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Caps Collapse, Lose in Shootout to Leafs

Posted on 07 December 2010 by Ed Frankovic

For 40 minutes on Monday the Washington Capitals looked a lot like the team that dominated the NHL en route to the 2009-10 Presidents’ Trophy as they raced out to a 4-1 lead sparked by the recall of Mathieu Perreault (2 goals, +2) from Hershey and Alexander Ovechkin’s second goal in two games. But then the Caps forgot that they had to come out and play the third period and resembled the team that started flat in the first 10 minutes of game five in last season’s playoffs versus Montreal and allowed three goals to let the Toronto Maple Leafs tie the game and send it to ovetime. After a scoreless extra five minute frame, the teams went into a shootout and Mikhail Grabovski scored the only gimmick goal on a spinorama to give the Leafs an amazing come from behind 5-4 victory. The loss drops the Caps to 18-8-3 but they did register a point. However, the streaking Atlanta Thrashers won again on Monday knocking off the Nashville Predators in overtime and trail Washington by only six points in the Southeast Division and they have a game in hand. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also the same number of points behind but have played two less games than the Capitals.

Let’s get to the highlights, quotes and analysis of Washington’s second straight loss on home ice:

- The glass half full people will point out that the Caps should be excused for the third period collapse because they weren’t motivated against a Toronto team that is among the worst in the league in the standings and lack talent. They will be optimistic about the play of Perreault, who centered the second line with Alexander Semin (assist, +1) and Brooks Laich (assist, +1), for bringing energy and giving Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau some balanced scoring. In addition, they will talk about how the team took Boudeau’s message from Saturday about going to the net and potted four goals, the first three of which came because of traffic in front of Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson (32 saves). Laich did the screen job on the first two tallies while Semin went hard to the paint on Perreault’s second marker of the night and paid for it with a hit to the head from Leafs d-man Mike Komisarek. Finally, they will be happy because the Great #8 scored on a laser to make it 4-1 and immediately went by the penalty box and thanked tough guy DJ King for standing up to heavyweight Colton Orr in a fight. Orr had cheap shotted Ovechkin on an earlier second period shift and King, as he should do, took exception and motivated his club with the bout, which was pretty much a draw.

- The glass half empty crew, though, are likely to have as much to say. They will point out the Capitals poor defensive zone coverage in the third period and state that Washington didn’t really take Boudreau’s message about working hard to heart because after the first period they failed to draw a Toronto penalty, despite earning three in the first 20 minutes. The detractors will mention the numerous defensive zone giveaways, including Karl Alzner’s that led to the Leafs first tally. In addition, they will criticize the team’s inability to compose themselves in the last three minutes of this tilt, a stretch that saw Toronto score twice to tie the game up. Finally, they will preach about the Capitals lack of killer instinct and point out that a team that is this inconsistent in the regular season simply can’t turn it on and be strong enough throughout two months of the post season to capture a Stanley Cup.

- The bottom line is there is some truth to both arguments and Boudreau and GM George McPhee need to figure out where they need to address issues and areas where they shouldn’t over-react. After all, McPhee did tell many of us on media day that he doesn’t care a lot about the Presidents’ Trophy, and is only focused on a long playoff run so, in a way, those words give his players an out when they “mail it in” for portions of contests. It is only December but sometimes a little adversity is not a bad thing for a hockey club, in the long run. Last season the Capitals rarely faced it, although they did have a couple of three game losing streaks similar to this one. The team did go harder to the net for most of the first 40 minutes and that is when they were nearly impossible to deny, but the problem becomes how do they keep that desire and compete level up for a full 60 minutes? Much of the defensive breakdowns were not being out of position or caught up ice, in fact, on most Leafs goals Capitals players were all back in the general vicinity of where they needed to be, however, they quit skating.

- Now that you’ve heard my take on the loss, let’s hear what the coaches and some of the players had to say on a commendable effort by Ron Wilson’s club.

“Washington got a little sloppy towards the end.  I think they thought the game was over but kept on playing and [we] took advantage of some of their miscues in their end.  It’s great for our team,” said the Leafs coach and former Capitals bench boss on his teams comeback.

 

“We quit playing in our zone. We just wanted to play safe. You can’t just allow a team to come into our zone all night long. When they were in our zone, our positioning, by both defensemen and forwards, was really bad,” commented Boudreau on how his team imploded in the third period.

 

”I don’t know what happened [in] the last 10 minutes. It started with our line when [Mikhail] Grabovski scored. 4-to-1 lead after two periods is pretty big. Losing a game like this is pretty bad for us. It’s a lesson and it’s good we have another game soon,” added team captain Ovechkin.

 

“When we do what he tells us to do, we succeed. When we don’t, that’s what happens in the third. We set out a game plan. We did it really well in the first two periods. The third period – shame on us,” said d-man Tom Poti, who had three assists but was on the ice for the game tying goal by Clarke MacArthur, which came with “The Monster” on the bench for the sixth attacker.

 

“He brought great energy tonight, like we thought. He made plays, like we thought. If some of the other forwards had played with as much energy as him, we wouldn’t have been in the situation we were in,” finished Boudreau when asked about Perreault and why his club lost in the shootout, despite a three goal lead after two periods.

 

“Every time I get called up it seems like the first game I’m flying. Now it’s just a matter of doing it every night. I felt good tonight. It’s just unfortunate that we came out with a loss here. I thought we played good for the first two periods and in the third we got away from our game and it cost us,” said #85, who was easily the star of the night for Washington.

 

Notes: Perreault was recalled today from Chocolatetown…Eric Fehr was scratched, supposedly a healthy one according to Mike Vogel of WashingtonCaps.com, along with Dave Steckel and d-man John Erskine. Tyler Sloan went on injured reserve to free up a roster spot for #85…however, Jeff Schultz took a shot off of his hand in the second period and fractured his thumb and will miss 4 to 6 weeks. Sarge played 10:32 before the injury ended his evening…Michal Neuvirth (24 saves) started and was a mixed bag, just like his teammates. He was really good early in the second period when the Leafs pressed for the tying tally, but in the third period he probably should have had Grabovski’s goal that started the rally…Washington won the face-off battle, 33-25, with Boyd Gordon going 12-3 and Nicklas Backstrom (2 assists, -2) winning 12 of 18 draws…next up for the Capitals are the Florida Panthers at 7pm on Thursday night. It is not the type of opponent the Caps will get up for and they could really use a game against someone like the Pittsburgh Penguins to get their blood flowing and focus back. Unfortunately the hated Pens are not on the schedule until December 23rd.

