Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Canadiens 2, Capitals 1; Canadiens win series 4-3

These losses are always the toughest to stomach, and no doubt these recaps the toughest to write.

The season is over. October, November, December, January, February, March, April. Almost into May, but not quite.

You can say what you want. That the refs sucked for calling that weak incidental contact goal-disallowal on Knuble. That Mike Green choked, playing the body instead of the puck at least twice (one resulted in a power play against, the other a goal against) and hitting the post twice instead of the net. That Alexander Semin needs to go. That Bruce Boudreau can't coach a playoff team. That the power play falls under pressure. That Jaroslav Halak did a once-in-a-lifetime set of games (1, 5,6,7).

But at the end of the day, the Canadiens did what it took to win. The Capitals didn't.

The Canadiens scored when it counted. The Capitals didn't (save Backstrom's OT winner in Game 2).

The Canadiens blocked shots. The Capitals didn't.

The Canadiens got great power play performance. The Capitals didn't.

The Canadiens got great penalty killing. The Capitals didn't.

The Canadiens made adjustments specifically for the Caps. The Capitals didn't specifically for the Habs.

I can go on. But fact of the matter is, goaltending is the most important position, and Halak was lights-out. Nevertheless, Washington could have won. Should have won. But for various reasons, did not. Montreal played a style to neutralize the Caps' wide-open attack, a passive forecheck that gave the Caps trouble all season long, not only on Montreal but also in New Jersey and Columbus over the past two seasons. Everyone in the hockey world was confident that the Capitals could and would adjust accordingly (since there's little point in the regular season to adjust for a game then adjust back for many more) but at the end of the day (this series) they did not. Enough, that is.


Game 1: Caps come out flat. Somehow, they hang in there. Capitalize on a fluky point shot and a weird bounce inside the MTL zone. Montreal deserves to win and does.
Game 2: Montreal strong through two periods. Halak begins going down too early. Capitals victimize him and win in OT, but don't deserve it.
Game 3: Caps come out flat. Varlamov spectacular. Caps roll in the second and third periods, win easily.
Game 4: Caps come out strong, Halak holds the Habs in there. Varlamov stellar in the second as the Habs turn it on. Caps roar back in the third, win easily.
Game 5: Caps are flat the entire game. Jacques Martin makes adjustments, specifically Gill and Gorges against Ovechkin, instead of Spacek. Montreal deserves the win.
Game 6: Caps play strong, but Halak is terrific.
Game 7: See Game 6.

Montreal clearly wins on the defensive front, where team defense--and coaching, to get everyone on the same page--is key. Montreal clogged the neutral zone and scored via the power play and counter-attacks. They got in the shooting lanes (blocking more shots than getting shots on goal themselves over the last two games). They tied up sticks near the net and kept guys like Knuble out of Halak's sightline. They came out strong every game, critical especially in Games 1, 5, and 6 (2 also if not for the great third period by the Caps' top line). And so on.

Not to pin this on Boudreau, since players like Green, Semin, Fleischmann, and probably Schultz as well no doubt underperformed. But he has to go and do some thinking about his game philosophy this summer (read this great piece for some elaboration on that idea).

What do I think? This isn't on the defense. It isn't on the goaltending. It's on the forwards who couldn't do what it takes to win. They needed to score goals like Backstrom's first and second in Game 2. They needed to set up plays like Green-to-Fehr for a goal in Game 6. They needed more efforts like Brooks Laich's to score the Caps' goal in Game 7.

When everyone is back changes will have been made. The Capitals have several unrestricted free agents, including Joe Corvo, Scott Walker, Eric Belanger, Brendan Morrison, and Jose Theodore. Nicklas Backstrom as of now will be a restricted free agent. General Manager George McPhee will no doubt draft some players on draft day (some of whom may make an immediate impact) and make some signings during the free agency period. And at the end of it all, we start another season, with the same goal in mind.

Maintain the faith. Other teams' fans have had it worse [coughsanjosecough]. The Caps still have Alex Ovechkin. They will have Nicklas Backstrom. They have Mike Green. Jeff Schultz. Karl Alzner. John Carlson. Mathier Perreault. Eric Fehr (hopefully). Semyon Varlamov. Michal Neuvirth. Braden Holtby. Cody Eakin. Marcus Johansson. Stefan Della Rovere. And so on.

Let's hope it turns out better next time. Training camp starts around September.

Let's go Caps.

But for right now? There are three rounds to go until the Stanley Cup champion is decided. Lots of hockey left, even if I tune out until after AP exams.

Congratulations to Montreal and its fans for a great first round series, and good luck against Pittsburgh. You'll need more of the same to beat the Penguins.

Conference semifinal matchups:
4 Pittsburgh vs 8 Montreal
6 Boston vs 7 Philadelphia

1 San Jose vs 5 Detroit
2 Chicago vs 3 Vancouver

(Funny how one of each seed advanced, and one of each lost)

Let's go Caps Red Wings.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Canadiens 4, Capitals 1

What to say, besides ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME???!!!

Capitals 54 shots, Montreal 22. Montreal 4 goals, Washington 1 goal.

The Capitals' power play continues to be struggling. Tomas Fleischmann can't hit an open net, literally. Alexander Semin shoots high when he should shoot low and shoots low when he needs to aim for the top corner, and it's not promising that he wasn't able to get it done when Boudreau put Nicklas Backstrom as his center for the first two periods. The Caps continue to give up those outside shots. The net-crashers that wear 21 and 22 didn't have great positioning in front, and neither did the guy in 16 (whom we cut slack for a "good" offensive zone penalty, pushing Andrei Markov into Jaroslav Halak to start something, and then redirecting a Mike Green pass into the net).

I watched this game because I couldn't sleep. My internet conked out at about the 18:00 remaining mark of the first until the beginning of the second. I watched on, knowing that the Capitals are capable of a comeback. But it certainly would help if I didn't experience minor heart pains, having to sit through two and three goal deficits every night.

Jaroslav Halak stole this game, plain and simple. But the Caps shooters were missing juicy rebounds, not going top shelf with the rebounds they did get, trying to pick the corners too finely later in the game. Halak saw everything, every single shot--that's unacceptable for a team as big as Washington. They continue to have trouble with the Montreal power play: while keeping everything to the outside, it's too easy for Montreal. Their PK, meanwhile, is aggressive to disrupt the Caps' power play.

And Mike Cammalleri, can't the Caps stop this guy from scoring even once?

