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Archive for December, 2010

Catching up with the Caps

Varly makes one of his 25 saves in the Caps 3-0 whitewashing over Montreal last night at the Verizon Center

Nothing about the Caps’ last two victories over Carolina and Montreal have been pretty.  But, aside from a brief lapse in the 2nd period against Carolina, the Caps have played defensively sound hockey with plenty of forechecking, good clearings and a very effective PK.  Dating back to the Anaheim loss, 7 games ago, the Caps have not allowed more than 2 goals in a game and if you discount the “goal” Pittsburgh got for winning the shootout, the Caps have only allowed 11 goals in those 7 games.  Not bad.

Jay Beagle is playing so well that we are forgetting about Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley who have been on the IR for a little bit now.  His goal yesterday was not only great for a 4th liner, but was among the Caps’ prettiest goals of the season.  Our 3rd and 4th line depth is very good and could be a reason this team goes far this year.

Our top line is still struggling at times, but Ovie and the boys are finishing their checks and are not trying to escape the defensive zone too quickly looking for breakaways.  Marcus Johannson continues to play well and Matthieu Perreault is seemingly showing what it takes to be a regular on the team.  Matt Hendricks continues to play hard and Scott Hannan is adjusting well to his new team.

Varly has been great the last two games and Neuvirth was very good during the previous three.  Overall, as a Caps fan, there is little to complain about as the Caps are playing good defensive hockey.   Even with those awful games in the losing streak, we are still ranked 12th in goals against in the NHL and our PK is rising within the top 10 in the league.

The Caps are doing what it takes to win.

Hell, they are even throwing in some neutral zone traps, something I cannot remember seeing with this team for as long as I can remember.  Let’s see what happens on Saturday against the Pens.  This is one of the the big events, probably because we’re involved, that I hope goes without a hitch.  It should be awesome to watch and I expect a great game out of the Caps.

I guess Boudreau’s job is safe for now.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so much of a reactionary.

Ovie breathes a sigh of relief as he nets the game-winner in the Caps 3-2 victory over Carolina on the day after Christmas.

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A step forward

Ryan Torain dives over a tackle and into the endzone on a 4th down play late in the game of the Redskins 20-17 OT victory over Jacksonville on Sunday.

I did not want the Redskins to lose Sunday’s game.  I have a hard time understanding folks who are saying that the Redskins should have tried to tank the game on Sunday.  Then again, if you look at the rag-tag bunch that went out to play, especially on defense,  one could draw the impression that the ‘Skins were trying to tank the game.

Since this post is several days late, I feel silly getting into extreme detail, but I will make some general observations.  While it is true that Rex Grossman was far from impressive in his 2nd game, let’s call it like we see it.  He was once again fairly effective in the red zone.  He went 2 out of 3 with 2 TDs and an interception.  I will praise him on the 2 TDs and say that the interception was a late throw, but honestly, I blame the pick more on Kyle Shanahan than on Grossman.  We had just picked up 12 yards running the ball and were inside the 20.  Instead of continuing with the running game which had been working all day, the Boy Genius decided to try to get cute.  Now, the Boy Genius is also at fault when accounting for some of McNabb’s poor play, so we have to be fair on our assessments of our QBs.

All the same though, as a Redskins fan, you have to look at the fact that we have scored 50 points in 2 consecutive games combined. That has not happened all year aside from the Detroit and Philly games in which we scored 25 and 28 points, but were both losses and the Philly game was not competitive.  So that goes in Grossman’s favor.  Sure you can say that the defense set up a couple of scores as did the special teams, but that has also been the case in many games.  In fact, in two of McNabb’s victories the defense scored either more than the offense (Dallas game) or scored as many points as McNabb himself gave up (Chicago game).  This is not a slamming of McNabb, but just to say that Grossman is playing much like McNabb was – unevenly, but for some reason, we are scoring more points.

It’s hard to overcome perception.  I myself cannot think, as many of you can’t either, that Grossman is better than McNabb.  But in some way, the facts speak for themselves.

The BBRs really showed up on Sunday.  Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson and Perry Riley all played well from the LB position. Kevin Barnes had his big moment.  It will be interesting to see who gets more playing time between Wilson and Jackson in the Giants game.  Wilson is a free-agent, but I think he has proven that when given the opportunity, he can produce as a speed pass rusher.  Jackson played great in his 1st real opportunity in the NFL.  The Redskins may be able to go with these guys next year in the 3-4 and address other more pressing needs in the draft.  I wonder how many of the Redskins fans, and there were a lot in the stands on Sunday, were thinking the same thing.

