Monday, November 28, 2011

Farewell Bruce, Hello Hunter

What’s the first thing I see when I look at my phone this morning? A text from Dad: Bruce out. Hunter in. Immediately I ran to my computer to see if it was really true. Now, I am a big Boudreau fan, actually a huge Boudreau fan. The way he led the Caps on the ‘Cinderella run’ in 07-08 is something that sticks out to me particularly.

It strikes me as a little odd, considering Saturday night I was home watching the game with my dad and he said, “If they lose this game, I bet Bruce is fired.” Of course that immediately sparked a conversation about who would replace him. Dad voted for Dave Tippet (he’s always liked him) but seeing as he’s currently behind the bench in Phoenix, we came to the consensus that Hunter was one of the few options. (Considering we were just grumpy fans sitting at home grumbling, imagine my surprise when I saw the headlines this morning).

So let’s get down to the news.

Dale Hunter, former NHLer and longtime Washington Capital, replaced Bruce Boudreau as the head honcho for the Caps. Hunter spent 19 seasons in the NHL, 12 were spent with Washington. He is the 15th head coach in Washington’s team history. He will make his debut tomorrow as the Caps host the Blues.

Hunter captained the capitals for five seasons (‘94-’95 to ’98-’99). He is known for a number of things including his work ethic and no-nonsense attitude, but he is most famous for his accumulation of penalty minutes. By the end of his career Hunter tallied 2,003 PIM, the most in Caps history. He is the only player in NHL history to record both 1,000 games and 3, 000 PIM. In addition to holding several capitals records, Hunter is one of the few players in capitals history to have his no. 32 retired.

Hunter, 51, has spent the last 11 years behind the bench for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. His team won the Memorial Championship in ’04-’05, and he holds the record for getting to 300 and 400 wins the fastest.

This is the second time that the Caps have brought a junior coach from their system to the big league. We’ll see how Hunter does from here on out, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the team will be giving him 110% in no time.

Just in closing, I'd like to say farewell Bruce. You saved our team when it was crumbling around Glen Hanlon. You didn't win us a cup, but I think people should remember you fondly, I know that that this particular caps fan will.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tim Thomas is the man. That's about all that needs to be said for now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Jason Chimera!

I really, REALLY wanted to write this post right after Chimera snuck in the game winner, but seeing as my hands were shaking from a mix of a release of anticipation as well as a pure, raw form of excitement, I figured it'd be better to wait. So i took off my jersey and sat in front of the fan, which was running on high-blast, just waiting for myself to calm down. And while I was sitting there, I thought of some stuff to write. Most of this is just "right off the fingertips" as I like to call it, so please read and comment back either on here or on Facebook and let me know what you think.

First thing I said when overtime started was "the first team to make a mistake will lose this game." Both teams did give up some early chances (cough,THE OVI BREAKAWAY, cough) because they were so tired, but the Caps were able to capitalize (no pun intended, okay, maybe a little one) on the final mistake made by Marion Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist late in the second overtime. Good work, Chimer.

The first think I thought after the game was, wow, what a difference a year makes, and although one may argue that last year's Caps would be able to score enough goals to come back in that game, the fact is last year's Caps also would not have had the ability to lockdown defensively when it matters most, especially when they had been pretty bad early in the game. After going down 3-0, I thought it was over, and I'm not a man who gives up on his teams that easily. All I could see was a tied series and loads of anticipation and nervousness on the Washington side as the series headed back to DC. But the Caps proved all of us doubters (including all the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden) that this team means business, and no lead is safe.

The series now comes back to the Phone Booth in DC for Game 5 on Saturday. The Caps were in a familiar postion last year, going up 3-1 on the Montreal Canadiens before regrettably losing the series in Game 7 a few days later, and many fans are going to point to that series as a point of anxiety heading into the match-up. And although that is definitely something that should be of concern to Washington and its fans, everyone also knows that this team is different. Without the friendly (and sort of quiet...) confines of Madison Square Garden, the Capitals will look to encapsulate the struggling Rangers in a sea of Red.

Its time to Unleash the Fury and oust the Rangers for good. Let's bring it home, boys.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Question and Answer Session Number Two with Drew Hallman

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us, and before they go too far into it, I wanted to bring my friend and self-proclaimed hockey nut Drew Hallman back into the fold at Dropping the Gloves. So I asked him a few questions on the Capitals current standing in the playoffs, their opponent, the New York Rangers, as well as some more general questions about the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs. Please note that due to some time contraints on my part (I am meeting friends for dinner and really need to study) there were no follow up questions, but I promise in the next session, I will try to provide you with some of those. Hope you enjoy.

