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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 25 February 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: MISL-Baltimore Blast @ Pennsylvania Roar (Sunday 4:05pm from Reading, PA live on YouTube); Women’s College Basketball: Virginia Tech @ Maryland (Sunday 2pm Comcast Center); Boxing: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Bryan Vera (Saturday 9:45pm from San Antonio live on HBO)

10. David Koechner (Saturday 9pm Black Cat); Eddie Griffin (Friday & Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Thor: The Dark World“, “Gravity” and “Nebraska” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); Non-Stop” out in theaters (Friday); Canton Irish Stroll (Saturday 1pm Canton Square)

I find David Koechner to be a humorous individual.

Also, I might like this t-shirt, you.

9. Eagles (Saturday 8pm Verizon Center); Robin Thicke (Thursday 8pm Patriot Center), Avett Brothers/Old Crow Medicine Show (Friday 8pm Patriot Center); Young The Giant (Tuesday 9pm Rams Head Live), ZZ Ward (Saturday 8pm Rams Head Live); Nelly’s Echo (Saturday 8pm 8×10 Club); Los Lobos (Friday 6:30pm & 9:30pm Rams Head on Stage); Flogging Molly (Friday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Shaggy (Sunday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Brett Dennen (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club), St. Vincent (Saturday 8pm Sunday 7pm 9:30 Club); Talib Kweli (Sunday 9pm Howard Theatre); Band of Horses (Thursday 6:30pm Lincoln Theatre), Josh Ritter (Friday & Saturday 7pm Lincoln Theatre); Beck “Morning Phase” and The Fray “Helios” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

I wish I could tell you I’d be in Fairfax Friday night. I fully support this tour.

Not familiar with OCMS? You probably know more about them than you think.

Couple of good shows in Charm City this week as well.

ZZ Ward is just so marvelous.

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Bovada gives Ovechkin 8/1 odds to MVP of Olympics

Posted on 17 February 2014 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

 

2014 Olympic Ice Hockey – Men’s Gold Medal    

Canada                                                 7/4

USA                                                       11/4

Russia                                                   16/5

Sweden                                                5/1

Finland                                                  11/1

Czech Republic                                 25/1

Switzerland                                          25/1

Slovakia                                               100/1

Norway                                                 500/1

Latvia                                                    500/1

Austria                                                  500/1

Slovenia                                               500/1

 

2014 Olympic Ice Hockey – Men’s Olympic MVP

Sidney Crosby (CAN)                            11/2

Phil Kessel (USA)                                  11/2

Pavel Datsyuk (RUS)                             13/2

Drew Doughty (CAN)                             15/2

Alex Ovechkin (RUS)                             8/1

Henrik Lundqvist (SWE)                         10/1

Carey Price (CAN)                                 10/1

Jonathan Quick (USA)                           10/1

Erik Karlsson (SWE)                              12/1

Semyon Varlamov (RUS)                       12/1

T.J. Oshie (USA)                                   15/1

Tuukka Rask (FIN)                                 15/1

James van Riemsdyk (USA)                   15/1

John Tavares (CAN)                               20/1

Jonas Hiller (SUI)                                   25/1

Ondrej Pavelec (CZE)                            40/1

Olli Jokinen (FIN)                                   50/1

Tomas Plekanec (CZE)                          50/1

 

2014 Olympic Ice Hockey – Men’s Top Goalscorer          

Michael Grabner (AUT)                           5/4

Phil Kessel (USA)                                  7/4

Drew Doughty (CAN)                             13/2

Jeff Carter (CAN)                                   8/1

Alex Ovechkin (RUS)                             9/1

Evgeni Malkin (RUS)                              11/1

Iilya Kovalchuk (RUS)                            11/1

Erik Karlsson (SWE)                              12/1

Sidney Crosby (CAN)                            20/1

Joe Pavelski (USA)                               30/1

Ryan Getzlaf (CAN)                               30/1

2013-14 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship – Odds to Win (Teams in red have longer odds , teams in blue have shorter odds, and teams in black stayed the same)         

