Saturday, October 27, 2007

Capitals/Blues Preview

First off, everyone say a prayer for Patrice Bergeron. I was watching the game and Bergeron was definitely knocked out by the hit and could have spinal injuries.
CBC reported on Hockey Night in Canada that Bergeron suffered a concussion and a broken nose, but has full feeling in his arms and legs.

The Caps venture into St. Louis tonight to face the Blues (5-3-0) and will be without the captain Chris Clark (who sustained an ear injury after being hit by an Alexander Ovechkin slapshot last night) and defenseman Tom Poti (groin) when the puck drops at 7:30.

It's nice to see that apparently the Caps have been listening to my suggestions - Backstrom should be centering a line with Ovechkin and Kozlov tonight which should work well with Backstrom being a pass-first guy, Ovechkin loving to shoot and Kozlov available to be a big body in front of the net. My only worry is that Backstrom will become so focused on feeding Ovechkin that he will pass up scoring chances for himself, but it really isn't too much a concern as Clark should only miss this game from what I'm reading. With the Ovechkin/Kozlov/Clark trio looking so good, and Brooks Laich playing well on the checking line, I'd expect them to be back together as soon as possible.

The bottom line for this game is really pretty simple: The Caps should win. The Blues most talented players are either past their prime (Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Paul Kariya) or are young players who still have a lot of developing to do (Erik Johnson [out tonight], David Perron, Brad Boyes), with the exception of Barret Jackman. The lineup has holes and netminder Manny Legace is a borderline NHL starter at best.

Simply put, the Blues are the type of team the Caps need to beat if they want to play postseason hockey.

Notes: Fleischmann is expected to play on the left with Nylander and Semin...the two teams have not met in 21 months...Brent Johnson will probably start for the Caps...The Blues averaged 12,520 in attendance last year, last in the NHL but are averaging over 18,000 so far this season.

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Semin Re-ups with Caps

According to Tarik the Caps have re-signed Alexander Semin to a two year extension:

Just landed in St. Louis and received word that Alexander Semin has signed a two-year contract extension worth $9.2 million.

He'll earn $4.2 million next season and $5 million the folllowing year, for a cap hit of $4.6 million.

Good move for the Caps - Semin potted 38 goals last year, could see his output increase with the talent the team has added and has the added bonus of being a great 1-on-1 player and breakaway goalscorer and thus should help the Caps pick up some points in shootouts. It is a decent amount of money but the Caps are well under the cap and look like a top tier defenseman would be the only move they might need to make in free agency in the immediate future.

Plus this should make negotiations with Ovechkin, who is eligible to be a restricted free agent after this season, come along easier.


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Week 8: Redskins vs. Patriots

The Redskins will have to play lights out defense against the Patriots to have any hope of winning, because at the end of the day even a solid defense will be exposed by Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Wes Welker. The Redskins defensive backs not only have to be in the right spots but they have to make the plays. This means, catching every potential interception and not letting it bounce off your chest. This means finishing the play and staying with your assignment, not get lured away by a big hit.
As the Patriots have shown in their 2007 campaign, they are fearless and Tom Brady is fearless. He doesn't hesitate throwing the ball into double coverage because he's confident his receivers can will the ball into their hands. They are as physical an offense as you will see play the game and the Skins will have to meet them on every play. The second half defense that they showed against the Cardinals, the defense that loses games and allows offenses to get into a rhythm cannot reappear. The bend but don't break philosophy is the most overrated and detrimental strategy any football team can adopt and if they use this umbrella at any point in the game they will lose.
Carlos Rogers, Fred Smoot, Shawn Springs, need to hit those clowns at the line. Bump them off their routes and then stay with them like white on rice the entire game. Don't let those explosive receivers get a good release and then dictate the timing of the game.
Rocky McIntosh, London Fletcher, Marcus Washington, need to jack those guys up when they come across the middle. Make them feel it every time they attempt to open up that part of the field and make Brady hesitate throwing it anywhere he thinks he can safely put the ball.
Sean Taylor, LaRon Landry, need to be the ball hawks they have been all year in order to take away the deep ball. So far this tandem has worked to perfection but they will have to be better than the Patriots wide receivers to win this game.
However, the Redskins offense is horrendous, and we saw their futility last week. With an offensive line that is still beat up and a running game that has consequently suffered, the Redskins will have to lean on Jason Campbell to win this game. While he has looked very good thus far and is making strides, his decision making in tight situations and accuracy throwing the deep ball still lacks. At this point in his career he's not ready to beat the number four ranked defense in the league.
Nobody in the league can play with the Patriots right now outside of maybe the Colts, who they will play next week, so I don't see the Redskins coming away from this game with a win. They will keep the game closer than most people expect, enough to be inside the 17 point spread, but it's gonna be a long day for the defense as the offense continues to struggle.

