have been playing very well, with lots of scoring, both primary and secondary, surprisingly good goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya, and a penalty kill which, although not spectacular, has been pretty good. However, their power play is 25th in the league, which shouldn't be the case with Evander Kane, Bryan Little, and Andrew Ladd among other players. The Jets will need to find a way to get their power play on track, and that's the best they can ask Santa for.

Nashville Predators: Goaltending. This is an issue for most teams in the league, but it is extremely pronounced in Nashville. Superstar goalie Pekka Rinne is out with E-coli, and the Preds have been relying on Marek Mazanec, Carter Hutton, and Magnus Helleberg. Although Mazanec and Hutton have performed admirably, they have not done all that well, both posting save percentages barely over .900. The Preds badly need somebody who can fill in for Rinne and play at a high enough level to make up for Nashville's scoring woes. No goalie with Seth Jones and Shea Weber playing in front on him should be giving up so many goals.

So here are the wish lists for the Central Division. Read it, Santa, and come back tomorrow as I travel to the Eastern Conference. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Presents for Each Team: Pacific Division

Christmas is almost upon us. Most of us have already picked out what we want and sent our lists to Santa Claus.

But what does each hockey team want? Let's go through a division-by-division look at what each NHL team needs Santa to bring them for Christmas, starting with the Pacific.

Anaheim Ducks: A breakthrough. The Ducks are number one in the top division in the league. They need something to help push them past the Sharks and Kings for the division crown.

Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown. The Kings captain has been struggling so far this year, although nobody has really noticed that with the rest of the offense doing great and the goaltending absolutely phenomenal. However, it's not likely that kind of play will continue, and Brown will have to step it up the rest of the way to help the Kings in the tough division.

San Jose Sharks: Health for Hertl. Tomas Hertl has been arguably the best rookie in the league so far this year, and is probably the frontrunner for the Calder. However, he got injured a few days ago. Although the Sharks have more than enough offensive firepower and good goaltending to make up for it against most teams in the league, against LA or Anaheim they will need as much star-power as possible.

Vancouver Canucks: Goaltending depth. The Canucks are depending on Roberto Luongo right now for their goaltending, and while he is certainly good, he is also inconsistent. His backup is unproven Eddie Lack. Nobody knows why exactly the Canucks traded Cory Schneider to New Jersey for a first round draft pick (which they didn't even use on a goalie), but that trade is looking pretty bad right now. The Canucks may be in the market for a new goaltender, and they'll want Santa to get them a good one (maybe like a certain backup Caps goalie who apparently wants out...)

Phoenix Coyotes: Exposure. Quite honestly, the Coyotes really don't need anything on the ice; sure, they could always use more offensive depth, but the most pressing issue for them is the lack of attendance and all the problems they are having with marketing. Santa, if you read this, help these poor guys out, won't you?

Calgary Flames: Prospects. The Flames are officially in rebuilding mode, and although they have some of the best prospects, including Johnny Gaudreau, Sven Baertschi, and Sean Monahan, they need more young talent to officially continue their rebuild. They need to stock up on prospects and draft picks, and that's really what they need the most right now.

Edmonton Oilers: Goaltenders. Any goaltender is better than who they have now (OK, maybe not anybody; Rick DiPietro may not exactly be an upgrade). Devan Dubnyk is not a starting goalie in this league, and the Oilers really need to be going all in for a goalie like Vancouver.

Well, these are the Christmas lists for the Pacific Division. Stay tuned for more in the upcoming days, and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Where Could OV Get To?

Today, OV scored his 400th career goal, becoming the 6th fastest player in NHL history to reach that sensational milestone.

Alex Ovechkin is still only 28, and still has seven years left on his contract after this year. He could easily play until he is 40. Assuming he does, what could be his goal-scoring ceiling?

Usually, the great players produce less after the age of 28. Still, Ovechkin scored 400 in a little more than eight years, and has a little under 12 left if he plays till the ripe old age of 40.

Assuming a gradual decrease in production over these next years, when does he hit his next major milestones?

500 goals: OV could easily end with about 430-440 goals season. If OV scores 50 goals next year, hitting 500 will be easy for him in 2015-2016.

600 goals: He will probably end 2016 with about 520-530 goals. If he averages 'just' 40 goals per season the next two years, he would reach 600 in 2018. More likely he will average about 45 per year.

700 goals: He could reach 700 easily by averaging more than 40 a year for the next two years, and he could easily hit 700 in 2020.

At this point, OV is just 34. Even if it takes him a few more years, he could still hit 700 by his contract expiry in 2021, at the age of 35. From then, assuming he plays for another 5 years (hopefully for the Caps), even averaging 20-30 goals a year, he could easily hit 800-850 goals, and end his career in second place all time in goals.

We're taking a lot of assumptions here. For one, we're assuming he doesn't get injured, as well as that he plays another 12 years and continues to produce during that time.

Still, it's nice to think about.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Breaking Down the Tom Wilson Hit or Why the NHL Got It Right

Against the Flyers Tuesday, forward Tom Wilson crushed Brayden Schenn into the boards, resulting in ejection and Schenn missing the rest of the game.

Immediately, everybody was sure Wilson was a dirty player and would get suspended. However, even the most biased Flyer's fan, after watching the replay a few times, would have to agree that is not the case.

