Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Capitals Remain in Solid Contention For First Place

I didn’t get to see the game last night, but in reading recaps it sounds like it was a rather mundane effort. No matter. Wild rumor and legend has it that even high-scoring darlings such as the Pittsburgh St. Crosbys and supposed high-scoring darlings like the New York Rangers get shut out from time to time (a little more often if you’re the Rangers). A dud of a game could have been eventually expected under Bruce II, even as we have been conditioned over the last two months to expect three, four, or five goals a night. At least it sounds like he’s suitably ticked off and will have the lads highly motivated in upcoming games.

The Caps remain but three points behind doomed Carolina, and still have those handy two extra games to play. Plus, they’re also only three points out of their backup plan of eighth place. That seeding, of course, would equal a first-round series with Ottawa, also known as a free pass to the second round.

DCO sees a simple rebound game against Montreal on Thursday, and a repeat of the home-and-home series against Toronto from last week. That is, possibly deflating loss on the road followed by a solid win at home to get everything back on track. We also see a bit of perfect timing in this minor setback. The Optimilitia and friends and co-workers will be swarming Verizon Center on February 8, when those first-place caretakers from Carolina arrive. We now predict, like a CNN primary victory projection, that the Capitals will complete their comeback from three points down and relieve the Hurricanes of their division perch on this date (more official-sounding rendition: With 62% of the season reporting, DCO projects that the Capitals will win the Southeast Division). They will thank Rod Brind’Amour and company for keeping their seat warm and never look back.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Lesson From Philly (of all places)

In the past few weeks, DCO has joined with the rest of the known universe in endorsing Gregg Williams as the next Redskins’ head coach, going so far as to predict seven Super Bowl titles in the next thirteen years (to coincide with the Alex Ovechkin contract extension) for the Assistant Head Coach-Defense. Of course, as we learned this weekend, that prediction has no chance of happening now (unlike everything else in the DCO Crystal Ball projections that have excellent chances of happening). So much for overwhelming public opinion. It looks like positive fan vibes for Williams couldn’t get him hired in the way negative vibes for Jim Fassel may have prevented the former Ravens’ offensive dynamo assistant coach from being hired.

Here is possibly the most un-optimistic thing written on the DCO pages since its glorious inception ten months ago: that totally sucks. However the heir-apparent to persona-non-grata devolution went down, it doesn’t seem to have happened well, chummy public statements notwithstanding. Speculation is probably pointless, and we’ll probably never know what really happened in those dozens of hours of interviews betwixt Williams and Danny Snyder.

Still, even though this often-criticized (sometimes rightfully) ownership can try the optimism of even the most ‘tism-centric fan, we can’t turn a completely negative eye towards the proceedings, potentially continuity-shattering hires aside.

Whatever happens, let’s not be Philadelphia Eagles fans. More specifically, let’s not be Eagles fans a la the drafting of Donovan McNabb. Let’s not jump to immediately booing/negatively posting about the non-Gregg-Williams coaching selection in the way derelict Philly “faithful” jumped to immediately (vigorously) booing McNabb, the non-Ricky-Williams Eagles draft selection. Of course, those famously lifelong-loyal and loaded-with-talent-evaluating acumen fans looked quite the fools as McNabb garnered MVP votes and Pro Bowl appearances while leading the Eagles to division titles and a Super Bowl (the Philly championship drought continues unabated, however) while Ricky Williams underachieved, got injured and smoked pot. (There's probably a Houston vs. Mario Williams and Reggie Bush lesson in here as well, but we don't dislike Houston as much as Philadelphia, so let's leave it at that.)

So let’s not knee-jerkingly vilify whoever our non-Williams turns out to be, because we don’t want to look as dumb as Eagles fans when this mystery gentleman starts pulling in accolades and titles.

Friday, January 25, 2008

One (1)

One (1), as in the number of points now separating the Capitals and the doomed Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Southeast Division. One (1), as in the number of points now separating Alex Ovechkin and Vincent Lecavalier for…second place in overall scoring. Hmm. Would have been a nice little parallel there if Daniel Alfredsson hadn’t gone on his little seven-point tear last night. One (1), as in the one year contract extension given to good guy Donald Brashear.

It’s been quite the steady and methodical rise, with nary a relapse into pre-Thanksgiving underachieving. Likewise has Ovie’s rise in the scoring ranks been steady and methodical, as he consistently has put up 2-and-3-point nights over the last couple of months, eschewing any type of temporary Alfredssonian binge and gradually taking over various offensive categories. Ilya Kovalchuk: chased down and passed for the goal-scoring lead. Alfredsson and Lecavalier: destined to be chased down and passed for point supremacy, bringing an Art Ross trophy to Washington. Jarome Iginla: languishing four goals behind in the power-play goal department. Henrik Zetterberg: the best of the rest in shots on goal, 48 behind Alex the shooting machine (one almost wishes Alex and shotblocker extraordinaire Quentin Laing could somehow square off, but then one remembers Chris Clark’s ear and thinks better of that wish).

The Capitals are becoming quite a nice turnaround story, even if most of the league and the expert world don’t yet notice. Many just seem intent on mourning the Sid-less All-Star Game. That is, when they’re not christening his teammates as the NHL’s new savior. Ross McKeon, in his “the world is over because Sidney is hurt” column, takes the requisite shot at the Caps, calling them a bad team based on the spurious logic that they fired their coach this season and so must be bad, regardless of results since that point; results like a 16-7-4 record and zero back-to-back regulation losses in two months. But no, they’re just a bad team. McKeon also seems to subscribe to the theory of the Eternally Fixed Number of True Hockey Cities (known in the scientific community as the Cherry Constant), since he deridingly calls Atlanta a hotbed of hockey. Creative, that.

Foolish and ignorant sportswriters aside, great things await the Capitals post-All-Star Break. The Hurricanes are numbering their days in first place and packing for a long-term stay with the 10th seed in the East. With the Caps poised to make the big move to 3rd, let’s take a look at who’s waiting in 6th as a potential playoff opponent: Pittsburgh! But wait, what if lil’ Sid is still be a bit hobbled by his high ankle sprain in April? Cancel the playoffs!!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Only Way To Tally Caps vs. Leafs

With a positive spin of the Redskins' postseason as precedent, we feel confident in saying the Capitals resoundingly defeated the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre this season. Combining the 7-1 laugher of October 29 with tonight's 3-2 non-win, the Caps outscored the Leafs 9-4 in hallowed non-Ovechkin-signing Toronto. This MLS-playoff-type tally give Washington the decisive edge.