Patriots 28, Redskins 17

- The Hokie

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Caps Downed by Canucks; Refs

Canucks 3, Capitals 2

The Caps slipped below .500 last night with their 3-2 loss to Vancouver, getting goals from Nylander and Ovechkin. The Caps lost Chris Clark to a head injury late in the third after being struck by an Ovechkin slapshot up high.

I've got a busy weekend so I just have a few notes on the game:

  • The refereeing was terrible. The first 4-on-4 in the second shouldn't have happened; Semin's penalty wasn't even visible on the replay; they called Brash for a ticky-tack hook and they blew a call where Semin was interfered with several times while trying to play a loose puck. The worst part was Clark's injury - it shouldn't have happened because the refs should have seen the blatant high stick Clark took behind the Vancouver net seconds before and called it. If the refs catch that play stops and Clark doesn't take the shot off the head.
  • The penalty Clark took to open the game, which lead to Vancouver's first goal on the PP, was bad. There's no way refs aren't going to catch a moving pick in the NHL these days. Clark needs to be smarter than that.
  • The first two goals the Capitals allowed were on bad plays where they couldn't get the puck out of their zone. Kolzig isn't what he was in his heyday, but he's still pretty good and there's not much he can do when his defense hangs him out to dry.
  • The Capitals first goal was a thing of beauty - getting the shot to the front, getting traffic and burying the chance when it came on the player's (Nylander) stick.
  • It was nice to see Mike Green step up to Matt Cooke when Cooke crashed the net a little too hard.
  • Ovechkin had several great hits.
  • The Caps were dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 65% of the draws, including 71% taken by Dave Steckel and 72% from Boyd Gordon. No wonder Hanlon's been putting them out at times in order to just take the draw and get off.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

NBA Gambling

The discovery of referee Tim Donaghy has really opened up a Pandora’s Box for the NBA. The NBA and David Stern recently stated that they will be reviewing their policies regarding referees and gambling and will, in fact, lessen the severity and rigidity of those regulations. Their justification seems to be that while a small amount of gambling is alright, institutionalized gambling and habitual gambling is the only thing that has the potential to influence a game.

In my mind, I can't see a reason where being too rigid in this area would be a bad thing. Why create an environment where individuals can test the boundaries? Why introduce loop holes or avenues for corruption to seep in? Why create an environment where those who violate your policies can escape?
In a situation like this, where there are only 56 referees in the NBA, if an individual cannot sacrifice that one part of his life, he shouldn’t be hired. If gambling, in any sense, is so important to them that they cannot abide by strict prohibitive rules then they shouldn't be a ref. We don't have a shortage of people in this country that couldn't step in, wouldn't step in and do as good a job while insuring that the outcome of each game isn't tainted.

David Stern's back is not against wall in the sense that he needs any of these people to continue the league and I think he is sending a message of weakness to his players and the fans. After being so nit-picky about dress codes and player conduct, these actions lack the consistency that he has been trying to establish. As a fan, I don't see how reducing these restrictions would improve the game. As a personnel matter, an area that we fans do not see, this could be sticking point, but from my perspective this move only has the potential to hurt the game.

