NHL All-Stars

I watched most of the All-Star game earlier today. I think it was only the second time I've done so. The first time was all the way back in '82, when it was at the Capital Center. My mom worked for the bank where the Capitals regularly borrowed, so the bank had several seats. Apparently, nobody else wanted to go, so we did. I really don't remember anything about the game itself. I think it's the only time I ever saw Gretzky in person, and I don't even remember anything about his play. I suppose it's possible that I didn't really know anything about anyone outside of the Caps (and not a lot about them; I loved going to games, but didn't track them in the paper, for instance).

Anyway, getting back to today's game... I've got to say, it isn't much to see, as far as hockey is concerned. Unless someone was getting a breakaway, or trying to prevent one, everybody was moving at half speed (or less). I knew it was a defense-optional event, but it's one thing to know it intellectually, and another to actually see it.

It really didn't make for interesting hockey, although OV tried, when he threw his stick at Duchene (I think) on a 1-on-0 breakaway. But overall, it was actually pretty boring. It also didn't help that everyone was trying for the pass for the pretty goal instead of just shooting. OV, in particularly, should have taken several more shots.

The end result was a hockey game with no hitting, little marking in the defensive zone (the forwards were particularly slip-shod), and an absurd number of breakaways. I really can't see how this can increase the league's profile, or generate more fan interest.

Learning to Get Rich

As can be seen by some of my earlier posts, I've been giving a lot of thought lately to money.

The most recent book I've finished (there's another, tangentially related one, that I haven't finished yet), is a classic called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I bought this one a long, long time ago (maybe as much as ten years), and forgot about it until it showed up on top of a pile when we moved (well, when I unpacked my books, which was significantly after the move itself).

After reading those other two, I thought I'd work through this one, as well, and see what I thought of it. Aside from the parts where he talks about taxes, where he discusses them like they're a suckers game, I thought it was very good.

Mostly it talks about learning to make money, and learning to learn about finances. It discusses cash flow a little bit (more than I had seen before, though I think I already understood the concept well enough not to really get anything out of it directly), and mostly talks about building your assets.

When you boil it down to essence, it's largely saying that you need to save your money. And, what's more, save it somewhere where you can make more money off of it. He talks a lot about making your money work for you (which, for me, leads to some rather odd mental images), but it is an important idea.

One thing he implies, but never says explicitly, is that, over the long term, a conservative investment strategy (say, putting all your money into bonds), is actually a losing one. To carry his analogy further, it always works, but doesn't work very hard.

But the biggest, and most important part, is that he continually talks about improving your financial literacy. And that's definitely very important. You do need to keep learning, and improving yourself. This is largely why I've been reading books like this. I'm not sure if I'll find anything to make myself more money (I doubt either of the other books mentioned will), but I'll find out more about how the world operates. And occasionally I will find things to make money directly (I might have, in this book; definitely there are some things worth exploring).

Another thing that he keeps coming back to is how working for a big company will never get you to come out ahead. You might do pretty well, but you can easily just find yourself stuck in the rat race, where you make more money, only to spend more. Just like in the Millionaire book, don't get sucked in to buying status symbols if you really want to get ahead.

He also talks about finding advisers who can help you, and about how to deal with them. That was another part that's likely to be especially helpful to me, as I'm really bad about that part. In fact, I think I'll look around to see if there are any good books about that.

Anyway, there were only two things I disliked about the book. The first, as I mentioned, was the treatment of taxes as a sucker's game that is to be avoided whenever possible. The author's father lamented that the biggest problem with the country (and this was back in the fifties or sixties, it sounded like) was the huge gap between the rich and poor. Well, the way the tax laws have been manipulated since then has resulted in that gap absolutely exploding in size. If it was a concern back then, then it's pretty much a terminal condition now. And it's that attitude of taxes being a sucker's game that has made things get that way.

The other is that, when he talks about assets and liabilities (and that's a really good section, if that isn't second nature to you already (and it was, to me, even though I never thought about it in those terms)), he says that he doesn't consider a house (as in, principal residence) to be an asset. There's a tiny kernel of truth in there; something along the lines of not spending the limit of what you can afford to buy your home. But it still doesn't work; just look at the definition of asset he gives several pages later, and you can see how his argument falls on its face.

