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Things have been pretty down around here this week.  It’s as if we had lost to a 1-5 team starting a rookie QB.   No one seems to be able to stop talking about the QB situation.  And no one, aside from Steve Czaban seems at all confident that Beck will do anything other than direct our season into the toilet.  Then the sharks in the media, smelling blood in the water, have begun to question Shanny’s decision-making process about QB since he took command of the sinking ship that was the Redskins after Zorn and Cerrato had led us adrift into a gulf filled with icebergs and malicious sperm whales.  As I wrote at the time of the trade, I thought bringing on McNabb and dumping Campbell was a mistake.   Shanny and the boy genius should have given him a chance.  And of course, they compounded their mistake by trading picks for McNabb.  However to their credit, they cut their losses as McNabb, based on last year here and currently at Minnesota, has truly lost his game.  This year, as I have said, I don’t think we are really going to see either QB win us any games.  Grossman’s mistakes have played huge roles in our two losses and had one play which almost cost us the Rams game.  As I wrote, I think it’s time for a change.

But change scares people.  The best description I’ve heard about Beck is that he is the fire extinguisher for all Redskins fans.  Up until now, he was always there, sitting in a nice pretty glass, only to be used in emergency and likely to save the day.  Well now Shanny and the Boy Genius have broken the glass.  The fire is blazing and we are wondering whether our quarterBeck, all dressed in red, will save our season from burning away into a molten pile of ash and dust.

I don’t know, but I think he will lead us to victory against Carolina.  (You may be thinking to yourself, “But this idiot has picked the Redskins to win every week.  His pick means nothing. ”  To which I respond that I am winning 60% of my predictions which is better than most degenerate gamblers in Vegas or in Arlington for that matter).  No one around here or in Carolina thinks the Redskins will win. Vegas has us as 3 point underdogs against a 1-5 team.  Last week we were home dogs to a talented Eagles team that was trying to save its season.  Well, Carolina’s season is already lost, especially since they play in probably the toughest division in football.  So what does all this mean?

That we are the least respected 3-2 team in NFL history.

Why all the disrespect?  All the so-called experts which predicted the ‘Skins to finish with no more than 3 victories all season are going 50/50 on picking the ‘Skins and Panthers.  Well, one reason is that our offense has been creeping along slowly towards the bowels of ineptitude the last three weeks.  The fact that that we are 1-2 in these last 3 weeks, and have not scored more than 17 points, is a credit to our defense which has not allowed more than 20 points.  In fact, we turned the ball over 4 TIMES last week and only lost by 7.

Our defense is good.  Our offense is not.  We rank 6th in overall defense and 3rd in points allowed.  We are tied for 1st in forcing the most fumbles and are 1st among teams that have only played in 5 games in sacks.     We are only -3 overall in turnover ratio which is not good, unless you think about the fact that our QB has turned the ball over 11 TIMES in 5 games, meaning we have already created 8 takeaways.

So, while the Panthers have weapons, I think we will be able to contain their weapons because unlike Philly, they don’t have multiple weapons at each position.  They have one excellent receiver, Steve Smith, who will receive double coverage.  The Redskins should be able to continue their harassment of opposing QBs.  The only thing is that Cam, (by the way, if you have not heard Deion Sanders exclaim “cam” while commenting upon Carolina highlights which, I found out from lovely wife, is  his spoof of the 80’s singer Guy’s “Jam” , it is definitely worth checking out.  Hopefully most of the highlights of Carolina will be of Cam’s mistakes), does well under duress due to his ability to create extra time with his feet and throw the hell out of the ball.  I would like to see Josh Wilson, not D-Hall, be assigned to Steve Smith this week due to Hall’s injuries to his big toe and knee.

Kerrigan and our LB’s have shown themselves to be good at covering tightends.  Only Jason Witten has had a strong game against us to this point from that position.  The ultimate key will be shutting down the running game which is something we have done fairly well in our 3 victories and very poorly in our 2 losses.  If Cam is forced to win the game alone, I don’t think he can do it.