With that out of my system, lots of positives to look at as well.

Being a newer Caps fan, the most heartbreak I have been subjected to are the two Game 7 losses and the Peter Bondra trade. I'm still optimistic. And when I look at this, I way this happens again. Already happened twice this series. Another time? I doubt it. Habs take three of four in DC? I doubt it. Caps can't build on this desperate effort some more? I doubt it. They know they blew this lead (and I hope Bruce Boudreau really drills it into them that it's on them).

Mike Green was stronger. John Carlson continues to be strong. Tom Poti was strong until he was forced to leave after getting a deflection in the face--I hope he's back soon.

And the Caps can attack this PK Subban dude whom the announcers gushed over like he's Drew Doughty, and Marc-Andre Bergeron as well. Both were carefully managed by Jacques Martin, Bergeron essentially playing the power play and only the power play, and Subban getting minimal minutes as well. They can attack Hal Gill, who looked to have trouble handling the puck under forechecking pressure (as was Jeff Schultz).

And Alex Ovechkin is still getting it done. Maybe a few too many of his trademark rush up the left wing (Gorges was reading it perfectly) but he was still being effective in the offensive zone. Backstrom looked like an Ovechkin clone, but a lefty. Chimera, Gordon, and the rest of the "grinders" continued to play effectively, though I think ideally they get more ice time (with the Caps down though, of course Backstrom and Ovechkin eat up those minutes). Only Fehr of that group broke ten, and he only had 9 seconds to spare.

Interesting to note : 5 Caps skaters did not have a shot on goal. Joe Corvo had 10. Not a typo.

At least the shots from the point are getting through. Put some bodies in front and they'll go in.

Bottom line: they play like this Wednesday night, they win Game 7 and have a date with Philadelphia over the weekend.

Unless Halak channels his inner outer Roy again.

Counter down to...1. For now.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Statistics in Hockey

Note: more of a philosophy piece, and re-posted from Japers' Rink (I claim authorship on J.R. as well).

Statistics is no doubt an important field in sports nowadays. Baseball probably got the head start, as almost every situation can be individualized, but now increasingly in hockey too, we're trying to objectify the game, via statistics. Gabriel Desjardins, for example, runs Behind the Net (blog, stats), a must read. Puck Prospectus also does some good work with statistics, identifying interesting trends.
Gone are the days when goals, assists, and points were the only statistics. Now, not only do we have +/-, shots, faceoffs, and much more via the NHL stats engine, but single game and season Corsi and Fenwick numbers among others.
But how much can we read into statistics?
What exactly is the point of statistics, and how does it relate to the Caps this season? For one, it helps us to determine how much a player should be payed. As an example, I use our favorite Double-Nickel.
I think we can all agree Jeff Schultz, current salary $715k, is a steal, considering his defensive prowess and season-long improvement in all facets of his game. We also all know, however, that plus-minus is heavily misleading, and thus his +50 shouldn't be taken for what it's worth. What should his +/- actually be? +25? +35? And, for negotiating and arbitration purposes, how does this compare to other "comparable" players around the league (for whom plus-minus also needs to be adjusted)?
Schultz's BtN RATING (+/- relative to the team) is second on the Caps, behind Alex Ovechkin, and when you look up and down the list of all players sorted by RATING, Schultz seems to do pretty well (names of note above him are essentially Daniel Sedin and Mark Fistric, but I'm not complaining about Dallas choosing the latter between Washington 2004 late first-round draft choices). Then you could look at his QualTeam, and see he plays with strong teammates (only Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Knuble have higher QualTeam's on the Caps), which diminishes the effect of his season achievements no doubt; but on the other hand, his QualComp means he's not exactly playing against fourth lines all the time (and Alex Ovechkin has some pretty stiff competition). And then there's this:
'Quality of Competition' is a flawed statistic because it penalizes good players who play against other good players.
This is definitely a flaw in a "first-order" Quality of Competition calculation. When people calculate Power Rankings in football (or Chess ratings) they run a recursive algorithm so that good players or teams aren't penalized when they play against others with the same skill level. We could calculate a recursive version of Quality of Competition that would solve this problem, but it's computationally cumbersome. Quality of Competition still gives us a lot of insight, particularly into the NHL's few checking lines.
QualComp, like as is quoted, is helpful in assessing players who play similar roles, even on different teams. We hope (and assume) that small differences like system and goaltending will all cancel out. But what happens if a player isn't played in a role that is really comparable to others?
Of course, I'm speaking of the Caps in particular. It's well-known that, while Bruce Boudreau is always cognizant of which line the other team puts on the ice, rarely, if ever, matches forward and defense lines based on what line the other team plays. As such, Schultz probably has a lower QualComp and much higher QualTeam than our eyes--judging him for defensive play--would tell us. The same is true of Mike Green, who continues to receive all kinds of crap about his being a "defensive liability," though luckily from the mass media this has died down (and in fact, some statistics even last season suggested otherwise).
And then we go into the mechanics of some of these +/- based statistics--when you face a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk, it'll likely show up as lesser competition than, say, Alexander Semin, because Kovalchuk has a much lower plus minus and his team is flat out worse. That, however, doesn't mean facing Kovalchuk is any easier.
I know I'm being nit-picky, but it feels like once we start relying on statistics, especially more advanced metrics, too much, then that in itself is being nit-picky and thus nullifies the advantage of metrics that try (and do an excellent, but imperfect) job of accounting for nuances from team-to-team. Why? My theory is that these advanced metrics have to be based on simpler metrics, which are flawed as well. So what do we have to do? Subjectively judge the value of these statistics, because we know they're not 100% accurate (or else we could just use a simulating engine to go through the season, and the NHL could be EA Sports' NHL GM).
Why do we use statistics in hockey, at the end of the day? I get the feeling that we use statistics to try and objectively judge what we see on the ice, and judge what we don't see as well (case in point: Schultz at his best when invisible), especially to the more untrained hockey mind --basically anyone not currently coaching/playing professionally. So, in other words, are we using statistics as replacements for our eyes? To remove subjectivity, especially in what we see? There is some involved in judging statistics, and some in judging play on television or at a game. So we're back at square one.
I'm not arguing that statistics are worthless--they're quite helpful, since we can't see everything, and the teams feel the same way, so statistics are not crap by any means--but they're also not all-encompassing. They cannot account for "intangibles" or, quite simply, for players being human. They are prone to external effects just as we are. We hope that over time (larger sample size) these effects cancel each other out, but not always. Is it so ridiculous that San Jose does feel some extra pressure, notwithstanding what the players, coaches, and management say?
That takes us into small sample size issues as well. You could say Jaroslav Halak's not-up-to-par play in Capitals-Canadiens, Games 2 and 3, was a fluke of only two games (small sample size). That it was luck. Or, that, through a combination of unseen factors, it is reality. The same applies to the Caps' struggling power play in the 2010 postseason, as of this writing. Could they be trying to be too cute? Is Montreal's PK just well suited to disrupt the Caps' power play? And how about that Montreal road power play which, during the regular season, was north of 27%, more than 10% better than at Centre Bell? Is that a fluke of a single season, or is there some unforeseen factor.
I have to think that it's the latter--some factor that occurs maybe just this season, or maybe just over two seasons, but nevertheless occurs. While this factor could be considered a fluke, it's not unreasonable to think that, if Montreal (to go with the power play question) played this season thousands of times, with the same external factors, then the same result would occur. These things may not "regress to the mean" instantly, or even at all. The same is true of "intangible" assets we commonly refer to like maturity, experience, leadership, and so on. While statistical production could be all over the place, will these intangibles ever go away? I doubt it. There's a reason they are "intangible" because they are what they are--unmeasurable. We can only see correlations (like the Caps' record with Ovechkin as captain) but cannot see causation through statistics. That brings us back to the eyes.
To head back to Schultz--so far we've judged the following: Schultz's basic stat line is pretty solid. His advanced stat line (linked to above) is pretty decent too. He's unquestionably doing his job out there every shift on the ice--keeping pucks out of his net and helping to put them into the other net, one way or another. How much though are his stats caused by his teammates/system/goalies, and how much does he contribute in terms of goals for and against? What intangibles does he have, and how much are they worth? The stats probably point to something more than he's getting now. How much is a guy like Alexander Semin, maddeningly inconsistent (until the playoffs, two of the last three seasons) but with comparable upside to Ovechkin offensively and Datsyuk defensively, worth? Maybe less than the $6 million he will get next season. And despite our best efforts to judge a guy like Semin, we really just base his play on our eyes, right? And while Tom Poti probably isn't worth his $3.5 million cap hit, he does have some "special powers" at even strength, even though our eyes tell us otherwise, right? And Bruce Boudreau, better hockey mind than any of us, must have some reason we can't see--statistically or visually--for having him play so much on the PK when his PK numbers are worth "grilling," right?
My message to George McPhee and every other GM, and every hockey fan: go right ahead and use statistics. In many cases they are clear enough that any fluke reasonably fathomable will not change the result--that Mike Green and Jeff Schultz are a strong even strength defense pairing, for example. But make sure you do a thorough visual analysis of the player as well. Otherwise, you could miss statistical "flukes" (that are actually recurring, unquantified factors) that lead to a player having a statistic unrepresentative of his actual playing ability, and hence not only do you read too much into statistics and begin to miss the realities of hockey, but your analysis also comes across as mathematical hubris.
It is difficult to assess every player visually, in fact impossible I'd say, and often times, for the sake of one discussion, watching hours of highlights or spending hours watching hockey every day and night to simply be able to comment on a one-time discussion is probably not time well spent. The solution? Field trips. Reading about other teams. Judging situations for yourself with as objective an eye as possible, not simply going by what the "experts" say. See this comment history (no wonder he knows so much about the Caps and can comment intelligently, or even stick up for a much-maligned player (and again) on his "second" team). Of course, to hold intelligent discussions about any topic will still be difficult, but at least it won't be embarrassing (notice to whose comments many of those are replying). And that's what GMGM's task is this offseason--judge every potential free agent on the market and see if they can fit on the Caps. Quite difficult indeed.
Imperfect analogy, I realize, but as an online translator will translate words from one language to another, but imperfectly, statistics translate a sport into a page of numbers...imperfectly. Just as each online translator comes with a disclaimer--"is not a substitute for a real (human) translator" or something similar--statistics are not a substitute for a real hockey mind (again, something which most, and maybe all, of us are not). They are most valuable to assess trends you miss, but when, later, you look for these trends (like Jeff Schultz's invisibility), you see them. So statistical analysis must go hand in hand with visual analysis. Always.
At the end of the day, the only statistic that truly matters is team wins. Everything else simply builds to that ultimate goal, of sixteen wins between the end of the regular season and mid-June.
Here's to thirteen more of those. Go Caps.

