The Pregame: Tampa. Sh*t, I’m still only in Tampa.
Or them, technically. Meaning us. As in, them, Tuesday night, isn’t us. And us don’t like them.
As dance partners go, Tampa Bay is the nattering, grabby-hands B.O. champion* of NHL cities. The one you get stuck with while your date runs off for a giggle as you try to shake him/her/it loose, but you can’t, because no-one else will even look at them, as they are now adhered to you like dog stain on rug, like flab on hips, like a vote-starved politician (redundant!) to your wallet.
Try as you might, they just won’t go away, and the longer they stay attached to you your social capital sucks dry as you furiously look for some escape but come to realize that, no, you and this thing are now welded together in a grotesque, condemned to dancing together for all eternity, or at least until realignment. Face it, Tampa: you smell.
Justin Bourne of The Score published a video on Tuesday capturing his top 10 goals of the 2011-12 season (so far). It’s a good list with a ton of action, but it might stir up some bad memories for you. Not only are no Washington Capitals players on the list, but three of the ten goals happened against D.C. goalies.
Enjoy the video and follow me past the jump:
[Ed. note: this is the second article in our series about the Capitals’ struggles leading up to the trade deadline. The first Capitals During Wartime post addressed the team’s problems with the center position.]
At the end of All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Southeast Division, but their prospects for the postseason are not secure. The Southeast has two challengers– the Florida Panthers (with whom the Caps are virtually tied) and the Winnipeg Jets. Plus, the Capitals have a tough schedule down the stretch– including some tough games on the road. When Neil Greenberg at the Washington Post looked at the Caps’ remaining schedule, he was not encouraged.
That’s because the road is where the Capitals have had most of their troubles this season. The team’s home record of 18-6-1 is fourth best in the league, but away they are just 8-13-2, a dismal 25th. One spectacularly bad road game in Buffalo on November 26th probably cost Coach Boudreau his job. The power play and penalty kill perform vastly better in Verizon Center than they do when away. With 18 away games remaining, the Capitals will have to do better on the road if they want to make the playoffs.
The article looks at the Caps’ troubles away from D.C. from several angles: possession, shooting, special teams, and Alex Ovechkin. And because it’s interesting, I’m comparing Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter too. Uh oh.
Not Alex Ovechkin. (Pic via capitals.com)
For those of you who like the All-Star Game, good news: this game was just as loose and ridiculous as you could have possibly dreamed. For those of you who dislike the All-Star Game, good news: it’s over.
We return to real hockey on Tuesday and thank goodness for that, but it was a nice weekend of rest for most of our team, and a nice weekend of dumb, mindless spectacle for hockey fans. I expect to see the rest of the Caps come back with suntans, and Dennis Wideman to come back with a smile on his face. As silly as most of the actual events of the weekend are, recognition is and always will be one of the best feelings in the world, especially for a guy like Wideman that rarely gets what he deserves.
It’s still official Dennis Wideman Day for the rest of Sunday, and then after that you can go back to your regularly scheduled Caps fandom.
Tonight was the gimmick to end all gimmicks, this was the real pony show. I know there are those of you who think the Skills Event is completely stupid and contrived, but let’s face it, if you got together a bunch of young hockey players, gave them a lot of alcohol, and just left them to their own devices, you’d probably get about the same result anyway.
I think we can all agree that this is probably not the kind of event that’s tailored to Dennis Wideman’s particular skillset. I’m not sure what kind of competition they could have held that would have been perfect for him, in fact–Best Replacement Mike Green? Grossest Lower Body Injury (Grossest Upper Body Injury of course is currently held by Matt Hendricks).
I won’t call attention to a certain Youtube blooper, but I’m just glad that he chose not to do trick shots. I would hate for him to have to relive traumatic memories. Instead, Wideman was entered in the Hardest Shot and the Challenge Relay portions of the competition, though entering the Hardest Shot competition for Zdeno Chara’s team is kind of like being the other US swimmer in the lane next to Michael Phelps. I have to end the affectionate ribbing by reiterating that I love Dennis Wideman. He’s fourth overall in points for defenseman. He deserves to be where he is, and it was fun to watch the huge smile on his face the whole time.