- The Hokie

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Caps/Canucks Preview

The Capitals will be looking to build off the momentum of Wednesday's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay and get back to .500 tonight as they take on the Canucks (who bring with them a formidable entry in the NHL's worst uniform contest) at Verizon Center.

The Canucks are sitting at 4-6 thus far on the year, which has to considered a slow start given that they won the Northwest Division last season. The early season struggles can be attributed in large part to the fact the Canucks have given up 32 goals in their 10 games, not something Vancouver could have been expecting given their top goaltender is Roberto Luongo. Make no mistake about it - although Luongo's numbers have been unspectacular so far this season (3.01 GAA; .900 save %) he is arguably the best netminder in the NHL, with Marty Brodeur
and Miika Kiprusoff his only real competition for the title. Couple that with the fact the Capitals have not beaten Luongo since the lockout and clearly the forwards are going to have their work cut out for them. Luongo is beatable but it's rare to see him give one up on an initial shot. The Caps will have to crash the net and move the puck around down low to get him out of position, both of which they were able to do well in their win against Tampa Bay.

The Canucks have a solid defensive unit, lead by Mattias Ohlund. Not only are guys like Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell and Aaron Miller
good defensively, they're big and strong and like the play the body. The Caps first line possesses both size (Ovechkin is 6'2'', 216; Kozlov is 6'4'', 232) and grit (what other NHL team's captain will break his face and finish his shift), but the second line is small and not particularly physical, particularly Backstrom and Semin, who both weigh in under 185 (Note: the Caps are the biggest team in the NHL). The second unit may have to rely on passing and puckhandling to create chances and while it's not the most effective means against Luongo, Backstrom and Nylander are good enough playmakers that they should be able to get the Canucks goalie moving and out of position.

Between the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund the Canucks have decent enough scoring depth. But while these players are legitimate first-liners they're not the kind of players that can take over games. I expect the Caps checking line and defensive pairing of Morrisson and Jurcina to be able to take care of the Sedin's line and generally keep the Canucks in check.

The Caps have the edge in this game both offensively and defensively and should be able to pull out a win. It's no sure thing though - Luongo is as capable as any goalie in the league at stealing one for his team.

Update: Tarik El-Bashir is reporting on Caps Insider that Tom Poti skipped today's morning skate with an injury, making it unlikely he'll be able to go tonight. It might be best for the Caps to dress seven defensemen tonight. That way if Poti is questionable they can have him start the game but not have to go to five d-men if he can't finish the game; if Poti can't play they could dress both Erskine and Shultz and limit the ice time of ice as the situations warrant (presumably Erskine would pretty much only play the penalty kill).


Don't be surprised to see a lots of Swedish fans as the game tonight with Backstrom, Nylander, Ohlund, the Sedins and Naslund all expected to play...The Canucks are apparently practicing with a chair these days...Canucks rookie center Rick Rypien is a cousin of former Redskins Super Bowl winning QB Mark

Other Previews:,, Japers' Rink, Washington Post, Washington Times


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Thursday, October 25, 2007

WaPo Article on the Skin's Playcalling

An interesting article summing up Joe Gibbs' press conference on the Arizona masquerade.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Caps Take Down Tampa Bay

Capitals 5, Lightning 3

The Capitals achieved their dual goals of breaking their four game losing streak and finding some more offense Wednesday night, beating the Lightning 5-3 on goals from Chris Clark (2), Brooks Laich, Dave Steckel and Alexander Ovechkin, who added an empty netter with four seconds left.

The talk around the Capitals has largely centered on line composition. After enjoying two career years playing on Ovechkin's right wing, Clark had been moved the checking line to the start this season. Following the overall offensive troubles, and especially Tomas Fleischmann's inability to get anything going offensively this year, Glen Hanlon decided to pair Clark with Ovechkin again in the Tampa Bay game. The decision paid near immediate dividends, as Clark netted a goal just 6:33 into the game, picking up the puck after a nice rush by Ovechkin (Ovechkin was credited with an assist on the play).

