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  • This Line is Offensive


    As a staff member at theHogs.net that goes by the name JansenFan, I think it’s pretty apparent that I am a big fan of the big guys up front. It is my core belief that games are won and lost in the trenches, and my team used to believe that, too. Read the rest of this entry »

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    What is in a Name?


    While traversing the web today reading up on the Washington Capitals, I stumbled across a piece by Chris Needham on NBCWashington.com. The article was mainly a response to a blog written by our friends at OnFrozenBlog.com, regarding the possibility that the Caps’ current top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin could be one of the greatest of all time. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Slop From The Trough 06-12-09


    This is a new blog I’ll plan to do at least weekly starting with training camp. For now, at least, it will just be something along the lines of a Redskins notebook. I’ll be going to the internet trough and posting some of the slop that I come across that seems relevant. Feel free to comment to let me know if I’ve missed something or you have ideas for improvement.

    For now, let’s get started with LaRon Landry, Jason Campbell, two signings and James Thrash:

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    So Long, Big Jon


    As someone that has been known as JansenFan for the past 5 years, someone that owned a 76 jersey before you could buy them at the Redskins Store, it was sad news when Jon Jansen was released by the Washington Redskins. He has been my favorite player over the past 10 seasons.

    I understand why the Redskins made the decision they made, and I understand Rock’s decision to keep playing, particularly when his hometown Lions offered him a contract to play close to his family and off-season home.

    So to the question I’ve received both publicly and privately, no, I will not change my screen name. I am still a Jon Jansen fan. Since he made the decision to stay out of the NFC – East, I won’t even stop pulling for him to do well unless he’s up against Brian Orakpo or another Washington player.

    Watching Jansen and Michael Strahan battle it out twice a year was the highlight for me of some pretty dismal years as a Redskins fan, so for that, I am grateful. Thanks for being a classy leader, a solid contributor, and a Rock for this franchise.

    Good Luck with Detroit… except on September 27th.

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    Caps Season Brilliant, Over


    First, kudos to the Caps fans that gave their team a standing ovation, even after the egg they laid last night. Unfortunately, Varly picked a bad night to have his worst game as a professional, but he’s 21 and this playoff season was just a glimpse at the future. We fans wouldn’t have been in a position to have our hearts ripped out last night if it wasn’t for his play.

    I hope the Caps spend the off-season studying this series. First of all, the Pens (as much as it hurts to say this) really get playoff hockey. They stand-up at the blue line, their forwards back check as well as anyone, they clog the neutral zone and no matter who has the puck, there are three guys around him. I think these Capitals can learn a lot about how to win in the playoffs by watching what the Pens did to them in this series.

    Secondly, the Caps need a big, tough defensman. I love Mike Green, but everytime he was in, Sidney Crosby spent his entire shift with his butt in Varly’s face. They need someone that will get those guys out of there. Did you see Crosby’s scoring chart? He had 9 goals in this series. All but one was within a foot of the net. That is unacceptable.

    That being said, I stated before this season that we were two years away from being real contenders. Our defense is 10-times better than it was two years ago, but they’re not quite elite the way our offense can be. With Karl Alzner and maybe a guy like John Carlson in the wings, and the continued improvement of the guys on the team, and maybe (hopefully?) a front line defensive defenseman in the off-season, I think next year could be the year that the Penguins had last year, and once you get to the finals, anything can happen.

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    Steckel Is The Key For Cardiac Caps


    With all of the incredible talent on both teams in this Caps/Pens series, perhaps the most important this far is the Washington Capitals David Steckel. Coming into this series, you’d have thought that Ovechkin and Crosby were playing one-on-one. Then of course, there were those two Russian guys, Semin and Malkin. That being said, the measuring stick for the Caps has been in the hand of #39.

    Steckel’s main contribution is in the face-off circle. He has been spectacular on face-offs, winning 63.5% in this series. That’s 54 wins in 85 chances. Not too shabby.

    David Steckel is also a key cog in Washington’s penalty killing unit. His size and long arms make him a real asset when down a man. He uses his reach to cover a lot of ice, poke checking, blocking passing lanes and shots, which is why his 4:02 of shorthanded ice time is third in the league for the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Those are both great contributions to the team, but in this series, its been his offense that has been the difference. Steckel has scrored three times and the Capitals are 3-0 in those games.

