Photo credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
[Ed note: PuckBuddy, and hockey's own Hemingway, Jason Rogers, is back to praise where it's earned and taunt where it's needed. Tweeter him now.]
Morning Skate: Don’t look now, but the Caps have won five of their last six, and eight of eleven over the last month. The good guys from DC sit within spitting distance of – dare I say it? – the playoffs. The Capitals, like a port-a-potty with a wayward push, have begun rolling downhill.
This Saturday afternoon, like a matinee at the movies, the Caps’ opponent will be a poorly directed, over-budget flop starring nobody. Yes, the Gortons Fishermen roll back into their harbor fresh from Long Island (Excuse me: Stron-Gisland) to welcome the Caps, and if Uncle Ted has any sense he’ll scotch-guard the locker room.
The Puck Drop: So really, why should you get up for a Caps-Islanders game? Besides getting to know your soon-to-be division rival, you ought to check out the conference standings, duh. Scroll all the way to the bottom. Now scroll back up a little. BOOM! No longer at the bottom of the food chain, the Caps are now at least a secondary consumer! Kelp no more, we have progressed to krill. But in more terrestrial terms, the Caps are currently five points behind the Rangers for the eighth playoff spot, and six points behind Carolina in the division, with a game-in-hand on the latter. That’s iron-sight range, people. That’s swinging distance, like a short gap under a long vine. We’re two games south of the season halfway point, and the fact of the matter is that there’s time to make this thing a race. Every game, Oates’ system is fitting them snugger and snugger, like an opportune Isotoner. The Caps have more track in front of them than behind them, and they’re trending in the right direction. So there’s that.
My second reason to watch is really less of a point and more of a stud. And that stud’s name is Eric Fehr. Our fehrweather friend is becoming before our eyes the guy we drafted him to be with our first pick in 2003, over Ryan Getlzlaf, Ryan Kessler and Corey Perry. Now, he’s not up there yet…but he’s a-climbin’. I was at the SIM Card on Tuesday when Fehrris Bueller played the hero in overtime, and my text conversation with PuckBuddys’ wunderkind Craig went a little like this:
Craig: Eric Fehr!
Me: F***. Yes. Eric. Fehr.
Craig: Ho-Lee F***!
Our Morgan Fehrchild is a real big man with some dirt nasty hands, and I’m loving watching him play hockey right now. OK, fehr enough. That’s the State of the Red as it currently rocks. Now, let’s move on to everyone’s favorite segment:
Liable to Libel: A Baker’s Dozen Lies About Today’s Opponent
- Mike Milbury’s last words will be a whispered “DiPietro,” the name of his boyhood sled.
- Tim Thomas agreed to join the Islanders because Long Island was better zoned for his Unabomber-style shack.
- As per Long Island statute, Islanders players are paid in bulk-sized tubs of Ed Hardy t-shirts.
- Mike Milbury’s password on Instagram is “MikeyOvechkin8.”
- Like much of its trash, the city of New York is hoping to relocate the Islanders to a floating barge in the East River.
- Lubomir Visnovsky only decided to report to the Islanders after mistakenly believing Nassau Coliseum was in the Bahamas. He was sorely disappointed.
- The Islanders, much like the noble flounder, lurk around the bottom of the league standings each year to feed on the points missed by other more successful franchises. This is important to the NHL ecosystem.
- After every Islanders home victory, the Nassau Coliseum sprinkler system sprays a fine mist of bronzer down upon the home crowd.
- Much as the Montreal Canadiens require their coaches to speak French, the Islanders require their coaches to be named either Vinny, Mickey, or Legs.
- The Islanders are one of the seven best pro hockey teams in the New York metropolitan area.
- Long Island’s official tourism slogan is “America’s Hangnail.”
- This replaced their previous official slogan: “We’re Just Awful.”
- In a recent promotion, the first one thousand fans to arrive at Nassau Coliseum got to go to a Rangers game instead.
Now let’s take a look at Saturday’s game. Like a bomb defuse code dropped under the fridge, here’s what you’re gonna wanna look for:
- Self-Flagellation is So Passé: The Caps are whipping themselves by taking what I call “gotcha” penalties: hooks, trips, and holds that are the result of a forward just flat beating his check. Exhibit A: butch thespian John Carlson. When Johnny’s man gets past him, Johnny likes to little-bo-peep him back into reach with the toe of his stick, either around his waist or by his ankles. And then Johnny has to go to time out. But on Thursday night, a most remarkable thing happened: the Capitals played for nearly 50 minutes before taking a single penalty. And golly, would you look what happened? The Caps are still averaging nearly five penalties a game, which is five power play opportunities for their opponents. If they want to win for days, that has to stop.
- Steven Oleksy is Vladimir Putin and Daniel Craig’s Love Child: Seriously, look at this kid. He’s a handsome son of a gun, and plays like a vodka-soaked Kalashnikov. He blew up one of Boston’s Thorntons behind the net on Tuesday and made a hipcheck on Thursday that would have made Shakira cry fraud. Some (*ahem*, Chris) wondered why Washington would call up a guy from Hershey who was, essentially, a bruiser. But no matter how he got it done, the kid held his own against Boston and shut down Florida. He needs a little more polish before he’s ready to be a full-time NHLer, but it’s nice to know he’s ready down there next time there’s a bit of the Groin Flu going around the Washington blue lines.
- The Perks of Leaving the Gate Open – Somebody’s Got to Do It: Until Jack Skille scored a Ralph Nader for Florida late into the third period and already down by six, the Capitals had scored ten unanswered goals dating back to Tuesday. That would be a good run in basketball, let alone hockey. Adam Oates is in the Hall of Fame for being one of the greatest offensive set-up men of all time. The transition, then, from play maker to coach seems to me to be a natural one. Oates could see plays devloping while dodging 200-pound projectiles. Put him safely behind a bench and give him a clipboard, and he should make horse meat out of the likes of Kronwall, Hedman, and Öhlund. From “muffins,” to Ribsy to Oates, this balanced offensive diet sure looks sexy on the Caps.
And so, family, I leave you to wait for the drop of the puck at 1pm in New York. Go Caps.