Saturday, November 24, 2007

Two in a Row: Caps Top Canes

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 2

What's more encouraging that a 4-3 overtime win against the 5th place team in the Eastern Conference? A 5-2 win over the 2nd place team in the Eastern Conference.

Anyone seen the movie "Major League"? If you have, you may remember this quote:

"You guys won today. You guys won yesterday, so that's two in a row. If you win again tomorrow, that's called a 'winning streak'. It has happened before."

...which pretty much sums up where the Capitals stand at this point.

For the second game in a row the Capitals came out and played with more jump, more creativity and more confidence than we've seen most of the season and looked like they expected to win. Boudreau's arrival may have sparked that confidence but the two wins over tough opponents is what's really going to help it grow.

One immediate change: special teams. It's been said many times that the key to success in the post-lockout NHL (I refuse to use the term "new NHL" anymore. It's been two full seasons people.) is good special teams and the Caps certainly had that tonight - they were 3-4 on the powerplay and killed off all three Carolina man advantages.

Next up: Buffalo, another team playing below their expectations this year, at Verizon Center, Monday.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Olaf Kolzig (35 saves on 37 shots; .946 save percentage)
(2) Alex Ovechkin (2 goals)
(3) Michael Nylander (1 goal, 2 assists)

"If we have success next week, we're right back in it"
-Bruce Boudreau

Quick Hits

  • I'm sure many a Canes fan will be crying foul over Justin Williams' disallowed goal, but it was the right call. My logic: the puck moved downwards after it made contact with the stick and still hit the crossbar, ergo the stick was above the crossbar when it hit the puck.
  • Backstrom continued his solid play on the 4th line, picking up a pair of assists.
  • According to the broadcast team in Comcast, Boudreau received a congratulatory call from none other than Don Cherry in the last couple days.
  • With the way he skates, hits and plays in the offensive zone, Mike Green is going to become one of the most exciting defensemen in this league to watch.
  • It's not surprising Erik Cole managed to split the 'D' pairing of Milan Jurcina and John Erskine, as Cole is one of the better skaters in the NHL and neither Jurcina or Erskine is exactly agile.
  • Great crowd at the Verizon Center last night, both in numbers and enthusiasm.
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Nicklas Backstrom - Caps Win 4-3

Capitals 4, Flyers 3 (OT)

Well. That was encouraging.

Before anything else, let me say this: the Caps, as a whole, played well enough to deserve better than a one-goal overtime win. The first Flyers goal shouldn't have happened - it should have been blown dead by the officials. The second Flyers goal shouldn't have happened because Olie shouldn't let that shot in.

The Capitals controlled the play most of the game, outshooting their opponents in every period and 35-25 for the game. But the most impressive stretch came early in the first. With
Shaone Morrisonn already in the box, Jeff Schultz inadvertently sent a rolling puck over the glass in his own end, giving the Flyers a 5-on-3 for 1:45. The Capitals were able to kill off the entirety of the penalty and maintain their one goal lead, keeping their slim margin early in the game in the face of adversity and giving a significant boost to a team lacking in confidence.

But the story of the game for the Capitals really was aggressiveness. Boudreau had mentioned that several times leading into the game and it made all the difference. Rather than sitting back and play tentative the Caps forechecked hard, worked to beat the Flyers to the puck and outhit Philly 15-14 (that's not as close as it looks - Scott Hartnell had six), and showed that they are indeed a good NHL team. The Caps have a lot of good skaters and they're the biggest team in the NHL - if they are allowed to play aggressively and pressure their opponents they should generally expect good things to happen.

So what's next? A home matchup this Saturday against Carolina where the Caps will try win two in a row for the fist time this season after their 3-0, and start a winning streak that will get them back into the playoff picture (they're currently seven points out, pending today's results). Is it just me, or do other people have more confidence that they'll be able to do that than at any other point this season?

