Thursday, February 07, 2008

Caps in art...

The Peerless came upon this through, of all places, a Penguins web site...we like the idea, but one of the drawings has us wishing, if his head was this big he could just lay it across the goal, and no one would ever score.

It is nice work, though...check it out.

This guy's Don Zimmer...

So says Barry Melrose...

You decide...

Nah...Bruce didn't blow a 14 game lead with less than two months to play. And while we're at it with the ESPN boys, E.J. Hradek weighs in...

Nineteen Days to the Trade Deadline

It's coming fast, kids. And all over the hockey landscape, the questions will be of the sort, "where is Mats Sundin headed?"...or, "is Rob Blake headed to Detroit?"

We're thinking those are questions of the wrong sort, or at least that too much attention is paid to them. There is too much a "fantasy hockey" aspect to trades and such in the fan and media communities. There is another class of player that might be just as important as the one that includes names the casual fan would recognize.

Adam Schwartz digs into the matter over at, where he looks at "the less-ballyhooed swap." It is an interesting walk down memory lane for those under-the-radar deals that contributed the "character" element to a playoff run.

The only problem we see is his 1998 example. The centerpiece of his example is Mike Keane (one of the best Stanley Cup "good luck charms" in history). Keane, traded to Dallas in the deal described, would skate for a Cup winner the following year and a finalist the year after. But if we're looking only at deals in the context of the year they were made, then one might consider the Capitals dealing Dwayne Hay and "future considerations" for Esa Tikkanen.

Tikkanen would play in 20 regular season games for the Caps at the end of the 1997-1998 season (2-10-12, -4, two game-winning goals) and would be an important ingredient in their march to the Stanley Cup final. He will be forever remembered by Caps fans for the goal he didn't score -- missing a virtual empty net in Game 2 of the finals when a goal would have given the Caps a third period two-goal lead and a leg up on tying that series. But Tikkanen was a character guy -- and a character (how many hockey players spend a portion of their youth refining their skating technique by learning figure skating?).

While we're at it, while it wasn't a trade the acquisition of Brian Bellows as a free agent in late March of that year was another of those "under-the-rader" deals that might mean more to a club's success than the marquee deals. Bellows was 6-3-9 in 11 games (with five power play goals and two game-winners) to close the regular season, and he was 6-7-13 in 21 playoff games.

These two guys managed four game winning goals between them in the last 12 wins of the regular season that year for the Caps. Arguably, without them the Caps wouldn't have advanced as far as they did.

So, as we careen toward the trading deadline, pay attention to the Sundin's and the Blake's...but watchout for the lunch-pail guys and where they end up. Don't be surprised if they go further into the playoffs.

As the season moves along...

Something else to consider when ponder the deserving for trophies at the end of the year...or just another glimpse at the magnitude of how special a season it is that is unfolding for Alex Ovechkin.

Below is chart depicting cumulative goals/assists/points per game. Put another way, it is a graphical representation of how it is Ovechkin got to his 46-27-73 in 55 games.

There really isn't anything surprising here. The troughs in the chart correspond to the period leading up to Thanksgiving. Through 21 games, Ovechkin was 14-9-23 (0.67 goals-per-game, 0.43 assists/game, 1.10 points-per-game).

Since then however, the goals and points per game have taken off (0.84/game and 1.33/game, respectively). Even assists -- which critics in some quarters point to as a lack of playmaking skill -- have increased from that 0.43/game to 0.49/game (a 14 percent improvement). But what matters is the nature of the lines -- they lean upward. This is happening in the midst of a pleasant reversal of the Caps' fortunes.

And these are "cumulative" effects over the entire season, warts and all. If you look only at these last 34 games, Ovechkin's 32-18-50 works out to per-game figures of 0.94-0.53-1.47. In terms we might all understand, that's a pace for a 77-43-120 season. It would be overkill -- hockey being the team sport that it is -- that Ovechkin is carrying the team on his back. But it would not be overkill to conclude that his has been the most valuable contribution to the reversal of fortune (at least among the players) over the last 34 games.


"Did you say 'over'? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"

It's stirring rhetoric such as that which would eventually elevate seven-year Faber College alumnus John Blutarsky to the United States Senate.

And, it might be a signature of these Washington Capitals. Their 20-10-4 record over the last 34 games is shot through with come-from behind wins. 13 times have they found themselves behind, only to earn points in those games (9-0-4). In five of those instances they were behind by two goals, only to come up with points (4-0-1).

Over?...not when the Caps are playing it's not.

The Capitals and the Hare

Much is made -- well, will be made -- of the fact that the Caps are 20-10-4 since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Caps bench. It is a fine record, to be sure. But what is perhaps most striking about it is that it is built upon consistency, not streaks.

During these 34 games, the Caps' longest winning streak is four games, while their longest winless streak is three (twice). If you break the games down into five game segments, here is how they have played out:

1. 2-2-1 (five points)
2. 4-1-0 (eight points)
3. 1-2-2 (four points)
4. 3-1-1 (seven points)
5. 4-1-0 (eight points)
6. 3-2-0 (six points)
7. 3-1-0 (six points, and counting)

Total: 20-10-4 (44 points)

In no five-game segment were they more than one-point below .500, and in five of them (including the one not yet completed) they are over .500.

The Caps have churned out wins at a pretty constant rate over the last two-and-a-half months. As much as anything else, it suggests that one wouldn't expect those "dead spots" in the schedule where a lot of points get away in a hurry.

Put another way, the Caps haven't been and aren't streaky; they are consistently good and have been over the last 34-games. Certainly better than some folks give them credit for being.

We can almost hear The Chairman singing it...

Start spreading the news
We’re winnin’ these days
It’s time to be a part of it, D.C., D.C.
These vagabond boots
Are longing to skate
Right through the very heart of it
D.C., D.C.

We want to face off in the city that never sleeps
To find we’re king of the hill…tops in Southeast

These 14th-place blues
Have melted away
We’ve made a brand new start of it
In old D.C.

If we can win games here
We’ll win them anywhere
It's up to you, D.C., D.C.

We want to face off in the city that never sleeps
To find we’re A-number one…
top of the list…
king of the hill…
A-number one…

These 14th-place blues
Have melted away
We’re gonna make a brand new start of it
In old D.C.
If we can draw crowds here
We’ll do it everywhere

It's up to you, D.C., D.C.

So?...Who Won??

Shouldn't there have been an overtime, or a shootout, or at least another Hextall ceremony?