The Swedish Machine doin' his thing

The Swedish Machine, doin’ his thing with the Florida Cats

You know that scene in the Star Wars movie? The first one…or, the fourth one which was actually the first? The one that was good?

Luke and Han are blasting away at all the awful spaceships that are swarming around outside, and Luke is missing and missing and just shooting impotently away, pew pew pew, until he actually gets one? The one that was headed directly toward him in a straight line at about 10 miles an hour? And he’s so happy and Han says “Don’t get cocky, kid”?

That.

Oh, I can hear you all now, sighing “There goes Doug who knows nothing about hockey and is just a huge wet blanket and shut up.” I mean, those very few of you who actually read these things. Hey, I’m super fantastic happy about how the Caps are playing these days, and I loved seeing Nick “Swedish Machine Never Smiles” Backstrom get a hattie in regular season. And we’re playing the Florida Panthers tonight, who aren’t 1/2 the team Tampa is, or us probably, so there’s no need to worry, right?

Call me Eeyore, but I just can’t get too comfortable with this team. As awesome as they are, I’ve just seen too many times great play slide suddenly into crap.

Speaking of, I’ll say this about Sunrise, Florida, home of the Cats: at least it’s not Fort Lauderdale. Since starting in the 90’s expansion, Panthers management have done just about everything they could to alienate their fans… sorta like another professional sports team that’s become a tire fire since being acquired by a certain weasel, which needs not be named. Even down to the location of BB&T arena where we play tonight, which is located literally ACROSS THE STREET from the marshy, anaconda-filled Everglades. Nice move, Panthers.

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It’s a peculiar character trait that, sometimes, after having tempted the Fates only to inexplicably emerge unscathed and victorious, one seeks not only to dare the test again, but to do so confidently, even buoyantly. I first knew this the moment after I went skydiving – solo, there were no tandems back then – and mere moments after touching back to Earth I eagerly began planning the next date to fling myself out of an airplane that was perfectly sound.

Such is my mood today as we head into our second tilt in a week against Tampa Bay. Tuesday’s match was a thriller, to be sure, and one that I’m not so sure we had all that locked up. We played like champs nearly the entire 60 minutes, and hooray, we won and bailamoed. Three in a row and we looked great.

But sometimes greatness is a quirk; or worse, a passing wind that blows in only to melt away into the uncaring ether. So poetry.

Hey, we’re going to the game tonight– for that and more I would lurve to see a repeat performance. But the Bolts are still a really good team– consistently so. They’re really just so infuriatingly consistent that I don’t feel like tempting the Fates further by mocking Tampa Bay as being a city so old that “boarding” nearly always appears next to the word “shuffle.” I mean, the GOP 2012 convention actually lowered the city’s median age for about a week is all I’m saying. But not tempting fate.

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Swede-on-Swede

A little Swede on Swede action at last year’s Caps Wings match

About that recent little jaunt to the land of moose and Anne Murray that was supposed to be a skip through the daisies? Exactly. And let us never speak of it again.

For the most part, the Caps are still playing their best in several seasons, we’re seeing skill from young and old alike, and our goaltending worries appear to be over. But tonight we face a team that’s also resurgent, skilled, and with new blood in the net.

The Red Wings should worry you.

They’re older than us by nearly five decades, they’re Cuppier than us by about everything, they’re Swede-ier than us av en skit belastning, their unis are hands-down the best anywhere, and they’ve got octopi. We’ve got Winger.

But they do have to live in Detroit, so there’s that.

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Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon, who play on the same line, fml.

The Capitals are off and away on their grand Canadian adventure, and expectations are running high. As Peter noted, the team is looking healthy, playing tighter than they have in a while, and still undefeated in regular play.

Even better, first on our dance card are the Edmonton Oilers, who are not healthy, not playing tight and largely the definition of defeat lately. Plus, they have to spend much of their time in Edmonton, so there’s that, too.

We had a whole schtick worked up about Edmonton the Annoying – perhaps we’ll save it for next time, it was actually funny, which we admit is unusual for us. But sadly, in light of what appears to be a very bad no good day for all Canadians, and even the smart choice to cancel tonight’s scheduled Leafs/Sens match, we just don’t feel like making fun of anyone today, Canadians especially.

So here we give you Oiler insight from baggedmilk”, a cheeky writer up at the OilersNation blog. He’s smart, even if our questions aren’t. Hit him up on Twitter @jsbmbaggedmilk; you can thank us later.

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“Cautiously optimistic” is one of those contorted bits of language that gets tossed about with abandon in Washington. DC loves bad language; the more obfuscatory and non-committal a phrase, the greater its use. Orwell called it “that mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence,” which makes us laugh because, while Orwell was referring to official British government communications, that seems an even more apt description of the Washington Capitals at several points over the past few years.

Not so this year. The front office, the coaches, Trotz and the team all look like they’re pulling in roughly the same direction. The point is: no modifiers about it. When it comes to the Capitals, call us Optimistic. Ish.