DMG's 3 Stars

(1) Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal (the game winner), 2 assists, +2)
(2) Tom Poti (2 assists, 27:02 of ice time)
(3)Alexander Ovechkin (1 assist (a nice one on the game winner), +2, 4 shots, 23:06 of ice time)

Quick Hits

  • I have no analytic data but I would venture to guess a good 30% of the goals against Olaf Kolzig this year have come through the five-hole.
  • Thank you, Kimmo Timonen. Just as your team was really starting to get momentum, you took a stupid, obvious and unnecessary penalty to put the Caps on the powerplay.
  • Even though his team lost, I'm sure Daniel Briere had fun today. Not only did he get to jam his stick between a Capitals player's legs - he got a goal when he did!
  • Seriously though, there were quick whistles all day - where were they on Briere's goal?
  • Horrible, horrible slashing call on Tom Poti with 2:18 left in the game.
  • Either Nicklas Backstrom is really comfortable on the fourth line or he had something to prove, notching the game winner and two assists on his 20th birthday.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hanlon Out as Coach

The Caps have fired Glen Hanlon and replaced him (on an interim basis) with Hershey's Bruce Boudreau (press release). I don't think anyone is surprised in the least bit at this point (least of all me, I predicted after last night's game he would be shown the door this morning).

Some Caps fans are already up in arms about two things: (1) the firing on Thanksgiving and (2) replacing Hanlon with Boudreau ("not another AHL coach").

I have no problem with either. The team plays Friday and Saturday and with the way things were going a coaching change was needed immediately. It's just unfortunate the day it became obvious the Capitals could wait no longer.

As for Boudreau, I think he's the logic choice for the short term. The "not another AHL coach" cries don't make sense at this point. The team needed to hire someone on an interim basis; it's not like they were going to conduct interviews and make a hiring between 2 and 8 in the morning the night before Thanksgiving.

As for Hanlon, in a way I am sad to see him go. He did a very good job keeping the team's spirits high, getting the most out of the players and interacting with the media and fans during the rebuild. I'm sure he'll catch on somewhere else before too long. Best of luck to him when he does.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hanlon's Time Is Up

Capitals 1, Thrashers 5

So much to write about and so little of it is good...

With the Caps reeling but most people still viewing injuries and bad luck as legitimate excuses, and only one game removed from upsetting the Senators in Ottawa 4-1, the team began its ten games in sixteen days stretch on November 15th. At the outset I expected that the stretch would determine Glen Hanlon's fate, but that no matter what happened the team would hold on to him until the end of the busy stretch on December 2nd. Now I'm not sure he will make it that far.

Say what you want about McPhee (so many Caps fans are at this point), but he's no idiot. Hanlon isn't going to make it much further as the Capitals head coach; by this point it's gone well beyond a question of "if" become a question of "when". I wouldn't be shocked to see Bruce Boudreau behind the bench in Philly Friday afternoon. I would be shocked if Hanlon is still here after December 1st. If that happens, it's time for McPhee to go (this coming from a guy who devoted so much space to defending McPhee yesterday).

In losing tonight the Capitals faced their usual three obstacles against the Thrashers: failure to score, stupid play at especially inopportune times and bad luck.

The stupidity was courtesy of John Erskine's cross-checking penalty on Slava Kozlov at 14:59 of the second. Moments earlier Kozlov had established position and Erskine (not the most agile skater) had gone down; it was not a cheap shot by Kozlov. Erskine's response was to level Kozlov (who weighs about 175 pounds) with a cross-check, to the back, right in front of the referee. It's hard to overstate what a stupid penalty that is, even with its impact being magnified as the Thrashers scored their second goal on the ensuing powerplay. If Milan Jurcina is watching from the press box for a bad turnover then Erskine should be without a sweater for a while for his play, which was simply inexcusable.

The bad luck resulted in the Thrashers third goal; those watching at home saw a good breakdown of the play by Al Koken. Watching in real time I'm sure many people were, like me, wondering "how the hell did Havelid get so open for that pass?" The answer was that the man who supposed to be on him, Chris Clark, had gotten into an altercation at least ten second earlier and was being held against the boards in front of the Capitals bench. Not only did the officials not call a penalty (or penalties), they didn't even stop the play, letting Ilya Kovalchuk find Niclas Havelid wide open in the Capitals' zone.

The Capitals aren't losing games because of single breakdowns or bad plays anymore. Simply put, they're playing like losers. They no longer have that attitude or physicality they carried the last couple years and they no longer expect to win. As soon as the opposition scores, they fold and their body language sends the message "well, here we go again, let's just get through this and go home". The biggest offender is Viktor Kozlov. If you're as skilled as Semin, Nylander or Backstrom you can get away with not playing a particularly physical game and still being a very solid contributer. But if you're not (and you are 6'4'', 225) you need to play physical.

