Friday, January 21, 2011

The NHL Guardian League Will Now Come to Order

OK, settle down…I’d like to bring this inaugural meeting of The NHL Guardian League to order.

Hey, who made YOU the chair, anyway? Just because you’re from Washington, that don’t make you in charge, Capital.

Someone has to do it. Besides, who is going to do it…you?

Well, I am The King…the regal ambassador of The City of Angels.

No, you’re a ticket taker at the Regal Cinemas at the Oxnard Mall.

Well, how about me?

You? The “bold, brazen lightning rod of the Florida Gulf Coast?” One fuse blows, and you’re in the dark, pal. And here’s a tip, Lightning…that whole blue Mohawk thing…makes you look like an extra from the road show of Freaks on Ice.


Will someone help up The Oiler before his oil slick spreads all over the room?

Oh, and will someone get The Predator a handkerchief or something…he’s drooling that radioactive plasma all over the table. We have to eat here!

Did someone say, “eat?”

Hey Blackhawk – you who control the element of wind – the last time we ordered in, we were smelling your “wind” for the rest of the afternoon. Can we get back to business?...

Move over…

What? I’m just sittin’ here.

You’re touching me!

No I’m not, now pay attention.

I said…move over!


Hey! You two want to knock it off? Pipe down, Bruin…last time you roared you petrified half the room, and besides, you know Hurricane…he’s got that whole personality “as wild as the weather” thing going, which is fine as long as you don’t upset him. So let’s all be nice and quiet and…


Penguin, what is your problem?

It’s The Devil…he gave me hot foot and melted my ice sheet.

Devil, look…we’ve been over this. We know you’re the “underworld maverick” and “master matter manipulator,” but you’ve got to stop going around playing these pranks on your fellow Guardians. It looks bad on all of us, you know?

Hey, I’m The Devil…I’m supposed to be bad. Kinda goes with the suit, right?

I’m hungry.

You’re always hungry Wild. OK, maybe we can agree on lunch. What do we want?



Ok, Ok…settle down, Shark. I don’t think…what’s that racket out there?


Red Wing. That whole “power of a formula one racer and a fighter jet” thing is getting really old. Bunch of noisy crap is what it is. And he looks like he’s pedaling a Schwinn, not racing a Formula One car.

Can I sonar blast him?

No, Canuck, you can’t.

Awwwww….this Guardian League is no fun.

So sayeth the “resident guardian sage.”

Hey, don’t go jumping all over Canuck like that. You have something against Canada?

Settle down, Canadien. You might be a big deal as the legendary protector of Quebec, but don’t get your bleu, blanc, et rouge in a bunch.

Hey guys…guys…look. I got a new weapon.

Uh, Blue Jacket, we know you are supposed to have a dazzling array of weaponry, but this is bordering on creepy. What is it this time?

Hey, Blue Jacket, is that a large hadron collider in your pants, or are you just glad to be here?

Shut up, Lava Balls.

Make me!

Alright, that’s enough, Flame. I think it’s getting just a little bit tense in here.

I might be able to help with that, Capital.

Uh, yeah… Star. You’re the new one, aren’t you? Well, I understand you can manipulate magnetic tension fields, but let’s just hold off on that for now. You’re new here, and maybe you need to settle in. You got here in pretty good time.

The solar winds were with me.

That’s good. Now… ok, who took my notes?


Flyer! Practicing that telekinesis thing again, I see. OK, where’d you put my notes for the meeting? And will you PLEASE not bring that titanium eagle pet of yours to our meetings? He’s crapping all over the table.

Hey, let me clean that up…

Uh, thanks Sabre. Your being able to manipulate water comes in handy from time to time. Now guys, here’s the deal. We’re going to have 10 more Guardians joining the league soon, and…

I’m not giving up my chair.

No one is asking you to, Bruin. Besides, the last thing we want is to make you start roaring again and turning the whole operation a bunch of petrified statues. What I’m saying is…

Did we decide on lunch?


Now cut that out!

OK, OK…Shark, we’re not having sushi, we haven’t even…

I’d like some sushi…

Yeah, we know, Penguin. But that fish-breath of yours would stop a sea elephant.

