Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guerin's Hat Trick Gives Stingrays 2-0 Series Lead

Marty Guerin
Photo: Mic Smith / The Post and Courier

No, not that Guerin, Bill just finished up his first season as the captain of the New York Islanders. But Marty Guerin, a rookie out of Miami (Ohio) is proving to be a valuable asset to the South Carolina Stingrays this season. He now leads the ECHL with 9 goals during the post-season thanks to a hat trick in the 'Rays 5-2 win over the Columbia Inferno in game 2.

Andrew Gordon and Patrick McNeill also made their series debuts Tuesday night and both made an instant impact. Gordon got the scoring started with a short-handed goal 5:10 into the 1st period. Then after the Stingrays squandered a 2-0 lead, Gordon started what ended up being the key play of the game just 2:26 into the final period. He created a turnover in his own end thanks to an excellent lift check, then provided the outlet pass to Stephen Werner that send the 'Rays on a two-on-one break. Werner then found Guerin who beat Inferno goaltender Todd Ford for his second goal of the night. That goal ended up being the game-winner.

Patrick McNeill also added an assist on Travis Morin's power play goal that gave the Stingrays a 4-2 lead. The goal was Morin's 7th of the post-season putting him in second place in the ECHL behind his teammate Guerin.

The Stingrays outshot the Inferno 40-17 during the game. Davis Parley stopped 15 shots on his way to his 5th victory of the playoffs.

The win gives South Carolina a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Inferno with game 3 now shifting to Columbia on Friday. The 'Rays are just one win away from the Conference Finals.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stingrays Take Game One 2-1

(Photo by Mic Smith - The Post and Courier)
Box Score

The re-enforcements arrived and payed immediate dividends for the South Carolina Stingrays in their opening game of the South Division Finals.

With the Hershey Bears eliminated from post-season play, Steve Pinizzotto (pictured, center) and Grant McNeill made their playoff debuts this season in the ECHL. Pinizzotto wasted no time in making an impact as he tallied the game-winner at the 1:31 mark of the 3rd period giving the home team a 1-0 lead in this best of five series.

Davis Parley stopped 21 of 22 shots on the way towards his 4th win of the playoffs.

On Tuesday, the Stingrays are expected to have forward Andrew Gordon and defenceman Patrick McNeill back in the lineup for game two. Their additions will further strengthen the Stingrays hopes of a run at their 3rd Kelly Cup championship and 1st since 2001.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's Time to Jump on the Stingrays Bandwagon

With the Caps and Bears seasons' now over, it's time to turn our attention to the South Carolina Stingrays and their run towards the Kelly Cup.

The 'Rays begin their South Division Finals series against their instate rivals, the Columbia Inferno, this Sunday at 7:05 pm at the North Charleston Coliseum. It will be a best-of-five series with the rest of the schedule as follows:

Game 2: @ South Carolina Tuesday, April 29th at 7:05 pm
Game 3: @ Columbia Friday, May 2nd at 7:05 pm
Game 4: @ Columbia Saturday, May 3rd at 7:05 pm (If Necessary)
Game 5: @ South Carolina Tuesday, May 5th at 7:05 pm (If Necessary)

During the regular reason the Stingrays went 7-3 against the Inferno, including a 3-2 record at home.

South Carolina will also be getting some re-enforcements for this series from the Hershey Bears. Forwards Andrew Gordon and Steve Pinizzotto plus defencemen Patrick McNeill and Grant McNeill are all set to rejoin the Stingrays since the Bears season has come to an end. According to Andrew Miller, Pinizzotto and Grant McNeill will be ready for game 1 on Saturday, while Gordon and Patrick McNeill will be ready for game 2 on Tuesday. This could be a windfall for the 'Rays as Gordon was tied for 8th place in the AHL playoffs in points having tallied 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 five games with the Bears. During the regular season, Gordon had 8 goals and 6 assists in just 11 games with South Carolina.

Should they advance past the Inferno, the Stingrays would face the winner of the Cincinnati Cyclones-Reading Royals series for the right to move on to the Kelly Cup Finals.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thank You Fans

From the Washington Capitals:

The Next Wave of Prospects Hit Hershey

Josh Godfrey

With their junior seasons now over, defensemen Josh Godfrey and Karl Alzer have joined the Hershey Bears for the remainder of their playoff run. Now these are two players that should have Caps fans everywhere excited about what they bring to the table.