Does it stink to lose at least one potential standings point with 29.2 seconds left? Is it galling to see the Hurricanes with their three-more-games-played-padded lead in the Southeast Division still intact? Certainly. But, a win tomorrow over these already-vanquished-in-the-North Leafs and idle Carolina will be sitting one measly point away when the games resume after the All Star break. It would have been nice rolling into that same break with the division lead in hand, but it can wait, being as inevitable as it is.

How much longer until we're talking about a 70-goal pace for Alex Ovechkin?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The DCO will avoid cliched "Dream" speech parallels, leaving the legacy of Dr. King to be interpreted by a resurrected Etan Thomas, but we must say, what a glorious MLK Day it was, capping off a brilliant weekend of surges from both the Caps and the Wiz, with 'tism levels reaching heights not seen since Cowboys fans were left spitting on themselves in late December. The holiday had not only a fan-freaking-tastic Capitals downing of the referee-abetted Pens, but it also held yet another team-defining sweep of another first-place powerhouse by the Wiz. With other positive results from Georgetown Men's Hoops and some team from College Park, one can see the residual effects of 'tism overload first-hand. Could a chance meeting between the DCO contingent and the Master at the Caps game the other night have sparked this tremendous outpouring of local sports brilliance? Could Manny's gracious sharpie swaying across one of the DCO's luxurious business cards have triggered strangely successful shootout bids and the all-cotton results of Deshawn Stevenson way way way behind the arc bombs? Could it lead to even more chance encounters with Wizard luminaries during nightclub outings? Could any more clever Canadians attempt to befoul the Washington hockey fanbase (aka "the charity cases") with their poignantly prickish prose, thereby serving to amp up t-levels? Do blog titles in all caps provide enough of an enthusiastic emphasis?

One has to think that all of these questions can be answered positively, as the DCO RENAISSANCE that began this past weekend is one that will continue until both Gilbert suits up and the entire Southeastern NHL division is only seen by Niklas Backstrom's Comcast Sportsnet profiled peripherals ("STEEL SEE IT. STEEL SEE IT."). It will also continue when the Assistant Coach-Defense finally works out the details of his contract and becomes the Redskins next head coach. WE'RE PUTTING IT ALL ON THE TABLE!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Above .500, This Time For Keeps

Keith Jones understands what we’re seeing. During the Versus postgame show, after Washington pushed their record to 22-21-5, the former Caps grinder pointed out that, should the Caps make the playoffs, they will be the first NHL team in history to come back from dead last in the conference to make the postseason. Coincidentally enough, on the same day Keith gave us this historical nugget, I dug out my own piece of Keith Jones history: a ticket stub from April 28, 1995 autographed by one of my favorite Caps of yesteryear (the Caps Official Guide tells me the game was a 5-1 win over the Sabres). I suspect some fine Jim Carey and Pat Peake items await me in the same corner of the closet from which I unearthed the Jones piece.

Thirteen-year-old faded stubs are pointless, however, unlike six of the past seven Capitals games, which have thrown 12 standing points on Washington’s growing pile. Atlanta might as well be in the rearview mirror, and Carolina continues to desperately grasp at their tenuous hold on first place. Their overtime win today kept them three points ahead of the Caps, but the end result here is clear. DCO sees a first-place Caps team absolutely no later than mid-February, possibly much earlier than that (post All Star Game?). We see a first-place team not looking back and keeping a solid hold on that position all the way to April and a third seed in the playoffs. It’s a first-place team that will produce a stone-cold lock Jack Adams award for Bruce Boudreau, a Calder Trophy for Nicklas “4 Assist” Backstrom (and possibly a Yahoo! Sports section that does not link to the Minnesota Wild goaltender whenever the Caps’ phenom is mentioned. And while we’re hoping for Yahoo! improvements, let’s get a game summary that does not feature Sidney Crosby’s non-playing mug in a story about a thrilling Caps shootout victory), and a Maurice Richard trophy for Alex Ovechkin (Hart and Ross as well?). Let’s throw in another King Clancy Trophy for Olie as well.

The win over Pittsburgh (a partial burying of the Penguins demon that has haunted this team for far too long), like more than a few Capitals’ games this season, looked bleak for a while, when that iffy Pens goal stuck Washington in their latest 1-goal deficit. Conditions were ripe for detractors to jump on the poor penalty killing, Olie’s .600-ish save percentage, etc. But when Viktor Kozlov (another oft-labelled “underachiever”) scored his fourth in two games, some viewers might have gotten that tinge, that little whisper that said it was possible to win this one. It was optimism.

Then there was that overtime. That overtime with the two-man Penguins advantage for a minute-plus. Seemed a prime time for a Penguins’ tap-in goal against the 3-for-7 victimized Caps penalty kill. But while Pittsburgh passed around trying to set up Evgeni Malkin for his hat trick score, a funny thing happened: the Caps realized they could be really, really good at killing penalties. Quentin Laing continued to build his growing legend as a sublime shot blocker, knocking away consecutive power play shots for the second time in less than a month. Dave Steckel (no stranger to key blocks himself) knocked away the ensuing attempted centering pass, and after a maddening flurry in front of the net, the penalties were all but dead. Kolzig even got a save in there, keeping the game alive.

The shootout. The Caps stink at those, right? The Penguins are loaded with deking, goal-scoring gods, right? Again, funny thing. Kolzig forces two shots wide (well, one off the post), and the Alexes put away some of their own frustrating shootout memories to dent the thought-to-be-undentable Ty Conklin. A win. A huge win. Biggest win of the season.

Keith Jones and the rest of the former ESPN hockey crew recognize the surging greatness that is this team, even while the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network continues to bury the Caps in their power rankings, always ignoring the piling up of wins. and throwing in snippy and negativecomments whenever possible. A few weeks ago it was: Viktor Kozlov stinks and makes too much money. Last week it was: how will they survive without Michael Nylander. Presumably this week we’ll hear about the fact that Matt Pettinger is struggling (disregarding of course his sweet setup of Kozlov on the game-tying goal). But in the end it’s not respect from the Chris Berman network we should be hoping for. It’s that third seed. It’s a lock.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Teams That Know How To Make a Comeback

With the Capitals successfully finishing off another two-goal-deficits-mean-nothing-to-us, come-from-behind win last night (in a shootout, no less! Matt Bradley?!), the standings climb continues. First place in the Southeast, only four points away, is a virtual lock. The Thrashers and Hurricanes continue to flail away, hearing the footsteps of the Capitals and their gang of massively achieving, under-age-25, budding superstars behind them. Seriously, the youth movement is in full reward-reaping mode. Look at the key contributors last night: Backstrom, Ovechkin, Gordon, Semin, Green, Shultz (ignoring that little miscue on the penalty kill, he had a fine game). All young, all still on the ascent, all primed to be key cogs for years.

