Sunday, October 31, 2010

Roy MacGregor Hates Corsi

Unfortunately, it looks true. Here's his article. Sigh...

Here's a response. Not great, but just what I can come up with right now.

May I first remind you that Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi (or maybe even the stats keepers at the 1972 Summit Series) first started tracking the statistic. So apparently someone important though it was worth something.

But neither compares to the incessant baseball-ization of the game that has become even more absurd than fans dressed as hockey pucks bouncing off each other in a humiliating race around the rink.

So what if it's becoming like baseball? That means hockey will be wildly popular very soon. Numbers help people understand the game.

Awards Watch: November

At the beginning of each month, I plan to give a quick rundown of the awards races to date. Here's my take one month into the season.

Hart Trophy:

Steven Stamkos--his unsustainably high PDO notwithstanding, production is production, and Stamkos thus far has been lapping the field. He'll come down to Earth pretty soon, though.

Tim Thomas--like giving the finger to Tuukka Rask, Thomas has allowed 3 goals in 6 games. Three goals in six games.

Joe Thornton--15 points in 9 games. That counts for a lot, even if the Sharks aren't exactly rolling yet.

Chris Stewart--second in league scoring. He'll probably slip a bit (PDO north of 103%), but not as much as Stamkos. Could Stewart win the Art Ross Trophy?

Brent Johnson--with Marc-Andre Fleury struggling, Johnson has stepped in and been stellar for the Penguins, keeping them afloat.

Just missed: Patrick Sharp

Recap: Capitals 7 @ Flames 2

domination (noun)
1. an act or instance of dominating

That was the night, in a nutshell. For the first twenty minutes Calgary were much better, but a bad hooking penalty by Curtis Glencross in the offensive zone helped the Caps to start scoring. A lot.

Man of the match: Mike Green. All night long Green was simply fantastic and the best player on the ice. He broke up plays with ease and started the Caps' rush with that trademark effortless stride. His feed to Nicklas Backstrom on the latter's power play goal was Crosby-esque, through three Flames in the slot and right onto Backstrom's stick.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One Week Hiatus

Tomorrow I'll be off to Spain for a few days. I'll be back Sunday, October 31 (in EST, still Saturday night). The next editions of Last Five in Fenwick and Awards Watch (for November) will be up a little late, when I get back.

In the meantime, Let's Go Caps!

Preview: Thrashers @ Capitals

Atlanta Thrashers @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 4-3-0, 8 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 4-4-8 in 7 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Mike Green, W Matt Bradley
Probable starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov (19-4-7, 2.52, .911 career)
Player to watch: W Alex Ovechkin

Atlanta: 3-4-0, 6 points
Leading scorer: Andrew Ladd, 2-5-7 in 7 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 49.2%
Notable injuries/illnesses: G Ondrej Pavelec, W Fredrik Modin, D Zach Bogosian, C Jim Slater, W Patrice Cormier
Probable starting goalie: Chris Mason (3-4-0, 3.47, .948)
Player to watch: D Dustin Byfuglien

I have to leave for the airport in 15 minutes, so apologies for the brief preview.

"The Alexes" feast on Atlanta. The Cup-winning Hawks are boosting Atlanta thus far. Byfuglien in particular has put up good offensive numbers, but is still prone to implode defensively. If the Caps can convert, they'll be in business. They will need a strong effort to do so, however. Given the last few games, I'm skeptical the Caps will come out to play.

I never want to hear anyone ever question Mike Green's worth to the Capitals ever again.

Thrashers 3, Capitals 2 (OT).

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Stayin' Angry": Not the Right Mentality

The Caps' motto coming into this season has been "Stay Angry." I had my unspoken reservations then (really, honest!) but I didn't say anything, mainly because I took my reservations to be a product of my introverted, stoic personality (though you'd best judge that yourself ;) )rather than a reflection on what is best for the Washington Capitals. Given the team's recent struggles, though, I'm getting the feeling that my gut instinct on "Stay Angry" was correct all along.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Preview: Capitals @ Bruins

Washington Capitals @ Boston Bruins

Washington: 4-2-0, 8 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 4-4-8 in 6 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Mike Green, G Michal Neuvirth
Probable starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov (19-4-7, 2.52, .911 career)
Player to watch: W Alex Ovechkin

Boston: 3-1-0, 6 points
Leading scorer: Nathan Horton, 3-3-6 in 4 GP, and David Krejci, 1-5-6 in 4 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 53.4%
Notable injuries/illnesses: C Marc Savard, W Marco Sturm, D Andrew Ference
Probable starting goalie: Tuukka Rask
Player to watch: C David Krejci

Time for revenge.

1) Can the Caps match up? No Savard, no problem. The Bruins send out Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin down the middle on forward lines 1-3, with pretty solid wingers too. If the Caps' top lines can't get anything going, we'll be in for a long night of being dominated. Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich played pretty well on Tuesday; let's hope that continues, with some tangible production this time around.

2) Will the top line gel? Claude Julien in Washington tried to go power versus power against the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble line, trotting out Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic against them. In Boston, with the last change, Julien should be able to do the same, and add Zdeno Chara on the blueline. Yikes. We know Alex Ovechkin can dominate anyone--the question is if he decides to or not. If he does, Tuukka Rask better watch out.

3) Will the special teams be 'specially good? The Caps' PK so far is at 100% and the PP has been fairly inconsistent. The Bruins look like the slightly better team at even strength, so the Capitals can't afford a clunker from their special teams units. No o-fer on the PP would help a lot.

4) Can the Capitals, you know, actually play well? The Caps went 4-1, and I gave them a C for the first five games, in large part because of a negative Fenwick and unimpressive scoring chance ratios. Let's see some better hockey, boys. Two nights ago you were better, but you were also outplaying Boston when trailing (score effects), the expected result. Let's see you come out strong in the first and dominate with the score tied.

5) Which Caps goalie shows up? If Varlamov starts, it will be his first since returning from injury, and the last few times he's returned from injury he's not been too impressive in his first game back. He was solid two nights ago, but he throughout his career has been exceptional in relief. Let's see how he does when starting. Boston plays a disciplined system and the Capitals will be hard-pressed to overcome a large deficit against Boston, so they can't afford any softies against.

Capitals 4, Bruins 1.