Carolina’s defense on the other hand is not that good.  Statistically, it is the worst run defense in the league.  (We’ve heard this story before).  With our new offensive line though, it seems unlikely that we will be able to dominate on the ground, but we will have to stick with the run.  And this time, I really mean stick to it.  Falling behind 20-0 in the 1st half last week was not a reason to abandon the run.  Being behind 20-6 was not a reason to abandon the run until halfway through the 4th quarter.  Things move quickly in the NFL.  If we fall behind on Sunday by more than 1 score, the boy genius has to learn patience.   The ultimate key will be mixing all 3 backs in there to keep the defense on its toes.  Running is about desire and timing and if you the defense thinks that you are willing to run even when it’s not working all that well, any offense will have a distinct advantage.

I think it’s easier to make your debut on the road instead of at home at QB, especially if you’re green as our quarterBeck is.  I do expect good things from him though.  Having Armstrong will allow us to stretch the field and take advantage of Beck’s arm, which while it may not be that strong, is certainly stronger than the chubby arm of Rexus.

Special teams may be where this game is won.  Specifically, I’m talking about on punt returns where Carolina is giving up the most yards/return in the league on punts and ranks in the bottom third on return yards on kick-offs.  This could prove to be the game that Banks breaks one for a score or to set up an easy score and that may be exactly what our anemic offense needs.

While the previous 5 games have pitted current, prominent Redskins playing against their former team, this game pits the Redskins up against an very unenviable record.  We are 0-4 in our last 4 games against rookie QBs:  We lost last year to Bradford, two years ago to Stafford, 3 years ago to Flacco and in 2006, we lost to Vince Young.  That’s not a good streak.  Last week, we were unable to erase the past.  But this week, history will not repeat itself.  Redskins win 20-17.

Double vision:  When things settle down in my life, I will start to write more about the Caps.  But hell, what else can we want.  A veteran goalie who looks like the real deal, 4 lines contributing at both ends of the ice, a 6-0 start and we have beaten both the Flyers and Penguins on the road.  Sweeeet!

 

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Yesterday, I think everyone got very excited about the owners saying yes to the proposed CBA.  Everyone got very excited.  But at the end of the day, the players are not in a rush to sign squat.  “Why?” you may ask.  Well because, they get paid only for game checks, (17 times per year), not pres-season tickets.  So, while the owners are in a rush to get the pre-season games in, and they already cancelled one, the players can play it cool.  It’s almost like the owners are like your puppy you had when you were in 6th grade, who had that Scooby Doo look of excitement on his face when you came in, his leash in his mouth, all ready to go out and play.  I can almost here Roger Goodell handing the signed agreement over to DeMaurice Smith saying “You ready to play?  you ready?  Com’on, com’on com’on.”  Then DeMaurice and the rest of the players reps taking the contract, leaning forward on the table, giving all the papers a little tap on the table to get them all even, then leaning back with one hand behind their head, bending their fingernails down over their hands and saying “Check it out, Rog, Jer, Danny, Art, Johnny, Allie, Bobby, we’ll get back to you, alright?”  Then the owners, crushed that they can’t go out and play, drop their mouths open, the leash falls helplessly to the ground and they say, almost in a whimper, “When?”  Then the players lean a little further back in their nice leather chair and say, “I don’t know, Monday, Tuesday, something like that.” Then DeMaurice leans forward towards Rog and pats him on the head and says, “Don’t worry, we’ll call you.”

It probably all went down something like that.

Now in the meantime, everyone in town is going crazy that Shanny said lats week that he “love[s] Donovan McNabb” and in the process lied to a young, innocent Redskins fan, probably much like myself at that age, and still at this age, who just wants the best for his beloved team.  Well I ask everyone who has been calling Shanny a dirtbag, which he probably is of course, “what the hell was he supposed to do?”  Tell the kid something like, “there’s actually no way in hell he will be playing QB for the ‘Skins next year because he’s washed up, somewhat of a cry baby and represents the biggest error in judgement I’ve made in my over 30 years of coaching and I would be happy if I could get a conditional 6th round pick 5 years from for him”.

Uh, no.  That would not be exactly playing your hand well.  Similarly, he’s not going to tell the media that Haynsie is whale-size douche who is on a one-way ticket out of here once the Redskins can get anything in trade value for him.  So, while we all know Shanny lacks some grace when it comes to people skills, let’s not bash him for playing things close to the vest.