Today, the NHL decided not to punish Wilson. The full video can be seen here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=696767

Here are some key points:

  • Although Wilson came a long way from the bench, he only started to go towards Schenn to hit him when he was already deep in the zone, or as Brendan Shanahan says, what a forward is supposed to do.
  • At first it looked as though Wilson hit Schenn in the back. However, the replay clearly shows he got him square in the shoulder.
  • Schenn actually puts himself into a vulnerable position right before the hit arrives by turning just a little bit. As Shanahan likes to say, this was  'a hockey play gone bad.'
I didn't think it was worth a suspension when I was watching the game, and I certainly don't think so now. I don't always say this, but,

The NHL got one right.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ranking the Caps Comebacks So Far

In one week, the Caps have rallied from two three goal deficits to escape with a win in the shootout. Neither game did they deserve to win, but win they did, and we'll remember it come playoff time.

So far, the Cardiac Caps have treated us to some of the most gut-wrenching hockey in recent memory. What has been the best of the worse, so to speak, so far? Here are my personal faves:

Honorable Mention: November 15 @ Detroit (4-3 SO). The Caps were down two entering the third, but rallied to tie it up with less than 10 minutes left and went on to win in the shootout. The highlight was obviously Michael Latta...

Honorable Mention: November 29 vs. Montreal (3-2 SO). Trailing late in the game, Mikhail Grabovski tied it up with a little over 5 minutes left, and the Caps went on to win again in the shootout.

Honorable Mention: October 3 vs. Calgary (5-4 SO). Down 3-0 in the first, the Caps rallied from that and a 4-1 deficit in the second to tie it up on Nick Backstrom's goal with 5 minutes late, then went on to win in the shootout.

5. November 7 vs. Minnesota (3-2 SO). The Caps were trailing until barely 3 minutes were left, when MoJo tied it up with his second goal of the year, and once again the Caps went on to win in the shootout.

4. November 12 vs. Columbus (4-3 OT). The Blue Jackets took the lead with 5 minutes left and seemed to be heading to a comeback win of their own, but Grabovski tied it up with less than 2 minutes left to send the game into OT, where OV did his thing and got the Caps the win.

3. November 30 @ New York Islanders (3-2 OT). The Isles took the lead on a controversial goal with less than two minutes left, and when Mike Green took a penalty (saving an empty-netter in the process), the game seemed all but over. However, Backstrom scored short-handed with 49 second left, and OV scored another OT game-winner to send the Caps to a thrilling victory.

2. December 10 vs. Tampa Bay (6-5 SO). Until today, this would have been number one (getting to that in a minute). Alex Ovechkin already had a hat trick when, with 33 second left, he tied it up with his fourth goal of the game and the Caps stunned the Lightning in the shootout.

1. December 15 vs. Philadelphia (5-4 SO). The Caps found themselves in a 4-1 hole with less than 10 minutes left in the third, when Green scored to make it a two goal game, Dmitri Orlov scored with three minutes left, and OV did it again by tying it up with 48 seconds left in regulation. The Caps capped off the thrilling victory with another shootout victory.

What do you think? Anything I missed, or any changes you'd make? Tell me in the comments, and lets hope we don't have 49 more games like this.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Soccer Standings for the NHL

In any soccer league in the world, wins count for three points, ties are one, and losses are zero obviously.

How would this emphasis on wins affect the Metropolitan Division? Let's find out. Obviously, OT/SO losses were substituted for ties.

First, the regular standings:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: 21-10-1 (43 points)
2. Washington Capitals (Yay): 16-12-1 (34)
3. New York Rangers: 15-15-1 (31)
4. Carolina Hurricanes: 13-13-5 (31)
5. New Jersey Devils: 12-13-6 (30)
6. Philadelphia Flyers: 13-14-3 (29)
7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 12-15-3 (27)
8. New York Islanders: 8-18-5 (21)

Now, the soccer standings:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: 64 points
2. Washington Capitals: 49
3. New York Rangers: 46
4. Carolina Hurricanes: 44
5. Philadelphia Flyers: 42
6. New Jersey Devils: 42
7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 39
8. New York Islanders: 29

As you can see, although the placement would not change much, the spread would. There would be a much bigger gap between first and second place, and the Flyers and Devils switched spots because Philly has played one less game than New Jersey. What does this mean?

I don't know. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Caps Carols

It's Christmas season! It will be tough for you to walk around without hearing Christmas carols on the radio or from recordings, etc.

So I got to thinking, what Christmas carol goes with a Caps person? The results are here:

Auld Lang Syne: Nicklas Backstrom. This carol is an ode to long-standing friendships, so obviously Backstrom would sing this to Alex Ovechkin. The next time Adam Oates splits them up (which is hopefully never), Backstrom may have to bring this up.

Deck the Halls: Adam Oates. This carol is all about new stuff, so obviously Coach Oates and his love for changing up lines and finding new combinations fits in with this.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Evgeni Kuznetsov. This carol is about how things are starting to look pretty awesome. Kind of like a prospect who has held out on the squad a long time but finally looks like he will join the squad.

Jingle Bells: Alex Semin. Come on. "Jingle all the way, Oh what fun it is to ride..." It's so passive. It's so Sasha.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree: Alex Ovechkin. This song is all about having fun. Alex Ovechkin is all about having fun. Carry on.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town: Braden Holtby. He has given the Caps some gifts so far this year in forms of amazing saves, and that is most likely going to continue (I hope).

We Wish You a Merry Christmas: GMGM/Ted Leonsis/management. These guys always wish us a good year. Unfortunately, it does not always happen.

White Christmas: Us. All of us always wish for a white Christmas "Like we used to know." We also always wish for a good team that can carry us deep into the playoffs. "Like we used to know."

