Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind. ~Dr. Seuss
Girls just wanna have fun ~ Cyndi Lauper
Make some fun, happy time ~ Alex Ovechkin

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Goalies

Author's note: Yes, I actually did real research for this. Aren't you proud? Just like a real serious blogger ;)

Far be it for the Caps to start a season without a little uproar. This season’s began with the announcement of young net minder, Michal Neuvirth, getting the nod to play between the pipes for the season opener on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. With everyone assuming Vokoun would get the start; many fans, journalists, and bloggers were up in arms over this announcement. It seemed you couldn’t click anywhere on a hockey news or blog site without seeing some kind of comment or article about it. With Saturday’s win in the books, tonight we finally got to see Tomas Vokoun in the crease for his first regular season game as a Washington Capital against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You may have heard that Vokoun was disappointed not to start on Saturday. Many feel your #1 goalie starts the regular season home opener, and being new to the team, it would be a chance for the home crowd to give him a big welcome. Giving Vokoun the start on Saturday against the Canes could have resulted in Neuvirth getting his season start tonight against Tampa. But, what if it were looked at from another direction?

First, let’s consider the opponents, starting with Carolina. Neuvy had a fine performance against Carolina last season, with a shutout against them on 10/27/10. Not so much Vokoun. On 11/5/10, Vokoun was pulled only 10:49 into the first period after giving up two goals. On 12/15/10 Vokoun lost 4-3 to the Canes, and then on 1/7/11, Vokoun lost to the Canes 5-3.

Now, let’s consider Mondays opponent; the Tampa Bay Lightning. Neuvirth only had one regular season win against Tampa which was on 11/7/10 (final score 6-3). The only other regular season game Neuvy played against Tampa was 3/7/11, where he left game after getting a shot to the cage and was replaced by Holtby. And, of course, we all remember the post season games where all four resulted in losses for Neuvirth. On the other hand, Vokoun’s record against Tampa last season was a little different. Vokoun recorded a 6-0 shutout against them on 10/6/10, a shoot out win on 11/27/10 and a shoot out loss on 1/21/11.

So, how about a brief review of the games. Saturday, Neuvirth gets the win. It’s a tough game that goes to overtime, but a win is a win. Some excellent saves (28 in all), some goals that really couldn’t have been stopped, terrific performance in overtime. A respectable .903 save percentage. Monday, Vokoun looked like he got off to a shaky start, but also gets a win with some really great veteran saves in overtime and totally denying Tampa in the shoot out. Two games, two wins.

Personally, I’m gonna say that Vokoun’s shaky start is due to lack of experience with this team and the fact that the coverage from the defense could have caused some adjustments that weren’t made in time. As a matter of fact, even though Vokoun admitted it was his worst start, gotta say the defense didn't help him out as much as they do with Neuvy. But, then again, they are used to Neuvy. Hopefully, more time and practice with guys in actual play will help Vokoun get comfortable and we will see the value of GMGM’s gamble.

Are we going to have to endure another year of who’s #1 and who’s #2? During the Capitals Convention this year; at the goalie panel; Dave Prior said he considered the 2 goalies as partners rather than competitors for the #1 spot. Boudreau had said in an interview, he considers them #1 and #1A. Both sound like good plans to me. In hindsight (which is always perfect 20/20 vision), I have to say I like how Bruce played these two goalies. Based on past experiences with the two opponents involved, it was the right call in my opinion. What do you think?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

No Haagen-Daz for You

Lots of pre-game surprises before the season opener tonight. Tomas Vokoun was told he would not start until Monday. Welcome to Gabby's Caps, Tomas. No Haagen-Daz for you.

Another surprise was the apparent healthy scratch of Marcus Johansson, but according to Katie Carrera"s report in the Washington Post earlier, Boudreau said of Johansson, “He practiced hard this week, he’s taking warmup tonight--you never know he might still be in.” Yeah, we pretty much know what that means - No Haagen-Daz for you.

Still, we should be used to this by now. Boudreau has a way of taking what is expected and switching it up. I liken it to him pulling cards out of his sleeve, throwing them down on the table with a flourish, and exclaiming "Aha, take that!". I see a lot of fans want to play armchair coach, but do we really know what's going on day to day behind the closed doors of Kettler? How many times last season did Boudreau switch out a player or a line and we all screamed in frustration "WTF?". Personally, I had hoped Gabby would have played Varly one game against Tampa in the semi-finals last year. I thought it might have helped to shake things up, but even then, Bruce denied even me. No Haagen-Daz for you.