But as I said, that assets/liabilities section is really well done. The aforementioned status symbols, of course, all fall into the category of liability. And he really drills it home; buy assets, not liabilities. Get the liabilities when you can easily afford them, not when you can barely afford them (or, better yet, don't buy them at all :).

One other thing to consider, though, is that he strongly discourages specialization. Basically, his argument is that specialization makes you very vulnerable to having the rug pulled out from under you. I certainly understand where he's coming from; when I got into my Master's program, I had to decide whether to specialize or not. Basically, you couldn't get into their (or maybe even any) doctoral program without specializing, but you would have to write a thesis. Anyway, I didn't specialize, and I didn't because I didn't want to end up pigeon-holed. And I don't regret that decision.

But the part to be aware of, is that, particularly in technological fields, pretty much all progress is made by people who specialize. So if you really want to drive your field (whatever that field is) forward, you probably need to get that PhD, and specialize. Just be aware of what that does for you, financially. Of course, if you do push things forward, you'll probably make plenty of money (although the odds go up a great deal if you own the company). Basically, I just bring it up as something to keep in mind.

What I didn't know before is that this is but the first in a series of books. I'm going to have to think about whether to buy (some of?) the others. But this book definitely gets a strong recommendation.


Ebon Avian

We went out this evening, intending to see The King's Speech, which my wife has been wanting to see for a long time. We ended up not being able to see it at the theater we had intended, but we went to another one to see it. When we got there, it was actually sold out! I can't remember the last time I went to see a movie and it sold out. It was definitely more than ten years ago.

Anyway, our options at that point were pretty limited, and we'd heard The Black Swan was good, so we wandered in to see it. It was actually pretty close to sold out as well.

We didn't really know what we were getting into with it; all I knew was that it starred Natalie Portman as a ballet dancer, and that it had won a bunch of awards.

Well, it was all sorts of weird. Natalie Portman's character, Nina, is finally picked for a lead role; the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

She's in a fairly small, not very successful troupe in NYC, and she lives with her mom. Her mom, it seems, was a ballerina, but gave it up to have Nina. Now, she's living her life through Nina, and doing some painting.

Nina's hero is the older prima ballerina Beth, who wasn't too stable, and tended towards destructiveness. When she is hit by a car after a function at the ballet, it does not do good things for Nina's psyche.

The director tells Nina that she's perfect for the White Swan, but that she can't let go, and let herself become the Black Swan. It seems, at times, that he's just trying to get into her pants, but I think that's not the case. He really does end up seeming like he's just trying to get the best performance possible out of her.

In any event, trying to get herself to let go slowly drives Nina more and more insane. A new ballerina, Lily (played by Mila Kunis), helps her at one point. Their interactions, however, are kind of odd. They don't really flow, although some of that was due to Nina's increasing divorce from reality.

All in all, I thought it was extremely well done, although I can't say as I enjoyed the experience. I literally had to cover my eyes at some points, because there was some really grotesque parts to it.

There's some very small, but important, CGI work in it, and that was beautifully done. It took a while to figure out that it was happening. Kudos to the team that did it. And the acting was very good, across the board. I'm not at all sure about Natalie Portman deserving the Best Actress Golden Globe award, or that she would deserve the Oscar, but she did do a very good job.

I'm not sure how to categorize the movie, but it definitely wasn't the sort of thing I generally go to see. And despite how well done it was, I very much doubt that I'll watch it again. But I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy it. But love it or hate it, you will not be bored, and you will not find it bland.


They weevil and they wovel, but...

When we moved, we ended up with a much longer driveway than our old one. This one is 60-70' long, with a rounded area at the end (where the garage is). Back in May, I thought about getting a snow blower, figuring that was the only way to handle a driveway that long, but, while searching, ran across this nifty device (also to be found here).

I think I'd actually heard of it before (maybe a TV commercial a year or two ago?), but had forgotten. It was significantly cheaper than any of the snow blowers, took less storage space (a couple of feet of wall space, but no floor space), and didn't need any maintainance. And maybe it was about as fast (it was suggested in the reviews).

Well, it isn't as fast, at least not for our size of driveway. But the rest of it is true.

I've had mixed results with scraping the surface clean, but it does a fantastic job with dry snow. It's very fast (I can get my driveway done in an hour or so), doesn't kill my back (this is a major plus), and is environmentally friendly. If you're going downhill, it does an even better job of pushing snow along. The scoop is large, and you can really fill it, since you aren't lifting the whole mass.