Which brings us to tonight’s tango with the New Jersey Devils (3-0).

Traditionally, this is the point where we trade barbs about the other place we’re playing, noting what a vile and smelly pool of despair it is. But we’re talking about New Jersey here. Saying mean things about New Jersey is like yelling at a sick puppy – it takes no talent and everyone just ends up feeling awful. So let’s just say “New Jersey” and leave it at that.

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Photo: B. Bennett

“Some things are destined to be – it just takes us a couple of tries to get there.” – J.R. Ward. 

Hey guys and gals! The bosses at RMNB foolishly once again gave us access to their site, and in return, we hope to spill a little insight– and fabulousness– about what comes tonight. And not inspire too many hate-filled emails to their box. Not that we care…we don’t get them, so anger-type away!

So, pre-season? Done. Debate about Trotz? On hold. Season opener against the Habs? Mmm, done, and extra soggy. Caps fans exiting extra-pouty? Nothing new.

But this is a season all about new, we thinks. We are witness to a team in transition; a squad searching for its future. And if the early portents are to be believed, we are in for a smashing season. Ish.

OK, in our first season opener Thursday night, we rather unraveled. And…against the Habs. Sure, they were all that last season, but so was Macklemore, and look where he is now. (As in performing at North Dakota casinos?)

The Caps bring a refreshing assortment of new talent (and by new, we’re only grudgingly admitting Orpik) adding to the seasoned talent. That said: Montreal is one thing. Boston is a completely different affair. Or marriage, if you catch our drift.

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[Ed. note: Oh my. Here we are, once more, teetering on the precipice. Wisenheimers will tell you stat this and odds that. But the PuckBuddys roll different. Yes, PuckBuddy Jason Rogers is back again – you think you could scare him away? – with searing insights into the coming game. Which is, we all agree, big. As in… big. Like nobody frackin’ breathe until we wrap this one up. It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it. Even former Premier William MacKenzie King is watching. Here’s Sperm Whale Jason.]

BradenHolbeastThe Morning Skate: I don’t mean to rain, sleet, or snert on anyone’s victory parade, but the Capitals play in a garbage division. It’s a division so abysmal that next year it will be forever struck from the NHL pantheon, and utterance of its name will be forbade as heresy. But, I believe the Capitals are far and away the best team in the Southeast, the veritable creme d’ la crap, if you will. This game against a very good Habs team will provide a measuring stick for how far the Caps might go in the playoffs. So let’s hope that distance is measured in good ol’ American miles, and not kilometres (freakin’ socizlists.)

The Puck Drop: Secondly, this game matters because we mere mortals get to watch Alexander Ovechkin play hockey again. Now tied for the lead league in goals, OBESTkin is scoring all over the place like Maria ain’t watchin’ (BOOM.) Dale Hunter was content to use him like a tarp, lazily casting him across the penalty kill and hoping he made something happen… somehow. Adam Oates is using Ovi’s precision and power like a shotgun that shoots micro-scalpels.

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[Ed. note: Jason Rogers, Sperm Whale captain and hockey Hemingway, is back for your amuse bouche. But be warned: do not take his insights as mere foam on the web: so far, he’s been more spot on than Vinnie “Legs” Baggodonnouts. You are warned. Follow him now here. Thus endeth the editor’s finger-wagging.]

Sasha needs an image consultant.

Sasha needs an image consultant.

The Early Morning Skate: Like a piece of old taffy or an oft-abused Slinky, this season is reaching its final stretch. The Washington Capitals sit a few points out from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and on Tuesday the good guys from DC take I-95 South (avoid the mixing bowl!)  to North Carolina to face the Staal & Staal Traveling Circus, featuring “Sasha the Incredible Human Enigma?”

This will be the fourth of five meetings this season between our Caps and the Tropical Depressions, and it is time for this Washington team to decide whether it wants to spend May playing hockey or golf. Watch and learn.

The Mourning Skate: What is the length of one point? Is it the width of one puck crossing or not crossing the goal line? Is it the size of one of John “Towelie” Carlson’s skate edges slipping and giving the other team a breakaway? Is it the distance between wherever the first round of the playoffs is held and Jeff “Sgt.” Schultz’s favorite local golf course?

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[Ed. note: Craig Brownstein, PuckBuddy and resident film scholar, provides this look at our dance with the Buffalo Slugs, as imagined through the lens of Ingmar Bergman. You expected different, maybe? Read, learn, and tweet his nose here.]

Cries and Whispers: I scored last-minute tickets to the Isles game courtesy of a lovely young lady, and we sat in the #415 Lounge, just one seat from Sam Wolk, a distinct pleasure in and of itself. (My left ear has finally stopped ringing). Down by two in the early going, I met some friends on the concourse during the first intermission. Cue the hand-wringing, nay-saying, and rending of garments. Third period hopes were soon dashed, slipping between Mike Green’s skates. It was like a bad movie. Make that a depressing movie, think Cassavetes, or in honor of our stoic Swedish players, Bergman may be more appropriate.

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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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