Ovechkin expressed his support for the move during the first intermission and continued his relentless play during the game. The numbers alone aren't indicative ofl how well Ovechkin's been playing this year, and that's saying something given he has five goals and four assists through the teams first eight games. There's no doubt Ovechkin has immense offensive talent but what makes him a dominant player more so than his puck handling or his shot is his athleticism. When he's on his game Ovechkin can use his strength to power his way through the opposition's checks, win battles for pucks, and dish out killer hits and use his speed to keep the other team working, get to loose pucks and create space for his teammates. Ovechkin's been doing this more so this year than last year, probably a combination of being in better shape early in the season and being amped up about the team's legitimate playoff prospects.

My biggest concern with moving Clark up to Ovechkin's line was who would take his place, but Brooks Laich stepped up and did a great job tonight against one of the best top lines in the league, playing smart in his own end and chipping in a goal off a nice feed from Pettinger. I've always liked Laich – he's a versatile, hard-working player who knows his own limitations but is capable of filling in either an offensive or defensive role. Laich doesn't have the speed or offensive talent of Clark, so having him on the right wing of the checking will diminish their offensive effectiveness somewhat, but having Pettinger (16 goals in 64 games last year; 20 in 71 the year before) gives the line a bit of offense and if Laich gets enough minutes he should knock in a few ugly ones in front of the net. Of course a checking line's first priority is defense and these three look like they have the potential to get the job done against most any top line in the NHL.

Speaking of defense, Shaone Morrison has done a great job of getting under opponent's skin this year. In the game against the Rangers Morrison stepped into, and dropped, Jaromir Jagr even though Jagr didn't have the puck, and managed to avoid a penalty; on other occasions he has riled up the opposition players both on the ice and on the bench. In tonight's game Morrisson stepped up on Vincent Lecavalier with a clean hit, upsetting Lecavalier so much he speared Morrisson (though it was called a slash) and then instigated a fight, in the process picking up 19 minutes in penalties (2 for slashing, 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting and a 10 minute misconduct) – with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. Kudos to Morrisson for not only helping to keep the Lightning's top line in check but taking their best player off his game, and out of the game, in the third period. Bolts coach John Tortorella claims Lecavalier's fight sparked his team but if I were a coach I would want a guy who had 108 points last year on the ice with my team playing from behind. At one point the Lightning tried to do the same the Capitals, specifically trying to get under Boyd Gordon's skin on a play after the puck had been covered by Marc Denis. They were barking up the wrong tree - Gordon has 26 PIMs in 141 NHL games and won the Brad Hornung Trophy in the 2002-03 season as the WHL's Most Sportsmanlike Player.

Aside of Morrison the Caps defense was pretty good for the most part tonight, holding a team that had averaged 40 shots a game on the road to only 29 and keeping the St. Louis/Lecavalier/Prospal line to only one goal (although St. Louis had six shots). The defense had a couple notable breakdowns, one resulting in the Lightning's first goal, scored when Jason Ward was left streaking to the net alone, and the other giving Caps fans everywhere a near heart attack when Brian Pothier tried to be cute with the puck in the game's final minute rather than clearing it out of the zone. In net Kolzig looked solid for the most part but two of Tampa's three goals went in through the five-hole, which is frustrating as a fan to say the least.

Wayward Sports Sons Three Stars:

(1) Alex Ovechkin (1 G, 2 A)

(2) Chris Clark (2 G)

(3) Dave Steckel (1 G)


"We understand each other. We played like we played the last two years: He scored and I scored"

-Alex Ovechkin on being put back on a line with Chris Clark


Dave Steckel's goal was his first in the NHL...Alexander Semin returned to the lineup 14:44 and had 5 shots...The Caps are clearly developing a lot of faith in Ovechkin's skill in his own end; he was on the ice during the game's final minute with a one-goal lead...There were audible boos on the telecast when the score of World Series Game 1 was shown and Boston was winning – I guess I'm not the only on in D.C. sick of the Red Sox...The Caps powerplay was 0-4 but generated good chances and 8 shots....At the end of his fight with Lecavalier, Morrisson fell the ice face first and required a leave of at least ten minutes to go the locker room and get stitched up...The Caps scratched Matt Bradley, Brian Sutherby and John Erskine...Tampa's goals were scored by Jason Ward, Paul Ranger and Martin St. Louis.