      Odds on 1/7/14             Current Odds

Florida                          20/1                              6/1

Syracuse                      10/1                              6/1

Kansas                         15/2                              15/2

Michigan State              6/1                                17/2

Arizona                         11/2                              9/1

Duke                            12/1                              9/1

Louisville                      10/1                              12/1

Kentucky                      7/1                                14/1

Wichita State                 28/1                              14/1

Michigan                       50/1                              22/1

Creighton                      66/1                              25/1

Iowa                             40/1                              25/1

Virginia                         100/1                            25/1

Wisconsin                     16/1                              25/1

Villanova                       40/1                              28/1

Oklahoma State            10/1                              33/1

San Diego State            50/1                              33/1

Cincinnati                      100/1                            40/1

Iowa State                     50/1                              40/1

Ohio State                    12/1                              40/1

St. Louis                       100/1                            40/1

Connecticut                   50/1                              50/1

North Carolina               25/1                              50/1

Texas                           200/1                            50/1

Pittsburgh                     40/1                              66/1

UCLA                            40/1                              66/1

VCU                             66/1                              75/1

Gonzaga                       66/1                              100/1

Memphis                       50/1                              100/1

SMU                             Off the Board                100/1

Arizona State                300/1                            150/1

Kansas State                150/1                            150/1

New Mexico                  150/1                            150/1

Oklahoma                     150/1                            150/1

Oregon                         50/1                              150/1

Tennessee                    150/1                            150/1

UMass                          100/1                            150/1

California                      500/1                            200/1

George Washington       200/1                            200/1

LSU                              150/1                            200/1

Xavier                           200/1                            200/1

Baylor                           75/1                              250/1

Florida State                 150/1                            250/1

Georgetown                  100/1                            250/1

Harvard                         200/1                            250/1

Indiana                          150/1                            250/1

Minnesota                     200/1                            250/1

Missouri                        66/1                              250/1

Ole Miss                       250/1                            300/1

Stanford                       300/1                            300/1

Arkansas                      500/1                            500/1

Clemson                       300/1                            500/1

Colorado                      50/1                              500/1

Alabama                       500/1                            Off the Board   

Boise State                  250/1                            Off the Board   

Boston College             1000/1                          Off the Board

Butler                            200/1                            Off the Board   

BYU                             500/1                            Off the Board   

Colorado State              1000/1                          Off the Board

Davidson                      2000/1                          Off the Board

Dayton                         250/1                            Off the Board   

Fordham                       1000/1                          Off the Board

George Mason              500/1                            Off the Board
Georgia                        1000/1                          Off the Board

Georgia Tech                1000/1                          Off the Board

Illinois                           150/1                            Off the Board   

La Salle                        1000/1                          Off the Board

Marquette                     250/1                            Off the Board   

Maryland                       500/1                            Off the Board   

Miami Florida                500/1                            Off the Board   

Northwestern                 1000/1                          Off the Board

Notre Dame                  250/1                            Off the Board   

NC State                       300/1                            Off the Board   

Purdue                          500/1                            Off the Board   

Rhode Island                 1000/1                          Off the Board

Richmond                     1000/1                          Off the Board

South Carolina              1000/1                          Off the Board

St. Bonaventure            1000/1                          Off the Board

St. Joe’s                       1000/1                          Off the Board

St. John’s                     300/1                            Off the Board   

St. Mary’s                     300/1                            Off the Board   

Temple                         1000/1                          Off the Board

Texas A&M                   300/1                            Off the Board   

UNLV                            500/1                            Off the Board   

USC                             500/1                            Off the Board   

Vanderbilt                     500/1                            Off the Board   

Virginia Tech                 500/1                            Off the Board   

Wake Forest                 300/1                            Off the Board

Washington                   500/1                            Off the Board   

Washington State          1000/1                          Off the Board

West Virginia                 500/1                            Off the Board

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Holtby Stones Devils in Caps 3-0 Win

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Holtby Stones Devils in Caps 3-0 Win

Posted on 09 February 2014 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals played three games this week and allowed only three goals getting super net minding from Michal Neuvirth on Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to the Islanders and then Braden Holtby in a 4-2 victory on Thursday against Winnipeg and a shutout of the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in a 3-0 win.

In all three contests the goaltenders did their job and held the Capitals in the game. Unfortunately, Washington was only able to win two of those three contests.

Goaltending is not the major issue in Washington. Holtby, Neuvirth, and even Philip Grubauer have all played well for the Caps this season. If there is an issue on this team, it’s on inconsistent defensive zone play and up front, where scoring, outside of Alexander Ovechkin, has been tough to find.

But back to the goalies, and specifically, Holtby. The young netminder has been very good in his short career with Washington and #70 nearly carried his club to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012. Last year, Braden had a tough game seven against the Rangers, but let’s be honest, the Capitals lost that series because they couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket, not due to the play of Holtby.

Fast forward to this season where Holtby came out of the gate playing well behind a very young and suspect defense. Then starting with a loss to Pittsburgh in late November, things kind of went off of the rails for the Saskatchewan native. There was talk of the coaching staff trying to change the way Holtby played with a focus on him not being so aggressive and his positioning being deeper in his cage. It was a big change for the goalie and he went into a tailspin. Suddenly longer range shots were getting by him and compounding the problem was a defense that gave up too many odd man rushes and often screened their goalie or deflected shots, making not playing the angles as much more of a liability.

But in some recent relief appearances and then the two games this week, #70 was back to his “original” self. After his third shutout of this season on Saturday, I asked Holtby what was going on and if the talk of changing his game was true.

