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Previewing Round Two

Posted on 02 May 2009 by Nicholas Miskelly

Previewing Round Two

 

On Saturday at 1 pm the Washington Capitals will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins as they resume their run at advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.  The second round will begin and it will put two of the game’s great young players, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, against each other.  The one who shines the most will more than likely be playing for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

The Capitals were able to survive a seven game series against the Rangers because their offense was in a different class than that of the Rangers.  They were able to overcome defensive laps in concentration and execution as well as careless passing and untimely giveaways because they were that much better of an offensive team than the Rangers.  The Capitals were third in the league in scoring while the Rangers got in more with their defense as their offense ranked 28th in the league.  Because of their ability to outscore a weak Rangers team, they did not have to play their best hockey on the defensive end.

This will not be the case when the Penguins come to town.   Sidney Crosby will bring his Pittsburgh Penguins to town to take on Alex Ovechkin and the second seeded Washington Capitals.

 

This matchup is compelling to many hockey fans; but this battle between the Capitals and Penguins is about more than just two players.  Both of these teams have given their young stars plenty of support while on offense, as was evident by each team being ranked in the top six in scoring during the regular season.  Both teams proved to have a potent offense with the Capitals scoring just ten more goals then the Penguins during the regular season.

 

Defensively they are a wash since the Caps were at a seven goal disadvantage and both teams were in the bottom half of the league.  As good as these teams are offensively, this series may come down to which team can get the key defense stop when the game is on the line.  It will be on the defenders to keep the opponents’ offense off of the attack and on the goaltenders to keep the pucks out of the nets when the game is on the line.

 

To succeed in the series, the Capitals will need to play a complete game.  Their defenders will need to be aggressive and force the Penguins into an outside shooting type of game.  They will need to keep the forwards for the Penguins from in front of the goal.  They like to put the likes of Crosby and Malkin close to the net and create scoring for them by putting shooters around the perimeter of the scoring zone.  By pushing these two players away from the goal and keeping constant contact with them should increase the chances of Varlamov to continue his stellar play in net.

 

Offensively, the Capitals need to be more aggressive in attacking the net.  I felt as though there were times when they got too slap happy from the outside.  I felt there were periods were they would settle for hard outside shots instead of taking a little more time to generate more offense around the next.  I also feel as though they will need better execution in their passing game.  There were periods, such as in the beginning of game seven, when their passing was not crisp and accurate.  Their passes would be bouncing off the line of the intended target. 

 

This cannot happen against the Penguins because uncontested giveaways will give the offensively explosive Penguins easy scoring opportunities.  Both teams can transition to the offensive attack so quickly that any turnover could easily result in a fast break opportunity for the other. The team that commits the least amount of giveaways, thus limiting the opponents’ scoring opportunities, should come away with the victory.

 

In the end this matchup is so compelling because both teams match up very similarly and the one who takes care of the puck offensively and protects the zone defensively will move on to the conference finals. 

I predict that Varlamov will be the key in leading the Capitals to a 4 games to 2 victory over the Penguins in this second round series.   

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Who will the Ravens pick this weekend? Some clues here…

Posted on 24 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

You gotta love the NFL. The league hasn’t snapped the football in almost three months and the buzz is as strong for the draft as it is for Week 7 of the regular season. It never ends this love of American football. So much enthusiasm and energy and talk about the 26th pick on Saturday for the Ravens.

Amidst that, there are all sorts of stories and storylines:

What will happen with Anquan Boldin and are the Ravens really involved?

My gut AND my sources tell me that it’s not very likely. The notion that Ozzie Newsome would trade a No. 1 and a No. 3 and then have to back up a brink’s truck for Boldin is highly unlikely. Plus, the cap issues of taking on another superstar making a super premium salary seem daunting. If the Ravens had that kind of money, they should’ve kept Bart Scott, right?

Who are the players the Ravens really like and would select at No. 26?

It’s always a crapshoot on draft day when you pick so low. The Ravens were greatly affected by the Atlanta trade for Tony Gonzales yesterday because it’s clear that the Falcons won’t be taking tight end Brandon Pettigrew with pick No. 24. Every name that comes off the board in the first 25 spots – and every trade up or back, and we expect a few – will affect what’s left when the 26th pick hits the clock.

