Archive for October, 2009

Another game…another win

Capitals Thrashers Hockey

Ovechkin and Morrison celebrate the Caps 4-3 win over the Thrashers last night in Atlanta

Probably not surprisingly to most of you, I’m gonna take a glass half-full approach to the Caps win last night against the Thrasers.

Much of the commentary during the 3rd period last night and after the game focused on how the Caps lets the Thrasers back in the game during the last “stanza” of play by allowing them to score two goals and make the game competitive.  Forget about the last goal as that came literaraly as time expired.  That will only hurt Varly’s GAA.  

 While the Thrashers are not the Penguins or Flyers, they are decent and had been off since Saturday when they had lost to the Sharks after losing to the Caps before that.  So you know they really wanted this one.  The Thrasers knew they needed this win on home ice to stay close to the Caps.  Everything was lined up for a let down especially if you consider that the Caps just came off a home win against the Flyers. 

Instead, we barrel ahead 3-0 and win the game 4-3.  As a fan, I’m not thrilled, but quite satisfied.

Now Boudreau sounded pissed and let me not be someone who’s going to criticize the most consistent winner D.C. has in Bruce Boudreau.  He will handle his troops and hopefully they come out tonight and roll the Islanders at home who were in D.C. last night awaiting the Caps’ return.

The two obvious things from last night’s game that led to victory were Varly’s great goal-tending and once again how insanely good a passing team the Caps are.  The amount of precision required to complete the Ovechkin breakaway from the Backstrom saucer pass to Ovie’s controlling the puck and burying it was insane.  Is there anyone in the NHL passing as well as Backstrom?  I don’t know the answer because I basically just watch Caps games, but I challenge someone to find someone better.

One less obvious thing is that my  criticism of Jeff Schultz is proving to be misguided.  I think he has really played well last year.  Everytime I look up, I see him hustling, playing solid positional defense and being physical.   I think Jurcina has not played as well as he did last year and I think Pothier’s game has slipped some since the beginnign of the season.

The next thing is that the 2nd line is working well.  I have been a big advocate of having Lacih center the 3rd line and putting Fleishmann on the wing of the 2nd line, and maybe that will still happen, but with Aucoin’s solid, energetic play centering the 3rd line and the 2nd line’s continued success (albeit they haven’t scored much lately), maybe this is how things should stay until there is a real good reason to switch things up.

Good game boys.  Looking forward to another win tonight and starting off my double dip of Friday night Caps and Wiz off on the right foot.   ( I am very happy to have invested in DVR  just for nights like tonight and this past super tuesday where I can enjoy both games from beginning to end). 



Read Full Post »

tidbits from section 449

Sorry this is a little late.  Our Wizards Season Preview and Super Tuesday occupied all of my attention yesterday after a long, late night on Monday night at FedEx field. 

My partner Walton did a bang up job on his game recap and frankly speaking I have nothing more to add other than it was probably even more painful to watch Jackson score those two TDs against our defense because from our seats, we could see the defensive breakdowns on those two plays well before all of you who were not at the game probably did on T.V.  Too bad too because other than those two moments, the ‘Skins shut down anything the Eagles threw at us all night long.

Anyway, a few notes about other things at the game.  

I don’t know why people are complaining about the new tailgating policy at FedEx field.  Extensive and expansive tailgating was happening all over the green lot and I can’t see it stopping.  What’s happening, for anyone that cares, is that fans are showing up early and doing their tailgating thing and basically no one goes around and enforces the supposed “no tailgating rule outside of designated areas” rule.  The only problem is that the kind folks working the parking at FedEx  are closing some of the heavily populated lots, like the Green lot where we park, very early which forces people like my old man, who generally ignores all rules that he knows he can break, to drive over or around cones that are set out to block access to these crowded lots.    Snyder, it’s a stupid rule and frankly impossibe to enforce. So for the sake of public relations, get rid of it.

