The weather is beautiful. Wish you were here.
The weather is beautiful. Wish you were here.
How do break up with a really, really great person who just isn’t right for you? It’s the hardest thing in the world. Even with the signs mounting, you still get along well enough. There isn’t anyone in particular that you're interested in, you just know that, thinking long term, this isn't right for you.
When you were younger, things were great. You heard from some of your friends that you two would be perfect for each other and from the second you met, you just clicked. Sure, you were awkward together, as every new couple is, but things just felt right. Everyone knew you two would be together for the long-haul. Sure, there was that little argument you had just before summer vacation, but then you were ok again.
The following years only strengthened your relationship. As a couple, you were voted Homecoming King and Queen, won the three-legged race at the local fair and were the talk of the town. “They’re so good for each other!” everyone would say. And you were. Then there was that big fight, again right before summer vacation.
From then on, things were a little different. You were still great, but there were times you didn't speak for a few days. Then the doubts began to creep up. First one of your friends says he thinks you guys should break up. Then another. “But we’re still doing great” you say. And you are. Right up until that now-inevitable pre-vacation fight that seems to happen around the same time every year.
So now it’s time. You need someone who brings out the best in you and this relationship isn’t going to do that. You know it’s for the best, but how do you tell someone you’ve grown to love that you just don’t work anymore? It’s not going to be easy. There will probably be tears, lots of them. But it’s for the best.
“Bruce, we need to talk…”
I've been silent for the most part over the past week as I dig through a mile of schoolwork and other commitments in the final moments before Thanksgiving break at school. No postgame writings, so I haven't had a chance to discuss the Caps after every night like I normally do. So here it goes: Caps hockey analysis, comin' in hot!
Man, what is wrong with this team? The Capitals started the year on fire, winners of seven consecutive games out of the gates. They had everyone talking for the right reasons: Tomas Vokoun was being a rock, the offense had, for the most part, returned, and DC was also managing to play some sound defense. They were a complete hockey team, or at least it appeared so.
Since then, however, your Washington Capitals have looked disoriented and just downright bad at times, compiling a 3-6-1 record since their 7-0 start. This came to a head Thursday night in Winnipeg when the Capitals suffered a humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Jets, who are and will continue to be one of the worst teams in the league.
Mike Green's absence hurts and there is no doubt about that. Green is one of the Caps' best players and their best defenseman; not having him in the lineup is a tough hole to plug. But it's not an excuse. The Capitals want to be considered a team of champions, and champions don't let injuries get to their team. Champions man up and go out and win without that star. Like the Penguins are doing.
Alexander Ovechkin is at a crossroads in his career. He is still the same happy-go-lucky Russian sniper who took the NHL by storm after the lockout, and therein lies the problem. When he was a 20-year old rookie, Ovie could fly down the left wing, turn a defenseman inside out, cut across the middle on his off-wing and bury a shot. Frankly, for his first couple of seasons, he had to because he was usually the best puck-handler on the ice. With the amount on talent on the Capitals now and Ovechkin getting older, Ovechkin no longer needs to be the lone gunman, nor is he capable of keeping it up into his 30s. Looking at Ovechkin's goals this season, one was a deflection, one was a rebound, and 5 were shots that came when he was in space without the puck, received a pass, and fired it quickly. This type of shooting should become Ovechkin's primary scoring method, as his cutting across the middle these days only results in him losing the puck.
Ovechkin needs to adapt his game to meet the changing reality of the NHL: teams have learned how to defend his rushes up the ice when he has the puck. He needs to use his linemates to carry the puck more and set himself up for quick shots, much like Brett Hull did. Hull scored 741 goals in his career and is a good player to emulate, since Hull was a major scoring threat into his late 30s, scoring 37 goals as a 38-year old in 2002-03, well past his physical prime. Ovechkin would likely also benefit from having another Viktor Kozlov-style playmaker on his wing for a season or two as opposed to a Mike Knuble-type crease-crasher.