Godfrey, the Caps 2nd-round choice in the 2007 NHL draft, is another offensive defensemen that brings a cannon of a shot from the point. He had 17 goals and 34 assists in 60 regular season games with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL and was a +31. Godfrey should provide immediate dividends to the Bears power-play.

Alzner, the Caps 1st-round choice in the 2007 NHL draft, is a franchise defensemen who could have contributed to the Capitals this season if they have chosen to keep him in Washington. The team decided against rushing him though and returned him to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL for another year of seasoning in juniors. He had 7 goals and 29 assists in 60 games during the regular season and was a +26.

If the Bears can pull out a victory tonight in Wilkes-Barre, both players could be available for game 6 back in Hershey according to Tim Leone. Now that would be exciting to see.

"Don't Stop Believin"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stingrays Advance, Bears Live to Fight Another Day

The South Carolina Stingrays jumped out to a 2-0 lead, then held on for dear life to advance to the next round of the ECHL playoffs, the South Division Finals.

Late in the 1st period Matt Scherer tallied his 1st goal of the playoffs to put the Stingrays on top. Then in the 2nd period Capitals' prospect Travis Morin notched his 6th goal of the postseason, on the power play, to give SC the worst lead in hockey, a two goal lead. Goaltender Davis Parley made it stand up though, despite the fact the Gwinnett Gladiators outshot the Stingrays 20-6 in the final frame, they could not beat the 25-year old netminder. Parley had his 1st shutout of the postseason, his 5th of the season, and South Carolina survived another game 5 for the second straight series. They will face the winner of the Texas-Columbia series which is surprisingly enough, headed to a game 5 even though the Wildcatters finished the regular season with a 38 point lead over the Inferno. I guess that is why they play the games, right?

The Hershey Bears got some help from a familiar face in Eric Fehr on their way to 3-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Fehr, who had just returned to the Bears following the Capitals playoff exit, provided two helpers, including the game-winner, 20 seconds into overtime on Alexandre Giroux's 2nd goal of the game. The Bears will now head back to Wilkes-Barre for game 5 with their backs still against the wall trailing the Penguins 3 games to 1.

"Don't Stop Believin"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Don't Stop Believin"

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

And just like that our season was over. It felt like someone had punched you in the gut, my stomach hurt, my throat began to swell. I can only imagine what the players must have been feeling when Joffrey Lupul's backhander found a it's way past Cristobal Huet. It was heart-breaking and completely unexpected. Nobody could have possibly imagined that the Flyers would come into Verizon Center, less than 24 hours after their own heart-breaking and demoralizing loss in game 6, and steal a win from this team of destiny.

But that's hockey. That's why we love this game. The passion displayed from each and every member of both sides is what makes it so special. My hats go off to the Flyers, they are the heels of hockey, a team you love to hate. A team that gets under your skin and makes you despise them with every fiber of your being. But without them, I wouldn't feel as passionately about the Caps as I do. So, I guess I have to say thank you to the Flyers and their fans. Let's do it again next year.

And speaking of next year, is it here yet? I'm already looking forward to rookie camp in July, a chance to start anew. Another round of promising young Capitals about to make their impact on the capitol of hockeytown.

As the off season progresses we'll be looking at what the Caps have to do in depth in order to extend their playoff run next spring. It seems as though they are already working on it though. Earlier today GM George McPhee, while declining to give specifics, did confirm that Bruce Boudreau is going anywhere. That would have been the number one priority on my offseason to do list for the Caps. For now, here's a short list of what's next:

1. Sign Cristobal Huet.

- I'm not going to get into the specifics of what they should offer him in terms of years and dollars. But the Caps made the choice this season that he is our number one goaltender. In response, Huet put together the best month of his career, and made one highlight save after another. McPhee made the great move to get him here, now he just needs to close it out and keep him here.

