The Pre-Game: I think it was Benjamin Disraeli who said “Sometimes cities just suck.” Or maybe it was Don Rickles. We’re getting our historical figures mixed up.
Look, there’s nothing that stinks about San Diego, the actual place. It’s lovely. Or Phoenix, for that matter, if it weren’t for all the whack-a-doodles. Vancouver: now there’s a dandy city for you! If you can just get over all the residents piously reminding you just precisely how dandy it is.
On the other end, there are places like Mogadishu, a city that, I can comfortably assure you, sucks. Or vacation paradise Pripyat! – home to the entombed Chernobyl perpetual light bulb. Pyongyang. Philadelphia.
Then we come to the middle ground: decent places inhabited by truly awful organizations. Pittsburgh comes to mind. Hoorah, it’s beautiful and their food isn’t too toxic and the local rumor is that there’s even a museum or something. But it’s also home to the rat burrow of unctuous fink Richard Mellon Scaife and his poisonous heirs, and the ‘Terrible Towel’, which we rank as only just below Scaife as scabes-inducing. The Pittsburgh Penguins… and Dan Bylsma. Think about that for a moment: both the Penguins AND Bylsma (and his douche-hat) compressed into one geographic point. That single distinction alone is enough to push Pittsburgh to new title holder: Epicenter of Suck.
The Puck Drop
Every game matters. Pens games matter more. This game matters very much more.
Unless you’re living in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears, or are Alex Ovechkin,you understand that the swap of Coach Mustard for Coach Hunter has scrambled the Capitals squad at an inopportune time. Yes, everyone wants to be on their best behavior for the new teacher (was that a goal, Nicky?), and no, everyone clearly still does not understand what their role is on the ice (*coughWidemancough*), and whoops!, now all of a sudden players are actually expected to perform or else. (Don’t ask who or what.)
But this is not the time for scrambling. It is the time for righteous beatdowns of those self-entitled prigs in Pittsburgh. But are we ready? Ugh, I cannot believe I have to write this next section.
What Makes them Hot
1: Don’t Make Me Do This: A bunch of stuff. Players, mostly. Jordan Staal (12G 6A, plus-4), hatched somewhere in Canada, continues to prove the cynical criminality of the Staal breeding experiment. Shut out against the Rangers, and a little dry of late, he’s still a damn hard skater, one who rarely gives up and is quick to take advantage of weak defense (ruh-roh.) James Neal (14G 11A, minus-1) and vampire Kris Letang (3G 16A, plus-5) are also showing their mettle. We say vampire given Letang’s punishment from the Habs’ Max Pacioretty last Saturday, only to rise from the dead to score the GWG. Vampire or zombie? Let’s let his hair be the judge. Add to that Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy and a raft of other flightless birds that are just messing things up. They clearly command play in their zone and at the other end of the blue line, which gives us pause.
2: Really! I Can’t Do This! Self-appointed Captain of the whiners, Sidney Crosby, is once more up to his soulless robotic ways. Scoring, hitting, scoring, smiling vacantly for the cameras. There is not enough room in Heaven or on this Earth to heap enough scorn on Sidney Crosby and his media-whoring ways. Unfortunately, on this plane of existence we need to contain him on the ice.
Hero-coach Hunter squired squads against Crosby in the early days, meaning a few years ago. “We had to put a checking line against him and pay special attention – he still scored points and goals — we limited him, anyways,” Hunter said this week.
Solution? Remember what teams did two years ago once they had to face the Ovech-ka-juggarnaut? They swarmed and gobbled him up. Gobble up Sidney Crosby this Thursday, Capitals. Unwrap him, devour him, and throw what’s left into an acid bath.
3: For the Love of God, Please Stop! No! There is no amount of torture that will force me to admit that Dan Bylsma is a decent coach. I mean: hardly a decent human being. Like
Coach Boudreau said a while back, can you really imagine Coach Douche-Hat “playing” with anyone, let alone his offspring, during the holidays? Nice staged photo op, jerk. How about you use everyone else in your life as a prop for your own mealy-mouthed self-aggrandizement? Oh wait! You’re doing the Movember thing? Really? Moustaches around the nation have done great work for raising money. But no moustache has spoken truer than that spiral cut ham rotting on Bylsma’s lip. Quoting: “Dan Bylsma’s moustache to world: ‘I hate you, and am cutting myself off from all human contact.'”
Yet he keeps winning, and keeping his stars in check. Why is there no moustache justice in this world?
What Makes Them Not
1: We Got a Warning Light. The Fetid Stink Birds have allowed only 63 goals this season, compared with our 75. Their win percentage is better, their players are performing while ours are floundering. So what’ the ‘Not’ here?
Let the H8trs rip me up, but I’m not convinced Pittsburgh is much more than a well-oiled one-trick machine. There’s no juggling like we’ve had, or locker-room turmoil (that we know of), or serious disruptions. But they’re still only a few games ahead of the Caps. This isn’t whistling past the graveyard, but acknowledgment of a truth that seems to have gotten lost lately: the Caps, almost entirely from head to tail, are the best NHL collection of talent in the last decade. Maybe not this game, or the next, but quality is going to start to shine through. As we’ve seen before, the Penguins will rise, then fall, then settle into meh; I believe they’re already showing signs of this now by their play. If I were a bookie in Vegas, I would see the warning light flashing from Pittsburgh, and adjust accordingly.
2: We Got a Red Alert. Think back to the days when the Caps would ‘get up’ for the big game. OK…I’ll give you a moment.
There! Got it? When they played like the Caps of 2009? When everyone on the bench would perform, swarming in the Dzone, crashing the net in theirs? Good…hold that image in your mind. With the exception of the newish Caps (and not all of them, as we think Halpy has been up and on his toes from the very start), our team remembers that, too. That’s the image they’re holding in their minds. That’s the visualization of performance they’re seeing and reliving.
There’s no game bigger than this, and they know it’s happening in front of their loyal hometown. There’s no need to spur us – the team or the fans – to Unleash the Fury this game, as it begins fury unleashed, and only gets uglier from there. Red Rally Balloon? Rock the Red? It’s a Red Town Thursday, and we’re here to eat Pittsburgh’s lunch and steal their cookie.
3: We Got a Time Bomb Ticking. Dumptruck Arron Asham decided to give our Jay Beagle a pounding he wouldn’t forget. Or would, apparently if Asham had his way. As in: men with concussions don’t really remember what happened to them in the first place. In our book Arron Asham is no better than a drunk driver. No, he’s worse, actually: someone supposedly in control of his facilities (or what passes for them) who intentionally chooses to send a man to the hospital with a swollen brain injury. Nice going, Asham.
Beagle may not remember, but we do. Asham: you are a horrible human. We are watching you. There’s a timebomb ticking… and you’re not going to like it when it goes off.
The OT Shoot Out: Of all things that gave us heart this week, it was GMGM’s quick dismissal of Swedish star Mattias Sjögren. Apparently unsatisfied with Hershy Bear’s play, he sulked back to Sverige this week, fuming that he wasn’t getting enough NHL play. McPhee’s response: in a word, go. If you’re quitting on us, go. Begone. Away with you.
This, even more than Boudreau’s dismissal, has given us heart that the head office is in this to win it.
The games begin Thursday at Verizon. Come be with us to cheer on the Caps.
And remember, Pittsburgh:tick-tick-tick-tick…