Monday, April 01, 2013

Your Washington Capitals Fan Guide to April Fools' Day...Fools

It is April 1st, by custom referred to as “April Fools’ Day.”   One story of its origin has it beginning in ancient Rome, a part of “Hilaria” festivals celebrated at the start of spring to honor their “Great Mother.”  Today, it is an excuse to play practical jokes and perpetrate hoaxes on the gullible and unsuspecting among us.  All in the interest of good fun and, well, hilarity.

But given that April Fools’ Day comes so close to the trading deadline in the National Hockey League, chances are there will be a fair number of April Fool’s Day jokes made with this deadline in mind and with the intent of inspiring wailing and teeth gnashing among hockey fans who are on tenterhooks concerning their favorite teams’ intentions concerning possible trades.

So, as a public service from your Uncle Peerless, we bring you those things that are NOT going to happen over the next few days as the NHL approaches zero hour on trade deadline day…

  • Evgeni Kuznetsov will NOT receive permission from the Kontinental Hockey League to forgo the remaining term of his contract to join the Washington Capitals for their playoff stretch run.
  • Jeff Schultz and Marcus Johansson are NOT going to be traded for Martin St. Louis (except on hockey message boards). 
  • Ted Leonsis is NOT going to sell his hockey holdings to a consortium of bloggers calling themselves “Blogumental Sports.” 
  • Alex Ovechkin did NOT elope with Maria Kirilenko to points unknown after the game in Philadelphia on Sunday evening. 
  • Michal Neuvirth is NOT going to be traded to Phoenix for Shane Doan and the Coyotes’ number one draft pick in June. 
  • Mike Ribeiro is NOT going to be traded to the New York Rangers for Chris Krieder and the Rangers’ number one draft pick in June. 
  • The Caps are NOT trading Filip Forsberg to Florida for the Panthers first round draft picks in 2013 and 2014. 
  • George McPhee is NOT stepping down as general manager in favor of Jay Feaster so he can pursue his dream of a career in stand-up comedy. 
  • Monumental Sports is NOT announcing that they have a preliminary agreement with the NHL to host a Winter Classic outdoor game against the Ottawa Senators on the refurbished Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. 
  • Joe Beninati is NOT announcing that he is leaving CSN Washington to replace Drew Carey as host of “The Price is Right.” 
  • George McPhee is NOT going to announce that if the Capitals are eliminated from playoff contention, head coach Adam Oates will return to Hershey to team-coach with Mark French for the Bears’ playoff run. 
  • George McPhee is NOT going to announce that if Hershey is eliminated from playoff contention, Bears head coach Mark French will come to Washington to team-coach with Adam Oates for the Capitals’ playoff run. 
  • Alex Ovechkin will NOT auction off the stitches in his chin on eBay for charity (although he’d probably get quite haul). 
  • The Caps are not trading their entire 2013 draft pick package for Bobby Ryan. 
  • Craig Laughlin is NOT stepping down as a television analyst to be the voice of “Davy Jones’ ‘Locker’” on SpongeBob SquarePants. 
  • Mike Milbury is NOT giving Alex Ovechkin a set of brass balls as a wedding present. 
  • The Capitals are NOT secretly petitioning the league to be aligned into whatever division the Florida Panthers are in.
And there you have it, a short list of examples of the sort of April Fools’ Day jokes that need to be debunked now, before Caps fans go all “Caps fan” and indulge their well-developed sense of paranoia.  Consider yourselves warned.

Washington Capitals -- That Was The Week That Was: Week 10

Marking time.  That was what the week that was...was.  And from where the Caps stand, that just won't be enough to make up the points they need to reach the playoffs.  Making it worse was that it could have been a lot better.

Record: 1-1-1 (season: 16-17-2 (34 pts) / rank: 3rd SE / 11th East)

The Caps were, in a sense, “upside down” this week.  They lost at home to the New York Islanders, then they took three of four points on the road.  It made for the seventh consecutive non-losing week for the Caps over which they are 13-9-1.  That is a 96-point full season pace, but whether that pace is going to be sufficient to overtake three teams ahead of the Caps or Carolina and Winnipeg to win the Southeast Division.