(My apologies for jumping around with ideas in this FanPost. If it's difficult to follow, outline in the comments and I'll try to restructure to clear it up)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Canadiens 2, Capitals 1

Alex Ovechkin before the game predicted the Habs would come out strong early. He was right. Luckily, the Caps were able to weather the storm. Now, they did go down 2-0, but this is the Capitals, completely capable of overcoming such a deficit, did, though it was a slow process. Almost.

But in the playoffs, almost isn't good enough.

My internet conked out from just after the first Habs goal until the third, so limited reaction from me tonight.
  • From what I saw, Mike Green had his best game. He was calm with the puck, able to control it cleanly, and passed it around well.
  • Tyler Sloan had a good effort. That being said you could see why Bruce Boudreau was scratching him earlier this series--he's not too good at winning the puck along the boards and then clearing.
  • Is it just me, or is Jeff Schultz back to regular season form (in a good way)?
  • Semyon Varlamov probably wants that first goal back. But great stop on Gomez with about two minutes to go in regulation.
  • John Carlson wasn't carrying the puck as cleanly this game. Bad ice?
  • Alexander Semin--try to pass the puck a bit more, or wait until your teammates get in front of the net before you shoot. But hey, keep getting 'em through.
  • Caps were absolutely gifted a power play after Benoit Pouliot got called for holding on Brooks Laich. Weak call.
  • When Bruce Boudreau put Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin together late in the game, they were held in check in part because they couldn't win those offensive zone battles along the boards.
  • John Carlson (with Tom Poti) instead of Mike Green with the goalie pulled? Really, Bruce Boudreau? I can't help but think that on that final goalmouth scrum with the goalie pulled, Mike Green deposits the Ovechkin pass, unlike Poti. Put out Carlson with Green, or something. You know, because you need to score.
  • Or ignore me. 3-2 series lead heading back to Montreal. But now you need to start Varlamov again. Would've liked to see Theodore in there tonight. Oh well.
  • Who told Jaroslov Halak to become good again?
  • Seriously? Too many men on the ice? Come on guys, better bench discipline.
  • "Stanley Cup Hockey Central"? A little cheesy, but appropriate, I suppose.
  • 3 Norris Trophy nominees--"all first timers"? Nice, Versus. At least their theme song is better.
Game 6 is Monday night in Montreal, on Versus.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Quick Update

    I couldn't watch the games nor listen, but here's an update:

    Capitals lead series 3-1 against Montreal. Game 5 in Washington on Friday night.

