David Backes. (Photo credit: Jamie Sabau)
The Unhappy and Unfunny Edition
The Pre-Game Practice
So. Anything happen over your holiday weekend?
Oof. Coach Juggles was jiggled out of the Caps hierarchy sometime late last week, so go the reports. But those who wielded the ax only announced it Monday morning. As if on Sunday we didn’t suspect our Regent would be decapitated; or that on Monday, after the quartering, they would all just expect us to blandly melt back into the blah-blah of our desperate little lives.
There’s been plenty of blah online in the last 36 hours, and in general on the Caps bench this season. Fine. But do not number us, your humble PuckBuddys, as among those celebrating the call for Boudreau’s head.
It is the right of every sovereign to decapitate those they wish…or at least was, in Elizabeth’s days. But who are we kidding? Today, it’s the unquestioned right of every sovereign owner of an NHL franchise – your Majesty – to chop off the head of any servant they see fit. Assuming they can buy out their contract.
Nobody’s Hot or Not Today
We just don’t care about our “clever” format tonight, listing players to watch for or conditions to be concerned about, all wrapped in a clever gumball cellophane. We now only have a growing list of worries, some of which we’ll enumerate, some you can fill in the blanks.
- Who’s #1? We saw plenty of juggling on the lines this season; and last, as Coach Mustard struggled to find the magic combination. We say: Caps, put your first line first: Semin, Backstrom and Ovechkin. Loose them on the ice and see what they can do. Do not hobble them with D-strategems they just haven’t adopted. Two games. See what they do. If they don’t do, you begin to have your larger answer.
- Confidence in the Net. We’ve not felt either Tomas Vokoun or Michal Neuvirth have performed to their abilities this season. Blame anything – just fix it. Vokoun is, without exception, an elite NHL goaltender in his prime. Neuvy has mad skills. Either of them is quality, but neither has performed well. Coach Hunter: pick one, give him a try, and let him and your entire team know you have confidence in them.
- D-Train. What’s been with the juggling on this line lately? Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik? Are you trying to prove something to somebody (i.e., those who have written the checks?) Stop it. Tinker with the D a little, but not constantly. That’s, in part, how other teams capitalize on our flat-footed act – you need players who know how to read each other, and have been through this before. Repeat: Stop it. Pick a D and commit. That, or just go home.
- 8-10. Anyone waking up early and rubbing their eyes in an Ambien haze repeat after me: the Blues are 8 for 10 in the last 10 games. The Wings? Pittsburgh? Calgary? the Bolts? All falling before the Blues. And consider more: the Wings are on one of the hottest of hot streaks going. The Penguins (*barf*) are up to their old winning ways. Tampa is within one point of pwning us.
- The Stars Come Out. New coach, new era. Doesn’t mean new performance, but we do expect that every Capital who can draw laces on his skates will be performing at his very, very best on Tuesday. And Thursday. And Saturday. Coach Hunter, given his checkered past, we expect will not hesitate to put his boot in the ass of any underperforming Capital. And, for the moment, we expect his Most Gracious Monarch will consent to this treatment. But not, we expect, for long. For ultimately, many of the players hold serious money cards. Coaches are – tragically – expendable. Star players aren’t.
- Hello Friends, Old and New. Jason Arnott – who we said should NOT HAVE BEEN RELEASED- is doing just fine in St. Louis, thank you very much, at 4G, 6A and a +10. Jerk. Mind also that David Backes (9-16-+6) and consistent pest Matt D’Agonstini (5-4-+12) have been screwing things up for opponents of late. That and Jaroslav Halak (just 49 GA this season) in the net makes for a tough night. That and some guy who should be hosting his own restaurant, Pietrangelo or something, are making a muss of the ice lately.
- East St. Louis Toodle-Oo. We are ready to say Toodle-Oo to this last two week period, and ready to see the Blues in defeat in our rear-view mirror. New coach = new mirror. We’re looking ahead, and ready to put you this behind us.
The Shoot Out
We’ve actually read a fair amount of sane commentary about
Coach Boudreau’s tenure of the Capitals…amid the tides of bile rushing in and out along our coastline. Was Bruce no longer what the squad respected? Did the ‘players coach’ become too close to effectively lower the boom? Do the problems lie with the coaching staff, the head office, or the players themselves? And who will we rush to blame when the Caps again fall into a slump, which inevitably, they will – precisely because every team does?
No. Nobody really wants to engage on this. It’s ‘Goodbye Bruce’, and ‘Hello Hunter!’
We welcome Coach Hunter, and wish him all the very best.
But Coach: beware the unanswered questions. It is precisely those that will devour you in the future. Just look at your predecessor.