“There’s been talk of it from the start of the year to try and change things. The last two games I’ve just played like what’s got me here. So Olie and I are really getting back to our basics and it’s working out,” said Holtby.

Clearly Holtby, in his response to me, was not comfortable with the different style. The coaches were trying to make adjustments, perhaps because the defense was so green, but they clearly weren’t working for a guy this team believes is their number one goalie long term. Basically, they traded away Semyon Varlamov, who just signed a five year $30M contract with Colorado and will be starting for Team Russia in next week’s Olympics, to give the cage to Holtby.

A coach’s job is to try and make a player perform at peak efficiency, but sometimes they can over think a situation. There aren’t many goalies that have the ability to play deep in their net and be successful like Henrik Lundqvist is able to do on a regular basis. In an interview on Sirius XM radio just this week, Calgary Flames Director of Amateur Scouting, Tod Button, stated what I just wrote about Lundqvist. Button basically said that Lundqvist is the exception to the rule when talking about what the Flames are doing with their young up and coming goalie, Joni Ortio. Button said that a lot of the European goalies play that “deeper in the net” style but in the NHL, the shooters are so good that they’ll eat you up, so you have to teach them to be more aggressive.

Holtby was always an aggressive goalie and the direction the Caps were going with him this year was to be less that way. It wasn’t working. But credit both Holtby and Olie Kolzig for working through this and getting #70 back to doing what is most comfortable for him. Based on the way Holtby played this week and has played in the past before the style changes, and given what Button stated (and it is a common thought around the league), letting Holtby be Holtby makes the most sense.

On Saturday, Holtby was the primary reason the Caps won. The Devils had 11 of the first 16 shots on goal and #70 made some big stops, including a two on one early on. I asked Braden what his toughest save of the night was and if it was that stop on the odd man rush. He said that was a good one but it wasn’t as difficult and you might think.

“Those look harder than they actually are if your d-man plays them right like they did and chooses to take away one, the shot or the pass. He chose the shot so I knew he was passing it, which makes it a lot easier on me,” stated Holtby on the sequence that led to a super left pad save.

Holtby did say that New Jersey did a good job of generating traffic and he did get some breaks. Patrick Elias had a golden chance in front in period two but somehow shot the puck wide.

“They put a lot of traffic in front, though, they are right on top of me all night, so a couple of lucky bounces and fighting through screens,” said Holtby describing the challenge he faced with the Devils on Saturday.

Holtby was certainly the number one star, but the other goalie, Cory Schneider, was good too. It took a shot from Julien Brouillette through traffic to beat a goalie many felt, including me, should be on Team USA next week. The goal was the young defensemen’s first in the NHL and it was all the Caps needed, although Martin Erat (1st goal of the year) and Troy Brouwer added empty net tallies.

This was a win the Capitals had to have heading into the Olympic break. They trail the 3rd place Philadelphia Flyers by three points with 23 games to go. The Capitals won their first Metropolitan Division game in their last eight tries to keep pace. The schedule gets extremely tough in March so the Capitals had to get at least six of the eight points on this recent four game homestand. They did that, primarily due to good goaltending from Holtby and Neuvirth.

The Caps will need both, and especially Holtby, who Coach Adam Oates said would be the starter coming out of the Olympic break, to be on their respective games.

It looks like Holtby is back in top form and you can credit that to the mutual decision to allow him to go back to the style that’s made him most successful in his career.

Notes: Alex Oveckhin had an assist and was +2 in 20:48 of ice time…John Carlson led Washington in ice time with 25:11…the Caps killed off all three New Jersey power plays but went 0 for 4 in their man advantage situations. Oates blamed that lack of PP success on poor reads, although the bad ice surface, due to an early basketball game, was a factor also, in my opinion.

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 04 February 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Pitt @ Maryland (Thursday 7pm Comcast Center), Clemson @ Maryland (Sunday 2pm Comcast Center); Soccer: MISL-Baltimore Blast @ St. Louis Ambush (Thursday 8:35pm from St. Charles, MO live on YouTube), Baltimore Blast @ Missouri Comets (Sunday 4:10pm from Independence, MO live on YouTube); Russia @ Team USA Women (Saturday 3:30pm from Boca Raton, FL live on ussoccer.com)

10. Timonium Motorcycle Show (Friday-Sunday Timonium Fairgrounds); Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling (Thursday 8pm Baltimore Comedy Factory); Jim Norton (Thursday-Saturday DC Improv); Motor Trend International Auto Show (Thursday-Sunday Baltimore Convention Center); Cecily Strong (Sunday 8pm Stevenson University); Dallas Buyers’ Club” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); The Monuments Men” and “The Lego Movie” out in theaters (Friday)

Everyone is saying The LEGO Movie is awesome. As awesome as this LEGO version of M&T Bank Stadium?