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Varlamov Stones Blues as Caps Win, 4-1

Posted on 02 December 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Before Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals last victory in St. Louis came with Jim Schoenfeld as the head coach and David Poile as the General Manager (1996). Thanks to Semyon Varlamov, who was outstanding in goal tonight with 37 saves, the Caps eight game losing streak at the Scotttrade center is now over. Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and an assist as Washington got some revenge on Blues goalie, Jaroslav Halak (22 saves), who had stoned the Caps in their opening round playoff loss last spring when he was with Montreal. The victory on the road pushes the Caps to 18-6-2 overall and they’ve won four straight with Varly in the cage after he returned from a lengthy absence due to a groin injury. Washington leads the Southeast Division by seven points over Tampa Bay and the Eastern Conference by four points over those two teams they don’t like from Pennsylvania.

Here are the highlights and analysis of a rare road win in the “Show Me” state:

- Typically the Caps play some of their best hockey in front of Varlamov. Tonight was not one of those games as the Blues carried the majority of the play but #1 had the backs of his teammates and he made several super saves. His positioning was excellent and he had superb rebound control. Varly also is bigger than both Michael Neuvirth and Braden Holtby and he plays like a big goalie. That forces opponents to try and pick corners. The result is that they often miss the net.

- Washington is banged up on the back line and it is a good thing they made the Tomas Fleischmann for Scott Hannan trade now. Hannan, who sat out this one so he could learn the Caps system by observing from the press box, is slated to make his Caps debut in Dallas on Thursday evening (830 pm on Comcast). He will be needed big time because Tom Poti, who helped set up the second goal for Washington, did not play in the third period (logged only 11 minutes of total ice time). In addition, Mike Green appeared to be favoring his right shoulder quite a bit but he gutted this tilt out. John Carlson got banged up right before the Blues only tally with 31 seconds left in period two, but he managed to persevere. John Erskine also took a hard hit in the back by Brad Winchester in the final stanza and looked to be in some pain.

- Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin, and Mike Knuble were the Caps best line on Wednesday and they were +2 each. It was Knuble’s hard, low shot on Halak that rebounded off of the goalie’s pads and right onto the stick of #19, who buried it to give Washington a key two goal cushion with just under 13 minutes remaining. Nicky also made a super feed to Brooks Laich on the power play in the first period to start the scoring (Alex Semin had the second assist on a gorgeous cross ice pass). Backstrom’s last tally came via an Oveckin pass with the net empty. The Great #8, who has not scored a goal in eight games, has eight assists during that drought, including seven during the four game winning streak. It was a very smart play by Oveckhin to get the puck to Backstrom for the tap in and close this game out with 35 seconds remaining. Sure he could have fired the biscuit into the empy cage to stop his personal goalless streak, but instead he showed his unselfishness, maturity, patience, and commitment to winning. That is what  a team captain does and it is so clear that Alexander the Great is not concerned at all with his individual statistics, he is only focused on winning despite what some of those biased analysts in Canada will try to tell you. Despite the focus on the team, Ovechkin is now 3rd in the league in scoring with 33 points (8 points behind Sidney Crosby and 7 in back of Steve Stamkos).

- Another game, another one in which the opponents get more power plays than Washington. The Caps received two early power plays and tallied on one of them but after that the Blues received four opportunities with the man advantage. St. Louis carried the play but the zebras missed some calls on the Blues, including an obvious stick slash when Ovechkin had a scoring chance. Oh well, like Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau said after Sunday’s win vs. Carolina, “I’ve given up trying to understand [the officiating].” St. Louis went 0 for 4 on the power play and Washington did a great job of being aggressive and forcing the Blues into some turnovers. Varlamov was also what he needed to be: the Caps best penalty killer.

Notes: The Caps won or tied the faceoff battle for the 13 straight contest (33-30) and they did it without their best draw man, Dave Steckel. Matt Hendricks, who seems to do all of the little things that help you win, was 10-3 while Boyd Gordon went 11-6…#39 sat so that DJ King could get a game and #17 had an assist on Washington’s second tally which was credited to Gordon when Halak fumbled the puck into his own cage…Green played 25:24 to lead the Caps in ice time…Boudreau did a nice job of rolling the lines and with the Caps going against Dallas on Thursday he needed to be able to do that for the second half of the back-to-back games. Varlamov’s goaltending really helped that cause…one would expect to see Neuvirth in the cage in Dallas…Washington returns home to the Verizon Center on Saturday night when they take on Atlanta for the third and final time in the regular season. The Thrashers are currently riding a six game winning streak but have lost both tilts at the Phone Booth.

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Caps Overtake Leafs in Shootout, 5-4

Posted on 04 November 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Despite blowing a two goal third period lead, the Washington Capitals rallied to tie the game via an Alexander Semin power play goal with 5:38 remaining and then went on to knock off the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout at sold out Verizon Center on Wednesday night. The Caps received a goal and an assist from Semin and two helpers from Alexander Ovechkin while getting 24 stops from rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth in the victory. With the win, Washington moves to 8-4 overall and are now tied for first in the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference with the Tampa Bay Lightning (the Bolts have a game in hand).

Below are the highlights, quotes, and analysis of an entertaining game that was shown across Canada on TSN:

- There are some who will not like this Caps victory at all and pick at the negatives, including a stretch of just over three minutes in the third stanza where Washington allowed three straight goals to lose a 3-1 lead. As Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau stated after the game, it was not the way you want to win, however, the Capitals did a lot of good things in this game and those types of positives will likely pay off down the road. One criticism of the Caps this season and in the past has been that they have a tendency to play too much on the perimeter, at times. In this contest, that was clearly NOT the case as line after line for Boudreau skated hard to the net all evening long. The result was four goals, all of which came in close, but if the puck had bounced the Caps way, and I thought the luck factor was clearly on Toronto’s side for much of this contest, Washington could have had at least six or seven. Here are how the goals were scored:

Goal 1: Mike Green takes a sweet feed from Semin in the slot on the power play and from in close he roofs it by Jonas Gustavsson (26 saves).

Goal 2: Matt Bradley gets the puck deep and then Boyd Gordon makes a great pass into the slot from behind the net where a streaking Jason Chimera bangs it home from the door step.

Goal 3: Washington’s offensive zone pressure results in a turnover and Brooks Laich passes the puck up the right wing boards to John Carlson at the point. #74 fires the biscuit on net and Tomas Fleischmann comes out from behind the cage and tips the puck by Gustavsson.