Congratulations, Marcus Johansson

Chalk this one up as on October 19, 2010, Boston Bruins @ Washington Capitals, 7:42 of the second period, with helpers from Jason Chimera and Matt Hendricks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Preview: Bruins @ Capitals

Boston Bruins @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 4-1-0, 8 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 4-4-8 in 5 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries: D Mike Green, D Tom Poti, W Matt Bradley
Probable starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov (season debut; 19-4-7, 2.52, .911 career) Michal Neuvirth

Player to watch: G Semyon Varlamov Michal Neuvirth

Boston: 2-1-0, 4 points
Leading scorer: Nathan Horton, 3-2-5 in 3 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 53.4%
Notable injuries: C Marc Savard, W Marco Sturm, D Andrew Ference
Probable starting goalie: Tim Thomas
Player to watch: W Nathan Horton

In recent years, the Capitals and Bruins have had some close, fun games. Aside from a 10-2 victory by Washington in the spring of 2008 that saw Tim Thomas give up 8 goals, each matchup has been within two goals, in large part because of the Bruins' great goaltending. In 2008-2009, both Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez put up Vezina-esque numbers in net for Boston (as did both Craig Anderson and Tomas Vokoun in Florida, and as will Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth this season for Washington, one can hope). Last season, it was Tim Thomas and 23-year old rookie goalie Tuukka Rask, who was absolutely stellar. Thomas actually had pretty solid numbers last year, which is in part why through three games he seems to be Boston's starter...for now.

Questions that will be answered:

1) How will the Caps handle Boston's forward depth? Take a quick gander at Boston's depth chart. Even without Savard, there's 9 solid forwards in there, minimum. While the Bruins lack the top-tier offensive talent the Capitals have, they can match the Capitals line-for-line after the first lines. Considering the Capitals' lackluster blueline at the moment, depth should be extremely important. The Bruins will always be icing a capable group of forwards, and the Capitals won't always have the defensemen to match.

2) How will the Bruins' goaltending hold up? It may seem like a funny question to ask, but the Capitals have a knack for making premier goalies look bad. Tim Thomas isn't the most consistent goalie, and thus far Rask hasn't been great either (in only one game, note). The Bruins rely on their goalies stopping the shots they should and can't really afford for their goalies to let in several softies, since they don't have the star power up front that a team like Washington or Chicago does.

3) Will the special teams continue to be 'specially good? The Caps' PK so far is at 100% and the PP has struck 3 times in the last two games. The Bruins look like the slightly better team at even strength, so the Capitals can't afford a clunker from their special teams units.

4) Can the Capitals, you know, actually play well? The Caps went 4-1, and I gave them a C for the first five games, in large part because of a negative Fenwick and unimpressive scoring chance ratios. Let's see some better hockey, boys.

5) Which Caps goalie shows up? If Neuvirth starts, it will be his sixth straight. If Varlamov starts, it will be his first since returning from injury, and the last few times he's returned from injury he's not been too impressive in his first game back. Boston plays a disciplined system and the Capitals will be hard-pressed to overcome a large deficit against Boston.

Bruins 3, Capitals 1.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last Five Fenwick: Games 1-5

I was planning to do a weekly look at scoring chances, but Neil at RMNB got to that first. So here debuts a new series, looking at the Capitals' Fenwick over the past five games (similar to Japers' Rink's "This Week in Corsi" series). Remember, Fenwick is (shots for + missed shots for) - (shots against + missed shots against). It correlates a bit better with scoring chance ratios than Corsi, which incorporates blocked shots, does, because it's more representative of what we want it to represent--territorial dominance (or lack thereof).

While my numbers should correlate strongly with Neil's over good sample, over short term we could see differences, as Fenwick generally has a bigger sample. We also can't compare scoring chances directly across different teams, as we can do with Fenwick and Corsi numbers.

My hope is that after the regular season ends, we can combine the Fenwick and scoring chances data to see evidence that the Capitals as a team deserve to have high shooting percentage because their average shot is more likely to be a scoring chance. This point is the one made by Caps fans who are adamant that last season's abnormally high 10.9% shooting at evens was a result of skill, not a fluke as the statisticians like Gabriel Desjardins say. I'd also like to see evidence of improvement when I graph the numbers.

Here's a link to my spreadsheet. When Vic Ferrari updates the playershot scripts, I'll add in Fenwick% too. Right now adding those numbers in would make the spreadsheet too messy.

A realistic target for the Capitals I think would be Detroit's totals last season. While Chicago's are probably untouchable, Detroit's totals were pretty similar to Washington's from 2007-2008 an 2008-2009. A 54% Fenwick with the score tied sounds pretty solid to me and would represent a 3% improvement over 2009-2010.

My quick math from the 2009-2010 team Fenwick totals at Timeonice says Chicago out-Fenwick'ed opponents by roughly 10 per game, 51 per 5-game segment. Crazy. Detroit was around 4-21, 09-10 Caps 2-10, 08-09 DC 6-31, and 07-08 Washington 6-32.

I think something in the 20-30 range over 5 games is what we want to see. 10 is just too poor. In other words, to grade on the Caps' Fenwick per 5 games:

30+: A+
25-29: A
20-24: B+
15-19: B
10-14: C+
5-9: C
0-5: D
Under 0: F

To put Fenwick/60 into context, well, last season the league leader was Marian Hossa at 23.01 Corsi/60 (Corsi On). Fenwick would probably be a bit lower, say around 20. Two Caps topped league-wide Corsi/60 in 2008-2009, Sergei Fedorov at 24.83 and Eric Fehr at 23.94 (with tougher competition and weaker teammates than Fedorov...Fehr is a beast). For the top-end Caps (Backstrom, Green, and Ovechkin), a good target would be around 15-20. For others, small positive numbers works, especially those like Gordon and Steckel who play tough minutes. We don't want to see anyone below zero unless Boudreau decides to line-match forwards closely over a 5 game segment.

Results from Games 1-5:

Game 20011: Washington 2 @ Atlanta 4
Game 20017: New Jersey 2 @ Washington 7
Game 20032: Ottawa 2 @ Washington 3 (OT)
Game 20037: New York Islanders 1 @ Washington 2
Game 20060 : Washington 3 @ Nashville 2 (OT)

The shining lights from the first five games were Nicklas Backstrom and Jeff Schultz. The Caps as a whole, though, were fairly inconsistent. Even Backstrom and Schultz used a strong game against Atlanta to buoy their Fenwick/60 to the positive side of the ledger. Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin were the consistent performers, each no higher than 2 and no lower than -2 in any game.

Unfortunately, the Caps as a team didn't do a terribly good job controlling possession. As a team they were to the negative side of the ledger, and quite far from the ~20 target I'd like to set them for every five games.

Another note: clearly Marcus Johansson is not ready for tough minutes. So stop giving them to him, Bruce Boudreau, especially when he's not given great teammates and easy zonestart. That is to say, young player + tough zonestart + tough competition + weak teammates is a recipe for disaster. No wonder he was in the red in scoring chances and Fenwick.