Also…Cecily Strong rules.

9. Steve Earle (Monday 7:30pm Rams Head on Stage); Karmin (Friday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Railroad Earth (Friday & Saturday 7pm 9:30 Club); Travis Tritt (Wednesday 7:30pm Birchmere), Vanessa Carlton (Thursday 7:30pm Birchmere), Arlo Guthrie (Friday & Saturday 7:30pm Birchmere), Jeffrey Osborne (Sunday 7:30pm Birchmere); The Wild Feathers/Saints of Valory (Tuesday 7pm U Street Music Hall); Bobby McFerrin/Chick Corea (Saturday 8pm Clarence Smith Center); Lauryn Hill (Sunday 8pm Lincoln Theatre), Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (Monday 6:30pm Lincoln Theatre); John Butler Trio “Flesh & Blood” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

The Wild Feathers are the most important on this or any list.

Saints of Valory ain’t too bad either.

Lauryn Hill is amazing. But may it be known: I still have not forgiven her mother’s character from Sister Act 2.

I dig John Butler Trio. I’d kinda like to claim them for America if that’s still an option.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ovechkin OT Goal Gives Caps Super Bowl Sunday Win

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Ovechkin OT Goal Gives Caps Super Bowl Sunday Win

Posted on 02 February 2014 by Ed Frankovic

Alexander Ovechkin, who shanked a one timer near the end of the first period that would’ve given the Capitals a 4-1 lead, made no mistake when given a second chance in overtime. The Gr8 took John Carlson’s perfect pass on a 4 on 3 power play and lasered it by Wings goalie Jimmy Howard to give Washington a 6-5, OT victory on Super Bowl Sunday.

The win improved the Caps to 25-22-9 (59 points) and puts them just a point out of a playoff spot.

This was one of those games that fans love and coaches mostly despise. There was lots of end to end action and numerous mistakes, which drives coaches nuts. But from a viewing perspective, it was exciting.

From a Caps angle, this game had several things to like.

First, the effort was superb from the outset. Washington, after getting thoroughly dominated in puck possession on Friday in Motown, owned the biscuit for the first half of this contest in racing to a 4-2 lead. The Capitals are scoring goals again because they are moving their feet and paying the price to get to the front of the opposition net. They are finally owning that portion of the ice and they are getting the gritty and greasy goals necessary to win. Joel Ward (2 goals, 1 assist) and Jason Chimera (1 goal, 2 assists) were the kings of that on Sunday.

Second, Washington’s forecheck generated turnovers and Martin Erat and Nicklas Backstrom’s pressure in the offensive zone directly led to a nice top shelf goal by Troy Brouwer that put the Capitals up 5-4 early in period three.

Third, the power play is clicking again and making life miserable for the opposition. The Wings tried to take Ovechkin away on the 5 on 4 and all Coach Adam Oates and company did was adjust and get two power play markers in what pretty much became 4 on 3 situations with the Gr8 blanketed. Ward tallied from the slot and John Carlson scored with a bomb from the point. Ovechkin’s game winner was on a real 4 on 3, so the Caps were 3 for 6 with the man advantage on Sunday.

Fourth, puck possession is easier to gain when you win the face off battle. Washington was 46-30 on draws and that forced Detroit to chase the Caps to try to get the biscuit for much of the game. Jay Beagle went 14-5 from the dot.

Finally, Michal Neuvirth, despite giving up five goals, was really good in net again. His pad save on Henrik Zetterberg (3 assists) with the game tied in the third period allowed the Caps to win this contest. Neuvy is in a groove and he told me afterwards he’s playing the best he has been all season. He feels comfortable and focused in the cage and he stated that the coaches have only made minor changes to his game, which allows him to play the way he’s always played.

So why did the Capitals do so many good things and still need overtime to win?

Well, let’s start with untimely penalties. Connor Carrick’s cross check in the opening frame turned a 2-0 lead into a 2-1 contest in just nine seconds. Worse though was Brouwer’s neutral zone slash with the score 4-2 late in period two. That is a killer infraction and one that gave Detroit new life when the Capitals were close to putting a stranglehold on this tilt. Brouwer has to be smarter in that situation as his penalty was selfish and lazy. I imagine Troy would be the first to tell you he hosed up there (and he did score a big goal in period three to help make up for it).

Next, the Caps defensive zone continues to have issues, particularly in coverage. After the game I asked Oates why they are giving up so many goals when it appears they have players in position to defend. The bench boss said it is simply a case of not winning the “one on one battles.” He’s right about that and it is a pattern we’ve seen too often this season. So is it a question of a lack of focus or an ability issue in their own end? My take is it is a combination of both, but I put more of it on the talent side as Washington’s defense is very inexeperienced after Carlson and Karl Alzner (Mike Green missed his second straight game due to injury).