You can get an wear strip for the front edge; I highly recommend it (cheaper directly from wovel.com than from amazon). Aside from the wear factor, it might help it deal with ice (with which I've had mixed results).

This thing is so good, I ended up clearing a good chunk of my street (100 yards or so) so that I can get to the top of the small (but fairly steep) hill to get out the quick way.

So, yes, I would definitely buy it again, if I had the chance to go back and do it again.

Useless Thrashing

Last night's Caps game definitely had some capacity to surprise. The game started out with the Caps winning the draw, and spending two shifts (I believe) in the offensive zone. Somehow, that did not lead to any goals. But, first mission accomplished, right? Coming out hard, and generating some sustained offensive pressure?

Unfortunately, that was mostly it for sustained pressure. There were two pretty good power plays (again, neither generating any goals, but some good pressure). And that was it. There were a few more good chances, but not nearly enough.

I wish I knew what was going on with the offense. It seems like every goalie we see is playing one of their best games of the season. Seven shut-outs now, which I'm pretty sure is more than we had all last season. And we end the season 2-4 against the Thrash, after sweeping them last year.

At least Varly (guess I was wrong about Holtby bringing us into the break) was doing a good job keeping us in the game. He had twenty-three saves to go with the one score he allowed. Alzner and Carlson did a good job in the defensive end, as did Hannan and Erskine. MarJo did well again on the face-offs, winning 64% (getting him up to seven times he's won more than half on the season. Not sure where to find his aggregate FO%, although I've seen several people mention it being below 40%. This is two positive games in a row, though; maybe he's figuring something out (or maybe it's just luck; we'll hope for the former).

Next up, the All-Star break. Then, we can hopefully get a winning streak started, and maybe even start scoring some goals. First up will be the Habs, on Tuesday.

(On a side note, I wondered for a long time for what Habs was a shortening. My guess was Les Habituels, as in the regular winners, which I maintain is better than the actual Les Habitants, meaning the inhabitants. Bor-ing.)


Next on the Agenda

Well, things went ok last night for the Caps (certainly a large improvement on their last game with the Rangers). They played hard, got an early lead, and held it for quite a long while. Unfortunately, quite a long while was only good enough to get them into a shoot-out, where the coin-flip did not favor them. The biggest problem was, again, a lack of sustained offensive pressure; perhaps as a result of adapting to the new system.

It was actually kind of a weird game, though. In the first, the Caps were doing ok, but seemed to keep running into each other. They don't do that very often, but they did it three or four times (all in the first period) last night. I blame it on the constant line-juggling that has some players moving back and forth between pivot and lever arm.

It was also odd that there were almost no shots through half of that first period (I believe it was still one shot a side at that point). Not sure if that's good or bad, but it certainly makes Corsi easy to calculate.

Hendricks finally put the Caps on the board early in the second, thanks to a beauty of a helper from MarJo (and a little help from Hannan, getting his first point with the Caps).

After that, it was just back and forth for over thirty minutes until the Rangers finally tallied on a strange strike from Gaborik who (probably inadvertantly) hit the puck in from shoulder-level with his hand.

From there, things continued to see-saw until the end of overtime. More broadly, MarJo had a good game (he had the pretty assist, and even won over half of his face-offs). OV looked really good, and made a lot of chances without converting any of them. Alzner had a really nice game, with several very nice defensive plays to prevent or stifle scoring chances. DJ was playing again, and was ok. And apparently Bruce was impressed, because he not only upped his ice time to six minutes, but even got almost half a minute of power play time (though that might have been caused by general disgust at how the first unit was playing).

Hendricks had another good game, not only with the regulation goal (which was really a good play only because of the back-door cut; the goal itself was damned near automatic, as he had half the goal to shoot at from about two feet away. Getting into position for it, though, was quite nice), but also a nice score in the shoot-out.

Holtby had another fantastic game, with twenty-eight saves to go with the goal he allowed. He did not look nearly as good in the shoot-out, allowing the first two in on basically the same move (to opposite sides). But the shoot-out is basically a coin-flip, so nothing to see there, I say. And the game does put Holtby up to a .908 save percentage on the season, so... Not bad! I figure, at this rate, he'll get the next game and let Varly and Neuvy rest through the All-Star break. And if it's another game like last night, he'll be up around .915 save percentage; very close to league-average (and a hair above Neuvy). Let's hope so.

