Tuesday, January 28, 2014

GMGM: Please Read This NOW

News has been breaking today that the Caps are the frontrunners to land Ryan Miller from Buffalo. GMGM has been talking to the Sabres management all day in potential trade talks.

Mr. McPhee, before you do anything we Caps fans will regret, stop, breathe, and READ (this).

First of all, we have great goalie depth. Braden Holtby has been steadily improving, Michal Neuvirth has also been playing well recently, and Phillip Grubauer was a phenom when he played for the last few months.

Second, the Caps don't need a goalie. We need DEFENSE. You know, the thing that arguably WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, something YOU HAVEN'T DONE (Rant over). But seriously, don't go for another goalie when we need a defenseman.

Third, the asking price would be way too high. We would likely have to give up one of the three star goaltenders, some high-round draft picks, and maybe even a prospect or two. That is way too much for somebody who is on the wrong side of thirty, especially in a position the Caps really don't need help in.

For once, GMGM, please look at a trade logically, like I just did. If you're going to pay this huge price, it has to be for a Ryan Suter or Shea Weber, not for a Ryan Miller, no matter how good he is.

And, please, don't make another trade we all will regret.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

(Sort Of) Midseason Report: Grades for the Caps

The halfway point of the Capitals season has come and gone, with the Caps crashing down to fourth in the Metro after being second during the first of these. How do the grades look now?

In case you forgot how I do these, I grade the offense, defense, and goaltending based on league stats, then choose a top performer from each. So without further ado...

Let the grades begin (you see what I did there?)

First-Quarter Grade: 90% (A-)
Midterm Grade: 83% (B)
I was surprised that the Caps goaltenders received such a high grade, but it's hard to argue when the team save percentage is tied for 10th in the league. It's a drop off from 5th in the league after the first quarter, but still comparatively good considering the ghastly amount of rubber being sent their way. Still, the inconsistent play of Braden Holtby and the injury/little playing time for Michal Neuvirth has put lots of pressure on Phillip Grubauer, who is arguably the only goaltender who is playing well right now for Washington.
Top Performer: Phillip Grubauer
This is so obvious it doesn't even require analysis. Grubauer has a .931 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA, both by far the best on the team. He was not good against Columbus, but considering how well he has played so far, there is no way Holtby or Neuvirth deserves this over him.

First-Quarter Grade: 68% (D)
Midterm Grade: 63% (F)
I reserve F's for the bottom three teams in a certain stat, usually, and the Caps are currently third-worst in Shots Against per Game. They are one of only three teams giving up more than 30 shots against per game, the other two being Toronto and Buffalo. If possible, the defense has just gotten worse in the last quarter of play. Much of this boils down to lack of depth combined with terrible decisions by Adam Oates, such as continually starting John Erskine and scratching Steven Oleksy in favor of Connor Carrick. Still, whoever is playing, this team has enough talent to be giving up less than thirty shots per game, and definitely not in the same league as Buffalo and Toronto.
Top Performer: John Carlson
Pretty much everybody else has struggled mightily this year, but Carlson is chugging along. Only Mike Green has better Corsi and Fenwick and has been playing regularly, but he has had very obvious disparages in coverage. Ultimately, Carlson has by far been our best all around D-man so far.

First-Quarter Grade: 90% (A-)
Midterm Grade: 80% (B-)
The offense has really cooled down as of late. A combination of extremely good opposite goaltending and lack of pressure and terrible Fenwick has forced Adam Oates into making some pretty bad line combinations, which have just compounded the problem. The Capitals as a team have only 133 goals, Alex Ovechkin scoring 34 of them. Yup. The Capitals have dressed 27 forwards and defenseman, and 26 of them have combined for 99 goals. That is absolutely pathetic. Alex Ovechkin's grade in a A+ for sure, while the rest of the team is probably hovering around a D+. The Caps really need to get OV some help.
Top Performer: Alex Ovechkin
Honestly, it's not even close. I chose Nick Backstrom for the first quarter, but he hasn't been doing all that great recently without OV. As I said earlier, the Capitals would have 99 team goals without Ovechkin, barely over two goals a game as the team. OV has no doubt been the top performer for the Caps.

As you can see, this last quarter of the season has been much worse than the first. Hopefully the team can step it up.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ranking Each Major DC Sports Team Right Now

This time a few years ago, the Capitals were the only team worth talking about in Washington.

All of that has changed. Two straight years with a playoff season for a team not named the Caps and the growth of other homegrown stars combined with a decline from the Capitals has led to all four major teams in DC having a good chance at the playoffs.

How do they compare right now, however? For this, I gave each team ranking in star-power, depth, and management, then combined the cumulative scores. A lower score was better, because that meant they had higher ranks in each

Here is the final ranking:

4. Washington Redskins
Star-power: 4
Depth: 4
Management: 4
Total: 12
The Redskins bottomed out in all three categories. They only have two legitimate superstars (Trent Williams and Alfred Morris) and a few more on the cusp (RGIII, Brian Orakpo, maybe Pierre Garcon). That is not enough when over twenty players are starting the game for you. Depth is also a huge issue, as anybody who followed the team and its injuries could easily see. As for management, Dan Snyder alone automatically makes this a bottom two candidate, and Bruce Allen's ineffectiveness along with a rookie coach in Jay Gruden who has had problems in Cincy knock this down to the bottom of the DC list.