Goal 4: Another PP marker is notched when Ovechkin fires a shot on net that is partially blocked but Laich out works the Leafs defense in front of the cage and the puck bounces right to Semin on the left post and he roofs it to send the game to extra time.

Bottom line is if Washington shows that kind of desire to get traffic and drive for rebounds then they will score a lot of goals.

“Yeah, we had chances as did they. We went to the net and that’s how you score goals,” started Boudreau,”We talk about it and that is how you score goals. When [Semin] scored his goal on the power play, there is not too many guys in the National Hockey League who can pick it and put it there quickly.”

“That is absolutely right. The puck was bouncing around out there so the only play really was to shoot it at the net and have guys crash. Our forwards did a great job with that plan and I know I hit Brooksie a couple of times and we created some plays. We need more of that,” said #52 when asked if the Caps game plan against Toronto was to storm the crease.

- Neuvirth continues to be a major factor in the team’s early season success. Despite giving up four goals he made the big stops when they were needed. Early in period two, with the Leafs up a goal, he made a point blank save on Clarke Macarthur. In period three, with Toronto leading 4-3, Neuvirth thwarted a Leafs blast and he received some great help from Karl Alzner on the rebound, who batted the puck out of the air and out of harm’s way.  Finally, in the shoot out he stoned Phil Kessel when #81 tried to go five hole and then he shut down Nikolai Kulemin’s attempt setting the stage for Semin to win the game with his blast on Washington’s third shootout attempt (Caps won 2-0).

“You know what, we’ve asked a lot from him this year. We’ve played 12 games and he’s played in 11 of them and if you look he’s never played more than 45, 50 games, including playoffs in his pro career. So we are asking a lot of him right now for a first year guy to come in and stand on his head and he does. That is why he was rookie of the month and probably get more,” added the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winning bench boss.

“I think he’s incredible. I don’t want to pump him up too much here and get his head too big but he’s been outstanding for us and as a defenseman I feel so comfortable with him behind us. There is already a mutual bond that we feel that we have with him even though he’s only been here for the period of time he has been. You know he has a bright future ahead of him, as long as he stays focused here he’s going to be a great player for us,” said Green on the play of his rookie goaltender.

- Special teams played a key role in the victory and the Caps killed off three of four Leafs man advantage situations. Washington’s power play is red hot right now and is five for its last seven attempts.

 ”We finally are going back to the basics and creating the chances that we were creating last year. I think at the start of the year we were making the wrong plays at the wrong times and it’s taken almost a month and a half here to click again. It feels good out there,” said the two time Norris Trophy finalist on a power play that is starting to look like the one that was ranked #1 in the 2009-10 regular season.

- Green was -3 on the evening but he was on the ice for the Capitals two power play goals. In addition, he wasn’t the one primarily responsible for those tallies against. On the first Leafs goal, John Erskine leaves his feet in the slot and Kulemin has all day to get Neuvirth to go down and slide with him. That allowed #41 to slip the puck just inside the left post. Goal 2 against was the result of a horrible DJ King giveaway (-2 in just 8 shifts but he did fight Colton Orr in period one) while the third Toronto marker came when Jeff Schultz (-2) incorrectly pinched at the offensive blue line giving Kris Versteeg a breakaway. The final Leafs tally was on a power play and it was Schultz who could not tie up Tyler Bozak just outside the crease, and as a result #42 slid the puck around Neuvirth into the empty cage. #52 logged 30:17 of ice time and nearly won the game in OT but he hit the left post on a 4 on 3 power play ( he told me after the game he was still thinking about that post shot). His regular partner, Sarge, however, had his worst outing of the year. #55 logged 22:34 of ice time and seemed to constantly be indecisive and lack confidence, especially in the third period. Schultz, who had one of his best games of the season in Calgary last Saturday, just didn’t have it on this evening but his teammates bailed him out. Alzner was especially solid in this tilt and earned 22:32 of time on ice [Programming Note: King Karl will be on WNST 1570 Baltimore on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew Forrester in the 9am hour. You can listen live at WNST.NET].

- About those bad bounces I mentioned above, Nicklas Backstrom had an open net on a two on one break after a super Ovechkin feed but somehow Gustavsson dove back and got the toe of his stick on the shot to knock it wide. Eric Fehr also had a great chance that hit the knob of Gustavsson’s stick and deflected high while both Mike Knuble and Green hit pipes. Knuble also beat Gustavsson early on but Leafs d-man Luke Schenn swept the puck away on the goal line preventing a Washington tally.

 ”I’m not worried about [Knuble or Fehr], the media worries about them. Mike Knuble had three goals after 16 games last year and he ended up with 29 and he had a broken hand in between there where he probably could have had 35, he’s gonna get his goals. He gets chances every night and actually they will start going in for him, I firmly believe that. Eric Fehr, I thought played a lot better tonight. Had a couple good shots, had one hit the knob of the goalie’s stick and went wide and he had good energy. Sometimes it is hard to get out of the gate but they’re working at it. I have all the faith in the world in them,” finished Boudreau on two of his right wingers.

Notes: Ovechkin is now 2 for 2 on penalty shots this season and his routine has been to take the puck wide on the left wing boards and then cut in on the goalie. The move has worked and it appears to be giving the Great #8 more options with the puck…Toronto played without defensemen Dion Phaneuf, who severly cut his leg on Tuesday night vs Ottawa and will be out at least four weeks…the Leafs won the face-off battle, 38-31, with Nicklas Backstrom posting a poor 4-13 mark. Dave Steckel was tops for Washington at 8-3…Boudreau pretty much indicated Neuvirth will start again on Friday night vs. Boston at the Verizon Center. The Caps will likely face Tim Thomas, who is 7-0 this season and defeated Washington twice already last month.

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Defensive Mistakes Doom Caps in Loss to Bruins

Posted on 19 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

On a night when the Washington Capitals would extend their 2010-11 perfect penalty killing mark to 25 straight successes, the Caps were defeated, 3-1, at the Verizon Center by the Boston Bruins. Tim Thomas was superb in goal stopping 35 shots and his club turned some Washington defensive gaffes into tallies en route to their first regulation victory in DC since 2006. The defeat drops the Caps to 4-2 overall and the two squads will meet again in Beantown on Thursday night.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from Tuesday night’s tilt:

Let’s start with the positives for Washington, because there weren’t a whole lot of them. First is clearly the penalty killing unit that was just outstanding once again. Using more players, the goal is to use four sets of forwards and all six defensemen on each minor, and employing an aggressive scheme has worked magic for assistant coach Dean Evason, who runs the special teams. With the Caps down 2-0 in the first period and Boston controlling the play, Washington’s Alexander Semin was whistled for tripping. Last season that might have spelled doom for the Caps because it often seemed that at critical junctures the penalty killing would fail when Washington needed a stop most. Now early on in this campaign the Caps shorthanded crew is not only thwarting the opposition, but the whole team seems to be getting an energy boost from the work of this unit.