As for my free-agent wishes for the ‘Skins once this whole thing is over, I don’t want anyone who is less than 300 pounds and does not play on the o-line or d-line.  Forget everyone one else.  No receivers, no running backs, no QBs, nothing.  Maybe a corner, but that’s it in terms of fast guys.

Double vision: While I have been in absentia, I have listened to every Nats game since the all-star break and now don’t think this team has the ability to go on a run like we did earlier, win 10 out of 12 games and move within 4-5 games of the wild card.  On the flip side, now that we just gave up a series at Houston that we should have won, if not for some rare bullpen implosions which happen to everyone from time to time, I do fear that we could fall several games below .500.

Our lineup continues to show that we have the pieces which could fit together really nicely. Next year, it could look something like,

Bernadina (or free-agent lead-off man)

Espinosa

Zimmerman

free-agent clean-up or Harper

Werth

Morse

Ramos

Desmond

That’s not too bad and if Morse continues at this rate, he would just the kind of protection Werth could use in the lineup.  Now as for pitchers, only baby Zimm and Lannan are guaranteed to be around next year, but along with Strasburg, maybe Peacock and a free-agent/ re-signing Marquis, the rotation could also be pretty strong.

Triple vision: Sorry to see Fehr go, but we needed someone to leave so that we could keep Alzner around.  But as I’ve said on many occasions, Fehr never became that tough net presence the Caps thought he could be and at the end of the day became just another winger on a team with a bunch of more skilled, a now with our new acquisitions in the off-season, tougher wingers.

Too much vision: After picking up 4 points in two, tough road games, D.C. United played like shit on Wednesday night and gave up a great chance to make a strong push for the #3 spot in the East.  Now it’s uphill again.  This team lacks consistent effort.  Letting a header in on a corner is about desire and effort and at the other end of the field, no one aside from De Rosario seemed all that willing to battle and overcome the heat in hustling to become a major presence in the final third.  Disappointing.

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As I like to  focus  primarily on teams that are playing games, I will start with the Nats.  At this point, this team seems incapable of winning more than one game in a row since they are just not getting any kind of hitting at all.  Add to that the comedy of errors which this team is making, highlighted  today with the Shark and Jason Werth doing their best Abbott and Costello imitation in letting a fly ball drop right between them (how was that not charged an error incidentally?) and it seems unlikely that the Nats can do nothing more except tread water until they get healthy and start hitting.  If you consider that the Z Man and Morse (a.k.a Jus) were not in the lineup at all today, it was a miracle that we won the game even though we were facing a AAA call-up.  Then again, you could look at Werth’s final score on homeplate as the baseball gods just paying us back after we gifted the Cubs two runs in the 4th inning on the fly ball I mentioned above.

I took my daughter to the double-header on Saturday and I noticed the home-crowd booing  Werth.  As I’ve mentioned here many times, I am not a booer, but I understand why people boo.  It doesn’t make us bad fans, it just means we care.  And I’m happy to see that the Nats fans care a lot more as the crowds have been big on this homestand and the last.    For what it’s worth, (no pun intended), I think Werth does not deserved to be booed because he’s not dogging it.  (Although, I did notice from my right field corner seats that he is prone to biting his nails between pitches as opposed to hitting his glove with his throwing hand).  Anyway,  his play today, while not a signature move of a guy making $127 million dollars, but rather of a guy who’s hustling and cares about winning and thinking on his feet, is something which is emblematic of why this team is more successful than in recent memory – it has a lot of fight.

Taking 2 out of the next 3 against Cubs would be nice too.

Double vision: The Caps added a lot of guys, all of , except for Brouwer, are above 30 which is somewhat unusual for GMGM and the whole Leonsis philosophy of staying young.  Hamrlik is a tough guy who will fit in well on this team, probably with Mike Green.  He will replace Scott Hannan who is a similar player, but Hamrlik has more offensive production.  The addition of  Halpern will replace the void of Gordo and Stecks from last year.  He’s just as good at faceoffs at Gordo, less good than Steckel, but much better offensively than either.  Then of course we got Joel Ward.  Which line will he go to?   With him, Knuble and Brouwer, we have three guys who like to crash the net, all of whom could compliment the top line with Ovie and Nicky, the 2nd line with Johannson and Semin and the 3rd line with Laich and Chimera.  It will be interesting to see who ends up where.