Let's be realistic now. The season's done unless something amazing (a 10 game win streak or something) happens. All I can offer is that, no matter how poorly the Capitals play this year, they have the talent to compete in 2008-09.

Quick Hits

  • Hell of a classy guy that Bobby Holik. With less than five to go and his team up by four goals he's throwing a temper tantrum in the penalty box after being called. Then he gets an unsportsmanlike penalty from the bench in the game's closing minute. This is why I hate Atlanta. Whether it's Sutton taking a run at guys in the closing minutes of games, Boulton using him elbows in a Karl Malone-esque fashion, Captain Bobby wetting his pants over an irrelevant call, or the team stamping "LOSER" across people wearing the opposition's jersey on their Jumbotron, the organization lacks class. And let's not forget their "there's plenty of room left on the bandwagon" advertising campaign.
  • Jeff Schultz fared much better against Atlanta's top line than I would have expected.
  • Your team is down four goals near the end of the game. You're supposed to be one of the toughest players on your team and you get knocked face-first into your own net. What's the best response in that situation? Well that's up for debate I guess but I will tell you, Mr. Erskine, that it is not to lay on the ice and meekly swipe at the opposing player's skates.
  • Speaking of lack of toughness, Brashear needs to go after Holik for manhandling Clark behind the Thrashers net in the closing minutes. There's no excuse for letting someone go after your captain like that. Period.
  • To his credit Shaone Morrisonn did come out looking pissed and playing the type of game the Capitals needed to play.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not on the 'Fire McPhee' Bandwagon

The Capitals are struggling mightily and their fans are (reasonably) upset and calling for either Glen Hanlon or George McPhee (or both) to be ousted. As I've mentioned before, I think it would be appropriate to fire Hanlon. It pains me to say so because I respect what he's done for the organization over the last couple years, but it's becoming increasingly clear that he is not the right coach for this team right now.

But I don't think McPhee deserves the boot.

If you're consider a coaching or management change you have to go beyond the knee-jerk reactions I think many people may be having, which take two forms: (1) "Well the team is struggling, it must be the [coach, GM, owner]'s fault, get rid of them!" or (2) "The team is struggling and I'm pissed off and I want blood, damn it!" Each reaction is understandable and to an extent warranted, but if you're going to make a change I think you have to go beyond these reactions and consider the situation more carefully. That's what I did with Hanlon and that's what I did with McPhee that led me to this conclusion.

What I'm going to do to make my case is lay what I think were crucial periods for the Capitals and how McPhee responded to them.

I. Initial Success
II. Two Bad Decisions
III. The Fire Sale
IV. The Rebuild and the Draft
V. Trades
VI. Summer of 2007

I. Initial Success

The Capitals started well under McPhee, who took the helm at the start of the 1997-98 season, which ended in a Stanly Cup Finals loss to Detroit. Critics here say that this wasn't McPhee's team; it was David Poile's and I think that is a fair assessment. Following a Stanly Cup run hangover in 1998-99, the team won its division in both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons.

II. Two Bad Decisions

I think most Capitals fan would agree that the reasons this team crashed and burned were twofold. One was the signing of Jaormir Jagr to that ridiculous contract for $77 million over 7 years. The other was the hiring of Bruce Cassidy as the head coach. Either of these would be enough to put a GM on the hot seat and both should be automatic grounds for dismissal. So why does McPhee still have his job and why do I think he deserves it?. Simple. The overwhelming impression given to Caps fans was that each was move was a brainchild of owner Ted Leonsis.

It's generally accepted Leonsis wanted to ink Jagr to huge extension as an effort to make a splash and garner more support for the team. If I remember correctly Leonsis boasted after the signing that Jagr would retire as a Capital and we heard a lot about the season ticket base expanding. As for Cassidy, his hiring was directly inspired by the job Paul Maurice had done with Hurricanes, taking them on a run to the Cup finals in 2001. Cassidy was supposed to be a coach in the Maurice mold - young, hip, play-friendly and decidedly different from defense-oriented taskmaster Ron Wilson.

Of course the Jagr contract became an albatross (even more so with the labor uncertainty surrounding the NHL in the next couple years), even while enshrined Jagr as the franchise cornerstone and hence lead to other bad signings (most notably Robert Lang). Meanwhile Bruce Cassidy turned out to be a world-class S.O.B.

After these failures McPhee was instructed by Leonsis to tear down and rebuild, resulting in....