So, now the first game of the regular season is in the books. Caps win in OT by none other than Game Over Green. Boudreau's choice to play Neuvy worked out, considering how hard he worked tonight between the pipes. A .903 save % is pretty darn good for a 1A goalie, don't ya think?  And saving Vokoun for Tampa (especially after the playoffs last season) could become a very strategic move. As to scratching Mojo, I still need to see the % of face-off wins tonight before I speculate on that. Let's hope whatever message he was trying to send has been heard and noted.

I do know one message that was sent and heard tonight, and that was to the Carolina Hurricanes: No Haagen-Daz for you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Times at the STH Party

Right off the bat, you have to know (if you don't already), I am a very outspoken person. So, I have no problem talking to our Caps players like they are any regular guy I would meet. Keep this in mind as you read the following run down of our evening at the STH Party at Six Flags America tonight. And I would like to thank @YoCalleJo for taking me with her as well.

YoCalleJo and I were on a mission tonight. She wanted to get her Chimera used hockey stick signed and ask him why the tape seemed to be almost half way down the stick, and why there was scotch tape on it as well. (This was one heck of a used stick, by the way. Brutal) So we got to the line for his table well in advance of the start of signing. Once we got up to Chimmers and asked the question, he responded "it was for grip". We replied "That far down the stick, really?" Maybe he thought we didn't know what grip tape was for? Seriously, either that or he just wasn't going to divulge the whole story? Oh well, at least the mission was accomplished and we also got to meet new Caps player Joel Ward too.

Next, we had to decide who we wanted to see next. Quite a few of the lines for autographs were very very long. One long line in particular was for Marcus Johansson and Michal Neuvirth, which was a bummer as I wanted Neuvy to sign a photograph I had taken of him.

This would have been sweet to have signed. Oh well, maybe another time. 

Since Mojo and Neuvy were obviously not going to happen, we decided our next mission was to get John Erskine to sign a photo I had taken of him at the Caps/Thrashers game last November. The one where he had that great fight with Eric Boulton? Yeah, epic. It was well past the beginning of the time for signing, but the line was at a stand still. Oops, Mathieu Perreault was late to the table and we were all waiting for him to show up. At this point in the narrative, I'd like to remind you about my being outspoken. Yup, once I spoke to Ersk and got his signature, I couldn't resist giving Perry a little ribbing. Pretty sure my exact opening words to him were: "Dude, you were late. We were waiting on you". Thankfully, Perry realized it was said in jest and had a good laugh. At least our second mission was accomplished:

(The actual photo looks much better then this, this one was taken with my cell phone.)

Next up was Tomas Vokoun and Jeff Schultz. (New player #2 added to the tally). The lady in front of me was showing Schultzy a picture of him on her cell phone, explaining it was from when he donated blood at a blood drive. He said to her that the donation went pretty quick. My turn, and of course, I had to be outspoken again. "What do you mean that it was pretty quick, Jeff?" To which he replied "My blood goes fast". Total wtf moment but worth a good laugh.

Around the corner was the coaches table. I thought we had seen Bruce there with Bob Woods and Dean Evason, but I guess at some point, Bruce took a little break. Quite a few people left the line when they didn't see him there, but we decided to stick with the plan. Just before our turn arrived, Bruce returned, so when I got to him to sign my autograph covered Caps hat, I said to him "Looks like we have the right table". Now, I gotta say, Bruce can be  pretty darn funny, so he quickly agreed and said; "Yes, you have the right table" and then looking at the hat, said; "Where do you want me to sign?". Now, not intending anything (I promise), I said "Anywhere you want". Bruce quickly looked at the Caps logo on the front of my shirt, then up to my eyes. Yeah, he did what you think he did. Outspoken me says "Hey now, that's not gonna happen, get your mind out of the gutter!" and gave Bruce the 2 fingers from my eyes to his 'I'm watching you' gesture. Bruce, Bob and Dean all laughed and kept joking about how we had the "right table". Yeah guys, thanks for the signatures. I think I'll try that gesture again the next time I catch their eye when I go to shoot pics at practice at Kettler. We'll see who blushes first. Guaranteed it won't be me!

Last up for us was Jay Beagle and Roman Hamrlik. (New player #3 added to the total tally). Really have to say how sweet Beags is. After congratulating him on making the roster, he couldn't wait to tell us about his family coming down and how great it was gonna be, with the biggest grin on his face. Exactly what you'd expect a former AHL player who's finally made the roster say, right? So genuine and cute. On the other hand, Hamrlik was too busy to converse, so I guess he's gonna be an all-business kind of guy? Not that it matters so much, I had lots of fun talking and joking with everyone else, Roman gets a pass.

So, now that you know just how outspoken I can be, anybody want to take me to another Caps event? You know, Hockey and Heels or Casino night will be coming up. I'll guarantee you; you'll have lots of laughs!

Author's Note: Yes, I was sober, in case you wondered.