3.  Washington Wizards
Star-power: 3
Depth: 2
Management: 3
Total: 8
Not much separates the Wizards from the team in front of them, while a lot separates from the team behind them. The Wizards have many star players, with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading what could become one of the best backcourts in the league, improving prospects such as Jan Vesely and Otto Porter Jr., and other talented players such as Nene, Martell Webster, etc. Depth-wise, they ranked number two again because of the talented bench players they have. Management-wise, Randy Wittman probably is not the best person to coach this team, but heck, he and Ted Leonsis are better than Gruden and Snyder for my money.

2. Washington Capitals
Star-power: 2
Depth: 3
Management: 2
Total: 7
Ah, the Caps. What, with two of the best players in the game in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, you would think their star-power would be number one. Alas, just them and maybe Mikhail Grabovski and John Carlson are not enough to give them the number one spot there. Depth-wise, I think every Caps fan knows this team is short of it. There are many prospects that just are not NHL-ready right now, meaning their future could be fantastic, but right now they just are not built for the playoffs like teams such as the Blackhawks and Penguins. Management-wise, George McPhee almost brought this team down another notch, but Adam Oates and Ted Leonsis sort of balance him out a bit.

1. Washington Nationals
Star-power: 1
Depth: 1
Management: 1
Total: 3
By far the best DC team right now, the Nationals boast many rising stars such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, as well as proven vets like Ryan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez. Depth-wise, combine one of the most talented prospect systems in the league with arguably THE best pitching rotation in the league, as well as good batting and fielding talent on the bench, and the Nationals are by far the most playoff-ready team in DC (that's a sentence that's never been seen before). Management-wise, these guys know what the heck they are doing, with Mike Rizzo the best GM in DC right now, a smart coach (albeit a rookie) in Matt Williams, and another Leonsis-like owner in Ted Lerner. This is a team that know how to get things done.

Never since 2005 have all four DC teams looked so capable of so much. Right now, the Nationals are taking the helm from the Capitals, and hopefully they won't disappoint us like the Caps have. In a few years, it may be the Wizards and Redskins leading the DC charge. Who knows what will happen in the future, but right now, DC sports seems to be in a pretty good spot.

New Domain Name!

Unless you have this site bookmarked (which you really should), you can now type in the address as capscircle.com.

Enjoy the extra 10 seconds of your life!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Me after the game.
Watching the game, the Caps played very well against a much more talented team. They cycled well, had good pressure, pretty good defense, and were very good against the best power play in the league.

But why did they end up losing? Let's look at the keys I wrote a couple of days ago.

1. Start Michal Neuvirth. Done and done. He played and was pretty good, making some robberies of Pittsburgh, and although he had a .892 save percentage, he faced 37 shots. Neuvirth could have been better, but he shouldn't have needed to be.

2. Forecheck like the San Jose game. They did pretty well in this area, as they were able to sustain pressure in the Pittsburgh zone multiple times. The Pens also forechecked up a storm, but again, this wasn't the reason the Caps lost.

3. Control possession. Yesterday was not the Caps team we know. The Caps had 54% possession, and had pretty good Fenwick stats. This should have been the downfall of the Caps yesterday, but it wasn't.

4. Come Out Strong. The Caps did well in this regard for the first 5/10 minutes, and overall they played strong. This wasn't the reason they lost either.

So why did the Caps lose? In the end, it comes down to the fact that the Penguins are built for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup, and the Caps are not. Unfortunately, until the Caps can build their team into one like the Penguins, they're not going to win these games.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Back-to-Back from Heck; the Toughest Two Days of the Year

Today and tomorrow, the Washington Capitals play two of the best teams in the league, in the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

If you watched the San Jose game, you saw a very good effort from Washington, playing against a much better all-round team. The Caps received good goaltending and defensive efforts, forechecked a storm against 2013 Vezina finalist Anti Niemi, and played a game that, had they played against the Sabres on Sunday, they probably would have won.

Tomorrow, they will be playing a well-rested and uber-talented Penguins squad that has many more weapons than the Capitals or even the Sharks do. What will the Capitals have to do to win this one in Pittsburgh tomorrow?

1. Start Michal Neuvirth. Nothing against Braden Holtby, but look at his career numbers against the Penguins, and you know why I'm saying this. Neuvirth had a fantastic effort against the Maple Leafs after a 2-month layoff, and is right now the second-best goalie on the team behind Phillip Grubauer. Unless you want to start Grubauer again (which would be a terrible decision), the Caps have to start Neuvirth.

2. Forecheck like they did today. Niemi is one of the best goalies in the league, and had some fantastic saves on the Caps. If the Capitals play like they did in the offensive zone today against the Penguins, they will definitely score more than one goal on Marc-Andre Fleury, who although OK, is not on Niemi's level.

3. Better puck handling/possession. The Caps as a team were not very good against the Sharks, the third best puck possession team in the league (extraskater.com). The Penguins are not too shabby either, sitting at 10th in the league, while the Caps are 24th. The Caps will really need to dominate the puck tomorrow, and just overall limit Penguins chances as much as possible, or it could be a pretty bad night no matter how well the goaltending and offense is.

4. Come out strong. It's tough playing against the best team in the conference the day after a grueling game against one of the best teams in the league, especially having to travel overnight. To top it off, this is against a huge rival in a hostile environment, and televised nationally so we have to listen to Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire all game (oh, lord). The Caps will need to come out with their legs and believe they are the better team (which they truthfully are not) and play the best darn game of the year against Pittsburgh.

This is probably the craziest possible two day stretch the NHL could have assigned the Caps. Still after the effort they showed against the Sharks, we may have some reason to hope the Caps can pull the upset tomorrow.