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World Series: Red Sox vs. Rockies

We have finally arrived at the show, the grandest of stages, the whole shebang and the whole kit and caboodle. I’d like to say that everything that has happened up until this point matters, but it doesn’t. Throw out the playbook, so to speak, leave any preconceived notions of what took place before or what will take place after at the door. This is the World Series.

21 games out of 22 means absolute dick right now. A previous World Series ring doesn’t matter either, and all the experience in the world will pale in comparison to sure fire grit and determination. When it comes down to it, seven games is nothing and even great teams can lose four straight and even bad teams can bounce their way into four wins. Knowing you can win is one thing, seizing your immortality is quite another and it is this fine line that separates the guys who hold the trophy and the other guys that let it slip away.

These are the two best teams in the Major Leagues from two completely different arenas, but they have a lot in common. Baseball at every level comes down to a couple of things; you gotta be good at situational hitting, you gotta field and throw the baseball at a high level and most importantly you have to have good pitching. Both teams field the ball well, and while there are wild card games every now and then where a single defensive blunder shatters the world, I have always been under the impression that one play never determines fate. Baseball as a game is a collection of opportunities for both teams and victory is the culmination of individual battles strung together. You may lose a battle but put together enough positive ABs and you’ll win the war. If stellar defense were that important, the Red Sox wouldn’t start David Ortiz in any game played in Colorado or Manny Ramirez at all, and that just won't happen. Situational hitting is key but, again, these are major league teams with professional hitters who understand their roles and the duties asked of them. Therefore, both of these aspects pale in comparison to the sole definition of a winning ball club, pitching.

I’ve said this before, but there is nothing more important that having good starting pitching when it comes to the postseason. A hitter gets the glory, but pitchers are legendary. It is because of this aspect that the Red Sox and the Rockies are still playing. The Rockies, as a staff, have an unheard of 2.08 team ERA in the 2007 playoffs. The Red Sox are not too far behind sporting a decent 3.60 ERA, which has been adequate while they have maintained a seven runs per game average.
What has been most impressive is the collective walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) for both teams: Rockies 1.11, Red Sox 1.15. Both stats show us that the pitchers for each team have been able to limit the number of base runners and, when allowed, have limited the damage their opponents have been able to inflict on the base paths.

As starting pitching goes, the World Series typically allows teams, if they need to, run a three deep rotation. Beckett, Schilling, Matsuzaka will suit up for the Red Sox and Francis, Jimenez, Fogg and Cook will take the mound for the Rockies.
Beckett is simply unstoppable at the moment. His control is second to none and in addition to his electric fastball and hard overhand curve, he’s cutting the ball and sinking the ball better than he ever has in his career. Beckett has only walked one batter in his entire 2007 postseason, and has racked up 26 strikeouts. He’s pitching with the ball on a string and that kind of control will always result in wins. Francis has succeeded thus far in the postseason by having a uncharacteristic high number of strikeouts. A pitcher more inclined to pitch to contact, Francis has escaped giving up too much solid contact – 11 hits in 12 2/3 innings – by raising his regular season 0.76 strikeouts per inning ratio to almost a strikeout an inning (12 Ks in 12 2/3 IP).
I look for the Red Sox to win Game 1 as Francis continues to struggle and the more offensively potent Red Sox team makes him pay for his mistakes in a way the struggling Diamondbacks weren’t able to.

