January 19th, 2011

Odds on the 2011 NHL All-Star Game

Courtesty of our friends at Bodog, here’s everything you need to know about betting on the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. Who knew that the draft format would create such a betting bonanza?

Who will win the 2011 NHL All Star Game?

Team Lidstrom -110
Team Staal -110

Who will be the first Player drafted in the 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft?

Alex Ovechkin 4/1
Henrik Sedin 4/1
Sidney Crosby 5/1
Steven Stamkos 7/1
Cam Ward 15/1
Daniel Sedin 15/1
Evgeni Malkin 15/1
Marc Staal 18/1
Mike Green 18/1
Zdeno Chara 18/1
Duncan Keith 20/1
Dustin Byfuglien 20/1
Jonathan Toews 20/1
Shea Weber 20/1
Jarome Iginla 25/1
Rick Nash 25/1
Tim Thomas 25/1
Anze Kopitar 30/1
Dan Boyle 30/1
Henrik Lundqvist 30/1
Marc-Andre Fleury 30/1
Martin St. Louis 30/1
Matt Duchene 30/1
Kris Letang 30/1
Patrick Kane 30/1
Patrick Sharp 30/1
Ryan Kesler 30/1
Brad Richards 35/1
Carey Price 35/1
Corey Perry 35/1
Jonas Hiller 35/1
Phil Kessel 35/1
Loui Eriksson 40/1
Claude Giroux 45/1
Patrik Elias 45/1
Ales Hemsky 50/1
Brent Burns 50/1
David Backes 50/1
Erik Karlsson 50/1
Tobias Enstrom 50/1

Who will be the last Player drafted in the 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft?

Ales Hemsky 11/2
David Backes 11/2
Claude Giroux 15/2
Patrik Elias 15/2
Loui Eriksson 17/2
Brad Richards 10/1
Corey Perry 10/1
Phil Kessel 10/1
Ryan Kesler 15/1
Anze Kopitar 20/1
Jarome Iginla 20/1
Martin St. Louis 20/1
Matt Duchene 20/1
Patrick Kane 20/1
Patrick Sharp 20/1
Evgeni Malkin 30/1
Jonathan Toews 30/1
Rick Nash 30/1
Sidney Crosby 35/1
Steven Stamkos 35/1
Alex Ovechkin 40/1
Daniel Sedin 45/1
Henrik Sedin 45/1

What team will get the first pick in the 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft?

Team Lidstrom -110
Team Staal -110

Will Henrik and Daniel Sedin Play on the same team?

Yes +200
No -270

Will Eric and Marc Staal play on the same team?

Yes +105
No -145

Will Sidney Crosby Play in the 2011 All Star Game?

Yes +115
No -155

December 16th, 2010

Some Thoughts on 24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic

I just finished watching the first episode of 24/7 Penguins Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic for the second time, and I’m already planning on watching it again.

Yes my friends, the show is that good, and if you’re a hockey fan who doesn’t already have HBO, you need to get in touch with your cable or satellite provider right now to address that oversight. If anything, episode one consistently exceeded my expectations. The cable outlet has another breakout winner on its hands, and the NHL should be thanking whatever god they pray to for being along for the ride.

The moment that kicked the show into overdrive for me was during Pittsburgh’s road trip to Buffalo, footage that was backed musically by the 70s hit, "Right Back Where We Started From," by Maxine Nightingale. It was an obvious nod to every hockey fan’s favorite film, "Slap Shot," and one that sent the message that the folks doing the series love and respect the game as much as its most ardent fans—a welcome change from the message national media outlets usually telegraph when it comes to their feelings about the game.

It was great to see hockey treated in a manner that we usually see reserved for other major sports. My colleague at The TV News, Jeff Grimshaw, says the key to shooting hockey for television is to eschew the traditional "eye in the sky" view for tight shots on the action, and HBO seems to understand that implicitly. So while you may have watched hockey in HD, few have ever seen it like this, which means while this series is a great reason to subscribe to HBO, it’s an even better reason to buy an HDTV if you don’t already have one.

But while it’s impossible to ignore what I saw last night, it was what I heard that couldn’t help but warm my heart. Sure, there have been plenty of times when players have been wired for sound during a game, but those audio tracks have usually been sanitized for a family audience. That’s not the case with 24/7. Instead, we get to eavesdrop on fights, meltdowns on the bench and players cursing under their breath after enduring a locker room tirade. We’ve always known that Washington winger Alex Ovechkin had a wicked sense of humor, but he kicked his reputation to a whole new level last night. After an official explained that teammate Alexander Semin had drawn blood after cross-checking Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles in the neck, a horrible lapse in judgment that earned Semin a game misconduct, Ovechkin deadpanned, "He (Liles) must have sensitive skin."

Considering his team was in the midst of a 12-game winning streak at the time, I’m not surprised that Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma was depicted as cool, cerebral and in control. Then again, through the lens of HBO, it was hard not to come away with the impression that Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau’s stock had crashed out of the NASDAQ and into the pink sheets.

That impression crystallized while watching footage of Sunday’s 7-0 loss against the Rangers. With his team down 3-0, Boudreau called timeout during the second period in order to rally his troops. After berating the team for demonstrating a lack of courage and strafing them with a string of F bombs, Boudreau wrapped up his rant with, "Let’s get our fucking asses out of our heads," a line that can only be described as "bass ackwards." One can’t help but wonder what Boudreau’s players thought of his malaprop.

After one episode, we have our storyline: one one side we have the Penguins, a team that already has a title, riding high and feeling confident. On the other, we have the struggling Caps, a team with a well established reputation for failing when it matters most, struggling to get things back on track.

