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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Series Notes - Philadelphia Flyers

Here are some interesting notes on the Philadelphia Flyers.  

On The Shelf
With the injuries to center Jeff Carter and winger Simon Gagne, the Flyers are losing major firepower.  Carter has led the team in goals the past two seasons (46 and 33) and Gagne is their active leader in career goals (259).  Both players underwent foot surgery last week and are not expected to play in the second round of the playoffs. The Flyers literally shot themselves in the foot this time. 

  #17 Jeff Carter         #12 Simon Gagne

Flyers winger Ian Laperriere made a Quintin Laing-type play by blocking a shot with his face.  He is likely gone for the remainder of the playoffs.  He was one of their best penalty killers, something Philly desperately needs against the Capitals. 

#14 Ian Laperriere

Philadelphia-Washington Regular Season Series

Washington Capitals Record vs. Philadelphia Flyers:  3-0-1

The Games
October 6 in Philadelphia:  5-6 Overtime Loss
Goalies:  Ray Emery vs. Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore
Caps PP: 1/5, Caps PK 5/8
Shots For: 36, Shots Against: 41
Game Winner:  Daniel Briere
Notes:  Mike Richards had a hat trick, Matt Carle had 4 assists, Matt Bradley fought Ian Laperriere, Varlamov was pulled midway through the game after allowing 4 goals. 

October 27 in Washington:  4-1 Win
Goalies:  Ray Emery vs. Jose Theodore
Caps PP: 1/3, Caps PK 3/5
Shots For: 36, Shots Against: 43
Game Winner:  Alexander Semin
Notes:  Nicklas Backstrom scored 4 points, Jose Theodore stopped Darroll Powe on a penalty shot. 

Faceoff Comparison: Philadelphia-Washington

I have broken down the faceoffs between the centermen on the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers.  For the purposes of this comparison, I am including numbers from both the regular season and the playoffs (through April 25th.)

I will focus this discussion on the four primary Washington Capitals centers who took the most draws against the Flyers this year:  Brendan Morrison, Nicklas Backstrom, and David Steckel.  I will also include notes on two leading Capitals faceoff men who saw limited action against the Flyers this year: Boyd Gordon (2 games) and Eric Belanger (1 game).

From the Philadelphia Flyers, I will focus on Mike Richards, Blair Betts, and Claude Giroux, the three healthy players who have taken the most faceoffs for the Flyers this season.  Top faceoff winner Jeff Carter (52.1% of 1,378 draws this season) is out indefinitely after foot surgery, surgery that is required because the Flyers shot themselves in the foot

Injured #17 Jeff Carter

It looks like the Capitals will have a tougher time in the faceoff circle this series than they did against the Canadiens.  Even without Carter, the Flyers have better faceoff men than the Habs and certain matchups are less than favorable.  That does not mean the Capitals will struggle, though.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Game 7 Prediction

This is for you, Johnny-Come-Lately sour-puss, old time Caps fans who can't forget the past, and for all those crazy Habitants who really think Montreal will win.  If you're a bandwagon fan, hop on.  You won't be sorry you hitched a ride on the Caps Wagon, even if you leave for baseball in a few weeks, but don't tell us about our team if you just started watching last month.  For you old timers - This is not the same team you watched in Landover.  For you Habs fans - this is in English. 

The Washington Capitals will take the ice with a new look/old look team.  Deciding he needs some more experience on the ice, George McPhee brings Craig Laughlin, Alan May, and Ken Sabourin out of the studios back onto the ice for one final choke-job.  Laughlin, a veteran of the 1985 and 1987 choke job teams, leaves the Comcast color job to don his old #18, which he takes back from Eric Belanger along with the rest of his teeth by laughing-gassing him on the dentist's chair. Unfortunately for Locker, his jersey is in black and white, since nobody can seem to remember him playing on a color TV set.  Alan May, veteran of the 1992 choke team, leaves the Comcast studios and wins a game of rock-paper-scissors to take #16 back from Eric Fehr.  Fehr reverts to his old #14 since Tomas Fleischmann has been declared dead after going missing for so long.  Ken Sabourin, the radio color analyst and veteran of the 1992 choke job, once was the proud wearer of the number 8.   He loses his jersey number Rochambeau battle with Alex Ovechkin, who countered Sabby's scissors with the response "Russian Machine never loses," and instead takes his other Caps uniform number, #2.

Western Playoff Predictions, Round 2

First Round Recap
For once my First Round predictions out West were better than my picks back East.  I nailed all 4 first round series, with one minor exception.  That's not to say my Round 2 picks will work, though.

