Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Morning After the Meltdown

I must be the only person in the world who isn’t surprised that the Caps blew it.  I had a bad, awful feeling about the Habs-Caps matchup going into the series and I came out of it with that same bad feeling.  To put it bluntly, I hated the matchup.  The Habs had given Washington some trouble in the regular season, a bit more so than other playoff teams.  If you recall, it was the Habs who ended the Caps’ 14-game winning streak.  On paper, the Habs had no chance.  They were midgets playing against the league’s top-scoring team.  But they found a way.

Here are some reasons why I think the Caps blew their series and Alex Ovechkin’s Stanley Cup bid.

1 Jaroslav Halak. Yeah, I know, blame the opposing goalie because it makes everyone feel better about the Caps’ meltdown.  But in this case, Halak stole the series.  We really should have seen this one coming ever since he led Slovakia to their stellar fourth-place finish at the Olympics after dethroning the Swedes.  Also, Halak was pretty darn good in the last few games of the regular season.  Jacques martin probably looks like a genius for putting Halak back in.

2. Tomas Fleischmann. While everyone else was blaming the Caps’ struggles on guns, Mike Green and Alex Semin, Fleischmann silently choked.  He had a strong regular season, and I’d expected to see more out of him than he did.  I think he had, like, one lousy assist in the entire series.  To the so-called experts, it’s not all Greenie and Sasha’s faults; you need to blame Flash, too.

3. Lack of secondary scoring. Two of the big guns, Alex Ovechkin and Nicky Backstrom, did their jobs.  Each finished the series with ten points and plus players.  They did their job; the second, third, and fourth lines did not.  Well, let me rephrase that.  Everyone on the second, third, and fourth lines failed to convert except for Eric Fehr.  Fehr had a good series, but his linemates did not.  The only other secondary guy who was decent was Boyd Gordon who was a critical part in two shorties that should have changed the series.  Alas…they did not.

4. An atrocious power play. The really disappointing part of the Caps’ meltdown was that they scored one power play goal in the entire series.  A team that had the league’s number-one regular season power play should not struggle like that.  The Habs were undisciplined at times and they should have paid for it.

5. They fell into the trap. When you have a team that has amazing scoring, but not-so-amazing defense, you get the Washingotn Capitals.   The Caps fell into a trap against the Habs.  Montreal had better goaltending and more consistent defense.  An offensive team is nothing if you can shut them down like the Habs showed.

Bottom-line, the Caps shouldn’t have lost the series.  What they really need to do is get a shut-down defenseman who can get it done for them. Also, a good move wouold be to trade Alex Semin for Mike Ribeiro, but what do I know?  I’m a Stars fan. 😛

Season Grades: James Neal

I think that Neal had a good season, but he got streaky at times.  After he started out the seaosn with a literal bang, he kind of slowed down.

I blame it on the suspension.  We all remember the suspension, right?  Derek Dorsett of the Blue Jackets took an elbow to the back and went down in what had to have been the funniest hit of the year.  Neal got two games.  He just wasn’t right after that.

He went on to score a bunch of goals, sure, but I think that suspension did something to him.  It took away the gritty little touch that made him our little Real Deal and it was painful to see that.  I think he regained that toughness and grittiness towards the end, but it didn’t make up for the fact that he was a ghost of himself for a little while after the suspension.

Now, the suspension is obviously the biggest part of his individual seaosn, but there was a lot more than that.  There were times when he was simply amazing.  He didn’t have a sophomore slump, which is another plus.  I think we’ll see some really gret stuff from this kid in the future.

He did really well on a struggling Stars team, and I’m very surprised that he didn’t get the sophomore slump.  We can consider ourselves lucky for that.

Grade: B.  For dodging the dreaded sophomore slump and being a “Big Deal,” but for losing yourself after the suspension.

Season Grades: Brad Richards

I’ve taken awhile to come out with a season grades thing, and for good reason.  I gave it some time for my emotions to get back in check after that dramatic home finale that sent me to heaven.  I’m back now and ready to set the record straight.  Let’s kick it off with the Lady Byng nominee himself, Brad Richards!

B-Rad led the stars in points and assists this season and even came close to breaking Mike Modano’s franchise record for most points in a season(93). Instead, he tied his career best of 91, which isn’t too shabby.  The thing that kind of sucks, but alos kind of rocks, is that he played on a mediocre team and got all those points. 