The stadium was the fullest it had been all year and happily there were not that many Eagles fans.  Their presence was felt, but only because they were unfortunately winning.  The ‘Skins fans were loud and after we stopped the Eagles leading to the ill-fated punt return from Randle-El, the stadium was rocking.  FedEx will never be RFK, but don’t let anyone say that it can’t get loud.  The problem is not the acoustics, it’s the team.

For all of the organization’s faults, I admired the way they inducted Brian Mitchell  into the Redskins Ring of Fame.  Doing it when we played the Eagles allowed Brian Mitchell, much to my chagrin, to acknowledge both the Redskins fans and those on the other “side of the field” as he put it.  Mitchell thanked Dan Snyder then had to ask the fans to cease their chorus of boos at the mention of our team owner’s name.

Overall, the ceremony, with an emotional speech from Mitchell, accompanied by some of his greatest Redskins highlights,  took us back once more to when the Redskins were great, not  because they were the most talented team in the league, but because they were tough and because they knew how to win from top to bottom.  I can’t think of any other Redskins from our Superbowl teams left to be inducted into the Ring of Fame, but for a few moments before the game on Monday night, while we all stood to honor Brian Mitchell, I can safely say that everyone in section 449 remembered why we were there that night despite the horrid state of our franchise – why indeed we are still proud to be Redskins fans.

I don’t have anything to add about the new sign controversy that is going on regarding the organization’s refusal to allow fans to bring in signs to the stadium.  To be honest, there are never that many signs in section 449 because I don’t think anyone really thinks any camera will ever angle itself up to our seats.  However, banning signs is one more piece of evidence that highlights the administration’s over-stimulated sensititivity to any outside criticism and inability to negotiate even the simplest form of public relations.  By trying to avoid criticism, it actually has attracted  more.

Yesterday the Caps and Nationals wished the Wizards good luck on their new season.  The Redskins’ organization is acting like the big bully hiding at the corner of the playground because no one is scared of him anymore.

Chris Cooley, hope you heal quickly and completely.  Don’t hurry back for us this year, but any chance for the redemption of the Redskins lies with players like you.

Read Full Post »

Our fairweather fanny checks in with his week 8 power rankings.   Last night’s gem of an evening for D.C. sports fans made me forget about football for a second.  Here’s the fairweather fanny reminding us that for now the Redskins are among the elite teams in a  NFL “lack of power rankings”  (cue the laugh track). 

Nothing much to debate here except are the Bengals really better than the Patriots, Giants and Vikings?  If so, I can live with that.

By the way, fairweather fanny, to make this installment of the blog a little more gleeful for us all Washingtonians, maybe we can switch the power rankings from the NFL to the NBA and NHL?   

1.       New Orleans Saints (1): Pull victory out of the jaws of defeat.

2.       Indianapolis Colts (2): No competition from Rams

3.       Denver Broncos (4): Will be tested by Ravens this week.

4.       Cincinnati Bengals (8): Continuing impressive season with destruction of the Bears.

5.       Pittsburgh Steelers (9): Back in the top echelon with defeat of Vikings.

6.       Minnesota Vikings (3): No Favre magic for the Steelers.

7.       New England Patriots (6): Nice trip to London.

8.       Arizona Cardinals (8): Defense held up against Giants in NYC.

9.       New York Giants (5): Looked strong initially against weak teams.

10.     Dallas Cowboys ( ): Best of several flawed teams with a winning record.

Honorable Mention: Green Bay, NY Jets, Atlanta, Houston & Philadelphia 

Read Full Post »


Man, I love basketball. I love that it’s on in the evening when I’m making dinner. I love the pace, thinking about the matchups on the floor, I like how the tension builds slowly throughout the game rather than football or hockey, which are high intensity the whole way through.