Special teams wasn't, really. Neither team converted either of their chances. I'm amazed the Caps only got the two chances, though. There were four or five trips and interferences that should have been called, I thought. (And how do you get holding AND a dive on the same play. I just don't see how that's possible.)

On an unrelated note, Versus wanted to talk about Kulemin going after Gleason and getting his clock cleaned in the first intermission. I certainly don't see how that could be a cheap shot, given that Kulemin started it. The penalties issued baffle me, really; if anything, Kulemin should have gotten the worst of the penalties (with instigation). The result might have been
unfortunate, but justified. Either way, though, I don't think Kulemin will be looking to start something again any time soon.

Back to the Caps, they're going to visit the Thrashers tomorrow to try to keep momentum going into the All-Star break. Given that the Caps haven't done too well against Atlanta thus far, this season, let's hope they can do it.


It's Packers and Steelers

As you can see, by the fact that I haven't blogged about football yet this season, I didn't watch a whole lot of football this year. Probably not a single game, from beginning to end. But I have watched the last two weeks.

Incidentally, a friend has been telling me for quite a while that watching football on the DVR is great. Hitting 30-second skip ahead right after one play usually gets right to the beginning of the next play. So if you wait until the game is nearly over to start, you can watch an entire game in about an hour (my friend tells me he can get through one in about forty minutes, but I haven't managed to be that efficient yet). But that's what I've done to watch the games, and it's awesome. It's really amazing how much dead time there is in the middle of a game.

Anyway, to get to the point, Rodgers did not look as good this week as he has in prior playoff games (well, not after the first couple of drives), but he was still good enough. I figured the Packers offense was better than that of the Bears, but I still thought it'd be closer. I guess the Packers defense, despite how good it looked last week, was even better than I thought it was.

In the late game, the Steelers really put the pedal to the metal in the first half, jumping out to a twenty-four point lead, and did just well enough in the second half to hold on for the victory.

The touchdown that provided the final margin, in particular, was a thing of beauty. Roethlisberger rolled out, and looked for a little flare out in the flat, but when the defender went out to cover that, he pulled it in and ran for the TD. I wonder if that was designed as an option play. Either way, it was nice.

So we've got two well-rounded teams in the Super Bowl, but we'll have to wait a couple of weeks to see who wins it. I'll need to see if there's some way I can get it in 3D, when the time comes.

As a side note, we had a number of friends over, and several of the people who were seeing the 3D for the first time were really blown away by it. I still think it's a bit overpriced, but I guess it's quite cool to see for the first time. Now I just need to get some more source material.

Getting back to the upcoming game, it should be a good one. No question that the Black and Gold, with their experience, will show up. Hopefully, the Green and Gold won't get distracted by all the hoopla, and will also show up. I don't really have a preference for either team, so I'm just going to hope for a good game.

Many Complications

My wife and I watched It's Complicated the other night (another one I'd had on the shelf for a while). I have to admit, I was rather disappointed.

The scenes with just Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and Meryl Streep were generally pretty good (and sometimes excellent), but the chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially the kids, just wasn't there. All of their interactions seemed forced (except, I now remember, for the one scene in the bathroom with the son-in-law). Actually, Baldwin's acting sometimes felt forced, as well (I still say that the only really good thing I've seen him in was The Marrying Man).

I feel like I should have something deep to say about this, being the child of divorced parents, but I really don't. I wonder if I would have, if I'd had any siblings. Hard to say.

I don't think I'd have been freaked out if my parents had done something like that, though. More likely, I'd have been happy for them. Although I'd have probably been even more upset at the end of the movie, I think. I certainly wished, for many years, that my parents would get back together.

Overall, I guess I'd rate it as an ok movie. It definitely had some hilarious moments, but that was more than balanced out by the rest of the movie. As I said, a bit disappointing.

Leaf-ing it all on the Ice

Wasn't able to watch yesterday's Caps game until this morning; wish I'd been able to watch it live.

The effort was very good, OV broke out in a major way, Hendricks had a nice breakaway goal, and Holtby looked awesome. Unfortunately, after waiting all day to write this, and watching both football games in the meanwhile, I'm forgetting some of the details.