Nice to see Gano make some big kicks after that terrible game against Tampa a couple of weeks ago.

I find McNabb’s recent comments a bit odd considering that nothing has changed in his position on the depth chart since he said after the Dallas game that he still wanted to be here next year.  Now he says that he agrees with everything his agent said after he said at the end of last week that he hadn’t spoken with his agent about the situation.  A lot of folks are saying that the Redskins won’t be able to get anything for McNabb other than maybe a 6th or 7th round pick.  People have short memories.  We got a 4th round pick for Jason Campbell who had been totally devalued by the Redskins.  Now the Redskins have screwed up the McNabb situation as well, but they should be able to get at least a 3rd round pick for him from one of the following teams:  Buffalo, San Francisco, Arizona, Minnesota, Carolina, Seattle, maybe even Cincinnati.

Anyway, this was a good win for the ‘Skins.  It has put a little pep in my step and is making me look even more forward to playing against the Giants this Sunday with a chance to knock them out of the playoffs.  I know there is not much difference between 6-10 and 7-9, but beating the Giants and drawing even in the division for the year would be a good step forward for the franchise.

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Week 15 preview

Moss fleet-foots it into the endzone, scoring the winning TD on a 68 yard pass play in OT delivered by Mark Brunell on a early evening in October, 2006 when the Redskin beat the Jaguars 36-30. This win against Jacksonville ranks as one of the best Redskins games I have seen at Fedex Field and while that season, like this one probably will, ended in a forgettable 5-11 disaster, the good feelings from that game and the unbridled enthusiasm of the crowd composed of me, my old man, my sister and 92,000 other screaming Redskins fans will be something I won't forget for a long time.

On a day like this, I often wonder what Mr. People  (a.k.a Shanny), the boy Genius (a.k.a  the boy Shanny) and Captain Gold Pants (a.k.a our General Manager) are all saying to each other around the Xmas table.   What are they saying to each other as they reflect on how they commandeered Redskins fans around the world through a massive shipwreck of season?

I do know one thing though, Donovan McNabb and Fletcher Smith are probably not going to stop by with a Xmas basket and some holiday cheer.

I found it exciting that Adam Carriker and Jeremy Jarmon had a little altercation earlier this week in the weight room.  To me, that means that they still care.  That bodes well for tomorrow’s game against Jacksonville.

What does not bode well is that it is likely that Macho Harris and Kevin Barnes will represent our starting safety combination for the game.  Actually, in truth, I want to see Kevin Barnes play as much as possible.  What also does not bode well is that Brian Orakpo will not play for us either because of his gimpy groin and hamstring.

Fletcher Smith had a lot of fighting words this week for the Boy Genius and Mr. People.  It frankly sounded a bit desperate.  He realized that he f#@!ed up McNabb’s contract with the Redskins by giving them all the power and by trusting Mr. People would be a nice guy and start McNabb ’till kingdom come.  He didn’t realize that in Mr. People and the Boy Genius, he was dealing with individuals who don’t care about public perception, they only care about football.  And while I was not in favor of the move last week, Mr. People and the Boy Genius were somewhat justified in making the move if you consider the results. And let’s face it, the one piece of solace we can take as Redskins fans from this situation is that if Snyder were running the show, McNabb would still be playing.  Whether you want that to be the case or not, Snyder taking a back-seat s good news for all fans of the burgundy and gold.

I also don’t know why Redskins fans are so distraught over the treatment of McNabb.  Sure he’s a good dude, but like I said from the beginning, he is and always will be an Eagle, not a Redskin.  Taking a more sane position, while the Redskins screwed up in bringing him here, it makes sense that they would see if they could do better.  Now I have gone on record as saying that if McNabb is not here next year for whatever reason as our starting QB that Mr. People’s 1st year as a coach should be considered as nothing less than an absolute disaster and I will stick by that.  On a team with many needs going into this off-season, QB should not be another one and with McNabb at the helm, we would not be looking for a QB.

But at this point, what the hell am I going to do?  Cry over McNabb and the $15 million he earned this year part of which was paid by the blood, tears and sweat of me, my old man and my buddy Ryan?  No, I’m happy that the Redskins signed a good contract with McNabb and now can cut him without screwing us for the future. However, just because this is the Redskins, I think this story has one more chapter in it.  Like, it wouldn’t shock me if Grossman is hurt this week and Beck enters the game and McNabb becomes the #2 for next week against the Giants and then has to play some in that game for some reason.  Something ridiculous like that which is the inevitable result of a stupid situation.