Second, rookie Marcus Johansson had his best game as a Cap and notched his first ever NHL goal at 7:42 of the second period. The tally was set up by a good forecheck by Matt Hendricks and Jason Chimera. After Hendricks forced the puck away from Matt Hundwick, Chimera slid a pass to MJ90 near the right post and the young Swede buried it by Thomas. Johansson, who still struggled again on draws going 2-7, and Hendricks were the only Caps who were in the plus category (+1) on the night.

Third, when previously undefeated rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth left the game in the first period due to a reported illness after giving up the first two Boston tallies, Semyon Varlamov came in and made some good saves on some quality chances. Overall #1 yielded only a third period goal, that he never saw due to net traffic, on 14 shots. It was encouraging to get the Russian goalie back in the cage and he played rather well.

Finally in the positive department is the play of rookie defenseman John Carlson, who logged over 24 minutes of ice time, was not on for a goal against, and was clearly Washington’s best blue liner on a night when they sorely missed the great Mike Green (out day to day with an upper body injury).

The Caps did seem to have some energy and put out more effort at times, but overall it was a mediocore performance, at best. Some might point to the Caps shot advantage of 36-21 as a positive, but I won’t hear it. Washington did not do a good job of going to the net, especially on their anemic power play which continues to spend too much time passing the biscuit on the perimeter. The Caps received a late four minute power play with 1:20 to go so they pulled Varly and had a 6 on 4 advantage. However, Semin was the primary culprit of a crew that seemed to show no urgency or desire to get the puck to the net. Atrocious is what I call that last 80 second sequence and Evason needs to get this power play untracked quickly. My suggestion is to sit some of the skill guys and go with a crash the net and blast from the point mentality.

Tyler Sloan showed on Tuesday night why he is typically in the press box on game night. On the first Boston goal, his partner Karl Alzner pinched in the offensive zone. It was not a smart pinch by #27 but in the Caps aggressive system it is something the d-men are authorized to do. Unfortunately Nicklas Backstrom did not do a good job of covering for Alzner and Boston broke down the ice 2 on 1 on #89. Sloan then proceeded to defend like he had never faced an odd man breakaway in his career. First he failed on the opportunity to press the puck carrier, Nathan Horton, in the neutral zone and then he didn’t cut off the pass to David Krejci on the 2 on 1. It was awful defense and it gave Neuvirth no chance to stop Krejci’s shot. #89 needs to make sure he takes the pass and gives the shooter to the goalie in that situation. Sloan was also on the ice for the final Bruins goal but the primary blame on that one goes to the Caps forwards (Chimera and Eric Fehr) who failed to cover the points.

Speaking of not covering their point man, team captain Alexander Ovechkin was caught once again floating in the d-zone and that allowed Bruins d-man Johnny Boychuck to slide down on the right side and take a cross ice pass from Krejci. Neuvirth came out to cut the angle down on the Bruins d-man and #30 stopped the initial shot but Jeff Schultz was unable to clear the puck or Milan Lucic and #17 banged it home to make it 2-0. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Mike Knuble would all be -2 on the night and the Great #8 struggled against big Bruins defender Zdeno Chara all evening.

“Sometimes you have tougher nights than others. I thought his effort was there, I just didn’t think things were going well for that whole line,” said Boudreau on the play of Ovechkin and his first line.”

As for Neuvirth, who was outstanding in the first five games, Boudreau didn’t know that his young net minder was carrying any issues into the contest and was surprised when #30 pulled himself.

“After the second goal, he complained of dizziness and a headache. Then he came off, that was the first I knew of it,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on his starting goalie.”

In 2009-10 the Washington Capitals swept the season series from the Boston Bruins, primarily because the Caps used their significant advantage in the team speed department. In 2010-11 that advantage seems to have been reduced as the B’s now have a once again healthy Lucic plus they’ve added Horton and 2010 NHL 2nd overall draft pick, Tyler Seguin, who can flat out fly. In the first two periods the Bruins were able to keep pace with a Washington team that is still faster, but because Boston was more disciplined with their positioning they built an early 2-0 lead.

“I feel we’ve got pretty good balance on our lines. We’re capable of playing an up tempo game,” said Bruins Coach Claude Julien on his squad’s ability to handle speed in 2010-11.

Boston also has to be pleased with the resurgence of Thomas, who underwent hip surgery last spring, and appears to have regained the form that led Boston to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference in 2008-09. He never looked shaky on Tuesday night and didn’t give Caps forwards much to shoot at in a stellar night’s work.

“That’s my style. I had to battle through some screens and there were some funny little tips that you had to stay on your toes for. We did a good job not giving them break aways or odd man rushes or all alone in the slot or anything like that. We did any excellent job. The times that I gave up rebounds, the D [defense] did a good job clearing them out too,” said the Bruins goalie, who is now 3-0 on the season.

Notes: Tom Poti returned to the lineup and logged 20:31 of ice time. #3 played okay but he was out of position on the 3rd Boston goal, which left Sloan having to fight off two B’s defenders in front of Varly…DJ King dressed and only logged 4:05 of ice time. Boyd Gordon was scratched as a result. Word has it he was a healthy scratch and if so that situation should be reversed in Boston on Thursday night (Gordon plays, King sits). Lucic had a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, and fight) and he slugged it out with John Erskine in the 3rd period…Hendricks and Gregory Campbell fought once again, they had a bout 2 seconds into the preseason tilt in Beantown in September. I gave the edge to #26 in this scrap…the Caps narrowly won the face-off battle, 28-27…the Caps attendance of 18,398 gave them their 64th straight home sellout.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Caps forward Matt Hendricks will be on WNST 1570 Baltimore at 925 am on Wednesday with Drew Forrestor on the Comcast Morning Show. Listen Live on WNST.NET.