It was an absolute delight to watch the Wizards play last night. From the tip, they were efficient and productive on both ends of the floor. They rarely took stupid shots; they seemed crisp on rotations and help defense. They weren’t screaming and pounding their chests after every lay up, or arguing too much with the refs— except Mike Miller who my girlfriend quickly named “Michelle Miller.” Between his pony tail and his upturned nose he looks like he belongs in a dog show, but I love his game.

All the new guys, Miller, Foye and Oberto were great. I remembered Miller as more of a spot up shooter, finesse kind of guy, but he really mixed it up and crashed the boards hard. He hit a timely three pointer too.

Foye has sixth man of the year written all over him. The lineup with him and Arenas at the two guard spots was really productive. He didn’t have many assists but I loved his range, his decisions and his cool demeanor.

Oberto is a guy you hate when he’s on the opposite team and you love when he is on yours. He was a pest in the low-post on Nowitzki and provided that grit that the Wizards have needed for years. That pretty give and go with Arenas near the end of the game was nice too.

I can’t wait to watch this team for the rest of the year. They are flying under the radar, they seem determined to play the right way, they have a chip on their shoulder and they seem to have the talent and depth to match up with anyone.

Even though I keep telling myself, “It’s just one game,” I can’t help but feel giddy about some of the possibilities. If things go well, I think the Wizards will be that team nobody wants to play.

When was the last time we said that about a Washington team?

Read Full Post »

Wizards Mavericks Basketball
Arenas drives to the hole in season opening win at Dallas on Oct. 27, 2009

I feel a lot better than yesterday. I’m not going to lie and say that the stink emanating from Redskins Park is still clogging up my sinuses, but today, after seeing the Caps take down the Flyers and the Wiz really manhandle the Mavericks in Dallas, the air does smell a little sweeter here in Takoma Park.

I will start with the Wizards just because of their unexpectedly solid performance. Mark my words, if Andray Blatche averages 20 points a game, the Wizards will win over 60 games. The reality is he is not going to average over 20 points a game. But let me say this, while he has shown flashes of excellent play in the past, last night was the first time he truly played within the system – no behind the back dribbles while he’s trying to lead a fast break, nothing that left you scratching your head. He played solid, but not spectacular defense, rebounded well and kept the defense off-balance because he effectively picked his spots to drive and shoot the jumper.

As I stated yesterday in the preview, Haywood must set a tone early because for some reason, while he sustains his defensive effort throughout the game, his offense only seems to come in the 1st half, especially the 1st quarter, when the pace of the game is more relaxed. Once either team starts pressing and the game really moves quickly, as it did for much of the 2nd half yesterday, Haywood struggles to find his offensive game. ( I wonder if there is a stat that shows how many of Haywood’s total career points have come in the 1st vs. 2nd half).

The Wizards played great defense yesterday, at least by their standards, especially in the 2nd and 4th quarters. If we get that kind of defensive effort regularly, we are going to win a lot of games. The real secret was that while Nowitzki was unstoppable last night, the Wiz rotated well and played good perimeter D to prevent anyone else from hurting them. The Mavs didn’t do this and you saw that Foye, Blatche, Haywood, Butler and Miller had significant offensive contributions to the game.

Agent Zero – I had forgotten how great you are. Arenas showed why he is worth the money he was paid. This was only one game, but no one who watched could say that he did not dominate the flow of the game. There were a few “boy he probably should have been a little more patient” type shots, but for the most part, no one on the floor could cover him. He made nice jump shots, drove to the whole and ran the offense well picking up 9 assists. It’s only one game, but boy am I excited.


Now the Caps: the thing I love about hockey that is not true about basketball and football is that certain teams genuinely dislike each other. The Caps genuinely hate the Flyers and the feeling is mutual. This is good because I also genuinely hate the Flyers. This source of this rivalry’s intensity goes beyond D.C. and Philly. Ovechkin and Mike Richards really don’t like each other either.
To this point in the year, the Caps have demonstrated that they are capable of playing tough, gritty hockey for extended periods of time. They have played excellent defense and equally importantly, Theodore has played very well in net. Last night, I thought the Caps defensive effort was not great, but very good. The Flyers are very good and twice burned the Caps on the power play with crisp passing and accurate shooting. It’s gonna happen sometimes when you play a good team like the Flyers. But when the Caps got down 2-0, they used an aggressive forecheck, fed off of Ovechkin’s hit on Richards, and maintained an intensity which allowed the Caps superior skill to ultimately defeat the Flyers.