#1 San Jose Sharks def. #8 Colorado Avalanche in 6 games
#2 Chicago Blackhawks def. #7 Nashville Predators in 6 games
#3 Vancouver Canucks def. #6 Los Angeles Kings in 6 games  (I said they'd do it in 5)
#5 Detroit Red Wings def. #4 Phoenix Coyotes in 7 games

Second Round Predictions
#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Having home ice advantage should help the Sharks quite a bit, as will not having had to play a 7th game in their series.  Detroit is a veteran, playoff tested team, and the Sharks are early round chokers, right?  That said, San Jose will win the series.  Goaltending isn't a big strength for the Red Wings or the Sharks, both teams have a lot of scoring talent and veteran defensemen.  Detroit may have dominated the season series, but the Sharks are just as tired of losing as Detroit is just tired.  That's not to say Detroit will make it easy for them.  San Jose will advance in 7 games. 

#2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
A fairly even season series and both teams played to 6 games in the opening round.  Vancouver has been getting superb goaltending from Roberto Luongo and he's much better than what the 'Hawks have.   Bth teams have excellent offense and some injury issues on defense.  Chicago's home ice may be the deciding factor, but I think it will be goaltending.  Vancouver in 6.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Elimination Game

There were 18 individual Capitals out there instead of a team in Game 6.  The Caps have got to play like a team, crash the net for rebounds, deflections and screens and stop making a decent goalie look like a god.  Jaroslav Halak is not Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden, Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin need to tone it down.  The Caps didn't exactly make it difficult for him, they let him see the shots, they let him get set for shots, didn't get second chances, and when they did, they put the puck into his leg pads or his chest.  Alexander Semin 15 feet from the goal with nobody within 10 feet of him should be an automatic goal, and Semin shot it like his kid sister was in the goal and he didn't want to hurt her feelings.  Yeah there were a few bounces that didn't do the Capitals' way, but it's funny you only seem to notice them when you're losing. Get traffic on Halak and make him uncomfortable, then tell me he looks like Patrick Roy. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is it time for fresh troops?

With the uninspired play displayed by several Capitals in Game 5, it might be time to deploy new soldiers for Game 6.  The first reason is the players who were benched will be raring to go, the second reason being the players who get benched will be raring to go the next time they play.

The question becomes, what do the Capitals have on the bench and what does that mean for the lineup?

Center David Steckel is a known quantity in these playoffs, having already appeared in the first two games of the series.  He had a +1 rating, no points or penalties, and won 14 of 24 faceoffs (58.3%). 

#39 David Steckel

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Capital Milestones, 4/22/10

After last night's game in Montreal, several Capitals have achieved milestones.

-Semyon Varlamov won his 10th career playoff game.  With his 3rd win of the season, he has moved into second place in team history in wins by a rookie, behind himself.  Remember he turns 22 in five days.  

#40 Semyon Varlamov

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Backstrom vs. Forsberg

Nicklas Bäckström has often been compared to his countryman Peter Forsberg.  Forsberg is a hockey legend, this is not a comparison that should be made lightly.  I will take a look at their beginnings and their first three NHL seasons to see if the comparisons are justified. 

The Beginning
#21 Peter Forsberg

Peter Mattias Forsberg, known as "Foppa" in Sweden, was born July 20, 1973 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.  He stands 6', 205, and is a left-shooting centerman.  His father was his coach in Sweden and was the national team coach. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers with the 6th overall pick in the 1991 Enrty Draft and is considered arguably the best center in that draft.  He was traded to Quebec as part of the deal that sent #1 overall pick, center Eric Lindros, to Philly.  He began his NHL career at age 21 with the Nordiques during the strike-shortened 1994-95 season in French-speaking Quebec City. 

#19 Nicklas Bäckström

Nicklas Lars Bäckström, known as "Backis" in Sweden, was born November 23, 1987 in Gavle, Sweden.  He stands 6'1, 210, and is a left-shooting centerman.  His father, Anders, was a New York Rangers draft pick played 10 seasons of professional hockey.  He was drafted by the Washington Capitals with the 4th overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft and is considered the best center from that draft.  He began his NHL career at age 19 with the Capitals during the 2007-08 season.

Comparison:  They are similarly sized players with the same handedness at the same position.  Both have strong pedigrees and grew up in the Swedish system.  Both were highly touted prospects and were taken very early in their respective drafts. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Team Record Watch

The Washington Capitals have an excellent offensive team, and even though it has only been three playoff games, several Capitals are already approaching historical marks.

John Carlson, the super-rookie Captain America defenseman, already has 2 assists in these playoffs.  The Capitals record for assists by a rookie in the playoffs is 3, a four-way record held by wingers Yvon Corriveau (1986), Andrew Brunette (1996), Dmitri Khristich (1991), and Richard Zednik (1998).