My list says I should grade the team with a F, but the Caps did win four of five. Hockey is all about winning at its core, and I'll give the Caps the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were controlling something we can't yet quantify. The certainly did decently in scoring chances and the PK was excellent. Nicklas Backstrom was amazing as well, and even John Carlson, for all his...well, let's say his defensive zone coverage wasn't what we're used to...did put up good offensive numbers too. Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera played extremely well for at least three games (more than most other Caps), and our favorite Mr. Nasty Jeff Schultz was the Caps' best player not named Neuvirth. I'm starting to believe that Schultz is a legitimate top-pairing defenseman, skating notwithstanding. He's a great hockey player, and keep in mind he looks even better when you factor in Corsi.

Grade: C

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Recap: Capitals 3 @ Predators 2 (OT)

So this wasn't exactly the run-and-gun game with shaky goaltending that I expected. Michal Neuvirth started instead of Semyon Varlamov, and Anders Lindback is better than I thought.

The Caps won both special teams battles--even if the Preds' special team units actually looked better--because they got the results. Michal Neuvirth was robbed of first-star status, but I'm sure Puck Daddy will give him his dues. All in all, a pretty poor game, but the Caps still won. They're still searching for those good habits, though, like starting strong and pushing their foot to the throat and playing good Corsi hockey. Whatever, two points is two points.

Oh, and the PK is still kicking ass. They gave up better chances more frequently than one would like, but you can't ask for much when it has to kill five minors in less than half the game. Michal Neuvirth did the rest. Luckily for him and the rest of the team, the Caps were pretty well disciplined after the first.

Michal Neuvirth is going to make Semyon Varlamov have to play extraordinarily well to win back the starting job.

Man of the match: Michal Neuvirth

Preview: Capitals @ Predators

Washington Capitals @ Nashville Predators

Washington: 3-1-0, 6 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 4-3-7
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Probable starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov (season debut; 19-4-7, 2.52, .911 career)
Player to watch: C Nicklas Backstrom

Nashville: 3-0-0, 6 points
Leading scorer: Steve Sullivan (4-1-5)
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.5%
Probable starting goalie: Anders Lindback (2-0-0, 2.19, .925)
Player to watch: W Steve Sullivan

Both the Preds and Caps are on 3-game winning streaks. Both lost their starting goalies early in the season (or preseason). Both are operating a hot special teams unit that traditionally runs cold, and a cold special teams unit that traditionally runs hot. They're almost even in tied Fenwick% too.

In my mind, there are several storylines running here:

1) Special teams. The Predators' PP is hot, the Caps' PK is hot. The Predators' PK is cold, the Caps' PK is cold. Something's gotta give. My money is on the PPs, because of their good puck movement. And the fact that Varlamov, a notoriously poor PK goalie thus far, may be starting.

2) Shea Weber and Ryan Suter vs Alex Ovechkin. How will Ovechkin get back at Weber, the guy who slashed his wrist in the preseason? Can he get through David Legwand and then both Suter and Weber, the three guys you can expect to see shadowing Ovechkin's line? We'll see.

3) The Washington Backstroms. If Neuvirth isn't starting, then this really is Backstrom's team to lead. He's been the best Cap so far this season. He's been a top penalty killer and top power play man (maybe the latter isn't such a good thing, considering the state of the Caps' PP at the moment). He's been the only top-nine forward on the Caps who seems like he's going and going and not zoning out for long stretches of games, Ovechkin's 7 points notwithstanding. For the Capitals to get through the tough Nashville D, Backstrom is likely going to have to come up big.

4) Can John Carlson ramp it up? Carlson's performances recently haven't exactly been excellent. He'll need to ramp it up, especially since the Caps may be without both Mike Green and Tom Poti. Yikes.

All indications thus far are that Backstrom will come through with strong play, and Alex Ovechkin will produce. As long as the Caps' defense (lookin' at you, messers. Erskine, Sloan, and Hershey call-up) and goaltending hold up, they should win. With Varlamov in net, that's certainly a possibility. But Varlamov has a tendency to start slow when coming back from injury, and the Predators have great forward depth, if not top-end talent, to get good scorers against the Caps' weaker players. Predators 5, Capitals 3.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fantasy Teams

I landed two teams over the past couple of days, and here they are:

10 team league, snake draft, I picked #2 in odd rounds and #9 in even rounds. I think I kicked ass in this draft.

2. Sidney Crosby--duh
19. Henrik Lundqvist--he's a great goalie and is pretty much a lock for 30 wins, under 2.5 GAA, and a .910 sv%. Sweet.
22. Patrick Kane--he's just entering his offensive prime now. With easy zonestart and the Hawks having to rely more on their top-end forwards, he should rack up the points.
49. Dan Boyle--San Jose is always really good
62. Tuukka Rask--watch him tear it up...again.
79. Travis Zajac--Ilya Kovalchuk is his new LW. Zach Parise is his RW. He plays lots of minutes.
82. Mikko Koivu--if Minnesota is better as a team, Koivu's numbers will be better too.
99. Nicklas Lidstrom--he's getting underrated just because he had a down year with all of Detroit's injuries last season hampering his ability to rack up points.
102. Tyler Myers--I think he's a steal so low. Lots of points, solid all-around play.
119. David Booth--he dropped so far because of concussion issues. A bit of a risky pick here, but if healthy he can score 30 goals.
122. Craig Anderson--he's been great at least 2 years in a row now, and while the Avs may not have the same luck, they should be better as a team this season than last, even if it doesn't show in the point totals.
139. Antero Niittymaki--Over the last three seasons, he's been a pretty good goalie, and he just went to play for the San Jose Sharks. I'm pretty sure he takes the starting job and has great win and GAA totals to show for it.
142. David Backes--PIMs and points. How could he come so low?
159. Alexei Ponikarovsky--a top-6 winger on an LA team that should be really, really good this season.
162. Niclas Bergfors--he'll be relied upon for offense in Atlanta, and has already shown himself to be a decent depth scorer.
179. Andrei Kostitsyn--see Bergfors, but substitute "Montreal" for "Atlanta."
182. Mike Fisher--a lock for 20 goals and 50 points.
199. Ryan Suter--a complete steal. He could flirt with 50 points.
202. Jamie McBain--30 points is good contribution from a defenseman, and I think he'll have little trouble hitting that mark.
219. Kris Letang--see Suter, but substitute "60" for "50."
222. John Carlson--I need to have at least one Capital on my roster.
239. Joffrey Lupul--honestly, this low I stopped editing the rankings (I missed the live draft).