The penalty kill looked quite good, killing off all three chances (and I only remember a couple of good chances in there, so I think they did so with little drama). The power play did not score on its only chance, but the only real specific I remember there was Matty P and MarJo both being out on the second power play unit. Oh, and nobody scored on the power play.

As I mentioned, OV had a fantastic game, getting a hat trick (giving him eight goals in six career games against Giggy, if I remember correctly). He also managed to plant himself into the goal camera on one other play, where he made an outside power move, and fell down just in front of the net (couldn't really tell if he was helped with that, or not). One weird thing: he hit Schenn early in the game, and went down. Can't remember the last time he went down without having his skates go out from under him (a trip or just losing an edge). But he obviously got the last laugh.

Also as I mentioned, Hendricks had a very nice breakaway goal. He poked the puck away from the point man in the zone, which caught both defenders leaning the wrong way. Since he had momentum, that put him way, way behind the defense. He faked a wrist shot from between the circles, pulled the puck way off to his right (leaving Giggy feeling wiggy), and softly deposited the biscuit into the open net. Incidentally, Hendricks had had an earlier fight with Brown right off a face-off. It was a quick fight, but Hendricks was slightly bloodied and looked overmatched. No idea what precipitated that, but it certainly didn't look like a good play for Hendricks. I'm sure he felt a great deal better after the goal.

And speaking of enforcers, King got a jersey again last night. He didn't do much, but I noticed him several times, and he wasn't looking completely lost. So while that wasn't a huge change, it was a nice one. And I suppose you could say he was rewarded, as his ice time cleared five minutes for the game.

Getting back to Holtby, he allowed one on thirty-five shots, so... Yeah, he was awesome. That included one save (I believe after Toronto had pulled Giguere) where he had to go all the way from coast to coast, and gloved the waist-high shot while still moving. Damn, that was a nice grab. I should also point out that he was very ambitious with his stick-handling four or five times (including a nice penalty kill clear), and did not make us regret the attempts.

The game still only pulled his save percentage up to .897, so he's still pretty marginal as an NHL goalie, but that's hardly a criticism at his age. He'll be good, and probably sooner, rather than later. He's certainly looking like a steal, for having come out of the 4th round.

So, overall, nothing to not like in this game (well, other than the injuries that put Holtby and King on the ice to begin with, I suppose). Hopefully, we can carry the good play into tomorrow's game with the Rangers. Given the result of the last game against them, and that the Caps are only a few points clear of the Rangers in the standings, they better play well. We could also use the points to try catching up to Tampa Bay, who stomped on the Thrashers last night.


Isling the Night Away

I'm not sure how I wrote previously that the Caps would be playing the Rangers last night. I know I looked it up at least once. I guess I must have just seen New York, and turned off my brain. In any event, the Islanders were the opponent for the game last night.

Due to some technical screw-up (I couldn't get my Blu-ray player on the internet without disconnecting my dvr; it should have worked with both. I'll fix it later, so that it does), I missed the first several minutes of the game. So I missed Chimmer's early goal fed by OV and Backstrom. But at least I saw Backstrom's later goal that broke him out of his 21-game goal-less streak.

Both of these goals, though, were caused by OV going to the outside. As we can see, he becomes a whole lot more effective when he isn't just cutting inside to his forehand (no matter how good that move is. And it is). If last night is any indication (please, please, please, please), he'll be fine the rest of the season.

Moving on, things looked pretty good otherwise. The penalty kill was good; the power play didn't score, but did generate good chances. Holtby looked pretty good; not fantastic, but not overmatched, either (one goal on 25 shots is nothing to sneeze at). I even saw a good defensive play by Erskine, where he tied up a forward's stick so that the guy couldn't get a deflection on a shot (Holtby gloved the shot).

On the whole, the team looked pretty good. The effort was there, at least, and that's the single biggest thing I'm looking for, these days. I didn't see the line-shuffling of the last several games (though maybe I just missed it), so maybe we'll get a bit more chemistry. DJ played again, but got even fewer minutes than last game (a hair under 3-1/2).

I am surprised the Islanders don't have more points. Their forecheck looked very good last night, and definitely gave the Caps problems.