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Ovechkin/Neuvirth Combo Lead Caps Again

Posted on 14 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Watching the Washington Capitals 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night was very “Deja Vu” like as the win followed a similiar story line to Monday night’s triumph over the Ottawa Senators. Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth made a number of key saves, including a late breakaway stop on Matt Moulson, and then Alexander Ovechkin rose to the occassion to first tie the contest and then help the Caps win it late in regulation. Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist) scored late in the second period and then won the game for Washington by firing a power play shot that deflected off of Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 1 assist) and by Islanders net minder Dwayne Roloson (24 saves) with 3:39 left in the contest. The victory pushes the Caps record to 3-1. They are a perfect 3-0 at the Verizon Center, which was sold out for the 63rd straight contest.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis on Washington’s third straight victory in three tries in DC:

After Monday night’s victory over Ottawa I said that Neuvirth was the team’s MVP through three tilts. You can make that four following Wednesday night’s impressive performance. The two time Calder Cup champion goalie halted 23 of 24 shots and did what Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau always asks from his net minders:  Make the big save when it is required. Moulson will tell you that #30 did that on Wednesday night and his strong goaltending allowed a Capitals team, that seems to have a tendency to play to the level of their competition so far in 2010-11, to come out victorious. In four games wih the Caps this season, Neuvy is sporting a 2.22 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Neuvirth’s oustanding play while Semyon Varlamov has been out has been huge and some want to declare him the number one goalie, but Boudreau is just happy to have both #30 and Varly.

“It’s not ever going to be a controversy I don’t think, we’re just blessed to have two very good goalies,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winner for NHL Coach of the Year.

- As I mentioned above, the Caps are basically showing up intensity-wise at the level of their opponent. As a result, from period to period the effort and quality of play is very inconsistent. In the first period on Wednesday the Islanders carried the play despite just a 6-5 shots advantage but New York led on a Nino Niederreiter goal because both defenseman John Erskine and John Carlson gave the Islanders forwards too much time and space to make a play. Washington would win the second period in shots 15-6 and in the final stanza it was New York who had a 12-6 shots advantage but thanks to Neuvirth the Caps prevailed.

“We dominated in the first and third [periods] but we cost ourselves with a goal there in the second period and that’s something we can’t have,” said Islanders forward Blake Comeau.

“They got a fluky one in the second [period] and in the third period on the power play.  It would have been nice to get a win here.  The guys played great,” said Roloson on his squad’s play and how they lost to the Caps.

Roloson also praised Ovechvin for being able to pick his spots and make it diffucult for him to stop the Great #8.

“He’s so good and he’s got such a great release.  He gets [the puck] in between guys and defensemen’s feet and between their sticks.  He just gets it through there and he shot a couple low tonight which he normally doesn’t do.  The first one tricked me,” added Rolson on Ovechkin and how he manages to fool opposing net minders with his skill and ability.

- Washington’s penalty killing continues to shine, primarily due to Neuvirth, but the aggressiveness of the shorthanded crew is clearly helping the goalies cause. The Caps are now 15 for 15 in that department on the season. The goalie, who needs to be your best PK man to be successful, is making the big save while the defense is doing a good job of clearing any rebounds.

- The early season struggling Caps power play came up big in this one after being ineffective on its initial attempts. With defenseman Mike Green leaving the game in the 3rd period due to an injury, Carlson received first unit power play time and it was his quick pass to Ovechkin in the middle of the point that allowed Backstrom to deflect the winner home. #74, who made some mistakes on defense, did his usual good job in the offensive zone by moving the biscuit quickly before the Islanders penalty killers could set up. Boudreau seemed relieved to win the game with the man advantage.

“It was just a matter of time. With the people you put out there, hopefully they simplify it and they got one at the right time,” finished Boudreau.

- Backstrom had his best contest of the season but his two points came with Ovechkin on the ice. #19 initially started with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich while Tomas Fleischmann centered Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. In my opinion, the switch didn’t work well as Flash showed no chemistry with either the Great #8 or Knuble. It is nice to try and get Semin going, but not at the expense of Ovechkin, who now has four goals in this young season.

Notes: Tom Poti, Matt Bradley, and Marcus Johansson were all scratched due to minor injuries…2009 1st overall NHL draft pick, John Tavares, did not play for New York due to injury…the Caps were 26-37 on faceoffs with Backstrom going 12-8 while Fleischmann was a horrid 3-10…DJ King dressed for the first time in the regular season and he fought Trevor Gillies (no relation to former Islander great, Clark Gillies) just 2:47 into the contest…the Caps next game is Saturday night in Nashville against the Predators.

 

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Ovechkin, Neuvirth Lead Caps in 7-2 Win Over Devils

Posted on 10 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

When the Washington Capitals are motivated and focused, they are a tough team to beat. Less than 24 hours after basically not showing up in Atlanta in a season opening loss to the the Thrashers, the Caps hit the ice against the New Jersey Devils, a club they went 1-2-1 against in 2009-10, and in a fight filled contest the Capitals buried GM Lou Lamoriello’s squad, 7-2. Leading the way for Washington was Alexander Ovechkin, who scored two goals (including one on a penalty shot) and added an assist, defenseman John Carlson, who tallied a goal and notched two assists, and Michal Neuvirth, who stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced. The very raucous capacity crowd of 18,398 definitely received their money’s worth in this victory, which evens the Caps record at 1-1. The Capitals next game is Monday night at the Verizon Center at 7pm against the Ottawa Senators (7pm on Comcast Sports Net).

Let’s get right to the highlights, quotes and analysis of an extremely entertaining contest:

- I know he was only the third star of the night, but if it wasn’t for Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth’s play in the first 30+ minutes of this tilt, Washington may have been the team that was blown out. #30 was super in the cage making some very big stops, including a whopping 17 in period two. The two time Calder Cup champion goalie was fundamentally sound in net and when he did give up a rebound it was either close enough for him to gather or swat away or he was able to get in position for the second shot. Caps forward Mike Knuble gave credit to the young net minder for his play.

“You just have to have him keep you in there a little bit and make some saves until we get going. It was kind of a fluky first goal. I think we helped him on that one and then the second goal was kind of a busted play shorthanded. He played great after that, he had to make some key saves. It was good to see,” said #22, who had an assist on the night, but more importantly was the one who drove to the net and screened Devils goalie Martin Brodeur on the Caps game winning goal that was scored by Ovechkin in the second period.