 #74 John Carlson

I think Carlson will break the record this Spring.  What complicates matters is that he will officially be a rookie again next season, which brings us to our next hero.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Familiar Faces

Here are some interesting notes on the Montreal Canadiens:

Familiar Faces
Canadiens center Glen Metropolit is expected to make his series debut tonight.  Metro began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Washington Capitals in 1999-00 before leaving for Europe after the 2002-03 season.  He played 101 regular season games for the Caps, scoring 10 goals and 47 points, a +10 rating, and only 26 PIM.  He also appeared in 3 playoff games.  While he was not teammates with any of the current Capitals, he did play with Capitals right winger Mike Knuble with the Philadelphia Flyers last season.  In his minor league wanderings prior to coming to Washington, he had played with former Capitals Lou Franceschetti, Gaetan Duchesne, Reggie Savage, and Jeff Toms

Metropolit led the Canadiens with 10 powerplay goals this season.  He was supposed to be out 6-8 weeks with a separated shoulder suffered March 27. 

#15 Glen Metropolit

Unfamiliar Faces
-Of the 20 Montreal Canadiens to suit up against the Washington Capitals in this playoff series, 11 are in their first season with the Canadiens and 7 were drafted by the franchise.  By comparison, of the 21 Capitals to dress in this series, 6 are in their first season with the team and 9 were drafted by the franchise. 

Family Ties
-The Montreal Canadiens feature a pair of brothers, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn of Novopolotsk, Belarus.  Andrei is just over two years older than Sergei, they are listed at the same height and weight (6', 210), and both are left-shooting left wingers.

#46 Andrei Kostitsyn   #74 Sergei Kostitsyn

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Playoff Predictions, Round 1

In the East:
#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Washington will take the series in 5 games.  Montreal will win one game because they play us tough, but they don't have the size, speed, firepower, chemistry, defense, or goaltending to really stand a chance against the Presidents' Trophy winning Capitals.

#2 New Jersey Devils vs.  #7 Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season because the Rangers couldn't beat them in a shootout.  They have serious problems in their top-heavy lineup, especially in goal, but they seem to come alive in the playoffs.  Martin Brodeur has had serious problems with the Flyers all season and after playing 77 games should be approaching burnout.  Flyers in 7. 

Snake's Round One predictions


Caps vs Habs

The Habs backed their way into the playoffs this year and really don't belong. 3-4-3 in the last ten is no way to end the season. Yes, they played the Caps close, but I really don't see them winning a single playoff game against the Caps.

Caps in Four

Flyers vs Devils

In the last two years, the Flyers have always stepped it up during the playoffs, even last year when they played the Pens and lost in the first round.  Now, I can't say the same for Jersey. It also doesn't hurt to have Chris Pronger on your team.

Flyers in 6

Faceoff Comparison: Montreal-Washington

I have broken down the faceoffs between the centermen on the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. I have included Brendan Morrison, Nicklas Backstrom, and David Steckel of the Washington Capitals.   I have not included Eric Belanger, who went 4 for 9 in his one game against the Canadiens this season while with Minnesota.  From Montreal I have included Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez, and Dominic Moore; their other major faceoff man, Glen Metropolit, is injured.

The Capitals should enjoy a solid territorial advantage against the Canadiens, they have done well against them in the circle, though the addition of Dominic Moore at the trade deadline may add to their strength.  Remember the first and third games of the season series were in Washington, for those tracking home and away faceoff success. 

Montreal-Washington Regular Season Series

The Games:
November 20 in Washington:  2-3 Loss
Goalies:  Price vs. Neuvirth
Caps PP: 0/3, Caps PK 1/2
Shots For: 34, Shots Against: 22
Game Winner:  Mike Cammalleri

Capitals Regular Season Recap

My prediction for the Capitals season was not quite what transpired.  On September 30, I predicted a 57-17-8 regular season for 122 points and 1st place in the East, which includes winning the Southeast Division.  The Capitals finished 54-15-13 for 121 points and 1st in the Southeast, 1st in the East plus 1st in the League.  I also predicted the Capitals would play Ottawa in the first round, Philadelphia in the second round and Pittsburgh in the third round.  As usual, my western prediction was wrong, I picked Anaheim to play in the Final. 

 The President's Trophy

The Capitals set team records for the most wins (54), most points (121), most road wins (24), most road points (55), most home points (66), and tied for most home wins (30).  The led the league in goals (313) and goal differential (+85).  They has the league's best powerplay by far (25.2%) and scored the most powerplay goals (79).  They led the league in goals in each period of play (92, 103, and 112).  The finished second in overtime goals (6).  They led the league in home wins (30-5-6) and tied for the lead in road wins (24-10-7).  This marked a dominating season by the Capitals. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NHL Awards Predictions

It's the end of the NHL regular season, it's the time of year when hockey writers, general managers and players write their ballots for the shiny trophies to be handed out in June.  The finalists for these awards will be announced during the playoffs, and here are my predictions for those awards, ranked in expected order of finish. 

