Pittsburgh picks Yanni over NHL

If you know anyone from Pittsburgh, or anyone who claims to be a Pittsburgh fan, you have undoubtedly been told how much of a better sports town Pittsburgh is than ANYWHERE ELSE ON EARTH. Because Pittsburgh, in case you didn't know, has "real" fans that just don't exist in any other city on this planet.

Well Pittsburgh, if scheduling a Yanni concert during the NHL Playoffs at Mellon Arena causing Games 4 and 5 to be played back to back is what a "real" sports town does... you're right, the rest of the world just doesn't have the same outlook on sports you do.

Excerpt from Ted's Take:
"It is a shame that both teams will have to play back to back games later in the series because the Pittsburgh building - against NHL rules - booked a series of concerts and forced the league to alter the playoff schedule. This is bad for the league, both fan bases and for the players."

The D.C. Sports Guys 4-24-2009

C-A-P-S CAPS! CAPS! CAPS! There will be a Game 6! The Wolfman, TJ, and Kevin break down Game 5 and talk about the Capitals chances of moving to round 2 of the playoffs. In other news the guys discuss what to expect out of the Redskins during the NFL Draft and run down the blunders of the Nationals and the Yankees.

As always, send your comments, suggestions, or ideas to mailbag@dcsportsguys.com

Capitals: 00:01:30
Redskins / Draft: 00:23:40
Guitar Hero / Natinals / MLB: 00:39:40

Dupree Leaving Terps

Yes, the college basketball season has been over for several weeks now, but a couple of interesting items regarding the Terps came out in various local media outlets yesterday.

First, Braxton Dupree is leaving the team, saddening Terps fans nowhere. Dupree played in 25 games during the 2008-09 season, averaging a stellar 2.1 points and 2.4 boards per game. With incoming big men Jordan Williams and James Padgett, Dupree's already shortened playing time was likely to be reduced even further during the 2009-10 campaign.

The ACC/Big-Ten matchups for 2009 have been announced. The Terps will travel to Indiana to play at Assembly Hall against the Hoosiers on December 1st. The Terps are 7-3 all-time in the Challenge, and have won four straight.

Change in Ultimate Fighter Philosophy?

The latest episode of the Ultimate Fighter had something refreshing which I can't remember seeing for a long time on the show. Actual insight to how the fighters train for an upcoming fight. In the past, viewers were forced to watch an hour show that included about 45 minutes of house antics followed by the one or two fights for that given week. While the "clothing left behind act" got a lot of play, a good part of the most recent episode included Bisping breaking down video, trainers on both sides working with the fighters, and the thought process going into a fight. It was something refreshing to see in a series that had been slowing degrading into meat headed version of MTV’s Real World. I only hope the show continues to grow in this direction. There are plenty of outlets to watch MMA fights and even more outlets to watch attention mongers vie for TV ratings. The Ultimate Fighter has the opportunity to give fans complete insight to the training process, something the casual fan knows little to nothing about.

The D.C. Sports Guys 4-21-2009

Big J and Kevin are back to analyze the first three games of the Capitals / Rangers playoff series and UFC 97. They also run down the news in the NFL, NBA, and college sports. More importantly, all new pictures are up for the Beard-A-Thon promotion. Let us know who has the best beard to date. (follow the links to on the right sidebar)

As always, send your comments, suggestions, or ideas to mailbag@dcsportsguys.com

Shameless Self Promotion: 00:01:30
Washington Capitals: 00:04:00
MMA/UFC 97/Ultimate Fighter: 00:23:00
College/NFL/NBA: 00:48:20

Zimmermann's Arrival, Win #2...Things are Looking Up! (Maybe)

Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann made his much anticipated MLB debut last night after a nearly two hour rain delay. Although the dismal weather and conflict with last night's Caps playoff game likely kept fans at home, the debut of "The Zimmermann" as he was referred to by Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman (who called himself "the other Zimmerman" -- I'm pretty sure this works better when both names are spelled the same) gave the Nationals a glimmer of hope in what has been a dismal start to the season.

The 22 Year old righty's line for the night: 6 innings pitched, 72 pitches thrown, 51 of which were thrown for strikes. 2 earned runs on 6 hits, 1 walk, and 3K's. Zimmermann looked strong and confident all night, forcing the Braves into two double plays and giving up only one mistake, a 2-run bomb off the bat of Matt Diaz. Equally as important, the Nats' relievers combined for 3 scoreless innings, and Joel Hanrahan, who blew two chances this weekend against the Marlins, earned his first save of the year in the Nats' 3-2 victory.

