Archives for posts with tag: NHL

Did it have to end this way? Couldn’t the Caps have not turned things on with an 11-1-1 April? Couldn’t they have dropped one of the two overtime games that they wound up winning-only masking a team that didn’t lead in regulation after the 12:50 mark of the first period of game three? Meaning after game one the Caps led for exactly 8:44 of the final 377 minutes and 24 seconds. The summer of discontent begins with questions, comments and concerns in Caps Nation.

Seventh Hell?– the Caps fall to 3-9 lifetime in Game Sevens…and 1-8 at home (the only win coming in 2009 over the New York Rangers). Their history of misery began on the night before Easter in April 1987 when they lost in four overtimes to Pat LaFontaine and the New York Islanders– I had to get up at 6am the following day to go to church to play handbells. Let’s just say Eggs Benedict on 4 hours sleep does not work wonders-especially with bells clanging repeatedly.

Southeast Mirage– while the Capitals made their run, they were loading up (15-3) on a weak Southeast Division–the only division to send just one team to the playoffs and one that boasted three of the four worst records in the league. Next winter they’ll be realigned into something similar to the old Patrick Division-making their path the postseason much more difficult but perphaps will better prepare them for when they get there.

Penalties Posing Problems– 14 more penalty minutes brought the Caps’ 7 game total to 76. Every try to sprint after laying back on your heels for an extended period of time? When you spend one out of every six minutes trying to hold off a power play…it’s tough to generate offensive flow and momentum. There were a few mystifying penalties. And there were some stupid ones. Cleaning them up in the future when games matter most will be a priority.

Lundqvist Lays Down the Lumber– It’s tough to consistently outshoot your opponent yet consistently come up empty. The Caps were stonewalled again by Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist– 62 saves over the last two games…the Rangers in their duck and dive defensive style were able to limit quality chances. While there’s no shame in losing to a hot goaltender, Caps fans have to wonder when they have the standing on his head goalie again. Is Braden Holtby that guy? He had played superbly until Monday’s defeat…and in looking at the longview is the best netminder this current Caps generation of players has had behind them.

Mister May?– with apologies to baseball HOF Dave Winfield and the late George Steinbrenner, it’s actually a good thing to be sort of a Mister May in the NHL Playoffs. After scoring a league-high 32 goals in the lockout-shortened regular season, Alex Ovechkin tallied 1 goal and 1 assist in the series with the Rangers. Usually a producer in the postseason (first four years averaging more than 1 point a game, with a high of 10 goals and 11 assists in 14 games in 2009), the Caps captain posted 9 points over 14 games last sping…and saw that production decrease this May. He’s got to go home and have a summer like Larry Bird did in 1984 when the Celtics got swept by Milwaukee…the legend came back focused and on fire en route to the three best years of his career. Does Ovie have the aptitude and attitude to maximize his altitude?

It takes a Village– now while we acknowledge the importance of having your best players play their best…hockey is the one sport where the dominant stars have the least overall influence. A quarterback handles the ball on every play. A pitcher determines every pitch. And a great basketball player can touch the ball every time up the floor. Ovechkin is only on the ice for 35 to 45 seconds at a time… and relies on his teammates as much as if not more than other sports’ elite players. Martin Erat’s injury midway through the series undercut the second line… and Brooks Laich’s season long struggles hurt the team as well. What moves will need to be made to maintain the nucleus that coach Adam Oates desires yet improve the overall talent so next May there’s a second or even third series to think about?

Cruel Summer– this season began in late January due to the lockout, many marveled at how long the offseason was. Truth is, after experiencing just enough playoff success to think of it as a probability instead of simply a possibility–every offseason you’re not playing for a Cup (let alone playing for playing for a Cup)-is a long, cruel summer.

I grew up an hour north of Boston.  I’ve covered the Marathon.  My sister was on the same block as the explosions yesterday…and my cousin’s wife was at the finish line with her 1 and 3 year old until a half hour before the blasts.  One reason why I fell into sports journalism is that it’s fun…aka the toy department… and I can try to be mildly amusing when talking about Toronto playing Tampa Bay by saying “You can call them Rays, you can call them Jays”.  Again, the focus is more on mild than amusing.  But one can’t be sarcastic about train accidents, trials or war.  I’m the comedic relief.  It’s tough when the nasty world invades my own…I was covering Otto Porter Jr’s announcement he was headed to the NBA when the Marathon went from sporting spectacle to a day of disaster.  I scrambled to reach my sister and although she was safe she was understandably shaken.  I’ve heard her happy and sad over the years–but never in terror…and as a big brother that shook the hell out of me.  I feel for the victims.  I’m happy friends and family are safe.  And I hope justice comes in finding who’s responsible for this.  Now it’s time for another press conference (Maryland’s Alex Len going pro)…and afternoon drive updates on WTOP, where I try to be mildly amusing.  To paraphrase Lorne Michaels and Rudy Guiliani, “Can I be funny?”–“Why start now?”.