III. The Fire Sale

Capitals fans remember the names that were shipped out well: Jagr, Lang, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt, Michael Nylander. Fire sales are tricky, especially this variety. McPhee was ordered to tear down the team mid-season (giving him less time to search for buyers) and had to do it amidst labor unrest, as the CBA was soon to expire (making it hard to deal vets with big contract like Lang and Jagr). Given that, I think he did well, amassing the following: Jared Aulin, Kris Beech, Shaone Morrisonn, Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, three first round picks, three second round picks and a fourth round pick.

What else is there to say? It is what it is and all things considered I think McPhee did a good job.

IV. The Rebuild and the Draft

Caps draft history available here.

I decided to combine these sections because they are, in large part, on and the same. Let me preface this by saying that how much of draft success and failure is because of skill on the GM's part and how much is because of skill on the scouts' part is up for debate and can vary widely. That said, I think McPhee has done fine, picking players like Fehr, Eminger, Semin, Schultz, Green, Backstrom, Varlamov, Bouchard, Neuvirth and Bourque (and Ovechkin, but he doesn't count because, c'mon, that was a slam dunk). Not all of those guys are going to be great NHL players or even have sustained NHL careers. But looking at this it's hard to say that the Capitals haven't been getting useful players from the draft, or to say they haven't built up depth amongst their prospects. And yes they're all first and second round picks. But the reality is that it's very rare to get a productive NHL-caliber player past those first two rounds, especially these days. When it happens it's just as much luck as anything else.

There's always one argument I hate and it goes something like "[General Manager's Name] is horrible! Look at [draft year], he drafted [Player A] when he could have had [Player B]". In some instances this is fair. For example I think saying "McPhee should have picked Ryan Getzlaf over Eric Fehr" is reasonable, even though Fehr's effectiveness has been limited by his compressed nerve. When it bugs me is when people say something like: "We passed on Pavel Datsyuk in 1998! How could we do that?" because every team passed on Datsyuk. Several times. Credit where credit is due - the Red Wings made a great pick when the drafted Datsyuk. But it's not like any of the other 27 teams knew how good Datsyuk was going to be in 1998, so it isn't fair to vilify any one GM for passing on him. The fact is that with almost every pick in every draft you can look at it and find guys who "should" have been picked instead, that's the way it goes for any general manager.

To demonstrate this I've done the following: I decided to chose a high, but not top-10 draft spot and look at who was, and who should have been, picked there. I chose the 20th overall pick, when most of the top prospects were off the board but still early on that there theoretically shouldn't be that much luck to it. The drafts I chose to look at were 1997-2001, as these are the ones I think most people will have familiarity with that can be looked at using the conventional rule-of-thumb to wait at least five seasons before evaluating a draft class.

1997: Mike Brown (Florida). Picked ahead of: Scott Hannan (23), Brendan Morrow (25), Ben Clymer (27), Kristian Huselius (45), Henrik Tallinder (48), Maxim Afinogenov (69), Mike York (136), Brian Campbell (156), Ladislav Nagy (177)

1998: Scott Parker (Colorado). Potential better picks: Simon Gagne (22), Scott Gomez (27), Jonathon Cheechoo (29), Mike Fischer (44), Mike Ribeiro (45), Brad Richards (64), Erik Cole (71), Brian Gionta (82), Shawn Horcoff (99), Pavel Datsyuk (141), Michael Ryder (216).

1999: Barrett Heisten (Buffalo). Better picks: Nick Boynton (21), Martin Havlat (26), Mike Commodore (41), Jordan Leopold (44), Adam Hall (52), Niklas Hagman (70), Niclas Havelid (83), Mike Comrie (91), Martin Erat (191), Henrik Zetterberg (210).

2000: Alexander Frolov (Los Angeles). I picked a number (20th overall) at random and went with it. Honestly I think Frolov was the best player available at this point in the draft.

2001: Marcel Goc (San Jose). Potential better picks: Derek Roy (32), Fedor Tyutin (40), Mike Cammalleri (49), Jason Pominville (55), Tomas Plekanec (71), Jussi Jokinen (192).

So what's my point? Everyone misses players, everyone makes picks that don't work out. That is the nature of the draft

Go back to 1998, McPhee's first draft after having been with the team for a year and look at his first and second round picks. Some have failed (Jomar Cruz, anyone?) but for the most part if you take out the guys who either look like good prospects, have proven themselves to be quality players or who have had unforeseen injury issues, how many busts are there? Not a lot. And that's really all you can ask a GM to do in the draft after the first ten picks or so - pick up quality players and not waste your picks.