After taking it all in, it’s impossible not to wonder how the show is playing inside each organization, especially here in Washington. In the past, if the Caps stumbled into a losing streak, the media attention would be negative, but not nearly as searing as it would be in a more rabid hockey market. But now, with expectations of success and television cameras recording their every move, ending the losing streak has become more imperative then ever before. Washington had a chance to alter the narrative last night, but still found a way to lose to Anaheim at home, 2-1 in overtime.

With six days left before the next episode airs, Washington has three chances to alter the storyline: first on Saturday in Boston, on Sunday in Ottawa and back home again against the Devils on Tuesday. As the losses continue to pile up, and the gap between Washington and the rest of the pack in the Southeast Division tightens, you have to start wondering whether or not collars are going to begin to tighten in Washington’s executive suite too. Stay tuned.

December 7th, 2010

Off Wing Opinion NHL Team Flip Video Camera Giveaway

Off Wing Opinion is happy to announce that we’re working with Cisco’s Flip Video to help launch the introduction of 30 uniquely designed NHL team Flip video cameras. And in the process, we’ll be giving away the Washington Capitals version of the camera to one lucky reader here at Off Wing Opinion.

Normally I turn down offers like this one, but given that I’ve used the Flip myself before to cover the NHL, I was inclinded to participate.  I’ve owned a Flip Mino since December 2008, and used it to cover the 2009 NHL Winter Classic in Chicago for FanHouse. The Flip went wherever I went when I was at Wrigley Field. It was easy to use and it performed flawlessly, especially during the game when I was shuttling between the press box and the stands in between periods to interview fans.

Here’s an interview I did with Detroit’s Darren McCarty after his first time on the ice at Wrigley. News of Claude Lemieux’s comeback with the Sharks had just hit the news, and given their history, I felt I had to ask McCarthy what he thought about it.

So how can you get your hands on one of the Flip NHL video cameras? One, you can buy one by going to theflip.com/nhl and plunking down $149. Barring that, you can always enter the contest here at Off Wing Opinion. Here are the rules: Tell me via the comments section below, on my Facebook page or to my Twitter feed how you would use your Washington Capitals-branded Flip NHL team video camera. I’ll select a winner at random from all of the entries that I receive by 6:00 p.m. U.S. EST tonight. And yes, entries from spam bots will be disregarded.

Below is the official announcement from my new friends at Flip about the NHL branded cameras. They’ll be sending me one as well, so look for a review of the camera here at Off Wing Opinion sometime in the next few days.

One of hockey’s most iconic phrases – “he shoots, he scores” may soon be replaced by “he shoots, he shares” – as Cisco’s Flip Video™, and the National Hockey League® (NHL) team up to offer 30 uniquely designed NHL team Flip video cameras. In addition, Flip Video will offer Facebook fans a chance to win Flip cameras and a trip to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover. Select NHL.com reporters will also receive NHL-branded Flip video cameras to capture all the hockey action on and off the ice.

Beginning December 7, fans can choose their own official NHL Flip video camera with a custom design from any one of the 30 NHL teams from the U.S. and Canada. A perfect gift for hockey lovers, the new Flip designs are available through the Flip Video online store: theflip.com/NHL. The NHL-branded Flips will be offered on all of the latest Flip video cameras including the Flip UltraHD, MinoHD and SlideHD*, starting at $149, for anytime shoot and share fun.

Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin are among the many celebrities and sports icons featured in the Flip Video 2010 holiday campaign ‘Do You Flip?’

“Flip is the only video camera on the market that consumers can customize and select from thousands of unique designs. Our ability to offer customization has enabled us to team with the NBA and now the NHL, which was a natural extension for our brand,” said Jodi Lipe, director of marketing for Cisco’s Consumer Products. “Whether it’s at the Stanley Cup Final or an afternoon snowball fight with friends, Flip video cameras are a fun and simple way to capture and share videos with friends and family.”

“Hockey fans are in a class of their own when it comes to diehard loyalty,” said Dave McCarthy, NHL Vice President Integrated Marketing. “Owning a Flip video camera representing their favorite team is a great way for fans to show support and more importantly have fun sharing their passion with fellow hockey fans and friends around the world.”

To help promote the new NHL designs, Flip is hosting a contest called the Flip Video Fan Face-off that will give away one grand prize trip for two to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina, January 30, as well as daily prizes of NHL-custom designed team Flips every day in December. Hockey fans can face-off for these cool prizes starting on December 9, 2010 at www.facebook.com/flipvideo.

Flip Video is the only video camera line to feature official designs from the NHL and all 30 NHL teams so fans can show their affinity for their favorite NHL team while shooting and sharing video with others at games, parties or events. Flip video cameras make it easy to share video via email, Facebook™, YouTube™, Twitter™ and even on a TV.

Cisco is also equipping the team of 20 NHL.com reporters with their own NHL logo Flip video camera to use as they travel to NHL games around the U.S. and Canada. With their official NHL Flips, the on-the-scene reporters will be able to greatly enhance their coverage by capturing video footage to post to the NHL.com web site.

All NHL team designs are available at www.theflip.com/NHL starting today at $149.

So what are you waiting for? Enter now!

UPDATE: Other stories from around the Web: NHL, Cisco, Renew and Extend Partnership.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Adam Vingan for winning the Caps FlipCam! Thanks to everyone for participating.

November 10th, 2010

On The 2011 NHL All-Star Game Format

I just saw the proposed format for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, and let me join the growing chorus of voices praising the decision to revamp the way that players and teams are picked.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I couldn’t be more flattered that the league has more or less adopted the format that I proposed back in November 2008.

I for one can’t wait to see how this all turns out.

UPDATE: In case you might have missed it, here are a few other ideas I posted over at Puck Daddy before the 2009-10 season that the NHL ought to adopt too.

