Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inaugural post

Firstly, I'd like to thank On Frozen Blog, The Peerless Prognosticator, and Japers' Rink for providing me with the inspiration to get started. If you're a Rink Rat or Rabbit, you know me as "red army line." As for some biographical info, I won't get too much into it, but I'm a high school student who recently moved abroad. I discovered ice hockey when my dad took me to see a Caps-Pens playoff game in 2003, and since then I've been following the team, especially after they won the draft lottery in 2004 and picked Alex Ovechkin.

Now, with the NHL going into its Olympic break after tonight's games, I want to address the state of the Washington Capitals, fresh off of a 14-game winning streak followed by a short 0-1-2 skid.

Record: 41-13-8, 1st in SE by 27 points (not a typo!), 1st in East by 13 points (not a typo!), 1st in NHL by 1 point
Analysis: The Caps will compete for the President's Trophy, we hope, but may fall a little out down the stretch as the effects of winning 14 games in a row gets diluted over 82 games. Then again, all those home games should keep them in the race until the last week or two, if not longer. Of more importance is conference seeding, and with that more or less locked up barring a massive collapse or huge hot streak, it gives a chance for guys like Karl Alzner to get more time. Let's face it, Green-Morrisonn-Schultz-Poti-Pothier-Erskine doesn't look all that great at the end, and Tyler Sloan is no defensive pairing replacement on a contender. If GM George McPhee trades for a good defenseman, however, my opinion is liable to change.

Goals For: 243, 1st in NHL (2nd place San Jose has 198--not a typo!)
Analysis: No help needed on offense. Just keep lines together to establish chemistry, Bruce.

Goals Against: 174, 21st in NHL (though they were close to or in the top ten during the "better" days of that 14-game winning streak)
Analysis: Not so great here, but over stretches the Caps have shown they can buckle down and play responsible defense--wins over San Jose, Boston, and 5-10 of the victims of that 14 game streak will attest to that. Then again, as the last half dozen games or so have shown, if the goalies don't play all that well, then the lost points pile up (usually--when a team is scoring 5 goals a game it may be slightly different) Great goaltending helps too, and with Varlamov hopefully back into form when the regular season resumes in March, he should be able to help Washington keep a top-10 defense.

Goal Differential: +70, first in NHL by 18 over Chicago
Analysis: Did you read the part about goals for?

Special teams: Power play is first at 25.6%, 1% over Montreal. Penalty kill is 25th at 79.1%, though in 29 home games they've only allowed 14 power-play goals against and in 33 road games, 38 PPGA. Umm, okay.
Analysis: Power play is really good, but a little streaky. Maybe down the stretch it'd be nice to see a lot of time for the 2nd PP unit, as in case Alexander Semin or someone gets hurt in the playoffs an experienced power-play guy can step right in, or if the 1st unit suddenly goes cold the 2nd can temper that effect by clicking at the same rate. Penalty kill should be more aggressive, as the Caps can flat-out skate and have tons of skill. Let's see plenty of Alexander Semin on the PK and more Mike Green too.

Overall state of the Caps: They'll be the champs if they establish a high level of consistency and cut down on the streakiness. Better to go 4-3 in every 7-game split than win 12 in a row then lose 4 straight.

Looking at the Olympics, men's ice hockey...

I can't help but feel that Canada will disappoint. Call it a gut feeling, call it the curse of Mike Green-snubbery (or Steven Stamkos, if you prefer), but either way, both teams seem set for a letdown. In the same way, I feel like the USA is a team of destiny, the underdog that will succeed.
Gold: Russia--too much offense, and as a Caps fan I can say that defensive personnel is not as important as teamwork on defense.

Silver: Sweden--well balanced with some elite players at every position. They'll be extra inspired as they'll probably be without Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom in Sochi, among others.

Bronze: USA--Miller can steal a game or two, the defense corps is underrated, and the forwards are speedy and skilled. They'll beat out Canada for the bronze with a late goal.

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