Beckett looks primed to potentially pitch three times in this series if necessary and with the emergence of Dice-k and the return of Schilling’s nasty splitter the Rockies are going to have their hands full. Some of these games could be close, which favors the Rockies’ dominant bullpen, but in the ALCS the Red Sox looked in command at the plate from top to bottom and able to handle just about any kind of pitcher that was tossed their way. This is something I can not say about the Rockies who have had key players go cold: Tulowitzki .179 BA, Helton .154 BA, Atkins .185 BA, Taveras .167 BA.

The Rockies can take one of the middle games probably at home against Dice-K, and maybe another game at home if Schilling pitches at Coors, but I’m gonna go with a strong five game Red Sox World Series win in which Beckett is too hot to handle and the Rockies are unable to muster enough offense to compete.

Two wild cards that could throw everything out the window is Game 2 starter Ubaldo Jimenez and failing setup man Eric Gagne. I really like the way Jimenez pitches and if he can remain healthy he’s gonna be a dominant starter in this league and will challenge Francis as the ace of the staff in as little as two years. However, for this postseason he has to rely on his 100 MPH fastball but at the same time lower his walk totals, he can’t give as many free passes as he did against the Dbacks (8 BB).
Gagne is also a wild card because he is simply horrendous. I don't know where the lights out closer went, but he has not been able to recapture the magic that made his stuff unhittable. If the Red Sox think they can use him to bridge towards Papelbon, the Rockies will be able to take advantage and put runs on the board.

Game 1: Sox 6, Rox 1

- The Hokie

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Semin Expected to Play Against Lightning

According to the Washington Post, Alexander Semin is supposed to be back for the Caps game against Tampa Bay this evening. Good news for a Caps team that's struggled to score 5-on-5 and should help a powerplay that's been abysmal. It was nice to see that Semin sounded enthusiastic too:

"Of course, I've wanted to play," Semin said through an interpreter, adding that it has been difficult to watch the Capitals struggle the past two weeks.

"But an injury is an injury and there was no sense in risking further harm," he said. "It's hard to say what percentage I am right now. I can say after I play in a game. But I am excited to come back."

The article also mentions Semin is expected to skate with the second powerplay unit, which doesn't make sense to me. With the PP struggling the way it has, it makes more sense to put him on the point or on the first units' right wing with Ovechkin (although the second unit is supposed to have playmakers Backstrom and Nylander on it, so maybe they'll be able to feed Semin the puck).

- The DMG

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Caps Notes

Former failed coach Bruce Cassidy has been fired from his head coaching job at Kingston in the OHL. Not the biggest story in the sporting world, or even D.C. sports, but it gives a certain pleasure to myself and other Washington sports fans who couldn't wait to see him kicked to curb for telling his team hockey was more important than their personal lives, including their families, screaming profanities at a rookie backup goaltender and getting into other altercations with players. I can't say with certainty to what degree his hiring was the work of George McPhee and to what degree it was Leonsis but I do know that the decision to hire Cassidy in the vain hopes of emulating Paul Maruice's 2002 Cup run with Carolina was one of the two blows (along with the Jagr extension) that send the Capitals into their several year downward spiral and rebuilding phase.

-The DMG
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Gil's Gossip

Gilbert Arenas is notorious for his fan-friendly jersey tossing and charity auctions. He's also at the forefront of the athlete blogosphere. Looks like that's where he spent much of his time this summer while recovering from knee surgery. Here are some of Agent Zero's latest musings.

The Adventures of Chuck & Larry: If you haven't heard, Gilbert and the rest of the Wizards decided to dub baby-faced rookies Nick Young and Dominic McGuire, Chuck and Larry, after that very mediocre looking Adam Sandler/Kevin James movie. Still not sure which is which, but either way, Agent Zero is having his way with the younguns.

