Saturday, March 29, 2008

Of Fans and Playoffs

It has occurred to me in the past few days that fans can be very misunderstood--by the media, their friends, family, etc., and most of all, by their fellow fans. Bear with me. You've heard the phrase, "Biting the hand that feeds it"? Now, to me, fans, especially fans who have gotten their first whiff of "playoff blood" for the first time in a long time, are prone to become more animalistic in their reactions than others. We're not used to it, we don't really know how to react. The closer the team gets to the playoffs, the more magnified the mistakes become, and the more the fans turn on each other and the team.
Take the Caps' fans Huet v. Olie debate. Now, there are folks on both sides, Huet is a better goalie, Olie's been here and deserves to have his loyalty rewarded, they work well alternating, etc. I personally have no opinion because I haven't really seen Olie's work pre-Boudreau. Both arguments have merit and both sides can see that. But as the new NHL marketing campaign says, "the Cup changes everything." We're not there yet, but the playoffs are so close, fans can taste it. Teams that are perennial contenders have fans that are rooting for them, but rabid? Eh, not so much. It becomes old hat, unless you keep making it in and then losing out, then you're the Toronto Maple Leafs, who make it in occasionally (last time was 03-04), but haven't made it to the finals in 39 seasons, when they ran the table in four of six years. To the Leafs fans, losing in old hat. But Caps fans haven't had a run in what seems like ages. Ten years? In sports, with the shelf life of a pro athlete sitting at about 15 years, (Chris Chellios not withstanding...retire already!! I watched you play as a kid and you were old then!) ten years is almost eternity. Washington has been to the Cup finals once in franchise history (30+ years).
This season has out-done itself in terms of heartbreak, absolute joy, and bitter frustration. Caps fans are getting a little rabid. Look at any Caps blog and you'll see the obvious, everyone would like to be GM. They're already signing players for next season, shipping some off to teams unknown, demoting some, pulling some up from the minors, and trying to force a select few into retirement, early or not. Thus is the nature of sports fans, not just Caps fans. Everyone thinks they can do it better. During football season, fans become "armchair quarterbacks", criticizing every poor throw, missed block, poor tackle. But I think that in hockey playoff season, fans take more to becoming "message board GMs.".
I missed the rebuilding years in DC. I've missed all those "bitter mistakes" GMGM made. But I also see the great things that are happening here. Its obvious to hockey fans in DC (and some non-fans), and its starting to become obvious to the rest of the league too.
I recently watched the behind-the-scenes clips from the Backstrom draft year. My estimation and respect for GMGM grew exponentially. Granted, I had a slight idea at what happened during the weeks leading up to the draft. But wow. Youtube them if you're curious. There is so much feeling out other GMs to see who they're taking before hand. Draft day, there's even more wheeling and dealing to get picks. If I recall correctly, Boston offered a couple of picks for the Caps pick (#3 or 4, can't remember) with the intention of drafting "the Swede". What I do remember though, is that GMGM told the Bruins GM that he had to talk it over with his guys. He goes back to his table, and calmly starts talking to his (scout, president, golf caddy? again, my ignorance shows) about the weather (or was it the guy's family?). They idly chitchat for a few moments, before GMGM calmly gets back to the rival GM with a, "thanks, but no thanks, they would have my job then kill me if I did it, but the offer was super tempting," absolute brilliant bit of acting that, if I handed them out, would have won him at least an Emmy. (no, not Steve, although that's another thing people are bickering about) GMGM and Ovie calmly ascend the platform, shake hands with Bettman, then GM introduces Ovie, who, in still heavily accented and halting English, says "The Washington Capitals are happy to pick Nicklas Backstrom." It put a smile on my face, thinking that a few years later, these two would be lighting it up and becoming as dynamic a duo as Lemieux and Jagr, Gretzky and Kurri.
So while others debate goalie status, free agency, how much to pay players (lets face it, I may never be able to comprehend those numbers, they're so high), whether we can afford so many blueliners without signing a "rugged, stay-at-home" type, what forwards go (we seem to have a problem with having a vast number of players for each position, including being talent-heavy on the left), injuries, etc, I'm just going to hang back. Offer a stat or two if I can think of it, give my general impression, but that's it. I'll let them hash it out. But I will say this, unless he signs away our best players (and I mean Ovie), institutes Capitals Ice Girls, or jacks ticket prices so high I won't even be able to afford to watch games on TV, I'm just going to sit back and let GMGM do his job. He's got a talented team feeding him info, one of the league's best (if not the best) owner in Ted Leonsis, and a squad of great, young guys led by a coach who seems to know exactly what this team needs.
So sports fans, don't get worked up over the little things. A win is a win is a win, regardless of who is in net. I respect Olie greatly, on and off the ice. And I may be in love with Huet. But I'm still an outsider looking in. I haven't quite crossed that threshold from rookie to veteran. I guess I picked a weird time to become a Caps fan if I really want to be taken seriously. I'm just gonna sit back, relax (as long as the guys let me) and take it all in. Because if they play for the next thirty years how they've played in the past thirty games, I'm going to need all the laid-back I can take between games. Cardiac Caps, indeed!!