What do you think? Any carols I missed? Other opinions? Tell me in the comments.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I'm Starting to Doubt GMGM

This story goes back to 2006, when the Capitals acquired a first round draft pick from Nashville for Brendan Witt, their first round pick in 1993.

With that first round pick the Capitals selected goalie Semyon Varlamov 23rd overall. It was their second pick of the round after picking center Nicklas Backstrom third overall.

In the 2009 playoffs, Varlamov was stellar, and started to cement his eventual place as the starting goaltender for Washington. However, with the rise of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, the Caps decided to trade Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a first round pick in the 2012 draft. With that pick, the Caps chose forward Filip Forsberg 11th overall.

Forsberg was regarded as one of the best prospects in the world, but at the 2013 trade deadline, the Caps sent him to Nashville for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.

All of you know the rest of the story. Erat received 4th line minutes and has requested a trade. With him having only scored one goal since coming to Washington, his trade value has plummeted.

So in summary, the Caps sent Brendan Witt, a former first round pick and one of Washington's highest scoring defensemen of all time for in essence a third round center and whatever the Caps can get for Erat.

I'm seriously starting to doubt GMGM.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What to be Thankful For

The Caps are in their 39th year in the NHL. In honor of Thanksgiving, the Caps have had a lot to be thankful for during their time. Here is what I, as a Caps fan, am thankful for:

  • Thank you, Rod Langway, for helping to keep the Caps in DC
  • Thank you, Dale Hunter, for the most important goal in Caps history
  • Thank you, Peter Bondra, for being the best darn 6th round pick there is
  • Thank you, Olaf Kolzig, for 15 awesome years
  • Thank you, Joe Juneau, for giving the Caps a shot at glory
  • Thank you, NHL, for not letting the Florida Panthers pick Alex Ovechkin in 2003
  • Thank you, 2004 draft lottery, for giving the Caps the number one overall pick
  • Thank you, Sergei Fedorov, for helping the Caps to a series win
  • Thank you, Joel Ward, for knocking out the defending champs
  • Thank you, Adam Oates (and Mike Milbury), for sparking the best player in the world again
  • Thank you, Washington Capitals, for 39 amazing years
  • And thank you, Caps fans everywhere, for being the best fans in the world year-in and year-out
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Erat-Less Caps can Survive

The Capitals will probably be trading away winger Martin Erat within the next few weeks/months. GMGM has all but guaranteed that Erat will be traded, although the price remains unknown.

Assuming the Caps don't receive any important forwards in this trade, here is how the Caps can survive  this loss on the short and long-term.

Short-Term Lineup:

Johansson-Backstrom-Ovechkin
Chimera-Grabovski-Ward
Laich-Fehr-Brouwer
Volpatti-Latta-Wilson

Funny how much of a difference one player makes, huh? This squad does not look as strong as one with Erat in it. Still, even using Adam Oates's handedness preference, the Caps can still put up a strong short-term lineup.

Long-Term Lineup:

Johansson-Backstrom-Ovechkin
Andre Burakovsky-Grabovski-Fehr
Chimera-Evgeni Kuznetsov-Riley Barber
Laich-Latta-Wilson

Assuming Johansson can continue to play as well as he has so far this year, he could/should stay on the top line. For the second line, Burakovsky would end up the best of a weak left-wing position for the Caps, unless they can add another good prospect or a good player in trade. Fehr deserves some time in the top-6, or he may want out of DC as well. For the third line, assuming Kuznetsov comes over and Riley Barber continues his solid play, that would be a solid line, although Stan Galiev could take that spot. The fourth line looks a lot the same as now, and we may even be able to see Volpatti switching off with Laich. Notably, no Troy Brouwer or Joel Ward, who were left out on a strong right-wing side.

What do you think? How do you think an Erat trade would affect the Caps? Tell me in the comments.

P.S: Here is another sample trade that would help the Caps:
To Calgary- Martin Erat (RW), Troy Brouwer (RW)
To Washington- Sven Baertschi (LW), Patrick Sieloff (D)
The Flames seriously lack good right wingers, and here the Caps can send them two who need a change of scenery. The Flames still have talented left wingers behind Baertschi, although they may prefer to send Johnny Gaudreau instead. This gets rid of some un-needed right wingers and brings in players where the Caps need it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Trade Away Martin Erat

Ed. Note: This was almost titled How to Get Rid of Martin Erat, but the author felt that was a little harsh. Anyways...

This morning, Martin Erat announced he wasn't satisfied with his playing time and requested a trade to a better Stanley Cup contender. First of all, good luck Martin, wherever you go, and I completely agree with you that this situation was mishandled. But, that's not the point right now, I'm not trying to go on a rant on GMGM, Adam Oates, and how STUPID they are for trading away a star prospect for a good player they played of the fourth line or scratched for most of the season and now he is requesting a trade and...

But I regress. My goal for this is to propose some trades which would be a win-win-win for the Caps, Erat, and the other team. So without further ado...

1. To San Jose- Martin Erat
To Washington- Matt Tennyson, mid to late-round 2014 draft pick
Tennyson is San Jose's top defensive prospect, and the Caps need good defensemen. Unfortunately, it is unlikely the Sharks would send him away, but stranger things have happened (like a team trading away one of the most talented prospects in the league for a 4th line prospect and a 30-year-old winger).

2. To Boston- Martin Erat, mid-round 2014 draft pick
To Washington- Joe Morrow, first/second-round 2014 draft pick
Again, the Caps will need to pay a price to get a good, young defenseman, but this trade is not too bad. The Bruins have a lot of talented prospect, and getting Erat would shore up a fairly thin wing with players such as Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith.