As this rising continues, a perhaps logical question would be: Is it still too early to compare this Caps’ resurgence with other recent DC return-from-oblivion stories? Of course not. Let’s look at how other locals have returned from what appeared to be disastrous straits to achieve almost-playoff-glory or at least mild-to-moderate respectability.

Nationals: Almost too obvious. Remember 9-25? We don’t. We do remember a spirited and inspiring 4/5 of a season that saw the Nats rise from potential eternal joke to a not-so-shabby-all-things-considered fourth place finish with fewer than 90 losses. Even that will be all but forgotten in coming seasons as the losses dip below 80, then 70, then…

Redskins: Definitely too obvious, given its freshness in all our optimistic minds. It’s easy to remember 5-7; easy to remember head coaching gaffes of monstrous proportion; all too easy to remember a murdered young star; easy to remember the franchise quarterback on the turf grasping his grotesquely dislocated kneecap. But, ahhh, the four-game win streak, the dismantling of the Cowboys (starters and reserves), who subsequently dismantled themselves against the Giants, making us almost able to completely enjoy the playoffs again (go Packers!). It also made me, personally, completely unable to choose my favorite Cowboys’ playoff moment:

Is it this?

Or this?

I just can’t decide.

The Redskins, of course, made their second improbable playoff run in three years and, also for the second-time in three years, lost to the Seahawks and their architecturally enhanced, totally cool and non-cliched “12th man”.

Wizards: While speaking with Bobtimist Prime recently regarding the Wizards’ dizzying perch of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, as well as their back-to-back pastings of the Celtics, I literally forgot this team had started 0-5. Just for a moment, but I did forget. A 20-12 record since then (a record begotten partially by the Wiz not immediately dismissing Eddie Jordan at the first sign of trouble). When they make their Arenas-aided run through the playoffs, they stand an excellent chance of being the most successful rising-from-disaster DC team.

United: Dreary days in April, as they got off to their first 0-3 start ever and they extended their longest losing streak ever. As we all know, they went on a tear and made the playoffs. Sure they fell a little short after that, but they…made the playoffs.

Mystics: They had a brutal winless start as well, but theirs was 0-8. Eight straight losses to start the season and they still very nearly made the playoffs on the season’s last day.

Looks like a theme. Or a pattern. Start slow, struggle, finish strong, surprise people (or almost surprise people). Everyone else had done it. The Caps will too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Audience With The Master. A Victory. First Place In Sight

The Optimilitia descended upon Verizon Center last night, eager to see another effortless Capitals victory over the Senators. We were also eager to seek out our inspiration, the Master of ‘Tism himself, Manny Acta, who brought his ever-smiling positivity to the lower concourse before gametime. We arrived at the Nationals’ meet-and-greet table just before the cutoff time of 7:00 PM to find DCO Hall of Famer John Lannan and future rotation cornerstone Jason Bergmann, but…no Manny. We greeted the pitchers, with Bobtimist Prime exhorting Lannan to continue plunking Phillies, though all the while we feared our audience with ChairManny was in jeopardy.

Then, like a Nationals’ (or Capitals’) surge out of last place, Manny came out of nowhere. We only briefly chatted with the good manager, but it was long enough for Manny to declare he was a “sucker” for optimism (was there any doubt?) and to yet again confirm our not-quite-blind faith in The Plan and to perhaps also rekindle our disgust at the Ovechkin-All-Star-game-like snub Manny endured in November.

Bolstered by our encounter with the DC area’s font of optimism, it was time for the inevitable Caps’ victory and sweep of Ottawa, which must have disappointed/enraged all of Ottawa, possibly Don Cherry, and very definitely the blathering Senators’ fan sitting behind us, who early in the contest profanely cajoled Brent Johnson to get off the ice after being run in to.

It’s amazing how the result of a game between a supposed bottom-rung team and a supposed conference powerhouse can never seem in doubt. Even as Ottawa scored two unanswered goals to take a 2-1 lead, there was never a sense that the Capitals would not come back. The overwhelmingly competent and encouraging tutelage of Bruce II will do that to a team. And what better player to start the turnaround than Alex Semin, the latest recipient of a press-conference-call-out from the motivating coach. If Semin took some heat for contributing to the downfall vs. Philly, he should (and has) take a lot of credit for this all-important win, especially in light of his undressing/posterizing/all-out-humiliating of Wade Redden and Ray Emrey to net the game-tying goal. At the very least, his series of moves deserved better than the bland AP recap, which declared that Semin tied the game by “intercepting a pass, driving down the right wing and lifting a shot over Emery.” Ooohhhh, it’s like I’m there all over again. (Disclaimer: DCO does not claim to have a monopoly on moving, ethereal prose. We just find the description of this momentous and game-changing goal to be woefully underwhelming).

Standings: I’m as shocked as anyone to find the Atlanta Thrashers in first place in the Southeast. The last time I really thought about them, they were in the thralls of a tailspin after that whole “new coach euphoria” wore off (note: the same does not appear to be happening here, nor do we expect it to ever happen). But good for those Thrashers: well on their way to defending that division title that so inspired them into a first-round sweep last year.

The Caps trail those mighty Thrashers by five points; ditto the distance to the clinging-to-a-first-place tie Hurricanes. With games in hand against both clubs, and with softies Edmonton and Florida on the docket, the Caps can easily polish off this homestand with eight out of ten points and be directly competing for the division lead by Monday when it’s time to go to Pittsburgh. It’s almost set up too perfectly: a win in Pittsburgh could conceivably give the Caps the division lead if all goes according to plan. Too perfect. Like Viktor Kozlov’s cross-ice power play pass to Mike Green for a score was too perfect (and how about that Pepco Energy Services Power Play last night? Clicking).