- The first star of the game was the Great #8, who took four periods this season plus a Saturday morning video session, to get his game going in 2010-11. Ovechkin’s goal at 14:31 of the second period was vintage Ovie as he came down the left wing, cut to the middle of the ice, and used Knuble as a screen while skipping the puck off the ice and by Brodeur. Then just 37 seconds after Jason Chimera gave the Caps a 4-2 advantage, Ovechkin was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. Brodeur is notoriously one of the best in the league on penalty shots, as evidenced by his great shootout record, but the Great #8 was able to beat him by uncharacteristically going wide left to start his attempt and when #30 committed and went down Ovechkin slid the puck by him to make it 5-2. Alexander the Great had way more energy on Saturday night than in Atlanta and Coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned after the game that Ovechkin was the focus of a not so flattering video session for the team after the morning skate. 

“The difference was that last night was an embarrassing night for us and we just regrouped and watched video. Everybody played bad last night and tonight we moved our legs and finished our checks, [we] played better in the neutral zone, defensive zone. I think guys like Brads (Matt Bradley), Chimmer (Jason Chimera), Greenie (Mike Green) and (Matt) Hendricks do unbelievable jobs protecting our guys and protect themselves. It was a pretty big step for us tonight,” said the two time Hart Trophy winning superstar on the team’s play on Saturday against the Devils.

- Chimera played a significant role in the win as well, blasting one by Brodeur after he came out of the box for holding at 18:25 of period two to give the Caps a two goal advantage. It was a shot that the future hall of fame goalie typically would stop, but not in this one. Then to start the third period the Devils gave up on winning the game and seemed more determined to get an advantage in the fisticuffs department, especially with Washington heavyweight DJ King not in the lineup. #25 showed, to quote Slap Shot, “some good ole fashioned guts” standing up to Devils tough guy David Clarkson in a bout in the Caps defensive zone.

- With under five minutes to go and the Caps up 7-2 things got really crazy as New Jersey was totally frustrated. First $100 million man Ilya Kovalchuk goaded Green into fighting, then Rod Pelley fought Matt Hendricks four seconds later with #26 landing some good shots on Pelley, who was chippy all evening. Two seconds later Clarkson wanted to go again and Bradley fought up in class, and after taking a couple of punches, landed a solid one right in the mind of #23, flooring the Devils top thug. The Verizon Center crowd erupted but just four seconds later New Jersey Devils Coach John Maclean took it too far losing his mind and the focus of his team. Fourth line stiff Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond followed the smallest and youngest Capital, Marcus Johansson, all the way down the ice and jumped him at the Washington blue line. MJ90′s teammates came quickly to his aid and the Devils goon was given two minutes for instigating, two for slashing, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. Johansson spoke about the sequence after the contest.

“He asked me if I wanted to go at the faceoff. I said no and he chased me down the ice. Im happy the guys stood up for me,” said #90, who was the Caps first round selection in the 2009 draft and the last guy on the team who would be in a fight.

The instigator call on Letourneau-Leblond will result in a $10,000 fine for Coach MacLean and a one game suspension. Bottom line is this play was gutless and MacLean looked like a bush leaguer plus showed his head coaching inexperience. Boudreau was clearly upset with the Devils bench boss and fortunately his young rookie was not injured.

“You know, we had the fewest majors in the league last year. We weren’t sending guys out to fight or anything and that’s why I sent Marcus [Johansson] out. Purposely. You know if we had sent an [John] Erskine or somebody out they would have had a partner. I was just mad, the guy went out there and he was going to grab the first guy he saw. I thought it was great the way our team stood and protected each other, but I mean that was just dumb,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams Trophy winner for NHL coach of the year on the Devils galactically stupid tactics.

 - For the Caps, this was a huge win after some sloppy early play in which they made some terrible passes (Johansson’s backhanded d-zone cross ice pass led to the first NJ tally) and were running around in their own zone. After giving up 27 shots in two periods, they only surrendered six in the last frame and they also showed that you can’t come in and push them around like was the case on some occassions in 2009-10.

“Clarkson had been looking to fight all night and finally found someone to fight. We responded very well. I think we did a great job. I think we probably made a bit of a statement after two games. I feel like we showed the league a little bit that we are not quite the same team we were. I think we are a little bit edgier and a little harder to play against. We can do it on the scoreboard and then we can show up if somebody wants to get physical. We have some players that can respond to that,” said Knuble on the rough stuff when asked if Chimera taking on Clarkson lit a fire under the team.

Notes: Alexander Semin (two assists) outmuscled the New Jersey defense and then set up Tomas Fleischmann (1 goal, 1 assist) in front for the game tying goal at 1:59 of the second period…Johansson was 7-4 on face-offs after losing seven of eight on Friday night..Overall the Caps were 35-28 from the dot…Eric Fehr scored midway through the third period on the power play to break a long drought (38 attempts) that dated back to the season ending series loss to Montreal last April…Broudeur was yanked after two periods and replaced by Johan Hedberg. The goalie known as “Moose” mishandled the puck early in the 3rd period and that allowed Brooks Laich to score an easy shorthanded tally to make it 6-2 Washington…These two clubs meet again on November 22 at “The Rock” and you can probably bet on King being in the lineup for that one…Tyler Sloan, King, and Dave Steckel were the Washington scratches…based on morning reports, it appears that Semyon Varlamov skated again on Saturday and could play next week…The Hershey Bears opened their season in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday night and they lost to the Penguins AHL team, 4-3, in a shootout.

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Caps Win Preseason Home Opener

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Ed Frankovic

After two preseason tilts on the road, both of which were Capitals victories, Washington came home and finally played in front of their fans at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night for the first time since their game seven playoff loss to Montreal late last April, and knocked off the Boston Bruins, 3-2. Mathieu Perreault, Alexander Semin, and Cody Eakin scored for the Caps and Michal Neuvirth stopped 20 of 22 shots to get the win in goal. The Caps are now 3-0 in preseason and will travel to Beantown on Wednesday to take on the Bruins again.

Alexander Oveckhin notched two assists and also nearly had his head taken off at the end of the contest by Gregory Campbell (yes, the son of NHL Director of Operations, Colin Campbell) in 17 minutes of action. Afterwards here is what the Great #8 had to say about his first contest of the preseason (quotes courtesy of Caps outstanding Communications/Media Relations team).

“A physical game is always nice, just to get into it right away. They played pretty well. They were definitely more physical than us. First couple of shifts, you get into the game and say, ‘Okay, let’s try and play hockey.’ It helps to get back on the ice and get into the physical part of the game. In scrimmages we don’t get hit a lot. Now, it’s time to get into it.” said the 2010 NHL MVP, as voted by the players (Ted Lindsay award).