2. Upgrade the Defense

- If there was one thing that this series made me realize is that the weakest part of this team is it's defensive group. That's not to knock any of the players themselves as they played some of the best hockey of there lives. Specifically John Erskine and Steve Eminger grew leaps and bounds during the postseason. Let's hope they can carry it over into next season. And when I say they need to upgrade the defense, I'm not saying that they need to go out and sign some stud free agent. They have prospects coming through the ranks that will be ready to contribute soon. Karl Alzner and Sami Lepisto should be given every opportunity to make the team out of camp this fall. Oh and did I mention Steve Eminger, he'll be a restricted free agent this summer. Qualify him and play him next season, he has earned a place on this team.

3. Figuring out the Forwards

- This is going to be the hardest job for McPhee this summer. What to do with potential free agents Fedorov and Cooke while realizing that this lineup will already be adding two players this fall with the healthy returns of Michael Nylander and Chris Clark. Plus, prospects such as Chris Bourque, Andrew Gordon, Francois Bouchard, and Mathieu Perreault will all be fighting for a spot in camp. At the same time you also have Eric Fehr, who seems to be hitting his stride, and Tomas Fleischmann, who continues to develop, fighting for playing time. It's going to be a logjam up front. I'd love to see Fedorov and Cooke back with the team this fall, but there just might not be room for them.

This summer will be interesting. It's time to rest and recharge as we get ready for the Caps to make the leap next season into a Stanley Cup favorite. Just one request for all the fans out there, be ready to go from day one this fall. Let's "Rock the Red" again real soon.

In the meantime, don't forget about our prospects who are fighting for their lives tonight. The Hershey Bears face elimination trailing 3-0 to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. While the South Carolina Stingrays face the Gwinnett Gladiators in the finale of their best of five series tonight in Charleston. Good luck to both teams in carrying on the Caps tradition of "Don't Stop Believin."

Monday, April 21, 2008

CapitalFanatic.com Visits the Stingrays

Capital Fanatic
Charleston, SCThe Stingrays won in dramatic fashion Saturday night. Travis Morin tallied what seemed to be the game winner halfway through the third period on a power play wrist shot from the slot. But a turnover by defenseman Nate Kiser led to the tying goal with a little bit less than five minutes to go. Kiser would redeem himself in overtime as he notched the game winner on a "laser" of a shot from the point as described by head coach Jared Bednar. For the complete game recap check out the Charleston Post and Courier. Also, this is a good chance to welcome Andrew Miller into the blogosphere with his blog Rays the Roof covering everything about the South Carolina Stingrays.

(Stingrays Head Coach Jared Bednar behind the bench)

Here was coach Jared Bednar's thoughts on the win after the game:

Having won their 5th straight playoff game, here is Bednar's response to the question of whether his team has a can't loose mentality:

Bednar's thoughts on Monday night's game at Gwinnett and the chance to close out the Gladiators:

Bednar on the team's first line and also the unsung heroes of the game:

Bednar on the Capitals prospects (Travis Morin, Sean Collins, Sasha Pokulok, and Stephen Werner) in South Carolina:

Bednar on the Caps run at the end of the season:

And lastly, the Stingrays found themselves in the same position the Caps are in during their 1st round matchup with the Augusta Lynx, having to win 3 straight games in order to advance. Here is Bednar's advice for the Caps:

Here are some photos of the Caps prospects from the game:

Sasha Pokulok

Travis Morin

Stephen Werner

So while the Caps are battling in Philadelphia tonight, keep an eye on the Stingrays boxscore as they try to sweep the Gladiators and move on to the next round.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

CapitalFanatic.com is Heading to South Carolina!

That's right, while the Capitals are in the middle of their own playoff battle with the Flyers, the Stingrays have moved on to the second round of the ECHL playoffs after coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Augusta Lynx 3-2 in their best of five first round matchup.

As a result, I'll be able to see game 2 of their matchup with the Gwinnett Gladiators in Charleston this weekend. Currently, the Stingrays have 4 Capitals prospects in their lineup:

D Sasha Pokulok
D Patrick McNeill
RW Stephen Werner
C Travis Morin

I'll be able to interview the coach Jared Bednar and players after the game. We all know how hard it is to find information on our prospects in South Carolina, so I pose the question to all you Caps fans out there. What questions would you like to have answered about our prospects with the Stingrays?