    Alexander Semin continues to be invisible saving his game for when the Caps really need it.

    The Jason Chimera trade: looking more and more genius by the day.

    Alex Ovechkin is a playoff choker? What?

    His center, #19, may have something to do with his fortunes.

    Mike Green keeps getting better. Forget about expectations and just play your game, Greener.

    With Semyon Varlamov playing so well, can Theodore even get himself another start? He has to at some point to avoid the risk of overplaying Varlamov.

    Thirteen wins to go.

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Capitals 6, Canadiens 5 (OT)

    Writing before the end of the game: win or lose, Alex Ovechkin is back, and the Caps are right back in series, regardless of the Game 2 outcome. (Update: WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    Quick recap:

    Similar to the Super Bowl Sunday PIT matchup on NBC. Visitors jump ahead 2-0 early, Caps respond on a breakaway goal, visitors make it 4-1, Caps reply late in the second, Ovechkin starts contributing in the third to tie it up, Caps in it in OT. I was really scared when the Habs scored with about 5 mins to go in the third, but John Carlson is clutch.

    Some thoughts:

    • Is Eric Fehr clutch or what? Breakaway goal in the first when it was 2-0 MTL and the Caps seemed down and out. Every goal of his seems to be big--with 22 so far, that's quite a lot.
    • Theo has gotta stop that second shot. His team down, not playing well, risking going down two...not the best time for a "B" game. If he's up more, then he stops it. Maybe he was watching the pass--in that case, Schultz and Green need to challenge Andrei Kostitsyn more. And sloppy passing in the neutral zone led to that 3-on-2. Bad plays by six Caps.
    • Unlucky for Theo on the first one. When will the weird bounces start going the Caps' way?
    • After one period: 

    • On Thursday, Alex Ovechkin played 26:26 and had zero shots and three hits. So far tonight he's played 5:49 and has two shots and seven hits. Here's hoping that's just the beginning.
    • That'll do. AO finished with a goal and three helpers on the night. Great. 6 shots and 8 hits too. And in "just" 21 mins of ice time. And his emotion is back. No more stoicism. Alex Ovechkin is back.
    • What a time for Nicklas Backstrom's first career hat trick. Assistant Captain clutch? Mean Lars Backstrom also got 6 shots and showed plenty of emotion as well. His goal celebrations, by the way, are teh awesome.
    • What's with the icings? The bad passing? The slipping? Ice bad or what?
    • Andrei Kostitsyn didn't have a dominant-type hat trick like Ovechkin and Crosby have. It was a sniper's hat trick. Whatever works, I guess. 
    • Nicklas Backstrom had a similar hat trick. Except he didn't disappear.
    • DUMP AND CHASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously. Do it. (Note: looks like the Caps got the memo in the late second period). Do it for sixty minutes, and you can pull it out in five. Seriously.
    • Backstrom first goal: through a Knuble screen, Ovechkin also in front of the net. That's how it's done. 
    • Tomas Fleischmann: good game, especially in the third. Not too many bad passes, and he dumped and chased himself, setting the tone early in the third.
    • Ovechkin goal: through a Knuble screen, in front of the net. Two "dirty" goals from the top line. That's how it's done.
    • Backstrom second goal: centering feed, deflected in. Knuble also near the net. That's how it's done.
    • How nice is it to hear "Poti! Poti!" after his fight with Scott Gomez?
    • Too much space to Habs' forwards, especially on the rush. Take the pass or take the shot, but letting shooters into the slot is unacceptable. Make a decision. Especially Green-Schultz. Corvo-Morrisonn played the rush well in Game 2.
    • At least the Caps picked it up, making Theo's replacement by Varlamov not entirely worthless. Well, kinda picked it up. More shots against, but not as high quality. The second line was able to cycle a little and the top line got some chances too.
    • John Carlson is playing solid, but committing a few more turnovers than I'd like. But such composure. The Versus announcers were raving over his play all night. I'll take it. He eliminated the turnovers by the second period, too. And his goal? Completely Ovechkin-esque.
    • Tripping call on Eric Belanger was weak. So was the tripping call on Benoit Puliot.
    • Good aggressive PKing from the Caps. I loved the Semin-Backstrom-Green-Poti unit. Carlson was excellent in shorthanded situations. When he tries to clear off the boards, it gets out. Unlike some other American Caps with single digits on their backs...
    • The Caps need to study Montreal some--specifically, their puck support getting the puck out of the zone. The defenseman always has at least three options nearby. Studying their PK wouldn't hurt either. Well, at least when the power play is allowed to set up.
    • Did Mike Green and Marc-Andre Bergeron switch teams? One's forgotten how to play defense, and the other suddenly is really good defensively. Green needs to get his offensive game going--more pinches, more joining (not leading!) the rush, and so on. He's fast enough to get back. That's what he did two years ago in the Philadelphia series. That's what he needs to do now.
    • Green needs less ice time. He got over five minutes more than any other Cap. Read that again.
    • Carlson got more ice time than Corvo. I think Corvo could get some more in lieu of Green. He still should be the ice time leader, but 25+ mins in Round 1 when he's playing pretty poorly (at least, while not on the PK) is not good.
    • Could the power play be slumping at any worse time??? And why bump Alexander Semin off the top power play unit? Somehow, Semin makes that unit go. At least put Carlson out there. He's great at getting shots through.
    • More movement on the power play. Not necessarily puck movement, but rotations and such. All I saw was Ovechkin moving down the weak side when Backstrom had the puck. Not enough. Put out 2 defensemen if needed, but run pinches with Green, the ones that were so effective last season. Run give-and-goes with Backstrom.
    • Where was Game 1 Alexander Semin? Waiting until the third?
    • Brendan Morrison looked good and even landed a couple of big hits. But where was he in the third? He should've been on the power play, at least taking the draw.
    • Speaking of which--helps the power play to win the draw in the offensive zone. Backstrom, Laich, and Fleischmann just weren't getting it done.
    • AO down right wing: win. Maybe shift him to RW and Semin to LW?
    • Is Tom Poti "trending Sasha?" He made some good plays and some bad ones. Luckily he didn't have too many bad ones. And none I saw after the middle of the second period.
    • Jeff Schultz, don't try the stretch pass unless you have a teammate open. Please.
    • Theodore's unbeated run is kinda still alive. An OT loss in Game 1 and a no-decision in Game 2. Is he starting in Game 3? I think so. The Caps finally figured it out in the third.
    • Heroes of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom. Oh, and the True American Hero John Carlson.
    • Alex Ovechkin is back. His physical game got him going, and though he wasn't getting shots through, he went to the front of the net, passed the puck well, and was a force. His shooting game will open up soon enough. Izvinitye Montreal, patamu shto ja bydy igrat kharasho. Or, извините Монреаль, потому что я буду играть хорошо (by the way, that's proof that you're not supposed to say the "t" in "Montreal.")