Troubling news for the Nats came out today when it was announced that Joe Beimel, the team's 8th inning man, is headed to the 15-day DL with a hip problem. Beimel, a lefty pick up from the Dodgers in the offseason, has been solid this year, posting an ERA of just over 1.20 in 8 games. For most teams, the loss of an 8th inning/set-up man would not be the end of the world. Then again, the Nats are not a team that can be labeled in the "most teams" category. The loss of Beimel means the return of the horrendous Saul Rivera, who was demoted to AAA Syracuse on Sunday (I guess the Nats will continue to favor necessity over accountability, which I continue to believe is the team motto). Rivera has pitched the same number of innings as Beimel, but was (and most likely still is) headed in the opposite direction prior to his 48-hour demotion. In 7.1 innings pitched, Rivera has somehow managed to cough up 10 earned runs and achieve a dubious 0-3 record.

Lets hope the Nats can use this second win of the year as a springboard, particularly for their starters and offense. The arrival of Zimmermann in the 5th spot in the rotation is positive, especially after decent outings this week by Lannan, Olsen, and Cabrera. Zimmerman, Nick Johnson, Dukes, and Dunn have all hit well this past week, a good sign, as the Nats' relievers will continue to need a sizeable margin of error if they are going to stay in games.

The Nats play two more at home against the Braves before closing out their first homestand of the year. This weekend they head out for a six-game road trip against the Mets and Phillies before returning home to face the Cardinals next weekend. More to come after sometime after the Mets series has wrapped up.

Game 3 Wrap-Up: Washington 4, Rangers 0

From the Capitals perspective you had to be wondering, would Varlamov start? Would Boudreau mix up the lines? Who would step up and start scoring? In a very loud Maddison Square Garden, where the already boisterous New York fans were also given light up thunder sticks, Varlamov took the ice for his second start, Brashear suited up for his first game of the playoffs and Nylander was a healthy scratch.

The first period began with Alexander Semin missing what seemed to be two great opportunities to put the Capitals on the board first. It felt like this might be another game where the Caps might not be able to put it all together. Alexander Semin however only got better. On a feed from Backstrom, Semin finally scored sending cheers of joy and relief across Capital Nation. If nothing else it put Washington in the drivers seat and rejuvenated the entire team. By the end of the period Semin had the Caps on top of the Rangers by 2 on a feed from Ovechkin. Varlamov, playing in consecutive games for the first time in the NHL did not disappoint. Varly had a more then a solid performance showing why Bourdreau has chosen to sit the under performing Theodore. His angles, aggressiveness, quickness and size give an entirely new look to a frustrated Rangers team.

In the second period, Brooks Laich sent the Capitals up 3-0 by crashing the net and putting in a second chance rebound. Varlamov also showed us that he has another gear, beyond the clinic he put on in the first. The Rangers were finally able to break through the Capitals defense on a few occasions and put pressure on the young net minder. Simeon kept his cool and kept the puck out of the net with a few specular saves. Overchkin also help out Varly by diving in front of a Ranger's break-a-way by Lauri Korpikoski, which started when Ovechkin himself miss-handled the puck. Ovie ended up in the back of the net and Varlamov gave Ovie a big pat on the back. Throughout the period both teams became extremely chippy with one another, which sent Avery to the sin bin on three occasions. Getting Avery riled up is something Washington fans have been waiting for since the start of the series.

The third period seemed almost academic for the first 17 minutes. Madison Square Garden became eerily quiet and the Rangers looked content with giving this game to the Caps. Then Avery decided to "send a message" to Varlamov by standing directly in front of him while the puck was at the other end of the ice. Erskine cleared Avery out, but not before Avery threw and landed a punch on the Capitals net minder. Avery was tossed, and soon after Poti put the icing on the cake scoring goal 4 for the Caps on a feed from Backstrom. Ranger fans reacted by throwing trash on to the ice, delaying the game for a couple minutes. Stay classy New York.

Varlamov's performance was brilliant and the Capitals did everything they needed to to win this game. The new lineups worked well and I wouldn't be surprised to see Backstrom and Semin paired together again in Game 4. If the Capitals can continue to play aggressive and jump on the Rangers early this series could easily come back to Washington tied 2-2.

Surely you can't be serious?