Perrault looked pretty good last night. It'd definitely be good if he could become more effective on the boards (given his size, that's tough to do, I know), but he's still doing a good job of driving possession. And he even won the majority of his face-offs last night. Woot!

MarJo, on the other hand, looked generally good, but lost all of his faceoffs. If he can't start winning at least 45% of his faceoffs (and we'd really like to see 50, of course), I don't know if he can really be an effective center, despite his other abilities (and I do like the rest of his game).

My only other comment on the game was that the officiating was, at best, uneven. Really, the Caps should have had several more power plays. I thought the same thing in the Philly game the other night, but at least in that one, the Flyers weren't getting many either. Grr.

Next up, the away streak continues with the Leafs in Toronto. Let's hope that the effort keeps up. And maybe, that Semin returns. We could really use some more scoring.


A Night of Frustration

The Caps game last light was rather the continuation of frustration.

I must admit, given how the Flyers have been doing recently compared to how the Caps have been going, I didn't have a very good feeling about the game to begin with. Going down by a goal in the first period, and then another in the second, did not help that. Getting a pair of ugly goals in the third certainly felt nice, but it was the better team that
won when the Flyers scored in OT.

Neuvy did not have a good night in goal. The goal that he allowed in the first was a terrible one. Given that he was pulled after the first, and was described as having a "lower-body injury", I'm guessing he must have pulled something (groin being the most likely culprit), and that likely contributed to the failure. On the plus side, he did look pretty good after that, but didn't stay in the game long enough to make up for that lapse.

As a side note, I hope I'm not the only one annoyed by those injury descriptions; they're supremely unuseful. And frankly, I don't buy the official explanation that it's to protect players from having vulnerable spots hit. After all, when Knuble hurt his jaw, or Matty P broke his nose, it was very obvious what was wrong (the extra protection being a less-than-subtle hint). And as a fan trying to follow the team, it's very frustrating.

Getting back to the game, the defense was fairly spotty throughout. There were some very nice plays made to stifle some chances, but the goalies were really hung out to dry several times, as well. The offense was pretty poor through the first two periods. There were a few nice chances generated (and OV hit another crossbar), but there was almost no sustained play in the offensive zone. That meant that the defense was being pressured far too often. Given that, perhaps I should say that the defense played well. Perhaps.

In the third, the offense was significantly better, although I attribute some of that to Philly being willing to play an up-tempo, up-and-down game (why, I won't even try to speculate; maybe they were trying to embarass the Caps). They hit two more posts (one of which was MarJo's shot off a turnover that Knuble buried), and a number of very good chances. And Backstrom got his
300th career point on OV's goal forty seconds after the Knuble goal.

The penalty kill did the job in their only appearance, which was good. The power(-less, of late) play didn't even get on the ice. Given the success on that side of the ledger, of late, perhaps that's a good thing.

The wonky line-juggling that we've seen for the last couple of games continued, although I have to wonder how much of that was driven by having DJ in the lineup (with his 4:24 of ice time). The more I see of him, the less I understand why the Caps traded for him. Stefan Della Rovere hasn't done much for the Blues (and perhaps he'd have done even less for the Caps), but his cap hit would have been smaller than DJ's, and he might well have contributed more (at least for the Bears).

Looking at the larger picture, I'm really disturbed by the lack of effort by the players, particularly at the beginning of games. While it is impressive that they've managed to come back from so many early deficits, it's a serious indictment of their effort that they've had to. I had hoped that eight-game losing streak would have knocked some sense into them (and it seemed to, for a while), but they've gone back to coasting for the first period or two. The fact that playing the top team in their division or conference isn't enough to cut through that is also very damning.

And that just isn't going to cut it, come playoff time. There's a pretty good chance that the Caps will need to beat the Flyers if they want a chance at the Cup, and they haven't shown any reason to believe that they can. Yes, four points in three games is far from a disaster, but they've mostly played down, and that's not encouraging (especially when backed up by noting that every series the Caps have played with Boudreau at the helm has gone seven games).

I'm again wondering about Bruce Boudreau being the right guy for the coaching position. Motivation is his number one job, and it ain't happening.

Maybe they can do a bit better against the Rangers tomorrow night. Certainly, they'd have a hard time doing worse than the last tilt with the Rangers.


Home, and Home

The Caps just finished a pair against the Panthers, with the home team winning both.