Finally, flipping a dime (in sports salary terms) to Vokoun was quite a coup for the Caps.  People can say all they want about how him and Neuvy will get along, but let’s face it, Neuvy must be a little pissed.  As soon as his main competition in Varly is shipped to Denver, the Caps bring in Vokoun for one year and what we all hope is a trip to the finals.  After that, Holtby, who will have another year of training at Hershey, will be licking his chops to displace Neuvy.  Even if Neuvy is the “#1”, as soon as he has a bad stretch or a bad game in the playoffs, we know the hook will be quick from Boudreau.  The other way around may also be true, but with Thomas and Rolson having big playoffs this year, having a vet like Vokoun is definitely a good thing.

All of these acquisitions make me think back to what Laich said when he spoke after signing his new big contract. He said that guys in the locker room, no matter how much they are paid, need to start buying into the system.  Basically, they need to start playing tough.  Who could he be talking about?  Ovie?  Probably not since we all see his desire and aggression on the ice.  Although, maybe he free-lances still more than me, or many of us, can see.   Nicky?  Maybe.  Semin?  Definitely.  Mike Green?  I don’t know.  I think Green gets a bad rap.  He’s pretty tough.  But whether you question any of last year’s Caps’ toughness, what is clear is that the Caps have added a group of guys that will make us much more grittier and nastier to play come playoff time.  And maybe, finally, we will have the results we have all longed for for what now seems like an eternity.

Triple vision:  I like Jason Reid a lot more before he became a columnist.  He used to be more down-to-earth.  Now everything he writes sounds smug and has a tone of “I’m smarter than all of you”.  Even though what he wrote about Shanny and the ‘ Skins for tomorrow’s paper is true, he’s already said in about 3 articles during the strike and it just sounds like he’s so damn smart.  I say hold on to McNabb for as long as we want to get a bidding war going between the Vikings, Cardinals and 49ers and let’s get the most we can.  We don’t owe him squat, especially after he went and embarrassed all Redskins fans by practicing with the Eagles which symbolically was a gigantic kick in the nuts against all of us.  While Shanny embarassed us with his benching of McNabb and his subsequent comments during the season,  this was worse because fraternizing with the enemy is being an enemy.  And there is no grey area when dealing with the NFC East, especially the Eagles.  So stop acting like a journalist who cares so much about the feelings about athletes who are being paid tons of money and frankly, like McNabb, were not that good last year and start thinking about this team.  McNabb can practice with us during the off-season.  What happens if the boy-wonder Beck and Sexy Rexy both blow their knees out?  #5 will be back here and we will all be sleeping with the enemy.

Way too much D.C. sports vision:  I watched D.C. United again surrender a late goal on Saturday night and again lost a chance at 3 points.  No matter how gifted we are in the midfield and with our forwards, unless we get our defense shored up, we will not make the playoffs this year.  I know this is not breaking news, but once again this week, we gave way too much space to Philadelphia in the game’s final 10 minutes.  Should Ben Olsen be criticized for putting Fred instead of a more defensive player after we went ahead 2-1?  Maybe.  But at the same time, the back 4 just have to play better.   We’ll see how it pans out, but for now, with 4 points on this homestand pissed away, the playoffs seem more and more like a remote dream for the soccer faithful in D.C.

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63 seasons and counting

62 is the number of sports seasons the fans of D.C. have endured without a championship going into the Caps  2nd round series against the Lightening.  The humiliating defeat our hockey team suffered last night made it 63 professional seasons of sports in this town since we got to last savor the taste of ultimate victory.

When I went to be last night, I was sure that Boudreau had to be fired.  But then I read and read and read and listened and it seemed like all the players on the team said that the fault lays squarely on them.  After listening to the likes of Carlson, Alzner, Arnott, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Knuble, Green and Laich speak, I realized that my anger should not have been simply directed at one man.  Maybe there are many men, those players I just mentioned included, who are to blame.  Leonsis made it clear in his remarks that he felt every component of his team was outplayed by Tampa, but he did not mention that Boudreau was out-coached.  For sure, Ovie and the boys must shoulder some of this blame.  They made errant passes, time-after-time did not clear Tampa players out in front of Neuvy, especially on the PK, missed the net on good looks from close range, did not hustle as hard for loose pucks and seemed overwhelmed.  They never once scored 1st and were only twice (in Game 1 and Game 3) were able to overcome a deficit to take a lead.

