Andy Warhol Says*: Everywhere you look, you see Pittsburgh fans. In Andy’s view, “…it’s all so beautiful.” Of course, he was hopped up on horse tranqs.
But this is Pittsburgh. And at the first insinuation of bandwagon chasing, they all claim family ties to the city. First of all, you cannot all be from there. It is just not a big enough city for every Yuengling-guzzling bar rat to crawl back to. And even if they did all somehow come from Pittsburgh, you know why they’re here now? Because they got the hell out of Pittsburgh as soon as they could. There’s even a website devoted to the phenomenon. And so with the sacred camaraderie of refugees from a land not worth returning to, the Penguins wander about the NHL landscape. On Tuesday the Capitals take the fight to them, and you can bet they’ve had their road Whites mustard-proofed.
The Morning Skate:
Besides giving you an occasion to air out your novelty #87 custom Capitals jersey with the name CRSBYSX, this game will be a barometer for the rest of the Caps’ season. [Nerd Alert!] Are the Penguins relatively on fire? Yes. Are the Capitals relatively on Hoth? You betcha. But the Caps need to win about 75% of their remaining games to make the playoffs, and like those valiant infantrymen of the Rebel Alliance, the Caps can’t expect every battle to be against hapless storm troopers or to get help from the Wampa-like Erskine.
Anyone can beat up on Florida. Hell, even the Supreme Court did it in 2000.(Look it up, noobs!) But Washington will have to beat the good teams, too. If the Caps want to be counted among the best eight teams in the conference come May, they’ll have to blaze a winning trail through cities like Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Boston. That trail will then be cordoned off and burned to prevent cross-contamination.
Secondly, the Caps could use a gut check to find out how bad they want it. Like mayonnaise left in the sun, the Capitals have a problem with consistency. Let’s start from the net out. Like a talented escort with low self-esteem, Braden Holtby can do remarkable things with this hands and legs, but lets in a lot of softies too. He keeps them in a lot games they don’t deserve, but has a bad habit of spotting opponents an easy goal or two in otherwise winnable games.
Holtby makes a lot of saves he shouldn’t, but not enough that he should. Add that to the streaky-deeky of crucial role players like Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault and the Capitals’ odds of making the playoffs start to look like a random number generator. A random number generator that only cycles between “SLIM” and “NIL.” [Fake Ed Note: Slim just left town.] There are guys that contribute night-in and night-out, guys like Mike Ribeiro, Troy “Manimal” Brouwer and –yes—Alex Ovechkin. But with such a dearth of true talent, the Capitals need the rest of their roster to overachieve. Now is when we start to see how long this team really wants to keep playing.
And with that dazzling analysis complete, we now turn to the segment UNESCO designated a World Heritage site:
Liable to Libel: A Baker’s Dozen Lies About Today’s Opponent:
- Marc-Andre Fleury often stops people mid-sentence and says, “Please, ‘Marc-Andre’ is so formal. Call me Marc-Andy.”
- Matt Cooke was cast as Achilles in the Pittsburgh Players’ theatrical production of Troy, but dropped out when he couldn’t cut it. Get it?!
- Looking for a mascot to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, Pittsburgh chose a docile flightless bird easily killed by seals, whales, and anything with thumbs.
- When asked his opinion of Crosby, Mike Milbury smiled and blushed and giggled, “Why, did he ask about me?
- In a recent survey, 94% of Pittsburgh residents shown Mario Lemieux’s name written out pronounced it “Luh-MEE-ucks.”
- The concession stands at Consol Energy Center now sell a “Pittsburger,” consisting of a beer-soaked Hines Ward jersey on a trash bag.
- Tomáš Vokoun was thrilled to move to Pittsburgh after so many years of living in boring, dreary Miami, and with so many strange thingees over his name.
- When asked whether he resents playing second fiddle to superstar Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin said, “No way, just like plenty of people like Luigi better than Mario….right?” (Really. PuckBuddys’ truth.)
- Marc-Andre Fleury has the best hyphen-to-soul-patch ratio of any starting goaltender in the eastern conference.
- Pittsburgh residents claim the Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers all wear the same colors for city identity. It’s really so residents don’t have do all that hard reading.
- Yuengling is releasing a limited-edition brew called “Crosby’s Tears.” When you pull the tap, it claims you hooked it and chirps to the ref.
The Puck Drop:
- Fleury and the Beast: I mentioned earlier that the Caps need their goalie to not give away games. Well Marc-Andre Fleury could be honored by Toys For Tots for his generous donations. Le Fleur plays the puck about as well as Stephen Hawking plays the drums (heya!) He’s less comfortable in the trapezoid than a geometry student with agoraphobia, and Captain Chrysanthemum can be counted on to generate one or two juicy chances a game. With scrappy boards men like Chimmer and Beagle, the Caps could really give Tulip some headaches. Oates should have his boys playing more Dump and Chase than a Taylor Swift album.
- The Best Defense Is a Good Defense: Though you wouldn’t know it to watch the Caps play, most NHL teams play with six defense-men on their bench. And typically, those six defense-men have played in the NHL before. Riddled with groinitis mayuer and DPS (Degenerative Poti Syndrome), the Capitals defense has been saved only by the rich chocolaty depths of the Hershey system. If not for whatever is in the water in the barn where they keep the Hersey goalies and defense-men, guys like Alzner, Carlson, Oleksy, and Orlov would not be able to step up so capably. The fairly seamless transition these AHL blue liners have made to the big leagues is not typical, and as deep as Hershey may be, eventually they’re going to run out of good defensemen to send up when we have injuries. And when that happens, the only blue line in Washington making stops will be the one that runs from Georgetown to U Street.
- Read Between the (Top) Lines: Much has been made about the Capitals’ lack of true top-six talent. I don’t necessarily buy all of it. I’ll take two lines of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Brouwer, Ribeiro-Laich-Fehr. Ribs is a center-man but he can’t win face offs, so move him outside and keep him on the ice. Brooks-and-Done has been hurt for a long time but will eventually recover, potentially soon. That gives the Capitals two pretty dynamic top lines, and like a good conga party, two solid grinding lines behind them. They may not win any President’s Trophies with this roster, but I don’t see the same barren offensive wasteland that some in the city seem to. I believe the Capitals are an average team in a terrible division that average is good enough to win. They have 20 games left to prove who’s averagest-est.
So that about does it. Puck drop is 7:30 in the Steel City. See you there, and Go Caps.
*Ed note: We really don’t really think Holtby is that remarkable with his hand and legs…or if we do, we’ll just not discuss it.
*”Don’t pay attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” — Andy Warhol.