I also picked up a team from the Pensburgh league. I'm not loving it. I already picked up Oliver Ekman-Larsson, since I think the kid could be a 40 point defenseman if Adrian Aucoin gets hurt for a long time and I really need those finds in order to win. The team is really lacking in top-end, reliable talent.

C: Tomas Plekanec, Derick Brassard, Marc Savard, Brad Richards,
LW: Daniel Sedin, Alex Tanguay, Alexander Semin (dual eligibility), Scott Hartnell
RW: Jason Pominville, Alexander Semin (dual eligibility), Tomas Holmstrom, Guillaume Latendresse
D: Jason Demers, Brian Rafalski, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, James Wisniewski, John-Michael Liles, Anton Stralman, Dion Phaneuf
G: Nikolai Khabibulin, Antero Niittymaki

We'll see what happens.

If you don't know how to use Timeonice

I put together a how-to of some of the basics here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Preview: Islanders @ Capitals

New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 2-1-0, 4 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 3-2-5
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Probable starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (2-1-0, 2.62, .916)
Player to watch: G Michal Neuvirth

New York: 1-0-1, 3 points
Leading scorer: Blake Comeau (3-1-4) and Josh Bailey (1-3-4)
Tied Fenwick% last season: 48.4%
Probable starting goalie: Rick DiPietro (1-0-1, 3.84, .855)
Player to watch: F Frans Nielsen

The Islanders are...something. A popular pick to finish near the bottom of the East, they've already lost world-class defenseman Mark Streit, top offensive threat Johnathan Tavares, and scoring winger Kyle Okposo--their three best player--to injury. Ouch.

Meanwhile, the Capitals will be without Tom Poti, Marcus Johansson, and Matt Bradley. That means DJ King, David Steckel, and Tyler Sloan will be in the lineup. At practice Bruce Boudreau reportedly was using Tomas Fleischmann as the top-line center, bumping Nicklas Backstrom down to 2nd-line center. If this change is simply for this game, it may not be too bad. The Capitals will need their depth to come through, and Nielsen, their top defensive forward, is guaranteed to be out against Ovechkin as frequently as possible. That leaves a hole for Alexander Semin to fill, and Nicklas Backstrom can help him immensely. If I were the coach, though, I certainly wouldn't make this change.

I expect the Islanders to play the Capitals fairly tight, as they always seem to do. Rick DiPietro is a good goalie (then again, the Caps saw a better goalie on Saturday, and look how that turned out), and Frans Nielsen should have Ovechkin and Backstrom under wraps pretty decently. It'll come down to the depth again, but with the injuries the Islanders have, coupled with the Caps' discipline this far, I can't see them winning. The Isles lose at evens and they probably lose on special teams too. Capitals 4, Islanders 2.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Forward Depth: Part II

In response to the original post on forward depth, D'ohboy on Japers' Rink suggested that perhaps a large part of the Capitals' seeming decline in forward depth performance is not only because Sergei Fedorov left, but that he left and was replaced by Tomas Fleischmann at second-line center. Fleischmann would gain time on ice, but I'm not quite sure why he would suddenly become such an issue, considering he wasn't evidently a defensive liability before. I mean, I would expect his deficiencies to be more exposed, but supposed "growth" should counteract that, right?

So then, is Fleischmann worse than in 2007-2008? In other words, is he in decline? Maybe it's crazy to ask, considering Fleischmann isn't even into UFA years yet and is in his "prime," but let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Preview: Senators @ Capitals

Ottawa Senators @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 1-1-0, 2 points; 54-15-13, 121 points, 1st in EC last season
Leading scorer last season: Alex Ovechkin, 50-59-109
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Probable starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth
Player to watch: LW Alex Ovechkin

Ottawa: 0-2-0,  points; 44-32-6, 94 points, 5th in East last season
Leading scorer last season: Daniel Alfredsson, 20-51-71
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.2%
Probable starting goalie:
Player to watch: C Jason Spezza

The Senators are one of the streakiest teams in the NHL. They have a decent group of forwards and defensemen, but their goalies adventure. As Down Goes Brown and Bloge Salming put it, "this exciting team features two young goalies, both of whom get to play in every game." Ouch.

Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin tend to light up Ottawa. Ovechkin is 16-14-30 in 20 games against the Sens, and Semin is 11-9-20 in 15 games. Both seemed to pick up their play to normal level against New Jersey, and they'll need to continue their play against Ottawa, which, by Fenwick%, is about as good as Washington. While Washington has better offense and, if you ask me, much better goaltending, it is conceivable that Washington's advantages don't come through because of poor play. It wouldn't be the first time.

Then again, with the way Boudreau used his lines against New Jersey--power versus power--I think there's less of a chance that happens. Line for line, the Capitals beat the Senators. With power versus power, they should have a stronger group of five players than Ottawa out on the ice for almost all even strength time.

(Regarding power vs power: It's conceivable John Maclean simply used Zajac against Backstrom and Boudreau didn't bother to switch, but with the last change, Boudreau didn't try and actively get Backstrom easier matchups. We can see from the top trio's +5 Zonestart that they were getting the toughest zonestarts of all Caps forwards, so Boudreau seemed to actually be trying power versus power. I wonder if he read my post the other day)

Even though the New Jersey game was only 1 game, the results are promising. The Capitals hung in there, caught a break or two, and kept with it until the Devils were forced to open up the game a bit (and be riskier). Ottawa isn't nearly as disciplined as New Jersey. They'll surrender both the rush and the cycle game.

Ottawa's real strength is in the forwards (relatively speaking, that is). With Alfredsson and Spezza, the Senators could have 2 90 point players this season. Fisher and Kovalev also provide some potential offensive punch. On a given night their group of forwards could abuse any given defense. Most nights, however, they don't. As long as the Capitals contain Ottawa's ability to attack off the rush, they should be fine. What's the best way to do that? Control the puck and be on the attack yourself.

Ottawa through two games has a -5 goal differential, 28th in the NHL. I don't see any reason for the Senators to suddenly break through against Washington. The one chance Ottawa really has is with special teams, but it would take a herculean effort in that regard for Ottawa to make up their deficit at evens. I guess when you have Sergei Gonchar playing 7 mins of PP per game with 4 more minutes shorthanded, things could go either way. Theoretically. Capitals 5, Senators 1.

Fun with Timeonice

Thanks to Vic Ferrari's awesome playershot scripts...

Last season, with the score tied, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom together were a 54.3% Fenwick duo (link).

With the Capitals trailing, 8-19 were a 66.7% Fenwick (link). Throw in Semin and that becomes 68.1% (link). Have Knuble instead of Semin and it's a 70.7% (link).