Other much more intelligent hockey blogs than mine were also left scratching their heads.  Some blamed the players, including our captain’s, abandonment of the system which took them so far during the regular season and led to us crushing the Rangers, while others felt puzzled by how a team that looked so good in the 1st 5 games of the playoffs looked so bad for the final 4.  I am also puzzled and sad and angry and frustrated beyond belief.  Sports are just games, but they are also a lifeline to a region.  Everyone around town was following the Caps: the security guards at the school where I work, the artsy chick working at a Takoma Park framing store where I went yesterday to pick up a couple of paintings, the guy who owns the ice cream shop in my neighborhood, seniors in high school, little kids.  People had hung signs on the BW Parkway with “GO CAPS” written on them.  Everyone of these folks, and millions of others in this area are left with an empty feeling today.

But somethings still need to be said about our coach.  I didn’t like the way he moaned and groaned about the bad bounces and bad calls going against all series.  Sure there were many, but that’s for people like me to complain about on blogs like this that hardly anyone reads.  Boudreau needed to say from Game 1 that the Caps were in control of their own luck and needed to create good luck of their own, by doing the same thing Tampa was doing – playing with abandon and high energy at all times.  I don’t like the fact that Carlson said that the Caps made it farther than they did last year because even though we won a series, we only won 1 MORE GAME this year than we did last year.  Sure losing in the 2nd round sounds better than losing in the 1st to an 8th seed, but not by much.

And then we have to consider who we lost to:  Tampa Bay who we have owned for years.  Well into last season in fact, we had beaten the ‘Bolts 11 straight times. This year was obviously more tightly contested, but if you count the last 18 regular regular season games, spanning 3 years, head-to-head against the ‘Bolts, our record was  against Tampa 15-2-1.  That’s fuckin’ domination.  But where it counted most, we were the ones who were dominated.  What’s our excuse for losing this year?  There is none which leaves everyone feeling worst than before.  In fact, when we lost to the Flyers 4 years ago, we were exactly like Tampa – a team with young stars who had no playoff experience combined with some grizzly vets who had won a cup.  Except we lost to the Flyers who “had more playoff experience”  and that was our excuse.  Well this time we were the ones with more experience and we still lost.  In fact, all Boudreau and this team has accomplished in the 4 years we have been a #3, #2 and #1 seed twice in a row is beat a couple of deeply, offensively challenged Rangers teams.

Firing Boudreau also makes sense when you look at the fact that the Pens won the Stanley Cup after firing their coach midway through the season and of course, as everyone knows, beating us after we had a 2-0 lead in games.  Well we couldn’t overcome a 2-0 lead in games this time.  The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup last year after firing their coach and overcoming a 3-0 series deficit against Boston and made history in the process.  Well, we couldn’t overcome a 3-0 deficit and went quietly into the night.

Something is wrong with this picture and as a bitter, sad and miserable D.C. sports fans, I can’t help that it matters to me that our two biggest rivals have bested us convincingly in the last 4 years all while we were the higher ranked seed going into the playoffs and now we were bested in a totally humiliating fashion by a division rival who was the WORST team in hockey less than 3 years ago.  Our team is filled with players that every team in the NHL would kill to have:  Ovie, Backstrom, Neuvy, Varly, Green, Johannson, Carlson, Alzner and Semin.  Today those names don’t seem so great, but they sure sounded great 10 days ago when we over-ran the Rangers and everyone was talking about how the Caps were finally solid down the middle, were getting solid defense (NBC called Carlson and Alzner the best young defensive tandem in hockey) and outstanding goal-tending.  Our crowd was being called the loudest in hockey next to Montreal and we were all for the 1st time in a long really starting to believe.

Now all of that praise seems like the biggest bunch of nothing you’ve ever heard, fool’s gold.  Sure we are still great hockey fans and I have to admit that a part of me was even more bitter that Tampa got to beat us even though for much of the season their building was half-empty.  People talk about the bandwagon Caps fans in this town.  You need a fleet of semis to drive all the bandwagon fans in Tampa around. And yet we are the ones crying into the night as the D.C. Sports Bog documented so well today.  We are the ones with scowls on our faces, shaking our heads.