The Caps are down 0-2 to the Rangers? The Great 8 has 19 shots with no goals to show for it? A great regular season may end with a first round loss? Surely you can't be serious? Well... I am serious (and don't call me Shirley). The Capitals are standing at the foot of a mountain, and it's not going to be an easy climb. Only 13% of teams in NHL history have come from being down 0-2 to win a playoff series and while I don't have the statistic, I'd imagine the percentage is even lower for those teams that lost the home ice advantage. All of this sounds like doom and gloom for a team who's stock couldn't have been higher just seven days ago. What happened?

Goalie Woes
The big questions for Game 1 were weather the skaters could play better than they had the last 3 games of the season, and weather Jose Theodore would be able to play at his highest level in the playoffs. One of those happened, the other did not. From where I sat (section 431) I felt that the Capitals skaters played one of the best all around games I had seen in a long time. I felt the intensity was high right from the first face off. On his first shift even Federov was throwing his body around unlike I had seen him do all regular season. Every Capital was being agressive, hitting hard, and winning the puck battle. Unfortunately, Theodore did not feed off of the play happening right in front of him. The biggest question mark for the Capitals fell apart, allowing four goals over all, three of which, including the game winner, were terrible.

One of those unwritten rules in hockey is that you never talk bad about the goaltender. It's just not done. The goalie has the hardest job on the ice and it's up to you, the skater, to make his life easier. If he has a bad game then you had a bad game. That's how your taught to view it from mites though the collegiate level. It's so ingrained, that skaters will always look for what could have been done between the end lines before ever looking at the net for answers. This illustrates how bad of a game Theodore actually had. His own coach couldn't even paint the, "well if we would have skated better" picture for the media. What happend Game 1? Theodore lost it, plain and simple.

Shell Shocked

Down a game, the Capitals turned to their 20 year old goalie of the future to stand between the pipes. All eyes were glued to see how Simeon Varlamov would respond having only 5 regular season games in the NHL under his skates. He gave up 1 goal, unfortunately, that goal was the game winner. Unlike Theodore however, it would have had to be a highlight reel stop to prevent that 1 goal. In one of the worst defensive breakdowns, no one stepped back for a charging Mike Green. Ovechkin's pass back to the blue line was weak, and the Rangers jumped on the opportunity. Markus Naslund deked around Poti, then gave the puck to Callahan who only had Varlamov to beat. There would be over 52 minutes of hockey to play, but that would be the only goal. Why?

Something happend when that goal was scored. The Capitals were no longer playing with that hit first ask questions later attitued. They didn't crash the net like we were used to seeing. They started playing one on one hockey. It felt like they were so afraid of letting up another odd man break they completely lost their edge. To make matters worse, the Rangers were content with a 1 goal advantage and proceeded to plant 5 skaters around Henrik Lundqvist, who had an outstanding game, even stopping a puck while using a skaters stick in place of his own durning one of the melees in front of his net. The Rangers were going to let any and all shots come from the outside. The Capitals on the other hand kept trying to skate the puck down the Rangers throat, getting stopped every time. Instead of using the points and creating traffic, Capitals forwards kept trying to move the puck to the front of the net. Blocked shot after blocked shot ensued as it became painful to watch Capitals try to skate the puck end to end only to be forced to take a wrist shot from the just inside the blue line. Almost no pucks were dumped into the zone, and cycling the puck was non-existent. During the last 52 minutes of Game 2, he Capitals were out hit, out hustled, and for one of the few times under Boudreau, out coached.

It 'aint over
With all of that said, the Capitals have only lost 2 games by a combined 2 points. If any team can overcome an 0-2 hole, they can. What do they need to do? First, Simeon Varlamov, needs to be the starting goalie. Every time he has been between the pipes he's played well and if he has a hole in his game the Rangers don't know about it yet. Unlike Theodore's slow glove and inability to cover the short side post. Secondly, score first. The Capitals can't let the Rangers fall back into putting 5 skaters around the net. Ovechkin, Semin, Laich, and the other forwards need room to move the puck. Scoring first forces the Rangers to attack the puck from end line to end line, which in turn opens up the game. As soon as the Rangers get a one goal advantage they will undoubtedly collapse most of their play to defending their half of the ice. Lastly, hit, and hit hard. Dump the puck and win it on the boards, set up a cycle, and create traffic in front of Lundqvist, the goals will come. Like 'Bluto' says... "It's not over 'till we say it is!"

