The D.C. Sports Guys 5-16-2009

2 comments:
We all survived TJ's bachelor party and we are back with another edition of the D.C. Sports Guys Podcast. Topics include the Capitals losing in 7 games, Zimmerman ending his streak, the NFL overseas, way too much about horses, and run though the headlines since the last show.

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


Intro
Capitals / NHL: 00:01:30
Redskins / NFL: 00:27:20
Preakness / Horse Stuff: 00:56:05
NBA / Headlines : 01:09:20
End

Game 7: Pittsburgh A Lot, Washington Not so Much

1 comment:
Well, not really much to say about this one. As TJ said watching the game tonight, "there wasn't even enough time to get mad." Pittsburgh ran up the score so quick, the book on this game was closed early. Varlamov had a very poor opening where 3 of the first 4 goals should have been saves. Still, you can't hang it all on the young net minder. The defense wasn't there to help him out either. The Capitals got a good 'ol ass whooping, plain and simple.

Before the postseason started, everyone knew the big question marks for the Capitals would be goal tending and defense. Ultimately this is what brought the season to an end. However, outside of a bad (ok, terrible) Game 7, we have gotten to see what may be the rise of very young promising goalie, who without, a Game 7 may not have even been possible. Hopefully Varly can erase this game from his mind and with a regular season under his skates will become more accustom to the day in, day out, play of the NHL. Defense on the other hand leads to even more questions. Was Green playing with an injury? If so, how bad was it? Who is going to stay and who will go? Will Alzner be brought up for next season? Defense, as they say, wins championships, and I will be most interested in how the Capitals manage their blue liners for next season.

Not much else to say tonight. There was going to be a podcast recorded after the game, but none of us really felt like sitting behind the mic sounding all depressed, so we'll push that back to this weekend and see what happens.

I would personally like to thank everyone who contributed money to Caps Care though the Beard-A-Thon Challenge and would also like to thank the Washington Capitals for making hockey something special in the D.C. area again. While the outcome may not be what we wanted it's great to see Verizon rocking the red and hockey as the lead news story on TV and in the paper.

Disapointed?
Yes.

Extreemly hopeful for next season?
You better belive it.

APB on Easton Stealths

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If you keep up with Capitals news, then you know about Mike Green's "stick issue." Originally hitting main stream media when Green set the consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman record earlier this season, it was revealed that Green had the last 6 Easton Stealths in existence. The story arose because the Hockey Hall of Fame came-a-calling for the stick Green used to set the record. Green did not want to part with it. A couple days later the Capitals released an announcement that Green would in fact send the stick to Toronto.

Fast forward to Game 1 of the Rangers series, Green breaks his last Easton Stealth. His replacement, an Easton S17. A stick which Green says is "heavier and thicker than the Stealth." Now the fun begins. There was actually one Easton Stealth left in existance, the one slated for the Hall of Fame. Here is an excerpt from Capitals Insider by Tarik El-Bashir today 5/12:

As you read last night, Mike Green's record-breaking stick, the one that was earmarked for the Hockey Hall of Fame, made it to Pittsburgh in time for the opening faceoff. But Green didn't use the Stealth because he said he had already decided to go with S17.

"I couldn't use it" in Game 6, Green said. "I just got used to the other one. To go back right before the game ..."

Apparently, the hall-of-fame stick wasn't the last Mike Green edition Stealth in the world, as I claimed yesterday. Green said at least a half dozen are supposed to arrive sometime today or tomorrow -- from fans and friends of friends.

"Somebody wrote something yesterday," Green said, referring to my blog post yesterday. "So [Stealths] are coming in like no tomorrow. They're coming out of everywhere. Fans and one of the reporters even had one.

"I'll use [a Stealth] in the morning and see how it feels," he added.


I don't know if anyone else is as dumbfounded as I am. If I was in charge of the Hockey division at Easton, upon hearing that Mike Green was running out of a stick that he claimed to be the best stick he's ever used, I would have called up whoever I needed to, to get that stick back in production. Slap Mike Green's name on it and advertise how it's the stick that was used to rack up 31 goals, 73 points, and set the record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman. Are you telling me that won't sell? Instead we are left with die hard fans running into their garage to pack up and ship out their own Easton Stealths in hopes it will turn around what has been a lack luster performance from Green in the postseason.

Can a stick make that much of a difference? It could. NHL-ers are very perticular about their equipment. Skates go on a certain way. tape is applied a certain way, sharpening is done a certain way. Everything is percison for these guys. Then top that off with some good 'ol sportsmen superstision... and you got recipe for disaster when something goes ary.

