The Pre-Game: Oh Lordy, we hate being wrong. Especially if it involves Canada. What happened Saturday was nothing short of a national pantsing of the Caps on the equivalent of Canada’s national holiday (that admittedly comes once a week, and with lots of beer). We suspected it would be a high-scoring affair, but completely misread in which direction. Blah blah they were disconnected blither blather they weren’t moving their feet twiddle twaddle they weren’t chasing the pucks and so forth. Not my job to pick over Saturday night’s turkey carcass; others have done that far better. Let others pile on our Mustardy Coach. We’re looking forward to what’s being cooked up tonight.
The Puck Drop
There once was an old couple, well into their nineties. And they always disliked each other; never could stand the sight of each other, really. Finally one day, they got divorced. And people asked: “Why did you wait so long?” And the couple said: “Well, we wanted to wait until the children died.”
Arizona and hockey combine like tin foil in a filling; just caustically bad. I’ll never be convinced Phoenix ever really wanted the Coyotes, or the NHL thought it was a bright idea to move to the land of retirees and peyote. But here they are, locked in a loveless marriage, waiting until the children die to admit their mistake. And now we have to deal with them as they come over for dinner. Happy Holidays.
The Coyotes (“Cai-yotes?”) are one of those teams no-one expects much from, thus rarely disappoint. They do, however, at moments perform like…well, not so much a polished puck-dominating machine (think Red Wings, glory days) as more like decent fellows who nonetheless know how to take advantage of a weakened partner. The Coyotes are the guys in Mexico your mother always warned you about that would slip a roofie into your drink if you were stupid enough to take it.
What Makes Them Hot
1:Sparks. In any universe, Paul Bissonnette (1-0-1) would be a star. So would Taylor Pyatt (2-4-6). But in this particular universe, they’re really not, ceding the ground to Radim Vrbata (8-7-15), Lauri Korpikoski (3-4-7) and Martin Hanzal (3-8-11), names that would probably be more at home in a Grimm tale*. Still, these three guys are at home on the ice, supporting and boosting the Yotes principal drives (along with defender David Schlemko, more on him in a minute) and pushing them up to a respectable 10-5-3. Controlling them is key. That said, there is nobody who has dreamier eyes than Taylor Pyatt, and you can quote me on that. He should be outlawed.
2: Synergy. Netminder Mike Smith (2.16 GAA), at 6’4″ yet another in the growing trend (har har) of monsters in the twine, is lately sporting a .936%, which puts him in the NHL’s top ten. (OK, top third, if you want to be jerks about it.) Yet it’s not just Smitty’s work in the net, but his fellow defenders as well who can take credit. Rusty Klesla and David Schlemko don’t just have two of the best names in hockey, but they’re some of the best D-men today, meshing with Smith in batting away opponents trying to move pucks to goal. We could take a lesson.
3: Heart: These sections have taken on a strange, 80’s band theme, which we’re stopping now. Still, you have to admit: we didn’t look like we had much heart on the ice in Toronto. Slumps are; laziness happens. Like we said, Arizona is a team just waiting to capitalize on a stronger team that’s acting inconsistently. They’re getting second efforts. They’re playing like guys who aren’t just going to work.
What Makes Them Not
1: Rage At The Machine: This, and the above item, are admittedly not based on digits and numbers and tables and spreadsheets and everything else people use to try and convince themselves they can understand our unpredictable world. I respect the number crunchers, but have spent enough time around horse tracks to know that everyone’s got a scheme, a formula, a magic something that will predict the outcome of any contest. And, most of the time, they’re wrong. Sometimes a horse just has heart to run hard – or that competitive drive to want to kick dirt in their opponents’ face (yes, horses really do this.) What I’m sensing is an anger, a hard drive, starting to emerge among the Caps unofficial leaders, to spray a little more ice in their opponents faces. Nurture that rage.
2: Crowded House: Smarties will know this better, but watching a few Yotes reviews, their talent (see above) looks like it can tend to chase and crowd the puck, not allowing for good play and transitions between forwards. Given the Caps’ weakness of late in our zone, this may be something we can exploit – to keep away from the net, swipe from their control, and move aggressively on their goal. Then again, what do I know? (Enough to not wear stripes and plaid – SNAP!)
3: The Fixx: OK, now we’re just making it up. Except for this: Coach Boudreau – for whom we have great affection and enormous respect – is up against it. He’s tried nice coach; he’s tried hard coach. Now he needs to be Fix-It Coach. Sasha needs to stop his bad behavior and start performing up to his potential – period (Sorry Sasha!) Green’s recovery can’t be rushed, but as soon as he’s able he needs to be back on the ice. Brooks, Ward, Wideman, Halpy are all performing well; Brouwer and Knoobs need more time at the net. Ovie needs to start waking the hell up. None of these things happens without a coach to make it happen. Coach B: Make It So.
Prediction: Ha ha! This is where you all get to laugh at me, yet again. Whatever, chumps; at least I’m taking a line. My line: Caps 3, Coyotes 1.
The Shoot Out
Our benevolent overlords at RMNB have graciously allowed us to pimp the latest PuckBuddys joint: Caps Night Out! This December 3 – Caps v. Sens – the PuckBuddys are sponsoring (Instigating? Occupying?) the first official/unofficial Capitals Night Out, when the organization specifically welcomes GLBT fans to the Phone Booth. We, and TeamDC, are already sold out of tickets, but we’re encouraging everyone so inclined to buy up tix, come to the game, and be out loud and proud that night. Well, every night, but that one in particular. We can’t promise Taylor Pyatt, but there might be a surprise or two that night. Whatever; just come and party with us.
*We so had another joke here, but in interests of international harmony and not being jerks, we went with the lamer “Grimm” gag.