Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Caps Wrap Up Road Swing, Clark Finally Gets Recognition

The Washington Capitals ended their road swing last night in Calgary, and what a finish that was. First off let me start by I was never apart any Zednik bashing that some fans took part in. I think Richard Zednik is a great player and a great fit on this team. He's been snake-bit in the goal scoring department since the start of the season, but all it usually takes for a player like him is that first goal. I firmly believe he will get close to 30 goals this year, and definately 50 points. In addition, he never let his defense falter, worked hard, and created opportunities from the start of the season. So back to the final game of the road trip in Calgary, Zednik tallied two goals and an assist to help lead the Caps to a 4-2 victory over the struggling Flames team who only have 3 wins on the season. This win, along with the shootout loss in Vancouver and regulation win in Colorado, has put the Caps record to 4-3-4.

Calling this road trip anything less than a success would be completely pessimistic. Five points out of four games in six days out west is astonishing, especially considering how the Caps have been predicted to end at the basement of the standings by the end of the season by these "experts". I wonder what they think of the Caps now. They probably will stake claim that it was a fluke, however this was no fluke. Their improvement is as clear as day. Semin returning from Russia, Kolzig back in his groove, better D, and I did like Jeff Halpern, but this season we have a better captain. I see this season only getting better. Not to say there won't be any problems that they will need to overcome, but I've been saying since the offseason, I will be sitting in my usual seat at the Verizon center beyond April 7th.

Also, on NHL.com today, I finally saw what I've been waiting for since the second half of last season. A spotlight article fantastically written by Tom Worgo has the spotlight shining on Caps captain Chris Clark. Alot of people around the NHL last season, fans and teams, didn't recognize or couldn't see how great of a player Chris Clark is. I don't really blame them for not recognizing it seeing as if the Caps were mentioned at all, the talk was about Ovechkin. Also because Clark had his best year last year and had the opportunity to prove how good of a player he truly is with more minutes. But I was suprised that towards the end of the season nobody was really talking about him. He does it all, and this article finally gives recognition to, in my opinion, the best choice for a captain in this franchise since Dale Hunter.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Welcome to The Sin Bin. A new blog spot for the NHL. Most of the blogs will have to do with the Washington Capitals. Growing up in Maryland, I was introduced to the Capitals as an infant, before I even could speak. My first game I cannot even remember, I must've been no more than a year old. Hockey quickly became the only sport I followed religiously and now, the only sport I follow period. I have many memories growing up watching the Capitals. Some highlights are goalie Ron Hextall scoring an empty net goal against the Caps, Rod Langway's playoff winning overtime goal in 1990 and reign as captain, Scott Stevens entering the NHL, the flourishment of Peter Bondra into an all star, Dino Ciccarelli (my favorite player of all time) and his fiery stint with the Caps, Dale Hunter's reign as captain and one of the fiercest competitors to wear a Caps jersey, Jim Carey as the first Caps goaltender to win a Vezina trophy, the '98 playoff run (including the incredible play of Olie Kolzig, Joe Juneau, and Richard Zednik), and now the sensation of Alexander Ovechkin.

Through the demise of the firesale, and the team being packed with players who never truly represented what Caps hockey is (ie. Jagr and the lack of Hunter-like players), the Caps have finally headed in the right direction since the retirement of Dale Hunter. Building around superstar Alex Ovechkin and solid, acrobatic goaltender Kolzig, General Manager George McPhee made some moves that are actually taking the team in the direction to where it was 8 to 10 years ago in attitude, and soon the standings. But before we move on, one thing needs to be cleared up. McPhee should not garner such high praise for drafting Alexander Ovechkin. He didn't draft Ovechkin cause he's a good GM, McPhee drafted him because he's not stupid. Any GM who had that pick and wouldn't have taken Ovechkin should be banned from the league and never allowed to set foot in the presence of any hockey game, NHL or peewee. Having said that, McPhee has made a few great transactions that could easily be called steals.

My personal favorite acquisition brought to Washington my favorite player in the NHL currently, Chris Clark, now the 13 captain in Caps history. He is everything that represents the style and attitude of what Caps hockey is. Grit, determination, tenacity, toughness, and intensity, Clark has got it. Now a 20 goal scorer who wears the "C", Clark is a tremedous leader, and one of the most important players to this team. Acquired before the start of the 05-06 season from Calgary for a 6th round pick, this is definately a steal.

Last season, the teams top defenseman who logged the most minutes lead the team in blocked shots and was only 23 years old. Shaone Morrisonn, acquired from Boston for the rental of Gonchar, is only going to get better. Even though Gonchar is playing better this year and seems to be regaining his touch, for what we got compared to what Boston got, I'd call this a steal, especially since he only played 22 games for the Bruins, then signed with a different club in the offseason.

With plenty of first round picks, the return of Alexander Semin, the acquisition of Brian Pothier via free agency, Clark as captain, and Kolzig playing much better this year, I firmly believe the Caps can and will make the playoffs this year.