Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Theodore Improved (and let's never speak of this game again)

It wasn’t exactly your standard 2-1 loss, but at least we can take from it the positive of improved play from Jose Theodore. 28 shots, 26 saves, a nice .929 save percentage good enough for third star honors.

Better yet, he stopped a quality scoring opportunity very early in the game. You know, those early opportunities that found their way past him in a couple of previous games. With that big early stop, confidence was gained, solid play followed.

There’s really no need to dwell on the rest. Months from now we’ll just remember this as a quaint little trip to Calgary, a once-in-nine-years defeat that had a few interesting quirks. The nine minute power play. Eight consecutive penalties to the same team. A bevy of 5-on-3s against that same team. Heroic penalty killing for the Caps that eventually endured one 5-on-3 too many.

Sure the power play is a little fizzle-y right now, but Bruce II acknowledges this. Something about being “too damn cute.” He’s right. We all know the Caps are capable of creating poetically beautiful hockey plays. There’s nothing left to prove in that department, so we trust they will henceforth be encouraged to shoot more and dance less with the man advantage.

Jose Theodore: suddenly solid. Calgary game: behind us.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Caps Open With Same Record as Defending Champs

Yes, the Capitals now sport the same 0-1 records as defending Stanley Cup champion (and odds-on favorite to be repeat Stanley Cup champion) Detroit: 0-1. The Caps laid their proverbial egg on the road against a supposedly bad Atlanta team. The Red Wings laid their egg at home against a Toronto team that was bad before Mats Sundin went all indecisive-like and bolted the Leafs, on the night the Red Wings raised their championship banner. If a team can come out flat on a night like that, surely the Capitals can be forgiven this uninspired season opener.

Concerned about goaltending? Freaked out that Jose Theodore gave up four goals on 17 shots and Brent Johnson wasn’t much better in relief giving up three on 14? Well, consider that the sorely missed, $5.6 million goalie Cristobal Huet gave up four goals in New York tonight. It happens. Now is not the time to be issuing a final verdict on the Theodore era, or re-hash arguments over which goalie George McPhee should have signed when. Also, let’s recall the argument, well-traveled last year, that Bruce II coached this team to much success over many months with a less-than-stellar Olie Kolzig and this same Johnson in the net the whole time.

Remember when the Redskins lost their first game and didn’t look too good doing it? No need to panic then, and things have been pretty ok since then. We see the same happening here. And Huet comes back to town tomorrow. That worked out well last time:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wizards in Mid-to-Late Season Form

Hey wizards fan, maybe you too were as excited as the DCO offices were that the Wizards were finally kicking off some preseason basketball action, action that was televised on Comcast Sportsnet featuring the bumbling, yet lovable duo of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier. Maybe you were so excited that you cooked a steak with a lovely butter and garlic sauce sided with a blue cheese spaghetti dusted with bacon bits (oh Rachel Ray, your bacon-goes-with-anything philosophy is the stuff lives are based around). Maybe you had just cut a slice of your steak and inserted it into your mouth slowly as to let the succulent beef and butter sauce effectively enhance your cholesterol when suddenly the deliciousness that was crafted through your thirty-minutes of hard work vanished as Antawn Jamison, the rock of the lineup, the 20 and 10 big man, the heart and soul, the 08-09 Wes -- according to Abe Pollin, etc, crumpled to the floor after slipping on a hideous Dallas McCains logo en route to smothering Dirk Nowitski. The steak suddenly tasted of garlicky battery acid as 'tawn writhed on the floor and trained Eric Waters rushed to his side along with two others to walk him off the court. The blue cheese spaghetti tasted like live rattlesnakes peppered with pain as Phil and Buck read the requisite "knee sprain" from their reports. The night was officially ruined for you as you took your couch pillow, nestled it on top of your eyelids, threw the recliner back, and forced sleep upon yourself as if it were to stop the sadness of your Wiz-life entering such an early stage of disconnect(ed ligaments).

But, while dinner may have been ruined, FEAR NOT, as even if the Wizards played at mid-to-late season form (as in, body bag style), the news regarding Antawn's knee was good. Strained tendon. He even says he's good to go for the Memphis game, if it were game seven against the Cavs or whatever. Apparently, 'tawn went to the Jason Taylor school of iron-clad ligament enforcement, where even the scariest, most revolting looking knee grabs simply can be stretched out, walked off, and held intact without Gilbert's-career-threatening-like surgery.

It was then, Wizards fan, maybe after you realized that the witnessed knee strain (not sprain) that ruined dinner wasn't so bad, that you decided to partake in the remaining carton of Ben and Jerry's Smores Ice Cream, which was so awesome that you risked cardiac arrest and partook in injesting it. Then suddenly, Chris Miller of Comcast Sportsnet and Ivan Carter of the Post teamed up to deliver more shocking news that transformed the graham crackery goodness into sandpaper inflected drywall spackle. Brendan Haywood, the Wizards' exceedingly brilliant big man, who ratcheted up his game to such a high level last season that all previous years had completely been relegated to "development time," would likely miss 4-6 months (!!) getting surgery on his SPRAINED wrist. All of this news was delivered while Chris Miller flippantly added that Brendan likely chose this surgery because the season was a lost cause without Gilbert at 100% for two months anyways. HUGE INJURY PLUS COMMITMENT QUESTIONING? You too may have vomited a little, and not to taste the ice cream again.