Bottom line is this team is going to have to work super hard at both ends to overcome the defensive zone issues they have in order to climb their way into post season position. They also need to be more self disciplined by staying out of the box.

Last year the Capitals went on an amazing run down the stretch to make the playoffs by bringing a great effort each night and cutting down on penalties. That run came after a tough loss in Pittsburgh last March where the Caps played well and fell, 2-1. The Capitals fed off of the positives of that difficult loss. But this season, Chimera admitted that the loss to the Penguins on January 15th, a game in which the Caps carried the play, but lost, 4-3, took some time to recover from. Their efforts after that loss were not good for a few games until they turned the corner with a 5-0 win in Montreal.

Since Montreal (outside of the Columbus loss), Washington has improved offensively by getting more bodies and pucks to the net, so that is encouraging and they’ll need to keep that up in order to win their last three games against the Islanders, Jets, and Devils before the Olympic break.

All three tilts are at the Verizon Center and if the Capitals bring the effort they brought on Sunday, then they should be able to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference this week.

 

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Neuvirth, Ovechkin Steal a Point for Caps in Detroit

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Neuvirth, Ovechkin Steal a Point for Caps in Detroit

Posted on 31 January 2014 by Ed Frankovic

A night after getting totally whipped in Columbus, the Washington Capitals went into Detroit to take on the Red Wings.

Granted this isn’t the vintage Wings teams that won four Stanley Cups from 1997 to 2008, but they still have a good hockey club and Detroit showed it by dominating the Capitals in puck possession (shot attempts were 81-54 for Detroit) and finally winning in a shootout, 4-3.

This game is 7-2 or worse if not for Michal Neuvirth (42 saves), who was absolutely outstanding throughout the night. Neuvy, who made several ten bell saves in regulation, stopped the first six shootout attempts but none of his teammates could dent Jimmy Howard in the gimmick and Patrick Eaves finally notched the game winner with a sweet glove high shot just inside the right post before Jay Beagle couldn’t convert in the 7th round.

Neuvirth, however, would have gotten the loss if not for a late push from the Caps that saw Alexander Ovechkin tie the game with seven seconds remaining after a nice feed from John Carlson (two assists). Joel Ward did a super job in front of the net on the tying tally.

Another Cap that had a good outing was Casey Wellman, who scored a huge goal to knot this one at two. Wellman took an excellent stretch pass from Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist), skated in on Howard and fired three shots before the last one finally hit the twine. Jason Chimera (1 goal, 1 assist) had a strong game along with Carlson and Karl Alzner.

Sadly, after Wellman’s great individual effort, John Erskine blew a tire in the offensive zone and that allowed Gustav Nyquist to beat a screened Neuvirth for what looked to be the game winning goal until the Gr8 late game magic.

Ovechkin now has 39 goals on the campaign and he rebounded after a poor outing in Columbus. The Caps worked harder against Detroit but they were outclassed by the Wings, which is a concern.

The Caps, without Green on the back end, had to rely heavily on Carlson (31:18 of ice time) and Alzner (23:19) on the blue line, and hope that Dmitry Orlov, Tyson Strachan, John Erskine, and Connor Carrick could hold the fort as the bottom four defenders. Unfortunately the Erskine & Carrick pair struggled and finished -2 on the night.

So an important five game road trip ends with the Capitals getting five points. The Caps are two points behind third place Carolina in the Metro Division and two points in back of the Wings, who own the 8th and final Eastern Conference playoff spot currently. Washington now has four straight home games, including Super Bowl Sunday’s tilt against the Wings. Given that the Capitals are 13th in the conference, one would have to think they need to win at least three of the four contests on home ice this week before the Olympic break hits to stay in playoff contention.

They were fortunate to get a point in Motown on Friday night. They can thank Neuvirth for this one along with some late game heroics from Ovechkin.

Notes: The Wings played without star center Pavel Datsyuk and forward Johan Franzen while the Caps didn’t have Mike Green or Mikhail Grabovski, due to injuries. According to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, Coach Adam Oates confirmed that Green is undergoing concussion protocol and in addition, Brooks Laich was shut down for the third period due to “tightness.” Finding healthy bodies to play continues to get tougher for Washington…five Washington forwards didn’t even ATTEMPT a shot tonight (Martin Erat, Marcus Johansson, Eric Fehr, Beagle, and Tom Wilson), that is not good at all.

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No Ovechkin = No Goals for Caps in 6th Straight Loss

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No Ovechkin = No Goals for Caps in 6th Straight Loss

Posted on 21 January 2014 by Ed Frankovic

“Slip Slidin’ away, slip slidin’ away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.”  – Paul Simon

That song pretty much sums up the Caps season right now. The closer they are getting to playing all 82 games, the closer they are getting to missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.

