Thursday, March 20, 2008

Caps' Goal of the Night

When the Caps lose 5-0, it's usually pretty easy to do the Goal of the Night shtick. "The Goal of the Night goes to whichever goose laid an egg for the Caps." har har har. I will change he rules of my recent creation, and allow saves in this category. Now that I've bent the rules permanently, after watching the game's highlights, this award is actually easier than I had thought. Therefore, without further ado ...

Big Rob's SAVE of the Night (March 19, 2008):
Nikolai Khabi-BOOO-lin (17:06, 3rd period)

For those of us who could not watch this game for one reason or another, you owe it to yourself to see his stop of Sea-Man's would-be goal around 17:00 in the 3rd. It's on par with that jaw-dropping goal when the Michigan kid scooped the puck and fed it from behind the net. They replayed it twice on the game highlights at the Caps' official site. Once you see it, consider this: the Hawks were winning 5-0 with about 3:00 left in the game. The Booler could've easily let it go, nobody would've blamed him. But his instincts took over, and he was just physically capable enough to dive for the puck. That's a once-in-a-lifetime save. What a play.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Latest Capital Fanatic: Big Rob

Since Capital Fanatic is "The Fan's Voice of Washington Sports", I'll introduce myself as a new Caps fan. Except for my time at Indiana University, I've lived in the DC area all my life. My sports allegiances lie with the Skins and IU basketball, with a budding interest in the Nats. (Why not the O's? Two words: Peter Angelos. And they're from Baltimore. I might as well root for the Ravens.)

I avoided hockey growing up for a couple of reasons. First, the Caps always ... ALWAYS lost to the Penguins in the playoffs. I knew spring was coming when I saw that the Caps were in the playoffs, had an "insurmountable series lead" against the Pens, then blew it in a matter of days. Why root for a team that will only crush your spirits?

The second, and more important reason why I avoided hockey, is because of the evil notion of ties. Back in the day, hockey had something called "Ties". These odd games came when both teams were deadlocked after four periods. Why not try shootouts, as they do now? Who knows, all that mattered was they both really tried hard, and they both got a nice little chit. How quaint. Bull. I could write a long rant about how ties are anathema to sports, but I'll save that for any potential comments.

So when Pope started his Capitals Crusade a few years ago, I was more than a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. "Hockey? Come on. The Caps suck, their uniforms are ugly, and hockey is just boring." I was wrong about the third point, the team is much better than they were last year, and their uniforms are cool as hell.

Besides, what's not to like about this team? They have some great young talent; their management has shown a willingness to build from within, while pulling off some good trades
lately; their uniforms are a refreshing take on an old design; their players' names easily lend themselves to nicknames; our star player is missing one of his front teeth, hockey player-style; and you can design entire drinking games around Craig Laughlin while mimicking his voice.

In short, I'm now a Caps fan.

As a first fan duty, the goal of the night for March 18, 2008: Alex Ovechkin's "geometry goal", as described by Al Koken, to make it 4-2. It almost happened a few seconds earlier with the empty net, but when I considered:

- it was completely accidental and meaningless, all we needed was to clear the puck, and the game would be over;
- as soon as it hit the board, I knew it was going in, which makes any play better; and
- one of their guys got injured on the accidental, meaningless play

I had to make Ovie's Geometry Goal ...

Big Rob's Goal of the Night (March 18, 2008)

Karl Alzner in the News

Karl Alzner, who will be turning pro as soon as the Calgary Hitmen's playoff run is over, was recognized yesterday for another outstanding season with the WHL club. Here's the article from the Calgary Sun:

Alzner a Hit at awards


Karl Alzner takes great pride in his attire.

As the teams' self-professed fashion aficionado, Alzner showed up to last night's Petro-Canada Calgary Hitmen Play Awards Dinner in a sharp-looking black and grey tux.