Oh, and we won last night. On a OT goal by a guy most folks would be fine with shipping back down to the minors, or to another team; after a pretty goal by a guy that most folks think has the "sense of a rabbit" to tie the game.

Kharma's a beautiful woman with bad teeth and body odor.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday night is Hockey Night

Caps @ Tampa Bay Lightning

I think I'm just going to list thoughts that cross my mind during the game:
First period, no deep thoughts.
Great feed by Feds to Laich. Can't Jeff Halpern help out his hometown team? And the guys need to pick it up.
Second period, hmmmm....
First off, the point of face-offs is to get low and get the puck. But if Gordo gets any lower, we may have to get him a pool cue. I Love Huet! Mike Green can really hustle. (kind of a duh statement, but I'll make it.) John Tortorella gives great face; the camera angles on him are hilarious. I think Nick Backstrom is taking checking lessons from OV. He's got a good body check going on, including an open-ice shoulder hit. Oh and Milan Jurcina is pretty freaking awesome. John Erskine, eh, not so much. But Big John has his good points, so I won't crucify him. Brads may have a future as an outfielder or wide receiver if he decides he doesn't like hockey. Nice catch and release for a go-ahead goal. And I'll give Picard props, even though he tied it back up for the 'Ning, because that was a great shot.
If I hear Joe B say "two-two, through two" one more time, I may scream. DC has really bad commercials. That stupid "Pass Gas" commercial is getting to me. I can't figure out if I should laugh or scream in frustration. Of all the car commercials in DC that I've seen, apparently no one drives anything but luxury vehicles. Toronto needs to pick it up. They need to win in regulation. Ottawa needs to keep scoring goals. If they win in regulation, that would be nice.
Third period:
Why do people in Northern California care about our games? They always broadcast them there. Damn, the one time when Juice being able to skate faster would have been amaaaazing. I love Huet. Not to whine, but why can't the Lightning just accept the stellar draft pick that would be headed their way if they just let us win.... I'm stopping now. I'll post after the game.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday night

I had every plan on blogging about the game tonight, but I found D2: Mighty Ducks on TV. Oh, the wonderful days of childhood. Anywho, Caps won in a shootout. Viktor Kozlov is my hero, once again... Oh, and did I mention I love Russian forwards and French goalies?? Hmmmm.... my night is complete. Oh, and Ovie is now sole possessor of Caps' single season goal record...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hockey Hangover

Well, its not as bad as the drinking hangover, but today, my heart still skips beats randomly whenever my thoughts turn to last night. My breath gets a little shallow and my head spins (mainly with the possibilities of it all). I did a little happy dance when I got up this morning/afternoon. How sweet it is to be a fan of the Capitals right now. Although I may need a new heart after season's end (whenever that may be) to replace the one I've got now that is seriously being overworked.
Well, I've got laundry to do and a paper to write. And I should probably go to church tomorrow....

