*Results May Vary

*Results May Vary

I wonder after Game 7 between the Rangers and the Caps, when Ovechkin guaranteed that Washington would “come back and win the series,” if he was trying to motivate his team or he really felt like they were going to win.  Game 7 was set to be his prophetic stage to show the world that “Hey look I’m right!”  Game 7 was set to be his leadership moment, the time when he finally breaks out and steps up to the plate and leads his team out of the second round of the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to appreciate Ovi and respect his talents this year.  Seeing him in the Islander series I thought he finally found his way and came around to being a better team player.  It felt like he was finally living up to the “C” that is stitched into his jersey.  When he first came into the league, I struggled to see his leadership qualities because it always seemed like he was a “me first” player whether that was unfair justification or not I’m not sure.

Unfortunately for Ovi and the Caps it wasn’t meant to be, however for the Rangers and Ranger fans, Lundqvist continues to own Game 7s in the Garden and he continues to play well between the pipes.  That’s not to say that Ovi didn’t play well, plus Braden Holtby played a whale of a game and Barry Trotz coached a hell of a game, but the Rangers weathered everything that the Caps threw at them and took every punch until they caught the Caps sleeping in overtime.

I have a hard time with some sports breaking down plays.  Normally in football I can watch it and see where someone is running and understand where the coverage went and I can break it down pretty quickly as it is going on even as it is live.  You kinda see it unfold.  You kinda get it.  Maybe it’s just me from watching it so quickly as a kid.  Maybe it’s from growing up watching it.  I ate, slept and pretty much did everything football as a kid, so it’s in my blood.  But when it comes to hockey and I watch it, I don’t see the plays.  I heard the announcers last night talk about the Rangers having plays off the face-off and kinda scratched my head, and in full disclosure here, I missed quite a few of them.  But that’s what makes them pros and me a dumb writer on a blog.

Watching the faceoff to the scoring of Derek Stepan’s goal in the OT of Game 7, I slowed it down and broke it down in my head trying to put it together to figure out how difficult it must be to script these things.  But you know it’s probably just like football when you never really know if the play is gonna work until you try it.  Seeing Jasper Fast pass the puck back to Yandle who throws it to Girardi with a quick shot on Holtby and the rebounds comes out to Stepan and in watching the replay it seems like he’s so wide open but yet he has so much time on his own to find the open net.  I can’t imagine being in that situation, a wide open net like that with so much time, the nerves going in Game 7.  It feels like I’d probably shoot it at Holtby.  But Stepan didn’t and the Rangers made the Caps pay.

That’s what this game is about, making the other team pay when they make a mistake.  The Caps didn’t cover Stepan on the rebound and he made them pay.  The Rangers made some mistakes, they let Ovi skate with the puck across the zone in the first period to beat Lundqvist on his glove side, they committed some bad penalties and turned the puck over too many times, but Washington couldn’t make them pay enough times.  The good teams will time in and time out make you pay.  Washington couldn’t finish out the series because they just couldn’t make the Rangers pay enough times.  The last three games the Rangers kept hammering away at Holtby and they kept making the Caps at crucial times.  This Rangers team still has that core that went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and you can see that in the way that they play.

The one thing I think that Ovi is going to learn from all this is that guarantees are great, but it takes the whole team to buy in.  Sports is such a hit and miss thing.  You can have a great team and that team can be felled at any time.  The puck can bounce the wrong way or someone can do something dumb and the whole thing can fall apart.  It’s great to be confident, but it’s another thing to be over confident and when you become over confident you can run your mouth and inspire the other team.  Maybe if he gets into this situation next year he can keep his guarantees to himself.

Guarantees*

Side effects may include: Over confidence, inflated ego, self-importance, lack of focus.

Use as directed.

*Results may vary.

Capital Punishment

I seriously am getting tired of being the one to say it but Alex Ovechkin is turning into that guy that can lead his team to a Stanley Cup.  I’m certain that you know he’s won a multitude of personal awards when it comes to scoring and points but it’s that giant silver Cup that has always eluded him.  After watching him and the Washington Caps in Game Three of their series against the NY Rangers I have to believe that they have a chance to make some major advances toward that chalice.  

To be completely fair I am a Rangers fan, so I’m a bit biased but it’s hard not to give credit to Washington after their 1-0 win.  They pounded the Rangers on the boards.  Yes the Rangers are a faster team but if you can’t use your speed and are forced to play someone else’s game you will struggle, and struggle the Rangers did.

It’s said that to win in the playoffs you need to score goals, have good goaltending and get the lucky bounce, right now the Rangers are only getting one of three.  Lundqvist is giving them a chance and bailing them out of as many situations as he can but they got to stop making terrible turnovers.  Keith Yandle was supposed to help the power play, it doesn’t seem like he’s done that in the playoffs, this power play was terrible tonight.  In fact Yandle made a terrible turnover behind the Rangers’ net that almost led to a Caps goal if not for the work of Lundqvist to keep out the shot.

Dan Boyle has played well this year but in Game One of the series he gave the puck away in the dying moments of the game that led to Joel Ward’s game winning goal to suck the air out of the Garden.  He has been less than stellar for sure in this series.  Rick Nash’s magnificent season seems to be overshadowed by the fact that I can’t find him on the ice.  Inconsistency is killing this team, turnovers are killing this team, being unable to convert on the power play is killing the team, hell its so bad that Jasper Fast started on the wing in Game Three.  What is a coach to do?  

