Saturday, January 31, 2009

Capitals shine versus Red Wings

It's official, I don't comprehend this team.

As I sit here, watching the tail end of a full Saturday of hockey (Mats Sundin looks like a poor investment of ten million dollars), and type this entry on my ITouch, I am dumbfounded by how Jekyll and Hyde this team is.

Two weeks ago, these same Capitals were scratching their way past the Islanders and dropping games to the Senators.

This week they managed a gutsy overtime point against the East leading Bruins, and today dusted off the Detroit Red Wings in impressive fashion.

What gives?

Needless to say it seems that the Capitals have been able to play well against playoff caliber teams, which bodes well for them come May.But it will be interesting to see if they can keep up in the race for the number one seed in the East with Boston and New Jersey currently standing in their way.

Washington's schedule the rest of the way is much lighter than the first half which may not be advantageous, as their record versus poorer teams in the league is less than stellar. However, they will have a lot of face time with divisional foes, who are are playing well at the moment.

Whatever comes of the rest of their season, one thing is becoming clear. You won't find many Eastern Conference teams excited to face Ovechkin and the Caps once 82 games are in the books.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pundits may mock, but NHL needs All-Star Game

Now that the 2009 All-Star festivities which have enthralled the city of Montreal have come to a close, players will return to their respective teams and continue on with the regular grind of the 2008-09 season.

On top of that, sports writers everywhere will submit their articles to their editors dubbing the ASG "a waste of time", or better yet that "The All-Star thrill is gone".

Really, are you sure about that?

I think that Alexander Ovechkin gave fans multiple handfuls of "thrill" this weekend.

Shoot, is it too late for a re-write?

Not to mention the writers will fail to acknowledge that when you get down to it, the NHL needs this weekend for market revenue. Simple as that.

Since Thursday, the NHL was able to generate a whopping $10 million dollars in sponsorships, which is vital for a league struggling to keep it's head above water in multiple markets.

But no, the writers would rather talk about the suspension hooplah surrounding the league and Detroit Red Wings rather than how the fans were actually treated to an entertaining 12-11 shootout victory by the East; undoubtedly one of the best performances in recent memory.

They won't write on how hometown hero Alexei Kovalev was awarded player of the game, nor will they tell of the stellar performances put on by Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Alexander Ovechkin, just to name a few.

In all honesty however, the NHL made very well be their own worst enemy. The whole weekend swirled in controversy and gave off a morose vibe to many of the leagues most passionate followers, who claim this weekend should be nothing more than an after-thought, something which these sports writers just can't pass up.

But what the pundits don't realize is that they are the ones who prohibit this sport from reaching the mainstream again.

They are the ones who keep new fans away from the product with their overall negativity.

Who wants to invest time and money in a sport that everyone claims is floundering?

I wonder what would happen to these guys should the league ever had to fold?

Oh well, whatever keeps you in the headlines; right?

Note: Kudos to our friends from A View From the Cheap Seats for sounding off on this as well.
Their article can be read HERE.

Wait, what just happened!?

This photo was just the beginning of what many would call the most creative breakaway attempt of the night.

Ovechkin along with Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Getzlaf, Alexei Kovalev and Steven Stamkos took part in the 2009 Honda Skills Competition's Breakaway Challenge.

And while all competitors put on a rather good show, it was Ovechkin's theatrics that won the crowds vote in runaway fashion.

In what turned out to be his final attempt, Ovechkin circled back to center ice where he was met by fellow Russian phenom Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin then dawned him with a fishing cap featuring a Canadian flag to rile the crowd, as well as a pair of high profile sunglasses and a swig of gatorade.

From there Ovechkin grabbed an extra stick and proceeded down the ice stickhandling between the sticks in his left and right hands before firing a shot on net (left handed mind you), as well as a follow up on the rebound, which he deposited in the back of the net, and garnished roars from all those in attendance.

The attempt was the most creative of all the competitors, and was noticed by the fans who awarded him major style points.

"The Great Eight" took 42.8% of the fan vote. Finishing a distant second place was fellow Russian Alexei Kovalev with 19.7% of the vote.

Ovechkin however did not fair as well in the Elimination Shootout, where he was brick walled by Tim Thomas on his first attempt and eliminated from the event.