Thank God for the Washington Capitals!!!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Victory, thy name is Nicklas Backstrom! Hell Yes!! Final score 5-3.
I lost my wireless internet connection with about 5 minutes left in the game. I freaked. I tried to reconnect four times before throwing my hands up in defeat and making a mad dash for my friend's desk to plug in. Backstrom scored twice in 32 seconds to tie the game and put us up by one. With less than a minute left, Gordo hits an empty netter. 82 points, 9th place. Two points out of 7th, one point out of 8th. But also, one point out of our old stomping ground of #10. We really don't need to do that again, especially if the Caps want fans alive enough to cheer for them.

Oh, and did I mention, Ovie hit 60??? Yes!!!

Oh Lord Why?

Wow, these guys are really trying to test me loyalty, aren't they?? The game versus Atlanta is only in the second intermission as I write this. Every game from now on is really a "must win", its pretty redundant to say it. But this game is a must win. #59 by Ovie in the first. Then, 3 unanswereds by Atlanta, including two from a guy who had scored four all season prior to tonight. Some folks are of the opinion we can come back. I'd like to agree, but lets face it, Atlanta really does look like they spent the past week studying every single game tape that is available on us. They know exactly how to exploit every weakness we've got (which can be numerous depending on the game). They've had a PP goal, a shortie, and an even-strength goal. Others are already talking about who the Caps fans should cheer for come playoff time since we're obviously not going to have a home team to cheer for.
Once again I'm perched in front of my laptop, listening to Steve Kolbe calling the game, watching shots and plays on CBS Sportsline and wishing against all rational wishes that we can pull it together for the third and get it back. We need these points. Hell, we'll take a three point game if we have to. On the plus-side, the Maple Laffs are beating the Buffaslugs 3-1, too. The Rangers are tied up at two with the Flyers, which doesn't help us at the moment. We need the Rangers to win tonight (in regulation) to make it easier for us to take that #8 spot. Although if the Slugs and the Flies lose tonight, it doesn't do us a damn bit of good if we do too.
So here I go, diving headfirst (kinda like Sindy Crosby) into the third period, a wish and a prayer in my heart, and a gleam (vaguely resembling the Cup) in my eye.
Lets go Caps! You really shouldn't test my loyalty this far into it. Cause like LeeAnn Womack sings, "I may hate myself in the morning, but I'm gonna love you tonight." And as long afterwards as it makes sense....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Okay, that one hurt. I didn't get to see the game, but listened to the second and third periods via the Blackhawks website. I gotta say, parts of me are really happy I didn't actually have to watch. Those same parts are also glad I missed the first period. Folks around the web pretty much have the same opinion (with the exception of a few who just hate us), that we looked tired, couldn't do anything right to save our souls, and just overall fell apart. And I, for one, (although it was painful to listen to and sit through) am glad. Yeah, we needed that. Folks back home in the south use cattleprods to jolt slow cows into action. So the game tonight, lets pray, was the worlds biggest cattleprod to the collective hind-end of the Washington Capitals. Lets also pray that the guys get some rest tomorrow in Atlanta so they can come out swinging (please God, not literally though). I'm trying to stay with the team motto "One game at a time". Since we're already on our knees, lets also pray that the reason Ovie only registered 2 shots on goal (that can't be right) is not an injury. Because if they think that Ovie shouldn't win the Hart just because the Caps don't make the playoffs, watch what happens if we lose him. There won't be a Capitals team left to make the playoffs should that happen. Of course, we could turn into the Canes or Pens and play better without him (which would be sad), but I wouldn't hold out much hope for us should he have to sit out a game or two (or please no, more). Eh, life is weird sometimes, ya know?? If I was drinking, readers, I would raise my glass to you and say "Here's to Friday! And to an Atlanta team that has hopefully forgotten where that vulcanized rubber disk goes! Cheers!"
Back on Friday after the game (or Thursday if something important comes to my attention).