My guess is to shake things up as best as you can.  Push things back somewhat to basics however the Rangers are kinda against it right now because Ovechkin has his team flying and they’ve bought in to what Barry Trotz is selling.  Not only that but Holtby is keeping his net clean along with the fact that the Rangers aren’t making him work.  They are doing it to themselves.  For a team that is a season removed from the Stanley Cup finals it’s time to wake up and smell the Sabrett water.  I can’t stress it enough, overlook Ovechkin now at your peril, he’s bought in, he’s bringing capital punishment.

I’m Gonna Go F*%@ing Mental!

One of the great things about Netflix is that they constantly update their lineup and bring in some of the greatest sports documentaries, whether it is ESPN’s series 30 for 30 or the one I just recently found EPIX’s The Road To The Winter Classic (TRTTWC for short, not that it’s really that short!  We’ll call it Road).  So “Road” focuses on the lead up to the meeting of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals on January 1, 2015 in Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.

If you can believe it, I’m not really a fan of either team so you are going to ask me why I even bothered to watch it.  I have a history with both teams, so you’re gonna have to go back in time with me.  Back to the early 90s and the growth of a teenager in an area filled with high school football.  While I did love college football, pro football and basketball, I developed this special love of hockey thanks to a team in the East Coast Hockey League known as the Hampton Roads Admirals.  Admirals hockey brought me into the world of hockey thanks to hard hits, huge goals and something to get excited about.  I can still remember the first time I ever sat ice side, I wasn’t even old enough to drive, but there I was right by the ice watching some short guy from Wheeling get sandwiched in between two Admirals players and punched while the ref didn’t see.  It was nasty and it was intense and I loved every single second of it. The Norfolk Scope hosted the Buffalo Sabres playing an exhibition game and I was there.  Alexander Mogilny was one of the first stars I ever saw and it was amazing.  The Admirals were my thing, I mean, I loved the Admirals so much I stayed after a game one night to join in on the fan appreciation skate with the Admirals night.

Sooooo…you are asking, what does this have to do with the Capitals and Blackhawks?  Well, the Capitals at the time had ties with the Admirals.  Plus, the local sports station played Capitals hockey, so guess what?  I got into the Capitals.  I can remember watching guys like Kolzig and Bondra and Juneau and the tail end of Iafrate’s career.  Then there was my favorite capital of all time, Chris Simon.  Never the guy that would score 30 goals (came close once!  29 goals!) or 100 points, but the guy gave you everything he had and battled night in and night out.

For a while there I was everything Capitals.  But then I saw this goalie play, Jocelyn Thibault, and he happened to be traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.  A place I never thought I’d be a fan of.  But damned if I didn’t become a fan of every club of Tbo’s.  But with the ‘Hawks, Tbo found a place, he went to the All Star Game and he showed all those flashes of brilliance that Montreal had demanded way too early in his career.  I always thought the shoes to fill in Montreal were too big, Patrick Roy could never be replaced and the next guy in line was always destined to be the scapegoat for the GM who traded him.  Unfortunately Tbo ended up being the guy who took all the crap from the fans.

So because of my history a part of me was curious, and because these things are always interesting, so I started watching.  I have three of the four-hour long episodes down and let me tell you, Barry Trotz is one of those coaches players must love playing for and if I played for Joel Quenneville, I’d have a hard time not laughing.  These are some of my favorite quotes from “Coach Q” in the game against Minnesota December 16, 2014:

“Fuck on pickles!”

“Holy fuck!”

“I’m gonna go fuckin’ mental!”

“It’s a fuckin’ goddamn motherfucker tonight!”

How do you sit on a bench with a guy screaming that stuff behind you and not laugh?  Seriously?

He yells at a ref during one of the episode and reels off a blue streak that hangs above the Blackhawks’ bench and the ref says “Are you done swearing at me now?”

“Yes I’m done.”

Barry Trotz meanwhile, he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low.  He throws in the f bomb every now and then but he does it when he has to.  When he does it’s for a reason, he wants you to hear what he’s saying.  He’s not afraid to give his star player a good ribbing either.  Where Alex Ovechkin goes, so too does the Capitals and to be fair, before this I wasn’t a huge “Ovi” fan.  But damned, three episodes in and I think I might just like the guy, don’t tell anyone, but I think he might just be alright.  Talk about leading by example, not only does he score, but he goes out there and runs guys into the boards and gives guys hell.  It’s incredible.  Plus he’s pretty funny too.   Santa Ovi gives out Wireless Beats headphones for Christmas to everyone, I mean come on!

After one particularly bad loss in overtime, Coach Trotz yells at a ref (who himself is mic’ed up) and the ref screams back “you were on the power play the whole fuckin’ night.”  Absolutely hilarious.  At one point the ref is leading two players to the penalty box and gets so annoyed he doesn’t even hide that he’s not bothering with the player’s number.

It’s an amazing series, I haven’t even seen the last and part of me doesn’t want to watch it because it’s been such an incredible journey I honestly don’t want it to end.  Seeing how these players live their hockey lives, giving signed jerseys as Christmas presents (yes please!), seeing the sadness of losing a member of the Blackhawks equipment staff as he passes away at 34 to how they spend time on their off days.  It’s incredibly well done and the interaction is great, if nothing else, watch it to see Coach Q “go fuckin’ mental!”