October 20th, 2010

Vancouver’s Rick Rypien Attacks Fan in Minnesota

If there’s one thing that professional sports leagues don’t like, it’s seeing players get into altercations with fans. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that Vancouver’s Rick Rypien is staring down the likelihood of a major suspension after attacking a fan last night in Minnesota.

The incident came in the second period of a 6-2 Wild win, after Rypien was assessed a double minor for roughing and a game misconduct for a scuffle with Minnesota’s Brad Staubitz. As Rypien headed for the Vancouver locker room, he reached into the stands and attempted to grab a fan who was apparently heckling him.

In this clip, you can see the aftermath of the clash with Staubitz, followed by the actual incident. Afterwards, the fan and a companion of his were removed from the seats near the Canucks bench, but were allowed to stay in the arena and watch the game from some other choice seats.

While nobody should reach premature conclusions about exactly what happened between Rypien and the fan, the video shows that the fan was doing nothing more than applauding Rypien’s exit from the game—and that in fact it was Rypien who initiated the contact.  That’s something that’s a little easier to see in this fan video that uses a DVR to slow down the action:

Despite the fact that the NHL rulebook says that any altercation with a fan will result in an immediate ejection, Rypien actually returned to the Vancouver bench, though he never got back on the ice.  Safe to say, it’ll probably be a while before Rypien gets to watch the game from that close for a while.  Expect a lengthy suspension, and we probably won’t have to wait long before Colin Campbell lays down the law in this case.

UPDATE: Rypien has been suspended pending a hearing.

October 19th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Bruins, October 19, 2010

Green Thomas
Tim Thomas with the save as Mike Green slides. File photo by Pete Silver

I’ll be at Verizon Center tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Bruins.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  I ought to be up and running between 6:45 and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.  Hope you join me then.

POSTGAME THOUGHTS: Nobody like dropping a game at home (3-1), but there wasn’t a whole lot to complain about tonight when it came to effort.  The Caps got the lion’s share of the chances, outshooting Boston 36-21, and head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that the team played as hard in the first 10 minute as they had all season.  Unfortunately, the bounces weren’t going their way tonight—two great scoring chances melted away thanks to broken sticks—though you also need to tip your cap to Tim Thomas (18 saves in the 3rd period), who after all is a little more than a season removed from winning the Vezina Trophy.

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Alexander Semin’s play.  He let loose with a team high 10 shots on goal, and seemed to create a scoring chance every time he touched the puck in the offensive zone.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about why intimidation still has a place in hockey, and having defensemen who can engage in a physical battle in front of the net can be so incredibly important.  For an example of what I was writing about, be sure to watch the entire video of Milan Lucic’s goal.  I don’t mean to pick on Jeff Schultz, who is a solid all around defenseman.  He’s not a physical guy, and Lucic was able to take advantage in this instance.

Special teams continue to be a good news/bad news proposition.  The penalty kill continues to be perfect as Boston went scoreless on four chances with the extra man.  Without Mike Green in the lineup, Washington’s power play can’t help but be hobbled, and it went scoreless in four chances.

The big question tonight was about Michal Neuvirth, who was lifted just 12:42 into the game after giving up two goals.  It turns our Neuvirth has the flu, and Boudreau admitted after the game that he had no idea anything was wrong until Neuvirth complained of dizziness and a headache.  While Neuvirth didn’t say anything beforehand, it’s clear that Boudreau didn’t seem terribly upset, noting that he understood why a competitor like Neuvirth would prefer battling through an illness instead of sitting out.

Semyon Varlamov was more than adequate in relief, stopping 13 of 14 shots.  Only a Matt Hunwick shot from just inside the blue line eluded Varlamov, a shot that he simply couldn’t see through a Boston screen.  As for who will start Thursday in Boston, Boudreau wouldn’t say.

If there was one silver lining, it was seeing Marcus Johansson get his first NHL goal and first NHL point in the second period.  Matt Hendricks did a great job on the forecheck to keep the puck below the goal line. Jason Chimera picked up the loose puck and popped it onto Johansson’s stick as he the rookie cut to the net on the right wing side.  After the game, the kid said he didn’t know where the puck was, but that he’d be sure to keep it.

If you’re filling out a fight card, tonight’s game had what you were looking for with a pair of tilts: Matt Hendricks vs. Greg Campbell and John Erskine vs. Lucic.  With his fight, Lucic snagged a Gordie Howe hat trick.  We were almost treated to a heavyweight bout in the first period when it appeared that DJ King and Zdeno Chara might rumble, but it didn’t materialize.

October 15th, 2010

Glendale Learns Lesson in Municipal Financing the Hard Way

Whatever you might have to say about whether or not moving the Winnipeg Jets to Arizona was good for the NHL or the game of hockey, there should be no doubt that the experiment with the Phoenix Coyotes has been part of an unmitigated disaster for Glendale, Arizona.

I say that after reading a tweet from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail that Glendale is going to have to make up the difference in the purchase price for the Coyotes between what the NHL is demanding and what prospective new owner Matthew Hulsizer is willing to pay.  It’s just another financial blow for the Phoenix suburb that had such high hopes when it decided to turn itself into a regional sports mecca with facilities for hockey, baseball, basketball and football.

As of today, Glendale’s total municipal debt for its sports facilities stands at a staggering $500 million. According to the Arizona Republic, by the time the debt is completely paid off, the actual cost of the borrowing will be more like $1 billion. Unfortunately, Glendale doesn’t have much of a choice but to cough up the dough to keep the Coyotes in town, as losing the team as a tenant at Jobing.com Arena could put the city’s credit rating at risk.