 

The incident, which generated a few comments on twitter, was addressed by Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau following the contest.

 

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, he makes us nervous, but it was his first game. He was getting his feet wet and he didn’t play anywhere near the way he can play. But the check at the end made us nervous. Ovi [Ovechkin] is the leader and he plays the way he does, but when [Gregory] Campbell hit him, if he doesn’t duck his head, he could have been seriously hurt. So, I don’t blame him for going back at him,” said the three time Southeast Division winning bench boss on Alexander the Great.

 

One thing Caps fans can be sure of this year is that the highly skilled roster put together by GM George McPhee will have some on ice protection this season, unlike in 2009-10 when the Capitals did not have “an enforcer” in the lineup on a nightly basis. DJ King, who was acquired from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for minor leaguer Stefan Della-Rovere this summer, dropped the mitts and fought fellow heavyweight, Shawn Thornton, of Boston in the first period.

 

“I had told him earlier on, you don’t have to fight in training camp and stuff, but I think he wanted to show his new teammates and the fans that he is not bad at his craft. I am not sure it [sparked momentum], but it made the guys feel better on the bench. Like they had a big brother out there. I am sure, because that’s the feeling I got. We never really had that tough, physical presence last year, and he played pretty well too,” said Boudreau on an added dimension to the 2010-11 Capitals squad.

 

Clearly Boudreau thinks that King’s presence will make a difference this year. It will be hard to top the regular season the Caps had in 2009-10 from a total points perspective, but let’s face it, they are going to easily win the Southeast Division for the 4th time barring some major injuries. So perhaps the presence of King will prevent a situation like the mugging Ovechkin took from Columbus last fall or deter an opposing forward from taking a swipe at another Washington top player. After all, two time Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green did have to go into the playoffs with a bad wrist that supposedly came from an errant slash. I’ve always been a proponent of having some muscle in your lineup to protect your top players and the acquisition of the former Blue makes enormous sense to me and could help curb some unnecessary wear and tear on guys like the Great #8, Green, Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, etc.

 

Both combatants were asked after the contest about their bout.

 

“He asked. I think they traded for him for that role and I’m sure he wanted to make a statement. We’re not going to get pushed around either. So [it was] just two guys doing their jobs. No real other reason. I respect him. I’ve fought him a few times before and he has respect for me. I thought it was a good fight,” said Thornton on the decision to fight King.

 

“It’s nice to get the first one out of the way. It wasn’t midseason form, that’s for sure,” added King, whose biggest challenge this season will be remaining healthy (only played 22 games between the NHL and AHL last season primarily due to a broken finger). 

 

The biggest focus in preseason appears to the battle for the 2nd and 3rd line center roster spots with a couple of kids (Marcus Johansson and Eakin) trying to show they belong. Boudreau, after the victory, was not showing his cards at this point.

 

“They are playing pretty well. Every game they are doing something to [make me] sit there at night and go ‘they should stay, they should go, they should stay, they should go.’ I know the future looks bright at the center spot, when you add Nicky [Nicklas Backstrom] in there. So, I don’t know. We got another week to make a decision, I would think,” finished the 2008 Jack Adams Award Winner (NHL Coach of the Year).

 

My money is on Tomas Fleischmann to start out as the #2 pivot behind Backstrom while Perreault gets the nod at #3. But one or two or three years down the road things could look much different from a roster/lineup perspective, as Boudreau alluded to in his post game comments above. Washington has gotten very good play up the middle this preseason from both 2009 1st round choice, Johansson, and 2009 3rd round selection, Eakin. In addition, 2010 1st round draft choice, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was my number one star of the Capitals July Development Camp, is playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) this season in Russia. Johansson and Eakin are both only 19 while Kuznetsov is just 18, so rushing them to the NHL does not make sense since their bodies still need to mature physically, not to mention there are contractual issues to consider. Putting Johansson or Eakin in the NHL this year before they are fully ready could not only hurt their confidence and development, but it would also put them closer to arbitration (they would reach it one year earlier).

 

If past form holds, McPhee will have Eakin back in the Western Hockey League (he is not eligible to play in Hershey until his junior team completes its’ season) and Johansson either in Sweden or Chocolatetown. However, it has still been lots of fun to watch how these skilled young players compete and battle despite their physical disadvantage. The fact that Washington has Johansson, Eakin, and Kuznetsov as young centers in the system seems to be three major reasons why the Washington GM did not dip into the free agent center pool in the summer of 2010.

 

One final thought, glancing at the Bruins roster for Tuesday night’s game quickly brings to mind a couple of Paul Newman classic movie lines. The first, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?” and the second, from Reg Dunlop in Slap Shot, after he reads the names of the players Joe McGrath has just traded for (which, of course, were the Hanson’s), “Who are these guys? I’ve never even heard of them?” But, a win is a win so I am sure Boudreau, Ovechkin, and the rest of the Caps will take it. Plus noone appeared to suffer a serious injury, and that is always important in September.

 

Notes: Semin, who notched the 2nd Caps goal, now has a goal and three assists in just two preseason contests…After Wednesday night’s game in Boston, the Caps will play preseason game number five at home on Friday night against Columbus…The Hershey Bears opened their training camp on Tuesday morning…Saturday, October 2nd is the Caps Convention in downtown DC and WNST will have a booth at the event (also check out our Puck Busses which are now on sale at WNST.NET, including a New Years Eve trek to the Winter Classic in my least favorite town in the country, Pittsburgh)…btw, our good friends over at Japers Rink are having a Caps Convention after party.

 

 

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Peter King gives a Football 101 Tweetup at Amicci’s

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

A big thank you to all of the local football zealots who braved the raindrops and joined us at Amicci’s in Little Italy tonight for our first-ever, official “Tweetup.” Our gracious host Peter King of SI.com held court for two hours of banter, beer drinking, football chatter, storytelling and laughs.

Oh, and it’s Amicci’s — so you know the food didn’t suck!

Too much to tell you about but here’s a brief video clip of the beginning of what was an illuminating and entertaining session of NFL insider information:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrE8CtCm7pU[/youtube]

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Hey Baltimore: Where is the fight in you on this Art Modell issue?

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Hey Baltimore: Where is the fight in you on this Art Modell issue?

Posted on 12 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I am a little embarrassed to be from Baltimore these days. And it has nothing to do with the 30,000 Red Sox fans who invaded the Inner Harbor two weeks ago.