Just think: a week from this very moment we could be talking about a first-place Capitals team. It's a long way from November 21, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Apologies to douchebag fanbases north of us: your latest juggernaut of a team has been bested, again. Yes, Caron "Tuff Juice" Butler has once again penetrated and deflated this gassed-up group of green gussies in a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback that revealed so much more about these Eddie-Jordan-helmed heroes than I could have ever wanted. Most teams, when facing a fourth quarter deficit of 14 points, with less than 7 minutes remaining, against the team with the best record in the league, on the road, with thousands of bandwagon bad-accented BAAAAHstonites juiced on Sam Adams and racism shouting down their throats, would concede to garbage time, spending these remaining valuable NBA minutes to increase Oleksiy Pecherov's workload. Not these Wizards. After Tony Allen threw down an emphatic dunk, this time during actual basketball time without hilariously shredding his knee ligaments, the Wizards could have folded. But no, the Juice decided it was time to cut loose, wetting the 'tics with defensive 'tensity, hounding boardwork, and two of the prettiest game-clinching drives seen since Todd Collins was marching dink-and-dunkers through the Bears defense in on a Thursday night in front of premium cable-subscribers and Bryant Gumbel. Sensing the ref's fellation of ESPN-commercial stars, Caron entered "Little-Debbie-Snack-Cake mode," taking the ball at the top of the key, first driving left to finish at the rim drawing a foul from the cliched-ly "intense" Kevin Garnett. The and-one gave the Wiz the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter. And this was after the bawling-for-John-Thompson, faux-ferocious, insufferable Garnett was given free reign from the officials to climb Brendan Haywood's back for a rebound and a put-back. The basket plus foul shot (only the 38th consecutive freebee hit by Caron), represented the Wizards never blinking in the face of the vaunted Celtics. Paul Pierce hit a couple of foul shots to give the Celtics the lead on the next posession, leaving heroic moments to again be bestowed on Caron, who again, delivered. This time he drove right, shaking Pierce's defensive stopper tag to hit another pretty lay-in. The lead swung back to the Wiz. Ballyhooed beantowner Garnett, hounded by Haywood, bricked a turnaround (although it was an "intense" brick) on the ensuing position, and who was it, flying to the hoop for the biggest defensive rebound of the game? Caron, who, by the way, was fouled directly in the eyes, post-board. We again see that Caron doesn't wilt, hitting his 39th and 40th consecutive free throws despite having Eddie House's manicure imbedded in his cornea. Ray Allen, again failing to shake the "locksmith" Deshawn Stevenson (apologies for anything bad uttered about 50-50 here, he has been magnificent) and a face-guarding Haywood (!!), bricked a fall-away three. Deshawn grabs a board, absorbs harm, swishes two free throws, and the C's are again befuddled by the Wiz. How do ya like that Phil?

I for one, am exhausted of hearing so much about the Celtics and the ressurrection of Garnett these days. The Celtics current influx of fairweather fans began chanting "MVP" while the panderingly passionate Garnett shot "emotional" free throws, but one wonders whether they were actually directing those accented chants towards the Juice. The Wizards were never scared of Garnett, not when he constantly whined to officials whenever they would have the nerve to whistle him for making stink faces while fouling, not while Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche were hounding him, not while Antawn Jamison was putting his misses back into the hoop, accidentally. I believe Caron emphatically wrestled away that most-valuable tag, especially after throwing one down directly in KG's grill, and swatting grovelling Garnett (called a foul by officials). Frankly, I'd rather have the Wizards current big three (replacing the hobbling Gilbert with Deshawn) than the Celtics trumped-up trio (THERES A CUTE NICKNAME). I don't see Garnett finishing the game off without help from his official friends. Caron had the officials playing "sixth-man" to the Celtics last night, but he still forced steals off of Pierce and drove past Ray Allen to extend the improbable 19-5 run. Faking passion may help some, but people don't need for Caron to display his 'tensity in an attention-whorish manner a la KG. They know his rep, they know he doesn't beg for trades, having moved cities three times. They know he doesn't only play well during a contract-year, having displayed his best ball-playing post-signing of a new deal. When Caron is on TNT, he is not for hogging the spotlight, shedding tears for John Thompson on the construction of his team (he saves his tears for Oprah). No, Caron sees the adversity provided by an extended Gilbert Arenas absence and pounces on it like he would pounce on a loose ball unearthed from Paul Pierce (or one that has sprung from Brendan Haywood's "hands"). He takes over the team and leads them to the fourth-best record in the east, fast approaching the always hot-starting, then eventually fizzling Orlando Magic.

With Caron at the helm, this team has not only stay afloat, but it has excelled. This team will be a juggernaut when Gilbert returns.

The District: 6
"The Best": 0

November 8: Capitals 4 Senators 1
December 29: Capitals 8 Senators 6
December 30: Redskins 27 Cowboys 6
January 1: Capitals 6 Senators 3
January 12: Wizards 85 Celtics 78
January 14: Wizards 88 Celtics 83
January 15: Capitals X Senators X-2

Possibly meaningless-but-nevertheless-impressive statistics: Capitals account for 27.2% of all Senators’ losses this season (subject to go up after completing the season sweep tonight); Redskins 33.3% of all Cowboys’ regular season losses; Wizards 33.3% of all Celtics’ losses.

Friday, January 11, 2008

MAO of the Next 13 Years + DCO Crystal Ball (Ovie Edition)

Much to the chagrin of Canada, Ovie has decided to rep the district for close to a decade and a half. Sorry frigid fringe country with wilting Queen-faced currency, Ovie is stuck in the hockey wasteland of the district for the rest of his hall-0f-fame career. Sure, Ovechkin could have signed a reasonable deal that would give him options five years from now, but he has no desire to be overpaid by the Rangers and thus underachieve in 2013. No, Ovie instead wants to keep up his historic precedent setting scoring ways in the Red, White, and Blue (not Bleu). Maybe in 2021, Don Cherry can pine for the Russian dynamo to move up north where hockey matters instead of remaining in DC, where he will likely hoist cups, being that the southeast division where they usually arrive. Surely other superstars will see the money, power and respect that donning a Capitals sweater provides and thus want to sidle up with Ovie, Semin, Green, Backstrom, and upcoming burgeoning superstar Eric Fehr. Ovie obviously seems upbeat about the team-construction process, being that he has devoted his hockey life to the Caps. Thus he has been given a permanent fixture as the Manny Acta Optimist of the Next Thirteen Years.

Unprecedented contract, unprecedented awards. One wonders whether Acta will remain coach of the Nats during this unprecedented thirteen-year span, or if he will be enshrined in Cooperstown, have an award named after him, and be elected presedent of the Dominican Republic in that time span. One also wonders whether these webspaces will still exist thirteen years later, or if Comcast will properly give the DCO it's own half-hour show (call my agent), then their own network. Maybe in thirteen years we will be writing fawning farewell columns to retiring Redskin coach Gregg Williams, another sure-fire Canton bust earner having won 7 Super Bowls and 26 straight over the Cowboys in that timeframe. After the Wizards are purchased by millionaire television personality Dan Steinberg, their name is changed back to the Bullets and they proceed to draft brilliantly, make sound trades and free agent signings and be better than the Knicks, who will suck forever.

While Ovie amasses every single Capitals record, ever, we thought that instead of noting his MAO-ness every week, we will simply give him the automatic bid for the span of his contract. And being that we have done a bit of future prediction already, we thought we would aim our always reliable predictive ways at Ovie's career-span.

2008, in a few months - Caps surge wraps up Southeast division and third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Jack Adams award winner Bruce Boudreau guides them to a decisive sweep of the hapless Penguins with Sidney Crosby netting zero points, again, and a trade request upon the season's close.