As for our players, without thinking to hard about it, I think the Caps will bring back Laich, he is too valuable in too many different areas of the ice, including face-offs, the PK, the ability to play both center and wing and is a fighter.  Boyd Gordon fills a necessary position on this team as a PK specialist, centering the 4th line and winning face-offs.  I think the Caps will try to bring back Hannan although he looked slow on many different occasions against Tampa and if he does not come on the cheap, they may let him go.  I think they will try to bring back Arnie, but only at the right price.  I think Matt Bradley, even though he is a fan favorite, will be gone.  Same for Sturm.  At this point, it would not surprise me if they dangle Semin as trade-bait especially after another collapse in his play in this series.  Mike Green will stay here as it will be hard to trade him with all his injuries.  If they do try to trade him, they will wait ’till he’s playing better.  They must of course re-sign Alzner.

This of course assumes that Boudreau and GMGM will be back.  GMGM was talking like his job is safe.  But how patient will Ted be?  GMGM was talking about how he was making notes while watching playoff games about potential line combinations for next year.  HOW ‘BOUT DOING SOMETHING TO AVOID US GETTING SWEPT THIS YEAR?   The whole thing makes me so mad, distressed and has left me with a slight headache at the side of my head – the kind that throbs for a while then totally disappears, only to slowly reappear every so often with growing intensity only to go away again.   Not to mention that feeling like you’ve just been dumped combined with a swift kick in the gut that makes it hard to walk with a purpose.

I missed one Caps game this year and that was when my power went out during a snow storm.  I guess I’m a fanatic or maybe I’m like the rest of legions of D.C. fans pleading, hoping and begging for a winner so badly that we latch on to our best team and don’t let go in hopes that this is our year, that this year the Caps would help us forget about the miserable shambles our once great football team now finds itself, that would make us forget that our pro basketball has won two playoff series since 1978 and will help us forget that our baseball team is forever rebuilding and that our local college basketball teams haven’t gotten out of the 2nd round of the NCAA since 2007.

Last night instead we all went to bed pondering the dark mystic could that hangs its cloud over our city and not that beautiful  moment of magic that comes in achieving victory at the highest level.  Yes this year was certainly not our year.

63 and counting.

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For the better part of the year, the Caps transitioned to a defensive style of hockey that would allow them to play tight, one-goal games and give them the experience needed to win closely fought, tight, one-goal games in the playoffs.  Well, as I sat like a little kid in front of my basement television last night at the start of the 2nd period, legs crossed, my hands covering my mouth, I kept on flashing back to all those tight 1-goal games we won throughout the year and said, “We can hold this lead, we can hold this lead”.  Then in a blink of an eye, it was gone.  One goal was a mistake that came off of a clearing attempt by Fehr that couldn’t get out of the zone, the other came on a play where we got out-hustled to a puck which ricocheted off of Carlson’s leg and off the foot of a Tampa player.  Should the goal have counted?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it did and then I kept telling myself how often we had come back in games this year to win and then that didn’t happen either.

And then I saw my team down 3-0 and having to overcome almost insurmountable odds and then I felt sick and still do today.

Some people are calling the Caps lazy, some undisciplined, some over-confident, some chokers.  I don’t know what it is, but last night, there seemed to be evidence of all of these things.  Of course in every game this series, we have also shown resolve in overcoming deficits and fighting back to take leads or tie the game. We did again yesterday and I thought this would be the time that we would subdue Tampa and get back into the series.

But then again, we didn’t get anything again out of Backstrom.  Semin was silent and Arnie relegated to the 3rd line is not the same player.  Why can’t Markie go back to centering the 3rd line?  There were times when we crashed the net, but not in the 3rd period.  There were times when we were hitting all of over the ice, but not on the forecheck in the 3rd period.  There were times when we were playing tight defense in front of Neuvy, but not in the 3rd period.  What the hell?  Why not boys?  This is the time to do it, not during the regular season. You have to do it in Game Fuckin 3 of the Eastern Conference Semis when your down 2 games to none.  But it just didn’t happen and I don’t know why.  Neuvy could have stopped Tampa’s 1st and 2nd goals, especially the 1st one and maybe this the desperate move to switch to Varly is called for tonight.  Maybe that’s the slight shift we need and maybe Backstrom needs to go to the 3rd line, put Markie on the top line and put Arnie back with Semin who seems to respond best when he’s playing with the veteran.

