The PreGame: Close your eyes for a moment. Now fling your head out the window.
Wait. Stop that. Open window, fling head, close eyes.
Better. Breathe deep…deeplier deep. Now, what do you smell out there? Summer? Winter? Victory? Streak?
Us? We get mulch, daffodils and notes of flattened street rat. But we much prefer these others. Summer – remember buoyancy and cautious cockiness? Winter; well, early winter means Christmas, and Christmas last was a Capsmas miracle against the Devils, so thank you Baby Jesus!
Victory? Contrary to Maj. Kilgore, victory doesn’t smell like napalm in the morning. Rather it’s a man-handling of the Habs, a swift start and sustained margin against the Leafs, and a ‘You-Ain’t-Gonna-Win” sass against the dreadful Islanders, all in a row. Yum.
And Streak? Actually, we haven’t really smelled that this year for a long, long time. But still, I think I might recall…
The Puck Drop:
We’ve written before of the twitchy trigger-finger use of the “S” word; how it’s mostly a lazy trope of lazier journalists (ha, that you have to go looking for, Washington Post!) Technically, two games constitute a streak, even though anyone who claimed that in practice should, and we assume would, be mocked until they cried like wee wittl babies. Three is NOT a streak. Four opens the door. Five is when you come alive with something real, but not until.
This isn’t new territory. Ian, Peter, Chris, Ana and all the rest of our Soviet русская братство, I recall, have echoed this Caps upsy-downy nature of late; our history of clawing back in the waning days of Winter and the team’s general unreliability week-to-week over the last several years. Blurgh.
So. Here we go. Once more into that benumbed arena, my friends. And like every night, those any chosen size guys on the sheet will be joined, less temporally, by all of us, cheering them on, pushing them on, hoping for opening the door.
We few. We happy few.
Who’s Hot, And Who’s Not:
1: Headcase Hedbert. Oh, that Johan. As in Johan Hedbert (.908%.) Out for the last several Devils’ games, we expect Hedbert will be coming back Friday, for his first test in a while against the Caps.
We tend to think a net-minder back from a rest isn’t the best in the nest. No jest. Neuvy may prove that wrong, although frankly if you look at Vokoun and Neuvirth in larger context, you totally get who’s the better net-minder.
Our Opinion Only Warning: when Neuvy’s lost a bunch in rapid succession, it’s seemed more his issue; when it’s happened with Racoon, more a failure of our defense. I’m sure the number gnomes will step forward to prove me wrong, which I’ll happily accept. Because I don’t like feeling our best goalie is being sidelined because of irrational decisions.
Don’t know who’s getting the Caps start. We say: Vokoun can win; Neuvirth will perform. Diagnosis: Hedberg = Not; Neuvy Racoon = Hot.
2: Best. Sniper. Ever. Listen up anti-Seminites: you don’t have to be Mulder or Scully (“It’s me, where are you?“) to stumble on the hidden conspiracy that is Alexander Valerievich Semin. He is, officially, the Capitals non-secret, flare-shooting Tsar Bomba; the guy you don’t want anywhere near your net. Of late he’s the best player for the Caps…and by best we mean most adaptable.
His work on the dot, as forward and chief threat, and overall rally-rad guy make him invaluable to a bench hobbled without NB19. 1G/3A +3 in the last five don’t even begin to tell it. Sasha has stepped up from his previous role as artist/assassin to all-around auxiliary guy, creating spark where it’s needed and letting his team-mates grow the fire.
He is, in short, the Indispensable Capital. Sasha = Hot. Then again, it could all be a conspiracy.
3: You Can Go Home Again. And Again, And Again. What’s the Russian version of Whoo-hooo!? Probably something with a vodka bottle (like I’m one to talk.) Stereotyped larfs aside, the Capitals have just plowed through our most crap-tacular road trip of the year – that was even before we took it – and are now beginning a little home encampment-let of four games. To which we can only say: Whoo-hoo! What are we, 21-doesn’t matter-who cares at Home? Go look up the actual numbers elsewhere, Poindexter; point is they really do rock Verizon.
Beyond that, we’re 94G/74GA, with 22 PPgoals and a relatively stingy 16 PPagainst at home. (Who’s the Poindexter now?) But, unlike last season, they do not like coming off the losing the 1st, at 5-20-2. Yuck.
4: Giants On The Ice. Mike Knuble has been benched the last too many games. Too many times in February he had almost points and take-back scores; too much he’s had his pockets picked and played Jingle Pipes and yet, nothing. Not for a lack of trying. Could we use him hovering over the Hedberg’s net tonight? A fraction less that I could use losing 40 pounds.
Our other giant, Jeff Schultz (1G/5A, +2) clocks in at 6’6″ and 230. Pounds, not stone. He’s been muzzled on the ice this season, earlier because of (honestly) under-performance, and later because of Coach Hunter’s new “U No Skor U Go” policy. Which we, and only we – the PuckBuddys – are here saying is shite. Caps Giant Schultz: go defeat enemies.
Schultz is back on skates, and we qualify this as a win. Hot = Schultz scoring.
Watch, Bet And Cheer:
7pm puck drop. If you can’t be at Verizon, watch Joe B and Locker, their awesome coverage, Alan May’s prescient tweets, and everyone’s preposterous suits. Caps 2, Devils 1. Call the Mirage book on that one.