Alexander Ovechkin is at his most dangerous when he is in space without the puck, especially when Nicklas Backstrom is controlling the play. Ovechkin should make a habit of not keeping the puck on his stick for more than 2 seconds at a time, as his presence in the offensive zone and neutral zone also draws defenders to him and away from his puck-carrying teammates.
Let’s take a look at two players. Both are around the same size, at 6’2” and just over 200 lbs. Both play center and both are well respected by their teammates and fans alike. Both are considered excellent two-way players, but only one of these guys is on the verge of becoming a superstar, has a Selke Trophy nomination and was invited to fight for an Olympic medal. Since these two guys are a year apart in age, we’ll compare their careers from when they finally stuck in the NHL (’05-’06) through the first few games of ’11-’12.
Ok, here is Player #1:
And here is Player #2:
The Capitals have made a couple roster moves over the past couple of days that probably deserve more attention than they've gotten.
The first move was D.J. King's assignment to Hershey. Not all of us were in agreement that it would be a good thing for the Bears because it meant possibly less ice time for an NHL prospect, never mind a guy with a bigger contract than the team's #1 center just coming down to the AHL, a situation where a lot of those suddenly "former" NHLers don't react well and are a negative force in the locker room. I don't think King will be a problem, after all, he's not far removed from the AHL anyway, he knows he's good enough for the NHL, and he just wants to play. He asked to be waived so he could play hockey for another NHL team, and considering what a good teammate he was in DC despite his lack of playing time, he should be a great teammate and mentor for the players in Hershey, too. Not all of us were on board with the trade that brought King here, but that's another story.
So, with the addition of another winger who would be getting into the lineup regularly, the question became "who would sit out?" Well, that suddenly got answered when the Caps dumped underachieving winger Francois Bouchard to the New York Rangers for a defenseman prospect. Bouchard was a second-round pick in 2006 and had one decent season in Hershey two seasons ago before regressing last season and falling off the map completely this season amidst some personal issues and the lack of Mathieu Perreault centering his line to make him look good. Bouchard will not be missed in these parts, and considering he had no points in 8 games for the Bears, D.J. King should have no trouble replacing his offense.
But hold on a second, who did we get in return? Who is this Tomas Kundratek guy, anyway? NHL.com's player page lists him as a left-handed defenseman standing 6'2, 201 who doesn't put up a ton of points. He's a righty, you say? Well, then, this trade just got a whole lot more interesting.
Kundratek was a 3rd round pick of the Rangers in 2008. He came to the WHL the next season and played two years of junior before going pro last season. He apparently adapted well to the North American game and had a very solid first season in the AHL, with 12 points and an even rating in 70 games, plus 2 points in 6 playoff games. He's had another solid start to the season this year and Hockey's Future thinks he could be ready for the NHL next season. With a right-handed shot, though, he could be the next call-up from Hershey instead of Sean Collins, though. He's just 21, but has a full pro season and all the physical gifts to be an NHL defender, including a big shot and decent puck-moving skills, never mind the tendency not to take penalties, which McPhee always likes. He's no stranger to the rough stuff if need be, though. Check out more about him on "Da Bears" page, with links to various player pages.
Did the Caps blueline depth just pick up a red-chip prospect for a washed up spare part? If so, score a big win for George McPhee. Welcome to America's Hockey Capital (and Chocolate Capital!), Tomas.no comments
As you may have heard, the Washington Capitals are 7-0-0 and flying high as one of the NHL's best teams so far in their 2011-12 regular season. The Caps are playing shutdown defense, explosive offense, and are getting dynamite goaltending to help fuel the streak. The usual suspects are up to old tricks, including Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Alex Ovechkin, but you already know what those players bring to the table every night. With so many new faces on the roster because of George McPhee's heralded offseason moves, I thought I would take a look at how each of Washington's new players are faring in red. Have a look after the jump.