    The 6’5″, 225-lb Winsconsonite started off the scoring for the Caps in this series, 13:10 into Game 1. The Capitals went on to beat the Pens 3-2.

    In game 2, it really did seem like it was Ovie vs. Sid, with both players recording a hat trick. The Caps won 4-3. The difference: David Steckel, playing tough in front of the net gobbled up a Tyler Sloan shot that bounced off of Kris Letang right onto his stick, and slammed it through Marc-Andre Fleury’s five hole.

    Then of course, came the game winner in game 6 to eevn the series and force a deciding game 7 on home ice for the Capitals. Steckel could have won game 5 in overtime, but fanned on the shot missing an open net. Then he took a penalty that led to the Penguins third goal in game 6. Being the big-game player he is, he begged his teammates to give him a shot and they did. He repayed them ten-fold.

    The Caps had the face-off to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury in the offensive zone, and who better to work it than David Steckel, who was 10 of 14 in game 6 to that point. Stecks won the face-off to Brooks Laich and drove to the net. Laich, from his knees, passed the puck to Matt Bradley against the boards who passed it back to Laich for the one-timer. Steckel put his stick out and deflected the Laich’s shot in midair, past a butterflied Fleury for the game winner.

    So yes, Simeon Varlamov will need to stand on his head again. Semin and Kozlov will need to play the same inspired hockey they played at Mellon Arena on Monday night. And, of course, Ovie will need to be Ovie, but the difference will be David Steckel.

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    Varlamov Dazzling in Defeat


    In a game with few bright spots for Washington Capitals fan, Simeon Varlamov continued to shine.

    Varly faced 42 shots on the night – many of them quality chances – and turned away all but 3. The Caps were outplayed and outworked most of the night, but the outstanding young Russian kept the Caps in the game, allowing them to force overtime, and ultimately, put themselves in position to steal a win.

    History was not on their side last night. The Capitals have pulled out to a 2-0 lead in a best of seven series five times in franchise history. All five times, the Caps have gone on to lose game 3, and in all but one, they have gone on to lose the series. Notably, the series they did win, they won in 5 games en route to the Stanley Cup finals.

    As for last night’s game, the scoring got started early for the Caps. Mike Green dumped the puck into the Penguins zone to facilitate a line change. Alex Ovechkin drove in on the forecheck as Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury left the crease to corral the puck, dropping his stick in the process. Somehow, the puck bounced off the boards out in front of the net, directly in front of a charging Ovechkin. Ovie had the whole goal to shoot at, and didn’t miss on a diving shot, past a diving Fleury.

    Initially, it seemed to stun the Penguins, and Washington’s offense began to press, culminating in a wrap-around attempt by Nicklas Backstrom that slid across the crease past a wide-open net. From that point forward, the Penguins dominated the game, with the formula used in the regular season by teams like the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets to beat the Caps: an ultra-aggressive forecheck and relentless physicality. If not for the Caps’ 21-year-old netminder, this game could easily have been a blow-out.

    The entire second period looked as if the Capitals were on the penalty kill. The Pens seemed to have possession of the puck for 70% of the period. When the Caps did get possession, they were lucky to get it out of their own zone, let alone create quality chances.

    On top of the offensive woes, the Caps couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. It seemed every time Evgeni Malkin touched the puck, the Caps were called for a penalty. The Penguins had six straight power plays, and again, Varlamov was there to save the day, stopping point blank shots, making diving saves and frustrating the fired up Pens at every turn. His magic ran out in the sixth, after Alexander Semin was called for hooking, as Evgeni Malkin, who dominated the Capitals all evening, finally found the back of the net.

    The Capitals finally got their chance with the man advantage for the second time with just under two minutes to play in the third period, and boy did they take advantage. Caps sophomore Nicklas Backstrom made up for his earlier miss with a goal off the back of Fleury, and just like that, the Caps found themselves tied at 2, in a game that could easily have been 6-1 at that point.