Tim Horsey: Ok Drew, give me your evaluation of the Caps through the first 3 games of the playoffs.

Drew Hallman: Through the first three games of the playoffs, the Caps look about 87.56789% on their game. The Caps for the most part have stuck to their game plan, and it has worked. The times when they haven't, like taking all those penalties in Game 3, it hasn't. DC has seen the return of much needed defensemen Mike Green, much needed power play goals by veterans Jason Arnott and Mike Knuble, solid goaltending, including one shutout, by rookie Michal Neuvirth, and hopefully will soon see their favorite hockey team on the way to the second round of the playoffs.

TH: What have you thought of Michal Neuvirth’s performance in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs?

DH: For the first time in three years, the game of musical chairs involving the Caps' goaltenders is up…well, maybe. Coming into the series with no previous NHL playoff experience while facing a seasoned NHL goalie and gold medal winner, Neuvy has played well so far in the series, giving up only four goals in three games, posting a 1.00 save percentage while the Caps have the lead or are trailing, and shutting out the Rangers in Game 2. However, Neuvy allowed 3 goals in Game 3, the final goal being a lucky deflection, and did not appear to leave the net as much to challenge the Rangers.

TH: If you had to pick one facet of the Capitals’ game that was most crucial to success this postseason, what would it be and why?

DH: The Caps' main key to success is sticking to the game plan. The Caps trailed in both Games 1 and 3 but were able to come back three of the four times that the Rangers took the lead by staying calm and sticking to the plan that they had established early in the game.

TH: I know this is a little late, but for the rest of the series, who (or what unit) on the Rangers is the biggest threat to the Capitals?

DH: If asked this question before the series, the answer would be Henrik Lundqvist. However, with a GAA of 1.84, giving the Rangers any edge in the series scares me more than "King Henrik". The Caps cannot lose Game 4, giving the Rangers the edge of tying up the series. The Caps must win Game 4 so they continue to have the edge in the series making it so they can wrap it up completely on Saturday in Chinatown.

TH: Okay let’s get a little more general. In your opinion, what is the most intriguing matchup in the first round (other than Caps v. Rangers)?

DH: The most intriguing matchup in the first round other than the Caps and Rangers is the Canucks and Blackhawks. For the past two seasons the Blackhawks have ruined the Canucks dreams of hoisting the cup in June. However, now after coming off of a Stanley Cup Championship and unfortunately then having to dump a good amount of players afterwards due to the salary cap, Chicago is being embarrassed on a national level by the team that they've tormented for two years and could very well be swept tonight on home ice in Chicago.

TH: What one player is most key to his team’s success and why (other than players on the Capitals)?

DH: Ned Braden is definitely the most key to his team's success. Without his striptease at center ice, there’s no way the Chiefs would have won the Federal League Championship. Tim Thomas might not be another bad answer, though. If he can't put up the amazing numbers he did in the regular season it looks like Montreal might have another upset and Boston has another playoff collapse for the second year in a row.

TH: I had to keep the Slapshot references in that answer because that movie is such a classic. Finally, give me your final four teams, your final two, and your eventual Stanley Cup champion.

DH: Final Four: Canucks vs Detroit and Capitals vs Penguins

Final Two: Detroit vs Capitals (Detroit's veteran playoff experience outdoes Vancouver and Crosby comes back just in time to face the Caps but Erskine crushes him into the boards behind the net ending his career)

Stanley Cup Champion: Washington Capitals (1998 the way it should have ended)

Thanks again to Drew Hallman for his insight. Hopefully he's right and the Caps will bring the Cup to the Phone Booth in June.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What A Start

Wow, what a way to begin the playoffs. Don't have much to say about it, but I do need to get into the habit of writing on a consistent basis, so here are some opinins from the game.

Mr Semin. I have never been a huge fan of little Sasha, but he sure had a good game tonight. I only saw him whiff once, and that OT goal to win it was a thing of beauty. I hope he can keep it going at not slump like last year's playoffs (he had zero goals against MTL last year). You may have gained another fan Semin.

The New York Rangers are going to frustrate not only the Caps players but its entire fanbase this series. They are so good at blocking shots and locking down defensively. Not to mention King Henrik. He was absolutely sensational last night (as were his posts, which rejected Semin and Jason Arnott in the first period). If the Capitals want to keep the momentum from game one, they are going to have to keep their cool and play their game, and the series will keep turning in their favor.