I’m not going to start ranting about this team’s ultimate failure until they are done.  And if we win tonight, would there have been any difference than if we won last night and lost today?  Not really, but statistics say that coming back to win 4 in a row is nearly impossible although it was done last year and almost again this year.  All we can do is try to keep our chins up for a day and play a game tonight and hope and pray that this time tomorrow, we all won’t be ranting and raving about yet another crushing Caps defeat in the post-season.

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It’s hard for me to sit here and slam the Caps after last night’s loss.  I may feel like slamming my fist into a wall, but I can’t really slam the Caps since we played a much better game than we did on Friday night even though the result and the score was essentially the same. Without going into a Homeric like epithet including all the “what if” moments I can recall in Caps history, I will mention just a few from the last time we were in the 2nd round of the playoffs against Pittsburgh two years ago: Ovie hit the bottom of the crossbar on a blazing shot in Game 3 which if it had went in would have given us a 3-0 lead in that series;  In Game 5, while in attendance with my old man, David Steckel in OT rang a shot also off the crossbar from point-blank range which if it had gone in would have given us a 3-2 series lead in that same battle with Pittsburgh.  I really hope that last night’s near miss, on a beautiful pass from Ovie across the crease to Marcus Johannson on which the latter was trying to recover desperately to catch up to after he had inexplicably slowed down watching Ovie make some dazzling moves to free himself along the boards to Roloson’s right, does not go into that eternal, agonizing vault of “what ifs” that I keep stored in my brain about each one of our local teams.

And I mention that not to damn Markie’s effort last night.  He actually skated very well, but great players, as they both are, have to take advantage of all of their opportunities and not hurt the team with near misses or dumb penalties.  Markie had that near miss, Ovie took a high-sticking penalty after another near miss of his in the 1st period.  The penalty ultimately led to Tampa’s 1st goal.  Then Tampa got another lucky goal, this time deflecting off of Mike Green’s skate.  Game 1 saw Tampa’s 2nd goal deflect off of Hanna’s stick.  Two bullshit goals which have made the difference in a series which we have controlled for 4 of 6 periods, but have not been able to cash in on our chances to either put games away or prevent Tampa from generating momentum as we did last night by allowing that late 1st period goal after we thoroughly dominated them for the 1st 20 minutes.

Then of course we had the line-change in OT which went awry.  How do you explain it?  I know Carlson had been on the ice for a while, but he probably needs to stay on the ice, or someone does, to make sure that pass won’t even be attempted across the entire ice.  There had been a dump in, but no coverage to ensure that the dump-in did not turn into a breakout in the other direction which ultimately doomed us after Ovie’s gutsy goal in the front of the net off a scintillating pass from Arnie.

Then of course there is our dead PP.  Me and many other fans on different blogs have written that Ovie has got to be taken off the point because his strength and skill make him good around the net or at least on the half-boards.  Now Boudreau and GMGM forget more about hockey after a couple of beers than I will ever know in my lifetime, but still something has to be done.  This series is not over, but as a fan, with a must-win game approaching to save a season which has been to this point so promising, we have to find something to change on a night when the Caps played with the energy necessary to win, but after many near-misses, little mistakes which turned into huge ones and another really bad break, we now find ourselves staring at a 2-0 deficit and our season, our team and all of our hopes dangling by the thinnest of threads over an inferno of an off-season that will leave any true D.C. fan filled with nothing but despair.

On a slightly brighter note, I took my daughter to a Nats game yesterday and she had the time of her life, mingling with the Presidents, eating junk food, playing in an enormous playground, watching up-close a tight race between what she refers to affectionately as “The Heads”, and not having any idea that there was really a baseball game even going on.

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The Caps took it easy on the Lightening last night and now find themselves down 1-0 and facing a must-win situation in Game 2 at home on Sunday night.  A lot of folks are talking about the Caps being rusty, but really that only seemed to be the case for the 1st 3 minutes or so, during which time Tampa scored a goal off of a turnover from Mike Green.  However, Tampa made its own goof shortly after turning the puck over after a slick deflection by Marco Sturm fed the puck on to Semin’s stick who rocketed a shot past Roloson that the latter probably wishes he could have back.  Anyway, I guess my point is that even though we may have been rust after the 1st 10 minutes of the game, we were even with Tampa, generating more chances, slamming them all over the ice and putting relentless pressure on the Lightening net.