Former Winnipeg Jet Shane Doan was named victor of the shootout event, which was celebrated by this former fan of the now defunct franchise.

But now we will segway back to Ovechkin, who seems to have made peace with rival Evgeni Malkin (picture shown above). Both players have had a falling out after Ovechkin allegedly took a swing at Malkin's agent.

The two superstars will most definitely be teammates on Russia's 2010 Olympic roster, and it was nice to see them get along in what was surely one of the brighter spots of the night (right up there with Zdeno Chara's 105.4 MPH blast).

All in all it wasn't necessarily a memorable Skills Competition, as it lacked much of the excitement that made this event popular through the 90's and early 00's. There were technical difficulties in regards to the Fastest Skater relay, as well as the elimination of the cone relay which was one of the more exciting events.

Not to mention the multiple flubs by CBC tonight when it came to the presentation of the event. This was mostly apparent in the Young Stars Game where the camera would switch from showing a breakaway attempt to re-airing highlights from moments before.

But at least it seemed like fans and players alike were having fun during tonight's festivities.

And in the end, that's what this is all about.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ovechkin to take part in Honda Skills Competition tonight.

Like many NHL players, the staff at FEAR THE WEAGLE were planning on using the All-Star Break as a chance to recharge and spend time with family and friends.

However, we feel that we have a duty to the fans of Capitals Nation and are here to pass along a brief piece of news.

In case you've been living under a rock, Washington Capitals forward Alexander will be taking place in this weekends festivities.

Tonight he will take part in both the Breakaway Challenge as well as the Elimination Shootout.

For more information on both of these events and where they take place in the schedule, please visit this LINK.

Apparently Alex has something special planned, you can follow the weekend through his eyes by accessing his Twitter account.

As for your friends at FEAR THE WEAGLE, we will return next week with anything and everything Washington Capitals related.

Keep your sticks on the ice.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nylander wants out?; Plus other Capitals notes.

After being scratched from the Capitals line-up for last nights game, Michael Nylander vented to Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir about the situation.

"I feel good on the ice, but it doesn't matter. We'll have to see what we can do, what happens."

When I asked him if his struggles were the result of his playing style not meshing with Boudreau's, Nylander said: "I don't know. I am not the coach. What can I say? This is the way he wants to do it. I just have to figure a way around it."

"I know how the system works," he added. "I don't have a problem with the system. The system is quite easily played."

His comments may hint at the fact he wants to be traded to a team that uses him more effectively and give him more ice time.

Nylander is in the second year of a 4 year term, and his $4,875,000 contract could prove difficult to unload at the trade deadline.

Also of note, Bryan Helmer, Karl Alzner and Daren Machesney were all returned to Hershey today. It is likely that Alzner could return to the Capitals line-up after the All-Star festivities have ended.

Also, Nicklas Backstrom will fore go the All-Star Young Stars game citing that he "felt like it made more sense to give someone else that opportunity and use this time to rest and prepare for the second half of the season with the Capitals."

He assured the press that his decision is not injury related.

Finally, Capitals prospects Michael Neuvirth and Travis Morin took their part in the ECHL All-Star game tonight in Reading, PA. The American All-Stars (Morin, Neuvirth and co.) topped the National Roster 11-5.

Morin finished the game with 2 assists while Neuvirth stopped 19 of 20 shots in the third period of the contest.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Caps may not win pretty; but win nonetheless

The Washington Capitals have faced two glaring obstacles this season. The first being a rash of injuries that decimated the roster through the early part of the season. The second would have to be their inability to beat inferior opponents.

However, in spite of their marginal victories against the leagues bottom dwellers, the Capitals still manage to win. It might not be a pretty headline, but it's pretty in the standings column.

Capitals fans need to realize that this team is not going to play lights out hockey for an 82 game season. That is just not realistic.

Nor is believing you're going to get a quality offensive output from your star players game in and game out. Sorry, the NHL just doesn't function that way (unless your name is Alexander Ovechkin).

Capitals fans are spoiled by the talent level their team possesses, and their ability to explode for six goals on an opponent any given night. And no, any given night should not to be confused with every given night.

Every NHL team will go through a slump, or play down to their opponents. This is not a Washington Capitals exclusive. Scorers will go through droughts, while defensemen and goaltenders can go hot or cold within a moments notice. Thus is the parody of the NHL.

