Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Hockey Day in Washington

Today we here at TST took in the matinee game between the Washington Capitals and the hated Philadelphia Flyers. Impressions as follows:

``Nicklas Backstrom looks a thousand times more assertive than at the beginning of the season when he kind of looked a little tentative in coming to the NHL as a rookie from Sweden.
``We're not sure we like Alex Ovechkin playing the point on the powerplay. Sure, he's got the great shot to unleash from back there, but he's not a defenseman so there was a couple of times where he couldn't hold the puck in the zone (like a defenseman like Tom Poti probably should have been expected to). Plus, playing the point Ovechkin is banished--for the most part, to playing the perimeter and holding the blueline, where as if he was on his customary forward position he could float around more, especially towards the crease and have more free range to find the space granted by the man advantage to look for the quick shot or rebound.
``His great pass to Ovechkin aside, Viktor Kozlov did not have a very great game. He is skilled when he has the puck, but otherwise Kozlov seems to have the presence of nothing more than a ghost. This is not news to close observers of those who follow the Caps but it needs said, since it was painfully obvious. Hopefully when captain Chris Clark gets in better game shape (he had missed the past 18 games with injury) he ought be on the top line with AO and Backstrom.
``Milan Jurinca was incorrectly listed on the jumbotron as a healthy scratch which certainly provided a surprise WTF moment, as injured Tom Pothier and black sheep Steve Eminger were also the scratches.
``As well as Mike Green played rushing the puck up the ice and firing off shots at net, it seems like he still has some room for improvement that one must feel he has the ability to achieve in the years to come. Scary for opponents, for sure.

As an aside and addendum to JP's mini-rant of overheard fan talk in the stands, here's something that bothers me...

And, to note, this bothers me in more cities than just Washington....When fans yell "SHOOOOOT" seemingly every time a player has a little bit of room in the offensive zone. Lord knows this bothered me for many seasons in Pittsburgh when Alexei Kovalev (who was almost always amongst the league leaders in shots on goal) got the same unsolicited advice.
#1) These guys are professionals playing a sport for practically all their lives. They know when to fire the puck and when the chance of getting it on target is not there. You're just a middle-aged asshole drinking a beer in the stands who's probably never played organized, let alone professional, hockey before.
#2) In one situation where the guy beside me advised to shoot, sniper Alex Semin did (surely not because of the instantaneous prodding). The puck was easily blocked and cleared out of the zone. Quickly the "monday morning powerplay quarterback" was silenced. Your angle to the net is not what the highly skilled player has and he easily has more experience and knowledge of how to handle the situation. Which just goes to show; you may mean well for the team, after all it's hard to score if one doesn't shoot, but the players in the situation know a little bit better on how to handle the situation than you.

Whew. I feel a lot better now.

I was saddened to see one of our Atlantic division rivals (and Philadelphia at that) win at the expense of a team who wouldn't make the playoffs right now, but it is what it is. Although there was a vocal and obvious presence of visiting Flyer-trash fans, I would say they were a lot tamer and more quiet at the Verizon Center than when Pittsburgh came to town. And Buffalo too, for that matter.

All in all, an entertaining game to watch for the outside observer with 10 goals being scored, 1 fight and several big hits for both sides..

Now we turn our attention to tomorrow night's "nationally televised game" with the Penguins on Versus against the New York Rangers. Both teams should be well rested and ready to play, hopefully the Pens can come out strong and if someone other than Sidney Crosby could create some offense that would be awesome too.

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