The only real downer to Brad’s incredible was his plus-minus.  Ew.  It stunk.  He’s always had issues with that, but what are you supposed to do when your top center is also your most minus player?  I’d hoped that this would be the year he became a plus again, but I was wrong.  Then again, it’s just a goal to strive for next season, eh, Brad?

Now, people slammed B-Rad for his poor defensive play.  That’s not really fair because he’s not getting paid for good defense; he’s getting paid for good offense.  In Crawford’s system, forwards need to backcheck and all of our forwards didn’t really do that.

One thing I noticed about B-Rad this season, and is really kind of a silly thing to notice, was his little rebel streak.  Oh boy.  Remember his little tantrum in that red Wings game?  Whoa, B-Rad!  But nevertheless, he earned himself a Lady Byng nomination.

Grade: A.  For racking up the points and for his entertaining rebel impersonation.

Playoffs- All Tied Up!

So far, every series that has played two games is tied up.  The fate of this trend rests on the shoulders of the Chicago Blackhawks.  If they lose, they ruin everything.  But no pressure, Hawks.

Anyway, there were some exciting games yesterday, my favorite being the Caps-Habs Game 2.  After being down 4-1, the Caps rallied to win in overtime 6-5.  Nicky Backstrom and Andrei Kostitsyn each had a hat trick.  The last time each opposing team had a hat trick in one playoff game?  May 4, 2009 when Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby did it.

These are just some thoughts I took from the game:

-I saw some deja vu from Jose Theodore.  He was pulled by BB (Bruce Boudreau) after allowing two goals on that many shots.  Semyon Varlamov took over and cleaned up for Theo, much like he did last postseason.  It wasn’t a pleasant sight.

-All the talk about the play of Nicky and Ovie overshadowed the great game that American hero, John Carlson had.  Carlson tied the game late in the third that sent the game to OT.  It was oddly reminiscent of his World Jr’s goal.  Same shot, same fist-pump, same delirium.  Also overshadowed was Eric Fehr and the third and fourth lines of the Caps.  Fehr’s breakaways goal in the first period gave the Caps life and those lines kept them in the game.  I’m just giving them the credit they deserve.

-Mike Green is an overrated goat.  Watching him last night was like watching Matt Niskanen all season.  At one poin during the game I screamed, “NISKERS!”  before realizing that, no, it wasn’t Niskers, but Mike Green.  Greenie’s choking just like last year.

On Vancouver and LA…

-I was happy to see the young, widdle Kings win.  Most of them have never even played in the playoffs before.  It’s nice they got a win under their belt.

Awarding It Stars Style

So…another disappointing, not to mention frustrating, playoff-less season.  As much as that sucks, at least we can still have some fun and give some awards to the Stars who showed up this season.  Here we go…

Hart Trophy

Brad Richards.  The one we’ve come to call B-Rad had an amazing season.  Wanna know how amazing it was?  He was two points away from tying the franchise record for points in a season.  Two points.  That’s not to mention the fact that he had this stellar season after last year’s freak hand and wrist injuries.  The Stars might have finished with a lottery pick if it wasn’t for Brad.

Norris Trophy

Mark Fistric.  Fishsticks finished a plus-30 on the Stars.  To have such a great plus-minus on a bad team is always a good thing.  Then there’s the fact that he’s bad-ass.  I mean, he beat a guy up with his helmet and then got ejected for it.  What a rebel.

Runner-Up: Nick Grossman

Vezina Trophy

Kari Lehtonen. Turco was disappointing.  So was Alex Auld.  Kari Lehtonen was this bright little ray of sunshine that fell into our laps.  Kari played out fo his mind most of the time and he was really good. I think he’s the future.

Lady Byng

Mike Modano.  I think his moving ovation sums this one up perfectly.  Mo is the epitome of class.

You don’t see such an ovation for just any player.

Masterton

Brad Richards.  The Stars still have not named their nominee, but I’m hoping it’s B-Rad.  Flashback to March 29, 2009:  Brad broke his left hand in his first game back from a broken wrist.  That game ended the season for him and, essentially, the Stars’ chances to make the playoffs.  He had an incredible season after such a tragic string of injuries.  That’s what I call perseverance.