To illustrate my point, earlier today, Boston lost to the lowly St. Louis Blues (15th in the West) in shootout.

Yesterday the Calgary Flames got hosed 6-2 by the Colorado Avalanche (11th in the West).

Hell, even the Tamp Bay Lightning (12th in the East) trounced the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 last week.

While it is true the Capitals normally play down to the bottom tier of the league, the same can be said of them playing "up to" the standards of elite teams.

The Boston Bruins lead the East, but have fallen twice so far to the Capitals. Washington is also 2-1 in games against the Montreal Canadiens, 3-0 against the Atlantic leading Rangers and 2-0 against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

As the second half of the season gets underway, there are already a handful of teams that are destined to miss the playoffs. But be sure that when the Capitals, Bruins, Sharks or Red Wings come to town, they're going to give them their best.

So please, don't be upset how the Capitals won today's game.

Just be glad they won.

NOTE: With his two goal performance, Alexander Ovechkin has taken over the lead league in scoring (31).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Alzner continues to grow as member of Capitals

Over the past few games, rookie defenseman Karl Alzner has seen a drop in ice time.

Part of that has to do with line management, as coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't want to see Alzner, along with defensive partner Bryan Helmer out against the opponents top lines.

The other part of the receding minutes equates to the lack of confidence Karl has played with lately. It started becoming apparent that his game had changed since his call up in November, and that he was struggling.

Then I read up on Tarik's blog and it all made sense.

[Bruce] Boudreau had a heart-to-heart with defenseman Karl Alzner a few days ago after suspecting that the rookie was becoming distracted by the possibility of being sent back to Hershey for salary cap reasons. (When Poti returns, unless the GM George McPhee manages to clear space some other way, Alzner will likely have to go down.)

"I talked to him because you can't do that - it'll kill you," Boudreau said. "Trying to control things that you can't control is murderous on your psyche. If it just so happens that there's an issue, that will happen anyway, whether you scored five goals tonight or didn't score five goals tonight or played 35 minutes. I told him to just go out an play."

"He struggled there for a few games, so I knew something was bothering him," he added.

Alzner said: "I was worrying about getting sent down much too much earlier. About a week ago, that's what I was thinking about. I know the situation. I know who is going to be coming back and approximately when. If it happens, it happens. Not too many guys get to play a full season, or even a half season, when they are 20 years old. My focus now is to make it hard for them."

Since their chat, Alzner seems to be regaining the confidence he showed through the month of December. His minutes are still in the 13 minute range, but his play has been noticeably better.

Case in point, Saturday night's home game against the Bruins. Washington was nursing a one goal lead late in the third period, when John Erskine took an unnecessary elbowing penalty.

With their goalie pulled, the Bruins had a 6-4 man advantage and were controlling the play rather effectively, when Karl Alzner made a crucial defensive play to eliminate a cross ice pass to David Kregci, one of Boston's leading scorers. After intercepting the pass, Alzner calmly dumped the puck the length of the ice ending Boston's chances at a comeback. (video available HERE)

Despite his effective play, it is widely believed that Alzner will be sent down once the defensive corps regains it's health, but it will be strictly driven by the financial position that the Capitals find themselves in.

At the very least, the young Burnaby, BC native got a taste of the NHL this year. Next year will be his chance to step into a more influential role with the club and grow from there.

It is of my personal opinion the Alzner has all the tools to be amongst the top 10 defensive rearguards in this league. It's up to him to continue to build on them, whether in the NHL or not.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bruins injuries mount; Rival those of Caps

Call the nurse, we have a bleeder.

It appears that the hemorrhaging that the Capitals suffered at the hands of the injury bug through the month of December has now befallen on other teams.

Most notably the Boston Bruins (and Pittsburgh Penguins).

Boston will limp into the Verizon Center tonight without the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm or Phil Kessel. Bergeron is suffering from his second concussion in as many years (Brian Pothier called to say hello), while Sturm underwent surgery on his meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament, and will be out for the season.

Kessel, meanwhile, has a case of mononucleosis (more generally known as mono). While it is unclear when Bergeron will return to the line-up, Kessel is tabled to be back in mid-February.