So, when people ask me today and all day tomorrow, “Who will the Ravens pick?” I tell them the same thing every year: “Even Ozzie Newsome has no idea who they’ll wind up getting with a pick so low.”

That said, I’ll take a low pick on draft day every year into perpetuity. The joy of a single-digit pick is far outweighed by the agony of dealing with 16 weeks of bad football during a 6-10 season. Let Cincinnati and Cleveland pick early every year from now until the end of time.

All of these weeks and months of mock drafts are just that: a mockery. One unexpected trade on draft day – and with lunatics like Al Davis, Mike Brown and Daniel Snyder running drafts there’s always somebody doing something – not to mention other legitimate trades for more picks or value, it’s more impossible to predict a mock draft correctly than filling out a perfect March Madness pool. I think you’d have a better chance of hitting the lotto tonight for $150 million.

And once one team or one player goes awry, the whole draft changes. Everyone tries to handicap it but it’s a futile effort.

But this much I know: The Ravens would LOVE to trade a few times over the weekend, which is all the more reason to be on our text service. They only have six picks. They’d rather have seven or eight.

Here are some names of guys — and some key positions of need for the Ravens — that you should keep an eye on over the weekend as the names come off the board:

Center – Alex Mack, California. The Ravens brought him into town and checked him out thoroughly. He’s a tough, smart “Raven” kinda guy. If they trade out of No. 26 to move backward (and I still think this is VERY likely because they really want more picks), Mack would be a early 2nd rounder that will help the team. The only question is whether he can help the team at guard because the team already has a two-year solution at center in Matt Birk.

Tight end – A “dream” scenario for the team would be if Brandon Pettigrew fell to them at No. 26. The Philadelphia Eagles at No. 21 would be the one team to tie them up but that’s looking less likely. Again, the Falcons deal yesterday to acquire Gonzales helps the Ravens if they indeed covet Pettigrew, who is a beast at 6-6 and could help the pass protection and provide a safety valve for Joe Flacco.

Wide receiver – While the whole universe seems to think the Ravens are desperate for a wide out, I’m not convinced they’ll take one in the first round. Perhaps they’d select Kenny Britt of Rutgers if he’s still on the board but I don’t think Hakeem Nicks will be their choice. I’ve been saying for two months that WR is not the team’s most acute need nor should they burn a first-round pick on the riskiest of all positions on draft day.

Defensive back – Vontae Davis and Darius Butler. You can never have too many cornerbacks. They’re like pitchers in baseball. If you don’t get one in the first round you’re probably not getting one you feel comfortable in calling a starter. It’s the toughest role this side of QB to fill in the NFL. Davis comes with some immaturity and a little bit of baggage, but he’s the closest thing to a poor man’s Chris McAlister in this draft.

Defensive line/LB – Rey Maualuga. He’s probably the only player in the No. 26 range that the Ravens would consider and this isn’t their greatest need. If they were to take a LB here it would tell you a lot about how highly rated this player would have to be on their overall board. Honestly, all of the USC linebackers look attractive and will almost certainly be gone by the time the Ravens get on the clock in the second round with pick No. 55.

Here’s my hope: Brandon Pettigrew

Here’s my “prediction”: Rey Maualuga

The real story of the Ravens’ drafts and their relative success since 1996 has been tied to what happens AFTER the first round. Between Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Phil Savage and their staffs, over the years the Ravens have become the best team in the league on the last weekend of April. It’s how Newsome and this department has survived so long in one place. It’s an absolute anomaly.

Think about it: What were the odds that in 1996 when Ozzie Newsome passed on Lawrence Phillips and selected Jon Ogden and then went on to take Ray Lewis instead of Leland McElroy at the No. 26 pick that he’d STILL be here in April 2009 making decisions for Baltimore’s football team?

Newsome is still here because he’s really, really great at evaluating talent. He’s got a gift. He’s not always right but he’s been right more than virtually anyone on the planet at doing this.

And most experts say this draft is NOT deep for starting talent beginning Sunday morning. For whatever reason, most scouts aren’t feeling great about finding the next Adalius Thomas or Jason Brown late in the day on Sunday.