3. To Pittsburgh- Martin Erat
To Washington- Derrick Pouliot
This may be a potential black hole for the Caps, as Pouliot may not pan out, and as a one-to-one deal this is dangerous. However, Pouliot is one of the top defensive prospects in the league, and it's not like the Caps haven't taken risks before.

4. To Chicago- Martin Erat, third round 2014 draft pick
To Washington- Kris Versteeg
This is one of the least probable deals on here, but since the Blackhawks do not have a great prospect pool, they may be able to make use of Erat to shore up a shallow wing and use the pick to improve their prospects. Still, Versteeg may be too high a price, especially since he was just traded here.

What do you think? Who should the Caps get for Erat? Want to rant about how stupid GMGM and Adam Oates have been? Whatever it is, put it in the comments.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's Wrong With Washington?

After a red-hot start to the season, the Caps have struggled in the last two games. They got destroyed 4-0 by Pittsburgh (ugh) and were outshot 40-18, and were down 3-0 early before coming up late in a rally against Montreal today.

However, there is not much different between the teams before and after the two-game disaster. Why is this team struggling as of late?

Here are some reasons:

  1. The defense just keeps getting better (note sarcasm). I gave them a D for the first quarter, and they have not done any better. After being absolutely terribly outshot against the Penguins, they gave up a high shot amount again, outshot 31-27 against Montreal today. This is the highest priority for Adam Oates to fix, because the Caps cannot win without fixing this.
  2. The goaltending has not exactly improved. Yes, Holtby and Neuvirth faced high shot volumes the last couple of days, but a lot of the goals they gave up were soft. Against Pittsburgh, especially, the first two goals should have been easy saves for Holtby, and Neuvirth should have stopped the first goal against Montreal. It's hard to blame them, but if not for the softies, the games may have had a different outcome.
  3. The special teams has become worse. Over those last two games, the power play is 1 for 5, and the penalty kill is 6 for 8. First of all, the Caps have to stop taking so many stupid penalties. Today, especially, they took a lot of unnecessary penalties. If/when they do go on the penalty kill, the Caps have to be a bit more agressive. If their power play has taught them anything, it should be that the best way to stop a power play is to hound their players, keep them from getting looks and space. Their power play has to learn how to counteract the other team when they employ that method, because the Caps just have not been having space to pass or shoot, and that is the entire power play for Washington.
  4. CONVERT! The Caps have had some really good chances, especially early on, in the past couple games. If the caps had converted on one or two of them, they would have had the momentum and the outcome may have been different. The Caps have to be able to score on their early opportunities, or we may be seeing another few games (or more) like the last two.
Let's hope the Caps can take care of these problems and do better in the near and far future.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

2014 First Quarter Grades

This is a sort of wrap-up of each quarter of the season as they come and arrive. Check out my version for the end of 2013 to get more info.

The Caps have had a pretty good first quarter of the year. We are currently atop the Metropolitan Division and have played and hung with/beat many tough teams. However, is it enough? Let's see the grades.

GOALTENDING:
Grade: 90% (A-)
The Caps are only 20th in the league in goals allowed per game, but they are 5th in the league in team save percentage. That can only mean one thing: the goaltending is good, the defense is terrible (more on that below). Despite a rocky start to the season, Holtby and Neuvirth have been fantastic as of late, peaking currently at the 46-save masterpiece by Holtby against St. Louis yesterday. Both goaltenders once again came in with high expectations, and they seem to have all but met them thus far.
Top Performer: Braden Holtby
I really don't need to do any analysis for this.

DEFENSE:
Grade: 68% (D)
The Caps defense has been absolutely pathetic, especially at even strength. Although people like Carlson and Alzner are doing well, and Nate Schmidt, Steve Oleksy, and Alex Urbom are not doing bad either, the Caps are allowing way too many shots on goal. Against St. Louis, the Caps allowed 47 shots. Although there were not very many quality scoring opportunities, that is still way too many shots. Whenever the save percentage is so high and the GA/game is so high as well, that says something about the poor effort from the D.
Top Performer: Karl Alzner
John Carlson is the tempting choice, but the Caps D would have been even worse without Alzner. He has turned into the top shutdown defenseman for Washington, and currently leads the Caps in plus/minus. He also has chipped in with four assists. Although the defense must get better, Alzner has been a bright spot in an otherwise sad group.

OFFENSE:
Grade: 90% (A-)
The Caps offense has been firing on all cylinders; well, not all, but most of them. The second line still has to improve, but the MoJo-Backy-OV line has been fantastic, and the 'third line' of Chimera-Grabo-Wardo is arguably our most dangerous. The fourth line, led by Michael Latta and Tom Wilson, has also been pretty good for one of the top offenses in the league.
Top Performer: Nick Backstrom
I was sorely tempted to put Ovechkin here, and no doubt he is deserving, but Backstrom is in the midst of a sensational season. He has been able to put up points with and without Ovechkin, and is tied with him for the team lead in points. He is only behind Joe Thornton (and ahead of Sidney Crosby) in assists so far, and has shown that he should be in the discussion for the Top 5 centers in the league.

All in all, the Caps have had a solid start to the season. Although the defense needs work, the offense and goaltending has been very good, and has carried the Caps through the first quarter of the season. Hopefully this success will translate into an even better rest of the year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Starting Six Part 3- All American

Continuing on the starting six, I now turn to countries; all time. And why not start with everybody's favorite, the USA?