Of course, I don't think the draft is a great indicator of skill for a GM. As an aside, who knows who the Caps would have drafted if they'd had a top 4 pick in 2005 like they should have had (they tied for fewest points in 2003-04). The top four picks in the draft that year were Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson and Benoit Pouliot. Gilbert Brule, Marc Staal and Anze Kopitar would have been available. Instead the Caps wound up with the 14th pick and Sasha Pokulok. Nothing against Pokulok, but the I'd rather have one of those other guys. Like the Caps should have had. You know, teams could only move 3 spots in the regular lottery, why not have the same rule for the post-lockout weighted lottery?

V. Trades

Okay, not a time period but an important part of the GM's job nonetheless.

I really like what McPhee has done in the trade market. As bad as the Jagr extension was I still maintain the trade for him was not a bad move, given that the Capitals picked him up for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk. The best offensive player in the league at that point for three guys who never amounted to anything in the NHL. That's a good trade.

  • Adam Oates to the Flyers for 14 games in return for Maxime Ouellet and one pick in each of the first three rounds in the draft - good trade, even though Ouellet never amounted to anything.
  • Chris Clark was acquired for, I believe, either a third or fourth round pick. Also a good trade.
  • Milan Jurcina for a fourth round pick. A good trade unless the Bruins get real lucky with that pick.
  • Brian Sutherby for a second round pick is a good trade. I like Suts but he wasn't going to play here.
VI. Summer of 2007

I bring this up to make one last point: going in the offseason the Capitals needed to fill three holes: a center who could play on the top two lines, a defenseman who could skate a lot of minutes and another top six forward, preferably a right wing. He filled all those holes quite well with Nylander, Poti and Kozlov, especially given the money available and the general low desirability of Washington for free agents.

My goal is not to exclude McPhee from criticism. Steve Konowalchuk shipping off for Jonas Johansson and Bates Battaglia wasn't a great move. Failing to sign Nick Boynton was a huge mistake (although it was almost ten years ago). I know that; McPhee probably knows it as well. But any GM is going to make mistakes.

So in closing then I guess I'd just have to say, where has McPhee gone so horribly wrong that he deserves to lose his job? After the Jagr/Cassidy fiasco Leonsis told McPhee to tear everything down and start over, which he did. He hasn't made horrible picks or horrible trades and hasn't signed any free agents that are going to be albatrosses for this organization. There's really nothing you can point at and say it was a mistake and that someone else could have been reasonably expected to do it better.

The Bottom Line: McPhee's had to try and rebuild this organization from scratch and the reality is that takes longer than three years. To expect anything else is to be unrealistic, thus it doesn't make sense to look at the Capitals current problems and automatically decide it's time to fire the GM. To me, once you look deeper, there's nothing to point at to show McPhee needs to go.


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Wizards Trying to Get Even Against 76ers

The season is nine games old, but tonight the Wizards will be battling to get right back to where they started. After a dismal 0-5 start, Washington has capitalized on better shooting, tougher defense and a cushy schedule to vault itself back into the mix in the Eastern Conference. The Wiz have won four straight, including a 109-90 victory against Portland on Saturday - the fourth consecutive game in which they have limited their opponent to 90 points.

Tonight the Wiz welcome Andre Iguodala and the Philadelphia 76ers to Verizon Center with a chance to get back to .500.

Note Worthy

  • With Gilbert Arenas sitting out to rest his sore knee, rookie roommate Nick Young picked a perfect night for his coming out party. The former USC guard tallied a career-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 15 minutes on the floor. He also hit 2-of-3 triples, showing off the offense that led the Wizards to draft him 16th overall in June. If Young can continue to produce off the bench, Eddie Jordan will start to loosen the reigns a little bit. When that happens, be on the lookout for some high flying flushes - the kid has ups and he and his teammates have their sights set on the Slam Dunk contest All-Star weekend in New Orleans.
  • Antonio Daniels also had his best performance of the young season in Agent Zero's absence. AD got the start and finished with 10 points and 10 assists, again proving his ability to step in and run the show if Gil were to miss any more time. At the end of last season, it was Daniels who - along with Antawn Jamison - led the Wizards in scoring and assists. In his last 13 starts, he's posting a very reliable 12.3 points and 10.2 dishes.