It’s a great weekend to be a football fan. It’s a great weekend to be a draftnik. Or just a nerd, like me.

I’ll be bellied up to the bar at Padonia Station at 3 p.m. drinking $2 Michelob Ultras and watching the draft and sending texts to everyone on the text service.

We’re having a “Textathon” weekend because this is the one weekend when we know we’ll be sending you a lot of stuff.

We hope if you’re not on the service you consider joining. And, if you are, we hope you’ll forward our texts to your PSL, purple-loving friends so they know the news and know about WNST.net and our cool text service.

Thanks!

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Dirty, Dirty, Dirty…Is It A Shame? And Whose Shame Is It?

Posted on 07 February 2009 by Mark Suchy

SI.com is reporting that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two types of steroids in 2003 as part of a voluntary, sealed agreement between the MLBPA and the Commissioner’s Office to help determine the extent of performance enhancing drug use in the sport.  These tests were discovered by Federal Agents as part of the ongoing investigation into the BALCO case in 2004.  1,198 players were tested randomly in 2003, and 104 tested positive.  Including ARod.

This raises a few questions in my mind, most of which are troubling or have no answer, which could be even more troubling.  Such as:

Alex Rodriguez used steroids?  Why this doesn’t come as a surprise to me is troubling.

104 players total tested positive in ’03?  I would very much like to know the rest of the names.  But clearly, Rodriguez is the big fish here.  Something tells me there are plenty of journeymen included, as previous testing results have shown.

Why does all of this produce more of a yawn from me than shock or outrage?

That is clearly the issue at play here.  Years and years of watching records get smashed, players get bigger and 40 yard dash times get lower has produced a very jaundiced eye, both individually and collectively, to the lifelong sports fan.  We can question it all we want, but the hard truth is that what we pay to see is not clean, not genuine, not within the capabilities of “pure” human performance, and not going to change anytime in the forseeable future.

Ever heard of Human Growth Hormone?  And yes, there is no test available without drawing blood.  Which violates privacy laws for every professional leagues’ bargaining agreements.

So I am preparing to hear plenty of stories regarding HGH in, oh, sometime around 2020.  And honestly, not one of them will surprise me in the least.

Have we reached the point of oversaturation when it comes to reports like this?  When a “bombshell” such as ARod using steroids arrives, what does it say about me as a sports fan that I shrug my shoulders instead of being genuinely shocked?  I suppose it says, more than anything, that I accept the fact that cheaters have long prospered in sports as well as life.  And that everything I watch, every game I attend, is populated by people who will do anything in an effort to gain a competetive edge in order to gain financially when that next contract is negotiated.

The truth is that there is no moral to the story.  Because morality is absent in the conversation of cheating.  And that is what this is, cheating.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So Arod is a cheater?  AFraud?  Wow.  I would never have suspected.

Quite frankly, I’m worn out and that makes me a bit indifferent to stories such as this.  Call me a crank, call me a cynic, and you’d be justified in doing so, but take a moment and scroll back through your mind to McGwire/Sosa in ’98, Bonds from ’99 on, football linemen who weigh 340 pounds and run 4.9 second 40 yard dashes, and you’ll get a bit exhausted by it as well. 

There is no end in sight to these matters.  That is the ultimate, and saddest, truth of the whole story.  And if you can honestly answer these questions, then perhaps you accept that what you see isn’t genuine and earnestly gained:

Does it matter to you as a sports fan at all?

AND

Why do we continue to watch?

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Yankees: Salary Tidbits

Posted on 24 December 2008 by Jason Jubb

They currently have the four highest contracts by total value in the game:

Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000

Derek Jeter, $189,000,000

Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000

CC Sabathia, $161,000,000

 

They Yankees awarded the single biggest annual salary in history for one year when they gave Roger Clemens a $28,000,022 deal in 2007. (He only collected around $18 million of that since he did not play until partially into the season.) A-Rod has the second biggest annual salary at $27,500,000.

 

At $23,000,000 annually CC Sabathia is the highest paid pitcher in the game.

 

At $15,000,000 annually Mariano Rivera is the highest paid relief pitcher in the game.