Miami makes everything go down better– Seems as thought all the Nationals needed was a trip to South Beach to cure their recent ills…getting swept by Atlanta. It’s a long season, but it’s never good to be broomed at home by one of your division rivals.  Bullpen issues (13th in the National League in OBP, 14th SLG, 3rd in blown saves) catching injuries (Ramos on the shelf in a strange sense of deja vu) and the inability to beat playoff teams (1-5 against teams that made the 2013 postseason) have to temper whatever Nattitude was as full steam after the opening series sweep of the AAA Miami Marlins.  I almost want to downgrade the Marlins to a minor league city like “Dade County Dipsy Doodles” until they get their act together.  And with another three-spot against this mess of a franchise, the Marlins may be the worst thing for this club right now–giving the Nats false confidence when they still have a ways to go to get back to last year’s level.  If you win, so what– these are the Marlins.  And when you can’t beat the worst team in the league like Tuesday night, what are you to do?  A key early stretch is on the horizon–from April 22nd to May 2nd the Nats play 11 games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta.  Brace yourselves.

Capital Blossoms– last week I compared the Capitals to the Cherry Blossoms in DC… blooming in early April before becoming an afterthought by mid-May.  Now they have been on a tear as of late… but how much of that is a byproduct of being in the softest division of the NHL (let the record show they are 14-3 against the Southeast Division)? Can this team compete effectively over a seven game series against a legitimately good team?  Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Toronto was the 10th out of division win for the team this season (10-14-2) in 26 games…how tired were the Maple Leafs after last night’s 2-0 win over New Jersey?  In a season that’s given us plenty of schedule quirks (like consecutive nights in Winnipeg)… the Caps have started a five game stretch against teams from Canada.  But more importantly they play their final three games at home–including a duel with second place Winnipeg Tuesday April 23rd (Jets trail the Caps by 4 points with 5 games remaining).  Eight straight wins… is there any room left on the bandwagon?

Moving Days– Sophomores Otto Porter, Jr. and Alex Len declare for the NBA one day apart while Georgetown and Maryland wish them well.  Coach John Thompson III wasn’t shocked:  “We weren’t caught off guard…we expected Otto to move on after this year.”  Coach Mark Turgeon knew it was time:  “Alex has been a pro since he set foot on campus…the way the practices, the way he takes care of himself”.  While the Hoyas and Terps would be much better next winter with Porter and Len, the lure of first round guaranteed money was too good to pass up.  Even if the 7-foot-1 Len turns out to be a project.  Even if Porter has trouble finding minutes or an ideal position for his skill set.  Each coach heralds their respective sophomore’s work ethic…which is a huge key in making the transition from college to pro basketball.  One hopes they find their way to solid organizations with non-cancerous locker rooms where they can learn, grow and thrive.

Masters– Ah, yes. Tiger’s drop and a 14 year old’s tardiness overshadowed the best weekend for an Australian since George Lazenby landed the role of James Bond.  Tiger tailed off after being in the hunt for most of the first two rounds. Was there golf karma in taking the longer drop? The US Open will be the fifth anniversary of Tiger’s most recent Major championship. Jack Nicklaus’ longest gap during his run?  He had two “droughts”– just under three years (1967-70) and just over five years (1980 PGA-1986 Masters).  One feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods wins another and with conditioning what it is now there appears to be a larger window for him to win 4 or 5 more– but for every Lee Trevino that wins a PGA at 45, there’s a Tom Watson who stops winning majors at 33.  Oh– and congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the tournament.

Standing Pat–  Broadcast legend Pat Summerall passes away at 82.  The voice of the NFL on CBS and FOX called 16 Super Bowls for the two networks over four decades.  His booming voice dominated game opens (check them out on youtube)… and his economy of words made him the perfect complement to John Madden.  In 1981, Summerall and Vin Scully were competing for the #1 play-by-play job at CBS and while Scully painted better word pictures, Summerall didn’t bring the easel as much as set the stage for Madden’s “BOOM’s” and the telestrator.  He said more in five words than most said in fifteen.  I fell for the NFL of Summerall/Madden.  And he made announcing something a 13 year old want to dream about doing.

To be honest, after the NFL Draft I kind of go into autopilot mode.  I’m removed enough from the college hoops and college football seasons to recharge my batteries– and although OTA’s will demand immediate attention, the Burgundy and Gold News service drops to “Maroon and Black” alert.  But what a weekend to begin the month of May…

Gone in six seconds– much like the end of The Usual Suspects defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory… as a high stick leads to a 3-2 deficit with the Capitals trying to avoid elimination instead of trying to clinch on home ice.  While the Ward penalty cost the Caps in the final minute of regulation and in overtime… the fact that they managed just 4 shots on goal in the first period can’t be ignored.  The fact that they missed a few chances to open up a two goal advantage in the third period but didn’t connect can’t be looked over.  And the fact that the Rangers entered the postseason as the second best team in the league has to make you realize that any mistake will be pounced on.  Can they rally at home?  The Caps are 2-3 at Verizon during the playoffs… but if there’s one trend to follow in the NHL Playoffs- it’s that often there are no trends.