Wizards Will Retire Earl The Pearl's #10

  • The Wizards announced they will retire Earl Monroe's number Saturday December 1, when they host the Raptors. Earl "The Pearl" was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets out of Winston-Salem State University with the second overall pick in the first round of the 1967 NBA Draft. Monroe won Rookie of the Year honors in 1968 after averaging 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He played four years with the Bullets, averaging 23.7 points, and helped the team reach the 1970-71 NBA Finals. In 1990 Monroe was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and he was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996. His #10 uniform will join Wes Unseld’s #41, Elvin Hayes’ #11 and Gus Johnson’s #25 in the Verizon Center rafters.


  • “This is a great honor. I was drafted by the Bullets and it was in Baltimore where I started my professional career. It was four great years with a lot of fond memories. It was a wonderful experience. My four years with the Bullets set the tone for the rest of my career, and now it brings me full circle with my number being retired.” - Earl "The Pearl" Monroe

Wizards-Sixers Preview

The 76ers last played Friday against the same TrailBlazer team that visited D.C. the following night. After trailing 45-27 at the break and by as many as 22 in the third, Philly stormed back with 36 points in the final frame to grab a 92-88 win. Iguodala leads a young team with 18.3 points, 6.7 boards and 5 assists per game. The 76ers (3-6) finished strong a year ago after dealing Allen Iverson to Denver earlier in the season, but have struggled in the early going. Guards Andre Miller and Willie Green and center Samuel Dalembert all average double figures in scoring, but with sharpshooter Kyle Korver out with a groin injury, bench production has been hard to find.

With Gilbert taking yesterday's practice off to gear up for a stretch of four games in five days, expect the hibachi to be steaming tonight. Both teams are well-rested and the Wizards are itching to keep their hot streak going. Washington has the offensive fire-power to blow this one open, but the Sixers are very quick defensively and could force turnovers in the open court.

Key Match-Up

  • Brendan Haywood v. Samuel Dalembert - Both players are putting up career numbers so far this season. Haywood has been superb in his uncontested starting center role, averaging a double-double (10.2 points, 10.3 boards) and nearly two (1.89) blocks per game. Meanwhile, after his gig with the Canadian national team this summer, Dalembert is putting up 10.4 points, 8.3 boards and 2.2 blocks per contest. These guys will be throwing some lumber around down low and with lots of jumpers going up from the perimeter, there will be lots of opportunites for offensive rebounds - Haywood's new-found specialty. Brendan is pulling down 4.8 offensive boards per game, good for second best in the NBA.


  • The Wiz are on a mission and Gil will be ready to go tonight. I'll take Washington by 12 to get back to 5-5.

-- The Tar Heel

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So I Hear That Steve Stamkos Guy is Pretty Good...

Capitals 3, Panthers 4

It has to be frustrating to be Glen Hanlon these days. After more than two seasons of struggling through a complete rebuild you finally get a chance with a team that has a decent amount of NHL talent. Then injuries hit, the refs seem to make a lot of questionable calls that go against you and every bounce is favoring the opponents. You finally get your lineup back from injuries and you lose again - in large part because of a horribly unlucky bounce. And poor referring. And the fact that your captain can't put away a golden powerplay opportunity early in the game when the powerplay seemed to be working well. And that your captain later took a needless penalty to erase another powerplay.

All that said I still think it's time for a coaching change. In addition to Hanlon's earlier questionable decisions, the fact is the Capitals look lost. Whenever they go down, especially by more than one goal, the feeling is palpable and it's obvious in their body language that the Capitals don't think they can win. They're just hoping to somehow pull it out. I can't say for certain if they've lost faith in Hanlon's system, if the early losses in games they deserved to win have brought about a defeatist attitude or if they players are just starting to think they're cursed. But no matter what it is the most obvious answer is a coaching change.

Realistically it would be a mistake to change coaches during a stretch as active as the one the Caps are going through right now, but unless the Capitals go on a three-plus game winning streak (provided they don't lose all the other games) December 1st is going to be the last night you'll see Hanlon behind the bench.