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews together, with the score tied, were 59.6% (link). They were 68.6% when trailing (link).

Meanwhile, as a team, the Capitals were 59.9% while trailing. The Hawks were 66.8%, and actually right around 59% with the game tied.

I'd wager the Capitals can ramp it up more if they're trailing because a rush-centered offense coupled with a conservative defense by the other team generates lots of shots without allowing many, but with the game tied, the Hawks play a better two-way style. Model yourselves after the Hawks, boys.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Recap: Devils @ Capitals

All in all, a solid outing for the Capitals. They were efficient in converting their chances once they found their legs about midway through the second period, and never looked back thereafter. They attacked with speed, got plenty of rushes, and were aggressive defensively, not giving the Devils too much time and space with which to work.

The Devils are never going to beat the Capitals playing like that. Run-and-gun with Washington and you're going to lose.

Man of the match: John Carlson, who went 1-2-3 with some nice defensive plays and pinches to keep offensive plays alive as well. He contributed the most before the game turned into a blowout.

1st period:

The "Red" and "O" shouts the fans do during the national anthem are obnoxious.

The Capitals came out a lot better during the first half of the first period or so. The teams went power-versus-power on the first shift and a few other times. The Capitals really played physically, hitting the defensemen hard on the forecheck (Anton Volchenkov got it bad...and worse when he took a Backstrom slapshot in the mouth and left the game).

The Capitals were caught standing around a few times--they need to be aggressive when playing defense. On Tallinder's shorthanded goal, though, they were too aggressive, attacking the puck carrier Zajac with all five skaters and leaving Zubrus and Tallinder open in the slot. The Devils are working rotations and getting chances out of it...when they can get the puck, that is. The Capitals did a good job of controlling the play, and for the most part it seemed the Devils would gain the puck, then dump it in for a line change. At this rate the Capitals should take this game.

2nd period:

Fleischmann's goal is exactly what I love to see. It wasn't off the rush, but rather good cycling, a couple of good pinches by the D, and winning 1-on-1 battles along the boards. Perfect. That's playoff-style hockey (at a regular-season tempo).

Bruce Boudreau keeps moving around the D pairings. Poti and Carlson looks terrific, Carlson and Alzner looks a bit risky. I don't understand why he can't just use 3-74.

I think I'm starting to understand this PK. The trick is to get everyone on the same page. In the sequence leading to the Chimera goal, Fleischmann should have attacked the puck carrier, but didn't, and I was half-expecting the Devils to score thereafter. Luckily, they didn't, but the other Caps--four rookies--played it well and the vet almost screwed it up.

Green and Ovechkin begin to pick it up. Green has had a few pinches in which he's actually come up with the puck and continued the attack, and Ovechkin is controlling the puck and getting shots off better this period. He looks like he's back. How did he get his first goal's shot off from between four Devils? World's best goal scorer, that.

Marcus Johansson still looks a bit on the passive side with regards to forechecking. He's really fast, though, even keeping up with Jason Chimera. That 25-90-16 line needs to use its speed much more. A few shifts they played really well, gaining the offensive zone with speed and Fehr adding solid board work into the cycle.

3rd period:

Craig Laughlin said the Caps are "machine-like," after seeing Brooks Laich's minimal celebrating after an easy goal off a misplay by Johan Hedberg. Personally, I think the Caps' identity is with emotion. Here, Laich's celebration was appropriate, but "machine-like" would be like Ovechkin after his second suspension.

So many people hit in the face: Volchenkov, Kovalchuk, Chimera, Neuvirth, the linesman, and so on.

Semin on a 3-on-2, with the puck, in the slot, trips, to end the rush. Joe Beninati: "and that will not make the highlight reel." Hilarious how he said that so fluidly from excitedly calling a rush.

The Caps' puck movement on the powerplay of the Fehr goal was spectacular. It was fast, tape-to-tape, and they just kept attacking and passing.

Mike Green versus Ilya Kovalchuk was pretty funny. Kovalchuk was clawing at Green like a cat, and Green was avoiding for the first ten seconds or so. But please, Greener, no more fights at meaningless times.

I don't like to curse, but...Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond is a douchebag for fighting mugging Marcus Johansson. F off, you bastard. I hope DJ King kicks your ass at Prudential Center on November 22. Enjoy your (probable) suspension, asshole.

An Apology to Duncan Keith

Dear Mr. Keith,

A few months ago, I wrote this:
Norris Trophy

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.

The candidates: Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Duncan Keith bios

The favorite: Keith
Who should win: Green

The more I look at advanced stats on, though, the more I realize I was completely wrong with that.

You, sir, were an absolute stud on defense. I had already outlined your PK prowess, but I hadn't realized how good you were at 5-on-5 too, despite having one the worst goaltending tandems in the league behind you. With relatively more difficult zonestarts, strong competition, and weak teammates, you still were middling in zonefinish, while not taking a ton of penalties, having a break-even plus-minus per 60, and getting a positive relative corsi. You didn't even have a ridiculously high PDO to inflate your numbers. Keep up the good work (except against the Capitals!). I'm sorry for having doubted you.

As for you, Mike Green, sorry, but you need to be much better. I understand part of it is the situations in which the coach uses you, and other factors out of your control, but just be better given your favorable circumstances and maybe you, too, can win the Norris Trophy (especially since you were robbed in 2009).


Winning the Calder Trophy

John Carlson is indisputably one of best "rookie" blueliners this season, in the same class as others like PK Subban, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Jamie McBain. While he may be better than the latter three, they all probably have a better shot to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Why? Well, they can actually get power play time. Carlson is hurt by playing behind Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin (and perhaps Tom Poti) on the power play, and asking for massive point totals at even strength is simply too much. I mean, look at how blueliners scored at even strength last season. Look at Tyler Myers' TOI per game (almost 3 mins per game on the power play, too). Carlson isn't going to get that sort of chance (save with a Mike Green long-term injury), and in order to win the Calder, probably needs close to fifty points. Yikes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Preview: Devils @ Capitals

New Jersey Devils @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 0-1-0, 0 points; 54-15-13, 121 points, 1st in EC last season
Leading scorer last season: Alex Ovechkin, 50-59-109
Fenwick% last season: 51.5%
Probable starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth
Player to watch: The fourth line center--Matt Hendricks, David Steckel, or Boyd Gordon

New Jersey: 0-0-1, 1 point; 48-27-7, 103 points, 2nd in East last season
Leading scorer last season: Zach Parise, 38-44-82
Fenwick% last season: 51.8%
Probable starting goalie: Martin Brodeur; Johan Hedberg would not be surprising
Player to watch: coach John Maclean (I know, I know, he's not a player...)