Now as for the game tomorrow, Jacksonville will be without their little bowling ball of a running back Maurice Jones-Drew, which is good news for us.  We of course have plenty of injuries ourselves, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  I would expect Perry Riley to get some more playing time and the fact that Rob Jackson will start at LB is definitely exciting for this website as he is the definition of a BBR.  If he becomes a contributor on this team, it is further proof that the Morocco Brown, who is in charge of scouting the players that get drafted in lower-rounds like Jackson ( who was drafted in the 7th round last year) or who don’t get drafted at all, (Banks and Armstrong) is still doing a good job.  We’ll see.

The only problem with this is why is not Chris Wilson playing?  He is someone I thought could possible start opposite Orakpo next year after Andre Carter will not be resigned.  Maybe that will still happen.  It seems like Mr. People is probably just trying to get a long look at Jackson since Wilson has played quite a bit as Orakpo’s primary back-up and also has played often on clear passing downs.  It will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

On offense, I think we will be able to score points against a Jacksonville team that is actually giving up more points than we are.  They give up more passing yards than running yards which is not good for folks like me who are often very critical of the Boy Genius’ play-calling (see 2nd half of Houston game, one from the last drive of last week’s Dallas game, last McNabb drive of Detroit game) which in my mind has led directly to three close losses for us this season. All the same, I see the offense scoring points.

If Banks plays, I think he is due for a big return.

Defensively, we probably will continue to struggle as we have not really shut anyone down all year, except for the maybe the Bears  game, where we stopped them pretty good for the 1st half and the 4th quarter, which now considering our record and the Bears’ record seems like a bizzaro world fiction of the highest proportion. David Gerrard is fairly conservative with the ball and is fairly hard to bring down both of which do not play into our defense’s strengths which has become a weak-tackling unit and feasts mostly on the opponent’s mistakes.

Still though, there is something about Jacksonville and the fact that they may have lost some of their steam after last week’s loss at Indy.  The easy thing here would be to pick the Jaguars, but I have a feeling about this one.  While my feeling are almost always wrong since I am now 4-10 on the year picking Redskins games, I’m going to say Redskins win 31-27 and leave us yet something else to scratch our heads about.

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Much has been written about yesterday’s Pens/Caps game at Verizon Center.  As many have mentioned, Mike Green was the player of the game for the Caps whose heroic, physical effort should have been rewarded by what would have been an amazing goal in OT only to be robbed by Fleury who was the player of the game for the Pens aside from Cindy Crosby who also (I hate to admit it) played really well.

Our PK was excellent as we were aggressive at the points and hustled big time and didn’t allow the Pens to collect loose pucks in the corner.  In fact, the Pens did a better job of retrieving pucks 5-on-5 than when they were on the PP.  David Steckel was phenomenal last night and his face-off prowess is becoming unreal, at least like nothing we’ve seen around here for a long time.

Alzner and Carlson were frequently on the ice with Pittsburgh’s top line and did a very good job.  True the Pens’ top line was responsible for both goals, but we can really see those growing up before our eyes.

If ever there was a game that demonstrated how ridiculous the penalty shoot-out is, it was last night’s game.  After 65 minutes of scintillating hockey, the shoot-out was frankly a downer.  Sure we wanted 2 points, sure if I was there, I would have been slightly bummed having “lost” the game after a 7 round penalty shootout, but all the same, last night’s game should have been a tie and I don’t at heart, any one who played the game, watched the game whether live or on T.V. felt differently.  I frankly would have felt the same, as I have often said on this blog, if we had won the game.  This game was too good to end in an exhibition which has nothing to do with the actual sport.

Ovie had a couple of excellent opportunities to score early in this game and passed up on an open shot on our first 5-on-3 which I think he would have had scored.  His struggles continue and while he is obviously a huge part of this team, I don’t think we can expect him to just go on a tear and score 30 goals in the next 45 games.

The Caps have been playing well for the last 6 games including losses at Boston, home against Anaheim and home against Colorado as well as the last three games and last night that trend continued.  Our defensive play has been strong and it was great to see the guys tough two 1 goal deficits in a game where scoring was not coming easy.  It was a playoff atmosphere, but more importantly a playoff-type game last night and the Caps, for all that we could see, were the Penguins equal.