They seem to be going back to their old ways of spotting the opposition a goal or three, and then trying to battle back. They were heavily outplayed in the first period of both games, with Santorelli scoring both times (joined by Reasoner, tonight). This evening's Santorelli goal was on a two-man advantage (for the full two minutes, no less; a really bad penalty taken by Backstrom there), as was a third goal, by Booth, seven minutes into the second period.

The Caps then started playing a lot better, getting three consecutive goals in each game. Those were enough to win a couple of nights ago, but only to get into overtime this evening. In OT, Wideman was able to bury a wrist shot from between the circles to end the game just as yet another power play was about to end.

Despite the four goals allowed (and the .902 save pct), Neuvy had a fabulous night between the pipes. Before the Santorelli goal, on that same two-man advantage, he made several stops he had no business making to give the team a chance to kill off that advantage. It didn't work out, but he gave them a chance.

And Washington was held scoreless on five of their own power play chances. Actually, tonight they didn't even generate too many good chances on the power play. Several of the chances were just "carry in, take one shot, go retrieve the clear, repeat". Ugh.

As can be seen from the scoring summary, MarJo had quite a game. He had two goals: one on a nice give-and-go with Laich, and a second muscled under Vokoun's pads from behind the net. Knuble also had a very nice shot off a cross-ice pass from OV; it rang the post before going in.

So, overall, the Caps got three of the four points available, so it's hard to be terribly upset. But conceding the entire first period both games, it's hard to be happy, as well. If they try that against Tampa tomorrow, they'll fall out of a tie with the Bolts for the division lead. Again.


Iwo kara Tegami

Just finally watched Letters from Iwo Jima. This is another one that I've been sitting on for quite a while; I figured being home sick would be a good time to watch it. Of course, I forgot how depressing it was pretty much guaranteed to be; should have gone with something a bit lighter.

Which is not to say that it wasn't a good movie; it was very good. But it was a bit of foreshadowing of where things were going when we were introduced to the main character at the beginning, and his name was Saigo (likely 西湖, 西後, 斉梧, 齋梧, or 齊梧 (unfortunately, I couldn't find my name dictionary; I must have lost it in the move a few months ago. It still might turn up, though). But this was foreshadowing, because these names are homophones of 最期, meaning 'the end', or 'the last', or 'one's last breath', or something along those lines. In fact, the officers in the movie repeatedly said that they would fight 'saigo made', meaning down to the last man).

The film did a good job of showing how similar the soldiers of both armies were, particularly showing the similarities of letters sent home. Of course, the Japanese did not fight quite to the last man; there were 1083 captured.

It's hard to imagine, at this remove, how difficult the situation of the soldiers must have been, though. The movie did a good job of showing how short the soldiers were, of both food and water, but it's still hard to contemplate how difficult it would have been to try to fight for days on end without.

Eastwood did this movie as a companion piece to Flags of our Fathers, which I watched last year, but apparently never wrote up my thoughts on.

I learned a lot from that one about four of the five flag-raisers. Ira Hayes I was pretty well familiar with, because of the song Johnny Cash wrote about him. I was also previously unaware of how strapped for money the US was at the time.

Both of them are excellent movies. I'm not the biggest fan of Eastwood the actor (he doesn't have a whole lot of range), but he's a fabulous director, and both of these movies helped cement that reputation.


Persian Prince

My wife got me Prince of Persia recently, about which I was a bit curious.

I had played the original game (back in 1990 or '91), but none of the subsequent follow-ups. I really wasn't sure how they were going to make a movie out of it.

It did live up to expectations in visuals; they were very nice. And, for that, I was definitely glad to have gotten it on Blu-Ray. As far as the quality of the movie itself, though, it was about as expected.

That is to say, it was ok. Reasonably entertaining, little to no depth, and as good a grasp of history as you'd expect from a Disney movie. Seriously, Alamut was founded in 246AD, while the Persian empire dates from approximately the fifth to third centuries BC. And the Hashishayun, the assassins, didn't get there until the late eleventh century AD (Judith Tarr, incidentally, wrote a fantastic novel centered around the assassins called Alamut). And it was only under the assassins that Alamut was considered holy. Nor was it anywhere near as grand as portrayed.

Yes, it looked quite impressive in the movie, but it was not a huge place. It was mostly just a fortress, not a center of civilization.