    Capitals and Canadiens tied at one game apiece. Game 3, Monday night at Centre Bell, Montreal.

    Rock the Red (and not the rouge).

    Via Whiskey Robber from a Japers' Rink comment thread:

    Counter down to 15.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Capitals Coming playoff pick-em contest, round 1

    The annoying thing I have about most ways to do a playoff picking game is that however close you are, if you pick the wrong team, no reward. For example, team A vs team B. You say team A in 7, the other guy says team B in 4, and when team B wins in 7, the other guy gets more points than you despite being farther off.

    Last year I devised a new system with my friends, and I think it works. So it works like this:
    • You get points off for each game you miss the final result by. For example, if you say Ottawa in 5 for round 1 and the result is Pittsburgh in 7, that's (OTT in 5 --> OTT in 6 --> OTT in 7 --> PIT in 7) 3 steps away, 3 points.
    • Each round increases point penalties. The Conference Quarterfinals are one point/game off, Conference Semifinals two, Conference Finals three, and Stanley Cup Finals four. I don't want to reward the easier picks in earlier rounds the same as tougher ones in later rounds.
    • At the beginning (i.e. now), pick your Stanley Cup finalists, champ, number of games, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP. Each is worth -2 points (for -10 possible; the "games missed" rule does not apply). 
    • For each round, pick either the round's a) goals leader (player or team), b) points leader, c) shutouts leader, or d) goals-against leader (goalie or team). Each is worth -2 points. If you pick a tie and get it right, -4 points.
    • Golf rules: low score wins.
    For example: Team A in 4, Team B in 6, and so on (8 winners in first round). Team A wins Cup over Team X in 6 with Player Z winning the Smythe. Player X leads NHL in goals in 1st round.

    Tonight we'll know who-plays-who. Between tonight's final game and whenever the playoffs start (Wednesday I believe) put your picks in the comments. Identify yourself with a unique ID or name so I can keep track. Each time a round finishes I'll publish the standings, the correct answers to the trivia, and the next round matchups. Comment with your next predictions there. I'll add mine in as well, so you can see that I don't cheat.

    Final winner gets some sort of non-monetary prize. I'll work something out.

    Update: matchups are in.

    1 Washington vs 8 Montreal
    2 New Jersey vs 7 Philadelphia
    3 Buffalo vs 6 Boston
    4 Pittsburgh vs 5 Ottawa

    1 San Jose vs 8 Colorado
    2 Chicago vs 7 Nashville
    3 Vancouver vs 6 Los Angeles
    4 Phoenix vs 5 Detroit

    I got: Caps in 5, Devils in 5, Sabres in 6, Pens in 7, Sharks in 6, Hawks in 7, Canucks in 4, and Red Wings in 4. For the SCF, I got Caps over Hawks in 7, Backstrom gets the Smythe. Leading goal scorer for this round: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh).

    Leave yours in the comments (please!).

    Bs 4, Caps 3 (SO)

    My internet decided to not work very quickly tonight, so I was forced to follow the game via the Caps' radio feed, Gamecenter (stats, not video), and by the third, Japers' Rink's Third Period Open Thread. While doing my homework too.

    I guess my observations would be better with video, but what to do? Last time I can write a recap until mid-May, unless a game is on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday early afternoon.

    Here we go:
    • Semyon Varlamov played himself out of alternating duties, I think. He was good, but not great. He needed to be better to really challenge Theodore, and he didn't. But this is speculation, after all. No one expected Boudreau to replace Theodore after one game last postseason too.
    • The Capitals were again force-feeding Alex Ovechkin. Too much, too. It's like he was looking to set up his teammates and pick up points, whereas they were just trying to set him up for goals. Let's stop that boys, k?
    • Congratulations to Alexander Semin on his first career 40 goal season and his 300th career point.
    • Mike Green, please don't get hurt. And Bruce Boudreau, 25+ mins for Green through three periods? Really? 9+ mins for Ovechkin in the first? Really? Spread the time around. Ovie will get 'em or he won't. Mike Knuble and Mike Green both matched AO's four shots, for what it's worth, through sixty minutes. Knuble and AO both had 5 on the game.
    • I hope Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby don't score later today. A three-way tie for the Richard would be pretty cool, though. (Update: Crosby scored twice, Stamkos once, to share the Richard aat 51 goals each. [omitted word])
    • Speaking of that, I think I want Montreal. Don't want the rough stuff, even if the Habs come with a higher risk of upset. (Update: Caps draw Montreal)
    • The Caps' three goals were all from in tight, in "dirty" areas. That's good.
    • Defense should have been better. Too many shots against. To the Bruins, of all teams.
    • Kudos to Jason Chimera for standing up to Tim Thomas. Like the pest we've missed in DC since Matt Cooke and may not have again until Stefan Della Rovere.
    • Mike Green, please don't get hurt.
    • Alex Ovechkin can play defense.
    • Boychuk, Wideman, Hunwick, and Thomas were the only Bruins over 20 mins (Zdeno Chara sat out). That's how to spread it around.
    • Mr. Nasty. +2. Finishes the season +50. That is all.
    • AO better at least get the Pearson or the Hart all to himself.
    • Bruce Boudreau, good job on sending out some different guys for the shootout. Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley, and Tom Poti. King Henrik must have warned Tim Thomas about the Caps' secret weapon, #10. I applaud your decision, Coach. Now give me some more reasons to applaud you. Some more trophies would be nice.
    And the end of the day, it was a meaningless game for both teams. The Caps pressed, and it backfired. But that doesn't matter. The best regular season in franchise history. 54-15-13 for 120 points, crushing their franchise record from last season (108 points). 1st in the division by (wait, I can't count that high!). That's the fourth SE division title, I believe. 1st in the Eastern Conference for the first time, by 19 points (pending New Jersey and Buffalo playing later). 1st in the entire NHL (President's Trophy) by 7 points. 318 goals, almost 50 more than the next best team. A goal differential of +85, better than a goal per game. A 14 game winning streak. A power play over 25%. 30-5-6 at home, tying a franchise record for home wins. 24-10-7 on the road, a franchise best. Alex Ovechkin with 50 goals and 100 points again, even with missing 10 games. Nicklas Backstrom with his first 100 point season, and finally reaching 50% in the faceoff circle (well, 49.9%, but that's close enough). Alexander Semin with 40 goals. Mike Green, over 75 points and again all four Young Guns over a point-per-game. Mike Green became a better defenseman. The emergence of John Carlson. The return of Jose Theodore as a reliable goalie, with a still-active streak of 25 games without a regulation loss. 15 players with 10 or more points (16 with Pothier, and swap him with Corvo). 7 20-goal scorers. Jeff Schultz emerging as a premier defensive defenseman. Possibly the top-5 players in +/-. Career seasons for Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, and Eric Fehr offensively. Only Tyler Sloan was a minus among players with more than 10 games. Four players with 10 or more power play goals. Sweeping Atlanta, Florida, and Pittsburgh.