The Bruins will also be missing shutdown defenseman Andrew Ference, who's broken tibia will keep him sidelined at least a few more games.

Aaron Ward will also be out until at least the 19th with a charley horse.

Finally, Milan Lucic rounds out the list of the battered and bruised with an undisclosed injury that is keeping him out of the line-up.

Sound familiar? Well, if you've been following the Capitals it should.

I for one cannot recall the last time the Capitals played with a fully healthy line-up, but I would have to assume it wasn't long into the month of October before the injury carosel was fired up.

However, for the most part, Washington is begining to get healthy for the second half of the season.

Tom Poti is close to making a return while Brian Pothier will be seeking clearance to return to the ice next week. Boyd Gordon and Shaone Morrisonn are both out, but neither of them are suffering from anything too serious.

The key to success will be staying healthy down the stretch as teams such as Boston, Pittsburgh and Montreal all seem to be going through the motions that this team saw in December.

Washington, so far- has weathered the storm. Only time will tell if these other Eastern Conference teams will be able to do the same.

NOTE: In Wednesday night's game, the Capitals took four (Crosby, Letang, Talbot, Scuderi) Penguins out of the line-up, and all are questionable for tonight's game versus the New York. Rangers

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ovechkin chips in as Capitals break losing streak.

Nothing remedies a losing streak better than a six goal outing. Tonight the Capitals were able to break out of their recent funk, notching a 6-3 victory over rival Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Capitals continued the trend of falling behind early as an Evgeni Malkin power play marker had the Pens take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

It didn't take long for the Capitals to cut the deficit, as Viktor Kozlov scored his 10th of the season 1:06 into the second frame. Miroslav Satan and Alexander Semin traded goals through the midway point of the period, as both clubs hit the locker room knotted in a 2-2 tie.

However it was in the third period that Alexander Ovechkin took over.

Ovechkin marked his 27th goal of the season midway through a Capitals power play early in the third. Soon after Pittsburgh had tied the game again, he provided the primary assist on a Tomas Fleischmann goal that turned out to be the game winner. And for an encore, he scored once more off the skate of Pittsbugh defenseman Brooks Orpik to give Washington a comfortable 5-3 lead.

Jeff Schultz would later mark a short-handed empty net goal, his first on the campaign.

For the most part, Washington's defense was able to keep the duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin silent, as they managed only 3 points combined in a losing effort.

Crosby left the game twice with an apparent leg injury.

Jose Theodore was sharp, stopping 26 shots in the victory, including some clutch saves on a Pittsbugh man advantage in the third.

Nicklas Backstrom tallied three assists while the afformentioned Tomas Fleischmann finished with a goal and an assist. Brooks Laich also had a productive game, registering 5 shots and 2 assists.

The Caps next action is set to take place Saturday as they will clash with the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins at the Verizon Center.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chalk another one in the "L" column.

Two home losses in five nights. Heck, the Capitals had only lost one regulation game at home all season up until this past weekend!

Tonight they were handed their third consecutive loss in an unenthusiastic performance against the Edmonton Oilers who will battle for a Western Conference playoff spot these next few months.

Tomorrow Washington is right back at it, heading to Pittsburgh to try to avoid their - collective gasp - fourth straight loss.

For head coach Bruce Boudreau, the effort presented by the Capitals these past few games has just not been up to snuff.

"It gets to the point where everybody wants to be the scorer but nobody wants to be the mucker and you're not going to do anything," Boudreau said. "Everybody's waiting for somebody else to do the work. They want to finish."

The fact of the matter is this losing streak is but a small blip in the standings, and has been a long time coming. One simply could not realistically expect the Capitals of continuing the torrent pace they were on, and seem to have crashed hard dating back to Friday. Their recent fall from grace as anointed darlings of the East seems to have proven unfavorable with the fan base.

But lets keep in mind that this team is more than capable of returning to the form they showed merely a week ago. One can only hope that coach Boudreau will have them ready to go tomorrow night, where they won't need much added inspiration while facing a long time foe in Pittsburgh.

Fans will just have to remain patient, and above all else - "Don't Stop Believin'"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Time Capsule: January 17th, 2008 : Washington Capitals vs Edmonton Oilers

Almost a year to the day (four days short), the Edmonton Oilers came to D.C. and took on the Capitals in what turned out to be an epic battle.