And as far as adapting the game; it had a few nods to the original game, but not a whole lot.

Overall, I'd rate it as fair. It isn't worth going out of your way to see, but the visuals might make it worth catching it if it's convenient. Oh, and Alanis had a nice song for the closing credits (though I could have sworn it was Tori Amos).

Lightning Strikes the Phone Booth

Quite a game, last night, for the Caps. I like the new system (explained in detail), it worked pretty well again. The Caps couldn't manage to win the game, but they had the better of the chances throughout. But the Bolts new goalie showed that he's no Rolo-ver.

In the end, it went through regulation scoreless, but Varly allowed a rebound in the slot in overtime, and Erskine couldn't get to St Louis quickly enough to stop him from potting it in the back of the net.

Once again, the brunt of the defensive load was shouldered by Alzner and Carlson, and, once again, they came through with flying colors.

As the lack of scoring in regulation would suggest, Varly looked very good. The power play should come around pretty soon; they're getting very good chances, but somehow failing to find the twine (of course, there was that one PP where they allowed a good TB chance, but we'll hope that was just a fluke).

And again, the penalty kill looked very good, outside of thirty to forty seconds of one power play. And even in that stretch, I don't believe they allowed any shots, it was just an awfully long time to wait for a clear.

So the result was a bit disappointing, especially as it allowed the Lightning to take sole possession of the division lead, but I'm not terribly upset. If they play the way they did last night, they'll win far, far more than they lose. No worries.


Kuznetsov FTW

I watched a chunk of the Russia-Finnland game yesterday. I was hoping to see Orlov and Kuznetsov, to get an idea of what the two of them could do. Unfortunately, I turned the game off at the second intermission (my wife found the Duke game), so I only saw the two of them looking not very good.

Well, Orlov was looking ok; nothing bad, but nothing special, either. Kuzno was showing some great stick-handling ability, but he was trying to do too much by himself.

So I missed his awesome finish to the game. I suspect he'll be covered kind of closely for the rest of the tournament.


Caps-tone of a New Year

Haven't really felt much to say about the last several Caps games; they've played well in all of them. Matty P and MarJo have, I think, cemented their roster spots for the rest of the year (possibly barring a big trade-deadline acquisition for second center). The Caps have also adjusted their style a bit, for the first time since Boudreau came aboard, which has yielded some nice results.

They aren't playing as flashy, but more effectively, I think.

We still need both Sashas to come back to form. Neither has looked bad, but neither is playing to anywhere near their abilities, either. Well, OV might be close, other than his horrible shooting percentage, I suppose.

Other than that... Carlson and Alzner are both playing better than could have been reasonably expected. Alzner kind of punctuated that for me in the Heinz Field game, by breaking up a 3-on-1 (yes, some luck involved, but he was in the right position to be able to get lucky). The two of them are getting the toughest assignments now, and mostly coming through in fine fashion.

Fehr had a heck of a Winter Classic game. The last couple of years he's been a phenomenal scorer (near the top of the league) in points per 60 minutes. Hopefully, this game will help get him back on that track. He's definitely had a lot of good chances the last few games.

I was surprised Beagle stayed up for the WC; I expected him to be sent back. But he's been doing a good job grinding away at defenses, and had one heck of a pretty goal against the Canadiens.

In goal, both goalies have been amazing. Varly has been slightly more amazing, but it's not a large difference. I really do go back and forth on who should be considered Number One. Varly's certainly more athletic, but Neuvy's positioning is so sound... There's certainly some parallels to the situation with Ace and Kolzilla when both were on the team. Not sure the resolution will be the same, but it's definitely something to keep in mind. And also keep in mind that Holtby is pretty much tearing up the AHL as well.

I'm definitely feeling very optimistic about the club. And the results are nothing to sneeze at; as of this morning, they were only two points back of the massive pig-pile that is the President's Trophy position. Having the lead would be better, but two points out is nothing to complain about.

In fact, the only phase of the game not running well at the moment is, of all things, the power play. And that shouldn't be too hard to fix; I only see two issues. One is feeding OV too much, the other is waiting too long to take shots. That is, they get good passes to set up one-timers, but then they hold the puck for a second or two before taking the shot. Usually this allows the defense to get into position for a block. Or maybe it's just bad luck; I'm really not sure.