Granted, no one could have predicted that the nation would be suffering from the sort of economic contraction it has been enduring in recent years.  Still, the story of Glendale ought to serve as an object lesson to cities around the country as to what the worst case scenario is in terms of downside risk when you use future tax reciepts as collateral on loans to build stadiums and arenas.

October 13th, 2010

Why Do Sportswriters Want to Force Older Athletes Out the Door?

Yesterday in the New York Times, Bill Rhoden used an entire column to publicly lament the fact that Brett Favre didn’t have the decency to retire from the NFL before his legacy was tarnished.  That led Slate‘s Jack Shafer to point out how all too many sportswriters seem to want to push older athletes out the door and into their dotage.

Then again, maybe not everyone feels that way.  All the way back in 2002, I wrote the following when more than a few reporters were telling Mark Messier it was time to hang up the skates:

When you get to the point where Messier is in his career, it isn’t long before you start to hear calls for retirement from sports writers who never spent a moment of their lives upright on a pair of skates with a stick in their hands. We begin to hear calls for protecting the "legacy" of one’s career, and not wanting to sully the "memory" of their greatness with a few sub-par seasons during the time when there are fewer days ahead than behind.

Well, screw that. If Messier wants to play, I hope he does until Rangers management has to pry the skates off his cold, dead feet. And if that means some punk in the Rangers farm system needs to cool his heels, or more likely, work that much harder to break into the NHL, then fine by me too. Messier is simply one of the greatest ever to play the game, and every day he’s with us, the league is better off. Welcome back Mark, even if it is for only one more year.

As it would turn out, Messier would play for two more seasons, driving Rangers management batty in the process as his decision made doling out ice time all the more problematic. But the point still holds—Messier went out on his own terms and his own schedule, not one dictated by a sportswriter looking to fill some extra column inches.

October 13th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Islanders, October 13, 2010

Backstrom Roloson
Nick Backstrom and Dwayne Roloson from Nov. 2009. Photo by Pete Silver

I’ll be at Verizon Center tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Islanders.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  I ought to be up and running between 6:45 and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.  Hope you join me then.

POSTSCRIPT: The story tonight was a lot like it was against Ottawa on Monday: Caps allow an inferior team to hang around until Alex Ovechkin saved the day.  Some other thoughts:

  • Nicklas Backstrom might have scored the game winning goal and been named the first star of the game, but it was Michal Neuvirth who won the coveted hard hat from his teammates.  The rookie had 23 saves on 24 shots, and came up big more than a few times, perhaps no bigger than when he stopped Matt Moulson on a breakaway in the third period.  "I was just trying to stay patient. That was a big save for us," said the beaming rookie after the game.
  • Head coach Bruce Boudreau resisted the bait when asked about a budding goalie controversy, making it clear that Semyon Varlamov would play once he was ready, but that Neuvirth was clearly making the case in these first four games to keep the job himself.
  • Speaking of Backstrom, he finally broke through and got his first points of the season, assisting on Ovechkin’s game-tying goal and getting a tip in for the game winner.  Separated from Ovechkin by Boudreau in the first period, the pair were reunited in the second when the team woke from its slumber to put 15 shots on net—with the big strike being Ovechkin’s shot that beat Dwayne Roloson to the glove side to tie things up.
  • Boudreau took a timeout after a Blake Comeau penalty to stress to his team that they needed to simplify things on the power play.  Boudreau said that when his power play isn’t working he likes to fall back on his father’s advice: shoot the puck wide and look for tips.  He got what he was looking for with an Ovechkin cannon shot from just inside the blue line that deflected off Backstrom’s leg for the game winner.  The  score was just the second power play goal of the season on 17 chances.
  • As much as the power play has struggled, the penalty kill, one of the areas of concern in the offseason, continues to be perfect.  Opponents have had 15 power play opportunities against Washington this season and have yet to score.
  • DJ King got on the score sheet with his first fighting major of the season, a tussle with Trevor Gillies just 2:47 into the first period.  The locals were clearly pleased.

  • While the Islanders don’t ice the same level of talent Washington does, head coach Scott Gordon clearly gets everything he can out of his young lineup.   They outhit the Caps and won 59% of their faceoffs. Considering that the Islanders were without power play quarterback Mark Streit, former #1 pick Jonathan Taveres, suspended defenseman James Wisniewski and winger Kyle Okposo, they acquitted themselves well.  While they’re missing plenty of talent, it’s clear the Islanders have a very simple system and they execute it well.  Against about 28 other teams in the league, that’s going to be enough, but not tonight.
  • Mike Green left the game in third period and didn’t return.  Boudreau told the press after the game that Green suffered a stinger, and is "day-to-day."  Check out the video for the sequence where he got hurt:

October 11th, 2010

Hockey Night in Washington: Caps vs. Senators, October 11, 2010

Caps Sens Action
Washington’s Eric Fehr and Ottawa’s Chris Kelly. Photo by Roland Pintilie

I’ll be at Verizon Center again on my couch tonight tweeting live during tonight’s game between the Caps and Senators.  Click here for a link to my Twitter feed.  Looks like Michal Neuvirth is getting the start in goal tonight for Washington.  In the meantime, here are some previews from around the Caps blogosphere.

Capitals Insider
Ottawa Citizen
Mike Vogel
CSN Washington
Caps Message Boards
Peerless Prognosticator
Live in Red
Red Line Station
Sports Network

See you sometime between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.

END OF FIRST PERIOD: CAPS 1 SENS 0: We’ve been told over and over again that there’s no substitute for hard work, but a combination of talent and a little bit of good luck came together to give Washington its 1-0 lead.  Put simply, the puck squirted free from a scrum deep along the left wing boards and ended up on Alexander Semin’s stick right on the doorstep of the Ottawa goal.  Looking at nothing but net, Semin wristed in the puck for his first goal of the season.