This is the formula for the Caps to be able to win it all this year. While last night’s game was not as nuts as the game in Philly a few weeks back, it felt more like a playoff game with slighlty fewer penalties, more disciplined play on both sides and superior goal tending. The Caps were able to do what was necessary to win.

Now I still think that the line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin needs to be split so as to balance the scoring. In principle, I would like to see Morrison and Knuble play with Ovechkin on the 1st line with Backstrom Semin and Fleishman on the 2nd line. This would allow Brooks Laich to center the 3rd line perhaps with Fehr and Giroux and would also keep our 4th line, which again played quite well, intact.

Beating the Flyers allows puts a little pep in my step and last night was no different.

Let’s hear for the all the boys that play downtown.

Read Full Post »

Wizards Season Preview

butler dunks on kings in comeback wizards victory in march, 2008

Caron Butler dunks on Sacremento Kings in a comeback victory for the Wizards in March, 2008

As me, Ryan and my old man trod slowly down the ramps at FedEx last night mumbling quietly about lost opportunities, dumb decisions and the overall demise of the Redskins, somebody started chanting “Lets Go Caps”. From there our conversation turned slightly upbeat as we realized that there are two teams at the Verizon Center who have bright futures.

Who’s the 2nd you ask? Why the Wizards.

Lost among the constant venom, sorrow and disenchantment surrounding the Redskins and the palpable excitement eminating from the Caps, are the Wizards. Many longtime fans of the team, like me and Walton, see the depth, the new faces and the renewed enthusiasm and can’t help but feel giddy. I mean after all, if he and I, as idealistic teenagers, were able to devise crazy concoctions where players like Ladel Eackles, Pervis Ellison and LeBradford Smith could lead us to the playoffs, the propspect of Arenas, Butler, Jamison, our slightly more mature youth and our new faces, clearly have me thinking of many, attainable glories to come.

Of course, everyone who talks about this team starts their analysis with the ‘I” word. I’m going to avoid talking about something that in truth, no one, including the players, can control since all of the Wizards’ misfortune still stems from the “Curse of Les Boulez”.

I hate talking about the “Big 3” all the time because it simplifies things too much. The truth of the matter is that Arenas is necessary for the Wizards to be something special. However, in order to become something great, the entire team, not just the big 3 needs to become consistent.

This means that our starting five (and I guess for now it’s safe to assume that Mike Miller will start at the 2 position), needs to settle into their comfort zone. Arenas will be the “offensive” point guard he is with Miller getting his shots off of Arenas’ dribble penetration. Cutler needs to be a slasher, not an otuside shooter and Jamison has got to do his thing. Every game should start with feeding the post to get Haywood into rhythm.

Our bench needs to learn their roles as well. I’m not worried about Stevenson and Oberto doing their thing. Randy Foye needs to be able to switch from the 1 to the 2 fluidly because he will be needed at both. I also think he will adjust and become an asset off the bench.

Here are the things that need to happen in order for us to be something really specialL

Can Blache thrive at being someone who is called upon often to play big minutes throughout the year and regularly score between 6 and 10 points while being a solid rebounder and making good decisions with the ball?

Can Nick Young hit his jumpers with limited playing time?

Can Dominic McGuire play the scrappy, heads-up type of ball he learned to play last year even if he only plays for 5 minutes a game?

And perhaps most important, can Javale McGee focus on playing D, rebounding and not worry as much about making spectacular dunks? If he can play energetic, sound defensive basketball for 10 minutes a game, I think we could be very danerous.