 

At $17,142,857 annually Jason Giambi was the highest paid DH in history.

 

At $13,100,000 annually Jorge Posada is the highest paid catcher in the game.

 

At $22,500,000 annually Mark Teixeira is the highest paid first baseman in the game.

 

At $7,500,000 annually Robinson Cano is the third highest paid second baseman, but he has not hit free agency yet.

 

At $18,900,000 annually Derek Jeter is the highest paid shortstop in the game.

 

At $27,500,000 annually A Rod is the highest paid third baseman in the game.

 

At $13,000,000 annually Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui are tied for 12th amongst outfielders.

 

Starting in 2003 the Yankees have spent $1.138 billion in team payroll.

 

In 2008 Forbes Magazine estimated the value of the Orioles to be $398 million; the Yankees were at $1.3 billion.

 

In 2008 the Yankees offered only a 1 year deal to Joe Torre for $5 million with a vesting option. They went cheap on their manager and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

 

I used multiple sources for the salary figures. Feel free to add more…

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WNST Puck Bus makes a perfect holiday gift!

Posted on 18 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Just a reminder that for our Baltimore puck heads that the WNST Baltimore Puck Buses for 2009 are now ON SALE! We’re doing three trips down to D.C. to see the Capitals:

Jan. 6 vs. Philadelphia
Feb. 18 vs. Montreal
March 6 vs. Carolina
All trips are $60 each and a “three pack” is $150. It includes game ticket, bus ride, limited beer, sodas and snacks plus Caps trivia and stupid movies like “Slapshot” and “Youngblood” as well as some Canadian classics.

Our buses leave from White Marsh and pick up in Catonsville en route to the Verizon Center.

It makes a pretty cool holiday gift for someone in your life who loves hockey and won’t say “What The Puck?” if this makes its way under the holiday tree. All of the details are here and you can paypal your order now and you’re all signed up!

Hope we get to see you on our trips. Click here if you want to check out a video of the fun from last time when the Caps won a thriller:

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WNST announces three “Puck Bus” trips to Caps games

Posted on 10 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Greetings fellow puck lovers:

WNST is proud to offer three more “Puck Bus” opportunities during 2009 to go to Washington Capitals games with a group of spirited Baltimore hockey fans.

Here are the three dates:

Tuesday, Jan. 6 vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Wednesday, Feb. 18 vs. Montreal Canadiens

Tuesday, March 3 vs. Carolina Hurricanes

All of the trips will have the same 2-stop itinerary: We’ll leave White Marsh Park and Ride at 4:30 and pick up at the UMBC Park and Ride at 5 p.m.

Each trip will include an upper deck group reserved seat, limited cold beer and soda on the bus, snacks provided by WNST sponsors and fun hockey-themed videos and trivia to win Caps giveaways. To see some wnsTV of what our first “Puck Bus” looked like, click here. And, yes, we’ll play the Baltimore Clippers fight song as well. Or was it the Skipjacks fight song? Or the Bandits fight song?

Tickets are $60 per person and $150 for a three-game “WNST Three-Pack”.

Click here to buy individual games or the WNST Puck Bus Three Pack:

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Another successful Puck Bus and postgame Browns stains

Posted on 07 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Red hats off to our 57 hockey enthusiasts who ventured down to the Verizon Center last night and “Rocked The Red” for the Caps-Hurricanes game. And, wow, what an ending!

Alexander Semin scored on an amazing pass from Alex Ovechkin and the Caps stole a 3-2 win with less than 11 seconds remaining in regulation, beating goalie Cam Ward and turning the rink into a joyous celebration.

We had kids, families, moms, dads and most surprisingly, MANY people who had never been to a hockey game before. We watched “Slap Shot,” gave away autographed pucks, ate Captain Harvey’s yummy sandwiches and brownies and talked “old time” hockey.

I suppose I’m a little spoiled having had hockey here in Baltimore most of my childhood. It’s been almost 15 years since we lost the puck, so I guess there really are a LOT of people who have never experienced the joy of hockey live. It’s kinda cool watching a kid see live hockey for the first time.