The only problem was fellow defenceman Ryan Gillen did him one better, strutting onto the stage in a 1950s-style zoot suit, complete with a gangster-style hat and pocket chain.

"Yeah, I wasn't sure what was up with that," Alzner said. "I don't know why he's trying to step up.

"No, I'm happy he did that -- wearing the hat and adding a little fun to his get-up. It's nice to see guys having fun and relaxing."

Alzner himself had little time to relax at the event. He ran a mini-marathon between his chair and the stage, collecting a trio of awards.

The Washington Capitals prospect picked up the Petro-Canada player of the year and, for the second straight season, both the Husky Energy top defenceman trophy and the Molson coach's award.

"I'm so happy the coaches think so highly of me ... and that my teammates think the same way," Alzner said. "I'm happy to be playing with them, and a lot of my success goes to them."

The soon-to-be outgoing Hitmen captain, who also guided Team Canada to a world junior gold medal in January, is rarely at a loss for words.

But after hitting the stage for a third time, even Alzner started to reach for material.

"You run out of things to say," he said. "You want to thank everybody every time.

"It seems it all comes out the first time and then you add people."

Alzner, without question the top blueliner in the WHL, is looking forward to hosting some more hardware later this spring as the Hitmen chase the Memorial Cup.

"It's a lot bigger, and I'm sure it's going to be heavier," he said.

"Everything we've worked for so far is just leading towards that."

Last year's player of the year, gritty forward Ryan White, took home the fan favourite award and the Remax three-star selection trophy.

White thanked the training staff and also the Kamloops Blazers "for lending us (linemate) Brock Nixon for the rest of the year."

The club's three graduating players -- Nixon, Ryan Gillen and starting netminder Dan Mercer -- were also recognized for their success in the junior ranks.

Other award winners honoured at the annual ceremony included:

- Kyle Bortis: East Side Mario's most sportsmanlike player

- Dan Spence: Enmax humanitarian award

- Bostjan Golicic: Daimler Chrysler scholastic player

- T.J. Galiardi: Wendy's rookie of the year


The top-seeded Hitmen open the first round of the WHL playoffs at home Friday against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors (7 p.m. at the 'Dome, The Fan 960).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Season Defining Night At Verizon Center

You want to know how important tonight's games are in terms of impacting the Capitals season? Here you go:
  • The Capitals sit 7 points behind both the division leading Hurricanes and the 8th place Flyers (thanks to an amazing 3rd period comeback last night by the Maple Leafs)
  • If the Caps happen to beat the Flames tonight, not only will it be Kolzig's 300th win, but it would pull them within 5 points of both teams if the Blackhawks can beat the 'Canes at the United Center, and the Maple Leafs can beat the Flyers again (this time at the Wachovia Center)
  • That scenario would put the Caps in control of their own destiny in the Southeast Division because they have one game in hand on the 'Canes and play them twice down the stretch (6 points)
  • But as nice as that might be if it happens, things can also swing the other direction if the Caps lose tonight. Should the Islanders win and depending on the results of Maple Leafs game, the Caps could find themselves right back in the Stamkos sweepstakes with the fifth worst record in the NHL. (Remember the Blackhawks won the draft lottery last season with the fifth worst record)
So there you have it. Tonight the Caps could find themselves right back in the hunt for a playoff spot with a win and a little help, or right back in the draft lottery with a loss and a little luck. What do you think is more likely to happen?

The Road to 50!

Here's a look back at Alex Ovechkin's first 50 goals this season. Thanks to Comcast SportsNet for putting this together.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Looking Ahead

What a horrible weekend of hockey. That's really all that can be said about it. It's in the past, and nothing can be done to change it. So let's move forward and see what the Capitals must do over their remaining 12 games in order to make the post season. (AP Photo/Linda Spillers)

To catch Carolina:

Let's face it, Carolina is playing their best hockey of the season which will make it very hard for the Caps to catch them. The 'Canes have 11 games remaining, two of which are against Washington. For the Caps to win the division they
1.) Must beat the 'Canes both times = 4 points.
2.) Must get help from division foes to slow down the 'Canes. Besides their games versus the Caps, 6 of their final 9 games are against teams in the Southeast. The only playoff team they play down the stretch is Ottawa. Expect them to go at least 6-3-0 over these final games.
3.) That would leave the Caps with 15 points to make up over their final 10 games. Meaning the Caps would have to go 8-2-0 in order to pass Carolina and win the division.