Last note before I sign off here, Michal Neuvirth looked cool as a cucumber in goal. The two time Calder Cup champion looked like the man he's been for the Hershey Bears the past two springs, stopping 24 of 25 shots against the Rangers last night. In his pre AND post game interviews, he said he did not feel any pressure and was not nervous at all. If that doesn't say "ice in the veins", I don't know what does. I think you finally found your man, Gabby.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

That Time of Year

Hey folks, it's that time of year again, time for the best postseason tournament in professional sports: The Stanley Cup Playoffs. A time when every game matters and grown men go so far as to go back to their barbaric roots and grow long, tangled beards in lieu of shaving. Sixteen wins is all a team needs to lift that 34.5 pound glorious hunk of metal over their heads, beam a smile that would require heavy machinery to get rid of, and declare themselves Stanley Cup Champions.

The Washington Capitals are one of those teams who still have the dream, and they find themselves in a very familiar position: Numer Uno in the Eastern Conference. This year's opponent, who will try to do what Montreal did to the Caps last April, are the New York Rangers, a gritty, never-say-die team who gave the Caps fits in the playoffs two years ago until Sergei Federov put them away in Game 7.

The Rangers have had the Capitals number this year, winning 3 of the 4 meetings, including a 6-0 drubbing at the Phone Booth (aka Verizon Center) and a 7-0 defeat in MSG which was seen around the world on HBO's "24/7" and also came smack dab in the middle on Washington's mid season 8-game losing streak.

This is a much different Caps team, however. The trade deadline acquisitions of Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman, and Jason Arnott, a former NHL captain who scored the game winning goal for the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000, have solidified an already very capable team. Although Wideman will not be back until at least the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, he did a great job filling the puck-moving/powerplay role of Mike Green while number 52 recovered injury. Green is expected to make his return tomorrow for game one against the Rangers, which is great news for Caps fans. Green is a dynamic scorer from the blueline, but more importantly, has become a sort of microcosm of the Capitals greatly improved defensive prowess this season. The Capitals are fourth best in the NHL in goals allowed per game with a 2.33 average and second in the league in penalty kill at 85.6%. Last year the Caps were ranked 16th and 25th in these categories, respectively. Coach Boudreau has led the charge to become a tougher, more defensive team rather than a high flying offensive team, because everyone knows that defense wins championships.

And boys, I can already see the Cup in the Great 8's hands when it's all said and done.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finally, A NEW POST!

I need to apologize for not posting in forever. My schoolwork has been hitting me hard ever since I stepped foot back on campus in late January, and I was reminded of my lack of posting by my grandmother on Friday during the radio show (Dropping the Gloves, 5-6 PM on Fridays, Instead of trying to recap all the games since I’ve last been on here, I just want to talk about some notes from the weekend and do a brief preview of tonight’s big match-up against Pittsburgh.

Yesterday’s “Hockey Day in America” was an awesome marketing idea by NBC. All four games that were broadcast on NBC were great match-ups. I ended up watching hockey from 12:30 until the end of the Heritage Classic on Versus (which I honestly thought to be the most uneventful of all five games). I am here, however, just to comment on the Caps v. Sabres game.

What a solid win. I was very impressed throughout by the Capitals, especially on the power play. The Caps created many chances on the man advantage and were not afraid to shoot the puck when necessary. They should have definitely scored on the 5-on-3, but since we came out of this game with the W, I’ll let it go for now.

I feel like I have to talk about Ryan Miller. He is far and away my favorite goalie in the league, and even though he is struggling just a bit this year, he was on his A-game yesterday. He absolutely stuffed Nick Backstrom on back to back power play opportunities. If anyone else was in net for Buffalo, we would have been talking about a blow out in upstate New York.

Tonight’s game against the Penguins is the final meeting between the rivals in the regular season. The Caps look to take the series 3-1 with a victory tonight, and this looks very possible. Both teams played yesterday on the road, so there is no excuse for either team being tired. The Penguins are without Geno Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who is still suffering from a minor headache, uh, I mean, concussion-like symptoms. The same men were out for Pittsburgh when the Capitals shutout the Pens 3-0 in Washington just a few weeks ago. If the Capitals can keep playing solid defense and convert on the power play, they will take the momentum and steal a victory from the Penguins and add another victorious chapter to this storied rivalry.