I'll have a full report next week.

No More Puppy Dogs and Rainbows

How do the Caps beat the Flyers? Two simple steps: don't make stupid, rookie mistakes; and beat 'em up.

Anyone who has watched the first three games, especially game 3, has seen the errant, pressured, dribbling passes made by the Caps which have resulted in turnovers, and, in a few cases, goals. This also applies to 1-on-3 or -4 "breakaways" with no support which limit our scoring chances; or poor positioning around the net that leads to few rebounds and second-chance scores. (I apologize if that sounds like basketball and not hockey, I'm still not used to hockey terminology.) I'm basically a brand new hockey watcher, and even I can see these problems. These are areas where the Flyers are outperforming the Caps. They make fewer errant passes, have solid breakaways which often result in scores, and have had more rebound scores than the Caps.

Another way the Flyers are outperforming the Caps lies in what many announcers like to call "physicality". I'm not sure that's even a word. OK, it is, but it doesn't mean what they think it does. The Flyers have harassed the Caps all series, whether it's hanging out in the crease, poke-checking, or decking Huet. (Side note: when the Miserable Philly Fans booed Scott Hartnell's goalie interference penalty, were they booing because he had spent more time in the crease for the first three games than Huet, or were they booing because "their guy" got caught?) They've been caught a few times, but come on Caps, it's the playoffs. Get your sacks into the game and knock some freaking heads.

I'll put it another way: If the school bully's picking on you, do you sit down and have a nice chat about how he should turn his life around? HELL NO!!! You punch him in the nose, kick him in the nuts, throw dirt in his eyes, and stab him in the back!!! Is this all a back-handed lobbying effort for more Brashear playing time? maybe. But if your game of superior finesse isn't winning, maybe it's time to thug it out. Just don't be so overt that you get caught all the time. Philly might get caught, but apparently our power play died the same day as our puck handling.

Come on, I hate losing to fans who wear orange shirts whose "Vengeance Now" campaign makes no sense. (More on that later). Win this one for the Effing Gipper. IT'S GAME TIME!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stingrays Update

I figured we could use some uplifting news today. So let's check in on our ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays. From the Charleston Post and Courier:

Stingrays survive, force decisive playoff game

By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There's no such thing as a bad shot, just ask South Carolina Stingrays winger Trent Campbell.

Campbell got the game-winning goal less than four minutes into the second overtime period and Marty Guerin added two goals in regulation as South Carolina rallied to beat Augusta, 3-2, Tuesday night before a crowd of 1,849 at the North Charleston Coliseum.

With the victory, the Stingrays forced a fifth and deciding game in the best-of-five Kelly Cup Playoff series with the Lynx. Game 5 is tonight beginning at 7 at the North Charleston Coliseum.

The South Carolina Stingrays' Marty Guerin (9) maneuvers with the puck during the first period against the August Lynx in Game 4 of their ECHL playoff series Tuesday at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Melissa Haneline
The Post and Courier

The South Carolina Stingrays' Marty Guerin (9) maneuvers with the puck during the first period against the August Lynx in Game 4 of their ECHL playoff series Tuesday at the North Charleston Coliseum.

South Carolina has thrown everything but the Zamboni driver at Augusta goalie Bobby Goepfert during the series, but the former Providence College star has been equal to the task.

So when Campbell's relatively weak shot from the left wing hit Goepfert's shoulder, bounced up and trickled down his back and past the goal line for the game-winning goal, no one was more surprised than Campbell.

"Between the periods, everyone kept talking about getting shots on net," said Campbell, who recorded his first goal of the series. "You're not going to score unless you shoot, and I was just trying to get something on net. Usually good things will happen for you if you get it on net, and finally we got a bounce to go our way."

The Stingrays' game-winner came on what at first appeared to be a harmless play. Stephen Werner got the puck to Campbell just outside the Stingrays' offensive zone. Campbell skated in and had to fight off Augusta defenseman Jamie McKinven just to get the shot off.

"I was trying to hold (McKinven) off and get something on net," Campbell said. "It certainly wasn't the hardest shot I've ever taken, but I guess it was hard enough to go in, and I'm not complaining. I saw the puck hit his arm, then his side, but I didn't see it go in."