I vote Tex-Mex.

You ALWAYS vote Tex-Mex, Flame.

Hey, what can I say, I like spicy hot food.

Just bottled water for me.

Bottled water for Sabre…now, can we please get on with our business? Now what’s the next item on the agenda?

First item, you mean…some chairman YOU are.

OK, Penguin, you think you’re the top dog around here just because Bettman likes you best, but you… hey, who’s flashing the lights on and off?....LIGHTNING!

I love that bit!

Makes a seven-foot tall bird just want to let out a sonic scream….

Law and Order

Yesterday the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with state law enforcement officials and agents, arrested more than 120 alleged members of the Mafia, including many reputed high-ranking members of the five “families” based in New York.

The arrests, the latest effort in a decades-long effort on the part of the FBI to crack down on organized crime, lifted the curtain a bit once more on the culture of organized crime and its affection for attention-grabbing nicknames. Names like Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo, Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo, and Richard “Ritchie Nerves” Fusco were caught up in the largest mob sweep in U.S. history.

The crimes of which these dozens of alleged criminals are accused are some of the more violent in the criminal code – murder, robbery, extortion -- in addition to other, lesser crimes. One of the mobsters charged is accused of killing two men over a spilled drink at a bar in Queens 30 years ago. Another is charged with killing a man and his dog in a 1992 break-in. Then there are the various “execution-style” slayings that are sprinkled among the charges.

It is a heinous group, indeed. But an anonymous source at the Justice Department tells us that the job is not yet complete. One more hood remains on the Department’s radar, but he has not yet been arrested owing to the Department’s efforts to ensure all procedures are followed to the letter so that no technicalities can be invoked to win his freedom from justice.

The unnamed source was quoted as saying that “for all the ‘Tony Bagel’s,’ Johnny Pizza’s,’ Jimmy Gooch’s,’ and 'Vito Love’s' we picked up*, and for all the unspeakable crimes they committed, this guy we’re waiting on might be the worst of all.” The source then went on to describe the crime on which he will be arrested – a night-time assault in a public place, a premeditated hit-and-run attack on an unsuspecting pillar of the local community that left him crumpled on the ground, and even now leaves him incapacitated. “The guy never saw it coming…wasn’t even one of the families, not even an American – just a good guy, what they call a ‘good Canadian boy,’ a hero in the community,” said the source.

Another source identified the alleged assailant… David “Davey Shoulder Pads” Steckel, reputed to be a member of a family independent of the five New York families -- “La Capsa Nostra.” Steckel – along with fellow family members such as Alex “The Butcher” Ovechkin, Michal “Mickey the Glove” Neuvirth, and Matt “Matty Stitches” Hendricks – has been under surveillance by law enforcement officials and the object of much media reporting since his alleged assault on January 1st.

*  These, by the way, are real names from the indictments.

s/t to Japers' Rink for linking to the article in the National Post

Who ARE These Guys?

Mathieu Perreault
Jay Beagle
Braden Holtby
Brian Fahey

All were in the lineup or made the trip with the Caps to Long Island last night.  Combined, they have played a total of 91 games this year...

...for the Hershey Bears.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of the Hershey Bears, here is one of the things that can make the game confounding.  On the one hand, the Bears have scored 132 goals in 40 games.  Their arch-rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have 139 goals in 42 games.  Bears...97 goals allowed.  Penguins...95 goals allowed.

And yet, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 17 points ahead of the Bears.

A TWO-point night -- Game 48: Caps 2 - Islanders 1

Now, wasn’t that better?

The Washington Capitals did something they have rarely done in recent weeks – they scored first. Jason Chimera’s tip-in of an Alex Ovechkin feed less than four minutes into the game started things off against the New York Islanders last night. Nicklas Backstrom scored on a rebound of an Alex Ovechkin shot in the fourth minute of the second period, and Braden Holtby made it stand up by turning away 24 of 25 shots to earn the 2-1 win over the Islanders last night in Uniondale, NY.

Not really much to say about this one. It was basic recipe for a win on the road. Get a lead, add to a lead, make other team play catch-up, choke off whatever opportunities they get, play smart and mistake-free hockey down the stretch. Bake for 60 minutes, serve up two points in the standings.