Rules:

  • Once again, you need one person from each position.
  • Everybody must be American.
  • You can pick anybody, retired or playing, who was/is American.
  • Post your lineup in the comments.
Here is my starting lineup:
Zach Parise-Pat LaFontaine-Brett Hull
Brian Leetch-Chris Chelios
John Vanbiesbrouck


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Starting Six Part 2: Half and Half

Continuing with the starting six stuff, we now go to a half-and-half.

Rules:

  • Once again, you must have one left wing, one right wing, one center, two defensemen, and one goalie
  • Any three of these guys can be retired, but there must be EXACTLY three; same goes for current players
  • As always, put your six into the comment section
Here is my starting six:

Luc Robitaille-Wayne Gretzky-Alex Ovechkin
Zdeno Chara-Bobby Orr
Henrik Lundqvist

Starting Six Part 1: All of the Old

Branching out a bit, I pose this question: If you could have a starting six of all retired players, who would you choose?

Rules:

  • Everybody must be retired
  • You need 1 goalie, two defensemen, one left wing, one right wing (yes, one of each), and one center
  • Positions are based on official NHL.com positions.
Tell me your lineup in the comments. Just for fun, here is mine:

Luc Robitaille-Wayne Gretzky-Gordie Howe
Bobby Orr-Nicklas Lidstrom
Dominik Hasek

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Complicated Business of Capitals Forward Lines

After a perhaps more than brief hiatus due to lots of work, Caps Circle is back on air!

A lot has happened since the last post (and I mean A LOT), but the most pressing concern right now is how the Caps forward lines should look once Alex Ovechkin (remember him?) comes back from injury on Tuesday. The Caps have played well without him, but against two bottom feeders nonetheless. So once OV is back, how should the lines look?

This is a really hard job, because the Caps have many top-6 capable forward. Still, here are my projected line combos. Take note, Adam.

Erat-Backstrom-Ovechkin
Johansson-Fehr-Brouwer
Ward-Grabovski-Chimera
Laich-Latta-Wilson

Or, if numbers are your thing:

10-19-8
90-16-20
42-84-25
24-46-43

The first and third lines are both extremely solid, and the fourth line is pretty good to, although Jay Beagle could take Latta's current job when he comes back from illness. The second line is the question. I would have put MoJo in the center position, but Adam Oates hates playing people on their off-wing, and Fehr and Brouwer are both righties. Still, Fehr has not done badly at center, and would certainly be an upgrade on Brooks Laich right now.

Speaking of Laich, what's wrong with him? He's been moving a lot slower than usual and making much more turnovers than usual. I don't like having to demote him to the fourth line, but he is the odd man out right now. Still, that second line is definitely the make-or-break line, and we could see many different looks cycling Johansson, Fehr, and Laich before Oates is comfortable.

Still, this is a pretty good roster for the next few games at least.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Caps/Jets Preview and Predictions

You know what sucks? When out of the three games you don't do previews for, the Caps win two of them.

Today, however, I'm not gonna let that happen, as the Caps travel to Winnipeg to play former division rival Jets at 8:00. Both teams have struggled in the early going, and this will be a game the Caps have to win.

Let's get right to the predictions.

Me (1-4): 5-3 Caps. I missed out on two wins, but that should not happen today. The Jets do not have a very strong offense, averaging 2.30 goals per game, and their defense, although better, is averaging 2.80 goals allowed per game. The Caps, who are scoring 2.50 goals per game, have to be able to take advantage of a subpar defense by converting on the power play, but that will be easier said than done, because the Jets have an 82.0% PK. All in all, these are two pretty evenly matched teams, but I expect the Caps to continue their strong play of late and take a win.

TI-84 (5-0): 4-3 Jets. What is this guy's secret? Beats me, but I certainly hope his winning streak ends today.

Magic Eraser (2-3): 4-1 Jets. What makes this whole situation even sadder is that the eraser has a better record than me. Again, though, I hope that changes.

Tune in at 8:00 to watch two old division rivals tangle and here's hoping for a win!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Caps/Rangers Preview and Predictions

It's been more than 5 months since the last time these two teams played, also in DC. That last time was obviously a disaster, with the Blueshirts destroying the good guys 5-0.

Neither team has changed drastically. Behind the bench, the Rangers switched Alain Vigneault in for John Tortorella, while star Rick Nash is injured. That's pretty much it. For the Caps, we all know how they've changed, with Mikhail Grabovski replacing Mike Ribeiro.

Let's get right into the predictions.

Me (1-3): 4-2 Caps. I finally got my first win of the year against Edmonton (I almost nailed the score too). Hopefully, the streak will continue. This could come down to special teams, in which case the Caps have a distinct advantage. Our powerplay is the best in the league, while the Rangers PK is one of the worst. Both our PK and the Rangers powerplay are in the middle of the pack. If the Caps can draw penalties, this game is over for New York.

TI-84 (4-0): 4-3 Rangers. The time is right for the calculator to get a prediction wrong at last.

Magic Eraser (1-3): 4-2 Rangers. Hey, I could move past this guy today!

Tune in to NBCSN for Rivalry Night to watch the game, and here's hoping for another win.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Caps Oilers Preview/Prediction

Like the Caps, I have to get back on track, and what better day than today, when the Caps play a team which has struggled as much as they have.

Today the Caps host the Edmonton Oilers in the third game of a five game homestand and the fifth out of six games this year which is against a Western Conference opponent. The Caps will be going with the same lineup as last game, except they will be starting Braden Holtby instead of Michal Neuvirth. The Oilers will be playing without star sophomore Nail Yakupov, who was scratched for a game. They will, however, be playing with Boyd Gordon (remember him?).