But we here at the DC Optimist are not ones to panic in the face of repeated Wizards' injurious ways. We managed to maintain sanity and witness the sparkling play of three of the Wizards stockpiled bigs, and felt yes, everything would return to the peachy-keen ways of that imaginary period when the Wizards were kind of healthy.

1) Andray Blatche, sporting what appears to be an eraser-inspired Kufi on his head, was spectacular. Worked the post skillfully, spun away from defenders and hit circus shots, enacted fast breaks after getting rebounds, looked all of the freakishly talented 6-11 that we had been salivating over. Big Blatche's 19 and 5 could spot start for either the wood-man, or Jamison, and it would remain exciting.

2) JaVale McGhee, NOT A STIFF. This was the DCO's first witnessing of Pam McGhee's kid, and man, were we impressed with his footwork, general offensive ability, and actual athleticism that is NOT simply the result of extended limbs. Some may have been salty that the Wiz didn't draft some extracurricular activity-loving point guard back-up, but this kid McGhee looks to be the real deal. And this is while Eddie Jordan et al remain steadfast in their assessment that the kid is raw. Could this extra playing time cook him into the well done big man neither Brendan nor Etan could ever have been? Witness Blatche's development and Haywood's development. It is really looking like this team knows a thing or two about making viable centers, folks (ignore the thoughts about this guy when you read that).

3) Oleksiy Pecherov, ALSO NOT A STIFF. Kid was stroking threes and being a general offensive pest. Good stuff from Pesh, who hasn't seen much healthy action either (WIZARD 4 LIFE!). He spent most of his garbage time minutes last year shooting threes that bounced off the front of the rim, now, with a week or two of 100% status, he is nailing those threes.

So see? Even with Brendan's upcoming absence, Jamison's scary tumble, and the overall status of the economy possibly ruining your TV-inspired dinner, things will be OK, Wizards fan. Trust us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What's It Take to Get Some Acknowledgment?

It was a little irritating last week to find the Redskins, after their thumping of the Cowboys in Dallas, decided underdogs against the Eagles, who had just lost to the Bears after repeated failed attempts to score from inside the five yard line, events which would be eerily prophetic of things to come when the Redskins arrived. It was similarly annoying to find Washington in many cases horridly underrated in horridly flawed power polls.

After a similar thumping of the Eagles in Philadelphia, it is more irritating to find the ‘Skins still under-appreciated by Peter King’s “Fine Fifteen”. Why this still irks or surprises me I do not know, since his Cowboys homerism is such an undeniable influence on his judgment. His ranking of the Redskins at #4 last week was baffling since the Cowboys were still rated ahead at #2. This week, however, he has dropped the ‘Skins to #5 as a reward for their throttling of the Eagles in Philadelphia (Eagles, incidentally, his sixth-best team last week), yet kept Dallas in the top 3 because of their heroic hanging-on against the Bengals at home.

He also has the gall to mention “schedule advantage” in his comments on the Redskins. The words “schedule advantage” are, to any half-intelligent being, completely synonymous with the words “Cowboys’ schedule”. Check out the dragons the ‘Boys have had to slay thus far: Browns (1-3), Eagles (2-3) at home, Packers (2-3), Bengals (0-4) at home. Brutal! Especially given the fact that those upset-minded Bengals were a firm Chris Henry grip on the ball away from potentially shocking Dallas on their lame-duck home field. If only the turnover-prone back could have held on, we might also be treated today to more TO-pouting. As it is, he was placated with a TD pass on the Cowboys’ ensuing possession, thus depriving us of more Dallas implosion. But back to that schedule question.

A more appropriate phrase for King to use would have been “schedule respite”. After five consecutive weeks against teams that were picked in the pre-season to be playoff contenders and who may yet prove themselves so, the ‘Skins finally get their share of the cupcakes that Dallas seems to have been feasting on for the past two seasons en route to paper-tigerish glory ultimately exposed as fraudulent. No team deserves the Rams, Browns, and Lions right now more than the Redskins. They’ve more than earned it and have the opportunity to be 7-1 when another darling-on-the-rise, Pittsburgh, comes to town for a Monday-nighter, at which point we’ll be treated to those insufferable “when the Redskins win/lose before an election” features. That Chris Berman will be involved makes it all the more worth our while to tune in just seconds before kickoff. But that’s weeks away. For now, bring on the tomato cans and enjoy watching the wins pile up, even if Cowboy apologists don’t notice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DCO Hall of Fame Recognizes Jeff Sagarin

Jeff Sagarin has been appointed Special Consultant to the DCO Hall of Fame for his work on the Sagarin Ratings Index which appears in USA Today. Most notable is his work on ranking NFL teams. Yesterday we studied the errors that can occur in team evaluation when one’s judgment is clouded by darlingism and love of Tony Romo’s glamorous smile and cutesy backwards-hat-wearing. The Sagarin Index is immune to such foolishness, as it uses accurate, utterly objective criteria to reveal to us the true cream of the NFL. To that end, we see the Redskins rise to #1 in these ratings, having demonstrated an ability to jump to 3-1 against the NFL’s toughest schedule through 4 weeks.

For his work in seeing past what ESPN and Peter King (among others) cannot see past, we welcome Sagarin to the staff, even though strict HOF admission policies forbid his enshrinement. He will report directly to Deshawn Stevenson, who was inducted into the DCO HOF in March and named proprietor of the newly created Deshawn Stevenson Accurate Player Assessment Wing. In this hype-resistant haven, Stevenson is free to correctly identify Lebron James as non-divine, and with Sagarin assisting him on the team level, there is no limit to the darling-fueled nonsense they can cut through.