The Capitals go from facing Ilya Kovalchuk's old team to his new one. Both teams will be playing the second of a back-to-back, with the Capitals having dropped a 4-2 decision in Atlanta before flying to Washington and the Devils falling at home, 4-3 in overtime to Dallas. In terms of shots, both teams played fairly even games. It looks to me like the Devils and Stars started even, but the Devils jumped out ahead 2-0. In the 2nd, the Stars had most of the shots, and it was reversed in the third. The line of Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk picked up two goals, while the Caps' top line picked one one marker.

This New Jersey squad probably underwhelmed in their season opener too, but on the other hand are much better than the Thrashers. The Devils are icing a bona-fide shut down defenseman in Anton Volchenkov, and at least two bona-fide two way forwards in Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. The Capitals will have to play much, much better, and much, much faster than against Atlanta.

According to In Lou We Trust, the Devils made lots of mistakes, especially from their blueline, in their season-opening loss. If they continue that trend, the Capitals will cream them. I think the Devils will be better, but still have not ironed everything out. As long as the Capitals' D move the puck up the ice more quickly, they should be able to contain the Devils' deep group of forwards.

Capitals 3, Devils 2.

Recap: Capitals 2 @ Thrashers 4

I started watching the game at the beginning of the first period. I put thoughts below in chronological order after the short recap. Goals and other plays I think are important are in bold.

The white-clad team that took the ice tonight at Philips Arena in Atlanta was a not-terribly-inspired Capitals team that lost to an opponent it shouldn't have lost to. Quite frankly, I expected this--either they come out strong or flat in this game, and clearly it was the latter. No Capital showed much speed (where were you, Jason Chimera?) or skill. To be fair, Atlanta laid back a bit, Montreal style, to take away the rush, but were creating scoring chances as well. Both teams were playing conservative hockey, and playing that style, while I think is best for the future, is not the style that will win the Capitals 54 games this season, especially since Michal Neuvirth will be hard pressed to have a better performance than he had in the earlier stages of this game.

Man of the match: Evander Kane, with 2 goals on 7 shots in 18:24 TOI. He was creating opportunities left, right, and center, and really was the only player in the game that stood out to me offensively.

Quick Blog Synopses

You may have noticed the two lists of blogs I have listed down the right side. One is for Caps blogs, and the other is for more general hockey. I listed the team(s) and/or focus of the "other" blogs as well. It's a long list, so here's a quicker version.

Must reads (Caps fans):
Japers' Rink--the best single-team NHL blog on the internet
The Peerless Prognosticator--a top blog, with great writing and insight
Capitals Insider--the Washington Post's coverage of the Capitals
Ed Frankovic's Blog--great insight and analysis
Anything written by Corey Masisiak--the best hockey writer in Washington

Must reads (general):
Down Goes Brown (updated twice a week or so)--the home of hockey humor
Kuklas Korner--lots of content every day, pretty solid writers
Puck Daddy--lots of content every day, good writers
The Globe and Mail on Hockey--terrific writers, nice insight, interesting pieces
Elliote Friedman's weekly 30 Thoughts column--just read it

I know a lot of you don't have too much time to spare for reading hockey blogs, but make sure you're checking these ones out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Capitals Season and @ Thrashers Preview

As I write this I cannot sleep. I am restless, just waiting for a new chapter in my life to begin. Actually, for several new chapters to begin. In a few hours I'll be heading off to start my senior year of high school. On top of college applications and research, on top of writing daily season previews, on top of working on that Corsi post I've been doing, I'll have the added workload of homework--researching stocks, writing essays, and reading books.

I wrote that in the wee hours of August 26. In a few hours, the Capitals are also about to embark on a journey. It will be a marathon that they leave in the dust.

They will take to the ice at Philips Arena, looking to reaffirm their dominance over the Southeast division. It won't be easy. Steve Yzerman, officially general manager of Tampa Bay for less than four months, has already made impact moves that have improved the Lightning. The Thrashers have added pieces from the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago, and coupled with another year of growth that will be a better team. Carolina will be icing one of the league's younger teams, and with their playoffs-almost-lottery-playoffs track record they will be competitive. Dale Tallon, who deserves a fair amount of credit for Chicago's success, has already started off well by having a strong draft, and Florida may be more competitive down the stretch. Its track record says it will hang around the playoff picture until the final month. This Southeast division is much more rebellious.

The Capitals have played over 3000 games, and yet have missed out on one very special occasion each and every game--raising a banner with a picture of a silver cup on it. It will be at least 98 games more. 98 games during which GMs around the league will tinker, will panic, will be dumb, will be intelligent, will be fired, will be hired, will try and build a team that can compete for the chance to raise that banner and touch that silver 30lb chalice.

It won't be easy. The owners are paying over $60 million each for this 1-in-30 lottery. At times, it will seem too short. Mistakes cannot always be remedied. Coaches lose their jobs at the blink of an eye. Fanbases will have dreams crushed by a snapping sticks.

But new fans will be born. Neighbors will stop bickering over their fence and concentrate on one thing--hope. Hope that dreams can be realized: not just dreams of twenty athletes who strap on skates and pads every day, but also of communities. Of cities. Dare I say, of countries. Sports is one of the most powerful uniting forces in the world. There was peace during World Cup matches. There was celebration during the Olympics. If you're reading this, chances are hockey could potentially make you go hug your worst enemy, propose to your girlfriend, or finally donate to Saves for Kids (or Mike Green's charity).

While April seems a long way from now, in April the season will have likely seemed too short. Let us pray that in June it will have seemed too long, and that yours truly will have a reason to high-tail it out of Georgia and back to Washington in time for the city's first championship parade since last millennium. 51-24-7, 109 points, 1st in EC. What happens in the playoffs is up to George McPhee and any trades, waiver-wire pickups, or signings he makes.

Washington Capitals @ Atlanta Thrashers

Washington: 0-0-0; 54-15-13, 121 points, 1st in EC last season
Leading scorer last season: Alex Ovechkin, 50-59-109
Fenwick% last season: 51.5%
Probable starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth
Player to watch: rookie C Marcus Johansson, making his NHL debut

Atlanta: 0-0-0; 35-34-13, 83 points, 10th in East last season
Leading scorer last season: Nik Antropov, 24-43-67
Fenwick% last season: 47.8%
Probable starting goalie: Chris Mason
Player to watch: D-turned-F-turned-D Dustin Byfuglien

When we last saw the Thrashers, they were doing quite well despite having traded Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils just prior to the Olympic break. The Thrashers have infamously added Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, and Brent Sopel from Chicago via trade, and signed Chris Mason to be their starter in goal. With added growth from Zach Bogosian, Brian Little, Evander Kane, Niclas Bergfors, and others, Atlanta could contend for the playoffs.