But while the Caps might be on top on the scoreboard, the play on the ice has been more even.  While the Washington PK kept a clean sheet in three opportunities, Ottawa had more than their fair share of good looks at the net.  Your goalie is always your most important penalty killer, and that’s been the case thus for for Washington, as Michal Neuvirth kept coming up with big saves during Ottawa’s three power plays.  But while he was getting the stops, he wasn’t getting a lot of help from his teammates.  It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Neuvirth either, as he gave up more than his fair share of juicy rebounds that Ottawa couldn’t manage to capitalize on.

END OF SECOND PERIOD: CAPS 2 SENS 1: While the teams traded tallies this period, the story of this game continues to be Neuvirth, who has 22 saves on 23 Ottawa shots.  Though the Senators only had 10 shots on goal in the period, they’re generating good scoring chances, and Neuvirth continues to have to bat away shots from point blank range.  The Sens tied the game at 9:57 when Jarkko Ruutu deflected a Matt Carknet shot from the right point into the net.  The Caps responded just two minutes later when Matt Hendricks passed the puck from behind the net onto the stick of Eric Fehr, who skated into the slot uncovered.  He tapped the puck into an open net to give Washington a 2-1 lead.  The PK continues to get the job done, killing off another pair of Ottawa power plays.

END OF THIRD PERIOD: CAPS 2 SENS 2: Credit the Senators for playing smart hockey with more than a dash of tenacity.  The game was tied at 7:20 of the third period by BC grad Ryan Shannon on the prettiest goal of the night.  Peter Regin might have been pinned against the left wing boards, but he somehow managed to get the puck to Shannon, who split the Washington defense, cutting past John Carlson and putting the puck past Neuvirth.  The story for the rest of the period was Washington’s continued futility on the power play, now just 1-for-13 on the season.  The Caps had a pair of chances in the third, but couldn’t cash in on either of them.

OVERTIME: CAPS 3 SENS 2: All night long the Caps let an inferior team hang in the game, only for their captain, Alex Ovechkin, to save their bacon again.  With just :32 left in overtime, Ovechkin sent a wrist shot through Pascal Leclaire’s five-hole to give Washington a 3-2 victory.  Over the course of a season, talented teams manage to win plenty of games like these when they’re outplayed by a more disciplined team.  Here’s hoping we see this scenario less often over the course of this season.

October 11th, 2010

All the Fights From the Third Period of Saturday’s Caps-Devils Game

In case you missed it, here’s a reel of all of the fights from the third period of the Caps-Devils game from Saturday night. While I’m sure a certain set of folks got the vapors after watching the festivities, I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed myself this much since the Caps-Thrashers throwdown in November 2006.

October 9th, 2010

Caps Right Ship, Open Home Schedule with 7-2 Romp Over Devils

Caps Celebrate 100910
There was a lot to cheer about during the home opener. Photo by Pete Silver.

You could be forgiven if after one period of tonight’s game between the Caps and Devils if you were wondering if the home team was ever going to get its act together and start playing hockey again. 

Heading into the locker room after one period the Caps were staring at a 2-1 deficit. To be charitable, they had just played their fourth straight period of lackluster ice hockey, and this time they were doing it against a team best known for taking care of business in their own end in front of a goalie bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Fast-forward just one period later, and everything seemed right with the world again after the Caps scored four goals on just eight shots on their way to a 7-2 win.  In the process, they chased Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and shamed a historically disciplined Devils team into gooning things up in the last five minutes of the game. 

The end of the third period was most entertaining, as it included a sequence of four fights that began with Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk dropping the gloves with Mike Green, and ended with Devils winger Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond jumping Caps rookie Marcus Johansson.

Some thoughts:

  • After the game, head coach Bruce Boudreau told the press that Alex Ovechkin took a lot of heat as the coaching staff reviewed the video tape from Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Atlanta. Ovechkin clearly took it to heart, tallying three points on two goals and an assist, including scoring on a penalty shot where he beat a lunging Brodeur to his glove side.
  • Alexander Semin continues to impress, using his stick handling skills in close quarters to keep plays alive in the offensive zone—never more so than when his hard work behind the Devils net in the second period led to a Tomas Fleischmann goal that tied the game 2-2.
  • After having a brutal first period where one of his giveaways led directly to a Devils goal, rookie Marcus Johansson settled down and started flashing some of the skill that led the coaching staff to keep him on the big club instead of sending him down to Hershey. He even got to be the center of attention late in the game when he twice refused to fight Letourneau-Leblond, but got mugged anyway.
  • The Caps were perfect on the penalty kill, killing four Devils opportunities on the night.  But the unit had its best moment at even strength when moments after a penalty to Jason Chimera expired, Fleischmann hit him with a pass as he popped out of the penalty box.  Chimera streaked in alone on right wing and put a wrist shot past Brodeur to stretch the lead to 4-2.
  • Fleischmann has taken a lot of heat from Caps fans, but he’s made the most of his first two games centering the second line, posting a goal and a pair of assists in two games. Despite the points, Fleischmann still doesn’t seem to have what it takes to win battles along the boards, but you can’t deny his skill, especially not after the tape to tape pass that sprung Chimera.
  • Defenseman John Carlson continues to look like he belongs nowhere else but in the National Hockey League, getting Washington’s first goal and adding a pair of assists. It was the first multi-point game of his career.
  • Michael Neuvirth got his first win of the season and kept the game close while his teammates were stripping their gears in the first period.  But Neuvirth’s best work probably came in the second period when he turned aside 17 Devils shots. If the Caps care about their goalie, they’ll start doing a better job in their own zone, lest the rookie get overwhelmed.
  • The close of the game was simply bizarre. With the game already over at 7-2, Kovalchuk sought to put a charge into his teammates by challenging Mike Green to a fight. Not much was solved as the two twirled for a few moments before both falling to the ice, but the Devils bench took it as a signal to ride to the sound of the guns.
  • Next up were Matt Hendricks and Rod Pelley, a pair that fought to an unsatisfying draw. The third tilt featured Matt Bradley against Devils tough guy David Clarkson. Bradley, who had been on the wrong end of a few beatings last season brought the home crowd to its feet when he took down Clarkson with a solid right.