Other Trophies…

Rocket Richard- Loui Eriksson

Art Ross- Brad Richards

Jennings- Turco and Lehtonen

Well.  That’s all for now.  Go out and watch some more playoffs, alright?

Maybe next year will be our year…

It’s That Time of the Year.

Playoff time!  I know the Stars aren’t in it, but I watch the playoffs anyway.  Why?  Because there is nothing in sports like the NHL playoffs.

The playoffs bring amazing stories.  Think last year’s Cardiac Canes.  Ovechkin vs. Crosby.  Ray Bourque.  Cinco de Morrow.  Game 6 in Buffalo.  Unforgettable moments that you appreciate as a hockey fan.

Now, I’m not one to make predictions.  I’ll leave that one to the experts.  Rather, I analyze each team’s chances.  Here we go…

Washington vs. Montreal

Why Washington Will Win: They have the best offense in the entire league.  A team with such superstars as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin is bound to be.  They’ve shown in the regular season that you can win with pure offense.  Jose Theodore has fought personal demons (his son’s death) all year long and has a great chance to win the Masterton.  He’s seemingly back to his 2002 Hart Trophy form.  He’s had shaky playoffs in recent years, but who’s to say that that will continue?  The Caps are the real deal and I could see them winning not only this series, but the Cup.

Why Montreal Will Win: Special teams could spell a Habs victory.  Their powerplay is second only to the Caps’ and they have a much better PK than Washington.  Jaroslav Halak has been magical at times and he could steal the series.  Don’t count on the Habs taking the series, but you never know.  Stranger things have happened.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia

Why NJ Will Win: They have Martin Brodeur, pure and simple.  That should be enough to take a playoff series, don’t you think?  Having the awesomely amazing Jamie Langenbrunner doesn’t hurt, either.

Why Philly Will Win: They have a great regular season record against the Devils and that could very well translate to a postseadon victory.  Brian Boucher could steal the series, as he stole Game 1.  This series is an upset waiting to happen.

Buffalo vs. Boston

Why Buffalo Will Win: Besides the Ryan Miller factor, don’t you think they’re about due for a Cup?  I’ll maintain my position that it was a goal, but maybe there is a curse on Dallas.  You know, they won’t win another Cup until Dallas does.  I’m personally pulling for a Sabres Cup  for that reason.  It’s selfish, I know.  But I honestly like Buffalo and their chances.

Why Boston Will Win: Knowing Buffalo, something always goes wrong.  Always.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa

Why Pittsburgh Will Win: They’re the Pens.  They win everything.  Having Bettman and the rest of the NHL front office to back them up doesn’t hurt either.  The Pens can count on another postseason full of free calls, free everything.  It’s how they roll.

Why Ottawa Will Win: The Pens have played to the Cup final for two straight years.  That’s a lot of hockey and they could get tired quickly.  Wear and tear has already shown on Evgeni Malkin and others.  The Sens could take advantage of a flat Pens team and steal some games.  Like Game 1, for instance.  Plus, you’ve got the Brian Elliott factor.  Elliott’s a youngster and he could shine a la Cam Ward.

That’s my East analysis.  I’ll find some time to do a West one.

Make it happen.

This Is It

For Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen, tonight just might be it for them.  I’m hoping that it isn’t, as we all are, but the day we’ve been dreading for awhile might have finally arrived.

Face it: we all knew they’d have to retire someday, we just never really thought about when that day would come.  Those days of taking our guys for granted are long gone.  Tonight might be all we have left with them. 

It’s going to be gut-wrenching pain for me while watching the game tonight.  I just can’t bear the fact that this might be the end of an era.  It’s so sad.  I hate to say it , but Mo and Lehts are goners.  After such a great home finale on Thursday night, there’s no way they’ll play another year.  There’s just too much irony going on.

The fact that tonight’s game is Minnesota is a great story for the end of a career.  He’d leave the game of hockey in the best way possible: with a successful home finale and a final game back where it all started.  I’m selfish, you’re selfish, we’re all selfish; we want “one Mo year.” 

All I’m saying is that if this is really it, the game will have lost two fine, classy players in Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen.

To Mo, Lehts, Turco, and the other Stars who might be playing their final game in a Stas uniform tonight, I give you all an exuberant, “Thank you.”

Thanks for the memories, guys.  I’ll never forget the good ol’ days.

Let’s party like it’s 1999.  Make it happen.

Go Stars!