Still, they're no match for Washington. The defending President's Trophy winners are returning almost their entire lineup, and even upgraded in a couple of areas. In a new season, anything can happen, but I don't think the offseason moves Atlanta made will make up the huge difference between the teams on paper.

I can't really write much here, as as of this writing the 2010-2011 NHL season has not yet commenced. Just don't be surprised if the Caps come out flat, or if they come out strong. This in many ways is still a team trying to find its identity. During this time, there will be growing pains. Better to have those now than later. Thrashers 3, Capitals 2 (OT).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On Forward Depth

A cursory glance at the Corsi stats for the Capitals, via Behind the Net, for 2009-2010 reveals a potentially troubling trend: while Ovechkin leading the team in Corsi Rel and Corsi On isn't a surprise, his Corsi Off is negative.

That's bad.

Ovechkin's Corsi per sixty while he's off the ice has been declining over the years. In 2007-2008, it was 7.11, with only deadline pickups Matt Cooke and Sergei Fedorov having lower Corsi Offs (due in large part to their time spent in Vancouver and Columbus, respectively). The following season, it was 6.71, lowest Corsi Off on the team. Still, this isn't too troubling a trend, as a 6.71 is still pretty good. But now a -0.38? That means that without Ovechkin on the ice at 5-on-5, the Capitals are pretty much an average team (though it should be noted that this is the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines' performance versus another team's 1st, 2nd, and 4th, I would think).

Kareem El-Alaily on Box Seats looked at shot differential, and had this to say:
So you’re asking "what does this have to do with the Caps?" Despite the Caps most dominant season ever, their shot differential ranking fell from 4th in 2008, to 7th in 2009, to 11th in 2010.
That's not what we want to see with a team we'd like to say is a "Stanley Cup Contender." So not only on the whole is the Caps' shot differential not great for a team aspiring for the Stanley Cup, but the Caps' depth gets outplayed by other teams' depth!

2011 Standings Predictions

*don't bet on these

1. Washington--terrific team in relatively weak division, due for a serious regression in shooting luck.
2. Pittsburgh--best East team in a much stronger division, with Malkin due for a bounce-back.
3. New Jersey--strong team in tough division (seeded 4) and should still be strong in the regular season.
4. Boston--best team in a middling division (seeded 3) due for a season closer to 2008-2009 than 2009-2010.
5. Philadelphia--another elite team in the Atlantic. They're just a bit more inconsistent than the two teams I ranked ahead of them
6. Ottawa--they got in as the 5th seed with some poor luck with regards to defense and goaltending. They'll make the dance again, just barely missing out on their favorite Antarctic dance partner.
7. Tampa Bay--I like the changes Yzerman has made. The Lightning are improved at all positions.
8. Montreal--A more Caps fan would write "FML" here. Anyways, here's what you need to know.
9. Atlanta--they're taking steps in the right direction, and while they lack stars, they do have good depth everywhere.
10. New York Rangers--they won't miss by a shootout, but I don't think they have it in 'em, to be honest. If any of Gaborik, Staal, and Lundqvist goes down for more than 10 games, they're done.
11. Toronto--early reports lead me to guess Nazem Kadri won't make the Leafs this year. That's a huge blow, considering they're already thin at center. Unlike the Caps, they don't have stud wingers to compensate.
12. New York Islanders--they're almost a playoff team on paper, but paper rosters don't show that Mark Streit is injured for six months. Or I guess they do. Whatever, he's a top-15 defenseman and hurt for a long time. Ouch.
13. Carolina--they're kind of rebuilding. Youth has growing pains.
14. Buffalo--yeah, I'm radical. They go as Miller goes. This season...not as good. Only a certain trade from Florida keeps them out of the basement.
15. Florida--no surprise here. They're rebuilding and I think will trade Vokoun.

Playoff matchups:
Washington over Montreal--since John Carlson > PK Subban
Pittsburgh over Tampa Bay--sorry, Steven.
Ottawa over Boston--Ottawa is a really unstable team. So they could get swept or sweep here easily.
Philadelphia over New Jersey--tough forechecking forwards make it tough on defenses, let alone defenses without puck movers (sorry, Andy Greene)

Washington over Ottawa--Washington has talented shooters that can expose Ottawa's goalies.
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia--this will be a fun series, won't it? I like what Shero does at the deadline and whatever he does then will put the Pens over the top.

Pittsburgh over Washington--2C and 3C and 6D who is top-4 good are an awful lot of important holes to fill.*

1. Nashville--that cat in their logo ate the box I'm supposed to think inside of! In seriousness, they're really good, with depth and balance at all positions.
2. Vancouver--see Washington.
3. San Jose--they're always really good, and their power vs power strategy seems to be paying dividends.
4. Detroit--man, the West is tough this year!
5. Los Angeles--they're deep and balanced at all positions as well.
6. Chicago--see Detroit.
7. St. Louis--I expect Pietrangelo to make a huge difference.
8. Columbus--Yep, Steve Mason and his Central boys just pwned your favorite division.
9. Phoenix--they had great luck with Ilya Bryzgalov and shootouts. That's unlikely to continue.
10. Anaheim--thanks to these guys, I now see that Bobby Ryan is actually amazing, and a 1-2 punch of Getzlaf-Ryan down the middle will be lethal. I'm on the optimistic side of Cam Fowler, expecting him to fill in for retired Scott Niedermayer on the power play and Hiller to have a better season.
11. Edmonton--Ales Hemsky will be back and they added Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi, who I pick to win the Calder Trophy. Consider that they were the most injured team last year, and I think it's safe to say they'll be a lot better.
12. Colorado--Anderson will likely take a step back and they just lost Mueller too. The Corsis will catch up to 'em.
13. Dallas--What's that? You regret passing on an immediate contributor in Cam Fowler for someone who might make an impact in, at best, three years in Jack Campbell? Color me surprised. Oh, and Brad Richards is good, but not 91 points-good.
14. Minnesota--losing Josh Harding is killer, as Niklas Backstrom isn't great in a non-Lemaire system and the Wild don't have those wild forwards who can run-and-gun like Todd Richards wants. At least Havlat can be healthier.
15. Calgary--will someone fire Darryl Sutter now? Seriously, I feel bad for Flames fans. The Flames' only source of oxygen is Miikka Kiprusoff's aging pads, as Jay Bouwmeester, Matt Stajan, and Steve Staios's contracts slowly suck that oxygen away.