All in all, it was just the sort of night the team needed to wash away memories of a dog of a season opener.

POSTSCRIPT: New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov was struck in the face shield by a Nicklas Backstrom slap shot in the first period. The shot broke Volchenkov’s nose and sent him to the locker room bleeding.  Later, the Devils reported that Volchenkov required eight stitches to close the wound, but that he still expects to play in their next game on Monday.

October 9th, 2010

Caps Win 7-2: Through the Lens of Pete Silver

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John Carlson celebrates a first period goal. Photo by Pete Silver.

We’ll have a game recap in just a bit, but for now, take a look at some of the shots that OffWing Photo’s Pete Silver shot during tonight’s 7-2 win over the Devils. Click here for the entire set.

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Matt Bradley delivering the punch that felled Dave Clarkson.
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Matt Hendricks tangles with Rod Pelley.
October 9th, 2010

Tweeting Live From Washington Capitals Home Opener

Just a reminder that I’ll be tweeting live from the press box at the Verizon Center as the Washington Capitals take on the New Jersey Devils starting at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.  Click here for my twitter feed.

October 9th, 2010

Gretzky’s Oldest Son Commits to Play Baseball at San Diego State

Trevor Gretzky, the oldest son of NHL icon Wayne and his wife Janet, has committed to attend San Diego State University on a baseball scholarship.  From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

"The campus is beautiful and the program stood out to me," said Gretzky, son of NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky. "All the coaches were great. Both of us have the same goals, to make it to the College World Series."

Not mentioned anywhere in the article is that the son of a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame will be managed at San Diego State by a member of the Baseball Hall of FameTony Gwynn.

October 8th, 2010

Steve MacIntyre Fights Raitis Ivanans

Edmonton took its home opener from Calgary last night, 4-0, a victory that was punctuated by the following tilt between Steve MacIntyre of the Oilers and Raitis Ivanans of Calgary.

Boy, these two really like to go, don’t they?

October 7th, 2010

Why Intimidation Will Always Have a Place in Hockey

This morning at Box Seats at the WaPo, Ryan Cooper is proclaiming that "Old Time Hockey is Dead:

The game has changed. Now more than ever, you need defensemen who practice special integrity (hey, that sounds like Jeff Schultz! But he doesn’t hit! Booo!!), can clog the middle, box out the forwards down low and block shots. You need an ultra-aggressive penalty kill like Philadelphia’s and Montreal’s (thankfully the Capitals are starting to do this). You don’t need slugs that can’t skate and are only there because someone thinks they’re “tough.” That era is over.

I have a hard time arguing with anything Ryan says about how the way the game is played these days. Hockey has become something of a different — and better — game since it emerged from the lockout.  Then again, regular season hockey and playoff hockey are two entirely different things.  For a reminder, click here for a highlight reel of Sidney Crosby’s goals against the Caps in their epic 2009 playoff series.

When you watch goal after goal, it’s impossible not to notice that Crosby, a man who is celebrated for his incredible skill, scored many of his goals that series down low within a few feet, or even inches, of the goal crease.  And it’s impossible not to notice that in many of those cases, Crosby was more or less unmolested as he tapped, poked and slashed at rebounds for score after score.

And if old time hockey is gone for good, you might want to check in with players like Mike Knuble, Tomas Holmstrom and Erik Cole — and be sure to chat them up immediately after the final whistle as they’re nursing multiple bumps, bruises and contusions from the hits they’ve taken as they’ve tried to stake out real estate in front of the enemy net.

So what’s the lesson here?  Well, it would seem that for all of the rule changes we’ve seen in the NHL since the emergence from the lockout, physical play still has a place in the game.  Yes, we need folks who can skate, are skilled and are disciplined enough to play sound positional hockey.  In too many quarters, those sorts of skills are undervalued.  But we also still can use people with some muscle who can put a body on the puck carrier.  What teams don’t need, and what we see less and less often, are folks who are one dimensional and serve as a drain on resources both on the bench and on your payroll.

One last thought: in the five finals since the resolution of the NHL lockout, Chris Pronger, generally agreed upon by observers of the game to be the meanest SOB in the valley, has played in three of them for three different teams.  It’s funny how people keep trading for him.  Here’s his stat line for those three playoffs:

2006: 24 GP 5G 16A +10 TOIG: 30:57
2007: 19 GP 3G 12A +10 TOIG: 30:11
2010: 23 GP 4G 14A +05 TOIG: 29:03

When you have one defenseman on your blue line who is able to play around 30 minutes per night and puts the fear of God into forwards everywhere, a lot of other problems take care of themselves.  Ask Tomas Holmstrom.  He’ll tell you.

October 7th, 2010

Caps Goalie Semyon Varlamov Moved to IR

I had my nose deep into something else for most of the evening, so it was close to 10:00 p.m. here in the D.C. area before I caught wind of the news that the presumptive #1 goalie for the Washington Capitals this season, Semyon Varlamov, was headed to IR with an undisclosed injury.

Like plenty of other folks I’m sure, my first reaction wasn’t terribly positive.  Of all the "burning questions" (and can we please banish that metaphor from pre-season hockey writing forever?) being asked about the 2010-11 Washington Capitals, the only one I was really concerned about was goaltending.  As young and promising as Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are, it’s impossible for me to ignore the fact that neither of them has played a full season free of injury at the NHL level. 

