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Archive for March, 2010

You bet your bottom dollar I’m worried about the Caps.  In the last 3 games, we have allowed 13 goals and have been outscored 9-1 in the 1st period.  The fact that we are o-1-2 in those 3 games speaks to our heart and fight as a team, which is something I’m not worried about. 

I am worried however about our defense and goaltending.  Last night, our forwards and defensemen were getting caught pinching in the offensive zone – Ovie and Morrison quickly come to mind – while other times, we were vacating the offensive zone before the puck had actually been cleared.  On top of that, we were not getting back and covering the passing lanes on defense (see Steckel on Ottawa’s 3rd goal).  The PK was bad and the PP was average.

A lot of things to worry about.  

Add to all this that in my opinion, the 1st and 4th goals were a little soft, and you have cause for all out panic.  As good as Theo has looked coming into the Calgary game, he has looked very, VERY shaky the last 2 games and it wouldn’t surprise me, if we manage to beat Atlanta on Thursday and Varly plays well, to see #40 get another start over the weekend against Columbus.

Mike Green played an excellent game and Semin is absolutely on fire.  I think the Caps really miss Brooks Laich, a player who always brings a lot of energy and one who could provide the spark needed in the 1st periods of these games.  Matthieu Perreault was all over the ice last night and is going to make Boudreau think hard about what to do when Brendan Morrison comes back, but like with Aucoin last year, I see Boudreau sending Perreault back down to Hershey.  That being said, I think Perreault is playing great and it’s hard to argue against him staying up with the team. 

The players in their post-game interviews seemed concerned and I’m beginning to get worried about the pressure that they may be feeling as the playoffs approach.  Truth is, since returning from the Olympic break, this team has known that it would win the Eastern Conference regular season and has not had to play that hard for anything.  We have gotten up to play the Penguins, Rangers and Sabres but that’s about it.  With two games left each against Atlanta and Boston, it’s almost like the Caps will decide who they will play in the 1st round. 

So get ready, Thursday could be a 1st round playoff preview and we’ll see, as we wait out  couple of anxious days until the Atlanta game whether we can regain what we have lost and what seems so hard to get back.  Ovie, our captain, it’s time to lead our team out of these doldrums. 

Double vision: The Wizards could have beaten Houston last night.  I watched the 4th quarter of this game and was left scratching my head about two things:  1) I don’t think Saunders should have taken McGee out of the game when he did.  It’s true that McGee had one bad sequence in the 4th quarter where he was called for travelling and fell asleep on defense, but until that point, he was dominating the game on both ends of the floor.  2) Blatche is not under-paid as of right now.  True, he had 31 points, but with the game on the line, the Wizards repeatedly put the ball in his hands and he was not able to lead the team to victory.  He either settled for bad shots, made risky passes which turned into turnovers or was unable to find the open man out of double teams.  He is showing that he is a gifted offensive scorer who can put the ball in the basket almost every night, but until he starts leading the team down the stretch to victories, he is just a nice offensive player, not a great basketball player. 

We will most definitely lose tonight against New Orleans.

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The Redskins continue to sign players whom I did not know were still in the league.  I guess I should say when I first heard the names, Larry Johnson, Rex Grossman and now Phillip Buchanan, I remember having watched all of these players play at one time, and play quite well, but before I read the details of their recent history, I could not have told you whether they had been playing in the NFL last year and with which team.

Of course, I’m so D.C.-centric in my outlook that my lack of awareness of their recent career is not an accurate reflection of their recent production in the NFL.  But still, when I heard Buchanan on the radio today, he sounded like a level-headed guy that had been around and chose to come to the Redskins because he liked what the organization was putting in place.  According to him, he had offers from Minnesota and Cincinnati, both playoff teams last year, and chose the ‘Skins.  Now, it’s not like the ‘Skins blew him out of the water with their  $1.5 million, incentive-laden offer.  So there must have been some reason he chose to come to D.C.

I mean how many times in recent years have we seen free-agents come to D.C. because of the plan that is being put in place organizationally?  Maybe Larry Johnson came here because he grew up a Redskins fan and maybe Grossman came here because of Kyle Shanahan and maybe Buchanan came here to be with his former University of Miami stars Moss and Portis, but maybe they all came here because they respect the Shanny/Allen regime.

Or maybe they came here because they are all on their last leg and they were desperate to play anywhere and they really had no other offers.  However, if we take all of these players’ words at face value, it bodes well for this franchise that veterans are coming here to win, not to get paid.

Buchanan apparently can return punts.  So he will probably compete there with Tryon and another player the ‘Skins draft.  He probably will play nickel corner at times depending on the progress of Barnes and Tryon.  Truth be told, Redskins fans should root for Tryon and Barnes to progress to the point where we are not dependent on Buchanan for any kind of regular contribution on defense, but as all of have seen, it never hurts to have experience in the secondary.