Look, no one loves the city or the sports teams or the “culture” of Baltimore more than me and I dare you to find someone who has displayed more civic pride over the last 25 years in the sports circle here than me and/or WNST.net.

But, honestly, I don’t know what that’s worth these days.

Every Facebook user and tweeter I can find within earshot all share the same opinion: DAMN, I’m glad it’s football season!

Hear, hear…

Yet the man who brought the team here, Art Modell, continues to be coldly left out of the Hall of Fame and no one here seems to be interested in picking up the torch and taking the slight a little more “seriously” or “personally” as a civic cause.

As a community, we were the city that fought desperately and embarrassingly through the loss of the Colts and the frequent use of our metropolis and tax payers by the NFL machine as a $20 hooker for more than a dozen years. The sham of the Paul Tagliabue era still stings. I remember the “museum” comments. I remember the Sundays without a team. I remember the disgusting expansion process. I remember the Saints-Dolphins game on 33rd Street. I remember the Charlotte and Jacksonville coronation.

I remember the desperation and the loss of hope like it was last night.

What these writers and disgruntled Cleveland Browns fans with an axe to grind — one that really isn’t based in true damage — are essentially saying is this: “We should all be embarrassed that the Baltimore Ravens even exist!”

And I find that unacceptable and an issue worth “fighting” for. And Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy – or what’s left of it because it’s pretty clear he’s been blackballed and if there were any doubts before the reaction to Rod Woodson’s words there are none after the local reaction in Canton Saturday night – should be a MAJOR, MAJOR civic cause here.

The guy who brought the team here in the September of his life because Cleveland never took care of him deserves better treatment from all of the PSL owners and the people here in Baltimore who think the Ravens are pretty cool and pretty special.

I wonder if we can find 50,000 people who are willing to fight for Modell. Or even 50…

Steve Bisciotti once said to me: “You’re a cause guy!”

Well, yes I am, and I’ve started a Facebook page for Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Feel free to join it and spread the word…

Here’s the direct address: http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=art+modell&init=quick#/group.php?gid=60824460336&ref=search&sid=1740947610.1010947778..1

It’ll be interesting to see how many people think that Cleveland and the NFL machine spitting on Modell is essentially spitting on Baltimore.

These Browns Backers are people with very short memories for facts and very long memories for acrimony and anger and bile.

As I said to the Cleveland blogger who wrote a typically-negative “Art doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame” piece after Woodson’s mention of Modell in his induction speech: the residual damage a decade later is ZERO! As a matter of fact, it’s been a GAIN not a loss.

It’s like being mad at your ex-wife after you’ve remarried and found a better life. They’ve gotten a better stadium, their name, their colors and their records. They got an ownership family with the Lerners that they allegedly were going to like more than the Modells. Other than a few 5-11 seasons 13 years ago, they’ve missed NOTHING and restored everything!

But again, we’re talking about Clevelanders. In general, my experience with their hospitality and intellect has been less than impressive.

And I’ve got a LOT of experience with Cleveland. I’ve been going to Cleveland for 25 years. I was in Cleveland Stadium on the 1986 day that John Elway drove 98 yards to send them home from the Super Bowl.

I’ve probably seen 75 sporting events in Cleveland over the years along with various concerts, events, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Flats – I’ve done it all.

And their fans stink!

The boo their team every single year that I’m there — win or lose. They hate virtually everything. And, let’s be honest, they haven’t won anything in my lifetime and their hometown hero, LeBron James, is about to drop all things Ohio like a habit and run to New York to try to win a championship elsewhere. (Imagine Cal Ripken pulling that in 1992?)

It’s kind of sad. It sucks to be a sports fan from Cleveland. Ask Drew Carey…

And the people in Cleveland have plenty to be angry about – including the crappy weather, economy and the current state of their football team – but to continue this petty grudge against Modell is almost silly and continues to further ingrain their shortcomings.

And for Tony Grossi or Peter King or anyone else in their camp to make a paper-thin argument that a man who owned the team for nearly 40 years and helped manage the league through prosperity that no other league in the history of the planet has ever seen is just downright small and petty. And to put Al Davis or Lamar Hunt or Ralph Wilson on a higher pedestal than Modell is a testament to the vindictive nature of this group of voters and their agenda.

The merger. The TV deals. Monday Night Football. A .600 winning percentage over the course of his ownership. Free agency. Revenue sharing. The salary cap. The rules. Modell voted in every meeting and was a leader in many areas, including moving his NFL team to the “AFL” after the merger and convincing the Colts and Steelers to come with him.

Oh, and there’s that little accomplishment that NEVER gets mentioned – the restoration and growth of Baltimore football in the shape of the Ravens, which this city is obsessed with 365 days a year. Oh, yeah, and the Super Bowl win as well…

Modell “rebirthed” the NFL in Baltimore and over the past 14 years I dare you find a more successful franchise at recruiting the community and feeding the fire with positive energy and great people in the organization from Ozzie Newsome straight on down.

Art Modell created Baltimore football as we know it.

Doesn’t that count for anything?

Well, it only does if we say it does.

Don’t expect anyone from Cleveland to lead the charge to get Modell into the Hall of Fame.

That has to come from Baltimore. That, quite frankly, has to come from you.

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Luke Jones is crowned the Coors Light King of Baltimore Sportstalk winner

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Luke Jones is crowned the Coors Light King of Baltimore Sportstalk winner

Posted on 27 May 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Luke Jones was crowned the Coors Light King of Baltimore Sportstalk tonight, beating six other finalists with great interviewing style, a vast knowledge of the local sports scene and impeccable blogs over the past eight weeks of the competition.

Marco Romanell finished second in the judges’ voting, followed by Lawson Lambert and Todd Salkowski. Jerry Reinhardt, Tom Clayton and Chris Stoner were also great competitors over the past two months of competitive blogging and sports media.

Jones is headed to Bermuda via the Port of Baltimore courtesy of Royal Caribbean and The Cruise Lady of Canton.

Luke Jones

We had a packed house of supporters — many of them related to Marco Romanell — who were feisty, rowdy and very supportive of their loved ones and friends. It was truly a great night for WNST.net, as Brian Billick and John Buren joined Drew Forrester, Bob Haynie, Glenn Clark and myself in the judicial process.

We’ll be hearing and reading more from all seven of the contestants as they were all outstanding and energetic about the process of learning the craft of Baltimore sports journalism in the new media era.

Nice people. Big sports fans. Lots of talent.

We might make this an annual event it was so much fun!

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