Edmonton took a 2-0 lead into the second, but Washington was able to rally, scoring four in the period and protecting a 4-3 lead going into the games final stanza.

Midway through the period, Shawn Horcoff scored his 21st goal of the year, and the game remained tied until the dreaded shootout.

It was tweleve rounds in that the Capitals found their hero - unlikely as he was - Matt Bradley hoped over the boards on a whim and put a backhand shot passed the blocker of Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

"He just said, 'I'm going to score, put me out there,' and he jumped over the board and he went in," Boudreau said. "He told me, he didn't ask."

Washington will look to break a two game losing streak as the Oilers return to the Verizon Center tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Phone Booth

FEAR THE WEAGLE has come across a great read for all Capitals fans.

Our friends over at Capitals Kremlin recently got an inside tour of the Verizon Center and provided a detailed write up off all the inner media workings of the Phone Booth .

Again, this is a great read, especially for those of us who will never grace the walls of the home of the Capitals.

Check out the article HERE.

Capitals prove mortal against Blue Jackets

Deja-vu all over again.

The Capitals went into last nights game hoping to keep to streaks in tact. Firstly, the club was going for it's tenth straight home victory, which would tie the record set by the 2000-01 team.

Secondly, Jose Theodore was vying for his 7th straight win which would tie his all time record which he set in the 2001-02 season.

Neither statistic was achieved as the Caps were blanked for the second time this season by Calder Trophy front runner Steve Mason.

Mason warded off all 45 shots he faced, notching his 14th win and 6th shutout of the season.

The 20 year old Oakville, Ontario native leads the NHL in GAA (1.74), SV% (.938) and shutouts (6)

Meanwhile the Capitals had Sergei Fedorov and Tomas Fleischmann return to their line-up last night, both of whom had rather pedestrian outings. Jeff Schultz is back on the shelf as he is still struggling with his broken finger. Tyler Sloan was recalled for yesterday's game, and will suit up again tonight in Montreal.

Washington has not lost in back-to-back games since their injury riddled western road trip in November when they dropped games to Los Angeles and San Jose.

Let's hope that this streak continues. As they say, "one outta three ain't bad."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Backstrom and Green get All-Star snub.

As usual, Fear the Weagle is late to the party. But this topic - which has been churned over the course of the day in Capitals Nation - was just too juicy to pass up.

So here's the short of it: Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green have been left off the Eastern Conference's All-Star roster, the only Capital to be named to the squad was superstar Alexander Ovechkin - a "gimme" of a pick.

Apparently someone at the NHL's head office didn't get the memo regarding the Capitals being one of the leagues elite teams this first half, not to mention the individual success of both Backstrom and Green.

This is just another prime example of how badly the NHL mismanages the way they market their game, and how it prohibits them from gaining any points in the popularity column in their attempts to win over new fans.

Backstrom ranks fourth in the league in assists this season with 33. Sorry NHL fans, but he won't be displayed at this event. Instead you can enjoy the underwhelming play of Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal who is on pace for a less than astounding 64 points, which would be his lowest output since his rookie campaign, when he marked 31.

Yep, he's an all-star folks. Granted he's all Carolina has to offer in terms of sheer talent, wouldn't it be better to give the spot to someone more deserving?

This brings us to Mike Green.

Green comes into the midway point ranked 3rd in Eastern Conference defenseman, tallying 26 points in 28 games. His 10 goals are good for 4th overall in the NHL. Well again, our apologies, but you'll have to make due with Mike Komisarek, the epitome of a defensive defenseman (albeit it one of the best in the NHL). Komisarek will undoubtedly put on a show in this exhibition, as his 3 points in 20 games speak volumes for his gifted offensive game.


The NHL needs to stop these nonsensical tactics, allowing the fans to pick their starting line-up. Time to give the vote to the coaches of the NHL who ice rosters much more flattering in showcasing what the NHL has to offer. Montreal fans only managed to get one starter right, defenseman Andrei Markov who is having a stellar year for the Habs.

Saku Koivu? Honestly? He's hardly a second line center on his own team let alone an All-Star starter.

Carey Price? Well excuse me but Tim Thomas and the stat book beg to differ.