So is the stick the issue Green? We will all find out tomorrow night when the puck drops for Game 7. My guess it that it won't stop him from jumping up with the forwards for most of the game. On the other hand, it may reinstate his slapshot that has been MIA and possibly eliminate some of those ugly turnovers in the neutral zone we've seen so often this postseason.

Game 6: Washington 5, Pittsburgh 4

1 comment:
Steckel deflected a wrister from Laich to give the Capitals their first overtime win of the playoffs. In a game that felt like it started in slow motion, both teams started to heat up midway though the second period. The thrid period was the most intense with 4 goals being scored, the last by Crosby to force the game into overtime. For Capitals fans there had to be a collective "OH NO" when Laich was called for slashing, allowing the Penguins to go on the power play for the final 2 minutes of regulation. Washington's defense however, stood stong giving the team the chance it needed to win in overtime.

Pittsburgh again out shot the Capitals almost doubling them up, 42-24. After coming out in the first two games of the first series against the Rangers shooting anything and everything, the Capitals as a team have been cutting back on the amount of total shots. For the most part the better shot selection over shot quantity has been a success. Tonight however, was a bit scary. Looking for the perfect shot, Washington held on to the puck for too long. This was most evident when the Capitals were on the power play in the first and second periods. Able to set up in the zone, the Capitals could only muster 2 shots on goal with the man advantage.

Varlamov, although letting in 4 goals, had another solid performance. The first goal, a wrister by Bill Guerin that beat Varly's glove to the top corner is one Varly wished he had back. The last 3 however have to attributed in large part to the defense begin out of positon, on the second, and not clearing out the front of the net, on the third and fourth. For the Capitals success to continue they will need to find a way to keep their goal tender from having to make more saves (Varly had 38) than shots they produce (Caps had 24).

For those of you who listen to the podcast, you know that 3 of the D.C. Sports Guys have been in Arizona celebrating the end to TJ's single life. During this time I missed Game 4 and was only able to catch the 2nd, 3rd and overtime periods of Game 5 on TV since I was busy losing golf balls all over the Arizona desert. From what I have seen, the Captials have been slowly taking more and more ice from the Penguins. They are closing on the puck faster, and are finishing hits better. If they can continue in this direction and help out Varly on the defensive end, then they can win Game 7. I forsee another nailbiter in what has been an outstanding series.

Are the Nats Showing Signs of Improvement?

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Well, the Nats fell one game short of a sweep of the Diamondbacks this week, and posted a come-from-behind win against the Dodgers in their first game after Major League Baseball served Many Ramirez with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Jordan Zimmermann had a rough start, giving up 6 runs in the first inning, but the Nats showed some tenacity, fighting back and taking the game 11-9. Over the weekend, John Lannan posted a strong outing, and the bats of Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham gave the Nats two consecutive win over a team exhibiting many of the same traits as the Nats: a fairly potent offense, hit-or-miss starting pitching, and absolutely atrocious relievers.

By far and away the biggest story regarding the Nationals has been Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman came into tonight's game against the Giants with a 28-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this year. He rose to the occasion once again tonight, grabbbing a single off Randy Johnson in the top of the first. He also helped cement the Nats' Saturday win against the D-Backs.

As I have said in previous blogs, I've never been high on the Ryan Zimmerman bandwagon. Sure, he has put up admirable stats at a young age, and has had a few memorable walk-offs, including a 2006 home run against the Yankees, and the game-winner in last season's opener at Nationals Park. But his defense has been up-and-down, and he never seemed to regain his form after missing a chunk of games last season with a shoulder injury. Well, whatever he is doing this season is working, and its working well. I had feared that Zimmerman would have a few strong and productive seasons, and then regress to the level of a Scott Rolen or Troy Glaus-type player. However, it seems he is maturing as a hitter, and hopefully this will only improve as he approaches his prime hitting years in his late 20's.

I encourage the baseball fans out there to consider punching Zimmerman in your 2009 All-Star ballots. He is putting up better numbers than fan favorites such as Chipper Jones and David Wright, and will hopefully continue to do so as we approach the mid-summer classic. I have a feeling Zimmerman will earn a selection to his first all-star game regardless of the results of the fan vote, but seeing him getting in as a starter would certainly be significant for those Nats fans who are looking for some encouragement.

The Nats wrap up their west coast trip and return home for a lengthy homestand opening up this weekend against the Phillies.