To catch Philadelphia:

Just when the Flyers looked down and out they've won 5 of their last 7 games. They have 13 games remaining which means they have a game in hand over the Caps. Seven of those games are on the road. Eight of those games are against teams that are currently in the playoffs.
1.) If the Flyers go 7-6-0 over those final games the Caps would once again have to go 10-2-0 in order to tie them in the standings.

As you can see the Caps have their worked cut out for them. In working the numbers it seems that baring a complete meltdown of one the teams currently in the playoffs from the list of Philly, Boston, NY Rangers, Carolina. Washington can only loose two more times down the stretch if they hope to squeeze in.

In conclusion, it doesn't look good for the Caps this year.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

NBC Promo

It feels like the playoffs are already here. What a weekend we have ahead of ourselves. We exorcised the demons in Buffalo, now we must do the same against the Penguins at home.

Hart Trophy for Ovechkin?

The question should be, how can Ovechkin not win the Hart Trophy? Tell me one player in the NHL that means more to his team than Alex? ........ that's right, I can't think of one either.

Here's An Answer To A Trivia Question

The question: What happens when you're awarded a penalty shot, but there's no goalie in the net? It's an automatic goal. This happened to Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night in their 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks. I guess there's a first time for everything.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Hottest Goalie in the NHL

I bet you'd have a tough time recognizing this guy. I'll tell you his name, and unless you're a die hard Panthers fan, you probably haven't even heard of him. It's Craig Anderson, Florida's backup to Tomas Vokoun, who was phenomenal in his shutout of the Bruins Tuesday night in Boston. Anderson had 40 saves in the Panthers 1-0 overtime win, his second consecutive shutout after blanking the New York Islanders thanks to 53 saves (an NHL record for a shutout) on Sunday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The good news for the Caps? We don't play the Panthers again until the 29th of March. Hopefully, Anderson will have come back to reality by then.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The One That Got Away?

No one can argue with GM George McPhee's success lately in drafting talented young players. The Capitals collective prospects right now are ranked 6th in the NHL by Hockey's Future. But last summer, sitting in the number 5 position, McPhee had a tough decision to make. Go with a potential franchise defenseman or a top line center to compliment Nicklas Backstrom. He chose to go with the defenseman (even though he began to announce the center as his selection) and so Karl Alzner was the pick. (Stanley Leary/Associated Press)

The man he bypassed was center Sam Gagner who was chosen one spot later by the Edmonton Oilers. While Alzner was sent back to the WHL this season for another year of seasoning with the Calgary Hitmen, Gagner stayed with the Oilers. The decision to keep him with the big club has payed off for GM Kevin Lowe. Gagner was named the NHL rookie of the month for February after leading all rookies in scoring, 3 goals and 10 assists in 12 games. He is also tied for 2nd in the NHL in shootout goals with 5 in 15 chances.

Capitals fans should expect to see Alzner in the lineup sooner rather than later. Once his junior season is over he should join the Hershey Bears for their Calder Cup run. But at least for the near future, the debate will rage on. Should McPhee have taken Gagner instead?

Ovechkin Explodes, Re-Captures Scoring Lead

Ovechkin's reaction says it all. He truly is one of a kind. It's nice to know that we have at least another 13 years of this excitement ahead.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Unleash the Fury!

I don't need to go into the specifics for you to know that tonight's game is the most important the Caps have played since their last playoff game back in 2003.