The Puck Drop: So. This is what life drips down to. Tapping away at keys, like a pelican diving for shrimp, aiming at something but not knowing what it is. Of course, harhar, we’re so much more advanced than that mere animal; we shape existence and knowledge, don’t we, yes? And by doing so, we begin to understand our universe in its smallest parts, right? click click click goes the clock; tap tap tap drips the faucet; next next next go the hockey games.
Tuesday night is a big deal. For the first time since February 10, 2008, Jaromir Jagr will play hockey at Verizon Center. Since he is perhaps the most reviled person in Washington Capitals history, there’s no way this doesn’t get ugly.
As a Pittsburgh Penguin, Jaromir Jagr finished eight seasons with more than 90 points, ran flak for Mario Lemieux, and beat the hell out of the Caps in five of six playoff series. Then something even worse happened: he became a Washington Capital.
Fans can have honest disagreement about what the dark days of the Washington Capitals actually were. No wait; they can’t. That first season going a pathetic 8-67-5 doesn’t come close to unbridled misery of the Jaromir Jagr era (October 6, 2001 – January 21, 2004). It began like this: Acquired from a broke Pittsburgh team, Jagr would earn eleven million dollars a year as a Capital.
(Photo credit: Nick Wass)
The Dale Hunter era hasn’t exactly started with a bang. With Hunter looking for his first NHL win behind the bench and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby playing Washington for the first time since his Winter Classic concussion heard ’round the world, everybody from TSN to The New York Times descended on the Verizon Center Thursday night. And for the second game in a row the Caps were easily outplayed and doubled up in shots on goal (65 to 36 over the two games) — even if they lost by just one tally.
Still, the Caps aren’t exactly playing like Bruce Boudreau remains behind the bench. The team has instituted Hunter’s new defensive system (they had the second worst goal-against average in the league under the old regime) which will take some getting used to. The players, of course, know this as they made an even more dramatic shift in their play in the midst of their eight-game losing streak less than one year ago. So far, though, it’s yet to yield a victory.
The Pre-Game: I think it was Benjamin Disraeli who said “Sometimes cities just suck.” Or maybe it was Don Rickles. We’re getting our historical figures mixed up.
Look, there’s nothing that stinks about San Diego, the actual place. It’s lovely. Or Phoenix, for that matter, if it weren’t for all the whack-a-doodles. Vancouver: now there’s a dandy city for you! If you can just get over all the residents piously reminding you just precisely how dandy it is.
On the other end, there are places like Mogadishu, a city that, I can comfortably assure you, sucks. Or vacation paradise Pripyat! – home to the entombed Chernobyl perpetual light bulb. Pyongyang. Philadelphia.
Then we come to the middle ground: decent places inhabited by truly awful organizations. Pittsburgh comes to mind. Hoorah, it’s beautiful and their food isn’t too toxic and the local rumor is that there’s even a museum or something. But it’s also home to the rat burrow of unctuous fink Richard Mellon Scaife and his poisonous heirs, and the ‘Terrible Towel’, which we rank as only just below Scaife as scabes-inducing. The Pittsburgh Penguins… and Dan Bylsma. Think about that for a moment: both the Penguins AND Bylsma (and his douche-hat) compressed into one geographic point. That single distinction alone is enough to push Pittsburgh to new title holder: Epicenter of Suck.
Doesn’t this picture just make you sick? (Photo credit: Jonathan Newton)
A long, long time ago, in a frightening world before iPads and Windows Vista, there was this belief that the Capitals needed only one guy to get over the hump to become a stone-cold Stanley Cup contender. It was 2001-02. They already had fifty-goal scorer Peter Bondra, Vezina winner Olie Kolzig, and what many thought to be among the most solid defenses in the NHL.
Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar
Thursday’s game between the Penguins and Capitals was an exciting affair, but it was the third period fight between Jay Beagle and Arron Asham that got people talking.
After roughing Kris Letang, Jay Beagle was approached by Arron Asham, a known fighter with more than 70 bouts on his rap sheet according to hockeyfights.com. The fight left Jay Beagle apparently knocked out, bleeding on the ice, and requiring help to get up. Asham skated away from the fight and made pro-wrestling-style gestures that could translate as “it’s over, he’s asleep.”
Beagle spit out blood, pulled out a tooth, and retreated to the locker room. As Beagle got up, Asham banged his stick from the penalty box out of respect. Arron and Jay served matching major penalties, Beagle doing so from off ice. Also served by Beagle was the original two-minute penalty for roughing Letang. Asham was not assessed an instigator penalty.
We do not yet know the severity of Jay Beagle’s injury.
Dennis Wideman celebrates his OTGWG. (Photo credit: Gregory Shamus)
For the third time in three games, the Washington Capitals required extra time to make a decision, and for the third time the Capitals proved themselves the better team. The Pittsburgh Penguins did their best to play a classy game of hockey, but then they realized they’re the Penguins and punked out. Read on and you’ll find out how.
James Neal was wide open to take a wide pass and make it 1-0 on the game’s first shot. Mike Knuble worked hard to kanoob the puck to tie it back up. Alex Ovechkin deflected a Mike Green shot that required a review to be called a goal. On a late power play, Malkin found Neal with a cross-ice pass to tie it up. Into OT and on the power play, Dennis Wideman put enough stank on the puck to evade Johnson. Caps beat Pens 3-2 (OT).
A time machine.
We had too much to dream last night. Blame the cough syrup. Either that or this stuff really did happen. We’ve got dazed and confused recollections of hotwiring a hockey time machine, tripping back to the past and then ahead to the future. We saw Gordie Howe play (when men were men), Steve Yzerman (when he was hot), and the Great One (when mullets were cool). We took in a few Penguins games of yore (when a young Sidney Crosby taught us all how to laugh) and even dialed it back further to when Bruce Boudreau was slim …mer. Go Fort Wayne Komets!
Before dropping the contraption back off back at RMNBHQ (with a full tank), we bounced ahead to Friday morning to see how tomorrow’s game against the Pens turned out. So this is in effect a pre-review, we promise only a few spoilers. If Thursday’s game doesn’t go as we witnessed it, that’s because Chris has been screwing with the space-time continuum-thingie again. Ugh, kids.
Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.
I wasn’t always a huge hockey fan. My family were Hartford Whalers season-ticket holders, and they took me to an event down at the old Civic Center when I was 4. I would have gone skating but the goal siren frightened me away. I refused to skate and spent the rest of the night sitting on the bench with my hands on my ears. When I finally saw a game at age 12, I was an instant convert.
So: January 1st, 2011. The Winter Classic. Maybe the biggest game of the regular season and my first away from Home Sweet Verizon Center and in Pittsburgh, home of our nemeses. I wanted the win badly.