Few jobs in the NHL suck more than Brendan Shanahan‘s. As the guy in charge of player safety, Shanahan has presided over 26 suspensions so far this season. Shanahan began publishing videos to document each infraction and provide transparency to a process that had been considered arbitrary in previous years.
I didn’t pay too much attention to supplemental discipline until this week, when Alex Ovechkin earned a three-game suspension for charging Zbynek Michalek. Ovechkin’s was the 10th three-game suspension of the year. With a big enough sample for comparison and Shanahan’s explanation for each, we’re finally able to peer into the underlying logic– and fairness– behind these rulings.
Pic by Clyde.
This week, the Caps went 1-1-1 in 3 games with a loss against the Hurricanes, a win against the Boston Bruins, and a wild overtime loss against the Penguins that had a bit of fallout, to say the least. They were outscored 8-10 but managed to come away with 3 of 6 available points. The week also saw Alex Ovechkin suspended for 3 games, Mathieu Perreault scoring 3 goals for his first career hat trick, and hopefully saw the last strike of the 3-0 shutout boomerang for awhile. It was a crazy week to be a Caps fan, but when the dust settled, the Caps are sitting at 3rd place in the conference, and will stay there for the duration of the All-Star break. You knew you should have paid more attention to those lessons about foreshadowing in high school English class.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Tim Thomas snubbed the President, Antero Niittymaki wasn’t informed he was on waivers, Semyon Varlamov may have lost the Avalanche starting job for now, NHL should just rename it the Backup All-Star Game, and Evander Kane was accused of dining and dashing.
In case you were wondering the most important question–how does everything in the world apply to the Washington Capitals?–here’s a helpful guide to what’s terrible this week.
Screengrab via @CarrottBazooka
Since Alex Ovechkin has opted out of the All-Star Weekend (and has better things to do anyway), Dennis Wideman is now Washington’s lone representative in Ottawa. While Wideman is perhaps slightly less likely to don a hat and sunglasses and do trick shots, he’s a Capital, so we love him all the same. We’ll be covering Wideman’s foray into the glamorous life of an All-Star, so check back for updates, because let’s face it, you’re already bored without hockey.
Dennis Wideman was picked in the 15th round with the second-to-last pick that could be used on a defenseman, before only Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler. This means that we can get hipster now if we want and call him underrated. We knew Dennis Wideman when he wasn’t cool. Logan Couture was picked last overall and won a brand new caaaaarrrrr! Somehow it just wasn’t the same without Ovechkin there laughing and taking pictures.
Monday night, Brendan Shanahan suspended Alex Ovechkin three games for his hit on Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Tuesday morning, George McPhee announced that Ovi would be pulling out of the All-Star Game and its festivities in Ottawa. “Because he’s a suspended player, he doesn’t feel like he deserves to be there, so he’s not going to go,” McPhee told the gathered media. “He doesn’t want to be a distraction to the event.”
Fair enough. Yet Ovi’s decision to skip All-Star weekend has been met with criticism from some and anger by others. St. Louis Blues winger Andy McDonald tweeted a “a classless move by Ovi ‘opting’ out of the NHL Allstar Game.” What they don’t seem to realize is that Ovechkin has lots of other important things to be doing with his time. First things first, shaving-cream pie Mathieu Perreault.
It’ll be twelve days between when Ovechkin was suspended and when we next see him on the ice, so in the meantime, here are a few things we think he might be up to.
Screengrab via @recordsANDradio
Alex Ovechkin has been suspended for three games, but that didn’t stop him from getting in on the fun of the Capitals’ 5-3 win over offensive juggernauts, the Boston Bruins. Ovechkin congratulated Mathieu Perreault‘s on his first career hat trick by surprising him with a shaving-cream pie to the face during the post-game interview with Al Koken. Typical Ovi.
Video under the jump.
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