Buchanan is not a long-term solution, but someone who will be allowed to compete for any of the cornerback positions on this team, including starter, and how high he gets on the depth chart will reflect how far along this team has to go before we can be a contender again.

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So the Caps lost a game today in which they looked horrible in the 1st period in all facets of the game – offensive forechecking, defense and goaltending.  Then they rallied furiously and almost got themselves back in the game.  The real killers were the goals that were scored by Calgary at the end of the 1st and 2nd period.  Take either of those away and the Caps probably come back to tie the game and at least pick up a point.

With New Jersey’s loss, the Caps backed their way into the Eastern Conference crown.  I guess it’s hard to say that a team, that has  lost their last two, and still has a 5 point lead for the President’s Trophy with a game in hand, backed their way into anything.  But at the same time, I was disconcerted with the way the Caps played today.  It reminded me too much of some of the games they played down the stretch last year which obviously had a big carryover into the beginning of the Rangers series. 

True, Calgary was playing for their lives, but the Caps are playing for the Stanley Cup and while it is understandable that Theo was bound to have a bad game – and have a few unlucky bounces of the puck not go his way, it is  unforgivable for the Caps to come out as flat as they did. 

This team really does hate afternoon games.

(I couldn’t help but snicker to myself when I heard the Verizon Center fans boo at the end of the 1st period.  I laugh not because I thought the boos were deserved, because they weren’t, but at Wilbon who wrote in the paper yesterday that D.C. is a soft-core sports town.  It just proves how out of touch he is with the fans of this city.  Everything is riding on the Caps for us and even though they have played great this year, it takes very little for our inner-demons and fears to creep out. Today’s booing was not due to our fans turning on the Caps.  It was due to our fears that this will not be the year we win, that our championship year may never come.  The reason Philly and Boston are hard-core sports fans is because their teams didn’t win anything forever.  That makes people frustrated and thus boo.  Now D.C. hasn’t won anything forever.  Wilbon should connect the dots).

The 4th line played hard and Perreault played a very energetic game.  I thought our defensemen did a good job of keeping the pucks in the offensive zone during the 2nd and 3rd periods and Belanger’s line was flying all over the ice.  It’s just that damned 1st period which doomed us.

Last night, I went to the Wiz game with my old man. I was surprsied to see the Verizon Center 2/3 full.  There are some real hard-core Wizards fans in this town which is great to see.  We had absolutely no chance to win last night. 

The new-look Wizards that I saw a month ago beat Denver-  the team that  featured a starting lineup of Blatche, Howard, McGee, Miller and Foye, with Thornton, Young, etc. coming off the bench were a talent deprived, but energetic team and respectable.  This Wizards team with a starting lineup of Blatche, Singleton, Miller, Gee and Livingston with a whole bunch of nothing coming off the bench is putrid. 

This team will only win one more game this year.  It’s sad, but true.  I don’t know what the longest losing streak in NBA history is, but we will come very close to breaking, if not breaking it outright. 

It’s unfair to compare the Verizon Center during Wiz games and Caps games, especially this year when it seems like the entire life of the franchise has been sucked out of the city.  But I will say that people still care.  People were cheering when the Wizards cut the Jazz lead down to 5 points midway through the 3rd quarter and from talking to some folks at halftime and during commercial breaks, I can tell everyone that  people are still excited about the future.   Hard to believe, but true.

Arenas jerseys have not returned, nor will they probably between now and the end of the year according to a woman who works at the main merchandise store in the Verizon Center. 

There aren’t many guys that I saw play last night who will be on the team next year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Young and Foye traded if the deal was right.  But after it was all over, my old man said as we were walking out of the game, “I think we should buy tickets to 3 games next year.” 

How’s that for being a fan?

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You may be saying to yourself: “Wait, I thought the Caps are playing tomorrow, not tonight”.  Well you’re right, the Caps are playing tomorrow.  The Wizards are playing tonight and I have tickets.  Like I had done with the Denver game I went to about a month ago, I bought these tickets at the beginning of the season expecting to see a matchup between two teams ramping up for the playoffs.  Instead, the Wizards will be trying to break a 14 game losing streak against a team in Utah that killed us about two weeks ago and a team in Utah that is pissed after getting their asses handed to them by Indiana last night.  

The Wizards team I will be seeing tonight is not only different than the one that started the season, it’s vastly different from the one that played a month ago against Denver.  No Josh Howard, no Al Thornton – both of whom had huge games in that win against Denver.  Also gone is  the energy, hope and spirit that “new” Wizards team had after the injuries, the heartbreaks, the poor behavior displayed by Blatche and a 14 game losing streak that is really sucked all the juice out of watching this team.