Many folks asked me if we’d be doing more “Puck Bus” trips this season. Given the quick sellout of our trip last night, I think we’ll be offering a multi-game “season ticket” for a Baltimore hockey fan club, which we’ll be starting here at WNST.net.

Stay tuned for more details…

But rest assured: After 17 years, I’m not done pimping the puck!

****
So, I got home last night just in time to watch the Browns’ most recent meltdown.

There were four minutes left in the game and the Broncos had the ball near midfield and were locked down at 4th and 1. They ran a draw, got a first down and I told my wife: “They’re the Browns. They’ll screw this up,” not realizing they had a 13-point lead earlier in the game.

Of course, the Browns defense caved in, allowing the game-winning score after watching Broncos quarterback Jay Cutlet scamper 20 yards on a draw play.

I don’t know what’s more of an embarrassment: the way the team plays or the way their fans behave.

They’ve now blown two-touchdown leads at home TWICE in the last four days!

I noticed that Phil Savage signed a major extension last year, so I doubt that he’ll be the one going out the door but Romeo Crennel has become public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland and I can’t think of a worse place to be a head coach than in Cleveland, where the fans boo the home team on first down in the first quarter virtually every week.

Sure, the football hasn’t been pretty. But I’ve said it for years – the Browns fans are the worst enemy of their own team, mercilessly booing and crushing their team in their own stadium year after year.

Given their two-game advantage over the Browns and the possibility of an emergence of the Broncos, it might’ve been better for the Ravens if the Browns would’ve won last night. With the 5-3 start for the purple, I’ve officially opened “scoreboard watching” season in my condo.

Heck, if it helps the Ravens, I’ll root for the Steelers or the Redskins or the Colts at this point.

I just want this team to get to the playoffs. A major step is this weekend, locking down a sixth victory and a road win deep in the heart of Texas.

I’m off to Houston on Sunday morning – we’re doing a “same day down and back” trip.

We’ll have the videos and blogs up on Sunday.

We’re striving to be YOUR place for Baltimore sports every day here at WNST.net.

Feel free to feed back with your comments here on my blog.

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Rocking the Red with the Caps in D.C.

Posted on 29 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ll admit it. I’m biased.

I inexplicably fell in love with hockey when I was five years old at the Baltimore Civic Center at an AHL Nova Scotia Voyageurs-Clippers game. I saw the ice. I saw the action. I was hooked. During my 40-plus years on the planet,  many of my best and most personal sports memories have been made at hockey games.

Most of the people who’ve listened to my show or read my work over the past 17 years know of my affinity for the puck. We’re running our first-ever “Caps Puck Bus” next Thursday night (tickets are only $50 for the whole evening of fun) and I expect it to be memorable.

Last night, I made my first of many pilgrimages down to the Verizon Center in D.C. to see the Caps take on my adopted favorite team, the Nashville Predators. It was a memorable game. The Caps took it to the Preds early, at one point holding a 23-5 lead in shots and a 2-1 advantage. Nashville came back to even the score late in the game, forcing a rare OT shootout, which the Caps won taking a 4-3 victory.

Sure, Alex Ovechkin was missing last night, away with his ailing grandfather but it was still an eye-opening experience seeing more than 15,000 people in the rink last night all “rocking the red” on a chilly Tuesday night.

Sure, I’ve had my differences with the Capitals over the years. First (and this is no secret), I thought the combination of moving into D.C., firing David Poile, changing the logo and those hideous blue jerseys were all bad ideas. It hurt the franchise and it made me feel less connected after being a guy who for a decade drove to the Capital Centre in a red, white and blue sweater at least 35 times a year to see Mike Gartner, Gaetan Duchesne, Dave Christian, Bobby Carpenter and company beat up the Flyers, Islanders, Penguins and Rangers. Some of my favorite memories in sports were waving white pompoms and screaming at Ron Hextall.

I also had another problem as a Caps fan in the 1990’s: my radio show ended at 6 p.m. and getting from upper Towson to downtown D.C. made it impossible to see an entire game. So, I just went on a hockey hiatus in some ways, for nearly a decade.