Without further ado, here are the predictions.

Me (0-3): 4-1 Caps. I really need this to happen, because I'm sick of having as many wins as the New York Giants. This is the game where I could finally get this win. The Oilers don't have a Semyon Varlamov; they have a Jason LaBarbera. Their young stars (Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) could give the Caps some problems, but the Caps have enough talent to take this game.

TI-84 (3-0): 5-1 Caps. The good news is if I'm wrong, he's wrong. The bad news is if I'm right, he's right.

Magic Eraser (1-2): 4-3 Oilers. Please let this be wrong. PLEASE!

So tune in and hope for a win for the Caps (and finally for me).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Caps Avalanche Preview/Predictions

Tonight the Caps continue their five game homestand by hosting the surprisingly hot Colorado Avalanche. Led by new head coach Patrick Roy, first overall draft pick Nathan Mackinnon, and red-hot goaltender Semyon Varlamov (remember him?), the Avs are off to a 4-0 start and are number one in a tough Central Division.

Let's get right to the predictions.

Me (0-2): Caps 3-2. I'm hoping I won't go 0-3 after tonight, but I have faith in the Caps. These two teams seem evenly matched. Varlamov has been good, and will be going up against a stellar offense. Michal Neuvirth, who may be getting the start today, was great in relief for Holtby against Calgary, and will be going up against a team which does not score much. This will really come down to whether the Caps offense can overcome the Avs defense and if the Caps can take the pressure play the Avs have. I think they will and the Caps will improve to 2-3-0 and I will improve to 1-2.

TI-84 (2-0): Avs 4-3. Come on guys, make this super-predicting calculator wrong for once!

Magic Eraser (1-1): Caps 4-1. I doubt the score, but hopefully the outcome will come through.

So tune in at 7 tonight to watch the game and here's hoping for a Caps victory.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Introducing the What-If's...

If you've read some of my earlier posts, you know that I know more about sports than just hockey. I've written an analysis of why Washington DC is the most maligned sports town and I've ranked the best athletes in this city. I love hockey the most, but I know something about football, baseball, and basketball as well.

Over the next few days/weeks/whenever I will be branching out again, this time examining how the different DC-area sports teams would have been different today if something had or had not happened, perhaps many years ago or even a few years ago.

Stay tuned and be on the lookout.

Topics:
Redskins- What if Sean Taylor had not been shot?
Nationals- What if the Nats won Game 5 last year?
Wizards- What if they did not draft Kwame Brown with the first overall draft pick?
Capitals- I'm not telling you right now, it'll spoil all the fun.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Calm Down Caps Fans...

Three games into the season, the season is over.

The Capitals cannot score on even strength, the defense sucks, Braden Holtby is gonna choke, the division is too good, blah blah blah long story short we're toast.

Now that the mini-rant is out of the way, let's be a little bit more rational about things.

1. The Caps cannot score on even strength. That may be true, but coming into today, we have as many even strength goals as Boston, Columbus, Philadelphia, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Dallas, and more even strength goals than Los Angeles, Minnesota, Buffalo. They only have one or two fewer goals than most of the rest of the league. The Caps have to step up their even strength play, but they are not doing badly comparatively.

2. The defense sucks. Well, unfortunately I cannot argue with this. Only Edmonton and New York Rangers have worse goals against per game than the Caps, while Calgary has the same. Still, it is early.

3. Braden Holtby is gonna choke. Yes, he has been bad; only three goalies have worse save percentages than him. However, it is still early, and as RMNB (among others) has pointed out, Holtby usually starts shaky before doing well later.

4. The division is too good. Um, not really. Philly is worse than the Caps, NYR the same, and only Pittsburgh and NYI have been really good so far. In the division, Pittsburgh and NYI are the only teams with more goals than the Caps. Not bad for a team who can only score on power plays. Plus, defense-wise, we have allowed fewer goals than New Jersey and NYR, and only three teams (Pittsburgh, NYI, and Columbus) have better goal differentials than the Caps.

In the end, it is early. We are only three games in, and the Caps have not been bad. They have not played up to standards, but don't stick a fork in the Caps yet.

Let's wait until the Caps have played at least 20 games before we do that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

After a Brief Hiatus... Predictions for Tonight

First of all, sorry for missing the game on Thursday. I ran out of time before the game started.

But, I'm here today, so here are the predictions for today's match.

Me (0-1): 5-3 Caps. The Stars are an odd bunch, and are very different from their teams the last few years. Their goaltending is not sensational, but can get the job done with Kari Lehtonen. Their offense took a big hit when they lost Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow last year, and their D has not been all that great either. Tyler Seguin will be looking to make a big impact in his new environs, but with a red-hot OV and Grabo for the Caps, this game could be over already.

TI-84 (1-0): 6-5 Stars (SO). The TI picks the same score as it did against the Hawks. A bad omen? Eh. Probably not.

Magic Eraser (0-1): 4-2 Stars. This is why erasers do not have brains.

Enjoy the game, and let's hope for a solid outing like that one in Chicago.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Let The Games Begin; Last Minute Prediction for Opening Night

As you all know, the season begins for the Caps in a few minutes from now.

Per Katie Carrera, there are some surprises in the lineup, with all three rookies making their regular season debuts in Connor Carrick, Michael Latta, and Tom Wilson. Martin Erat will be on the 4th line for today, and Brooks Laich will play on the second line.

Some thoughts...

