The last couple days have been a blur, if you did your holidays right that is.
Most everyone I know is currently suffering from an overdose on Turkey and mash potatoes as well as near liver failure, but then again, none of my close family and friends are currently paid millions to play the game we all love, so, considering that our minds are all foggy and filled with thoughts of overweight sugar plum fairies toppling on top of one another in a drunken stupor, I think it’s ok for us regular folk to enjoy our time with our family and kick back.
But if I was a member of a professional hockey team and was paid a very large sum of money to play hard 82 games a year, I think I would postpone my Holiday follies until July. That’s if I want to win a Stanley Cup that is.
Considering that, it’s easy to note that the coach of the Washington Capitals was not pleased with his team’s recent efforts to close out the 2009 calendar year.
The Capitals have surrendered 11 goals in their last two games en route to being blown out by the worst team in the league, the Carolina Hurricanes, and perhaps the best team in the league, the San Jose Sharks. So what gives?
The Caps, perhaps the best team in the NHL themselves, have endured a post Christmas malaise and do not seem to have recovered quite yet from the recent trade of their former Captain, Chris Clark, and defenseman Milan Jurcina for veteran two-way power forward Jason Chimera.
The trade may have been hard on the locker room, but it was certainly no reason for the team to hit the bottle and wash away a couple of opportunities to earn points on their rivals in the standings.
Nonetheless, the Caps can’t erase their recent past, but with a brand new year upon is, it’s as good a time as any to make a resolution to be apart of every game they play. No more nights off. If this team wants a Stanley Cup that everyone thinks they are oh-so capable of winning, they are going to have to take it upon themselves and not leave up to their reputation to get them through to the promised land. There is a lot of hard work left and if there is anything that the trade of Chris Clark will prove to the members of the Washington Capitals it’s that this team is willing to make whatever moves necessary to give this team a better shot at the Cup. Your job is only safe so long as you play up to your expected standards, once you slip below an acceptable level, management will seek to find an upgrade. A warning, a message, whatever you want to call it, it’s clear that Clark’s trade is a signal that this team is ready to move forward with a new generation of players leading the way and that they are hell-bent on becoming strong enough to fight all the way until the end of June for the Stanley Cup.
Captain, my Captain
So you might be wondering who will be the next captain of the Washington Capitals?
The logical choice would be to simply hand it over to the Face of the NHL, Alex Ovechkin, yet is it really necessary to lump more pressure on this Russian phenom’s shoulders?
Nicklas Lidstrom became the first player to captain a team to a Stanley Cup who was not from the US or Canada.
If the Caps are on their way to raising a Cup, it would certainly be a nice vision to behold the GR8 Eight hoisting the Stanley Cup for the fans at the Verizon Center with “C” elegantly emblazoned on his chest.
But is he ready for that much more of a challenge?
In my opinion, the Capitals may be better served by either rotating the C around the room or to go with 3 alternates for the time being.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Capitals may hold off on naming a permanent captain in the near future as there is a chance that they could be trading for someone who would be best suited to wear the C.
It would make sense if the Caps did acquire someone with veteran leadership and who is known as a leader to step in and handle the role of Captain for the remainder of the year.
Of course a trade would have to take place first for that to happen, but let’s not rule that out just yet.
The Caps have many options when it comes to selecting a leader for the future and Ovechkin is at the top of that list for many reasons, but there are others on the team who would be well suited to leading this team. And so, because this is not an easy decision to come upon, I am certain that the team and coaching staff will wait to see what management decides to do before the deadline. Unless the players decide upon a future leader in the near future, expect the team to make the captaincy a non-issue as they re-focus on their game.
Quick question, just for fun: Would Mike Green have made Team Canada if Scott Neidermayer was a Washington Capital? Would being partnered with another Team Canada candidate have helped his cause(a la Keith & Seabrook)?
Caps @ Kings
The Capitals will usher in the New Year with an Olympic oriented matchup versus the LA Kings in sunny Los Angeles this afternoon. Not a bad way to ring in the New Year, considering most of us on the lovely snow-laden East Coast won’t be seeing a palm tree anytime soon!
Anyways, there are two factors in this afternoon’s matchup with the Kings that will help determine how the Capitals perform.
1. Their recent play has been a sign of mental fatigue and with the shock of a trade mixed in there, it seems that the team has been shell-shocked as of late. Hoping that the extra Vitamin C the team is soaking in on the West Coast will help, Washington is in need of rejuvenated play. Granted the team hasn’t really been terrible on too many nights this season, but the reality is that two consecutive poor performances is unacceptable and if this team is aspiring to greatness, they will need better consecutive performances. No matter the circumstance.
2. Olympic Love & Hate. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Fleischmann, Varlamov and the recently departed Milan Jurcina were all selected to their respective Olympic Teams while the Kings saw youngsters Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick land gigs with their respective countries. These players will all be riding highs tonight as it will be the first Olympic Games for most of them and will ignite a sense of confidence that will likely build in each and every one of these players over the next 6 weeks leading up to the Games. Countering all of the brimming happiness and confidence that all of the recently selected Olympians will be enjoying, each team has similarly disappointed members who were snubbed from being chosen for the Olympics. The most notable snub of all is that of Washington’s Mike Green. Greener has done everything he can to make himself the best possible candidate for Team Canada, yet somehow finds himself on the outside looking in. All I have to say is that every other country involved in the Men’s Ice Hockey competition in Vancouver would DIE to have him on their roster. ‘Nuff said. Also snubbed were the Kings one-time locks, former captain Canada, Ryan Smyth, and Russian sniper Alex Frolov, both of whom were neglected when it came to selecting the Canadian and Russian rosters. As happy as those who were chosen for the Games are, those were snubbed will have to dig even deeper to prove everyone wrong and to elevate their play. It will be the only way, otherwise the expected drop in confidence, and then performance, can only be expected. It will be up to their respective team-mates and coaches to keep these players on their game and to remind them that the Stanley Cup is their goal and not to let anything dissuade them.
Although I could get into an ever further and deeper review of this afternoon’s tilt between these two exciting and young squads, the game is less than 3 hours away, so I will leave you with this; these are two extremely talented and speedy clubs who are raring to prove their worth. The Caps have rocketed themselves to the top of the pack of contenders while the Kings are just starting to make noise. Both teams play a puck moving style of hockey and rely on special teams to provide the advantage, so it should be interesting to see who remains the more disciplined squad.
Alex Ovechkin and company need to step up and remind the Kings that they aren’t quite where these Capitals are today, but if they do not remind themselves to focus and play a hard game, this dynamic and exciting Los Angeles team will be ever too happy to steal two points from the Capitals and to hand them their 3rd consecutive loss.
I expect it to be a battle between Jose Theodore and Jon Quick.
Here are tonight’s probable lineups;
Puck drop is @ 4pm EST, DON’T FORGET!
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