Last season, the Capitals reached out to me personally and asked me to come back to Caps games. I went to a few games during the stretch run and wound up taking a bunch of friends (including Hockey Meg, Agent Orange and WNST blogger Ed Frankovic) down to games. For Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoff series against Philadelphia, we threw Drew Forrester and Phil Jackman into a car and had a blast.

Like I said, I’m a hockey goober. I met my wife at a hockey game in Manchester, N.H. I have scores of friends who’ve entered my life and stayed through hockey. My best pal, Tom Kapp, allowed me to take his kid to a game a dozen years ago in Hershey and now his kid, Tyler, drags him from rink to rink in his quest to be an NHL goalie.

Hockey can be infectious like that. I’ve said it many times: it’s the best sport there is for the sheer energy and action.

So, why have I adopted the Nashville Predators of all teams? Their one and only head coach in their 11-season existence is Barry Trotz, who was the final coach of the Baltimore Skipjacks before they left town for good in 1992. I covered Trotz’s team for the Baltimore Evening Sun for two seasons and we became friends. Trotz went on to win the Calder Cup in Portland, Maine the next season, got the Predators job before the expansion in 1997 and has been their coach ever since. For some reason, we’ve always remained close and in touch.

Over the years, he’s been a frequent guest on WNST and a great friend when we’ve gone to Nashville for games. I’ve probably seen the Preds play in 15 cities across the country over the last decade and I have a closet full of swag he’s been kind enough to send me over the years and I’ve always enjoyed rooting for the Predators because Trotz is such a special guy. (And think about how rare and unique that is in this day and age: he’s the ONLY coach they’ve ever had!)

But, back to the Capitals and hockey locally.

The Caps reached out to me with one message: WE WANT BALTIMORE TO EMBRACE THE CAPITALS! They asked me if I could help or if I had some ideas.

I said I’d help by promoting the sport I love in Baltimore. (If I ever get rich with WNST.net I would absolutely bring a hockey team to Baltimore and be a complete idiot about promoting it and making it work. There’s NOTHING better than going to a hockey game, if you ask me!)

Even without Ovechkin last night (most hockey people would tell you he’s the best player on the planet), the building was still mostly full and the atmosphere the Caps are building is something that should be enjoyed by any sports fan.

If you haven’t been to a Caps game lately, I can honestly say that you’re missing out on some great sports fun.

And it’s easier than you think…

The ride was traffic-free and painless last night (left the house at 5:30, made a stop and was still in my seat 15 minutes before the 7 p.m. start). They’ve done a great job branding their players and the “Rock the Red” promotion. Truth be told, Caps games are a LOT of fun and I’m looking forward to re-embracing my adolescence and throwing on my red, white and blue sweater more often this year.

We’ll be doing a series of “Puck Bus” promotions over the course of the season. Or at least as many as we can effectively market and sell. You fill the seats and we’ll continue to take hockey fans down to D.C.

Hockey has been gone from Baltimore for nearly 15 years. The only way it could conceivably come back to Baltimore is if I get rich enough to do it because I’m the only fool who would even think about trying it again after it’s failed so many times here. (By the way, I’m a LONG way from fulfilling this dream of mine so don’t hold your breath on this one! LOL…)

So, in the interim, I’ve decided that I’m going to embrace the Caps, go to the games like I used to and have some fun while I’m still young enough (even at 40 and aging rapidly) to do it.

Last night brought back all of the memories, right down to accidentally running into the legendary Rod Langway while I was grabbing a beer at the concession stand.

I like the Zamboni.

I like the action.

I like “The Good Old Hockey Game.”

I like shootouts.

I like funny Canadian accents.

I like the horn blowing after a goal.

I even like the silly movie clips (“UNLEASH THE FURY!!!!”) they play on the HD screen at the Verizon Center.

And most importantly, I love the game and the action and the strategy of the sport.

Like I said, the Caps are doing a really nice job down in D.C. with that hockey team. But the only way to find out is to go to a game.

We’re going next Thursday and we’ve made it easy.

Just pay the $50 and show up at the Park and Ride in White Marsh (4:15 p.m.) or I-95/UMBC (5 p.m.) and we’ll take care of the rest.

The link is here if you care to join us.

Game on!

