Everything is Happening! Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT)

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller

Yawn. These Washington Capitals / Pittsburgh Penguins games are always such tedious affairs. Nothing interesting ever happens.

Okay, but for real. This game was a monster. The Capitals looked wounded in the first period, surrendering easy goals early and firing just four shots on net. They came back in the second transformed and reinvigorated. After Mike Knuble crashed the net and just barely missed a goal, the offense turned on. The Capitals regained the shot lead and kept their foot on the gas until the very end.

No one challenged Kris Letang on the power play, so he had a great lane and great screen on the game’s first goal. James Neal flicked one past Neuvirth right after a face off to make it 2-0. The game was six minutes old.

In the second, Dennis Wideman set up Brooks Laich for a crucial goal during 4-on-4. Alex Semin cleaned up Mathieu Perreault’s rebound to tie the game and blow our freaking minds.

In the third, Alex Ovechkin caught a wide pass from Alex Semin and beat Marc-Andre Fleury to open up a lead. James Neal finished off a brilliant zone entry by Evgeni Malkin to knot the score again. That tie took us all the way into overtime, where Malkin casually tipped in the game-winner. Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT).

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At the end of the second period between the Capitals and Penguins, Paul Martin seems to say words to Jason Chimera that are supposed to verboten in the new NHL.

Around 2.5 seconds into the video above, Paul Martin appears to call Chimera a derogatory name for a gay man. (Sorry to be so stilted about it, but it’s hard to discuss these things for a wide audience. Plus, there’s no audio, so we can’t be certain.)

Martin started the third period in the penalty box for a slashing penalty that we could not locate.

So if Paul Martin is seen calling another player a [expletive] on national television and the league does nothing about it, then they’re just feckless and craven worms, right?

Reminder: our comment policy is strictly enforced. Be mindful of the difference between “what they did” and “what they are”.

Thank you to @tonytenor1 for pointing this out, and thanks to Peter Robbio for the video.

Video: Alex Ovechkin Hits Zbynek Michalek

During the second period of the Capitals-Penguins game on Sunday, Alex Ovechkin leveled a bad hit on Zbynek Michalek.

Michalek was stuck in the corner, Ovi charged in, left his skates, and hit Michalek in the head.

Michalek was okay, but Ovechkin should have been whistled for charging. Shanahan might take a look, but Michalek’s falling before the hit is probably exculpatory.

Capitals During Wartime: Centerless

[Editors note: over the next month, we’ll be looking at the challenges the Capitals face, the trade deadline, and the playoff chase. It’s not gonna be fun, but we gotta do this.]

When Nick Backstrom took a blow to the head from Rene Bourque on January 3rd, the Capitals lost the service of their number-one center. Backstrom was on track for a better than 80-point season, which would have been a strong recovery from the slump of ’10-’11. Instead, the team lost the anchor for its top line and its most productive forward.

Without Backstrom, the Capitals have only three strong options for centers: Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern. Additionally, Mathieu Perreault, Cody Eakin, and Matt Hendricks have done center duty in a pinch. Meanwhile, the Capitals offense has  been shut out twice in the last three games and have averaged only 23 shots on goal since mid-December. That’s just not good enough.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Pregame: #renamePittsburgh

It’s time for your Puck Buddys pregame! Follow @PuckBuddys and adopt a dog.

The Pregame: Cartoonist Bill Griffith, who just this week turned 68, sees the overlooked and forgotten corners of America with blinding precision. We were reminded of this recently as we took a drive through portions of Pennsyltucky – clearly where the phrase “fat of the land” has great meaning – and its meth-addled capital, Pittsburgh. Or, borrowing from Zippy’s creator, Dingburg.

Previously we anointed Pittsburgh as the Epicenter of Suck. Following our travels, we can confidently proclaim that it has become, in fact, the Pinhead Center of the Universe. The gangrenous, foul-smelling trash pile of contemporary civilization. The trucker-stop, Thunderbird-guzzling, used baby diaper of cities. Imagine if Paul Verhoeven remade “Showgirls” today with the same cast and you’ve got Pittsburgh, only with less sexy and more elastic waistbands. It’s exactly that awful.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Preview: Pittsburgh Sadz

Doug Johnson of the Puck Buddys: he’s a sick puppy, but he soldiered through to give you this pregame. @PuckBuddys

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.

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Warm Tidings to the Honourable Gentleman, Jaromir Jagr

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.

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Frustration, Hope as Caps Offense M.I.A Once Again

(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.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Pregame: The Epicenter of Suck

Illustration by Ian Oland

Heeeeeere’s Doug Johnson of PuckBuddys fame. Tweet his face.

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.

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