"So I was sitting in my house playing Halo and I'm looking at my surveillance camera and I see Dominic and Nick creep up to my property all decked out. They parked across the street and they're running towards my house wearing masks and helmets. They came around the side of the house, jumped the wall, and came in through the garage. But by the time they did all that, I already was out of the house and jumped the other wall. They were in the house looking for me and I was across the street flattening their tires so when they decided to leave they'd be on flats. They looked around the house and couldn't find me so they came outside and saw me across the street flattening their tires. I called my friend and had him come pick me up and take me back to the house.
"When they left the house, they stole my daddy's toaster! I like making toast! So I told them, Since you don't want to give my toaster back, it's war. He wanted his stuff back, I wanted my stuff back so I told them that we were going to have a paintball shootout."

Having Trouble with the Ladies? Take a Tip from Gil: "I think all men should [go on strike] when they have a disagreement. This is Relationship 101. When you have a fight with 'the other,' don't answer their calls and don't answer their pages. That usually gets the point across that you're not talking to them. So, I held out for seven days. I went on strike for seven days and stayed at the gym for seven days. I slept in the gym. They got nice couches in there and it just kept me in the gym working on my knee and stuff."

Animated Arenas: What do you get when you take Agent Zero and throw him into the world of animation? Gazo the Pranksta. Don't even get me started, just check it out.

For everything Gilbert and more on each of these stories, visit Agent Zero's blog:

- The Tar Heel
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Caps Embrace the Blogosphere

Interesting article by Tim Lemke in today's Washington Times.
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Da Wiz: A Sign of Things to Come

The Wizards lost to the Hawks Monday night, 103-99. But don’t worry. The Hawks are still the Hawks and the Wizards are still a playoff contender. What Wizards fans can take away from the contest was some reassurance that the Big Three are back in game shape and should be ready to reclaim their title as the league’s highest scoring trio when the season tips off next Wednesday.

Gilbert, Antawn and Caron all appear to be fully recovered from the various injuries that hindered them last spring and effectively ended the Wizards’ previously promising campaign. Agent Zero finally found his range, hitting 7-of-18 from the field for a team-high 19 points and Jamison – who was bothered by a sprained ankle much of the preseason - added 12 and nine rebounds. Butler was 0-for-4 from the field but still managed to crack double digits with an 11-for-11 display from the line. Most importantly, all three played for at least 26 minutes. With just two more tune-ups remaining before their Halloween date with the Pacers, it’s good to see the Wizards starters back on the floor and producing.


  • Andray Blatche continued his streak of impressive showings this preseason. The third-year big man went for eight and nine in 28 minutes of action. In five games, Blatche is averaging 10.2 points and 6.6 rebounds. As long as he steers clear of the ladies of the night, look for the 2005 2nd round pick to step up big as a scorer and rebounder off the bench.
  • Respect your elders. It’s a universal rule. But apparently the old adage doesn’t apply when you’ve got 13-year vet Tony Massenburg, who’s played for 13 teams, and two guys who need to be cut to finalize your roster. Sunday the Wiz released former Spur/King/Jazz/(insert one of 11 other NBA teams here)/Maryland Terrapin in their last set of roster cuts. The 40-year-old center had fought hard to make a team desperate for depth at the post position but came up just short. The Wizards might regret not keeping him with Etan Thomas still recovering from heart surgery and no true centers on the roster to spell Brendan Haywood.
  • Guard Donnell Taylor was also cut as the Wiz trimmed their roster to 14. The undrafted free agent out of UAB played sparingly the last two seasons with Washington.
  • 2006 first rounder, Oleksiy Pecherov missed Wednesday’s game with a quad injury. The 2nd wonder of Ukraine is averaging 10 points and 5.8 rebounds in four games.
  • The Wizards (4-2) conclude the preseason trips to Detroit (Wednesday) and Toronto (Friday). Of their eight preseason match ups, seven have been/are on the road. They’re just saving the good stuff for when it counts.

- The Tar Heel

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Caps Line Musings

Just like baseball geeks can spend hours dissecting batting orders, hardcore hockey fans can talk endlessly about possible line combinations for their favorite team. This topic has relevance for us sports fans in D.C. as the Capitals have all but fallen apart following their stellar opening weekend and it has to at least be, in part, due to the line combinations. Kozlov at center? Two centers on the second line? Who the hell is this Joe Motzko guy? and why are we letting him play with one of the best pure scorers in the world?