Offense: 3.00/game (season: 2.86 / rank: 8th)

The Caps came from behind in all three games this week, three times overcoming two goal deficits, twice in the same game (against Buffalo).  The flip side of that is that the Caps got off to poor starts.  They had one first period goal for the week, shooting 1-for-29 overall (3.4 percent).  Ten different Caps shared in points this week, seven split the nine goals scored, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green each getting a pair.  The big number for the week (and we do mean “big”) is this” 44.  That is how many shot attempts Alex Ovechkin recorded in four games – 20 shots on goal, 13 shots blocked, and 11 missed shots.

Defense: 3.67/game (season: 2.89 / rank: T-20th)

The flip side of the Caps’ slow starts on offense was falling behind the eight ball in the first period with goals allowed.  Five of the 11 goals allowed this week came in the first period.  Three opponents shot 5-for-21 in the first period.  The shots allowed were not so much a problem – seven first period shots in each of the three contests – as much as it might have been…

Goaltending: 4.28, .875 (season: 2.85, .909, 4 shutouts)

Braden Hotlby played every minute this week, and one gets the feeling he needs a break.  He has figured in the last eight decisions for the Caps, going 5-2-1, but this week he struggled at times.  That .762 save percentage in the first periods of games put a lot of pressure on this teammates to spend a lot of effort coming back in games, and when that happens, a 1-1-1 record is what results, even against three teams that were behind the Caps in the standings. 

Power Play: 3-14 / 21.4 percent (season: 24.4 percent / rank: 2nd)

At some point, teams are going to adjust to what the Caps are doing.  But for the time being, the Caps’ power play is formidable – another 20-plus percent week.  One does wonder, though, if that point of adjustment is going to come sooner rather than later.  Of the last seven power play goals scored by the Caps, Alex Ovechkin has five of them.  He had two of the three extra-man tallies this week, scoring goals in the only two games in which he recorded power play shots (1-for-3 against both Buffalo and Philadelphia).  The takeaway on the power play this week might be the difficulty the Caps had with a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play against the Flyers.  They managed three shots on goal, but two of them were long range drives by Ovechkin.  The power play so formidable at 5-on-4 was not with the extra man off the ice for the Flyers. 

Penalty Killing: 6-8 / 75.0 percent (season: 77.0 percent / rank: T-27th)

The Caps were one power play goal from being pretty good this week.  It was that one puck that squirted through Braden Holtby that was lying still in the crease that Ville Leino poked in for the Sabres that made the results for the week so-so.  But there was still the efficient 16-second power play the Flyers had, scoring just those few seconds after Troy Brouwer took a holding penalty with the Caps up two goals in Philadelphia.  The key remains for this team to stay out of the box, because mechanically they are not a very good penalty killing team.

Paying the Price: 57 hits / 42 blocked shots (season rank: 23rd / 12th)

The thing here is that the Caps seem to be slipping through the rankings.  And the hits might be a bit of a concern.  Buffalo and Philadelphia outhit the Caps by a combined 57-35.  If might be hometown scoring effects at play there, but it is a fair question -- are the Caps going to be tough enough down the stretch?

Faceoffs: 89-for-170 / 52.4 percent (season: 50.7 percent / rank: 14th)

Winning is better than losing anywhere on the ice, but then again, it is hard to get too excited about the 52.4 percent result in the circle for the week.  The Caps were a combined 49.6 percent in the offensive and defensive ends, 57.9 percent on neutral zone draws.

Turnovers: minus-17

One word for this, “ugh.”

In the end…

The wheels were wobbly this week.  A loss in regulation to the New York Islanders – a thoroughly beatable team, a come-from-behind trick shot win over Buffalo, and an overtime loss to Philadelphia when they held a two-goal lead in the third period and a one-goal lead with 11 seconds left in regulation.  With the Caps on the wrong side of the playoff divide, it was not good enough.  And it was the third periods of the games beginning and ending the week that did them in.  Had the Caps at least held their own in those games, they would have forced extra time against the Islanders and won in Philadelphia.  That would have been two extra points, at a minimum, and the Caps would be in eighth place, one point ahead of the Rangers.  If “cautious optimism” were the watch words we spoke of as last week ended, after this week the obvious word that comes to mind is…