We continued to do so for the 1st 5 minutes of the 2nd period and even took the lead.  At that point, no one watching the game would have said to themselves that the Caps were rusty.  But then all of a sudden, we took the foot off the pedal, took some dumb penalties, got an unlucky break on Tampa’s 2nd goal and found ourselves behind after 40 minutes in a game we had dominated for the better part of 30 minutes.

In fact the Caps had many bad breaks during the game:  Brooks Laich disallowed goal (which was the right call), Semin hitting the post on a rocket of a one-timer on the PP, and a bouncing puck which Backstrom could not corral right in front of the net.  But those things happen in hockey and we would have overcome them if we had not made some of the other mistakes and stopped skating the way we did for the final 30 minutes.

I take issue with Boudreau not playing his 4th line like he did for most of the night.  Even if the Lightening did not suffer injuries to their forwards like they had, we should have taken the approach of trying to wear down a tired team, not match them line-for-line.  They only suited up 11 forward so we should have our 12 forward grind them down with a steady forecheck.

Some of the guys who did not play well include Ovie, who was carrying the puck too much into the attacking zone.  We saw this last year.  He needs to allow Nicky to do his job.  Speaking of Nicky, something is definitely wrong with him.  In the 3rd period, Ovie set him up with a great pass between the circles and Nicky just shanked an 18-foot shot at the net.  From replays, it looked like he missed it by 5 feet.  He was constantly getting kicked out of the face-off circle for whatever reason and the face-offs he did win did not have that much starch on them.  It’s hard to imagine him being as absent over a 6-game stretch since the start of the post-season as he has.  I have to wonder if he is injured or his previous injury to his left hand has crept up again.

The Caps for whatever reason also did a bad job on the PP in the 2nd and 3rd periods. We didn’t get enough shots at net and didn’t really move the puck from side-to-side either.  Our very 1st PP towards the end of the 1st period was excellent and we almost scored on Semin’s shot which would have totally changed the game of course, but we didn’t and Tampa adjusted and we reverted to a dead looking man-advantage that we saw earlier in the year.  I wonder whether Ovie should not play on the point and we should Arnott back there and move Green to the left side where he can use his slick right-handed shot to get more pucks to the net quickly.  He got tied up on several passes last night trying to get himself into proper position to shoot the puck.

One loss does not mean we are going home, but after such a long lay-off and keeping in mind how good we looked only a week ago against New York, it sure was disappointing.  We will go a long way to erase all these doubt with a solid performance on Sunday.  If not, it may really be time to hit the panic button.  The Caps must win this series and after a humbling experience last night, all we can hope for is that Ovie, Arnie, Scotty, Brooks and of course our coach can rally the troops and we come out with an intensity and focus on Sunday that Tampa has not yet seen this year and right the wrong that happened in D.C. last night.

Double vision: Let the home of BBRs be the first to welcome Ryan Kerrigan, Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson to their new mythical positions as BBRs. While they may still be caught up in the idea of simply being drafted in the NFL, they probably do not fully realize what a unique and important position they play in the mythical ethos of greatness that has come to be recognized as BBR.  Let us hope that their careers mirror those of past legendary BBRs and lead all of us to a nirvana that seems to recently have been so unattainable.

Shanny and his team of nutty ego-maniacs have done a good job during this draft.  Using the 1st two picks on defense and in particular our front 7, was very wise.  Addressing the pass rush with Kerrigan and the nose tackle position with Jenkins shows that Shanny is paying attention and not just drafting for his son.  The addition of Hankerson seems to have been a good one and I like the idea of drafting receivers after the 1st two rounds.   With the accumulation of picks for today, (10 in total), the Redskins have put themselves in a position to draft for other positions of need which include: running back, cornerback, offensiveline and maybe even quarterback.

For a team that only have two picks during the 1st four rounds going into the draft and will not have a pick in each round including many 5th and below, the Shanny’s and Captain Gold Pants showed they can deal with the best of ’em.  And while I have never seen any of these players play who are now BBR, the positions selected reflect that of an organization trying to build things the proper way.

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