AP Photo/Ted Richardson

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.

Exactly.

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(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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.

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charasmash

Doug Johnson is back to amuse and torment. You know him as one-half of the PuckBuddys. The first one to get them to 3K Twitter follows probably wins a car or something.

The Morning Skate: Gentle readers, before we [CENSORED] all over our Bruins friends,  let us pause a moment, as you scramble in blind panic preparing for snow that will never, ever come again, to consider the hazards of making predictions. Especially about the Caps.

For example, if I predict no snow Wednesday, it’s gonna get all crazy 20″ up in here. Conversely, I stone cold guarantee that if I dash to the store today to buy a terror shovel, we will be mopping our brows and sipping Mint Juleps on our verandas by Friday. The point is: predictions can go so wrong. Britain’s Lord Kelvin (he of Downton Abbey, we guess?) said heavier-than-air machines could never fly. Harry Warner said no-one would pay for talkies. The Skipper predicted a three-hour tour. Boom.

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sasha

[Ed. note:Today, the latest member of the PuckBuddys team hits the ice. Jason Rogers currently hangs his hat in Virginia, has studied in Paris and worked in China (always one step ahead of Interpol). But where ever he is in the world he’s a Caps fan through and through. He knows the game and we're not holding that against him. Jason currently sports #8 – and the “C” – playing center for the Manassas Sperm Whales. Srsly. Give him a follow on twitter.]

Morning Skate: Well, Saturday’s game against the Devils sure was fun to watch, no? Alex Ovechkin bowled a Magician, and the whole team clearly ate their morning Oates with breakfast. It was a real big-boy win against the defending Eastern Conference champions for this Caps team, and like a really nice yard with an unmarked septic field, hopefully something they can build on. Today, Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes blow into town like a hot, smelly belch from the South. I hope they brought illegal fireworks.

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marty

[Ed note: After a year of doggedly researching and documenting the panoply of awfulness that are the Washington Capitals' rival cities and teams, the PuckBuddys'  physicians grew concerned, recommending they take a nice, quiet rest somewhere so they could forget temporarily about hockey and focus instead on finger paints and macaroni art. Helpfully, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr gave them just the right opportunity to lay down their burden.

Now, no longer able to keep them involuntarily committed, the Buddy's have returned to crash our net and empty the NHL's septic tanks that you, wisely, would rather not. Because that's just the sort of stand-up guys they are.

However, we caution they are still a bit on edge. So please, everyone...no sudden movements.]

The Scene: The pioneering urban anthropologist Ulf Hannerz once remarked “That which most repels us in other cultures is very often what lies buried and secret at the heart of our own.”  Well, no he didn’t; I just made that up. But then again, I doubt that Ulf ever visited New Jersey.

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New York and the Rangers: Rotten Apple


Photo credit: Movie Vault

Editor’s note: The playoff series gives Caps fans a chance to learn all about our stupid rivals and the exotic (i.e., terrible) places they come from. For the second of their Stanley Cup travelogue series, the PuckBuddys offer “How To Spot A Rangers Fan” and helpfully explain why a trip to Manhattan is only slightly worse than a colonoscopy. Follow @PuckBuddys.

Sometimes literary fiction can teach us something great and truthy. I’m thinking here about timeless classics like “Escape from New York,” “The Stand”, or “I Am Legend” (Will Smith version, duh). In these worlds, Manhattan’s streets are littered with drooling ghouls, shuffling corpses and brainless zombies, with a few rapists tossed in for good measure. The entire island is alternately either a prison or a graveyard, both equally wretched, and always there’s one or two smart people trying desperately to flee, usually to Washington.

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Doubting Thomas

Craig Brownstein of the Puck Buddys gets you primed for Holtby vs Thomas. Follow @PuckBuddys …unless you hate smiles. You don’t hate smiles, do you?

So. Here we are. The Caps’ long, strange trip to the playoffs wasn’t easy, not by any stretch, and their first round opponent doesn’t look so easy either. We know what’s behind us – a roller coaster season of consistent inconsistency, and we know what’s ahead of us – the defending Stanley Cup Champions are big, physical, and chock full of talent. So this probably explains why hockey’s literati almost to the person predicts a Boston win for the series. We don’t put much stock in that, of course. We don’t because we’re homers. Homo homers to be precise.

We look at the Boston match up as a series of If – Then statements: If Ovi, Sasha, and Nicky fire, then we’ll be OK. If we can match them physically, then we don’t get pushed around. If our special teams perform, then we’ll have a real shot. If we put rubber on that creep, Timmy Thomas, get in his head and face, then we’ll score moar goals. If we crash the net, you know the rest. And it’s Timmy and his counterpart at the opposite end of the rink that we think this series revolves around.

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New York Rangers Pregame: 81 and Done

Via Craig Brownstein of Puck Buddys, this is your final pregame of the season. Follow PuckBuddys on Twitter.

Long, Strange Trip: The past few months have been a roller coaster for the team and fans alike. As the regular season was winding down and points were becoming ever more precious, the playoff picture was coming into focus for a lot of teams that were not named the Washington Capitals. That sucked. The last month or so was a teeth-grinding, butt-clenching, freaky-outy nightmare. Night after night, we saw our playoff chances dissipate in loss after loss, points squandered, a team in name only, flailing about the ice with no apparent sense of mission or urgency.

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Here’s Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys with your penultimate pregamer. Follow @PuckBuddys.

Early Morning Skate: Our doctor advises those of you with heart issues, temper problems, or who are prone to premature catastrophization to avoid watching the Capitals Thursday night. In fact, why not just turn the TV and iPad off and curl up into a little whimpering ball right now.

The rest of us? We few… we lucky few… are ready for, and this is no hyperbole, the single most cosmically important game for any team since the beginning of time. That said, will the Capitals be ready as well?

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Tampa Bay Lightning Pregame: Final Sprint

Saturday’s win over the Canadiens was way too close, but two points were gained and that is all that matters. Now, in this final week of the regular season, six points remain available. The Caps kinda need all of those if they want home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

That means getting two tonight in Tampa.

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