On Tuesday night, without Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps not only lost, but they failed to score a single goal against the Ottawas Senators in a 2-0 defeat.

There isn’t much to say about this game, it was a listless effort outside of a handful of players. Goalie Braden Holtby returned to the starting role and played a decent game, but his club didn’t give him any help. The Senators are a team that is too fast for Washington, and it is really looking like the Caps roster just isn’t fast or quick enough to play Coach Adam Oates’ pressure the puck system. There are far too many odd man rushes against and the Caps have no offensive identity outside of their captain.

They fail to get pucks and bodies to the net and on Tuesday they showed little resolve or passion for the game.

Bottom line, this team is getting worse. Sure, they’ve had some decent outings where they looked like they were going to turn a corner, like the game against San Jose just a week ago, but those type of efforts and performances have been few and far between. The ratio of quality games by this club compared to poor ones is not good at all.

I’ve blogged several times about the need for trades to correct an unbalanced roster but nothing has been able to get completed despite several trade requests. Granted it takes two to tango, but something needs to be done before the Capitals are reduced to just playing for a lottery pick.

Washington has had three coaches in just over 2 years and this team has continued to slide. One of those deposed coaches is sitting at the top of the NHL standings right now. I don’t see how a coaching change, whether the players are working hard for Oates or not, would get things turned around at this point? It seems that something more drastic is needed given that the same mistakes and lackadaisical efforts continue.

This team is headed in the wrong direction and an area that has really taken to hockey in the Ovechkin era is getting impatient and is not happy. Owner Ted Leonsis acknowledged it in his blog on Monday morning, citing that he feels “the heat.”

Well the temperature went up after Tuesday’s loss and the fans are not happy, at all. A five game road trip starts on Friday. There don’t appear to be any quick fixes for this club, but the hockey department, coaching staff, and players quickly need to get a plan together to turn this sinking ship around.

Right now, it looks like there isn’t any plan based on the effort I saw on Tuesday night following the debacles in Columbus and New York.

A plan needs to be found and implemented before this season is lost and the fans start tuning out.

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Embarrassing Weekend for Caps & NHL

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Embarrassing Weekend for Caps & NHL

Posted on 19 January 2014 by Ed Frankovic

For those following along on this blog and in my recent radio session with Drew Forrester on WNST, the fact that the Capitals have lost five in a row is not a surprise to you. On Friday they were whipped 5-1 by the Columbus Blue Jackets and on Sunday night it was a 4-1 drubbing to the despised New York Rangers. Things are bad in Caps land, no doubt.

The optimists will point to some fancy stats, particularly the Caps 5v5 Close Fenwick percentage, and talk about how the Capitals puck possession statistics are at a season high. But that and a dollar might get you a cup of coffee these days. Washington is making far too many mistakes on the ice, to include the propensity to take terrible penalties.

They are like that NFL team that can pile up the yards on offense but turn the ball over several times a game, get flagged often, and have a weak defense. Yes, the Caps have the puck more than their opposition a lot lately, but when they lose it, the mishap is resulting in a biscuit in the back of their net far more often than the puck possession edge is leading to goals for them.

Outside of Alex Ovechkin and perhaps John Carlson, there aren’t many guys playing well right now on this club. The defense is a shambles as Washington just doesn’t have six legit NHL blue liners. After Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Mike Green, the quality takes a severe drop. Dmitry Orlov, who made the terrible turnover that started the loss to New York just 70 seconds into the game, is trying to do too much on a disastrous pairing with Green. Both 52 and 81 have the same styles but because Washington is so weak depth wise on defense, Coach Adam Oates is practically forced to play them together because the other options are far worse.

The goaltending has had its share of ups and downs and the latest casualty of a horse being ridden too hard and long appears to be Philipp Grubauer. The rookie goalie was bad on goals two and three against the Rangers and yanked for the second straight contest. He likely will be heading back to Hershey since logically the way to go right now is with Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth in goal. As for Neuvirth, with a limited goalie trade market, it makes little sense to just dump the young goalie because he wants out. Neuvy has played well in his two recent games so the smart move for the Caps is to just go with the duo they planned on having all season and then decide what to do in the off season. GM George McPhee likely can’t get a good enough return to make it worth his while to move Neuvirth. Goaltending is a precious commodity (see Edmonton and Philadelphia for examples of teams with weak net minding) so for the Caps to move a good goalie who has won a playoff series and has a salary cap friendly contract would be foolish.

As for the offense, it stinks after you get past the Gr8. Part of the problem is the defense is not good at getting the puck out of their own zone but this crew of forwards lacks chemistry and the intestinal fortitude to get the greasy goals needed to be a playoff team. They also don’t defend well either. There is an over abundance of right wings and a dearth of left wingers. Martin Erat, who asked to be traded back in November, took three minor penalties on Sunday in New York, one of which cost Green a goal. The 32 year old winger, who is on the downside of his career, is not helping his trade case, at this point.