And honestly, the short-handed goal netted by Knuble not only reminded me of last year’s Game 3 & 4 against Montreal before the collapse, but has to rank as the best Caps’ moment of the season to date.

Everyone says how much the Caps have to prove in this rivalry and as fans of the team and every player on the Caps would admit, until we beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs, nothing will erase the sting of the playoff loss from 2 years ago or for that matter, so many of the previous playoff losses to Pittsburgh.  But we did sweep them last year and Cindy and his boys came out trying to prove that last year was an aberration.  True, 1 of the 4 wins was in a shootout, which shouldn’t really count, but if you count that playoff series from 2009, we are 10-4-2 in our last 16 games against Pittsburgh.  (That includes regular season’s from 2008-09, 2009-10, the playoffs and last night’s game).  So we have had their number and aside from game 4 and game 7 of the playoffs of 2009, the Pens have not beaten us in regulation since the 2007-2008 season.

The series is not as one-sided as some people like to say.

The best news is that the Caps are playing better hockey and the game on January 1st will most likely be another one to remember.

Double vision: I may have underestimated Georgetown.  Feeling a little bummed about the SO loss against the Pens, I proceeded to

Chris Wright scores two of his 19 points in Georgetown's 86-69 win at Memphis Thursday night. The Hoyas have played the country's toughest schedule and have emerged 11-1 heading into Big East play.

watch my recording of the G’town/Memphis game and watched the Hoyas throttle a team that many people said was very good.

We made them look really bad.  Our guards hit outside shots and penetrated.  We ran our princeton offense to a tee and we also straight up took guys off the dribble.  Our big men are getting better and Julian Vaughn made anyone who covered him one-on-one look silly.  On top of that, our young guns – Hollis Thompson and Vee Sanford – showed they could play against big time college players.  Sanford tear drop finger roll in the 2nd half was absolutely sweet!

Georgetown has beaten Missouri and Memphis on the road, lost a squeaker to Temple and beat Old Dominion and Coastal Carolina – in total 5 teams expected to win their conferences.  Not bad.  We are heads and tails in front of everyone else in the country in terms of RPI.  The only problem is that Syracuse, Connecticut and Pittsburgh are all better than all the teams we have played to this point, not to mention Notre Dame who is currently ranked #24 and will be very tough to beat in South Bend.  All that is to say that the Hoyas have a chance to be something special this year which is something I don’t think many of us thought when the year began.

Triple vision: The Wizards lost another game, this time against Chicago, that they could have, should have won.  This time, we lost because we couldn’t hit an open shot to save our lives in the quarter.  Chicago was not much better, but just good enough to pull out a win.

The Wizards also got totally hosed by the refs.  I only mention the refs when their calls were totally outrageous and in the 3rd quarter, they were watching a different game then everyone else on the court, on the bench, in the arena, on T.V. and in the world at large.

Josh Howard makes a huge difference to this team on defense and Rashard Lewis could be a difference maker.  The Wiz still got a shot to make the 8th seed and because I’m a fan I will hold out hope.  But getting killed by the Spurs won’t make look any more sane for actually mentioning the playoffs after such a dismal 1st quarter to the season.

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Some Momentum

In a flash, Andrew Gordon nets his 1st NHL goal in the Caps 5-1 win over New Jersey.

Two of the Caps 3 lines showed up tonight and won the game for the Caps.  Neuvy was great and our defense was stout.  The Devils are not a very good team, but we didn’t give them any breathing room and after surrendering a PP goal to New Jersey early in the 2nd, we took over.

The grinders like Jay Beagle, Steckel, Bradley Andrew Gordon and Chimera were all very good and really represented the three goals that won us the game.  The commentary on Versus made a point of saying how great our 3rd and 4th lines played and anyone watching the game would agree. Marcus Johannson was awesome tonight and further showed that he will ultimately be our 2nd line center, a position I have held since day 1 of the season.  And of course the moment of the game came when Gordon puckered up and gave Johannson a kiss on the cheek to thank the Swede for his brilliant tape-to-tape pass which set up the former’s goal.  I wonder whether 24/7 will get that scene on the show.

Now Versus also made a point of slamming Alexander Semin.  He did not play well and his mistakes were the kind of mistakes emblematic of someone who is looking only to score and is not really hustling.  Not a good return game for Sasha.  On the other hand, I thought Ovie skated hard and made an effort on several occasions to stick his nose right in front of Brodeur.  He had some real wars with Volchenkov in front of the net and I really think he was trying to send the right message to the team.  Hard work followed by skill are going to win us a championship, not the other way around.