The Stingrays came pouring off the bench to mob Campbell and celebrate the team's second overtime win in as many nights.

"There's no such thing as a bad shot, especially in overtime," said Stingrays captain Cail MacLean. "Anything on net in my opinion was going to be a good shot. We've really struggled to score on (Goepfert), so to finally get one past him was a great feeling."

After dropping the first two games of the series in Augusta, few gave the Stingrays a chance to rally back and send it into a decisive Game 5.

"Two days ago things were looking pretty bleak," said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. "The guys in the locker room believed that we could get it done. An outsider looking in probably thought we had no chance to come back and force a Game 5. But we believed it and that's why we're still playing."

Rookie goalie Josh Johnson was solid again, stopping 27 of 29 shots, including a game-saving stop on Matt Christie in the final two minutes of regulation.

"Josh faced the pressure again and showed his mental toughness," MacLean said. "The save he made on Christie in the third period was the difference in the game. (Christie) makes that and the season is over for us."

The Stingrays got off to another fast start, scoring less than two minutes into the game on Guerin's third goal of the series.

"Marty has really shown what he can do offensively in this series," Bednar said. "He seems to have really come to life with Werner and Campbell."

The Lynx tied the game at 1 just before the end of the opening period on Travis Fuller's goal with just 1 second left.

The Lynx grabbed a 2-1 lead on Matt Auffrey's goal less than two minutes into the second period.

Guerin tied the game up at 2 on a great individual effort midway through the third period.

First Period: 1. SC, Guerin 3 (Campbell), 1:57. 2. A, Fuller 2 (Christie), 19:59. Penalties: Brooks, A (holding), 5:53; Campbell, SC (roughing), 5:53; Slattengren, A (holding) 7:28; Rawlyk, SC (tripping), 9:31.

Second Period: 3. A, Auffrey 2 (Christie), 2:42. Penalties: Battaglia, A (hooking), 4:27; Bench minor, A (too many men on the ice), 15:18.

Third Period: 4. SC, Guerin 4 (unassisted), 9:21. Penalties: MacLean, SC (holding), :48; Rawlyk, SC (goal-tender interference), 12:12; Collins, SC (hooking), 17:53; Slattengren, A (hooking), 18:25.

Overtime: No goals. Penalties: Veideman, A (holding), 15:06.

2nd Overtime: 5. SC, Campbell 1 (Werner, Pokulok), 3:36. Penalties: No penalties.

Shots on goal: Stingrays 7-12-13-10-1-43; Augusta 7-10-9-2-1-29. Penalties: Stingrays 5-10; Augusta 6-12. Power play: Stingrays 0 of 5; Augusta 0 of 4. Goalies: Stingrays -Josh Johnson (2-0-0) 29 shots, 27 saves. Augusta - Bobby Goepfert (2-2-0) 43 shots, 40 saves. Att: 1,849.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mike Wise, more playoff run-up reflections

Before my belated random boobery for today, check out Mike Wise's column from yesterday's Washington Post. He summed up basically everything I would have to say about both weekend games in that article. My job here is done.

(little side note: don't sleep on Mike Wise. He's been writing some good columns for the Post lately.)

Anyway, back to more important matters, more of my retrospective on the Caps' legendary (yes, I know exactly what I'm writing) playoff run. More precisely, the MVP debate and my favorite goals from the run (at least those that I saw. Remember, I didn't have Versus until a week ago). First off, the MVP debate. During The Run (yup, it's officially capitalized now), the home fans all cast their vocal ballots for Hart Trophy. However, this revived the age-old MVP debates, as the Caps had not made the playoffs. What exactly constitutes value, in terms of an MVP award? I usually think of two general arguments when discussing MVP credentials, and they are usually at odds.

One theory is what I call "The Playoff Contender Argument", which states that a player can only be most valuable if his team makes the playoffs. In other words, without that player, the team would not have made the playoffs. I agree with this theory often, because at its root, every sport is about winning, and the right mixture of players, coaches, and fans that enables winning. If a team doesn't win, then the best player on that team is really the best of the worst, and his contributions are seemingly nil. With him, the team lost; it's not a logical stretch to assume the team would lose just as well without him. This argument uses the player's team's playoff contention as the primary subjective tie-breaker when comparing objective stats. I don't like it because it values team success over individual success, which is the purpose of determining an MVP.