Basically, it’s a train wreck for the Caps right now and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with a home game on Tuesday against a speedy Ottawa team (2-0 vs. Caps this season) followed by five straight games on the road.

The embarrassing weekend has dropped the Capitals out of a playoff spot and if they don’t find a way to turn things around quickly, they will be in even worse shape heading into the Olympic break in early February.

Speaking of embarrassing, the NHL should have its’ tail between its’ legs after the events of Saturday night, which was “Hockey Day” in Canada.

Let’s start with the debacle in Detroit. The Los Angeles Kings had a 2-1 lead late in regulation when a Wings point shot deflected off of the stick of a Kings defensemen up in the air and hit the netting behind the goal some 20 feet up. The puck then proceeded to ricochet off of the netting and off of the back of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and in the cage for what the zebras called on the ice the tying goal. Kings D-man Drew Doughty immediately put his hand up to signal the puck went out of play but somehow all four officials MISSED the puck hitting the netting. Then a bigger issue comes into play. Because pucks off of the netting are not reviewable the league office in Toronto could not disallow the goal because it is not in the rule book. What a joke. If the league doesn’t immediately change that rule tomorrow then they are a disgrace. The shootout loss cost LA a critical point that could decide home ice advantage for them and the Wings got two points they desperately need, but did not deserve, in a very tight Eastern Conference playoff race. Shame on you NHL for not having this scenario covered and double shame on the blind referees who missed this obvious call.

Now for the big embarrassment of the weekend, and those of you who follow the game will be not be surprised that Vancouver Coach John Tortorella was the main culprit. The stubborn and fiery coach, who has already worn out his welcome in Tampa and New York, is currently coaching a struggling Canucks team that just went 0-3 on a road trip. Flames coach Bob Hartley, the Canucks opponent on Saturday night, put a starting lineup together that was ultra tough. Calgary has been a bad team all year but their early season strong work ethic had recently waned. So Hartley rewarded a fourth line that had scored in the previous game with a start in Vancouver. So naturally, the man who seems to look for fights, Tortorella, overreacted and put his tough guys out on the ice to start the game. The result, as many have seen, was an instant line brawl right out of Slap Shot. It was a disgrace and an embarrassment to hockey. What made things even worse was Torts, after the first period was over, was caught on Hockey Night in Canada cameras trying to get at Hartley in the entrance to the Flames locker room. A major dust up occurred with Flames goalie coach and former Washington Capital Clint Malarchuk having to be restrained from going after Torts. Tortorella’s actions after the period was over are far worse than anything else because the game should never be played off of the ice. Torts crossed the line there and should be suspended for several games and fined heavily.

Those who try to say that Tortorella’s hand was forced aren’t going to get any agreement from me. If Torts had remained calm and thought his way through things he would have put out his 2nd or 3rd line to start the game. The line brawl would not have occurred and you can bet that the referees would have been watching closely at the Flames fourth unit and whistled any penalties had they come close to crossing the line. It was an avoidable situation for Tortorella but he was too busy being hard headed and trying to “man up” that he missed a chance to teach his team the right lesson about showing self discipline. Now he’s going to sit for awhile and his ability to get his club to show restraint seems to have been diminished greatly.

What an embarrassment for hockey from Tortorella, there is no other way to put it.

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 13 January 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Syracuse @ Maryland (Thursday 8:30pm from Comcast Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Georgia Tech @ Maryland (Sunday 2pm Comcast Center); Boxing: Jean Pascal vs. Lucian Bute (Saturday 10:15pm from Montreal live on HBO), Ivan Redkach vs. Tony Luis (Friday 10pm from Memphis live on Showtime); MISL: St. Louis Ambush @ Baltimore Blast (Friday 7:35pm from Baltimore Arena live on YouTube), Baltimore Blast @ Syracuse Silver Stars (Sunday 1pm from Syracuse, NY live on YouTube)

10. Paul Mooney (Saturday 7:30pm Howard Theatre)l Iliza Shlesinger (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Doug Stanhope (Thursday 8pm Magooby’s Joke House); Todd Glass (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); Baltimore County Restaurant Week (Tuesday-Sunday throughout Baltimore County); Enough Said“, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler“, “Riddick” and “Carrie” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit“, “The Nut Joband “Ride Along” out in theaters (Friday)

Iliza Schlesinger is both humorous and not safe for work.

I have no interest in seeing Jack Ryan, but I could use some more Keira Knightley in my life.