Backstrom continues to be MIA.  I don’t know what he did out there tonight other than have an excellent wrist shot on one of our PP opportunities thwarted by Brodeur.

Our defense was good tonight.  Hannan showed why the Caps traded for him.  He does absolutely nothing that’s flashy, but he stonewalled a couple of New Jersey opportunities that could have caused us trouble.  Carlson was very good tonight as was Erskine.  Poti played with confidence and Mike Green was a fighter.  Alzner was not noticed and sometimes that’s a good thing.

It was a good win in that we are now beginning to show that our poor, non-competitive play is behind us.  But here comes Pittsburgh who has to play us on a back-to-back.  Of course this is not just another game and a true test of where we are as a team comes on Thursday night here in D.C.

For right now, we’ll take our two points and run.

 

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Another one over

Nick Young scores 3 of his game-high 21 points as the Wizards blow out the Bobcats 108-75.

The Wizards blew out Charlotte tonight.   Another Washington losing streak is over.  Who would have thought that the Wizards would end their losing streak before the Caps?

Two things stuck for me in an otherwise boring, but satisfying blow-out victory over Charlotte.  (After-all, when you have only won 7 games like we have, any victory matters).

What stuck out for me though was the fact that Gerald Wallace, the man most directly responsible for Glibert Arenas’ decline and ultimate self-destruction, was injured tonight and did not play.  His absence was a big part of the reason why Charlotte could only hit one basket in the entire 3rd quarter.

But getting back to Gilbert, many of remember that it was Wallace who rolled over Gilbert’s knee at the end of the 1st quarter in April of 2007.  Of course, what many people forget is that Gilbert would have not been playing at the end of the 1st quarter if he had not shown up to the game late and was thus benched by Eddie Jordan and did not come into the game until the end of the 1st quarter as the 1st man off the bench.  You see if Gilbert had not shown up late and ticked off Eddie Jordan one too many times too many, Gerald Wallace would have rolled over DeShawn Stevenson’s knee, not Gilbert’s knee.

Still though, karma is definitely alive as the Wix picked up our 1st win since Arenas was officially banned from the franchise as Gerald Wallace looked on in street clothers.

The last comment I have to make is why does Rashard Lewis need a day to “acclimate” to the team?  If you are making more than $20 million to do anything, let alone play a game, you should not need anytime to do anything except play.  Who cares if you don’t know the plays?  Just play.  Don’t coddle this guy.  I don’t care if he didn’t want to come here.  Of course he didn’t want to come here, but that’s what happens when you play a game for a living and make over $20 million a year doing it.

I don’t get traded from one high school English to another, but I make less than $50,000 a year.

Rashard Lewis and the rest of the team may actually make some noise.  I only allow myself to look at the standings when we win and I haven’t looked at the standings for a while.  As of tonight, we stand 3.5 games out of 8th place.  In times when nothing seems to stay the same, it’s okay to daydream, isn’t it?

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Thank God

Fehr and the rest of the Caps are all head-over-heels after stopping their 8-game losing streak with their 3-2 win at Ottawa last night.

It was almost Groundhog’s Day last night as the Caps feel behind 2-0 at the end of the 1st period against Ottawa.  Then, all of a sudden, a couple of bounces went our way, in particular our 2nd goal which Fehr snuck by Ottawa’s goalie and all of a sudden, it looked like we were going to win.

Thank God.

I think what was most impressive to me about the victory was that we got the 3-2 with more than half the game left and we were still able to grind out a victory in which our PK had to thwart the Senators on 3 occasions in the 3rd period alone.  Neuvy was strong with his glove and now, thank God, the losing streak is over.

Thank God.

Now the question is how do we react?  Hopefully, the boys have had a large enough taste of humble pie to see that they really need to bring the effort every time in order to be a consistent winner especially since our big guns continue to struggle.  At some point, you figure that Ovie and Backstrom have to start scoring, along with Brooks Laich, but we’ve all been saying that for a while and they’re still not scoring.  For now though, I don’t care because the losing streak is over.

Thank God.

Now, it’s time to start winning some more games because after all, we are 1-8 in our last nine games, so we need to beat the Devils to get back on the right side of things especially before we have two big games coming up against the Penguins.

For those of you keeping count, we are now 12-3 when holding our opponents to 2 goals or less.  The problem is that we have played 35 games and have only done that 15 times out of those 35 games.  That’s not winning hockey. But for last night, we were winners.

Thank God.

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