The Capitals have two potent scoring threats in Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, and each deserves a natural playmaking center with them to make the most of their talents. Fortunately (or so it would seem) the Caps have two such centers in Nylander and Backstrom. Initially the coaching staff was reluctant to use Backstrom at center but they seem to be more comfortable with it now and Backstrom has looked good all over the ice (despite needing to shoot more) and they ought to at least give it a shot and go with the following lines when Semin comes back (which should be this week):



Everyone gets to go back to their natural position: Semin at left wing, Backstron at center, Kozlov and Fleischmann at right wing. Ovechkin and Kozlov get to stay together and Ovechkin gets a playmaker. Semin gets a playmaker in Nylander; Fleischmann gets to play with great offensive talent that won't intimated him like Ovechkin seemed to do and plus the verteran Nylander should have a positive impact on the enigmatic Semin and lost-looking Fleischmann. The solid checking line of Pettinger, Gordon and Clark gets to stay together.

Another option would be to throw Nylander on the first line but I don't like that idea because a auxiliary line of the (again) enigmatic Semin, rookie Backstrom and the lost Fleischmann doesn't sit well with me. Backstrom is an overwhelmingly pass-first guy and Fleischmann was intimidated by Ovechkin so I think it would be easy for the line to become a situation where everyone is just looking for Semin as soon as they touch the puck.

The third decent option would be to stick Semin up with Kozlov and Ovechkin:


This would give the Capitals an immensely talented first line, put together B.F.F. Ovechkin and Semin and let Semin get on a line with players who [literally] speak the same language as him. Plus Backstrom could develop while playing the wing and Fleischmann would get to keep playing with two playmakers. In fact, I think this combination may be the most likely to succeed, with the abundance of talent on the first line and the second line that looks comfortable together already, but - the same time - I think it's the most line likely to fail as well. The first line players may not find enough touches to go around and the second line would struggle to score if Fleischmann can't get pucks in the net. I think it's worth trying though, especially this early in the season and especially with the way the team has played so far. It might be little early in the season to try something as drastic as putting your scoring anchors on the same line, but if the offense stalls again when Semin comes back it wouldn't be a bad Plan B

-The DMG
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Redskins Recap: Escaping by the Skin of our Teeth

Once again, a Skins second half breakdown let their opponent back into the game but, while they were able to hold off the Cardinals' charge, this is a disturbing trend that has to stop. The Skins were once again saved by their defense and special teams but, once again, were shot in the foot every time the offense took possession of the ball.
As expected, the offensive line struggled at the line of scrimmage resulting in a 2.6 yards per rush and 73 total rushing yard performance. The passing game was also non-existent; Campbell's final stats 12/18 for 95 total yards and an INT.
The second half baffled those watching the game, as the offense grew increasingly more and more conservative. This style of play did give the Skins a touchdown in the third quarter, but failed miserably in the fourth quarter resulting in three consecutive three and outs, taking minimal time off the clock and leaving the defense out to dry.
I'm at a loss when trying to find the reason for these kinds of mistakes. The defense won the turnover battle, special teams was relatively good at winning the best field position for our squad, but when it comes to the offense competing in the second half they don't show up. The skins can't turn into turtles after halftime and they seem content to shut it down after they get a lead. A lead is good, but they have to continue to build on that lead to put teams away. The Cardinals are a mediocre offensive team so the Skins were able to pull this one out, but in the course of the season and looking at future games, powerful offenses have and will come back to bite them in the second half. Teams are not intimidated by a one TD lead at halftime.
Games should not come down to a missed-by-inches 53 yard field goal, and the Patriots certainly aren't going give our guys any breathing room next week. The coaching staff has to take a very long look at how they want to manage the game in the second half, because right now it's not working.

- The Hokie
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