9. Jay-Z (Thursday 8pm Verizon Center); Stone Sour/Pop Evil (Friday 8pm Rams Head Live); Rusted Root (Monday 7:30pm Rams Head on Stage); Big Daddy Kane (Friday 9pm Howard Theatre); Charles Bradley (Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club), Big Head Todd and The Monsters (Saturday 7pm 9:30 Club); Gipsy Kings (Monday 7:30pm Birchmere); Dangermuffin (Friday 8pm Gypsy Sally’s); Bruce Springsteen “High Hopes”Switchfoot “Fading West” and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “Give The People What They Want” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

I’ve seen Jay-Z a few times, probably won’t make down to DC Thursday night. But if he ever toured with The Roots there would not be a price I wouldn’t pay.

Charles Bradley > Charles Barkley > Matt Barkley > My elementary school friend Matt Besche. Actually, strike that. Matt Besche is WAY better than Matt Barkley.

Drew Forrester said the new Springsteen record isn’t a home run. Fair enough. I really like this tune though.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are example number 6,789,403 why Brooklyn is now the capital of the music world.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ovechkin, Neuvirth Rally Caps Past Leafs, 3-2

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Ovechkin, Neuvirth Rally Caps Past Leafs, 3-2

Posted on 10 January 2014 by Ed Frankovic

Michal Neuvirth, playing his first game since late November, had every right to be upset after Karl Alzner’s stick deflected a Phil Kessel shot from a weak angle by him to give Toronto a 2-1 lead just 54 seconds into the third period.  But #30 didn’t sulk, and in more important fashion, Neuvy made a game changing save on Mason Raymond, who was wide open in the slot, just 65 ticks later. If Raymond’s shot goes in, the game is pretty much over as Washington would’ve gone down 3-1. But Neuvirth made a great glove save.

Shortly thereafter, the Capitals started to take the play after slightly being outplayed by the visitors, to that point. Nicklas Backstrom would tie it at the 4:36 mark after strong work in the offensive zone and then Alexander Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist) made a great pass to Marcus Johansson, who then fed Joel Ward in the slot, and #42 buried the game winner just after David “Overpaid” Clarkson’s penalty expired.

Washington then closed out the final 8:09 of time and won their second straight contest in regulation to improve to 22-16-6 (50 points), which puts them in a second place tie with the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.

With both teams having played the previous night, the first period had a sleepy feel to it and neither club dented the twine. But that changed in the middle frame and boy did the intensity pick up after Dion Phaneuf and John Erskine had a roughing match with the linesman sandwiched between them. #4 would end up getting the extra minor, a call that had Coach Adam Oates as mad as I’ve ever seen him on the bench. The Caps killed the extra minor and then Ovechkin scored his 32nd of the season after great work by Mike Green in the corner and a super pass by Mikhail Grabovski.

But, as usual, the Caps couldn’t stand prosperity and the Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk scored on the power play just 2:29 later. Then the intensity went to an even higher level, fueled by the Phaneuf-Erksine spat and likely also by a shaky hit from behind by Nazem Kadri on Alzner along the Caps bench. For some reason Toronto’s Carter Ashton then decided it would be a good idea to fight rookie Tom Wilson and talk about a bad plan, #43 pummeled the son of former NHLer, Brent.

That undercard bout would lead to the main event, Colton Orr vs. Erskine and Big John pounded Orr in a decisive victory. Unfortunately the fight wins didn’t translate into goals on the ice as the Leafs carried more of the play from then until the Kessel tally early in the third period.

But Neuvirth (32 saves) came through with the huge stop on Raymond when this game was in question and saved his club.

It was a big victory, granted it was over a struggling Leafs squad, but Washington needs wins now and Neuvy allowed his club to finally wake up and grab the contest.

So that is two strong goaltending performances in a row for the Caps. Philipp Grubauer was super in Tampa on Thursday and Neuvirth was excellent on Friday against Toronto. #30 still wants to be traded, but with a grueling stretch coming up, Oates is gonna need his keepers to play well.

What also helped Neuvirth tonight was the Caps clamped down in the neutral zone and avoided offensive zone turnovers. As a result the Leafs did not get any two on ones or breakaways. At best, they may have had one or two three on two’s. That is real progress for Washington, granted it was against a team that struggles to own the puck. The Capitals still allowed 34 shots on net and 66 attempts to the Leafs against 35 and 68 for the Caps, respectively, so they did not totally dominate puck possession.

Overall, it was a pretty even game but Neuvirth made some big stops when needed and the Capitals top players, Ovechkin and Backstrom, delivered down the stretch to help Washington eke out a victory.

Notes: Washington was 0 for 4 on the power play and afterwards Oates blamed much of that on the Verizon Center ice, calling it “terrible tonight”…the Leafs went 1 for 3 with the man advantage…the Caps lost the faceoff battle 39-34 and Toronto’s first goal came right after a defensive zone loss by Brooks Laich on the PK…next up for the Caps are the Buffalo Sabres at 3pm at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Ryan Miller made 49 saves last time these two teams met in Buffalo.

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