State of the Nationals -- Weeks 1 and 2

Well, opening day has come and gone, and we're approaching the third week of the 2009 MLB season. The first few weeks of each season are always an interesting time, and this season appears to be no different. We've seen the debut of two majestic (and costly) ballparks for the Yankees and Mets, and have seen some surprises as well. The Marlins are off to an 11-1 start, and other typically dismal teams such as the Padres, Blue Jays, and Royals, are starting to turn some heads. On the other hand of the spectrum are the Nationals, who are off to a 1-10 start, and appear to be in for a long season, one which could seem them faring even worse than they did in 2008.

Even though I am a Yankee fan first and foremost, I have found myself keeping up with the Nationals since they arrived in DC from Montreal back in 2005. I've had partial season ticket plans for the past two years, and have already attended two games this year, including the Nats' home opener. Now I'm not saying that I ever expect great things from the Nationals, but the start the team has had this year has been excruciatingly awful. Its one thing to start off slow, but the manner in which the Nats are losing games is incredibly frustrating. They are certainly more potent offensively than they were in 2008, but their pitching, and especially their late inning relievers, has been terrible, blowing leads in each of the three games this weekend against the Marlins, resulting in one 9-inning and two extra-inning losses.

It is refreshing to see guys like Zimmerman, Kearns, and Nick Johnson off to strong starts. All offseason I have said that Nick Johnson's health and offensive production will be very important to the Nats in the first few months of the year. He has attracted some interest from other teams, and if he stays healthy, will have some trade value. Trading Johnson for some arms and platooning Dunn and Willingham at first may help alleviate some of the corner outfielder logjam.

While the Nats' offense has certainly improved, their pitching has been terrible. Lannan and Olsen had a few rough first outings, but both pitched well this weekend, only to have their work go for naught and the hands of relievers Joel Hanrahan and Saul Rivera. The Nats need to try something new with their pitching, and need to do so soon. Calling up some AAA-level arms may be the best short-term solution, as their current bullpen, with the exception of 8th-inning man Joe Beimel, who's pitched well, seems to lack control, confidence, and generally looks lost on the mound.

The Nats finish their current homestand with three games this week against the Braves. Tomorrow marks the debut of Jordan Zimmermann, the highly-touted starter who seems to have great potential. Lets hope he provides the spark this team sorely needs. More to come later this week witha recap of the Braves series.

The DC Sports Guys 4-13-2009

The Beard-A-Thon has begun! Kevin, Juicy, and Big J shaved today in hopes they will not need their razors again until the CAPS bring the Stanley Cup to Washington. Not only will they be competing to see who can grow the best playoff beard, but they are also participating in the Capitals Beard-A-Thon promotion to raise money for Caps Care. Caps Care creates programs that are designed to give back to the very community that has supported the Capitals for so many years. During the playoff run we will have links to each of our beards on the right sidebar. During this time feel free to comment on who's beard is most fierce and if you are in the giving mood you can donate as little as $10 for a one time donation or $0.50 for each day we are growing a beard and the Capitals are in the playoffs.
As always, send your comments, suggestions, or ideas to mailbag@dcsportsguys.com Intro Washington Capitals: 00:01:30 The Masters: 00:19:30 MLB: 00:41:20 Strikeforce / MMA / UFC: 01:04:00 End My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-9b155709476d2c6c3f2124b2a74f574b}

The DC Sports Guys 4-7-2009

It's been a week since our last show and a lot has happened. The Capitals clinched the Southeast Division, the Final Four was dominated by North Carolina, UFC had a Fight Night, The Redskins tried to ruin their quarterback situation, and WrestleMania ran wildly out of control. Juicy is back this week as well as the "What Grinds Our Gears" segment with Big J.

As always, send your comments, suggestions, or ideas to mailbag@dcsportsguys.com

College Basketball: 00:01:30
MMA / UFC / WEC: 00:23:00
WrestleMania: 00:53:20
Washingtion Capitals: 01:20:35
Washington Redskins: 01:44:50
Opening Day: 01:58:50
What Grinds Our Gears: 02:22:40

The DC Sports Guys 4-01-2009

Along with our usual roundup of local sports, we have a special treat this episode. The Sandman calls into the show to run down the upcoming 25th WrestleMania. Now I know what everyone is going to ask. How do I call in? At the moment, unless you rock as much as the Sandman does... you don't. While it's "easy" to plan for a phone call, I still don't really know how to take random calls, so continue to post comments to the site and send emails to mailbag@dcsportsguys.com.

As always, send your comments, suggestions, or ideas to mailbag@dcsportsguys.com

College Basketball: 00:01:30
WWE WrestleMania 25: 00:20:00
Capitals: 00:41:40
NFL / Redskins: 00:53:00
Golf / Orioles: 01:07:00