In the NHL, the stats don't always tell the whole story, but rarely do they lie (exception being +/- in a handful of cases).

Hopefully fans of the NHL will enjoy watching the Montreal Canadiens, plus Sidney Crosby take on the best of the Western Conference, because I for sure will not.

But hey, hopefully George McPhee will be able to use this as leverage when negotiating contracts and awarding bonus incentives.

Be that as it may, Jose Theodore was able to put it best:

"The league really should review the system, especially for the starting lineup," he said. "Ovie not in the starting lineup takes away from the selections. The league needs to do something about it."

I think all fans of the game can agree with that. This has gone way past a popularity contest and is now bordering on a new definition for sad.

Enjoy you stuffed ballot Habs fans.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

George McPhee's take on SDR

If you are looking for a little more insight on Washington Capitals prospects at the recent World Junior Hockey Championships, head over to Corey Masiak's blog In the Room.

In his most recent entry, he sits down with Capitals General Manager George McPhee to get his take on Capitals prospect Stefan Della Rovere.

"Loved him -- I love the way he plays. He's a little over the edge a few times, but that's understandable. That looks like a heck of a pick. He's really competitive, tough, goes to all the hard areas -- he is one of those heart-and-soul guys you like to have."

Della Roveve was the Capitals final pick in the 2008 draft.

Read more of the article HERE.

Scorching Caps finish first half strong.

The Washington Capitals played their 41st game of the year last night, and in a game that mirrored the atmosphere of a playoff game they were able to notch their 27th victory of the season over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Washington defeated the Flyers by way of a shootout, as Jose Theodore stopped all three shooters, and Viktor Kozlov scored what turned into the game winner.

Their record now sits at 27-11-3, including a 12-1-0 run in their past 13, which is a far cry from where they were at mid way point last year.

Just to take you on a quick trip down memory lane, the Capitals were 12-17-2 at the same point last year, and were sitting in the basement of the Eastern Conference before their miraculous turn around.

What has been more impressive than last years playoff drive is how well the Capitals are preforming this year despite a slew of injuries to core players.

Many nights this season, the Capitals have more so resembled the Hershey Bears, as nearly half their AHL roster has played at least one NHL game this season.

But despite the bruised bodies the Caps have gotten it done, and now sit at 57 points on the year, good for fourth overall in the league.

Impressive? Rather. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Washington cannot afford to let their egos be stroked on merely half a years work.

Some would call last nights game a Litmus Test for the Capitals, considering they were playing one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. The real test will be how they fair the remainder of January, as it will be their toughest schedule to date.

Remaining on the calendar this month are trips from the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, as well as road trips to Boston and Pittsburgh.

This month also features three back-to-back sets, the most the Capitals will see all year.

So lets keep it all in perspective. What the Caps have done so far this season is impressive, and there's no reason not to believe that they won't be able to continue it into the second half of the season, especially if healthy bodies start returning to the line-up.

However there is much work to be done for the Capitals to maintain their image as an Eastern Conference powerhouse.

Hold off the Stanley Cup parades just yet.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Della Rovere and Kugryshev both making names at WJHC's

As the World Junior Hockey Championships are set to conclude tomorrow night in Ottawa, I can safely say that both Washington Capitals prospects have made a name for themselves.

Well, sorta.

Being from the hockey hot bed known as Canada, it is difficult to go more than five minutes without being referenced to the sport. Once the World Juniors start, that number decreases to two minutes.

I have had the luxury of watching both Canada and Russia play in three games a piece, most recently a Saturday night affair that pitted these two rivals against each other in their most epic battle in recent memory.

Long story short, Canada won 5-4 in a shootout.

But what has really stuck out for me this tournament was the play of prospects Stefan Della Rovere (7th round, 204 in 2008 draft) and Dimitry Kugryshev (2nd round, 58th overall in 2008 draft).

Della Rovere is Canada's leader in penalty minutes. He has totaled 22 over a span of five games, including a ten minute misconduct against Germany. Throughout the tournament he has lived up to his billing as a super pest. However it has come at a price, as head coach Pat Quinn benched him for the final two periods of their match versus the USA, which they eventually won 6-4.

SDR has delivered an "in your face" brand of hockey, but unfortunately has crossed the line on a handful of occasions while doing so. Because of this, his ice time has been reduced greatly, but when he has been out there, bone jarring hits have been the status quo.