The second argument is "The Relative Position Argument", which compares a player among his peers at his given position. Another way of looking at it is this: if you were to pick a full fantasy team, who would you pick first? Bill James, the ultimate baseball stat geek, even came up with a way to measure players this way: Value Over Replacement Player, where a replacement player is one who contributes the league average at that position. I like this standpoint because it takes all players into account, and has the potential, albeit a slim one, to be entirely based on stats.

Fortunately, these two schools of thought are not mutually exclusive this year, as Alex Ovechkin is clearly the best player on a playoff contender; and if I was starting a team, in my completely unbiased opinion, I would probably pick Ovie first. How do others pick an MVP, even if it's only for their own arguments' sake?

Caps Sign Francois Bouchard

From the Washington Capitals:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed right wing Francois Bouchard to a three-year entry-level contract beginning next season, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bouchard, 19, led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in scoring in 2006-07, posting 125 points and a league-high 80 assists. A 6’1’’, 188-pound native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Bouchard recorded 92 points (36 goals, 56 assists) in 68 games for Baie-Comeau in 2007-08, leading his team in scoring and finishing eighth in the league.

A two-time QMJHL Player of the Week in 2006-07, Bouchard posted a 22-game point streak on way to winning the Jean Beliveau Trophy, given to the league’s leading scorer. Bouchard was named the QMJHL’s Player of the Month in December of this season, after posting 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 11 games.

Bouchard was Washington’s second-round choice, 35th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He joined the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) at the end of his QMJHL season and had one goal in four regular-season games for the Bears, who begin the Calder Cup playoffs tomorrow night.

The Capitals have now signed five of their selections from the 2006 Entry Draft (Nicklas Backstrom, Simeon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, Mathieu Perreault and Francois Bouchard).

Francois Bouchard

Position: Right Wing

Born: April 26, 1988 (Sherbrooke, Quebec)

Height: 6’1” Weight: 188 Shoots: Left

Drafted: Capitals’ second-round choice, 35th overall, in the 2006 Entry Draft

Regular Season Playoffs

Year Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM

2004-05 Baie Comeau QMJHL 54 11 13 24 13 6 1 1 2 2

2005-06 Baie Comeau QMJHL 69 33 69 102 66 4 1 0 1 6

2006-07 Baie Comeau QMJHL 68 45 80 125 72 11 7 11 18 4

2007-08 Baie Comeau QMJHL 68 36 56 92 70 5 1 1 2 6

Hershey AHL 4 1 0 1 2 - - - - -

* Won Jean Beliveau Trophy (2007) * QMJHL Second All-Star Team (2007)

Another piece to the puzzle is under contract. That 2006 draft is starting to look pretty good.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Biron Dead-On, Series Tied 1-1

If only Alexander Semin's shot doesn't hit the post and finds it's way in, and if only Matt Cooke converted his two chances wide open chances in front of the net, then maybe the Caps find to way to win again and take a 2-0 series advantage into Philly. But that didn't happen, a combination of bad luck on the offensive side and great goaltending on the part of Martin Biron led to a Flyers shutout win and a series now shortened to a best of five. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Heading into Tuesday night's contest, the Caps main focus needs to be on converting their power play chances, controling the puck on their way into the offensive zone, and preventing the home run pass on the defensive end.

As a result of today's events, a couple of lineup questions to ponder:

Jeff Schultz made his first career postseason appearance after missing game one and was clearly rusty. With as well as Steve Eminger played while Schultz was out, does Boudreau put Eminger back in the lineup for game 3? Might be a good idea.

A lineup change I would definitely like to see is Eric Fehr taking the place of Tomas Fleischmann. Fehr size and play in the corners would be a good matchup against this physical Flyers team.