Let’s rock the red…

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Puck You…

Posted on 08 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Now that we have your attention, it’s NHL season again. And the Washington Capitals have reached out to WNST during the offseason and we’re trying to have some fun during trying political and unstable times.

For anyone who has followed my career, you know I have one pretty strong lifelong passion that I was truly self-indulgent about: hockey.

The breakthrough in my sports media career came when I was 16 years old and covering Baltimore Skipjacks and Washington Capitals games at The News American. I also covered both of those teams in various forms (as well as the Bandits) for The Evening Sun. I was the beat writer and in 1991 I met Kenny Albert. We did a talk show together and — voila — WNST is born.

Well, sorta…

It would be impossible to tell you how much fun and how much joy hockey has added to my life.

The many, many Stanley Cup playoff excursion I’ve been on…

To Vancouver, Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Long Island, Manhattan, Raleigh, Miami, Nashville – I’ve seen playoff games in all of these cities.

I’m great pals with Predators coach Barry Trotz and would fulfill a lifetime dream of mine, drinking a tasty beverage from Lord Stanley’s goblet if Nashville ever won The Cup.

I met my wife at a hockey game, an AHL classic in Manchester, N.H.

Hockey Meg is in my life because of hockey. So is Howard Scher, Ed Frankovic and a bunch of other cool people.

Hockey is great. And honestly, people who love hockey are great. And even the players who play hockey with their super quirky Canadian accents are also pretty cool and were always a blast to be around.

If I ever got wealthy from WNST.net, the first and only really stupid thing I’d do is fulfill my wish to own a hockey team. Truth be told, I’d bring a team here in a nano-second and try to market it and make it work.

I love hockey.

The Washington Capitals, who brought me so many cool memories back in the 1980’s at the Capital Centre that I don’t even know where to begin discussing how much fun I had back in the days with Phil Jackman, have reached out to WNST and said this:

“How can we get people from Baltimore to embrace the Capitals?”

Drew Forrester and I went down to Northern Virginia (and WOW, what a facility they have down there) and told them that we could put some real hockey fans together from Baltimore who would like to embrace the Capitals if the Capitals wanted to embrace us.

So, lo and behold, we’re offering many discounts on the website for Caps game and we plan to go to many games this year with some official “WNST Puck Buses” to games in D.C.

We’ll discount the tickets (natch!) and we’ll see if we can create some memories and some fun.

I miss hockey badly. I get to Nashville on occasion. I go to games when my wife goes home to New Hampshire. And sometimes we even take in a game in Hershey on a Saturday night around Christmas.

But we’re going to “Rock the Red” during 2008-09 and try to find some “old-time hockey” spirit.

Anyone interested in being included on the “Puck Bus” presale (coming in the next week), drop me a note at nasty@wnst.net

The first roadie is Nov. 6th vs. Carolina. We’re going to keep the tickets in the $50 to $60 range with all of the trimmings: food, beer, soda for kids, ticket, ride, swag, fun, DVDs, meeting other hockey idiots with puckheads like me.

Stay tuned…

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RIP Paul Newman and Caps Update

Posted on 27 September 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Sad Day for Hockey Fans – Paul Newman Dies at 83

It is a very sad day today for all hockey fans as Paul Newman died Friday as a result of cancer at age 83. To many hockey fans the movie Slap Shot is our hockey bible and that movie could not have been pulled off without the superb acting of Newman as Charlestown Chiefs Player-Coach Reg Dunlop. Dunlop was the guy who “put a bounty on the head of chief Syracuse punk Tim McCracken” using his own money and who can forget some of the other great Newman lines from that film such as “That’s gotta be true, Dicky Dunn wrote that!”, “They convicted Oglethorpe!”, and “SCOUTS??!!”

Newman is my all time favorite actor and some of his best movies were The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and The Color of Money but there is no doubt that Slap Shot was my favorite because it was about the sport I love the most, hockey. Not a single hockey season will go by without me popping in that movie and having a few laughs. Just a few weeks ago I caught a portion of it on cable and found myself cracking up at the same lines I’ve heard hundreds of times. Slap Shot is to hockey fans what Caddyshack is to golfers.