Other stuff…

-- Four little words. Go… to… the… net. That’s how the Caps got their goals last night. Nothing pretty. Jason Chimera charging down the middle as Nicklas Backstrom dropped the puck to Alex Ovechkin, who then sent it across for the tip in. Then, Ovechkin curled in on Islander goalie Rick DiPietro and got a shot off with Backstrom trailing right behind, putting himself in a position to swat the loose puck into the net before DiPietro could recover. Total distance traveled by the two pucks… 16 feet. About the distance from your recliner to your HDTV screen.

-- For the time being (and that is usually the operative clause in such things), this Jason Chimera on the top line thing seems to be working. He had six shots on goal for the game, twice as many as his linemates – the more renowned Alex Ovechkin (one) and Nicklas Backstrom (two) – combined. It’s called taking advantage of opportunities, both in terms of playing with such talent and in jumping into plays when attention is paid by opponents to that other talent.

-- Normally we would look at 44 total shot attempts and think, “where was the offense?” Not so much last night, and here is why. The Islanders ended up with more errant shot attempts (31 – 20 shots blocked and 11 misses) than shots on goal (25). The Islanders might not provide the highest caliber of competition, but nevertheless, the Caps played a fine defensive game in front of Braden Holtby.

-- Holtby was not called upon the make the ten-bell save. And in those 25 shots he faced, Holtby never had to face two Islander shots within ten seconds of one another. He had the opportunity to face the shots one at a time and have his teammates clear away the trash.

-- Continuing on that theme, the Islanders managed only three shots on goal in the last 13:51. Rather amazing considering that the Caps were busy defending a one-goal lead.

-- One of the reasons the Caps might have been able to deny the Islanders their offensive chances?... The Caps were 14-for-22 on faceoffs in the defensive zone.

-- Do Marcus Johansson’s faceoff numbers have to count? He was 0-for-6 in the circle. Take that away, and the Caps were 34 up and 15 down. Shoot, even Mathieu Perreault was 5-for-7.

-- For a guy who was iffy all the way up through the pre-game skate, John Erskine did alright. 15 minutes and four blocked shots for the game. OK, he did have a holding penalty.

-- And that was the flaw in this gem on defense. Six minor penalties taken, five of them of the obstruction variety (two holds, a hook, interference, and a tripping call). Better opponents take advantage of that.

-- But back to blocked shots. The Caps had 20, and Mike Green had more than a third of them (seven). Two of them came in the last minute of play, both on attempts by Kyle Okposo.

-- Could anyone play a quieter 22:31 than Jeff Schultz did last night? No points, no shots, no shot attempts, no hits, no turnovers, no turnovers created… oh, and no goals scored when he was out there.

-- And then there is Scott Hannan. Three hits, three takeaways, a blocked shot, and a plus-1. Hannan has not been a “minus” player since December 18th, a period covering 14 games (plus-5). This after being a minus player in six of his first eight games with the Caps (minus-9).

-- In the “lots of heat, but no light” category, there was John Tavares for the home team. Five shots on goal, seven attempts, a giveaway, a takeaway, a blocked shot, 15 draws taken (winning six). For all that, no points and a minus-1.

-- It’s not so much that the Caps had only two power plays, or that they had only four power play shots. It is that none of the four shots came from Ovechkin or Backstrom. One could like, so to speak, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson both getting opportunities from inside ten feet, though.

-- On the other side of that equation, allowing six power plays was a problem. But allowing only seven shots on goal on those six power plays over a full 12 minutes of time… not bad.

In the end, if you think “defense wins championships,” then this was the game for you. The Caps played a superior defensive game (absent the penalties). They gave their goaltender good looks at shots and kept the opponent from shooting in flurries. They choked the life out of the Islanders, holding them to a total of 14 shots on goal in the last 43:46 of the game. It was a welcome win, the Caps first road win indoors in 2011. It put them over .500 on the road at 10-9-3. That might not seem like much until you realize that the Caps were 14 games over .500 on the road last season. Now, do it again in Toronto on Saturday, and a 2-0-1 road trip will look pretty good, indeed.