Quick Hits

  • Tap a guy on the gloves with your stick? Penalty. Lift another player's stick the wrong way? Penalty. Your jersey brushed the opponent's jersey as you skated by? Penalty. Punch Alexander Semin in the face and follow through with your elbow well after he has let the puck go? Play on, boys. Maybe the referees were overwhelmed by choice and couldn't decide whether to call roughing, elbowing or interference.
  • Seriously, Semin drew a penalty but there were three or four others that should have been called when he was being mauled. Do the refs have it in for him or something?
  • How strong is Alex Ovechkin? He knocked over Jassen Cullimore when Cullimore tried to stand him up while he was carrying the puck. Cullimore is 6'5'' and weighs 245 pounds.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Caps Make a Trade

Before tonight's game the Caps shipped Brian Sutherby to Anaheim for the Ducks 2nd round pick in 2009 (TSN story).

The upside is that the Capitals pick up a second round pick, which should in itself be a solid pick and could also be used in a trade this year or next year to fill a hole. The downside is that most second round picks don't have sustained NHL careers (although many do) and Sutherby should be a good NHL player for a lot of years. So, as much as I've liked watching Sutherby over the years, I'd have to say it's a good move.

Sutherby just wasn't going to get playing time in D.C. for the foreseeable future. He hadn't shown enough offensively to warrant a top six role and the Caps already have Nicklas Backstrom and Michael Nylander for that (and Viktor Kozlov should need be), Boyd Gordon has the checking line role locked up and although Dave Steckel doesn't have Sutherby's grit he is a very good faceoff man and penalty killer.

It's good for Sutherby too. Not only will he get a chance to play, but he'll get a chance to do it on a team and in a system that suits his gritty style perfectly.

J.P. from Japers' Rink also adds this insight:

You'll recall that the Caps resigned Suts, a former first-round pick, to a 1-year, $800,000 deal this past summer, meaning that, in essence, they bought a second round pick in '09 for just under $200,000.

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Washington Redskins: Everything You Expected and Worse

In my preview I stated that the Redskins would attempt to cover TO with a single cornerback, Springs, hoping that their best would be good enough to shut down his best. They did not do this on Sunday. Instead, they pulled into a Cover 2 scheme and consistently left the big guy open. Yes, Springs was involved in three of TO's four touchdowns, but it was the entire defensive zone that failed every time. The Cowboys, as a team, were awful on Sunday and should have lost convincingly at home to the Skins. However, TO was amazing on Sunday and his size and speed simply shredded any hope the Skins had at staying in this game. It blows my mind when I watch the replays of his touchdowns how he got so open, why did no one cover the most talented receiver on the field? The cornerbacks didn't jam him at the line and the safeties didn't roll over into coverage. What else did they think was happening?

Patrick Crayton and Jason Witten are good players but they don't deserve that much attention. There is only one guy on that field that the Redskins had to account for and they didn't do it. They looked scared, and when everyone in the stadium knows exactly where the ball is going and it still goes there, something is wrong. This Redskins defense, which was supposed to be the backbone of their squad, looked scared, hesitant and unaware of what was happening. TO didn't pick on one guy; he lined up on all sides of the field, on the fly, in the slot and burned everyone. Looking at the way the Redskins played on defense it's inexcusable that they lost this game, but not unexpected. This again shows the kind of team that they are and why they sit at 5-5 and the Cowboys sit at 9-1.

Jason Campbell had his most prolific game as a Redskins passer, completing 33 out of 54 passes for 348 yards, 2 TDs and only one pickle, but continues to struggle winning ball games. In the Redskins final two possessions, when they were putting themselves in a position to win the game, Campbell was only 3 of 10 for 31 yards and a redzone INT.

I'm going to be highly critical of a guy who only completed 61.1% of his passes and choked when it really mattered. Yes, there were other opportunities and missed chances throughout the game, and no game is determined by one play, but it can be determined by one player. These situations are piling up for the young quarterback, situations where he goes the distance but doesn't have it in him to grab the win. It happened against the Giants, It happened against the Packers and now again versus the Cowboys.

The Redskins' offense as a whole doesn't have a dagger mentality. They simply can't finish games or put away opponents. They are habitually forced to settle for field goals after their inability to make the big play keeps them out of the endzone. It's nice to know that Shaun Suisham can kick 40+ yard field goals, but in a game where the Redskins dominated in every other offensive statistic: 28 first downs, 423 total yards, 73 total plays, it was their failure to get six points that denied them the win. In the end, just like John Madden says, the team that scores the most touchdowns is going to win the ballgame.

-The Hokie
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