2010-ish - The Caps, anchored by the steady blue-liners Joe Finley and Karl Alzner, and Ovechkin's league-leading 72 goals, win the President's Trophy. Caps become the first-ever President's Trophy winners to not flame out in the playoffs, taking the cup in a hard-fought 7 game Stanley Cup Finals series with the Flames. Canada remains disappointed. Brooks Laich wins the Conn Smythe.

2013 - Crosby signs a 20-year deal with the Rangers. Proceeds to underachieve

2015 - Thrashers and Predators hold first ever elimination contest where a seven-game series determines the further existence of the team. A zero-zero tie stretches into a marathon shootout where Thrash coach Joe Sacco is called upon to take the franchise's final shot, as both team's entire rosters, including healthy scratches, all come up lame on their subsequent attempts. Sacco hits the post. Predators coach Tie Domi then nets the franchise winner. Story receives a one-minute notation on sportscenter after a highlight of a cricket match where a deer is hit with a bowl is shown.

2016 - Shouldn't you be at practice reports that Ovechkin is seen canoodling with Oscar-winning actress Lindsay Lohan.

2018 - Boudreau steps down after a legendary run as Caps coach, deleniating duties to new coach Donald Brashear. Brash institutes required fight-per-night policy to which three teams forfeit games, including the Crosby-saddled Rangers.

2019 - Penguins move to Portland

2021 - Ovechkin becomes the first player to have his jersey retired while playing. In front of a sell-out Verizon Center crowd (just another during a remarkable 10-year sellout streak, ticket prices rival Hannah Montana) Ovie, in perfect English, thanks the quote "greatest hockey city in the world." 'tism-TV reporter and pulitzer-winner Kelli Johnson reports that the Caps are offering Ovechkin a contract extension.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

He Stays


No need to worry after all. No specifics yet, but who cares. The words “long term”, “contract”, “Ovechkin”, and “with Capitals” are together at last. Sorry to all those in Montreal, Toronto, New York, Nashville(?), and anyone else anywhere else who enjoyed traficking in false-rumor-slinging and wishful superstar-poaching thinking these last few months. Condolences also to hockey snobs "purists" (Brooks, Larry; Cherry, Don) who wanted this franchise to wither and die and allow its cornerstones to be distributed to more “worthy” clubs and markets. Sorry, fellas, there may just be a legitimate contender being built here. Encourage your home teams to throw their money elsewhere.

UPDATE: Um, 13 YEARS?! Even we 'tism-blinded fanatics weren't expecting that long/sweet a deal. Six, seven, maybe eight, but 13? Looks like those deluded everyone-good-should-play-in-our-true-hockey-town folks will have to wait until Sid's deal expires in a mere half-decade to fall all over each other again. I guess when Ted (and the rest of the organization) continually repeated that #8 would be here for "a long, long time" it was more than just sound-bitey pablum.


The Caps won again last night, cutting eighth-seed playoff picture entrance points to four, and division-title picture entrance points to five. It was the first of a oft-referred-to-as-crucial five game homestand, continuing Sunday when the Flyers and their unwashed mass of miscreant fans from up I-95 arrive complete with their mindless playoff-less team-name spelling chants. Here's a tip for optimilitia members: when the name of the postseason-less, superbowl-less Eagles is spelled by the cohort of insecure thugs bound to pollute the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon (a time they usually have reserved for misogynistic wing-eating contests and sleeping off righteous "Lager"-infused hangovers), point to the best secondary logo in the NHL on your new Chris Clark jersey you got for Christmas asking, "HOW ABOUT THESE EAGLES?"

The answer? HOT HOT HOT. And why? Totally like (**hello Craig Laughlin!**), the stepping-up of Brooks "B-Laich" Laich. B-Laich's play has often been described as GRINDIN', scraping along the boards on the fourth line with Brashear and chipping in with key assists, goals (working on a career-high), and various other contributing ways. He has been compared to James Black in these parts, but we feel that this is an unjust comparison. Black rarely emerged out of the press box, unless it was to sink the Pens. B-Laich's contributions make more sense when compared to another DCO fave, but of a different sport, Andray Blatche.

Both Blatche and B-Laich are dirty-working trench-livers, who specialize in being pesky, causing deflections and occasional, always helpful scoring binges. Against Yao Ming on Tuesday, Blatche was quite effective, blocking him twice, causing a steal, and being called for phantom fouls when otherwise performing brilliantly. Eddie Jordan had no choice but to keep him in the lineup, often concocting strange floor combinations as a result, like having Haywood play power forward, Jamison play the three, and Deshawn Stevenson play at all, instead of preserving his lack of effective shooting on the bench. Blatche's six amassed fouls lead him off the floor earlier than we desired, but you could tell Yao has surpassed the NBA superstar language barrier (meaning constantly whining to the officials), being bothered by the long arms, the quick jumping and the jacked up grill.

Interesting that Blatche performed so well so soon after running into me at Lucky Strike Saturday night, where I was drinking off Todd Collins's floating pass ways with Tom Collinses. I wasn't trying to be one of those groupie dewds when I just happened to recognize the innocuous 6'11" dude stalking the impossible-to-ever-get-a-lane bowling alley/expensive bar, so I enlisted the help of a slightly inebriated female friend, who after delivering me a hi-five from Blatche, proceeded to ask him if he knew Steve Francis, which was both hilarious, embarassing, and surreal simultaneously. After he responded with a curt "no," trying to move away from this weird combination of beer and fandom, I thought about how simply interacting with this blogger has aided the local sports stars. (I also thought about how the young Blatche should probably not be out at a alcohol-serving bowling alley on a late night before a 1 o'clock game the next morning, but gossiping is not in this blog's wheelhouse. Blatche had an unremarkable game against the Sonics the next day.)

Laich too experienced a first-hand interaction with the conduit of 'tism, having answered a few tough questions during a post-game lockerroom session after a tough loss to the Panthers that team-tism attended. In that game, Laich scored a shorty, provided great energy and almost lead a third-period comeback for the ages. Two games after that, Bruce Boudreau was promoted, and the Caps began their ascent to the upper-reaches of the Eastern Conference. Coincidence? (Reach?) If anything, it definitely justifies Ted Leonsis' continued allowance of us behind the scenes of his franchise.