This game has been scrutinized for a while for some reason, and there has been a lot of excitement for the Caps' first foray into Metropolitan Division life with a good opening night match against the defending champs.

Some predictions:

Me: 3-2 Caps. People (those on Bleacher Report especially; looking at you Steve Silverman) seem to think losing Mike Ribeiro will absolutely kill the Caps and they do not have a chance against the defending champs. But the bottom line is, both teams played well against each other in the preseason with split squads. It will be interesting to see who wins, but I think the Caps come out on top.

TI-84: 6-5 Hawks (SO). Meh. He's a calculator. What does he know?

Magic Eraser: 4-3 Caps (OT). Don't judge me. Or him.

Well, not much left to say, except...

Let the games begin.

Monday, September 23, 2013

1000 Pageviews Later...

It has been about five months since I began my little experiment, seeing if anybody would care enough to read my blog posts/rants.

I was not disappointed. Last weekend capscircle.blogspot.com reached 1000 pageviews, a huge milestone I did not expect to hit this early.

To everybody who has been patronizing my blog, thanks. I appreciate that you like my posts enough to keep coming back.

Still, spread the word. I'd like to get more pageviews from more people, so tell your friends, enemies, or anybody else you know who likes hockey.

And here's hoping I reach 2000 views in another two months.

Some stats just for kicks...

  • The most viewed post has been my explanation for why Alex Ovechkin should win the Hart Trophy. I don't know if the NHLPA read it, but OV did end up winning the award...
  • The second most has been the gif when the Pittsburgh Penguins were swept by the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. I should get more stuff from RMNB (and give them credit of course)...
  • I have got views from many, many countries, but the USA is a run-away number one with 641, with Russia at second, with 231... 
  • This is the 55th post, so assuming 1000 pageviews for 54 posts, I'm averaging just under 20 views per post (which is probably misleading)...
So here we are. Thanks again, spread the word, and keep looking out for more from Caps Circle.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Choice for the Winter Classic (Venue and Opponent)

Four years after the Caps traveled to Heinz Field to pay a visit to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Winter Classic, they will host one on January 1, 2015.

Needless to say, I'm going. There is no way I'm missing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But who should we play, and where? That has been the core of the speculation thus far since Ted Leonsis announced the news yesterday.

Here are my rankings for venue. And these are just based on absolute awesomeness, not necessarily what makes sense.

5. Orioles Park at Camden Yards. This is number five for two reasons: it is in Baltimore, and it is a baseball stadium. The sight-lines will therefore not be that great. Plus, hosting the game in Baltimore would incense NOVA fans like me to no end. It is historic and beautiful, but it is just not feasible for anybody outside of Maryland.
4. Fedex Field. This is not number 5 only because of it's closer proximity to DC compared to Camden Yards. The sight-lines would also be much better than in number 5 or 3, but for the sake of the city let's hope that the Caps don't take the Classic to Dan Snyder's dumping ground.
3. Nationals Park. This is probably the most likely site for the Classic. Being played here would be pretty sweet, as it is in DC and is a really nice park. Plus, the fact that Leonsis and Ted Lerner are good friends make the game being played here even more likely.
2. RFK Stadium. This trumps Nats Park because of the better sight-lines and historic significance. It is extremely unlikely that this will happen, because RFK is extremely old and the playing conditions may not be that great, but the nostalgia and DC-ness would make this an awesome venue.
1. The National Mall/ the Reflecting Pool. It would be hard to get more DC than either of these. Can you imagine playing in the heart of DC (the Mall), or playing under the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument? Obviously, neither of these will happen, but it would be awesome to think about it.

Now that that is done, what about the opponents? Here they are.

5. Los Angeles Kings. East Coast vs. West Coast. The nation's capital against some famous city in the west. The Kings are one of the most talented teams in the league, but it probably will not happen.
4. New York Islanders. The Isles are one of the most promising teams in the league, and the Caps have had a long, harrowing rivalry with them. They are a dark-horse candidate for the game, though, and there are better opponents.
3. Philadelphia Flyers. They are probably the frontrunners for the game because the league wants a division rival other than Pittsburgh and NYR. I personally would not want this because the Flyers fans might make a takeover of DC like the Caps did of Pittsburgh.
2. Carolina Hurricanes. They probably will not be hosting an outdoor game anytime soon, so they would be a good choice for the Caps to play. The only drawback is the lack of big-name stars other than Eric Staal.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning. The same things that were said of Carolina could go for Tampa, except the increase in star-power would make this a much more fun matchup for the teams to watch. Unfortunately, this may end up making every Caps fan begin to hyperventilate halfway through the game.

So my choice would be Caps vs. Lightning at the Reflecting Pool. Unfortunately, it is more likely that it will be Caps vs. Flyers at Nats Park. Still, either way, this will be a great event with an amazing atmosphere.

Hurry up and get here 2015.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Season Has Begun; Caps Win Preseason Opener 4-3 (SO)

The Caps traveled to Stirling-Rawdon in Ontario, Canada to take on Winnipeg (them again?) in the Kraft Hockeyville game. Both teams got off to a slow start, with the first period going by scoreless. In the second period, the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but goals from Jack Hillen and Stanislav Galiev (yes, that guy, the 'disappointment') tied the game going into the third. Both teams scored a goal in the third (the Caps via Troy Brouwer), and the game went into OT.

OT went by scoreless, so we went into the shootout, where the deadlock continued. Neither team scored in the first three rounds, then Phillip Grubauer made a save in the top of the 4th round to give the opportunity to win the game to Mike Green. After 7 talented forward were unable to score, it was the as-talented defenseman Mike Green who finished the game with a beautiful shot upstairs off the crossbar and in.