I feel confident that in time this will be the kind of team we have due to Flip Saunders’ influence. He is the single biggest reason I have faith in the Wizards this year and in the next 2-3 years to come. It will take time for this team to come together and having to play a tough first 10 games without Jamison could get us off to a rocky start. However, I see this team gelling in the 2nd half of the season and making a strong run in the playoffs.

Playoffs? Yes I’m that sure of the playoffs for the Wiz. Ryan from section 449 and my old man were surprised in my utter confidence that the Wiz would make the playoffs. They listened to me explain to them how the only teams I feared in the east were Orlando, Boston and Cleveland and I went into some detail about how these teams all possess their own question marks while we spoke freely over the end of the Redskins game on the radio. ( Yes, we left after that last bone-headed decision where Zorn elected to go for a TD instead of kicking a field goal down 17 points. – the ill-fated play that started with a bad snap and ended with the final death blow to our 2009 season).

So mark it down. Wiz in the playoffs. Most people agree on this. The real question people pose is whether the Wiz are the 4th or 5th team in the East or fall somewhere between the 6th-8th teams. While I think they could even win the division, I will settle for 5th in the East as my prediction.

Beyond that, we are all left to suffer from the whimsies of the “Curse of Les Boulez”.

Will this team be able to withstand the inevitable misfortune that is bound to strike them? My bet is yes, but only until they fall short in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Read Full Post »

Apathy sets in

Usually when I watch a Redskins game, I’m nervous the whole day before it starts. I can’t wait for the kickoff. About half an hour before, one of my legs starts bouncing up and down and my hands get ice cold and clammy.

I pace around back and forth in front of the TV. I scream and yell at the players. I use commercial breaks to calm myself down. I don’t like to eat during the game because I’m too nervous.

I know a game is over because my hands get warm again and my heart rate goes down. This happens when a game is out of reach, after a desperate fourth down play when one of the teams’ quarterbacks is kneeling down.

Last night, for the whole game, I sat slumped in a couch, my voice barely raised above a normal speaking level. My hands were warm, toasty and dry. I felt hungry and even listened as some people in another room carried on a conversation about what was going on in their lives.

I just couldn’t care about the game. The whole thing from jump just felt so scripted and depressing. I don’t care what anyone says, the Redskins were never really in this one. Sure, when Randle-El fielded a punt with his face mask that’s when all hope was extinguished, but even before then… man.

So this is the next stage of fan discontent, or at least this fan’s discontent. Apathy. The coach is here for the rest of the year; Jason Campbell, Carlos Rogers and probably many others are playing their last games as Redskins. The coaching staff is probably done too. Arguably the two best players on the offense, Chris Samuels and Chris Cooley, are lost for the year, and the team is firmly amongst the most irrelevant teams in the league.

Up to now I’ve been morbidly fascinated watching the media and the players react to the team’s freefall. I was on a Zorn’s Job Watch like most everyone else. I kept thinking that maybe something could turn ever so slightly and with one spark the team might turn things around. That’s not going to happen.

I’m bored of bingo callers, Vinny Cerrato’s radio show proclamations, gleefully negative Washington Post reporters, how bad the owner is, burgundy revolutions, second round receivers, and so on.

Someone yesterday asked me, “The Redskins… aren’t they in a rebuilding year.” I answered no, they were in a being awful and then dismantling and then hopefully starting to rebuild the right way year.

The Eagles aren’t very good. McNabb misses easy throws and they can’t sustain drives. All their efforts at the wildcat and using Michael Vick are pathetic. But they do enough to score some points. They know to get the ball to Desean Jackson and their defense is OK.

The Redskins, well what more can you say. Last week there was a report that said that people in the locker room who realized the team was going down in flames were thinking, why come back from an injury? Why risk it for this team? I can’t say I disagree.

I was angry and frustrated. My new feeling is scarier, a lethargic indifference. It will be nice to have a week off from watching this dispiriting horror show to get the juices going again.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »