Posted on 07 November 2011 by WNST Staff
Posted on 08 September 2011 by Ed Frankovic
The Washington Capitals held Media Fantasy Camp down at Kettler IcePlex on Wednesday and the event started with Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach/video Blaine Forsythe providing the media with a tour and demonstration of the video room. The room is quite nice with very comfortable seats positioned in front of a 100 inch plus screen. Boudreau started the presentation by showing us a clip of the “old way” the Capitals used to play in their own zone. In that method, the strong side wing (the one on the side where the puck currently resides) was positioned high in his own zone on the near side defensemen. Boudreau noted that this tactic often resulted in quick transition for his club, which the highly skilled team took advantage of in previous seasons. However, due to the drop in goal scoring early on in 2010-11, the bench boss opted to change that strategy to one that is more closely used by the other 29 teams in the league where the winger is positioned down lower in his own zone. That tranformation, which was often painful to watch last December, was chronicled on HBO’s 24/7. But at the end of the season, the strategic move paid off as the Caps ended up 4th in the NHL in goals against average at 2.33 per game behind Vancouver, Boston, and Nashville. Note that two of those three were in the Stanley Cup Finals while the Predators gave the Canucks all they could handle in round two. From my vantage point, Boudreau absolutely did the right thing changing things up in his own zone last season, but more on that a little later on.
An interesting part of the video session was a one on one chat I had afterwards with Forsythe about the software technology involved in breaking down game tape. Today’s products make it very easy to get that done as soon as a period is over and the assistant coach stated that he is able to show the coaches and/or players whatever they want to see after each stanza. Back when I was doing statistics for the Capitals in the early 1990’s, then video coordinator Tod Button often did that task after the game, but while the game was going on he had software that allowed him to mark portions of the tape as even strength, power play, penalty kill, face-off, etc so that he could break it down quickly for then coach Terry Murray. Button would also use that software to break down game film of other teams, which he recorded via Satellite at Piney Orchard and sometimes at the old Capital Centre. Forsythe told me that he still relies on the Centre Ice Package to record the games of future Capitals opponents. As expected, Forsythe’s software, 20 years later, is leaps and bounds better than what Button had to work with. The video coach also stated that certain buildings provide much better angles than others, with Madison Square Garden being one of the best (so I guess Rangers fans do have something to chant about next year, eh?!). Video coordinators prefer that they get all of the game footage from faceoff to final buzzer so Forsythe’s biggest issue is one that Button didn’t like dealing with either in the 1990’s: the play starting in the corner! It seems even technology can’t replace a tv producer who prefers showing other footage while the puck is being dropped.
Once the video session was over, the media was treated to a practice and instruction session that was run by assistant coaches Bob Woods, Dean Evason, and Forsythe. It was truly a fun day out at Kettler.
Now back to the Caps and their defensive zone play. On a very recent trip to the Great White North, I spoke with an NHL scout who was adamant that the way to win the Stanley Cup was via solid team defense and goaltending. He opined that a team must have a goalie that can flat out win a game for a team when needed in the post season, as Tim Thomas did for the Bruins on several occassions this past spring. The list of those type of netminders includes mulitple Stanley Cup winners Ken Dryden, Billy Smith, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Martin Brodeur. Having witnessed every Capitals season since their inception and many painful post seasons, it is hard to disagree with the scout. Washington’s biggest problem in the post season over the years has primarily been goaltending. In 1998 the Caps received the best netminding they’ve ever had as Olie Kolzig basically carried Washington into the Stanley Cup Finals. Looking back on very recent history, the best example of a Capitals goalie stealing a game or two was Semyon Varlamov’s play in the opening two contests of the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins series. If you go back and look at the quotes from the Pens you will see that many of them talked about how good Varly was playing. That was one of the reasons I was hoping that Varlamov would remain a Capital but his agent sealed that fate with some crazy negotiating and now that ship has sailed. So the question now becomes is Tomas Vokoun the guy that can take the Capitals to unchartered waters in the post season? That’s not to say that Michal Neuvirth can’t be that guy, after all he’s won two AHL titles, but #30 was unable to steal a game for Washington against Tampa this past spring when the Caps needed that desperately to change the momentum in a tight series. Clearly we can’t hang the series sweep primarily on Neuvirth, team defense was horrendous at times and all you have to do is go back and watch the Jeff Schultz giveaway in game one that led to Steve Downie’s tying goal or Eric Fehr’s disastrous clearing attempt in game three with the Caps up 3-2 in period three.
Here are some other Caps Odds and Ends:
– It was revealed by The Washington Post that John Erskine underwent shoulder surgery this offseason and he may not be ready for the regular season meaning the top six healthy defensemen are Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, and Schultz.
– In that Varlamov trade, the Caps received Colorado’s first round selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft (they also received a 2nd round pick). When speaking with an NHL scout who is focused on the amateur side of the business, he mentioned that next year’s draft class was very good. He also felt that Colorado could very well struggle in 2011-12. So GM George McPhee and company could end up with a top five pick in a strong draft year!
– Capitals rookie camp opens on Sunday, September 11th at Kettler IcePlex with a rookie game in Philadelphia against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, September 15th at 5 pm. The veterans will officially hit the ice on Saturday, September 17th at Kettler IcePlex.
– Single game Capitals regular season tickets are now available via washingtoncaps.com
– Tickets are still available for the Capitals pre-season opener in Baltimore at the First Mariner Arena on September 20th against Nashville. Go to washingtoncaps.com for purchasing info.
– Finally, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in and connected with the tragic plane crash in Russia on Wednesday. God Bless.
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Posted on 06 September 2011 by WNST Staff
With the offseason being a locked out blur, we lost one of our annual traditions in June when we couldn’t do our Ravens Rookies live show with Miller Lite but we’ll be changing that tonight as we’ll host a number of the purple youth to the Greene Turtle in Owings Mills for a special 7 p.m. live show on Ustream and WNST.net.
We invite a myriad of young players and we have commitments from Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, Tandon Doss, Pernell McPhee, Chykie Brown, Anthony Allen, Tyrod Taylor and LaQuan Williams. There’s also a chance a few veterans will join us including Sergio Kindle, who was the star of the June 2010 show we did at Casey’s.
It’s always good to kick the season off with a full house and we hope you’ll join us at the Green Turtle in Owings Mills tonight for some Miller Lite, great food and purple cheer as “Pittsburgh (Still) Sucks” week gets underway in Baltimore.
Come and meet the future of the Ravens and enjoy some community cheer with WNST and fellow Baltimore sports fans.
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Posted on 24 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio
It’s been an emotional week for me on many levels with more big news forthcoming about WNST.net and its future, so please allow me a little space today to write a very personal blog that comes from the heart.
Kevin Eck – you probably know him as the “Ring Post” guy at The Baltimore Sun — has been in my life since 1979 and for large swaths of time we were as close as any brothers could be. We met at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall (remember that place?) at an autograph signing for Billy Smith. We also both met Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Rich Dauer (his favorite) there on the north end of the mall during that “Magical” summer. I was a legitimate “mall rat” at Eastpoint Mall in the early 1980’s – PacMan, soaping the fountains, that sorta thing.
As Bruce Springsteen once wrote so eloquently in the E Street Band classic, Bobby Jean: “We liked the same music, we liked the same bands, we like the same clothes.” That could’ve been the story of Nestor and Kevin. Except we liked the same girls, baseball, football, basketball, rock bands and, of course, professional wrestling of the WWWF and the land of Bob Backlund and George “The Animal” Steele.
This isn’t just a story about my lifelong best pal from Holabird Junior High and Dundalk Senior High. It’s not just a media or journalist story.
It’s really about a kid from Dundalk who dreamed of working in professional wrestling and next week is embarking on a journey of a lifetime.
I can say with all of the conviction in my being that Kevin Eck ate, slept, talked, walked, learned, researched, watched, critiqued, worked in and worked out of nothing but the world of professional wrestling.
The genesis of our friendship wasn’t born of the Orioles or Colts or any rock music band like Rush — and they’re all closer to the heart of our friendship. The truth: Kevin was the only other WWWF wrestling aficionado and wrestling magazine nut when I was in the 7th grade. It was our special bond – a love of the squared circle and the work of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Greg Valentine and Andre The Giant.
So, this isn’t just about another “Dundalk boy did well” story, it’s more like a Willy Wonka kind of story with imagination .
Look, I could tell Kevin Eck stories all night. Chasing girls in the 8th grade. Attending every middle school and high school dance. Girlfriends, births, deaths, jobs, journalism, careers, wives…we’ve done it all. Crazy weeks in Jamaica. Long weekends in Ocean City. All-night benders in Las Vegas and San Diego. You name it. World Series games, crazy cab rides that I chronicled in “Purple Reign” when Eck was the first person in Baltimore to hear the news that the Browns/Modells were moving their NFL franchise to Baltimore.
Eck and I have been around the world together and have shared our lives together. If you want to see a bunch of crazy old, embarrassing pictures I posted them all on my Facebook page here. Please feel free to fan me and I’ll try to make you laugh more often.
And there’s nothing better in life than when your friends do well. Nothing!
Especially when your oldest friends succeed and thrive and live their dreams.
Kevin Eck’s life and dream came full-circle and into the squared circle a few weeks ago when he accepted a job to work on the WWE creative team with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Dusty Rhodes in Greenwich, Ct. He’s packing up his family and moving to take a job a lifetime at Titan Tower.
In baseball, we’d say he got the call to “go to the show.”
And this must be what it feels like when your brother or best friend or son makes his first big-league start.
You almost want to pinch yourself for them, you know?
Our lives and our career paths have followed a similar, strange path – we’ve worked directly in the same industry as competitors for the better part of two decades and somehow have managed to keep our friendship (and that’s not always easy with two fiery personalities).
I got a job at The News American in September 1984. He soon followed.
I got a job at The Evening Sun in January 1986. He soon followed at The Sun.
I left The Sun in January 1992. He left a few years later to go to work for Ted Turner and WCW as a magazine editor in the last 1990’s and was there during a turbulent corporate time when Vince McMahon’s then-WWF empire usurped the entire industry and my pal came back from Atlanta having to start his local journalism life all over again.
Because of his immense talent and deep depth of knowledge of local sports, Kevin got his job back on the editing desk at The Sun, right back in the sports department. He began writing his passion – a little blog called “Ring Posts” a few years ago and it quickly became a viral hit. (As I told him it would be…)
So many times I talk about expertise in journalism, integrity in reporting and fairness in news judgment and I’m proud to say Kevin Eck has all of that and has for the most part been a “behind the scenes” guy at The Sun, who never had a high profile beat but has been a rock star in his department on the high schools and the dirty work that so many don’t want to do in the journalism business — editing, planning, managing people.
He’s kind of like that lunch pail rock star football player – a Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg kinda underrated guy. But a guy you’d never want to lose. And he’ll be the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave.
The Sun is taking a major hit losing a guy like Kevin Eck, especially given his deep knowledge of Baltimore sports, which I sadly never put to better use. I always thought Kevin would’ve been a star doing local sports talk radio and I told him that. But he already had a gig and one that both of us dreamed of having as kids, which is what took us into the newspaper business back in 1984.
We both watched “The Odd Couple” as kids and wanted to be Oscar Madison, truth be told.
Meanwhile, the WWE is getting a rock star – someone who is so dedicated to wrestling that it honestly baffled all of our friends, especially when it became apparent through his mom taping every single episode of every single match on VHS tapes for the better part of 25 years.
Kevin Eck has watched as much wrestling as Mel Kiper Jr. has watched college football tape.
This summer, as a hobby, I took it upon myself to work on one project outside of direct WNST sales and development business and that’s been collecting all of my pictures, memorabilia and boxes o’memories to use on my Facebook page and in an upcoming reality TV show I’m participating in with a friend. (I can’t tell you more about it until they let me.)
Two weeks ago, at the bottom of a box, I found this gem of a memory.
And even though it happened on July 25, 1981, I remember it pretty well. Kevin and I were crashing at his Mom’s house and we began working on a project to quietly unseat Vince McMahon from his kingdom by publishing our own Pro Wrestling magazine. We were gonna make millions with this partnership venture.
His mom Shirley, who has struggled with her health lately and was like a second mother to me, was the only person we knew who could type so she was our typesetter and we had to go to the library to make copies and we planned to sell them for 25 cents.
Kevin and I worked all night to make the inaugural (and only) edition of Wrestling, Inc. with Dusty Rhodes on the cover.
That was 30 years ago last month. I don’t think Kevin has missed a WWE wrestling match since 1981.
Other than Dave Meltzer and perhaps Alex Marvez, my pal Kevin Eck is as expert about all things professional wrestling as anyone on the planet outside of Vince McMahon himself.
There’s not much Kevin Eck doesn’t know about pro wrestling, except now he’ll be on the inside of the WWE kingdom helping put on the show and make it better.
He’s off to the WWE to make a difference to follow his dream.
He loved The Baltimore Sun. He loves Baltimore sports and has quietly dedicated his life to it the way I did.
I was the loud boisterous pal. He was always the quiet one in the shadows.
I traveled the world, got syndicated, did my thing and he was always so supportive – like a brother – through all of my victories and challenges.
Kevin did the family thing, came back home to Baltimore to be a factor at his dream job in The Sun sports department and now he’s gotten the job of a lifetime at WWE and one that he’s richly deserving of and one where he’ll thrive and be the best in the world.
You should follow him. You should root for him.
I’m so proud of him and so happy for him that I could explode.
I just wanted to brag on my pal, spread his great news and tell him “good luck” in the most public way that I can because I’m proud of how his hard work has paid off for him.
And I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more WWE and SmackDown in 2012 and pining away for the days of Lord Alfred Hayes and Captain Lou Albano.
And if somehow they could only bring Bruno Sammartino back into the ring for one night at the old Civic Center!
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Posted on 03 August 2011 by WNST Staff
As first reported by The Los Angeles Times, former Baltimore Colts defensive end and tackle Bubba Smith was found dead in Los Angeles today at the age of 66.
The Times reported: “The L.A. County coroner’s office said it has not determined a cause of death, but officials believe he died of natural causes. Smith was found at his home on Sunlight Place in Baldwin Hills by a caretaker, police said.”
His myriad of work — on the field and off the field, from starring roles in the Police Academy films to his famous words about Super Bowl III as a member of the losing Baltimore Colts — will all be examined at length all day on Thursday at WNST.net.
Whether you knew him as Bubba Smith the defensive monster or Hightower in the police uniform or the pitchman for a bunch of local downtown Baltimore lawyers, everyone has a memory of No. 78.
If you have a Bubba Smith memory, feel free to post below.
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Posted on 14 March 2011 by Nestor Aparicio
I wanted to give the NFL skirmish 48 hours and a full weekend to let my emotions settle before I officially opined and got long-winded and loud-mouthed. So for those of you who love my rants and tirades, this blog is for you.
For those of you who don’t like facts, figures, education and well-founded opinions about business in America circa 2011 and having a corporate and civic soul, this is a not going to be a happy read for you today to start your week.
To whom much is given, much is expected. (That’s always been my battle cry and unrequited expectation from Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has taken hundreds millions of dollars from our citizens only to leave our city empty and penniless on summer nights with 14 years of mostly last-place baseball.)
And even though I know I should’ve known better knowing what I know about money, greedy people, big business and political influence (if not sheer corruption) I expected this NFL money grab to end somewhat amicably with both sides getting more than their fair share of wealth and happiness.
But, the demon seeds of greed have given way to what has now become standard operating procedure for all cowards and “on-the-take” business people and citizens in America – “I’m suing you!” is the battle cry.
The NFL and NFLPA are at war. It all was made official at 5:07 on Friday afternoon and reconfirmed at midnight that night as both sides came out of a highly volatile, highly confrontational summit in the capital of the free world with a series of “he said/she said” comments that are sure to make any PSL-holder pine for a similar playground-style argument from the fifth grade.
But instead of lunch money, there’s $9.3 billion per year to grapple over and these sides both clearly want their piece of the pie and the fans will be like the children in the ugliest of divorces we’ve all seen in our families and neighborhoods – always acknowledged and given lip service but never really considered.
And, of course, it’s all over money – like everything else in our culture these days. So, while every one of those esteemed gentlemen on both sides of the NFL’s platinum-plated picket fence awakened on Friday to watch one of the great nations of the world float into the Pacific and buildings crumble to the sea and nuclear reactors melting down, they all went back into a room later that day and declared a tsunami of their own.
It wasn’t “life or death – nope, just money!
So much for emotions and trying to do the right thing, boys! Way to show everyone what the NFL is REALLY all about.
Shame on all of them and a pox on their collective houses for picking now – the worst economic climate in this country since the league gripped our culture and the weekend of the largest disaster of our lifetimes — to have this public “Fight Club” engagement when most of us are making less than we’ve ever made and working harder than we’ve ever had to work to pay our bills and keep mouths fed in this once-great nation.
This isn’t sitting well now and it’s bound and determined to get uglier, meaner and more public with each passing day of mudslinging.
Sure, I’m a little “sensitive” about this because the NFL is one of the few reasons WNST
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Posted on 26 November 2010 by Ed Frankovic
Is there any doubt about who rules the Southeast Division? The Washington Capitals hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were riding a five game winning streak and had closed within four points of the 1st place Caps, and promptly buried them, 6-0, behind Alexander Semin’s third hat trick of the season, and second in as many tilts against the Bolts. Semyon Varlamov made 17 saves for his third career regular season shutout and Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Marcus Johansson had two assists apiece in this white washing of Steve Stamkos and company. The Caps are now 16-6-2 and lead the Southeast Division by six points over the Bolts, who have a game in hand. They also lead the Eastern Conference over the Philadelphia Flyers by a point.
Let’s get to the highlights, quotes, and analysis from a 60 minute Capitals effort:
– Goaltending and special teams were the big difference in this contest. Tampa’s netminding duo of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis are average, at best, and both of them saw the ice in this tilt. After Johansson cleanly won an offensive zone draw against Stamkos, John Carlson lasered one into the cage to make it 1-0 just 3:09 into the contest, a lead Washington would take to the dressing room. But Karl Alzner took an uncharasterically bad penalty for interference against Steve Downie with one second left in that stanza and that set Tampa up for the first of two early second period power plays. That is where the game really turned for the Caps as they would kill both of those thanks to some great work by Boyd Gordon, Semin, and the entire PK unit. In addition, they did a super job of not letting Stamkos get set up for his vicious one timer from the left wing circle.
– Shortly after the Caps thwarted those two Bolts power plays, Smith couldn’t handle a point shot from John Erskine and it trickled by the shaky net minder to make it 2-0. That goal definitely hurt the Lightning, still they pressed on and opened the game up. That is where they got burnt as Semin made a nice back check to help Washington take the puck away from Tampa and he and Johansson went 2 on 1 the other way. MJ90 then made a gorgeous pass to #28, who rammed it home on the one-timer for his first marker of the night.
– Then Semin would complete his natural hat trick in just 4:29 with two power play tallies (fastest NHL natural hat trick since Bobby Ryan of Anaheim on 1/9/2009; h/t @capsmedia). With Mattias Ritola in the box for tripping, Ovechkin had his point shot blocked but he gathered in the biscuit and slid it over to Backstrom in the right wing circle. #19 then went cross ice to Semin who one-timed another by Smith to end his evening. Stamkos, who was downright awful on Friday, was called for interference and then Mattias Ohlund tripped Oveckhin in the neutral zone to give Washington a 5 on 3. It took only 19 seconds to connect as Ovechkin slid the puck to Backstrom, who then made a sweet cross crease pass to Semin. #28 had the puck almost on the goal line but rifled it top shelf on a sliding Ellis. It was an amazing display of skill by both Backstrom and Semin to put Washington up 5-0 and effectively end the contest at 11:21 of period two.
– Overall the Caps would go 2 for 4 on the power play while they held the Lightning to no goals in five attempts. Even after yielding those tallies to the Caps the Lightning are still killing penalties at an 87% clip, tied for 3rd in the league. They are also fifth in the NHL with the power play at 24%. So the outstanding special teams performance by Washington came against a strong opponent in those categories. The Caps are 4th in the NHL at 24.1% with an advantage and their much improved shorthanded unit is now up to eighth in the league at 84.3%.
“We played good defensively. Power play works good. PK [penalty kill] did an unbelievable job. I think we play a good 60 solid minutes,” said Ovechkin on the Caps keys to the victory.
“I don’t know if it was perfect, but it’s as good as we’ve played all year. When you score a couple on the power play and you kill a 5-on-3, I thought it was a good game by us,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau on the effort by his club, who totally dominated the Lightning in all facets of the game.
– Varlamov’s best save of night was early in the contest when Martin St. Louis had a chance in the slot after moving around Alzner. After that he didn’t have to do a whole lot in this one as Boudreau said afterwards that his team was determined to play a very good game. But a team’s good play or bad play is often based on the confidence they have in their goaltender, as anyone who has played this great sport will tell you. I think it is no coincidence that their two worst games of the season, in Atlanta and New Jersey, came with rookie goalie Braden Holtby struggling in the cage early on while some of their better contests, such as the last two tilts, have been with Varlamov, their #1 goalie, between the pipes.
“When you get some goals against you early it takes the wind out of your sails some time. I think the guys were pissed. They were ticked off, we took a lot of flak this week and that is a proud bunch in there. The week is not over yet but they knew they were better than what they showed and they knew they were better than what people were saying about us. So I think they dug deep and we’ll try to dig deep again on Sunday,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winning bench boss on the mind set of his club since losing three in a row.
– Carlson and Alzner continue to shine as a defensive pair and Boudreau spoke glowingly of the two young defenseman for their efforts on shutting down the Stamkos-St. Louis-Downie line. Tom Poti, in just his second contest back from injury, added a goal as well and was superb all evening.
“[Carlson] and Alzner, for a 21 year old guy and 22, having the duty of shutting down that line did a real good job, and Carly adds that offensive element as well. I thought he was at his best tonight,” started Boudreau on his two rookie defensemen, “I was really impressed with Tom, just his demeanor and you could tell his experience back there when he got the puck he made the right plays he did the right things with it. We missed him [while he was out],” finished Boudreau on #3.
– The 20 year old Johansson continues to get better and his play is making Tomas Fleischmann more expendable. MJ90 played a big role on the first and third goals and overall he logged 12:31 of ice time, including 1:53 on the power play (2nd unit). He is a very good skater and just needs to keep improving his play along the boards, particularly behind the net where he gets taken off of the puck fairly easily when he doesn’t move his feet. As for #14, he was scratched today with the return of Mike Knuble (fractured jaw). Fleischmann has really struggled this year and part of his problem is his lack of physical play. He has not been finishing his checks on the forecheck at all and when opposing defenseman feel no threat, it is much easier for them to clear their own end.
– We’ve blogged in the past about the clean hit and then the subsequent fight that occurs. Tonight Erskine made a good solid shoulder check on Nate Thompson and #44 went awkwardly into the boards and stayed down. The zebras, who did a great job on Friday night, did not call a penalty. However, a few minutes later the Bolts Ryan Malone decided to take exception to the hit on his teammate and went after #4. Erskine proceeded to pummel the former Penguins forward. Erskine, who was drafted in 1998 by Craig Button’s Dallas Stars scouting staff in the 2nd round (39th overall), is “pretty tough” as an NHL scouting director told me last season.
Notes: The Caps held Tampa to their lowest shot total of the season (17)…Washington is now a league best 11-1-1 at home…Semin is second in the NHL in goals to Stamkos (21 to 17)…the Capitals are 11-0 when #28 scores a goal and 12-1-2 when he registers a point or more….Brian Fahey, who was paired with Erskine, had his first NHL point (an assist) in 11:21 of ice time in his best game as a Capital…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 33-27 and have been at 50% or better for 11 straight games (last season their longest such streak was seven games)…Next up for the Caps are the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center at 5pm on Sunday…down on the farm the Hershey Bears buried the Syracuse Crunch on the road, 5-1. Andrew Gordon had two goals and was the game’s number one star while Mathieu Perreault added a tally and two assists. Dany Sabourin won in Syracuse for the third straight time in three tries this season. The Bears host Adirondack at 7pm on Saturday at the Giant Center.
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Posted on 15 November 2010 by Thyrl Nelson
I’m pretty well aware that this comparison has been done to death over the last week or so, but I really wanted to make my final evaluation after watching these two go at it head to head. So since re-watching the Ravens @ Falcons a few times proved to be the low-light of my weekend, and since the highlight of my weekend was a fantastic time at John Rallo’s Shogun Fights III, I figured I’d give my first final say on the Flacco vs. Ryan debate in tale of the tape fashion.
The Price Tag: Start with the obvious, as the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft, Matt Ryan reportedly signed a rookie contract worth $66 million over 6 years. Bonuses aside, in layman’s math that’s $11 million per season. As the 18th pick overall, Flacco signed a 5-year deal worth about $30 million, or a relatively small $6 million per year or roughly 55% of Ryan’s annual salary. If the rest of the comparison is debatable, then it’s easy to say that the Ravens are getting more for their investment in Flacco than the Falcons are in Ryan, but the price tag argument goes much deeper than just their respective salaries.
When comparing the “pound-for-pound” values of these two, we are provided with a somewhat unique perspective on things. According to Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column on November 9th, the Ravens inquired with the St. Louis Rams prior to the 2008 draft about acquiring their first round pick that year (2nd overall) presumably to draft Ryan. King reported the price tag to be the Ravens 1st round pick (8th overall), 2nd round pick (38th overall) and 4th round pick (106th overall) in 2008, plus an additional third rounder in 2009. Instead the Ravens traded their 1st rounder to Jacksonville for for their first round pick (26th overall), two third round picks (71st & 89th overall), and a fourth round pick (125th overall). After that they traded the 26th and 89th picks just acquired from Jacksonville, along with their own 6th round pick (173rd overall) to Houston to move back up to 18th and select Flacco. The second rounder they would have sent to St. Louis (38th overall) was instead sent to Seattle for a second round pick (55th overall) and a third (86th overall).
Confused yet? Here’s the short story, the Ravens selected Flacco with the 18th pick gotten from Houston and gave up their own 6th rounder. They selected Ray Rice with the 55th pick gotten from Seattle, selected Tavares Gooden with the 71st pick gotten from Jacksonville, and Zibikowski with the 86th pick, gotten in the Seattle deal too. They also selected Marcus Smith with the 106th pick which was the 4th rounder that St. Louis wanted, and traded the 125th pick also from Jacksonville for Fabian Washington. The following year, the Ravens selected Lardarius Webb with their third round pick (88th) overall, which the Rams had also reportedly asked for as part of a deal. That makes the Ravens real choice in hindsight either Matt Ryan and an unknown 6thround pick (173rd overall) which the Texans used to select Dominique Barber, or Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Tavares Gooden, Tom Zibikowski, Marcus Smith, Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb.
*It should be noted that King’s report was based on information apparently leaked by the St. Louis organization. As Chris Pika points out here, the Ravens remain firm that no offer was made by them to the Rams, and this was just St. Louis attempting to posture and compel Atlanta to trade up. Still, if this was the reported asking price, it’s fair to say that whether they actually ever considered trading or not, we know what the cost of moving up would likely have been
Commanding the offense: It should be expected that Ryan should still have the early lead here. A starter since the last game of his freshman year at Boston College, Ryan had numerous opportunities to measure himself against high caliber and often times pro style defenses. He didn’t sneak up on the league like Flacco, and certainly had the entire football world’s attention as he embarked on his senior season. To that end Ryan has responded at every turn, maintaining his esteemed draft status throughout his senior season, and quickly living up to his billing as a high draft pick.
Flacco on the other hand after losing out on the opportunity to start to Tyler Palko at Pitt, snuck up on the football world on the strength of one strong season at Delaware, albeit against far lesser competition, and some strong pre-draft workouts. It should be considered a virtual no-brainer that Ryan enjoyed a substantial head start as it relates to football IQ and high level experience.
What’s more, while their NFL careers will seemingly be forever intertwined because of their similar circumstances, if you look deeper, perhaps their circumstances aren’t quite as similar as they might appear. Both were made first year starters under first year coaches, and both propelled their teams into the playoffs as rookies, that much is undeniable. But when John Harbaugh took over the Ravens, despite their miserable campaign the previous season, the feeling was that the team could turn things around right away if a few things went their way. The Falcons on the other hand turned over the reigns to Mike Smith in the immediate wake of Bobby Petrino, and not long after Michael Vick, for a franchise that hasn’t seen a lot of upside historically, it appeared as if they might have been in for their darkest hours.
To that end, the Ravens, forced to start Flacco from day one due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, did their best to hide the shortcomings of their rookie signal caller, balancing his development with the best interests of the team from a competitive standpoint. It’s hard to argue with their success. The Falcons on the other hand, with seemingly little to lose, placed a lot on their rookie QB right away, and to his credit he has responded in spades.
Therefore, it seems pretty easy not only to assess that Ryan is further along in his development in responding to defenses on the fly, but easy to diagnose the reasons why too. It could be argued too that Ryan is further along in this capacity because his coaches have allowed him to be. With that said, fans should also believe that if the Ravens coaching staff has been reluctant to put more on Flacco’s shoulders, it may be for good reason, and not simply because they believe that audibles are overrated. It could easily be argued that Flacco has come farther faster in his development than Ryan, but it seems pretty clear right now that he still has catching up to do.
Advantage: Ryan NEXT PAGE
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Posted on 04 March 2010 by Ed Frankovic
It was old man night at the Verizon Center on Thursday evening as newly acquired 36 year old Scott Walker and 37 year old Mike Knuble each scored twice to lead the Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Walker, who was playing his first game with the Caps after coming over from Carolina for a 7th round pick, notched two third period tallies sandwiched around two markers by a fighting for their lives Bolts squad. The victory improves the Caps record to 43-13-8 (94 points) and bumps their Eastern Conference standings lead to 14 points over the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington now has a five point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks in the race for the President’s Trophy (both of them have a game in hand).
Here are the highlights, quotes, & analysis from this one:
Washington owned Tampa coming into this season having defeated them all six times last year and when they easily beat the Bolts, 3-0, back in November they pushed their win streak against the Lightning to 12 straight games. That run ended in Tampa in January in a 7-4 loss and the last two meetings here at the Verizon Center have resulted in one goal victories for the Caps. The secret for the Lightning in keeping things tight with the Caps has been a potent power play and the Bolts were 2 for 5 in this one. A win is a win but Knuble felt the Caps were sloppy after taking a 4-2 lead with 9:49 left and he also says that Washington will see the opponents best games down the stretch, especially from teams like Tampa on the playoff bubble.
“We were a little bit sloppy and I think we just need to bear down a bit more. We got timely goals, Scott [Walker] got a couple goals and I thought the new guys came in and played well. I’ll call [what we need] bearing down a little more, maybe we need to feel threatened and we didn’t seem to be taking their attack seriously. There was a bounce or two there where they were inches away from tying the game. So we got a couple of breaks, a couple of lucky bounces again and ended it. It’s a little sloppy but it’s a win too,” started the man who has scored 15 goals in his last 18 games and 18 in the last 22, “We need to get the idea that these last 20 games are going to be a lot harder than the first 60…Tampa’s season is on the line, they’ve got to get points and make the playoffs. We’re going to get everyone’s best effort…We can’t just slough off and hope that someone makes a play to score a goal or keep it out, we’ve got to bear down.” finished the man who leads all players 33 or older in goals.
Lightning Coach Rick Tocchet, whose team is now three points out of playoff position, was not happy with his club as a whole.
“It’s always frustrating when you lose. There are certain guys, Martin St. Louis, obviously Steven Stamkos, I thought Vinny [Lecavalier] the last couple games came to play. Some other guys, I don’t know. I really don’t know. You got to block a shot or dive to get the puck out of your own end. Bite the puck to get it out of your own end. We need those types of players. There’s five or six of those guys that are costing us right now. Bottom line. The positives are that there are enough guys here that want to win and are playing hard. I’m really proud of those guys.”
Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau thrust all three new acquisitions, Walker, defenseman Joe Corvo, and center Eric Belanger into the line-up forcing out Matt Bradley, Dave Steckel, and John Erskine from Wednesday’s victorious roster in Buffalo. Clearly Walker was the most noticeable in just 7:33 of ice time. Boudreau wanted to play him more but because of all of the penalties in the second period he “had to sit.” Boudreau felt that Corvo (20:19) had a good game and the coach tried him on the point on the power play with Mike Green in the first period, forcing Alexander Ovechkin down low. The 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner was critical of that decision saying “the coaching sloppiness resulted in the team becoming sloppy.” Washington was 0 for 3 with the man advantage on Thursday. Belanger logged 14:50, went +1, and won 5 of 12 face-offs.
The Capitals raced to a 3-1 advantage 28:21 into the contest but they then took four minor penalties in the next six minutes, three of which were within 56 seconds. Lecavalier (two goals) scored to make it 3-2 and after Green, Laich, and Poti all took minor infractions the Lightning had nearly three minutes to tie it up and then take the lead. Then Nicklas Backstrom, on a 4 on 3 penalty kill, broke his stick but managed to throw himself in front of successive Kurtis Foster blasts and lead his team in a momentum changing sequence. The work from #19 drew a lengthy ovation from the Verizon Center faithful and Boudreau felt that moment was a major key to the victory.
“I don’t know how many other superstars would be doing that, which is what makes him special, it was definitely a turning point. They had made it 3-2 and if they score when Nick is out there they still have a 5 on 4 again and they could have gotten the lead. It’s a lot different story playing with the lead than playing from behind,” said Boudreau on the importance of Backstrom sacrificing himself for the good of the team.
The difference in this game was the goaltending. Tampa’s Mike Smith gave up five tallies on 34 shots, some of which were of the soft variety, while Semyon Varlamov (25 saves) didn’t allow any questionable goals. Three of Tampa’s goals came in the slot as a result of poor Caps coverage and the other marker was from Lecavalier on a breakaway. Varly spoke with Russian newspaper reporter Slava Malamud afterwards and Slava told me that #40 felt he should not have gone for #4’s fake that got the young goalie out of position. Malamud mentioned that goaltending coach Arturs Irbe said that is something the 21 year old goalie will learn with experience. It is good to see Varly upset about giving up that goal but to be fair to him, Lecavalier has a Stanley Cup ring, was the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL draft, and is still one of the top players in the game when he wants to be. Malamud also added that Varlamov is totally healthy and learned alot about positioning from Vladislav Tretiak during his time with the legendary Russian goalie during the Olympics.
After Wednesday’s victory in Buffalo, Boudreau said he thought that the Olympic guys were tired and on Thursday it looked like Alexander Oveckhin (1 assist) and Alexander Semin (-1 in 19:00 of ice time) were still a little sluggish. The Great #8, who has not scored a goal for the Caps since his hat trick against Pittsburgh on February 7th (five game drought), had a breakaway in the second period but the puck rolled of his stick as he was making a move on Smith. He had some other decent chances but the biscuit is not bouncing Ovechkin’s way right now, but the good news is the Caps continue to win.
Next up for Washington are the New York Rangers on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. That game is the second on a five game home stand that sees the Capitals take the ice every other night.
Notes: Washington won the face-off battle, 33-28. Rookie defenseman John Carlson (20 years old), after two early giveaways, set up Tomas Fleischmann for a breakaway and broke up several passes in the second period. #74 had an overall strong game and was +1 in 14:46 of ice time. For Tampa, St. Louis had three assists in 21:35 of ice time and simply brings it on every shift. I spoke with him after the game and he was very disappointed with the loss while praising the Caps. “They are a good team, they are a division rivalry, we seem to give them good games but not good enough, you have to get a win with the playoff race right now.”
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Posted on 01 February 2010 by Ed Frankovic
For the first time in nearly 26 years the Washington Capitals have a double digit win streak. Alexander Ovechkin and company fought off a third period surge from the Tampa Bay Lightning at a subdued, but once again sold out Verizon Center to capture their 10th straight and club record-tying victory, by a 3-2 margin. The Great #8 had the game winner with under seven minutes remaining and added a first period assist to run his season totals to 35 goals, 41 assists, and +35 in 47 games. Meanwhile the Caps improve to 37-12-6 (80 points) and widened their Eastern Conference lead to eight points (over New Jersey). The last time Washington won 10 games in a row was during the 1983-84 season and on Tuesday night in Beantown the Caps will try for a franchise record 11 straight victories against the Bruins.
Here are quotes, analysis, and highlights from the record tying win:
Crowd Dead: Home ice has definitely been good to the Caps this year and they are now 21-3-3 at the Phone Booth. Seven of the 10 wins on this streak have come at the often raucous Verizon Center. Today, however, was the quietest I have heard the building since early in the 2007-08 season (pre-Bruce Boudreau era). I don’t know what the deal was but the arena lacked energy. It could have been the boring style of play that the Lightning brought, it could have been the lack of first period scoring chances, or it could have been the 3pm start, who knows? One would think that just the chance to win 10 straight games would have had the fans fired up but they weren’t this afternoon. Whatever the case, the crowd that loves to “Rock the Red” typically is a huge help to Washington but it wasn’t really until the video board played “Unleash the Fury” with eight minutes left that they got into this one. Even still, the arena was at a much lower decible level than normal shortly after Ovechkin put the Caps ahead late in the third period. The head coach definitely noticed the lower decibel levels on Sunday.
“I thought the crowd was quieter than most. [Tampa] came out and all they wanted to do was check and I think they had only one or two scoring chances in the first period. It wasn’t a real up and down tempo. There were a lot of whistles and no penalties, so it was a quiet game in that respect,” said Boudreau on the lack of energy in the building.
Style of Hockey to Expect Going Forward: On Friday night the Caps had to deal with the Panthers trap and today it was an ultra conservative, defense first minded Lightning squad that the high powered Capitals had to defeat. Washington will likely face a lot of this type of play from here on out because teams are afraid of getting into a shootout with such an offensively talented club like the Caps. Boudreau spoke to his team about dealing with that going forward.
“We talked about that they are putting you to sleep and you’ve got to stay strong and this is how some teams will play that we might meet in the playoffs. They are a very defensive minded team,” added Boudreau on Tampa’s style of play.
“The first two periods it was kind of a boring game, both sides, but then in the third they started putting more pressure and they got the skill to come back from a two goal game and that is what they did tonight and they have Vinny [Lecavalier], [Steven] Stamkos, [Martin] St. Louis, all these guys that could score goals and I thought we never panicked tonight, scored the big goal at the end and just played solid D,” said Caps goalie Jose Theodore (25 saves) on the lack of flow and how is team prevailed.
“I would say they dulled the game down is the way to describe it. They didn’t want to match firepower with firepower, especially the way that our offense has been clicking so they tried to beat us another way by chipping pucks deep, keeping pucks low, falling back in the neutral zone, trying to limit our speed. I thought they did a good job of taking away our speed and our offensive chances early on then our power play gets a goal and we were able to get another one after that and just fortunate that we pulled it through at the end,” said forward Brooks Laich, who made it 2-0 Caps in the second period with his 16th tally of the season from three feet out. The goal was set up by a nice passing play between Tomas Fleischmann (2 assists) and Alexander Semin (1 assist).
“I think we are going to see that even more down the stretch here. Teams that we have been playing here are just scraping for points. So none of these teams want to get into a pond hockey game with us, they don’t want to be exchanging chances. They are clamping down and they figure the best way to beat us or get a point is to play well defensively, try to give up as least amount of chances as possible, and hang around for a point. It’s patience really, stick to the game plan, just because you don’t get one early in the game don’t get frustrated, you don’t have to go beating guys one on one on the red line. These teams are waiting for turnovers and try to have a transition game against us but it speaks to the fact that some playoff games might be like this, you are not going to score 4, 5, or 6 goals a night come playoff time so you have to be able to adjust and adapt and play in these tight games,” said center Brendan Morrison, who played the point on the first power play unit with Mike Green out of the lineup due to a three game suspension.
Sloan Excels With Green Out: Tyler Sloan (+1), who played six games in a row for the Caps before sitting out the last four tilts, was very good today in 16:30 of ice time. He drew a tripping penalty on Alex Tanguay just 5:48 into the contest and he also made a super takeaway on the ultra talented Stamkos in the second period.
“He’s a heckuva a player and he had good speed going wide but I didn’t panic, I just kept backpedaling, I knew he couldn’t cut inside on me so he kept going wide. When you are playing the right side and you’re a left shot, your stick is on that side so it is easier to poke check,” started Sloan on the steal he made against Stamkos. “No, I haven’t, he’s a pretty skilled and he can try just about anything, I just knew he had nowhere to go, he was running out of room and he as soon as he got to the point of no return I turned and pokechecked,” finished #89 when asked if he had ever seen the 2008 1st overall pick in the NHL entry draft try that move before and how he finished the play off.
Sloan enjoyed being paired with the solid Jeff Schultz for the first time since his NHL debut.
“You know what, I think the last time I played with Schultzie was my first game in the NHL in Calgary. I don’t know if we have [played together] since then. Maybe a little bit once in awhile on the PK but not a regular shift since last year. We’re the Calgary connection. Schultzie is a great player, he is easy to play with. We both make the simple play and he is pretty defensive so it allows me to jump up in the play a little bit and use my skating,” added Sloan on his day paired with #55.
I asked Boudreau if #89’s good play carried extra merit because he has been in and out of the line-up so often.
“I think if you look at it’s hard but it shouldn’t be hard, you should be prepared and ready to play. He could have been 30 games in the minors and you come up and your stuck in the lineup and be just as good as anybody on the ice. So we practice all of the time and he’s practicing. That is one aspect of your job when you are the sixth, seventh defenseman is to stay ready because if you are not ready and you get thrown in the game and you don’t do a good job than you don’t continue to stay the sixth or seventh defenseman. That is why Quintin Laing, no matter when I put him in, I know he is gonna be great because he’s ready and he knows his roll and so does Tyler and I thought Tyler played really good, by the way, I’m just saying it’s not something extraordinary that he played good, he should be playing good,” added Boudreau on Sloan.
Goaltending Battle: Theodore was hurt on Long Island this past Tuesday night and Michal Neuvirth stepped in to keep the winning streak alive. Neuvirth’s reward, with #60 healthy again, was a trip to Hershey to try and get in five games with the Bears so he can play in the AHL during the upcoming Olympic break. Theo picked up where he left off before the minor hip injury with a solid peformance. The players are aware of how well the goalies have been playing.
“It is nice to have a couple of guys that you can throw in there. That is a cursed blessing because you have a couple of goalies that are playing well right now but there is only one of them that can play each game so I think it is a good competition. They are pushing each other to play better in net and for us, as players, there is nothing better than playing in front of hot goalies,” added #21 on the excellent goaltending Washington has been receiving during the winning streak.
Face-off Domination Aids Win Again: The Caps once again won the face-off battle, 31-23, but I hadn’t seen today’s ending before. With goalie Mike Smith (28 saves) pulled for an extra attacker the Bolts pressured late and forced several face-offs in Washington’s end. Dave Steckel (5-6 on the day) is the Caps number one man from the dot and he won a draw with 10 seconds left. Tom Poti, who had a solid outing on Sunday, iced the puck taking the game clock down to 2.4 seconds. That set up one final draw for the Lightning to try and tie it. Tampa, as I pointed out to John Keeley (On Frozen Blog) who was sitting next to me in the press box, had been cheating on face-offs all evening by leaning in early. Lecavalier must have assumed he could do it again for this final draw but it all blew up in his face and he was given a penalty for pushing it too far with the officials. Boudreau explained what he saw from his vantage point on the bench.
“Obviously they kicked him out and he didn’t want to get kicked out and he had a few choice words for the linesman. I think they were going to let it go but he just persisted and persisted and that is when they gave him the penalty. I think the referee was just protecting his linesman from getting abused and once that happens and the face-off is down the other end it takes all of their chance of winning the game or tying it up away,” said the 2007-08 NHL Coach of the Year on how the game finished.
“Usually if you are cheating they will give you a warning, if you cheat again they will throw you out, that is kind of the protocol and they might give some leniency to guys that have been around a little longer than that. That is the general rule of thumb. They’ll let you encroach a bit but if you are totally crossing the line then they’ll throw you out,” said Morrison on how draws are usually monitored in a given contest.
Why Are the Caps Winning So Often?: This Caps squad has a lot of talent, no doubt, but in the last month things have really gelled and Washington has become a real dominant team. The club is healthy up front for pretty much the first time all season and the line combinations have been stable over the course of the last 11 games so those are contributing factors. But it is more than just health and set lines, according to Laich and the vetern center, Morrison.
“I think we are starting to learn. I think our team is starting to mature and you’ve seen that in this streak. I thought the game we played in Pittsburgh when we were tied going into the third and then we got up two goals in the third I thought we really sufficated them. We took control of the game and we didn’t get into a run and gun, risky hockey game. We are being more disciplined, not giving up so many power play chances, so I think we are starting to mature and I think that is why you are starting to see a winning streak build up there,” said Laich, who stressed before the season that Washington must learn to stick to their system if they want to win a Stanley Cup, like Pittsburgh did last June.
“We aren’t thinking about 11 or 12, it’s all about the process. If we come in and take care of things night in and night out, things will take care of themselves,” finished Morrsion on why the Caps have been able to win 10 games in a row.
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