So I’m sure later tonight many hockey fans, including Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau who had a cameo role in Slap Shot, will be raising a beer and toasting Newman while quoting many of Dunlop’s lines from that great 1977 film. I know I will be so here’s to the Charlestown Chiefs and Reg Dunlop! RIP Paul Newman.

Caps Update

Yesterday the Caps sent the following players 24 players to the Hershey Bears (AHL): Greg Amadio, Dean Arsene, Jay Beagle, Francois Bouchard, Sean Collins, Viktor Dovgan, Michael Dubuc, Alexandre Giroux, Josh Godfrey, Andrew Gordon, Bryan Helmer, Andrew Joudrey, Maxime Lacroix, Daren Machesney, Tommy Maxwell, Patrick McNeill, Graham Mink, Travis Morin, Michal Neuvirth, Oskar Osala, Steve Pinizzotto, Sasha Pokulok, Darren Reid and Kyle Wilson.

In addition, I posted this in the comments section of my blog from Thursday night but if the Caps were to choose 23 players for the big club to start the season here are the ones I think would be on that list:

Forwards (14): Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Federov, Chris Clark, Laich, Nylander, Kozlov, Bradley, Steckel, Brashear, Gordon, Fleischmann, and Fehr

Defensemen (7): Green, Poti, Morrisonn, Schultz, Erskine, Jurcina, Alzner

Goalies (2): Theodore, Johnson

To those who read my blogs you know that I have been watching closely the development of 2007 Caps 1st round draft pick (5th overall), Karl Alzner, primarily because an NHL Director of Scouting told me he was by far the best defensemen chosen in the 2007 draft and is pretty much a can’t miss player. I go back and forth on whether he should start the season in Washington or in Hershey. Based on what I’ve seen and some comments Boudreau made about him after the rookie game last week I am starting to lean towards him being in Washington and learning in the NHL. This is risky but based on what I’ve seen and heard Alzner can handle it.

Alzner did not play in Thursday’s game in Washington because he played the night before in Raleigh in a 4-1 Caps win. He logged 22 minutes and was paired with defensemen Jeff Schultz, who also played for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL as a junior. Boudreau has compared Alzner to Schultz because their style of play is very similar. I had a chance to talk with Karl after Thursday’s game and here are some of the things he said about his first pre-season game on Wednesday night.

“I thought it went okay, we played so good as a team it made it easy to play and that is fun. I just tried to play ultra simple and it is easy to play a game when you are not trying to do too much and I had a great partner to help me through the entire game.”

On fellow Caps defensemen Schultz, who was drafted in 2004 (3 years before Alzner was drafted):

“Jeff and I did play together when I was 16 and 17 and I played a few shifts with him here and there. I know what Schultzie is about and I know how he plays so it is easy for me to kind of expect where he is going to go with the puck and what he is going to do. As soon as I hit juniors he was one of the guys I looked up to and one of the guys who was so successful so everything he does I try to do. I love the way he plays, he’s simple, he’s in good position and has such a good stick so if I can play like him I will be happy.”

As I mentioned above Alzner played 22 minutes in Carolina on Wednesday and here is what he thought afterwards:

“I felt good, didn’t feel tired at all so that is a plus. I was surprised I was thrown out there as much as I was but I look it as [the coaches] giving me the opportunity to prove myself and I’m hoping I did what they wanted me to do.

On special teams:

“That power play is too good for me to get out there but the penalty kill was good for me to play on.”

On Caps goalie Sergei Varlamov, who stopped all 20 shots he faced in the first period on Wednesday night:

“He was unbelievable. There were instances for like a minute straight that he was peppered with shot after shot. That is probably the best I’ve ever seen him play and I’ve played against him for quite a few times,” finished Alzner.

Karl, who turned 20 this past Wednesday, is quietly confident and humble at the same time. I’ve spoken with him four times now and each time I walk away more and more impressed with him. If he remains as solid on the ice as he seems off of it this will be a draft pick that the Caps brag about for a long time and someday I am convinced he could likely be wearing the “C” on his jersey as Caps team captain (Note: Alzner was captain of Team Canada at the 2008 World Jr. Championships and they won that tournament).

The Caps are in Boston on Saturday at 4pm and you can catch the audio feed from the game on WashingtonCaps.com

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