Game 3: Washington 2, Pittsburgh 3

2 comments:
Wow. If there was ever an overtime win that could be considered a lopsided victory, this would be it. Tonight's game was between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Simeon Varlamov, and Varly almost won. The rest of the Caps should all apologize to their rookie net minder tonight because they threw away a brilliant performance between the pipes. Nothing seemed to click tonight. During one delayed penalty inside their own zone, the Capitals let Malkin skate around like he was an honored guest until Ovechkin came in a put a shoulder check on him. That pretty much sums up the entire game. I don't think I've seen the team as a whole stand around so much. They were late to puck, taking penalties because they were out of position, and on the wrong side of almost every hit. Today's game was eerily similar to the Capitals first series, except the Capitals were playing the role of the Ranagers, getting out played and being saved by a goalie.

Nylander needs to go, his turnovers are killing the team. When he is on the ice the Capitals are 0-3 in the postseason. Fill the spot with anyone, Keith Aucoin, Alexandre Giroux, I just don't want to see #92 on the ice on Friday.

Not much else to say. Penguins handed it to the Caps tonight, but Friday is another day. Which team will show? Only time will tell.

NHL Suspension Policy.... I'd like to know what the hell it is.

1 comment:
Gary Bettman, what the hell is going on in the offices of the NHL? I understand that Brashear's hit on Betts was late, but even the league offices clarified that is was indeed a shoulder check. So naturally when I saw Mike Brown pummel Hulder with his shoulder more than a full second after Hulder gives up the puck, I thought, here comes another big suspension from the league. But to my surprise.... nothing. Here's the video:




Are you kidding me? Brash gets 6, and this warrants nothing? I'm just asking for some consistency here. If I was a member of the Red Wings organization I'd be pissed at the relativity identical style of hit and no punishment to show for it.


Then, in Game 2 of the Caps / Pens series this happens:



To me, that looks like an intentional cross check to the neck of a goalie. Something that could do serious harm to a player in a compromised position. But again, the masterminds in the NHL offices thought only a fine was needed. There is absolutely no consistency between the rulings of the NHL and what goes on, on the ice.

Apparently this is the NHL's policy on suspensions:
1. Was a penalty called on the ice? Was it a major?
  • If both are true than no suspension is needed. The player has already been punished and we don't need to deal with the problem, unless he was injured. Then refer to step 2.

2. Was the player injured? Did he return to the game?
  • If the player was not injured on the play then obviously the infraction was minor and we have better things to figure out here at NHL Headquarters like where the Coyotes will play next year.
  • If the player was injured make sure there was a game misconduct called. If so, we don't even need to look at the video.
  • If the player did not return to the game and no misconduct was called THROW THE FREAKING book at him! Come down hard to send a message to all players that if a ref doesn't make a severe enough call on the ice that we will make an example of you and parade our decision all over the media to show how we can police our sport.

When will the NHL learn that you don't suspend the outcome of an incident, but the incident itself or these things will never stop. If you want to "send a message" about these types of hits to the head then judge all incidents equally, NOT THEIR OUTCOMES!

Brash's hit:

Will Boxing and MMA ever collide?

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Recently Dana White put the kibosh on a MMA fight between Roy Jones Jr. and Anderson Silva. My first reaction was "Dammit Dana", which has become my default reaction to any headline that bears his name recently. But then I thought about it for a minute, what exactly would this fight prove? The answer…nothing. Roy Jones, like every other aging boxer not named Lennox Lewis, is looking for 15 more minutes of fame and a big paycheck. Silva on the other hand seems to be in his prime. He dominates the middleweight division in the UFC and is the single reason former middleweight champion Rich Franklin has become a light heavyweight.

Under MMA rules Roy Jones barely has a punchers chance at his age. Granted one lucky blow by Jones could end the fight, but the probability of that happening against Silva’s superior defensive skills is slim to none. There is nothing to gain from UFC’s point of view. If Silva wins, it will most likely be a terrible fight. Yes, even more terrible than Silva’s last two “opponents”. If by some miracle Roy Jones is somehow able to connect with a knockout blow, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC would fall to an aging washed up boxer.

So what if the roles were reversed? What if Silva stepped into the boxing ring? The answer… Who knows? A good portion of Silva’s fighting style includes the use of his legs. Taking that away, along with all the other MMA extras, limits what Silva can do. Is Silva as formidable of an opponent if he can only throw punches? Not having to worry about his clinches or kicks could move the needle in Jones’ favor. But again what have we proven here? If Roy Jones wins, then he’s beaten a fighter foreign to the boxing world. If Roy Jones loses, then we are back to Silva beating an aging, washed up boxer. Another lose, lose situation.