Overall, the main thing the Caps have to do is just relax. This is going to be a long and tough series. Nobody expected them to win this series in four. One thing is for sure, this team will definitely be prepared for game 3, and having won both contests in Philly during the regular season, they should know what to expect from the Philly faithful.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Big Rob, back from his month-long slumber

So what’s happened since I last updated? Not much? All kidding aside, it’s a good thing I didn’t update for the past month. Being well aware of the futility of Washington sports lately, I knew well enough not to praise the Caps before they made the playoffs. Too many teams have gone on winning, only to fall an inch short of their goal. I didn’t want to be an ├╝ber-bandwagon jumper and dub them the best team in hockey. My posts would have looked something like this:

“Good win by the Caps last night. If it was on Versus, I couldn’t watch it because I’m too cheap to pay the extra $2/month. But don’t get your hopes up, we still need to win every game and hope for some charity from Carolina.”

Fortunately, that last sentence came true to the word. Other than the TB game, the road victories weren’t by the biggest margins, but the home games were complete dominance on all ends. Based on the last month’s performance, these are the reasons I feel confident in the Caps this postseason:

- Cristobal Huet Lewis and the News. This guy has dominated since he came here. Check out his stats, and you’ll see he has far outperformed his career stats while in Washington. On any other team, i.e. one that didn’t include the winner of the Ross, Richard, and possible Hart trophy, he would be a strong candidate for Team MVP. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the rest of us, there’s …

- Alexander Ovechkin. It’s easy to say that the league leader in goals and points, and front-runner for MVP, gives his team an edge in the playoffs, but Ovechkin is different. He looks like he’s having fun while playing the game. Radical concept. Think of Alex Rodriguez or Tom Brady from last year. Did they look like they had fun? (I won’t even mention the NBA; nobody looks like they have fun during NBA games.) They looked almost angry, vengeful in the case of Brady. Ovechkin flashes his broad, gap-toothed grin after every goal, even those he doesn’t score. That infectious enthusiasm has a great effect on the team, and almost as importantly on…

- The fans. I can only remember watching two games on TV when the fans were so loud you could not hear the officials: Paul O’Neill’s last game at Yankee Stadium, when the fans chanted his name so loud, you could barely hear the ump’s intentionally loud strike calls and the crack of the bat; and the Caps’ playoff clinching game against Florida. Add that enthusiasm to the hype generated by the new “Rock the Red” campaign, and woe betides the team who takes the Verizon Center lightly.

I won’t get three rounds and 16 victories ahead of myself and give the Cup to the Caps; I’m just saying this team looks good at the right time. If sports fans have learned anything this year, it’s this: if a team gets hot at the right time of year, they can win a championship. Look at the Giants. When the Skins beat them down in the Meadowlands on the third-to-last weekend of the season, who would have thought they would eventually win four games in the playoffs and shock the NFL in an inspired Super Bowl against the first undefeated team in 36 years? They just got hot at the right time, same as the Colorado Rockies. That’s all it takes to win: a hot hand at the right time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Stanley Cup Playoffs Are Here!

Caps-Flyers: Most Compelling Stat

From OFB:

Philly’s top 4 scorers are a combined -11. Washington’s top 4 are +75.

That's the best breakdown of this series I've seen yet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Welcome to the Southeast Division Steven

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the draft lottery and the right to select Steven Stamkos with the #1 overall pick in the draft. So next season we'll have to look forward to playing against a team with Vincent Lecavalier and Stamkos as their top two centers. Of course they still have to sign Lecavalier to a long term deal as he is eligible for free agency following the '08-'09 season, and we'll have to see how bad his shoulder injury is. But Tampa and the Southeast Division got a lot better today.

Playoff Schedule Released

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Flyers
Friday, April 11, Philadelphia at Washington, 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 13, Philadelphia at Washington, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, April 15, Washington at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 17, Washington at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 19, Philadelphia at Washington, 1 p.m.
Monday, April 21, Washington at Philadelphia, TBD
Tuesday, April 22, Philadelphia at Washington, TBD

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get Them While They Last

Your Southeast Division Champions!

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hurricanes Choke in Carolina

Hi, my name is Scott Walker and I'm a diveaholic.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ovechkin Stands Alone

He's now statistically the best left wing in NHL history.

All I can say is, what's next?

Photo courtesy of OffWingOpinion.com.