On February 27, 2015, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Upon hearing of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the Washington Capitals were too distraught to play competent hockey against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Instead of generating shots and suppressing the opponent’s offense, they did more of that butthockey thing we saw the other night.
The Caps couldn’t get anything going, and Brent Bellemore exploited Evgeny Kuznetsov’s turnover to put the Canes up. The doldrums continued in the second, when Jeff Skinner sniped two put the Caps in a two-goal hole. Third period was a chore, and then Nathan Gerbe got the empty netter.
Canes beat Caps 3-0. Shut-out city. Three losses in a row.
On February 27, 2015, In Pregame, By Peter Hassett
The Capitals are in an odd situation right now. They’re a good team, but they haven’t been playing like it in the last 10 days. They’re a playoff team, but they’ve been losing to gutter teams. They’re reportedly buyers at the trade deadline, but most of the attractive players have already been snatched up. They’ve got a lot of talent on the roster, but they’re not necessarily using it well.
With just two games left before the trade deadline, I’m starting to wonder if we’ll see any big changes at all. Maybe the team we’ll see against the Hurricanes tonight will be the same one we see in May.
Game’s at 7 on CSN. It’ll be my first time hearing Joe B call a game since before he got sick.
I didn’t like this game and I don’t like you. I like only my dog and tacos. Everything else sucks, starting with the Caps, then followed by the weather, and then back to the Caps again,. Let’s get this over with quickly.
Instead of sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular-season series, the Capitals played maybe their worst game of the season. There were glimmers of awesome, but they were islanded in a stream of suck.
It was all Pens early, and then Patrick Hornqvist finally made the Caps pay for their carelessness. The Pens got ornery after that, but the Caps didn’t convert on the penalties. Instead, Matt Niskanen made a bad drop to an out-of-position Andre Burakovsky, so Brendan Sutter secured a shorthanded goal. John Carlson gave us something to be proud of late in the period with a sweet shot, but we knew this game wasn’t going well.
It only got worse in the second period’s penalty parade. That frame featured seven Capitals penalties, though it resulted in only one goal: Sidney Crosby’s slick wrister. His first point against the Caps this season.
Chimera and Brouwer crashed the net early in the third to make it a one-goal game, but Chris Kunitz thoroughly outworked Evgeny Kuznetsov to deflate our balloon. Late, Alex Ovechkin showed a glimpse of life with an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot. It wasn’t enough, but it was something not to hate about tonight.
In three meetings this season, the Capitals have outscored the Penguins 10-1. Inside the Metro, only Carolina has a worse intra-division record than the Penguins (7-11-4). Crosby’s reportedly having an off-year, and the fans are quite grumpy.
And none of that matters tonight.
The Penguins are still an excellent team. Crosby’s decline is mostly meaningless statistical noise; he’s still the best playmaker in the league, and the team’s record against the Metro doesn’t tell me much about who’s gonna win tonight. Like every game, this one will be decided by who’s got the better goalie and which team helps him out the most. I peeked at the Caps’ lines, and I think it’ll be the home team who wins this one and secures a regular-season sweep for the first time in five years.
Hockey legend Igor Larionov captured the hockey news cycle on Monday with a provocative article in the Players Tribune. Larionov’s thesis is that coaches are so stuck on hockey orthodoxy or so fearful of risk that they stifle and select against “creative” players.
The pullquote: “There’s a reason why Pavel Datsyuk went undrafted in 1996 and 1997.”
I’m skeptical about that example, but I think Larionov is spot-on about conservative coaching in general. We see it in all sports, but hockey seems to have a particularly pernicious strain of Goodoldboysclubitis, wherein exciting, finesse players are considered too “European” and risky, and safe and pedestrian players are wildly overvalued. I suspect that disease is behind symptoms like Top-line Beagle.
It’s a chronic infection that takes the form of valuing of a player’s characteristics over his actual effectiveness. Adding hard-working, “spark”-y Jay Beagle to the Capitals scoring line despite an embarrassingly convincing body of evidence that he actually hinders scoring– that’s an acute case.
If the point of hockey is to win games, why do so many people care more about a player’s description than a player’s production? The only answer is Goodoldboysclubitis.
We’ve seen itcreate necrotized flesh on the Philadelphia blue line after an injection of Andrew MacDonald, and in coming years we will see similar morbidity with the addition of Brooks Orpik in Washington.
“The effect is not going to be in goals and assists,” Brian MacLellan said in July. “It’s going to be in culture and winning and attitude, and that’s what Brooks Orpik does.”
That quote, likely uttered in the throes of a Goodoldboysclubitis fever, sums up the affliction perfectly. It’s like the brain is not able to separate the ways we talk about players (“gritty,” “hard-working,” “last name is also a breed of dog”) from the things those players do to actually help win games.
The teams who can rid themselves of the disease are the ones who do best in this league.
The only cure is information. Let’s do the snapshot.
On February 22, 2015, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
The Capitals’ gauntlet of intra-division games continued on Sunday afternoon with a matinee meet-up with the Philadelphia Flyers. A combination of factors led to the extinguishing of Washington’s win streak, but at least Jason Chimera earned some good will.
Starting on the top line, Jay Beagle quickly squandered the opportunity with an offensive-zone penalty that Claude Girioux converted for a goal. Wayne Simmonds made it 2-0 Flyers in the second period by knocking in a rebound.
Two-goal hole. Big trouble, but then the secondary scoring showed up. Tom Wilson nabbed a turnover forced by Michael Latta to get the Caps on the board, then Joel Ward knuckled a loose puck to tie it up before the second intermission.
The Flyers were buzzing late in the third and finally broke though when Michael Del Zotto ripped one through traffic and past Holtby to put the Flyers up late. The Caps had a late-game power play, but couldn’t come back. Bummer.
On February 22, 2015, In Pregame, By Peter Hassett
Oh. Wow. You can score on Neuvirth and the Sabres. You must be very proud.
Let’s make this quick because I gotta shovel my sidewalk.
The Caps won yesterday for the fourth time in a row, their best run of the season. No time to celebrate though, because evil Bettman scheduled them for back-to-back nooners. I’d say “don’t worry, it’s just the Flyers” except just because they’re a bad team doesn’t mean they can’t play dirty stuff and get a little lucky too.
I officially renounce my every-other-game theory about Alex Ovechkin. For a few weeks, Ovi would do something ridiculous in a game and then take the next night off. Except now he’s doing it every single game. Not to be greedy but the Caps are gonna need even more of Ovi’s magic for Saturday’s matinee match-up against the New York Islanders.
Saturday’s is the first of three games within the Metropolitan division, in which the Caps currently find themselves in second place. It’s gonna be a big week.
The game is on CSN. Puck drops a little after 12:30.
On February 19, 2015, In Pregame, By Peter Hassett
I thought a picture of Ovechkin laughing is appropriate right now.
The Capitals are finally home after their longest road trip of the season. The Caps took 6 out of 8 standings points on that trip. That smiling goof in the GIF above– he scored 8 points.
And yet the team still isn’t where want them. Holding onto a wild card spot is too humble. The Caps will play three of their next four at home and against three division teams. Now would be a good time to climb the standings.
Let’s start with the Winnipeg Jets, who aren’t really as bad as I have said. Puck drop at 7 PM on CSN.
Tuesday’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins meant that I had to miss one of my favorite television shows, Marvel’s Agent Carter. It’s a period piece set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America’s former best gal Peggy Carter battles spies and misogyny alike in post-war New York City to save… well, everything, I suppose.
It’s a good show with snappy writing and surprising emotional depth, and on Tuesday they sawed the leg off a guy named Ovechkin.