Introduction to the Blog

I guess I should start by telling the world a little bit about myself, in relation to hockey and why I'm back in the game. I grew up in Nova Scotia (which does not disqualify me from being an all-around Sindey Crosby-eye roller. More on that later.). I moved to rural Southern Virginia against my will (parents) at ten. Life was hard for a foreigner in a county not many people leave, let alone move to. I did my best to fit in; dropped the accent and picked up a Southern one, stopped watching hockey (as if we got games on TV as it is), even played softball for a season (which I am unequivocally awful at). My eighth grade year, a kid moved to our county from up north (Indiana, Pennsylvania, somewhere) and bless me, he was a hockey fan. Not die-hard, but he knew the game.
I started watching hockey again my junior year of high school, trying to keep up with the teams, etc. I rooted for Carolina because they were close. (Let me just explain briefly that I was the worst bandwagon-jumper you've ever known, in all sports, all seasons, until this one. I'd barely pay attention to the season but would pick a team every year in the finals, follow them until they got knocked off and pick somebody else. I had no loyalty whatsoever) I cheered for Calgary to win that year because Tampa beat out the Canes (if I remember correctly). (bad choice) Senior year--lockout. Damn you!
My freshman year of college, I moved to within a few hours of DC, although I was still a Canes fan. I won five dollars off my brother that year because I said the Canes would go all the way, although in my heart, I kind of wanted the Oilers to win because they're a Canadian team. 2006-2007 season I didn't really follow the season (life got in the way), but come play-offs, I was gunning for the Senators (Canadian team).

I had never actually been to a hockey game (aside from the Junior A games as a kid) before this year. A good friend and I decided to take advantage of the Student Rush nights that the Capitals offered and went to a game with my older brother--December 20th. Habs @ Caps. Final score? Habs-5, Caps-2. (Ironically enough, Huet was in net for the Habs and getting heckled by the folks in the seats around us (which were in the lower bowl, attendence was that low)). The Caps lost, but I was hooked. After that, every game, I was in front of my friend's big screen TV (or on my laptop hitting refresh every five seconds) or at work cursing my luck and praying TiVo was working.
So far this season, I have taken off work to watch a game. I told a professor that I had to leave class for an appointment in DC just to get to the box office in time to get a ticket (hey, an important appointment in my book). I've bitten my fingernails off, come very close to several aneurysms and heart-attacks, gone to what passes for a honky-tonk in my jersey after a big win(which earns me hard stares everytime), nearly burned my jersey (it's bad luck for me to wear it during a game, but that's a bit extreme), had tears form (once), and yelled at someone who told me the score when I was at work with the game being TiVo'd back home (the Minnesota game we won 4-1). I've scared the dog, probably scared my friends, and I'm still looking for someone in this town who knows the game well and will dissect each and every game with me and teach me a few more things about the game (my friends are great, but just kind of nod along like I do when they're talking about basketball or baseball).
Longtime Caps fans may accuse me of being a bandwagon-jumper. (Hey, I admitted to being one at one point and I did technically start watching after they put Boudreau behind the bench, which has been a big part of the upturn in their game from what I've heard) But this is something different. For the first time, I actually own a jersey for a team I actually care about (sorry Aunt Mary, but the Canucks jersey doesn't count), not that I can wear it during the game. I'm watching the regular season (helps to have CSN) with the attitude that even if we don't go all the way, there's always next year (with the same team). The Caps have a great, young, talented team. Sure I might groan about dumb plays during the game, but that's what youth is for (I should know, I'm the OV of being young and stupid). I have every faith that each season will only get better. I have complete faith that, one day, OV will raise the Cup above his head in DC. Would I like it to be this season? Of course. But whether its this season, or the one after, etc., it will happen. Because those awful "rebuilding years" longtime Caps fans joke about are going to pay-off. They can do it, and when they do, their newest fan will be right there screaming at her TV, or if luck is with me, in the stands screaming.