“Hello, Calgary Epicure Cigar and Pipe, may I help you?”
“Yeah, do you have Prince Alberta in a can? Bwahahahaha!!!”
The Puck Drop: So OK, we’re not proud of how we began our New Year. I mean, sure, it coulda been worse. We could’ve been busted by Johnny Law for something terrible and unimaginable like lighting off illegal fireworks. But, lol, who would do a dumb thing like that? Not us, that’s for sure!
Even though we did have cause to celebrate. Saturday night, when most sensible people were guzzling cheap booze and taking birth control, we were warming ourselves in the comforting glow of the Sony widescreen, watching as Ovi and Nicky and Wides and the rest shook off their end-of-year slumbers and handily downed the Blue Jackets in their own barn; ensuring that for at least the 18,000 gathered at Nationwide Arena it would be a crummy NYE. (Never, by the way, was there a more aptly named stadium for Columbus than Nation Wide.)
And this just after serving up some delicious, ice-cold Retribution Soup to the Sabres and the Winter Classic champion Rangers. Tee-hee, 2012 is starting to look pretty good after all!
But of course now we need to make it stick. 28 apparently cares after all, 19 never stopped, 25 has never been more alive, and 8 is starting to play great again. Which makes us nervous. Like Nicky said afterward, everybody basically needed to start working hard if they wanted to stick it. Just like a resolution, you gotta work at it if you want it.
Which brings us to our semi-ongoing series of self flagellation and improvement we like to call
We have two today.
1: Class Act. We don’t write that enough, and may not even mean it when we do. But this time… we do. There’s a reason Jarome Iginla was a first round draft pick, and unlike some of his other firsty brethren, he’s proven his quality. 31 points (15G/16A) may not make him a league leader this season, but 40 games played does, which tells us this guy isn’t sitting on his 34-year-old laurels after breaking the 1,000 bar. He’s a multi-season All-Star, a team goal leader, the first black captain of an NHL team, generous to a fault, and the sorta guy we want to be when we grow up. (Except we’re all growed up, and then some.) And just to prove that some people hit the cosmic lottery, he’s damn good-looking to boot.
SPECIAL INSERT BY NEIL GREENBERG
There are currently 41 players who have scored 500 goals in the NHL, and Jarome Iginla, who has 499 goals scored for his career, enters the Verizon Center Tuesday night with a chance to join their ranks. The last skater to hit the milestone was Keith Tkachuk, who scored his 500th on an empty net goal back in April 2008.
Assuming Iginla hits the mark sometime this year, he looks to be one of the last for a while. Only three active players are within 100 goals of the mark: Jason Arnott (408), Marian Hossa (405) and Daniel Alfredsson (400). Of those three only Marian Hossa has a realistic chance, but eventually Capitals’ superstar Alex Ovechkin will hit the 500-goal mark. Only question is, when?
Coming into the season The Great Eight had 301, and is on pace to add 35, giving him approximately 336 by season’s end. Using a peer group of players who have at least four 50-goal seasons, we can estimate Ovechkin’s goal scoring totals and see when he should reach 500.
Ovechkin’s 500th goal should come sometime during the 2017-18 season when he turns 32 years old, which would make him the 16th player to do so by his 32nd birthday.
2: Jolly Olli. A 33-year-old center with a name that shrieks Suomi! (look it up), Olli Jokinen is the Flames’ point leader (12G/20A) and a much-needed threat for the squad. Generally speaking, Calgary isn’t front-loaded with snipers and hot-shoters (like, um, gosh who could we be thinking of?) and Jokinen is about as close as they come. While he seemed to really find his stride with the Panthers (boo!) and hit a bit of a slide over the last year, this may prove to be the Year of Yokinen. (Hey, it’s how you pronounce it, OK?)
3: Global Warming. The Flames, suitable to their name, ran a little hot this December. Yeah, they may only be 8 for 16, but that counts a slouch at the start and slumph at the end. Like Ohio, they were high in the middle while round at both ends. I’m not a stat-dog, but intuition and too much caffeine tell me that’s significantly different than teams that are hot/cold/ht/cld. Mm-hmmm? One suggests an ability to pull it together; the other, an inability to keep it so.
1: The Horak Nemisz Shuffle. So back in December Roman Horak was sent down to the Abbotsford Heat while Greg Nemisz was briefly called up. In keeping with our resolution, the nicest thing we’ll say about Nemo is, and we’re quoting, “he’s not a very civilized player.” No he isn’t…so what was really up with all that? Nemisz is gone, Horak is back, and while still nothing very special for the Flames (2G/7A), the whole affair seemed less about line needs and more about getting Horak’s head back in the game. Which is not a very good sign.
2: Road Trip! Tuesday the Flames will be in game 6 of a 7-game road trip. They popped their first two against the Canucks (nice) and the Blue Jackets (like who doesn’t?) but have dropped the last three. Badness for them started in Nassau with a 3-1 humbling by the Islanders. Yugh. Although we weren’t there (“Hey! Let’s all go to Long Island!” are never words that shall pass our lips) it’s safe to say the squad just seemed to give up, with only two who seemed to strap it on: Mikael Backlund (did I spell that rite?) and Tim Jackman. And they haven’t seemed to snap out of it yet, most recently falling 5-3 to the Preds. We proclaim them officially in funk-town.
3: History. We don’t meet up with Alberta’s second-best of two squad often. Our last two meetings, in late March 2010 ended with them topside 5-3, and then later in October with the Caps in the saddle, 7-2. Remember those days? Le sigh. And while basic numbers alone suggest we’re not really much better this season than they are, I sense we are. We’ve got more cannons to unleash, we’ve shown much greater spirit to come back and upend an opponent, and it just feels like the Flames’ hearts aren’t truly in it these days. We’re 3-0 in the last three, while they’re completely reversed at 0-3. Streaks are born to be broken, which is why we aren’t calling either of these a streak, just a trend.
Up and down. Up and down. Awake and asleep. Fighting and dying. We’re watching for one thing only: are the Caps breaking out of their hot/not bipolar disorder, or no. It’s little things, like a hot check by Ovi, a rifle-shot from Sasha, a kick in the pants from Knooobs (or a kick in someone else’s by Chimmer) that suggest the answer. Nicky and Halpy and a few others we expect will continue to execute every moment, but will the rest of the team?
Today’s Post has been brought to you by the letter C. C for Calgary, and Caps. As in “Caps Can-Do Clobbers Catatonic Calgary.” Resolve to make that Wednesday’s headline.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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