Further comparisons of the two include the late-round selection brilliance of both players (Blatche toward the end of the second round, the Wizards lone pick that season; Laich in the sixth round by the Sens, then procured for the Immortal Mike Grier); the versatility of the two (Laich used on both the PK and the PP; Blatche handling the ball like a small foward, yet also posting up on the block); and the correlation between their bigger offensive contributions and wins (B-Laich: last night, 1/1, 12/12, 10/8; Blatche: 1/4, 12/29, 11/20). And one more for ya: Key contributors to PLAYOFF BOUND TEAMS.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Trying months lie ahead, with clueless NHL "fans" snubbing Ovie, the Wizards losing post previous non-jinxing DCO post, and talk of moustachioed head coaching candidates abound. In these short weeks before the Assistant Coach-Defense is named head coach, expect the haters to be out in full force. Don't think we haven't noticed the Cowboy fan revival. Post the week 17 embarrassment, when all of those expensive #31 jerseys were relegated to the "ashamed-to-wear-it" closet along with that Hypercolor sweater and those silver Parasucos, the wagon-boys are returning to their star-clad ways now that their most threatening exposer of wackness, the skins, have been eliminated. I am sure that offensive genius (and the worst-possible, shades-of-Norv head coaching candidate) Jason Garret has his playbook fired up in lieu of gaining more than one yard of rushing versus the now slobbered-over Giants. Be sure to remind these ticket-carrying boys bandwagoneers that Marion "Menos-Seis" Barber and them sure do look phoney in the face of hungry competition. If newly-minted playoff winner Eli Manning bests his fellow playoff failure Tony Romo, expect the sudden appearance of fluttering Cowboy car-flags to flutter away like field goal attempts in the playoffs.

As if a resurgence of Cowboy fans wasn't bad enough, noted 'tism-haters, sensing blood in the water, have also begun to fire their predictable rounds at the unfortunate remnants of the Redskins braintrust, beginning with salvo-happy Sally Jenkins, who just couldn't wait to again shoot off words of discouragement at a team that has endured more than any team, evar. Likely with the Dan Snyder full-page playoff ad from 2005 in her eyesights, Sally, at once thought to have been swayed to the good side, took the discouraging retirement news as obvious that the "ice-chewing" skins braintrust ran the hall-of-famer ragged. We have already noted the last time Sally attempted to belittle the franchise, she was so totally wrong it was quite hilarious. And she couldn't respond with a Boswell-esque online retraction column that parsed the web of any signs of a previously printed prediction that a mere hours later was irrefutibly refuted in that case. When the braintrust does the right thing, removing the "Assistant" and "Defense" tags from the proper Redskins coach, expect a similar blasting of Sally in these parts.

Right in line with Sally is another frequent skins basher, and equally insufferable tool, Len Pasquarelli, who was so happy that his groan-inducing "ordinary Joe" tag stuck around that he likely had his eyes closed, smiling upward, wiggling his knees and clenching his yellowed teeth over his bottom lip while piecing together his latest self-congratulatory suckiness. I like how he notes the sage wisdom of Bill Parcells regarding returning to coaching, and how he refuses to do it because he said he was too old for it despite being 9 months younger than Joe Gibbs. Excellent analysis there Len, pretty much negating the fact that Parcells had a remarkably ho-hum tenure in Dallas just a year previously in which he won a grand total of zero playoff games, frequently earning ulcers as a result of Santana Moss. I really feel that the opinions of a washed-up coach, who exhausted many more whore-ish opportunities in many more cities, with far little success than Joe Gibbs has, with fewer super bowl results, (yet more lame Gatorade Commercials) is going to be correct in this case. Mr. Parcells isn't so much as too old to coach again as he is proven-to-be-incapable of it. Why not find another source to attribute your lame predictions to, Len.

See, with all of these haterz providing us Clinton-esque motivations, it was time for us to react in a top-five running back in the league-esque manner. We have decided to bandy up our support to form a group of constitutionally-approved fighters against all that is negative. It is time people, for you to suit up and join this optimilitia, blasting star-wearers for their poor taste in football team fandom choices. While I traversed the ramp at FedEx Field following the 27-6 complete pwnership of the boys, I met every silver-and-blue jersey with a loud, belly laugh, with my belly exposed having removed my upper clothing pieces in an effort to express an exhibitionist nature in celebration of both the win and community inebriation. My efforts were met with an expulsion from the stands by the section 447 security guy (a regular foil), but that didn't stop me from informing every 'boy bandwagoner exactly what I thought of their performance (it being laughable). I even provoked one fan to spit on me. What class these Cowboys fans have, being guests in our spacious, poorly planned, overpriced house, that when they have to endure drunken fans simply laughing at their suckiness, they respond in the most vulgar manner possible. I wore this "gentleman's" saliva as if it were another drop of December precipitation, not responding in a manner in which 'boys fans frequently respond to each other. For the satisfaction of knowing that the mere presence of my exposed girth in addition to his team's exposure of ineptitude was enough to draw him to extreme vulgarity made responding with violence unneccessary.

I expect all optimilitia members to react similarly once these dark days have passed. Ascend upon the Verizon Center during the annual "West Virginia's night out" aka the next Penguins game aka the ending of the current streak of losses to the diving darlings. The optimilitia was present at the Wizards game last night, both happy with Andray Blatche's peskiness and the appearance of Alex Ovechkin, who did the "I Can't Feel My Face" DeShawn Stevenson dance on the jumbotron, likely in response to Don Cherry, John Buccigross, Canada, et al calling for his trade from this supposedly decrepit hockey town. I am sure that frequent Wizards game attender Ovechkin wouldn't be too happy in Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, or Montreal, all cities with no discernable professional basketball to watch on an off-day, and while the dinosaurs somehow haven't moved from Toronto, they remain negligible and without any players doing any cool dances.

The optimilitia sees Ovechkin staying in DC, utilizing the tutelige of Barry-Melrose-annointed coach of the year Bruce Boudreau to motor into the playoffs THIS year. We also see Head Coach-everything Gregg Williams leading his merry Redskins to a second consecutive postseason birth, likely earning more playoff victories than the Cowboys have earned in the previous 11 years! Stop whining, and don't be a Sally. Enlist now!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Seattle Loses to Washington

That's right, according to our bffs over at Bulletsforever, the Washington sports teams have defeated their inferior opponents from that dreary western "other Washington" after the awfully adequate Wizards vanquished their unworthy competitor by such a large margin that assistant coaches Phil Hubbard and Dave Hopla were suiting up for garbage-time minutes.

The Wizards continue to stay afloat minus their other superstar, Gilbert Arenas, who seems to be comfortable pwning the internet whilst taking his sweet time to nurture his cursed knee. Speaking of curses, thankfully, both BF and I posted this column after the Seattle beatdown, instead of Tom "Kiss of Death" Boswell, whose last two predictive pieces have been consecutive written versions of Matt Hasslebeck's overtime pep talk vs. the Packers in '03 (also seen in Howard Dean's campaign trail as well). I am starting to believe he has jinxing material mixed in with his gracious 'tism. Should we be concerned that his glorious Nats-World Series predictions during the winter meetings will instead end up with Elijah Dukes being arrested for sending threatening glares to Kelli Johnson while the team moves away to Portland?