Purpose Pitch– Thanks, Cole Hamels, for showing what a fearsome pitcher you are by hitting a 19 year old rookie and then bragging about it.  So much more street cred headed up I-95 now.  I’m fine with any pitcher hitting a batter (especially in the back as opposed to the head)– but the true masters of the mound state it was intentional without saying it was intentional (“Hey– I threw an inside pitch and it got away– he should know this isn’t AA Harrisburg.  We protect the plate here.  This isn’t some Junior College out west– this is Major League Baseball.”).  That would have sent the message.  Instead, Hamels pats himself on the back… as MLB pats him on the wallet. 

Meanwhile, the Nats get two big bats back in to the lineup (Zimmerman and LaRoche) while their bullpen burns a little bit.  Henry Rodriguez’s blown save at Pittsburgh the latest stomach punch.

Captain Obvious flies over Ashburn– to the surprise of very few people, the Redskins have named Robert Griffin III the team’s #1 quarterback.  Was this necessary now?  I think everybody figured RGIII would eventually lock down the starting job… now he’ll get the vast majority of the snaps immediately.  Will Rex Grossman be around in August or will the Skins find a better veteran to mentor.

Congratulations to “I’ll Have Another” for winning the Kentucky Derby– now we move on to the Preakness in less than two weeks.  I wish horse racing would enter the 21st century and gap the races better… in the 1890’s it wasn’t uncommon for 3 year olds to race two or even three times a month.  Now– a four or five week gap between starts is the norm for many.  Thus, the horses aren’t accustomed to 3 high stake races in 5 weeks… and the best case is Big Brown not having its best race in the 2008 Belmont.  The worst case is Barbaro shattering its leg at the 2006 Preakness.  So move the Preakness back a week or two… and do the same with the Belmont.  You’d have better rested horses and better racing.  I know it flies in the face of tradition… but the sports that are chained by yesteryear dwindle tomorrow.

 

 

 

Welcome to the new forum for “Preston’s Perspective”… a critically ignored tour de force that talks sports, “Dallas” and Girl Scout Cookies in force… where to begin?

RGIII or RG3?  I prefer the arabic form… although what creeps me out is that Rex Grossman is an “RG III” as well.  And I’m thinking of other “thirds” of note… George III and Thurston Howell III.  There was a kid who grew up two streets over in Bedford, New Hampshire named “Tyler Charlesworth” that I threw a “III” on just because it seemed to fit.  Griffin gave a nice press conference at Fed Ex Field where he said all of the right things… and the area is back drinking  the Burgundy and Gold Kool-Aid in a way they haven’t since Joe Gibbs returned to the team in 2004. 

Skins Draft Offensive– with 6 of 9 picks playing on that side of the ball (and two of the defensive picks coming in the 7th round)… the Redskins attempt to bolster their 26th in the league scoring offense.  I like taking three linemen– RG3 can’t complete passes lying down and we’ve seen previous first rounders melt under poor pass protection (Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell).

Quarterback Collection– ESPN is sending thank-you notes to Ashburn for giving them a hot-button topic on the lazy Saturday (rounds 4-7 are strictly for die-hards).  By taking Kirk Cousins, the Skins became the first team since 1989 to take two QB’s in the first four rounds.  For those scoring at home:  Green Bay took Anthony Dilweg #2 and Jeff Graham #2 (not the Ohio State Jeff Graham… but the Long Beach State Jeff Graham).  While many look at this as a replay of 1994 when Heath Shuler wasn’t as good as Gus Frerotte… others reference 1983 when Denver traded for #1 overall pick John Elway after drafting Gary Kubiak in the 8th round– and Kubiak became Elway’s understudy for the better part of nine seasons.  And as we learned with John Beck’s release, the drafting of Cousins was more a reflection of Rex-Beck than RG3.

Dynamic Debut Doomed by a Bad Bullpen– I thought there were curfew laws in LA… but the Nationals needed every bit of Bryce Harper’s bat to carve out a 3-1 ninth inning lead.  The 19-year old’s sac fly RBI seemingly gave the Nats the go-ahead run… but Henry Rodriguez throws three wild pitches and coughs up two runs- setting up a Matt Kemp walkoff home run in the 10th.  And there’s the best and worst about the Nats in a nutshell:  incredible promise but tempered by a relief corp that has been somewhat shaky in 2012.

That’s spelled HOTby– What a run for the Capitals… the month-long tango with 8th place results in the 7th seed and a first round upset of the defending champs.  Contributing factors to this roll include the team finally adjusting to coach Dale Hunter’s style of play… the intense focus that exists when every game is must-win… and goalie Braden Holtby having an incredible spring.  Is this something that will continue this fall or is the rookie a one-hit wonder?  Right now next year means nothing– and all that matters is a bounce back on Monday night.