In fact, when I think of Neuvirth and Varlamov, I can’t help but recall another talented pair of young and promising goalies who started the 1995-96 NHL season splitting time in Colorado — and we all know how that turned out.

Given Varlamov’s injury history, it’s understandable that folks would be concerned.  Then again, given that the severity of his injury is unknown to us for the time being, concern is really all we should be feeling right now.  Neuvirth will start Friday night in Atlanta just as the coaching staff has been planning for about a week now, and they’ll reserve the right to call on Dany Sabourin on Saturday night against the Devils at home. 

Please recall that Sabourin played respectably for the Penguins over the course of two seasons, and I don’t doubt that he’d be able to do the same in limited duty behind a Capitals team that is as strong as any he’s ever played behind.

So go back to what you were doing, and get busy counting down to Friday night again.  After all, a year from now this whole thing may be just a footnote in a highlight film or just another obstacle that a young and talented team had to overcome on the way to a championship.

If the situation remains unchanged a week from now with no promise of improvement, give me a call and bring the scotch with you.  It’s then that we may have something to discuss.

UPDATE: Corey Masisack reports that it’s a groin injury.  Varlamov says he’ll be ready in a week.

October 6th, 2010

Sheldon Souray to Hershey

I couldn’t quite believe the news either when I first read it today, but it’s official: former Edmonton Oilers defenseman and salary cap casualty Sheldon Souray is going to be setting up shop with Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Before anybody gets to thinking that this move might mean that Souray could eventually find his way to Washington, you can forget it — TSN’s Bob McKenzie has already poured a bucket of cold water on the idea.  Then again, for the locals who are used to life with George McPhee as general manager, we know there isn’t any way that the Caps would sacrifice almost $3 million in cap space and better than $2 million in salary — after splitting the total with Edmonton — it would take to get him onto the roster.

In terms of talent, Hershey doesn’t need Souray.  The Bears have been to the Calder Cup Finals three times in the last four years, winning twice, including 2010.  Last season on the way to the championship, the Bears won 60 games, reeled off a 12-game winning streak and a 24-game home win streak.  And while the Bears have lost a number of faces from that team because they’ve been promoted to Washington, John Carlson and Karl Alzner most prominently, the rest of the team is literally loaded with talent from years of smart drafting and developing.

After taking a trip of my own to Hershey last season, it’s clear this is a team that has an identity all its own over and above any affiliate agreement it might have with an NHL franchise.  One walk through the locker room after the game I saw last Spring pretty much convinced me of that, and you’d think the same way too after looking at decades of team photos that cover the walls of the bowels of the Giant Center in Hershey. 

What this move is about is business. The Bears are indirectly owned by the Hershey Trust, and everyone in town knows that the team is operated to return a profit to its parent company and the trust.  Coming off a championship season, Souray will help put people in the seats early in the season.  Better still for Edmonton, putting him here in the U.S. with the AHL affiliate of one of the top teams in hockey means that Souray is going to have people watching his performance very closely — something that could very well help him get moved all the quicker if some team can clear the cap space.

Tim Leone, along with John Walton one of the authorities on Bears hockey, indicates that Josh Godfrey has been sent down to South Carolina in the ECHL to make room for Souray, while also reporting that the team will be picking up a small portion of his AHL salary.  As for Souray, he’ll wear #7 and is expected to be at practice on Friday.  I think I might have to take a trip up there and soon.

October 4th, 2010

2010-2011 NHL Regular Season Points Over/Unders

This may be the most interesting bet that Bodog.com passed on to me: over/unders on points in the regular season:

2010/2011 Regular Season Points Over/Unders
Anaheim Ducks 88.5
Atlanta Thrashers 83.5
Boston Bruins 100.5
Buffalo Sabres 91.5
Calgary Flames 92.5
Carolina Hurricanes 86.5
Chicago Blackhawks 106.5
Colorado Avalanche 89.5
Columbus Blue Jackets 79.5
Dallas Stars 88.5
Detroit Red Wings 102.5
Edmonton Oilers 76.5
Florida Panthers 71.5
Los Angeles Kings 100.5
Minnesota Wild 85.5
Montreal Canadiens 87.5
Nashville Predators 89.5
New Jersey Devils 101.5
New York Islanders 78.5
New York Rangers 87.5
Ottawa Senators 87.5
Philadelphia Flyers 97.5
Phoenix Coyotes 92.5
Pittsburgh Penguins 104.5
San Jose Sharks 103.5
St. Louis Blues 93.5
Tampa Bay Lightning 92.5
Toronto Maple Leafs 84.5
Vancouver Canucks 106.5
Washington Capitals 108.5

October 4th, 2010

Odds to Win the 2011 NHL Western Conference

As always, thanks to Bodog.com for all of the information.

Odds to win the 2011 Western Conference
Chicago Blackhawks 3/1
San Jose Sharks 5/1
Vancouver Canucks 5/1
Detroit Red Wings 6/1
Los Angeles Kings 8/1
Calgary Flames 16/1
Anaheim Ducks 18/1
St. Louis Blues 18/1
Colorado Avalanche 20/1
Phoenix Coyotes 20/1
Dallas Stars 25/1
Nashville Predators 25/1
Edmonton Oilers 40/1
Minnesota Wild 50/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 75/1

October 4th, 2010

Odds to Win the 2011 NHL Eastern Conference

As always, thanks to Bodog.com for all of the information.