The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Milestones

-Congratulations to Alex Ovechkin for scoring his 50th goal, his fourth 50 goal season out of five.  He also recorded his 59th assist, with is now tied for 8th All-Time in Capitals history.  His 59th assist is the most ever by a Capitals winger.  Ovie also reclaimed the lead in the league goal scoring and points races.

-Congratulations to Nicklas Backstrom for recording his first ever 100 point season.  This is the first season in Caps history that two players have recorded 100 points in the same season.  Backis is on the verge of becoming the second Capital to record 70 assists, he sits third in Caps history with 68 and is tied for second in the league.

-Congratulations to Jose Theodore for recording his 30th win of the season.  This is his fourth 30-win season and second as a Capital.

-Congratulations to the whole team for becoming the first non-Original Six team to record 120 points in a season.

-It's safe to say we won't be playing the Boston Bruins in the first round.  It looks like Montreal, Philadelphia, or New York.

Friday, April 9, 2010

NHL Stanley cup playoff commericals

I really think the NHL messed up the new NHL stanley cup playoff commercials. They had a great idea, show great highlights from playoffs past. It had great music, the piano was piece is very memorable. Where it messes up is having these great plays done backwards, it's like you don't even know what is going on unless you rewind it DVR style. Another problem is that these plays are almost 20 years old, so showing them backwards, (unless you're over 40 and have a photographic memory) you're most likely not going to remember any of these plays, so showing them backwards does nothing to get new fans excited about the playoffs.

What this does is just confuse the average fan and anger a great fan like me who just want to watch some cool hockey action with nice music and a little message at the end. The NHL has done this right before with it's cup raise video done in 2008. It's is just a pity that the NHL need to resort to gimmicks when it already has a great game.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Capitals 6, Penguins 3

On another night when the Capitals seemingly had nothing to play for, they sure played well against a team that had quite a bit to play for.  The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing one of their last games in their old arena and Sidney Crosby was turbocharged with 3 points to reach 100 for the season.  They kept turning pucks over and their goalie couldn't get the job done, and even though the referees only called one penalty on them, the Capitals made them pay.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Capitals Recall Alzner and Beagle

The Washington Capitals have announced the recalls of Karl Alzner and Jay Beagle from the AHL Hershey Bears.  Their AHL player pages are linked below their pictures. 

 Karl Alzner               Jay Beagle

Capitals 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

The Capitals won in dramatic fashion on a night they could have let one slip away.  After having already secured the top seed in the league the Caps could have mailed in the final four games; even Mike Green had the night off.  But sensing this might be an opponent they'd see in the first round of the playoffs, they smelled blood and attacked.

The Capitals jumped out to a quick lead, although quick may be too generous of a word.  Nicklas Backstrom took a shot that dribbled through the goalie Tuukka Rask's pads.  When Alex Ovechkin, who had set up the goal with a sublime cross-ice feed, saw the puck trickling toward the goal line, he started the celebration.   The goal came at 7:36 into the game, and the video review took just as long.  It seems likely that if referee Bill McCreary had not emphatically gestured for a goal it would have been disallowed, marking the first time in recent memory he has helped the Capitals.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Capitals Win Presidents' Trophy

With their team record 51st win on Saturday night, the Washington Capitals have clinched their first ever Presidents' Trophy

What is the Presidents' Trophy, you ask?   It is for having the best regular season point total in the league.  While little kids don't play pond hockey in the dead of winter and dream of carrying this trophy around in celebration, it's still quite an honor.  Some people say that it's better not to win the trophy because only 7 Presidents' Trophy winning teams have also won the Stanley Cup since the award was first presented in 1986.  Fear not, more #1 overall teams have won the Cup than any other position in league standings, and it provides home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, sort of like an immunity challenge in Survivor, minus the babes in bikinis.

Jose Theodore: Money Goaltender, Part 2

In my last post, I examined the suitability of Jose Theodore to lead the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup based upon is prior playoff experience.  In this installment, I will compare Theodore to historical comparables.

 Jose Theodore

I will first show that Jose Theodore is well positioned to be a Stanley Cup winning goalie based upon the Stanley Cup-winning goalies since 2004.   Next I will show that high scoring teams with occasionally porous defense do not produce top goaltending statistics, beyond wins, but that does not mean the goaltender in question is incompetent, nor does it matter come playoff time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Caps Notes 4/3

-The Capitals broke their losing streak against the Atlanta Thrashers with a hard fought, physical, complete game.  they won 2-1 with a goal from the top line and a goal from a grinder plus a very solid performance from their goaltender.  It'll be nice to see more of that going forward.

-Speaking of the Atlanta game, 48-year-old Chris Chelios was victimized on Matt Bradley's game winning goal.