    The Caps came to life, and had several quality chances in the last two minutes of regulation, and in overtime, Ovechkin had two quality chances within seconds of each other, but fanned on one and lost the puck on the other.

    Unfortunately for Simeon, at 11:23 of the first OT, he made a stop on a full-court pass that just missed a driving Malkin, and the ensuing face-off was his undoing. In a play eerily similar to the one Ovechkin scored his second goal of game 2, Sidney Crosby beat David Steckel on the face off for only the third time all evening. The puck trickled back to Mark Eaton, who sent a cross-ice pass to the waiting Kris Letang. Letang, who had fanned on two quality chances of his own in OT, nailed this one. The puck careened off of defenseman Shaonne Morrisson over the glove of Varlamov, off the cross bar and in to end game 3.

    As mentioned before, the Capitals have had little success in series in which they hold a 2-0 lead, but as the history of this post-season has shown, the Caps are routinely re-writing their history. Hopefully the boys in red, white and blue will come back for game 4 a little more fired up and continue to distinguish themselves from previous Caps teams, en route to the finals. For now though, they need to focus on game 4.

    There’s a pretty good chance that Bruce Boudreau is telling his team that at this very moment. That, and telling George McPhee to sign Varlamov for a long, long time.

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    Second Round to Feature First Ever One-on-One Hockey


    For those that don’t know, the Washington Capitals begin their second round playoffs Saturday at 1pm on NBC against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    If you are unfamiliar with hockey and are just starting to listen in to the hype surrounding this series, you may be expecting to tune in for a one-on-one match-up.

    I turned on the NHL Network this morning to watch ‘NHL on the Fly‘, and I was excited that they were going to talk to Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin both on the show.

    Then I saw the interviews.

    Each player was asked approximately 10 questions, and none of them had anything to do with their respective teams or what to expect in the upcoming series. It was all about Ovie vs. Sid.

    Isn’t it true you two exchanged autgraphed sticks? What kind of question is that. Who cares? How about asking two of the best players in the world to break down the match-ups, what they think they need to do to win. Sure, throw in a couple of questions about the rivalry or about whose the better player, but for goodness sake’s, don’t ignore the significance of the series itself.

    I understand that it is rare to see the league’s two top players square off in the playoffs, but it takes two entire teams to have an exciting series, not two guys, no matter how good they may be.

    Ovie and Sid are obviously tired of talking about it. Heck, Ovechkin actually said so at the end of the interview on the NHL Network. Even in this clip from Fox 5 you can hear the frustration creeping in:

     

    Let’s remember to talk about the teams, not just the players. It probably not going to be either of these players that determine the outcome, anyway. Its the second and third lines, the goaltending and the defense that make the difference between a good team with one great line and a Stanley Cup champion.

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    Clark: “It Feels Like a Rock Concert Out There.”


    Washington Capitals fans weren’t just Rocking the Red, they were rocking the Verizon Center. During a TV timeout with 5:56 left to play in the third period, the Caps gameday staff played “Unleash the Fury,” a video that got the already roucous crowd whipped up into a frenzy.

    At that point, the decibal level in the Verizon Center was deafening. In the arena, you could feel that something was going to happen for the Caps. When Sergei Federov, certainly no stranger to the playoff hero role, scored the game winning goal (and first of the series), the decibal level soared even higher, and remained there until well after the final horn blew.

    Feds believed the energy from the crowd helped will the team to victory: “It was a great atmosphere all around. I’m sure any player who plays in an atmosphere like that would enjoy it and work hard and play hard… It really was an amazing experience.”

    Bruce Boudreau agreed.

    “The last five minutes after we scored,they never sat down, they never stopped cheering. If you look at the energy we had just in checking. The people brought that out. They wouldn’t let us not continue skating,”  Boudreau said, adding, ” it was really a thing to watch.”

    Of course, going into the third period, it was an experience few thought would come to pass. For the first two periods, the Capitals were out-played and out-hustled. If not for the continued dominating play by the barely 21-year-old Simeon Varlamov, this game could easily have been 3-0  after five and a half minutes. 

    In the first period, the normally gifted Washington offense had only managed two shots on the Rangers Henrik Lunqvuist. Luckily, one of them went in after deflecting off two Rangers defenders.