    Check out the work by Japers' Rink commenter iwearstripes here. A z-score of over 3.5.

    And we should savor this historic season while we have it. You have 3 days and the offseason. Starting mid-week, back to work for us fans. And for the players, back to work tomorrow.

    Here's to 70 total wins this season.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Capitals 5, Thrashers 2

    So what does a team with every team achievement possible up to this point achieved have to play for?

    Stat padding, of course.

    Alex Ovechkin: 2 goals, a helper, now with league-leading totals of 50 goals and 109 points.
    Nicklas Backstrom: 2 goals, a helper, now with his first 100-point season at 101 points, and counting.
    Jeff Schultz: +4, to extend his league-leading plus-minus to +48. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Daniel Sedin (correction: Alexander Semin) round out the top-five the NHL.
    Alexander Semin: #40 will have to wait.
    Mike Green: #20 will have to wait.

    For a team have little to play for, I wasn't too worried about the sloppy play. Giveaways, cute passing, and sometimes less-than-desirable efforts forechecking and backchecking.

    Jose Theodore had another strong outing, and kept the Caps in it through the first two periods before the Caps ramped it up, as usual, in the third.

    One worrying stat though: 0-5. That's the Caps on the power play. They were force-feeding Ovechkin and Semin all night with the man advantage, and the second unit was mostly made up of guys who might not see regular power play time (like Scott Walker), but with all that talent, one of Green, Ovechkin, and Semin should be able to score. Right?

    Season sweep of Atlanta: check. Second 120 point season since the lockout: check.

    And to top it all of, the Capitals moved above the .500 mark for the first time in franchise history.

    On to the season finale against Boston. Sunday at noon, NBC.

    Preview: Thrashers @ Capitals

    Sigh. My spring break is coming to a close, as is the regular season. I, like the Caps, got into playoff (exam) mode, finally getting around to finishing covering the curriculum for Calculus BC. The Caps start their time that really matters the middle of next week, and until then have two games: against Atlanta, tonight, and against Boston, Sunday afternoon on NBC.

    Previews:, Mike Vogel, Japers' Rink, The Peerless Prognosticator

    So, with the President's Trophy all locked up, what do the Caps have to play for?

    • Alex Ovechkin trails Sidney Crosby in the goals race, one back and each with two games remaining. Considering his history against Atlanta and Boston, his chances look good of at least a tie. Ovechkin is two goals shy of 50, and also trails Henrik Sedin in the points race by two with a game in hand on the Swede. You know the Caps will be looking to set Ovie up.
    • Mike Knuble is a goal shy of 30. Early word is though he'll be a healthy scratch for tonight.
    • Alexander Semin is a goal shy of 40. I hope he's alright after receiving a nasty elbow from Maxime Talbot Tuesday night against Pittsburgh.
    • Mike Green is a goal shy of 20, and early word has him in the lineup again.
    • Nicklas Backstrom is a point shy of 100 for the season.
    • The Caps with a win would officially move over the .500 pts% mark in franchise history.
    • The Caps are looking to sweep the season series from the Thrashers, already having posted five regulation wins.
    From the other side, the Thrashers have been officially eliminated from playoff contention. This game is more meaningless for them than for the Caps. All they have is guys playing for new contracts, like Maxim Afinigenov. But the penultimate game of the season will have little bearing. The most important thing, for the Caps, is to keep everyone healthy.

    Puck drop at 7 pm EST.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Caps 6, Pens 3 recap was up quickly tonight. (You can definitely tell it's not Corey: the first half of the article is all Pens, the second all Caps. Nice organization. Then again, I'm no journalist).

    This game was exciting throughout. Once again though, to the chagrin of Pittsburgh fans, the Caps turned it on in the third and took control of the game.

    The Capitals played a strong first period. Alexander Semin set a new career high in goals with his 39th, taking the puck in a 2-on-2 that turned into a 2-on-1 when Penguin defenseman Alex Goligoski slipped in the neutral zone, and then Semin casually roofed a wrist shot. Beautiful, and he made it look so easy. Ovechkin hit the post on a ridiculous back-pedaling turnaround wrist shot as well.
    In the second, Mike Knuble came down the right wing and let loose a slap shot that somehow snuck under Marc-Andre Fleury's pads. Sidney Crosby tied it up on a power play goal, a wrist shot from the circle past a screened Varlamov. Tomas Fleischmann answered right back as a puck caromed off a Penguin and to him in the slot, from where he buried a wrister (Dan Bylsma pulled Fleury at this point, who was visibly mad, and put in former Cap Brent Johnson). On the boards though, a scary moment, as Alexander Semin avoided most of a check but still went down and laid on the ice for a few minutes (he wouldn't miss a shift). On his next shift though, he played with less tenacity, and Jordan Leopold got a shot from the blueline through and past Varlamov as it went off of Shaone Morrisonn's skate. Late in the frame, Quintin Laing shot from the boards on the rush and Matt Bradley tipped it in 5-hole for a 4-2 lead.
    Early in the third, Jordan Leopold finished off some nice passing with a goal from the slot. Later, Shaone Morrisonn drew a high-sticking penalty, and Alex Ovechkin shot off the following faceoff for his 47th goal. He'd add his 48th with 0.2 secs to go.