Needless to say, I don’t expect there to be many people at the VC tonight.  Maybe they’ll let me and my old man move down to the good seats.

To be honest, I had a feeling we would lose last night even though I said earlier in the week that the Wiz would break the losing streak before it reached 14.  But then I remembered that the Caps had won 14 games in a row earlier in the year and because the sports gods will not let us in D.C. have too many good things happen to us, we had to have our NBA team lose 14 in a row.  The perfect ying and yang now owned by Ted Leonsis.

Leonsis’ biggest issue regading the Wizards though is not losing 14 games in a row, it’s the return of Gilbert Arenas.  Many folks around here are pissed and outraged that Arenas didn’t get jail time.  I personally never thought of Arenas as a dangerous man or a bad man, just a stupid and immature man.  Now he has been punished for his immaturity and poor judgement.  I am happy that he no longer will be able to carry guns because I don’t think anyone should carry guns in this country. 

Would 3 months in jail have made him more remorseful? Perhaps.  But Arenas has had just about everything positive that he had built in his career stripped away from him.  His fame has now become notoriety.   His candid, goofy nature is now considered a threat to the NBA and society.  His humor and bravado is now considered malevolent.

The man has a lot to prove and I think he will be doing it in a Wizards uniform.  I personally will be rooting for him not so much because of who he is, but because he puts on the unifrom of the team I love.  I also think Arenas is a good guy who has done a lot of good for others.  Other than that though, what the hell do I know?  I like to write a blog and express my opinions, but I’m just a fan of the team I have grown up loving and even though I am wiser than I was when I was in high school, I still like the guys who play on my team.  It will be hard to root for Larry Johnson and his agressive, backwards thinking and sometimes, it is hard to root for Haynesworth after the violence he displayed earlier in his career, but at the end of the day, Arenas is not that hard to root for.  Is he the savior for our team I once thought he was?  I’m not sure.  But I think we will be able to tell a little more next year when he suits up in our hometown team’s uniform.

In the meantime, I will be on the lookout tonight for any signs of Arenas re-appearing at the Verizon Center.

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Sadly, Cornell’s run ended last night.  We played hard in the 2nd half and I thought when we got it down to 6, we had a chance, but it wasn’t to be.  Our boys can hold their heads high though. As for me, now that Syracuse, who I was rooting against, is out, the tournament is dead to me.

Double vision: The Caps played better than I thought they would last night.  Losing a shootout after having  won one the previous night in such dramatic fashion is no big deal. What is worth noting though, is that Varlamov played much better last night especially after allowing the 1st goal on which his positioning was a little off in my opinion.  After that though, he came up with some huge saves that kept things close. 

On defense, I thought Mike Green and John Erskine had strong games and of course, props to Carslon for scoring his 1st goal – way to fill the center of the ice dude!

On the offensive end, we woke up after Boudreau gave the boys a tongue-lashing half way through the 1st period.  All 4 lines were forechecking pretty well, but I was particularly impressed with the 3rd line.  Man, how good is Jason Chimera?  He always seems like the fastest dude on the ice. 

 This was one of the games I had thought the Caps would not give a crap about when I looked at the final 12 games of the season, but all things considered, the defense was not bad, the penalty kill was sharp and Varlamov was pretty good – all things we should be happy about as the playoffs draw ever closer with each passing game.

(By the way, I made Chad Dukes chuckle on 106.7 the fan two afternoon’s ago when we were talking about the Caps.  I’m back in baby!)

Triple vision:  It is exciting to me, as I’m sure it is to many others that it seems like Leonsis is settling on a deal to buy the Wizards.  I think it would be great if everything gets settled before the season is over so that the team can begin sifting through the rubble right when the off-season begins, kinda like the Redskins did with Bruce Allen.

My hunch is that Leonsis will keep Saunders and Grunsfeld around since Leonsis will be new to owning an NBA team and will probably want to get his feet firmly planted before he starts making big management decisions.  And that’s probably the right move.

I hate to admit this, I mean really hate to admit it, but I agree with what Wilbon wrote yesterday about Andray Blatche.  The Wiz should have suspended him, at least for a game.  Whether his insubordination was not as bad as intially thought, people who play for this team have to learn that you have to listen to the coach.  Blatche is no different. 

If you put this incident combined with the numerous reports that Arenas sometimes has carte-blanche when he was around the Verizon Center, it sounds like Grunsfeld is the enabler.  He is the only person who has been closely associated with the team throughout all the Arenas and  Blatche incidents.  You gotta lay the hammer down, especially when the season is as dismal as it has been.