Will boxing and MMA ever collide? I believe so. This is the fighting world after all and there is always a promotion that will find fighters willing to do anything for a paycheck. But will we ever see the best of the best give up their specialty to fight the best of the best in another specialty? Unlikely. When it comes right down to it, at the highest level boxing and MMA are different worlds and different disciplines. Tactics that work in one don’t necessarily work in the other. The fact 2 people are fighting each other is almost where the comparisons stop.

How could a fight be structured so top of the line fighters would want to participate? I’ve heard of having a different fighting style for each round of the fight. I think that clearly gives the advantage to the style that happens to get round one. How about scheduling two fights months apart? Maybe the first is boxing and the second is MMA. Would you pay to see a 2 fight contest against, let’s say Manny Pacquiao and Urijah Faber?

Bottom line, we will have to be content with Silva facing Forest in UFC 101. A fight that I hope will bring excitement back to a Silva fight. Forest as everyone knows has no problem pushing the pace inside the Octagon. As for Roy? Maybe he can start out a bit more modest than challenging the best middleweight in the world to prove that he can hang in MMA. Maybe someone like… Jose Concesco.

Game 2: Washington 4, Pittsburgh 3

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I was able to grab a couple upper deck tickets (sec. 424) to last night's game during the Capitals ticket release on Friday. Something that will never cease to amaze me is the overhead TicketMaster charges per ticket. The final cost for a $70 ticket is $84. No matter how you explain it to me, I will never understand how it costs $14 in overhead for me to purchase and use my own printer to print a ticket. Anyway, on to the game, and what a game it was. The two biggest stars in the NHL went head-to-head and both had their best performance of the playoffs. Seven goals were tallied in this game and only one was scored by someone not named Ovechkin or Crosby.

Both of these teams love to play a fast similar style of transition hockey, but one of the biggest differences can be seen in how they setup their offense in the zone. Once the Capitals set, they use their defense and the corners to control the puck, stretching the ice horizontally. The Penguins on the other hand give the Capitals fits by controlling the puck around the net. With 2 skaters, a center and a forward, playing very close to the goal usually right on each post, they try to cause as much traffic as possible or break away to control the puck below the blue line. The Caps have gotten caught on multiple occasions chasing them below the line leaving passing lanes open for Pittsburgh's skaters breaking towards the net. I was also disappointed with the transition defense of the Capitals again this game, relying on Varlamov to make highlight reel saves to keep them in the game early on.

While Pittsburgh took the first period both on the score board and on the ice, for the fifth game in a row the Capitals dominated the last period of the game. The talent level on the Capitals from top to bottom helps them turn it on late in games. The top 2 lines on both teams match up pretty well, but after that the Caps pick up the advantage. Looking at the time on ice for each team, the Penguins had 7 skaters on the ice for less than 15 minutes compared to the Caps 5, which is actually closer to 4 with Flesichmann coming in just under the 15 minutes mark. The Penguins have to run their top lines longer and more often, which catches up to you in the playoffs. Sergei Gonchar for instance led all skaters with over 27 minutes.

This seems to be the story for Caps in the post season. They come out flat in the first, play a pretty even second, then out skate their opponent in the third. By the end of the game, they look like the faster more aggressive team. Playing at home also helps, the crowd was almost completely red, with a few black and baby blue specs here and there. It was the fewest Pittsburgh fans I've experienced at the Verizon center. When Ovie scored his third goal of the night, hats instantly flew on to the ice, leading Crosby to wine to the refs about the short delay in the game, "People kept throwing hats," Crosby said. "And I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop." I'm sure Pittsburgh fans will defend his every action, but really... throwing hats on the ice has been done a thousand times over involving almost every team in the NHL, get over it.

Orioles April Recap

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While the 2009 season started out great for the Orioles the month of April has turned out to be a harsh one for the team. They began the season by winning their first 3 series; with back to back wins preceding blow out loses each time. Unfortunately for the Birds they ended the month losing 10 out of 13 to finish with a 9-13 record.

The Good
  • The Orioles offense has been solid in most games and explosive in others. The top three of Roberts, Jones, and Markakis have all played at All-Star levels and the development of Jones as a hitter as been beyond this blogger's expectations. His OPS of 1.043 leads the team.
  • Koji Uehara has adjusted nicely to life in MLB. He has been arguably the Orioles most reliable pitcher in the early going. Throw out his start at the launching pad that is the Ballpark in Arlington and he has not given up more than 3 runs in any of his other starts. Let's hope he comes back healthy from that vicious line drive he took off the chest in his last start against the Angels.