Nashville over Columbus--Rick Nashville stars along with Shea Weber's cat-jacketed cannon. Both play pekk-a rat-mason on the internet, which I guess means they're pecking for e-rats. I think music city Suters our interests here. (You're welcome for omitting the Horny pun)
Vancouver over St. Louis--Vancouver keeps winning until they face Chicago. That's the rule.
San Jose over Chicago--revenge is sweet, and so is victimizing the Hawks' lower lines now that they aren't lined with stud two-way forwards.
Los Angeles over Detroit--Detroit has one D, Drew Doughty has two. Two D's back to back make a puck that will end up behind Jimmy Howard in overtime of Game 7.

Los Angeles over Nashville--I think Lombardi makes a move at the deadline that ends up putting his team over the top here. Too much center depth for LAK.
San Jose over Vancouver--rules are made to be broken, and San Jose can keep the Sedins in Czech Croat.
Los Angeles over San Jose--Antti Niemi is about to meet his worst nightmares--Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Smyth, and lots of penalties to kill. Dustin Brown and Alexei Ponikarovsky will shine here and dominate the Sharks.

Pittsburgh over Los Angeles--the young Pittsburgh squad will teach younger LA how to win (and all those puck moving D negate the effects of LA's penalty-drawing forwards). Some Caps fans likely contemplate suicide before a big free-agent signing saves them. Guys, Phillips is spelled with two L's.

*subject to change without notice

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Recap: Predators 3 @ Capitals 0

I started watching the game at the beginning of the second period. I put thoughts below in chronological order after the short recap. Goals and other plays I think are important are in bold.

Nashville really sucked the life out of Washington today. Either that, or Nicklas Backstrom's absence really meant that much. The Predators forwards backchecked like crazy and pressured the Caps' D hard (John Erskine especially seemed to be feeling the pressure). The Caps' forwards, on the whole, were a bit floaty and always looking to break out of the defensive zone on the rush. The centers especially made me wince--they shouldn't be coming back to play defense with the wingers, but ahead of the wingers. More set offense, boys, and harder, faster, more coordinated forechecking. When the Caps' forwards got in hard on Ryan Suter and pressured, he seemed to rush a bit (though making the right play every time). That's what we need to see more of.

Quite honestly, I think a better coach would have drawn up a more conservative, dump-and-chase type gameplan. Center depth is critical for a skill offense, and sorry, Perreault-Fleischmann is simply not good enough for a skill offense.

I hope Michal Neuvirth is 100% for the season opener later this week. As for Dany Sabourin, I think Mark French is keeping his seat warm.

Second Period

15:25: and I'm starting

14:40: One in-zone possession and I'm already pretty sure the Predators' power play goes "pass to Shea Weber, who shoots with traffic in front." I hope Neuvirth isn't injured. He looks like he got hit on the head by a Caps D as he was lunging for the puck.

13:00: for a second I thought MP was Backstrom. Is that a sign?

11:50: classic between-the-legs-to-the-outside move by AO on Klein (#8 vs #8), pass a bit off to Knuble, who can't get a good shot off.

11:37: If you read Behind the Net, you know the answer to the trivia question is Andrew Brunette.

10:33: Dany Sabourin looks like he'll come in. Good move--don't risk Neuvirth getting a serious injury, especially if he could already be banged up. Also, good play by Suter there, stopping Semin from depositing the wraparound.

9:57: Sabourin in. And Kolbe, it doesn't mean anything if Sabourin hasn't allowed a goal yet, except that he hasn't played enough minutes.

8:02: bad play by Erskine, who gets stripped of the puck in his defensive zone. Fahey and Erskine can't clear, and Cal O'Reilly scores. So much for that league-leading GAA. One helper to Steve Sullivan--I couldn't make out the other name.

6:31: Colin Wilson almost scored. Poti's pairing plus AO's line should not have let that happen. And apparently Chimera got hit by the puck on the bench and heads down the tunnel. Ouch.

6:00: Seriously, with the puck, Mathieu Perreault is a top-6 forward in the National Hockey League. Without it, maybe not.

3:17: Schultz and Green need to figure out how to get pucks through to the net, or at least not blocked.

27: BRADleyyyy...he missed. Good forecheck by DJ King and Matt Bradley there to set it up. That's how it's done--dump it in, skate in physically, force the defensemen to make a quick, risky pass, make the intercept, and set up a play.

Third Period

15:00: Caps not good so far. Quite frankly though, I prefer coming out strong and letting up if it means these Caps are more like the 2008-2009 incarnation of the team as opposed to the trail-then-turn-it-on 2009-2010 version.

14:00: Great save by Sabourin, spread eagle save on Matthew Lombardi, who ran out of angle on the rebound to Sabourin's left.

13:18: JP Dumont with an offensive zone penalty. Caps take a timeout before going on the power play.

13:00: Green backdoor play. That's something we didn't see enough of last season.

12:18:...even if it means more shorties against. 1) Green looked tired or slow there. 2) Joel Ward scored five-hole on Sabourin. Not a good goal to give up, even if on a breakaway. Ward just slipped it in Backstrom-against-Boston-10-2 style.

11:38: Steve Sullivan with a semi-breakaway, good play by Brian Fahey there to take the hooking penalty. The second slashing penalty? Not so needed. 4-on-4 for a bit, then Nashville a little under 4 mins of PP time.

7:27: Joel Ward, ESG, gets some space on the edge of the slot's right circle and one-times it past Sabourin.

4:45: Tomas Fleischmann really is a passenger on whichever line he plays with. Laich may not drive the play, but at least he wins corner battles and goes to the net. Fleischmann doesn't do much of anything. To be fair to Flash, though, pretty much everyone on the Caps save Ovechkin, Fehr, and Laich has looked like a passenger. This makes Nashville looks faster, stronger, and more talented.
If you swapped the jerseys I'd think Nashville were Washington.

0:15: not that it matters much, but SHUTOUT SHUTOUT SHUTOUT...shoot.

Caps fall to 5-1 in preseason. Pekka Rinne with the shutout.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2009-2010 WOWYs

I did WOWYs for Alzner, Backstrom, Beagle, Bradley, Carlson, Chimera, Erskine, Fehr, Fleischmann, Boyd Gordon, Green, Knuble, Laich, Ovechkin, Poti, Perreault, Schultz, Semin, Sloan, and Steckel.

I have part of Belanger too--I didn't bother with his numbers once he signed with Phoenix.

Here's the link to the Google Doc spreadsheet. It's on the big side. Scroll down for the various players.

If you can't find the game ID for use in Timeonice scripts, by the way, just do a random player's full season, check the listing at the top, find your game, and use that ID. It doesn't work for single-game data, though.