AP Photo/Ted Richardson
[Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys is back! And he has this preview. Yet another preview. Which, for the record, he doesn't need to do, he just chooses to do. He could stop at any time. Really. Just this one more. Go be co-dependent with him here.]
Morning Skate: Well fiddle-dee-dee. No sooner do we air out the Rangers’ stank from Verizon than the hillbillies from Hooterville return, bringing with them an undiscovered country of smell. Yes y’all, the Carolina Hurricanes are blowing back in, bringing with them their corn-pone, possum caps, crystal meth and Alex Semin, in something like that order.
Of course “stank” is something we all got a heapin’ helpin’ of this weekend. Must we really bring it up again – the juvenile penalties, the evaporating puck-management skills, John Tortorella’s stupid fat face? Apparently, yes.
Just what is happening in hockeyville? What is at the root of this existential struggle? I was contemplating this conundrum when a colleague at work asked me about the loud whooshing in the vent above my desk. “Is it blowing or sucking?” he asked.
Perhaps it’s just that the Capitals suck. Inconsistent play between and even within games, a superstar Captain who fans more than he shoots, and lines that seem more improvised than a John Cassavetes movie (ha!). Could it be that the 2013 incarnation of the Caps really aren’t that good across the board, and we should just focus on the 2014 rebuild?
Or maybe it’s blow. Yes, let’s stick with that one for a moment. As in blowing leads, blowing shots, and blowing opportunities, leading to the Caps faithful blowing chunks. I’m sure there’s an emoticon the kidz have come up with for that, but I can’t care.
Do you see the difference? Suck is what you are; blow is what you do. This dazzling insight, arrived at after at least, oh, a minute of thought, jibes with Peter’s ambitious analysis, though with much less of the word stuff and more of the… well I just don’t know how to finish that sentence. Ergo: the Capitals blow. And this is good news, because blow is fixable. Suck is forever.
The Puck Drop: Which, what a coincidence, brings us to Carolina. From its earliest days as South Carolina’s ugly little sister, North Carolina has remained one of the best reminders of why we might have been better to just walk away from that whole Civil War thing and leave good enough alone.
You would be hard pressed to find a place as simultaneously dull and ugly as North Carolina. Trust me on this: after spending just one week in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention last year, it is one of the few spots on Earth that a tropical storm would improve.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Hurricanes, née the Hartford Whalers, now residing in that pop-up book of a city, Raleigh. At 7-3 in the last ten games, they now seem to be pulling it together after a slow start, much like another team had been looking of late.
Of course, one of those losses was from us, here at home, when seemingly nobody came ready to play except Cam Ward, who — it must be noted– is performing better than any of our three current goalies and is infuriatingly cute. I would offer up performance comparisons here, but seeing as at least a few Hurricanes fans will have this read to them and mathematics is still legally considered “a demonye vice” in Carolina.
The Canes are simply playing better, and better as a team, than the Capitals right now. As are most teams in the Eastern Conference. And in other news, the Earth is still revolving around the sun. Moving on…
The Hot And The Not:
- Not – Missing, one Manimal; Answers to Troy. Early in the season, Troy Brouwer was performing exactly like we expected, tearing it up and generally playing like a robo-wolf wearing jetpacks and a katana. That said, he’s been weaker of late, adding just one goal in the last five despite logging serious ice time. We think we know the reason: Troy’s drought began at the same time he started started gassing it up about Alex Semin’s work ethic, right before our last game hosting the Canes. Coincidence, or something else, hmmm?! Did Sasha put the Evil Eye kabong on Troy? Is he so wracked with guilt about trash-talking a good player that he can’t perform? Am I just completely making crap up just for one more line of copy? I think you know the answer.
- Hot – The Sasha Line. Ugh, you know like when you break up, and you’re feeling pretty good about the whole thing, and a year later you run into each other on the street, and your hair is awful and your breath reeks and you’re wearing your “I just give up” stained sweats while they’ve lost 10 pounds and had their teeth whitened and smell like fresh peaches and are all like “Excuse me? Oh…oh Hi! Well just look at you!”? [ED: YOU'RE OVER-SHARING AGAIN]. That’s sorta what welcoming back Alex Semin once more feels like. 1/3 of the Canes top line, Sasha is scoaring, and even more assisting fellow line mates Eric Staal and the adorably named Jiri Tlusty do the same. We’ve faced some pretty good lines lately — see Pens and Islanders — but this may just be the best of them.
- Not -Ref You Cray!Is it possible that the NHL zebras have a thing against the Washington Capitals and are calling penalties on what other teams get away with? Hmmph. More possible is that some of the refs have their knickers knotted over a few Capitals players in particular, and I would rate it almost probable that one of those players is Alex Ovechkin. Let’s say that’s so, because why not. Then what? Do we think jawing the ref is really going to help him see the error of his ways? That puerile fan taunts help clear their souls? The PuckBuddys totally get the frustration, even letting fly with a few choice comments directed their way from time to time (read after three beers.) Boo hoo not fair fap fap, now just accept it and move on please.
- Hot – O Hai Nicky! We have a saying around our house. “You’re DUE, Nicky!” I guess it’s less a saying and more something we shriek at the TV. Anyway, Nicklas Backstrom remains one of the best all-around assets in the Capitals toolbox. Although not as good as last year, he’s good on the dot for us, he’s even better at landing assists, and was brilliant against Boston. Still, we’ve only seen 3 goals from him this season, way below where he wants to be and where we need him to be. It’s quite likely this is uninformed drivel, but Backstrom at 25 seems to be one of the most even-keeled guys in red out there.
- Not – Under Pressure. Even the Ecuadorian gas rats (look it up!) at the National Zoo can tell you that these next two games – Canes at home, Canes away – may well decide our playoff picture. Not so much in a point-counting way, although I’m told that’s still the way they do it. No, think spirit and energy. If this team believes they will defeat the Canes, and are able to do that, it’s going to be an enormous boost in esteem and confidence for this squad.
- Hot – Steve gOAleksy. What can be said about this miracle from Michigan hasn’t already been said? But let’s just bathe, for a moment, in the wonder that – at the moment – is Steven Oleksy. … There, bathed yet? Feelin’ fine? Because that is exactly what we need right now. Everyone feeling fine.
The Late Line: So here it is. Boston had it all over the Caps on paper, and what a thing of beauty that was. The Islanders should have been something approaching doable, until we were the ones that got did on. If I worked the book in Vegas, I wouldn’t be working the book anymore in Vegas. But be bold! Chaos is a ladder! And other Game of Thrones quotes I’m supposed to know!
Caps 3, Canes 2.
Sue me if I’m wrong. Or take it up with my bookie.