    The second period was more of the same. It almost felt like the Caps were on penalty kill the entire period. Washington managed nine more shots on goal, but Lunqvuist looked to be back in form for this pivotal game 7.  The most telling stat of the second period was time of possession. While this isn’t an officially kept statistic, Mike Green mentioned in the locker room after the game that he felt like the Caps only had the puck for 2 of the 20 minutes in the period.

    After the second period ended, there was a weird vibe in the air. Some thought that this series was set to end like last year’s opening round defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Still others thought that the Caps were lucky to be tied at 1, and that the third period was the Caps period, so anything could and would happen. Most though, believed the Capitals would prevail.

    Whatever the vibe in the building, the vibe in the locker room was much like the last. In his post-game presser, Coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked what was said between the dreadful second period and the fateful third, quipped:  “One of the messages was ’20 more minutes.’ How hard is that to work as hard as you can for one of the best feelings you’re ever going to have.”

    Besides the motivation, the Coaching staff went to work, as well, trying to solve the dominating play the Rangers brought to the rink.

    “We were used to them being a more passive team and they were very aggressive, in your face,” the Caps head coach stated. “We had to change what we were doing and I’m not that sharp. I took me two periods to figure it out.”

    Whatever was said or done, it paid off. The Caps came out in the third playing like themselves. The passing was crisp, the effort was phenomenal and the results were there. Everyone in the building began to feel like a Russian was going to send the Rangers packing. Of course, everyone assumed that Russian would be Ovechkin or Semin.

    Enter Sergei Federov. As Feds skated down the right side, pulling up to look for the trailer on the play for a pass, he noticed several things. First, Wayne Redden was playing way off, quite possibly because the ever-threatening Ovechkin was on the left side of the net. Second, there was no trailer on the play. Third, the top-shelf glove side of Lunqvuist, perhaps the outstanding goalies only weakness, was beakoning him. He let the shot go, kept a longer follow-through to get the shot up, and watched as the puck soared into the net for the eventual game winner with just under five minutes to go in the third.

    Fellow teammate and countryman Alex Ovechkin was the first on the scene leaping onto the 39-year-old’s back, squeezing him hard and slamming him into the boards.  Since Federov was the Red Wing that ended the Caps Stanley Cup hopes oh so many moons ago, perhaps this game seven winner will reverse the fortunes of this young, exciting team in their current pursuit.  

    Regardless of kharma and the existential side of the meaning of this goal, Federov has brought something the Capitals haven’t experienced since that 1998 run to the Cup finals and never since the best owner in Washington sports bought this team: a playoff series win.

    While many thought Ovie would play the role of hero, Boudreau was not as surprised. “Experience sometimes pays off. He knew what he had to do and… when to do it,” the Capitals coach said. “That’s what makes him one of the greatest players ever.”

    Washington Capitals fans everywhere sure think so.

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    Brash Suspended For 6 Games


    According to NHL.com, Washington Capitals Enforcer Donald Brashear will be suspended for 6 games following the club’s game 6 victory over the New York Rangers.

    Brashear lost one game for his pre-game contact with Rangers tough guy Colton Orr, and the other five stem from his viscious hit on Blair Betts, which resulted in a broken orbital bone and subsequent and indefinite loss of the Rangers best penalty killer.

    This from the league’s disciplinarian, Colin Campbell:

    “Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player. It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury.”

    I personally disagree. It appeared to me that the injury came from Betts’ head hitting the ice, not anything Brashear did to him. It was an open ice hit that was clean. An argument could be made that it was interference as Betts was off the puck, but the refs on-ice didn’t even think it warranted a two minute minor.

    This seems like over-reaction due to the pre-game incident, the visciousness of the hit, and the subsequent injury sustained by the player in question.

    I hope Betts recovers well, and I wish that he would have remained on the ice for the remainder of the series, as I always perfer to see my team face another team at their best, and the loss of Betts is a tough pill to swallow for the Blueshirts. That being said, I don’t think the NHL made the right call in this instance.

    As reported previously, Chris Clark is the likely beneficiary of the newly available ice time, with Michael Nylander holding an outside chance at getting the nod.

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