The Bad

  • Adam Eaton is who we thought he is. The "veteran starter" (read: washed up piece of hot garbage) has pitched to an ERA over 7 in his first 4 starts. His stats are even more impressive/infuriating when you consider that he has the O's best outing of the young season - 7.1, 2ER, 9SO against the White Sox. It's starts like that make you wonder/understand why Philly fans threw batteries at this guy.
  • The bullpen, which was supposed to be a strength, has struggled. George Sherill has now blown two saves and made every appearance an adventure. Brian Bass and Matt Albers are putting out fires with gasoline. Radhames Liz accumulated a 67.5 ERA in his brief cameo.

The Ugly

  • The bottom 3 in the O's lineup - Zaun, Pie, Izturis - hit a combined .189 in April. This actually makes what the offense has accomplished so far even more impressive, considering they've done it with only 6 hitters.

The team may not be as good as their hot start but they are not as bad as their crummy finish would indicate either. 10 of their 13 loses are by 1 or 2 runs. Add to that the fact that the team might actually have more talent in the minors than is currently on their big league roster and the potential for improvement is there. Brad Bergesen made a solid major league debut. Nolan Reimold's hitting at AAA may end the Felix Pie experiment sooner than later. And Matt Weiters is waiting in the wings to bring even more pop to the lineup. This blogger fully supports Andy McPhail's decision not to rush the young players. And while filling in the gaps with players like Eaton, Pie, and Mark Hendrickson makes me want to stick my head in a wood chipper, the pay off down the line will be much more sweet.

The D.C. Sports Guys 5-4-2009

3 comments:
The Juicy One and T.J. join Kevin in the studio this week to discuss the Capitals making the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Redskins draft, baseball in the Baltimore/Washington area and while they're at it, take some shots at ESPN.

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


Intro
Capitals: 00:01:30
Redskins / Draft: 00:35:00
MMA / MLB / NBA / ESPN Fail: 01:06:40
End

Nationals' April Recap

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The first month of the 2009 MLB season is officially over, with your Washington Nationals finishing with a dubious 5-16 record. While there is no question that the club is improving, time will tell whether the 2009 Nats meet the same fate as the 2008 club; that is, losing 100+ games and finishing with one of the worst (if not the worst) records in the majors. Looking back, lets look at some highlights (and of course, lowlights) of the Nats' first month of 2009.
  • The New Stadium Honeymoon is Over: The Nats' drew 40,000+ fans to their home opener against the Phillies on April 13th. While this was encouraging, attendance since the home opener has been absolutely pitiful. The home opener itself drew a significant number of Phillies fans, but home series against the Marlins, Braves, and Cardinals have drawn poorly. The erratic weather, success of the Capitals, and dismal team performance have without question taken fans out of the seats. Couple that with the fact that progress on the new "ballpark district" has slowed due to the economic downturn, and you have a solid explanation for why the fans aren't coming. Simply put, its a long way to go to Southeast D.C. to sit and watch a team get shelled.
  • Pitching, Pitching, Pitching: The Nats' starting rotation has been thoroughly inconsistent, and the bullpen looks like something out of a bad baseball movie (if Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn is available, he may be improvement over some of the Nats' current relievers). Cabrera and Lannan, the apparent "ace," are still searching for their first wins, and the bullpen, highlighted by the failures of Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan has blown several games, including three straight in a home series against the Marlins.
  • The Magic of the Zim: The Nats signed "face of the franchise" Ryan Zimmerman to a long-term extension, and he has responded well. Zimmerman had 14 home runs last year, and has hit 5 already. He's hitting over .300 and has been solid defensively. I've never been big on the Zimmerman bandwagon, but I'm hoping he can turn in an all-star caliber year. Jordan Zimmermann, who had a rough outing on Friday against the Cardinals, has been otherwise stellar. I wouldn't be surprised if Zimmermann moves up in the rotation soon.
  • Offensive Improvement: Nick Johnson is also over .300, which is encouraging to see. Dukes and Dunn have also helped contribute to a significant improvement in the Nats' offense. For a team that finished in the bottom of the ranks in most offensive categories last year, its nice to see some "pop" in the lineup for once. Then again, unless Manny Acta and the Nats can solve their bullpen woes sooner than later, these offensive successes may all be for naught.

The Nats wrap-up their current homestand with one more game against the Cardinals, and then two against the Astros. After this, its off to the West Coast for games against the D'Backs, Dodgers, and Giants, then an extended homestand with games against the Phillies, Pirates, and interleague play against the O's. The Nats wrap up the month on the road against the Mets and Phillies. More to come later.