So the Caps win 4-3 in the shootout. A good start, technically, but it was not that great a game from the good guys. I personally found the effort throughout the game a bit underwhelming. Albeit the Caps were playing with mostly prospects, but I would have expected a tad better performance in the preseason opener.

Other notes...


  • Yes, that was Alex Ovechkin taking a stick under the visor, falling to the ground in pain, making his bleeding way to the locker room to get patched up, then coming back a few minutes later. Russian Machine Never Breaks.
  • The prospects showed some good skills, especially on the second goal, where defenseman Nate Schidt made a nice play to pass it to Stan Galiev, who redirected it into the net. The Caps have a good future, folks, with or without Filip Forsberg.
  • Phillip Grubauer was arguably better than Braden Holtby in the game. Although Holts is undoubtedly the starter for the Caps, Grubauer's great performance could lead to either him or Michal Neuvirth  getting traded for a good value.
  • How about those Jets? They are drastically underrated, expected to be last place in a strong Central Division, but only the old Southeast Division rivals know just how strong this team is. Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are both extremely talented, and the team has a lot of potential. Good luck, Central Division, and welcome to our old nightmare.
So what do you think? Did the Caps live up to expectations? Fall short? Surpass? Tell me in the comments. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Most Annoying Penguins Fans

The Pittsburgh Penguins are Washington's arch-rivals. Along with the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning, they have tormented the Caps in their 38 year history.

But what really separates the Pens from the rest of the pack is their fans. Most of these fans have only gotten on board in the last 8-9 years, maybe even later. I'm guessing if you asked 10 fans where the Penguins were planning to relocate 10 years ago, at least 5-6 of them would have no clue what you were talking about.

Here is an official Penguins-fan-hater's take on the most annoying Pens fans:

5. Anybody who does not know anything about hockey before Sidney Crosby. This is the majority of Pens fans today, as I said earlier, and the only Penguins player pre-Crosby these guys may know of is Mario Lemieux. Ron Francis? Who is that? Paul Coffey? Never heard of him. These are also the most vocal Penguins supporters, which makes them all the more annoying.

4. The NHL on NBC crew. I know they are technically not Pens fans, but it's hard to watch them when they are gushing over Pittsburgh and/or NYR all the time.

3. Anybody who thinks Evgeni Malkin is better than Alex Ovechkin. The argument can be made that Sidney Crosby is better than Ovechkin (I would agree with that for now). But anybody who thinks the Pens got a good deal when they chose Malkin in the 2004 draft instead of Ovechkin, who went one spot ahead of him at number one, is delusional. Other than two and a half subpar years, OV has been one of the best players of this generation, and is definitely better than Malkin.

2. Anybody who thinks Mario Lemieux is the greatest NHL player in history. Lemieux is definitely one of the Top 10 NHL'ers of all time, but there is no way he was greater than Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Lemieux may be the most influential NHL'er of all time, but he is not the greatest.

1. Whoever writes the Pens blog on Bleacher Report. They must have their head in the clouds, because they have no idea what's going on outside the Pens world. If you want to know what I mean, go on their Bleacher Report page.

So here is my extremely biased and Penguins-hater opinion of the most annoying Pittsburgh fans. Thoughts? Rants? Put them in the comments.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Where George McPhee Gets the Potato Treatment

The Toronto Maple Leafs SB Nation team Pension Plan Puppets did an article earlier in the summer seeing how their GM (Dave Nonis) would have done vs. a potato as a GM.

The potato won. But how would he fare against our beloved GMGM? Let's see.

The rules: the potato cannot sign UFA's and must resign RFA's at twice the previous value. Buyouts are not allowed either, but bought-out players can be signed.

The UFA's:

  • Mike Ribeiro
  • Tom Poti
  • Matt Hendricks
The RFA's:
  • Karl Alzner
  • Marcus Johansson
Ribeiro, Poti, and Hendricks all would have walked (like they did), and none of the high-profile minor leaguers would have been signed. The Caps were pretty quiet on the UFA front. Basically, the bottom line is no Tyson Strachan (no....)

On the RFA front, Alzner is re-signed for $2,570,000 and Johansson is re-signed for $1,800,000. That leaves Mr. Potato $1,715,000 to sign somebody else (remember, we still have Jeff Schultz for 1M). Unfortunately, Mikhail Grabovski says no thanks to that, and the Caps instead sign Nazem Kadri for $1,715,000, leaving nothing in the bank (this is assuming the Leafs don't sign him, which they haven't yet).

Here is GMGM's final roster:
Johansson(assuming re-signed)-Backstrom-Ovechkin
Erat-Grabovski-Brouwer
Chimera-Laich-Fehr
Perreault-Beagle-Ward
Green-Carlson
Alzner-Erskine
Hillen-Oleksy
Holtby
Neuvirth

Here is the potato's final roster:
Johansson-Backstron-Ovechkin
Erat-Laich-Brouwer
Chimera-Kadri-Fehr
Perreault-Beagle-Ward
Green-Carlson
Alzner-Erskine
Hillen-Oleksy
Holtby
Neuvirth

The bottom line is, while Caps fans may be disgruntled with GMGM, he still did better than Mr. Potato here. Not only did he sign a player with arguably more talent than Kadri, he will still probably have a few hundred thousand dollars left once Johansson is re-signed to potentially do some more stuff for the Caps. All in all, GMGM is better than a potato.

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