Lets not have any sort of 'tism inhibition session here; we need an extra heaping dose of it with the good coach stepping down, and people discussing a certain moustachioed replacement instead of the proper (HINT: assistant coach: Defense) replacement. Well, actually, there has been some good fortune in Washington. First of all, blogger is no longer disabled at the DCO headquarters! And second of all, the Wizards have been the recipients of a gracious path to the postseason while Gilbert takes his time with therapy. As if there were anything for the Wizards to be thankful for regarding injuries, they have been receiving that gold-paved-road treatment with their recent opponent history. Jeez, you would think the way the Wizards encounter teams as soon as they lose key starters, they would resemble, say, the Seahawks. For the umpteenth consecutive time, the Wizards were able to face a team minus it's Wizards-killer, in this case being occasional effort-outputter Chris Wilcox, who was missing from the game with a dislocated finger. In the previous game (another 20+ DIF belittling), the Milwaukee Bucks were without their superstar Michael Redd (did they ever have him?). Tonight, they face a Houston team without their brittle commercial poser, Tracy McGrady, who fought bouts of health for the beginning of this pretty disappointing Rockets early season. The manner in which the Wizards have treated these foes, laughing in their face when they whine about their list of disableds, has been admirable. Other things have been pretty sweet in the recent Wizards-weeks (of which Bobtimist was lost somewhere in the internet, trying to decipher this youtube).

In that Bucks-besmirching, it was nice to see the Wizards actually decimate a team filled with all of their also-rans (Simmons, Ruffin, Storee), unlike in their last loss against Detroit, home of the guaranteed-Bullet-redemption, with their latest convert, Jarvis-freakin'-Hayes in tow. Not unlike a certain flighty-goal-scoring-defenseman who coughs up playoff-clinching goals only to end up on that team years later to both help and torment the Capitals (btw: sweet youtube here), Jarvis returned to Verizon and brought his seldomly-silky-smooth jumper, where **of course** it rains threes in crucial Wiz-coming-from-behind moments. Jarvis was seen talking to the crowd before sitting down, grudgingly answering questions like, "Where the *$%! was that last year, the year before that, and the year before that?" with shrugs. It was nice to see the old Jarvis return earlier in the game, when Andray Blatche fouled him to the floor where he winced, in familiarity.

So, despite Detroit's Wizards-abetted existence, the team remains in great shape, and another reason they remain in such a fantastic position, one I haven't been properly expounding on, as been the play of Caron "Tuff Juice" Butler. Good lawd, the juice is loose, ladies and gentlemen! Besides all of the statistical what-not that Caron has been improving on across the board, he has emitted a sort of rugged, win-first, get-a-triple-double-second, posterize foreigners-third mentality that just floors me. Why is he the heart and soul of this team? Well it could be his "tuff" upbringing, where instead of running screen and rolls under the stern supervision of a slightly abusive daddy, leading to years of moody off court problems, and a possible rape charge, the Juice was running drugs as a hopper in Racine. He played ball for sweets while locked up in solitary. Regailing over his youth-hood almost seems cliched, but I would like to see one of these spoon-fed basketball prodigies deliver a story that even remotely compares.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Why It's Obvious the Skins Will Be Back (and had a great season)

As we continue to follow these now-Redskin-less, anyone-but-Dallas (please God, anyone but Dallas) playoffs (aka, The Race To Lose To the Patriots), and as we continue to mourn yesterday’s really, really close-to-victorious playoff game, let’s look at what was positive about the loss, this season, and what it means for the future.

To use a cliché that’s only slightly less overdone than “The 12th Man”, the game was much closer than the unfeeling 35-14 final would tell us. It was shades of Dallas 2005 as the Redskins found the end zone twice in the fourth quarter after listing behind 13-0. A 14-13 final score on the road, capped by the furious two-touchdown comeback, seemed imminent. But then it looked even better. 21-13 or better seemed more imminent as the Seahawks forgot how to field a kickoff.

Alas, here Fate fell asleep at the wheel and looked away for a moment and forgot that these Redskins were supposed to be destined for Dallas, Green Bay, and beyond. It was nothing more than a mistake, a glitch in the fabric of the universe, that turned two passes from the previously un-interceptable Todd Collins into Seattle touchdowns. It was nothing more than karma error that pushed a Shaun Suisham chip shot a little to the side to kill Washington momentum and give it back to the Seahaws and their flags-with-“12”-on-them waving fans.

In the end, it’s ok. It was a more-than-spirited run to the playoffs, one so unexpected and marvelous that even the most die-hard optimism-hater and Fire-Joe-Gibbs-promoter had to stop and admire it. And speaking of that once-embattled coach, it would seem he has earned a respite from the constant talk of “should he come back.” In pulling a team out of a tailspin in the way that DCO-supported Glen Hanlon could not, Gibbs validated those of us who desperately pleaded and believed he could still do it, that he could get past brain-deadening double timeout calls and lead a team again.

Gibbs will be back next year, and if the comments of Clinton Portis are any indicator, the core of the team will be back too (even if it does require the massive salary restructuring the team has never shied away from). Part of that core is LaRon Landry, a draft selection looking more and more brilliant with each postseason interception and each big hit that does not end with a 15-yard penalty (really lucky for the Seahawks that they were able to make that incidental/accidental contact to wipe out his INT TD return, wasn’t it?). It’s perhaps a tad too early to make those comparisons to 21, but even if it is, the time for such comparisons is not far off.

The Redskins will bounce up from this playoff knockdown the way they bounced up from the teammate murder and all the other relative catastrophies that beset them this year to make the playoffs. They’ll bounce back up the way Portis did when he momentarily seemed destined for offseason surgery as he writhed on the turf in the fourth quarter. A second straight offseason of important (yet sensible, draft-pick-saving and non-roster-blowing-up) moves, combined with a newly focused, inspired, and bonding coaching staff and roster will put this team solidly in contention for an NFC East title, knocking Romo and the Boys from their media-heralded perch.

Speaking of the Cowboys, it must now be the focus of all our ‘tism-loving efforts to see them gruesomely knocked from these playoffs. A stain like Tony Romo must not be permitted the spotlight of a Super Bowl (he gets plenty enough of that spotlight as it is, every time he flashes that Peter-King-melting smile or stars in an inane Pepsi commercial). It will be a necessary evil next weekend to root for the Giants. It might also be necessary to cheer their victory today over the Bucs, for New York is likely better equipped to deal with Dallas than the how-are-they-in-the-playoffs Buccaneers.