Odds to win the 2011 Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh Penguins 3/1
Washington Capitals 3/1
New Jersey Devils 15/2
Philadelphia Flyers 15/2
Boston Bruins 17/2
Montreal Canadiens 15/1
Ottawa Senators 16/1
Buffalo Sabres 17/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 19/1
New York Rangers 33/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 33/1
Carolina Hurricanes 35/1
Atlanta Thrashers 40/1
New York Islanders 45/1
Florida Panthers 55/1

October 4th, 2010

Odds to Win the 2011 Stanley Cup

It’s that time of year again, and my friends at Bodog.com just rang me up with a whole raft of odds on the 2010-11 NHL season.  We’ve got plenty of stuff, but I’ll start with the odds to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.  As always, these numbers are provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be used in connection with any cash wager.

Odds to win the 2011 Stanley Cup

Chicago Blackhawks 6/1
Washington Capitals 13/2
Pittsburgh Penguins 7/1
Vancouver Canucks 8/1
Detroit Red Wings 11/1
Boston Bruins 14/1
Philadelphia Flyers 14/1
San Jose Sharks 14/1
New Jersey Devils 15/1
Los Angeles Kings 16/1
Montreal Canadiens 25/1
Buffalo Sabres 26/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 30/1
Anaheim Ducks 35/1
Calgary Flames 35/1
Ottawa Senators 35/1
St. Louis Blues 35/1
Colorado Avalanche 40/1
New York Rangers 40/1
Phoenix Coyotes 40/1
Dallas Stars 50/1
Nashville Predators 50/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 60/1
Carolina Hurricanes 65/1
Edmonton Oilers 75/1
Atlanta Thrashers 80/1
Florida Panthers 80/1
Minnesota Wild 80/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 100/1
New York Islanders 100/1

October 4th, 2010

Hockey Fight of the Weekend

Back when I was still at FanHouse, I used to post video from the hockey fight that received the best rating from the users over at HockeyFights.com during the previous weekend.  This weekend, the tilt that pinned the meter was this clash from last Friday night between Raitis Ivanans and Steve MacIntyre

For more details on the bout, visit the Edmonton Journal.

October 3rd, 2010

Thanks …

… To everyone who stuck around for the panel discussion on blogging at the Capitals Convention on Saturday.  I thought our moderator Nate Ewell and my colleagues, Jon Press from Japers’ Rink and John Keeley from On Frozen Blog, did an outstanding job.  Best of all, the questions that we got from the audience were all very thoughtful — including one question that I think ought to be addressed more fully.  Stay tuned later in the week for that.

Once again, thanks for sticking around and making it so worthwhile.

October 1st, 2010

Alex Ovechkin’s New CCM Commercial

I wish Alex could have added a dash of Mr. Burns when he said, "excellent," but it’s still a winner.

September 30th, 2010

See You at the Caps Convention on Saturday

For those of you who might have been wondering, I’m well aware that hockey season is almost upon us.  To get things off on the right foot, I’ll be in attendance at the 2010 Capitals Convention at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday.  I’ll be tweeting and posting photos and video, so be sure to keep an eye out.

While the event kicks off early (9:00 a.m. for season ticket holders and 10:00 a.m for everyone else), I’ll be sticking around all day long, finishing out the festivities by participating in a panel discussion on blogging with Jon Press of Japers’ Rink and John Keeley of On Frozen Blog at 6:00 p.m.  Hope to see everyone there.

September 11th, 2010


August 27th, 2010

The Continuing Saga of Bloggers and Press Credentials

It’s was a very long day for me for too many reasons to count, so it’s only been a couple of hours since I’ve had the opportunity to read a pair of posts by Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy (click here and here) concerning the resistance a number of NHL teams are putting up over credentialling bloggers to cover NHL games.

It’s hard not to feel a little fatigued.  It’s been nearly four years since I published these guidelines with the help of the Washington Capitals to help NHL teams figure out  which independent media practitioners they ought to be granting access to on a regular basis. 

It’s tough not to be a little bewildered too, as the NHL has been very good to me in this regard.  It credentialed me on two separate ocassions: first at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus and then again for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic in Chicago.  Even though I was representing FanHouse at both of those events, my credential was issued as if I was representing Off Wing Opinion.

If there’s one emotion I’m not feeling at all, it’s anger.  Even today, in 2010, not everyone reads blogs and not everyone fully understands the value of engaging with independent online media.  And in any case, getting angry won’t help anybody, but constructive criticism just might. 

Trust me on this.  Because before I got to my final cut on the media credential guidelines, somebody over at SportsJournalists.com posted my first draft in a discussion string over there.  While it’s safe to say that most of the peanut gallery there was less than friendly, you better believe I paid attention to what they had to say.  In the end, it helped me improve the final draft in many important ways.  I’m sure the folks at the NHL, many of whom monitor online chatter very closely, will take a look at what the online community has to say and take it into account when devising their own policy.

I do have a message for independent bloggers who have been watching this episode with growing alarm.  Your credibility is based on the trust you build with your readers everyday, not whether or not you have a laminated plastic badge hanging around your neck.  If you follow your passion and develop an audience, there will come a time when the powers that be have little choice but to let you inside the gate, if that’s what you really want.

Time, as they say, and for many of my blogging colleagues in their 20s this is especially the case, is on your side.

August 25th, 2010

Thanks SB Nation

Just a few minutes ago, I discovered that my entire archive of content from The Sporting News had been imported to SB Nation.  In the past, when I’ve worked for other online media outlets, I’ve seen my entire archive of content erased as if it never existed.  As I was discussing with Tom Ziller last night, on Twitter (click here and here)  preserving archived content means preserving landing pages for Google searches, eyeballs and revenue.

Even though the folks at SB Nation have an economic incentive to preserve my old work, I can’t help but say thank you.  Sure, they’re acting in their own self-interest, but given the actions of some of their competitors, it’s an enlightened self-interest.