    Some notes:

    • I didn't expect Bylsma to pull the goalie--again--with 30 seconds to go and down by two.
    • Sidney Crosby hit 57% in the faceoff department, exactly what you'd expect
    • Another rough night for Steckel in the dot: 45% only 3-7 in the neutral zone. He did, however, pick up an assist (and a +1) and played sound defensive hockey. Unfortunately, he was the only Caps forward to not register a shot on goal.
    • Jay Beagle won 7 of 10 draws, including 4 of 5 against Sidney Crosby. That'll do, Jay.
    • Rough night for Shaone Morrisonn. He was physical all night long, but also deflected one goal into his own net, committed the turnover that led to another goal, and was the only Cap in the "minus" (minus-2). John Carlson can't get back fast enough.
    • At least Joe Corvo looked solid out there. Still a little shy of going to the rougher areas, but played 20 solid minutes.
    • You could tell Evgeni Malkin was missing--Sidney Crosby skated 27+ minutes of the 60, and double-shifted on the power play.
    • John Erskine left after playing 3:52. I don't know what happened. I guess that's why King Karl was called up before the game.
    • I think a strong showing Nicklas Backstrom now goes without saying. 62% on draws, 3 assists, +2 in a little over 20 mins of work. He needs 2 points to reach 100.
    • Alex Ovechkin is back. 2 goals (fine, one plus an empty netter) to take the Richard and Ross leads (tied, but with fewer games played) and needs two goals to get to 50. He's still not the same tenacious aggressive hitter he was before, though. Saving it for the playoffs, I hope.
    • A good game from Varlamov. Can't really blame him for any of the Penguins' goals, and 26 saves on 29 shots is decent.
    • The Penguins average 4.6 minors per game. Against the Caps, that's 2 minors per game. I won't call conspiracy, but...seriously? No surprise here: Pens with 4 PPs (1 goal), the Caps 1 (1 goal).
    • I'm disappointed that Alex Ovechkin took so long to get that power-play goal. Four seconds???!!!
    • Does Eddie Olzyck have something against the Caps? In a technical error, discussing what questions Joe B could ask him, he dismissed the question on Varlamov and opted for the question about the Pens' power play. He noticed that the Caps' PPG was a result of Jordan Staal winning a draw but having it go off the linesman's skate, and thereafter didn't fail to mention it. And then he emphasized that regular season records mean zilch in the playoffs. Come on, Edzo.
    • Jeff Schultz led all players not in goal or wearing 87 in ice time with 25 minutes of 2 assist, +5 hockey. Mr. Nasty is back.
    • There was lots of rough stuff going on, especially in the second when every line change it seemed was accompanied by some minor bench scrums. 56 hits combined on the night.
    • Responsible hockey by both sides. Two giveaways, nine takeaways. I can buy that.
    That's all for now. I want to go to sleep.

    Capitals @ Penguins

    Washington Capitals. Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Need I say more?

    Oh well, I will.

    Storylines for tonight:

    • Pittsburgh is competing for the Atlantic division crown with New Jersey. You know they'd like to face Boston, Philadelphia, or the New York Rangers instead of Ottawa. That is, unless Buffalo passed both Atlantic teams, which would relegate the Atlantic winner to face Montreal. Pittsburgh and New Jersey each have 97 points with 3 games remaining, but New Jersey holds the tiebreaker by virtue of sweeping the season series from the western Pennsylvania rivals. That's 6 games, folks. And the Caps will look to sweep the Penguins as well, with a win.
    • Sidney Crosby: 47 goals. Alex Ovechkin: 46 goals. Steven Stamkos: 46 goals. All three have been cold since the Olympic break. Luckily for Caps fans, Ovechkin looked to have found his game against Boston, getting two helpers, a +1, 6 shots on goal (9 attempts), and 3 hits in a little over 18 minutes of ice time. His chances are looking good.
    • Alex Ovechkin trails Henrik Sedin by two points in the Art Ross Trophy Race. It says here that he'll not only catch up, but take the lead--tonight.
    • Both teams tend to play playoff-style hockey when they face off. Couple that in with the fact that they're trying to play playoff hockey right about now, and it should be good.
    • Jose Theodore is hot. Semyon Varlamov is getting better with each start. Bodes well for DC.
    • With two more wins, the Capitals will become the second team since the lockout to hit 120 points (Detroit hit 124 in 2005-2006).
    • The Capitals can extend their franchise record for road wins by winning their final road game tonight, in Pittsburgh.
    • Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar both missed the last meeting, a thrilling 4-3 shootout loss.
    • The Capitals have outscored Pittsburgh in the third period of games this season 10-2 or something like that.

    It's the last regular season meeting between the Capitals and Penguins at Mellon Arena (next season, the Penguins will move to Consol Energy Center).

    Watch the game on Versus.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Caps 3, Bs 2 (OT)

    So got to see another game tonight (this morning?) and I was, while not terribly impressed, satisfied.

    The Capitals started the first not playing too hard, but taking control, and got on the board after Bill McCreary ruled a Nicklas Backstrom shot had tricked across the goal line and, presumably, video was not conclusive enough to overturn the on-ice call. A major theme in this one though was faceoffs. As in, the Caps got killed in that regard. With under 10 seconds to go in the first, David Steckel lost a defensive-zone faceoff to Patrice Bergeron, with the end result a goal by Dennis Wideman on a one-timer from the point past Theodore.

    In the second period, it was the Bruins piling it on. They had plenty of zone time against the Caps and got the lead on a goal by Patrice Bergeron. A bright spot in the 2nd was the Caps' blocking shot after shot and getting their own shots through. Towards the end of the second Washington broke through as Alex Ovechkin's backhander on a broken play hit Mike Knuble in the foot (or somewhere else) and went past Tuukka Rask.

    The third was good hockey. It was solid defensively--playoff style--but towards the end broke down into a more run-and-gun type game, a style that obviously favors Washington, but neither team was able to score. In overtime, I was scared when I saw defensive liability Tomas Fleischmann starting the 4-on-4 situation, but he drew a penalty that gave the Caps a 4-on-3 power play, on which they sent out four forwards (another situation that made me nervous), but Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin set up a tap-in for Brooks Laich for the winner.