I didn’t watch much of the Wizards’ loss to Indiana, but I think that we might be breaking a record tonight against Charlotte that none of us thought, in a million years, would have been broken this year after we watched that 1st game in Dallas in what now seems like 5 years ago.

Quadruple vision: I have to give props to ShannyAllan for re-signing Chris Wilson and continuing to strengthen the team from within.  I think it’s a good football move and a good move for team morale when guys see that if they perform well they will get rewarded by our organization, not another team.  I think all of us who have watched the Redskins for the last few years have seen that Wilson has great talent in getting to the passer and it just seems smart to have as many guys like this as you can on a team, especially in a 3-4 where someone who is a little lighter, like Wilson, should be able to excel, since in a 4-3, he does not have a real position, being too light to play DE and not having the overall game to play LB full-time.

Also, and I know this is old news, but ShannyAllan’s restructuring of Haynesworth and Hall’s contracts which accelerated their sigining bonuses into this year’s uncapped season was brilliant.  Now, when the cap returns, whenevr that may be, we won’t have to worry about these huge contract holding us back as most of the $$$ will be dished out this year.  I think these moves were not so much about giving a chance for Hall and Haynesworth to leave at season’s end, (although the Redskins could cut each of them now without any major cap hit), but more about continuing to give the tean financial flexibility in the future by not being anchored down by these two bloated deals.  Brilliant ShannyAllan.  Brilliant!!

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Clearing the Path

Steckel shoves Crosby in Caps 4-3 shootout win over Pittsburgh yesterday at the Verizon Center

I was out of town for most of the day so I am late posting about the Caps beating the Penguins last night.  But suffice it to say, it was a great game and a big win.  As I have stated before, winning a shootout is not much fun, and losing one is not that bad.  But coming back the way we did yesterday in the shootout was pretty awesome.  I expect the Caps to have a letdown tonight against Carolina.

By the way, for those of your, if we include Georgetown’s win over Pittsburgh earlier in the year, D.C. now holds a 4-0 edge over  Pittsburgh this sports season.

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TGIF?? (updated)

I actually watched the whole Wizards game last night. And for the 2nd OT in a row, I saw the Wizards not make a basket for almost 4 minutes. The only difference between this game and the one against the Knicks is that Charlotte started scoring right away and basically blew us out in the extra session.

I don’t understand why Blatche did not play in the 2nd half. Was his ankle flaring up or something? We got no word on the TV broadcast and I didn’t stick around to watch the post-game show. Not much else to report. So it turns out that Blatche was being a selfish S.O.B. and refusing to be coached by Saudners.  Saunders should have benched him and should bench him tonight.  Blatche needs to figure out who he wants to be.  For as much as he deservedly has received for his play, he’s got to realize that in the grand scope of things, playing 20 good games for a team that probably won’t win 25 games all year does not mean squat.  Thus, his individual accomlpishments don’t mean much either.

On top of it, Blatche has not won squat, while Saunders has won quite a bit.

As for the rest of the Wizards, McGee continues to display good things on both ends of the floor. He has yet to become to consistent, but at this point, I can’t see any reason the Wizards don’t stick with him into the future. He should be our starter at center next season. Let him continue to grow.

Gee continues to impress. Let’s see how he finishes the season, but the Wiz are probably considering signing him to some sort of minimum contract for the long haul.

I will say though that I would hate to see the Wizards break the franchise’s record of losing which currently stands at 13. Last night makes 12 in a row. Can we beat Indiana tonight or Charlotte on Friday night? I say………YES!  (Without Blatche though, I say….NO!!!)

In bigger Wizards news, the D.C. prosecutors are asking for 3 months jail time for Arenas when he gets sentenced this Friday. Arenas has already had to deal with the death of his mother this week. Having gone through that myself, I know what a dark place it puts you in emotionally. I can’t imagine what it would then be like to have to go and stand in front of a judge.

Since the beginning, I have said that Gilbert’s punishment did not fit the crime. Now the prosecutor claims that Arenas was never really remorseful about the crime. I seem to remeber Arenas writing a letter to the Post apologizing for his actions as well as numerous other instances when he apologized. Now, he also has done a lot of stupid things during the weeks and months since the incident as well. These area also well documented.

Overall, it seems like the prosecutors don’t have that much ammunition (no pun intended) in their sentencing. Initially, when all this came out, reports were swirling that Arenas would go to jail for two years or more like Plaxico Burress. Now, we’re talking about 3 months which makes it seem to me like the prosecutors are trying to get some jail time to save face.

I don’t think he should go to jail, but even if he does, 3 months is not going to really change much in terms of the Wizards and Arenas’ contract. Beyond that, there’s something about Arenas, the man, that makes me think that he finally gets it. I’m sure he also is looking forward to just getting the whole thing done and over with.

Let’s see what Friday brings.

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