His success on the score sheet has not transferred over from the OHL as he has only managed a goal and an assist in those five games.

If he is able to keep his emotions from getting the better of him and continues to fill out his game, there will be room for him on the Capitals roster down the line as they will lack the grit which he possesses.

On the other side of the spectrum, Russian born Dimitri Kugryshev has really given Capitals fans something to salivate over. His slick stick work has been some of the best in the tournament, and has generated many chances on a line with Pavel Chernov and Sergei Korostin.

While he has only produced one assist all tournament, in watching his game there is much to love. As previously mentioned, his stick work is incredible and he is not afraid to play along the boards and in front of the net. His speed is not exceptional but it is close to NHL worthy.

Both Della Rovere and Kugryshev will return to their CHL teams once this tournament is completed and will hopefully continue to give Capitals fans something to look forward to in the upcoming years.

Canada will play in the gold medal game versus Sweden tomorrow night while Russia will be pitted against a very underrated Slovakian team for the bronze in a matinee.

Footnote: If you wish to follow Dimitri Kugryshev's blog, please follow THIS link.

NHL's Fight of the Year.

Tonight Capitals fans and Rangers fans alike witnessed what I believe to be the fight of the year.

Five minutes into the third period of a 2-1 Capitals lead, Washington forward Alexander Semin got into an altercation with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

Hilarity ensued.

Washington went on to win their sixth straight game, and will try for their seventh on Tuesday when the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Verizon Center.

Philadelphia was the last team to beat the Capitals before their six game run in a 7-1 drubbing on December 20, 2008.

Hopefully Semin will be keeping his gloves on. although I can say with certainty that he would be an excellent drummer for any "up and coming" rock band.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Journalistic Integrity is going the way of the Dodo Bird.

Last night I found myself browsing the blog-o-sphere in search of anything newsworthy to kick off 2009 with. It did not take long for me to stumble upon a blog linked to the OC Register, managed by staff writer Al Balderas who covers the Anaheim Ducks.

What I saw there drove home a point that I've been making for almost a full year now: journalistic integrity is going the way of the Dodo bird.

The article in question is entitled "Does the NHL really need the Blue Jackets?" and delivers much of what you'd expect; a writer ragging on a team who's star has yet to peak in the NHL.

Here are some excerpts from his column:

"When the Blue Jackets were in town earlier this season, I asked some of the fans at Honda Center to name a Blue Jackets player. One gentleman said Rick Nash. The rest looked as if I’d asked them to recite the lineups of one of the Soviet Union’s Red Army team."

"I attended a Blue Jackets game several years ago and, true to form, Columbus was blitzed by Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche."

"If the Blue Jackets were to go away, I seriously doubt they would be missed. At least Ducks fans would have fewer players to try and recognize."
It is evident from the early going that Balderas is out to shamelessly disgrace a fan base and franchise without any factual or statistically based information.

The article brings forward no points regarding the economic situation the Blue Jackets find themselves in, nor does it provide an alternative for the Blue Jackets to call home. The article does not even delve into the history of the Blue Jackets and some of the set backs they have faced. It's only purpose is to take pot shots at all those who have ties to this Ohio based team.

These kind of posts are a reoccurring trend now in the world of online sports news that has been fueled by the insurgence of the blogging community. While blogs are supposed to raise conversation and healthy debate, this "blogger" in particular goes out of his way to draw attention to himself and his media outlet while discrediting whomever he seems fit.

Not only does this rub Blue Jackets fans the wrong way, but it also reflects poorly on the fans of Orange County, whom are undoubtedly getting an unwarranted bad wrap in this mix.

Sports writers across the the continent are losing their grip on their craft to meaningless tripe as referenced above. News papers are becoming less and less relevant, as we are now in an age where information is at the ends of our fingertips - just one mouse click away. Unfortunately, that information is not always pertinent, nor does it always tell the full story. And lets be honest, Balderas is not the only one ruffling feathers in an attempt to pass it off as information of actual importance.

It's only a matter of time before rants like this become commonplace, and another media outlet will have become extinct. Now litterally anyone can sit down, give their two cents and call themselves a journalist.

Scary stuff.