    Some notes:

    • Faceoffs: Caps got killed. Tomas Fleischmann was at 33%, Eric Belanger 40%, David Steckel 33%. And then you have Nicklas Backstrom at 67% and both Alexes at 100%.
    • TOI distribution for Washington: Good. Tom Poti paced Washington at a little under 23 minutes, with Jeff Schultz and Joe Corvo also topping 20. No Caps forward topped 19 minutes, with Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Ovechkin all going over 18 minutes. I like that, seeing as the President's Trophy is already clinched.
    • TOI distribution for Boston on defense: Hunwick @ 29mins, Wideman @ 28:39, Chara @ 26:11, Boychuk @ 22:33, McQuiad @ 9:10, Bodnarchuk @ 5:55. Way to spread it around.
    • For forwards, Krejci and Satan were the leaders for Boston, both topping 19 and Krejci over 20. And they were invisible, just like R.J. Umberger, who led Columbus in TOI in a loss to Washington on Saturday.
    • The refereeing was good and consistent, I think. Washington got called for three minors and Boston two. That being said I'm glad they missed Semin's high-stick on Chara that should have been a double-minor for drawing blood.
    • Boston was sloppy on the power-play. Sure made the Caps' PK look good.
    • Alex Ovechkin didn't score, but he looked back to his old self tonight. He had just over 18 minutes of ice time and put up two assists with a +1 rating and won his only draw to boot.
    • The scorekeepers were feeling a little too happy. I can buy the 54 hits, but 20 giveaways and 23 takeaways (combined)? At the very lease most of those takeaways, for Washington, were in the defensive zone. Good play in their own end.
    • Speaking of which, I'm surprised the Bs got to 30 shots and the Caps only got 30.
    • So the Capitals beat a likely first-round opponent who was playing with more fire, more motivation, and without Mike Green (healthy scratch) and John Carlson in the lineup. Imagine what'll happen when Bruce Boudreau doesn't dress Tyler Sloan and John Erskine in the playoffs (and by the way, on the same pairing???!!! Ouch).
    • Tuukka Rask is good, but not series-stealing good. Jose Theodore, on the other hand, is looking almost series-stealing good.
    That's all for now.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Caps 3, Jackets 2

    So because I have Spring break, I was able to stay up late and watch this game (or rather, go to bed early, get up early, and go to bed again). And I was very very impressed by the Caps' play in the first period. If they play like that for 60 mins a night and if the top line gets it going, man, they will be tough to beat. Recap (by Corey!) Japers' Rink Recap Mike Vogel's Recap (Caps' website)
    Tarik's recap (Game story, post-game blog) Peerless' Recap
    Check out Japers' Rink Caps Clips on Sunday morning for more.

    I'll try my hand at a recap for you readers...

    • Mike Green stood out to me all game. And for all the right reasons. He moved the puck extremely well. He kept pucks in the offensive zone. He cleared the puck from the defensive zone. He played some odd-man rushes against well, including twice while facing Rick Nash one-on-one. And he scored the game-winning power-play goal, his 74th point (a new career high) and his 19th goal overall. With Duncan Keith's underwhelming post-Olympic break performance, Green is steadily gaining in the Norris Trophy race as the NHL's top defenseman, and may even be the frontrunner now. From the recap:
    • Capitals defenseman Mike Green, who's been playing the best defensive hockey of his career, also scored his 19th goal of the season and set a career-high with in points with 74. Both are tops among NHL defensemen this season.

      He made a few outstanding individual defensive plays, including canceling out a potential shorthanded chance in the third period as the Blue Jackets attempted to complete a comeback.

      "He was fabulous. Mike Green was fabulous tonight not withstanding scoring the winning goal. I just thought that every time on he was a force – defensively," Boudreau said. "He's been like that for a while, but he just doesn't get the recognition that he deserves."

    • Alex Ovechkin is not helping his case for any individual trophy (except maybe the Conn Smythe). He again struggled, waiting too long to pass or shoot and only getting two shots on goal (both in the third period). He missed the net quite a bit as well. He only has four games left to make up 3 points in the Art Ross trophy race, 1 goal in the Rocket Richard race, and probably needs a few more points to get the Hart. A -2 on the night doesn't help.
    • Tomas Fleischmann shouldn't be in the playoff lineup. He was caught standing around all too often. Yes, one time that did result in a goal (the Caps' second, just after a PP had expired), but for the rest of the night he was losing the puck all too easily as he'd get out-muscled in pursuit of the puck. At the very least he won 75% of his faceoffs...yeah. Brendan Morrison is a better option at center.
    • Joe Corvo can't change his mind on how to play a 2-on-1 after he's already committed. That being said, the pass from Rick Nash to Antoine Vermette for the shorthanded goal was a beauty. Could Alex Ovechkin have intercepted though with a couple of more strides? He seems to let up just a bit too early.
    • Tom Poti needs to communicate better with his defense partner. Before, he and Joe Corvo were getting caught out of position too often. Last night, Poti and Tyler Sloan were getting caught skating around, chasing, all too often, and on the second Jackets' goal both got caught trying to go and cover Rick Nash--that slight moment Sloan was skating to Nash before he realized Poti had already gone and that he should retreat was enough time for Nash to slide a sweet pass to Vermette for a goal. It didn't help that the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble line would get caught in the defensive zone because Poti and Sloan couldn't get control of the puck.
    • Jose Theodore was very good. He stopped Rick Nash and Derick Brassard several times each on good chances. His lower-body reflexes were really good. Seems more and more like that poor Calgary performance was an anomaly.
    Some quotes and stuff:

    • RJ Umberger: bitter much, maybe that Jason Chimera, and not he, was traded to Washington?
      One member of the Blue Jackets was definitely not impressed with Washington's effort.

      "I don't think any team in the West would be overmatched by them. They play the wrong way," R.J. Umberger told the Columbus Dispatch. "They want to be moving all the time. They float around in their zone looking for breakaways and odd-man rushes.

      "A good defensive team is going to beat them. If you eliminate your turnovers and keep them off the PP, they're going to get frustrated because they're in their zone a lot."
    • The Caps set a franchise record with their 51st win and 23rd road win, and extended their franchise points record. One point gained by DC or lost by San Jose clinches the franchise's first President's Trophy.
    • The Caps' AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, set an AHL record for wins with their 58th and home wins with their 33rd. Success all around. They will also host the 2011 AHL All-star game.
    • Tomas Fleischmann hit 50 points. Alexander Semin tied a career high with 38 goals.
    That's all for now.