Once upon a time, goalie pads weren’t the stream-lined, thin, lightweight pieces of technology they are today. They were heavy and thick and designed in a very specific way. If you look at goalie pads from the 50’s and 60’s through the early 2000’s, they all followed pretty much the same basic form: horizontal rolls across the knee area, vertical rolls along the shins, raised rolls along the outside edges of the pad and a cute little opening in the front for the toe of the skate to stick out of. And let me tell you, nothing stung more than taking a hard shot through that opening and onto the toe or lower instep of the skate.
Until the advent of the modern butterfly style of goaltending, most goalies dropped directly down into the face of their pads or made kick or skate saves to cover low ground. As such, goalie skates were also designed in a very specific way: enlarged, padded toe caps and a plastic pad along the inside arch of the skate for protection and lower ankle rise and a shorter skate blade housing to help stop pucks.
With the exception of Marty Brodeur, all NHL goalies use a modern butterfly-style pad: nearly flat front surface, loads of padding on the inside of the knee and calf and a lower blocking surface that completely covers the toe of the skate. Goalies these days drop down onto their inner knee and leave the pad surface facing up and towards the shooter to maximize blocking area. But while the areas of vulnerability on a goaltender have changed, the design of the goalie skate remains largely the same. Sure, they’re more lightweight, but the bulk of the padding is still along the toe and inside arch area of the skate.
Which brings us to Michel Neuvirth, out with a bruised foot. Generally, the heel and outer side of the skate looks (and is padded) largely like a regular players skate. From the look of things, Neuvy is wearing a Nike/Bauer Vapor XX (or similar) skate from a few years ago which is quite light and very stiff but not exactly well-padded in its non-goalie reinforced areas. Usually, when you hear about a modern goalie incurring a foot injury, it means the goalie took a puck to one of these minimally-protected areas and probably didn’t see the shot (otherwise they’d have gotten a different part of their padding on it). So Caps players with hard shots, please make sure you can see Neuvy’s eyes before you let one rip in practice.
I’m looking at you Schultzy.no comments
During his weekly morning spot with 106.7 the FAN, Brooks Laich was asked to rank which of his teammates were best in class in skating and stick skills. McHandsomePants fearlessly answered the Junkies, nominating three or four players for each category. Always willing to jump on an opportunity to take a good idea too seriously, we here at Rock the Red took it a step further and isolated the Capital that most embodied some of hockey's most-needed abilities in a plan to join them together to form a giant super robot, with which to defend the galaxy from evil. [Ed. note - that was actually Voltron]. Only rule is, aside from el Capitano, each Cap can only be used once! And away we go!
Whether it's noting the changing of the colors of your neighborhood leaves, tasty Octoberfest beers hitting the shelves, or embarking on your quest for Fantasy Hockey greatness by leading "Everyday I'm Byfuglien" to the league championship, every fan recognizes the start to a new season a different way. We here at Rock the Red have compiled a cornucopia of the top 10 conclusions you might have reached in knowing the Capitals are back in action. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below!
Honorable Mention: You change your email signature to read "Good morning, good afternoon, and good night!" instead of "sincerely."
10. You find yourself instantly craving wings every game night.
9. Versus finds its way back onto your “favorites” channel list.
8. Ballston is suddenly cluttered with flat-tired cars.
7. You have to take time to explain to casual fan friend that “No, Arnott isn’t playing Defense now” and that a faster, more skilled Brashear didn't re-sign with the team.
6. The new bartenders at Bar Louie start to know you by name.
5. If your significant other asks how much longer dinner will be, you reply that there is “One minute... one minute remaining.”
4. You see triplets… everywhere.
3. No matter what the location, hearing three noises in succession makes you yell LET’S GO CAPS.
2. Words like "kabong" and "coconada" make their way into your vernacular.
1. Not one week into the season, you can find yourself amongst a massive Goaltender debate.