A record of 9-7, a sixth seed in the playoffs, and a first round exit might not exactly have been what we expected back in those typically heady spring days, but considering everything that went down since then, we’ll definitely take it. We’ll always have that 27-6 clinching win over a Dallas squad supposedly bent on playing the spoiler (then spun into really being an uninterested playoff-bound starter-rester). And we’ll always have that moment of 14-13 that looked like it just might be turning into the season of destiny we all thought it was meant to be all along.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Why It's Obvious the Skins Will Win, and We Welcome Back an Old Friend (at least for this week)

Thomas Boswell came out firing in this morning’s paper with the kind of optimism he usually reserves for baseball’s Opening Day. Seriously it’s as if he’s trying to single-handedly revive the defunct Manny Acta Optimist of the Week Award. Maybe he misses receiving MAOs of the Week and this is his attempt to pad his mantle with our virtual trophies. If so: success! Boswell is our Optimist of the Week. Even though it doesn’t appear to be a “weekly” award anymore, it’s still a fine, noble recognition. It’s also a reflection of my personal bit of thanks, since this wonderful piece helped pull me out of post-Orange Bowl despair around 1:30 this morning.

It’s not just the overall theme that “of course the Redskins will win tomorrow” permeating every pore of this article that lands Boz the distinction, it’s his seemingly uncalled-for complete evisceration of everything the Seahawks have “accomplished” (see, even I’m doing it) this season. Rarely have I seen a DC-area media-type so thoroughly trash a non-rival. Not even a non-rival; a team that basically doesn’t exist in the minds of area football fans who do not have Matt Hasselbeck on their fantasy squad. The Bucs would evoke a more passionate response. That’s why it’s so marvelous in it’s apparent unprovoked hostility.

Some highlights:

- Snootily referred to Washington State as the “other” Washington
- Classified Seattle’s schedule as “lame”
- Condescendingly called the Seahawks “a pleasant 10-6 team from a weak division.”
- Called Seattle’s opponents “patsies” and their road to the playoffs a “a marshmallow roast”.
- Wrote off of four Seahawks’ wins as victories over “chumps” (49ers, Rams)

Later, Boswell’s delightful statistical gymnastics (his wheelhouse), resulting in the conclusion that the Skins have one of the NFC’s best defenses and the Seahawks possibly the worst in all of football (since they “only played strong defense against lousy teams”), were a stroke of tear-jerking brilliance.

I only wish he would have spent some time slamming Seattle’s blandly cliched “12th Man” gimmick. Ugh. How much longer must we suffer a team in any sport referring to its crowd as the “x” man (12th in football, 10th in baseball, etc.), with each offending team somehow thinking they have exclusive claim to overdone and non-original premise. And a “12th Man” flag on top of the Space Needle? Just when it couldn’t get any dumber…
Also, Shaun Alexander stinks.

In the end, Boswell’s optimism would seem to wane a bit when he says this magical Skins’ run will end, though he definitively states (in case we missed the point of the preceding paragraphs) the end will not come at the hands of the Seahawks. We know better, however. Just as we’re confident of a win this weekend, we’re equally confident that, next week, Boz will be back with a list of reasons the Redskins can’t possibly lose in Dallas. We look forward to that, as well as to the wealth of Boswell stat-twisting conclusions the matchup could offer. We throw out this one to chew on: why Todd Collins should replace Tony Romo in the Pro Bowl. Go at it, Tom.

Update: Dr. Z agrees regarding The 12th Man, etc. Perhaps he, like Boswell, is trying to recapture some of that past glory.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Best Just Can't Win (or Steal Our Stars)

It was just a few days ago that we were marveling at the Capitals accounting for a full 22.2% of the Ottawa Senators’ losses this season. It was a magnificent number, a beautifully and coldly objective summation of the dominance of the East’s “worst” over the East’s “best.” The 8-6 win in Ottawa lifted the Caps out of the East’s cellar, and they found themselves at the charter members of Teams Who Have Beaten the Senators More Than Once.

How much more grand and absurd is it, then, that we see our Caps now accounting for a full 30% of the mighty Senators’ defeats. Now they stand as the lone team (probably for a while) to beat the Sens thricely (and convincingly). As in that wondrous Eastern Conference semi-final series of ten years ago, the location does not matter. Ottawa, Washington; the end result is a Caps’ victory (we can only hope to see the Senators again in the spring).

Those who were able to tear away from the end of the Mike-Emrick-hearts-Sidney-Crosby-and-finds-him-flawless game on NBC (my favorite moment: “What a move in tight quarters by Crosby”, as two Sabres skate out of the corner after relieving Sid of the puck) saw what has become a typical Capitals-Senators affair. Those same fans also saw that 2-0 deficits are completely undaunting to these rising Caps. Just like a few weeks ago against the Rangers, Bruce II’s boys shook off a shaky start and coolly worked their way back into the game and then ahead in it.

The standings aren’t so depressing to look at anymore, are they? Sure, there’s still only one team between the Caps and the bottom of the list in the East, but look at that division lead just six little points away. Look at that fourth playoff seed only eight points away. It’s a Redskins-like run towards the playoffs, though the Caps should be in position well before the last day of the regular season. Even those always-flawed ESPN power rankings found something non-snarky to say about Washington this week, even as they continue to rank them below the likes of the Edmonton Oilers.

Those still dealing in the market of snark and smarm, however, are those who feel Alex Ovechkin should bolt the Caps after this year and join a “real” hockey town. On Frozen Blog cites the New York Post and Ottawa Sun as two recent perpetrators (there are many others, mostly those calling for a move to Toronto, whose team lost a memorable 7-1 game in October, or Montreal). OFB correctly notes that such a market could not be the Canadian capital, as the Senators are apparently utterly incapable of defeating this lowly team from a lowly NHL backwater.

Seriously, all this Ovechkin-belongs-in-(insert “traditional” hockey market) is getting annoying. Aside from the fact – a fact that’s pointless to talk about or debate due to its degree of complete factualness – that Ovie is going nowhere, it’s strikingly arrogant. Who are the Don Cherrys of the world to declare which talent is fit for which club? Should our “non-traditional” markets be destined to play the Generals to Canada’s the NHL’s “elite” Globetrotters. Much has already been written/blogged on Cherry’s doubless bitterness/astonishment/nonplussed-ness at seeing the “inferior” Caps best one of his beloved “real” teams, so no need to continue on that tangent here. Suffice it to say he seems to be one of the more prominent voices calling for an Ovechkin defection to the North. I know they’d all love to see Maple Leafs vs. Oilers every year in the Cup finals, with the likes of the Panthers, Capitals, Lighting, and Hurricanes serving as defacto farm teams to develop and ship off talent. Wait a minute, those are four “non-real” hockey markets that have produced Stanley Cup finalists within the last 12 years. Maybe we shouldn’t contract their teams and plunder their best players after all.

Got off-topic there. The Caps continue their march to the playoffs, with a not-leaving-anytime-soon Alex Ovechkin. End of story.