Around the League

Got a chance to watch most of the Flyers/Sabres game. I was impressed, if disappointed, by how Philly was able to come back repeatedly, and even more disappointed by the final score in OT. But it does mean that whoever wins will be even more battered and bruised, so it's not all bad. And if Buffalo ends up winning game seven, then I will end up being happy with the result.

The Predators managed to knock off the Ducks today as well, although I didn't see any of that game. Congratulations to David Poile (former, and long-time, Caps GM) on finally winning a playoff series down there. I hope you all at least make some noise in the second round.

And I watched the first two periods of the Vancouver/Chicago tilt. I was certainly ready to write off the BLackhawks after two bad losses followed by another loss where, I heard, they outplayed Vancouver. They certainly came back strong, winning the next two by a combined 12-2 margin. Today's game was much closer, as they fell behind by a goal twice in the first two periods. But each time, they managed to tie it up again. Apparently, they traded goals again in the final period of regulation before winning in OT.

I think Vancouver had to end up regretting their replacement of Luongo with Schneider. He had been pulled in each of the previous two games, so it made some sense. In fact, if I were the coach, I might have been tempted to do the same just to give him a rest, even if he hadn't had two disastrous starts. But the talking heads on TV were making a big deal of it. Who knows? Maybe it really was a big deal. In any event, I'm pretty happy; neither team would be my first choice for coming out of the Campbell Conference, so making it tougher on whoever ends up as the winner is great. And really, now that it's going the distance, I don't even really care who does end up winning.

As a side note, I still can't figure out how Chicago ended up with such a low seed (and yes, I am aware they only managed to back into that seed with a final-game loss by Dallas). They certainly aren't as deep as they were last year, but they still seem much too good for that seed.


And Now It's Over

A nice day for hockey, for me. First, I got to watch a couple of chunks of the Pittsburgh/Tampa game; enough to see four goals scored by the Lightning. I didn't get to see Fleury chased, but that's a small price to pay.

And then I got to watch (most of) the Caps crushing of the Rangers. They came out with hunger, and heavily dominated the game. I think it probably wasn't the team's best game of the season, but it's in the conversation. I saw 50-ish minutes of the game, and they were just destroying the Rangers. They showed Lundqvist sitting on the bench with a minute or two left, hiding behind his glove, looking like he felt that he'd let the team down. He didn't. If he hadn't been on his game, this could have easily been five or six to nothing.

They were just keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and generating a lot of chances. I'm surprised, looking at the box score, that the Caps had so few shots, but they were largely very good shots. They also kept their cool when the Rangers tried getting chippy; this helped the Caps keep a positive power play differential and meant that the Rangers were the only ones picking up misconducts.

The only downer on the whole game is that Green went down with another puck to the head (attempting to block another shot). Man, I hope he's ok, but it looked bad and he didn't return. Ugh. I've heard vague rumors that Wideman might be able to return for the next round; it seems unlikely, but let's hope so. And maybe Poti can, as well. And Knuble should, I think.

To get to the good stuff, almost the entire team looked good. Neuvy had a great game, coming less than forty seconds from a shutout. That makes him 15-0 in playoff series as a professional (actually, that's including the OHL; I assume that's a pro league, but I don't know for sure). I thought there were stretches where OV didn't look too good, but he still managed a goal and an assist, so what the hell do I know? MarJo was buzzing again, and Backstrom looked pretty good, as well. And the defense as a whole looked quite good, quickly defusing most chances (and Neuvy was there for the few that they missed).

And the other good stuff was finding out that Buffalo beat Philly last night (despite their best efforts to let the Flyers win) and that Montreal and Boston are currently deadlocked going into the second overtime (don't really care who wins that one, but hoping for a brutally tough seven games).

So now we get to wait a bit to see who's next; I believe that this could take until the end of next week to find out, theoretically. Despite today's result, I feel pretty comfortable saying that Pittsburgh will advance, but the other two are coin flips. But if the Caps can keep playing like they did today, I don't care who we play.



Last night's Caps game was quite the roller coaster of highs and lows. The first period was pretty good, as the Caps largely outplayed the Rangers, but neither team was able to score. The second period was largely dominated by the Rangers, and was one of the worst periods of play all season for the Caps.

They only had 3-4 good shifts, and allowed three goals. One was a bit fluky, passed from behind the net, and deflecting in off the skate of a Capital (Hendricks, maybe?). The other two were cases where the defense neglected to actually cover anyone. Oh, and those two were a mere seven seconds apart. In fact, I walked into the kitchen when the first one was scored, and was still there when the second was. So it was ugly.

And to make matters worse, looking back, the Rangers were 29-0-0 in the regular season when leading after two periods. And I'll bet that most of those 29 were less than three goal leads.

Well, as usual, I stopped watching at that point to put my daughter to bed. Being a bit depressed about the situation, I did a couple of other chores before checking on the score of the game. Holy crap, it was still going on in overtime!

I zipped back to the TV, and put the OT on (was afraid the OT might run past my recording limit if I watched the third via the DVR beforehand). It turns out that Semin and MarJo (twice, actually) had scored in the third to tie up the game.

Well, the Caps heavily dominated play (including killing off a too many men penalty without allowing a shot), but were unable to score, so it was off to double overtime. It's depressing how many such games the Caps have played; at about thirty minutes of overtime, this was still only the fifth longest game in franchise history.

The Caps continued to dominate play in the second overtime, but were still unable to puncture the Lundqvist wall for quite a while. But eventually the forecheck forced a bad clearing attempt, and Chimera followed a shot towards the net that Lundqvist wasn't able to corral. The defender (Dubinski?) tried to clear it away from the goal, but just knocked it up into Chimera, whence it bounced down right in front of the net, behind Lundqvist. I've certainly made knocks about Chimmer's hands of stone, but he coolly deposited this one in the net for the win.

And my family was happy the goal was on such a busted play, because it felt so anticlimactic that I didn't shout loudly enough to wake everyone.

As far as individual players, Neuvy did very well. Despite the three goals (and I'll admit, even though he didn't really deserve it at the time, I thought it likely he wouldn't come out for the third), he pitched a shutdown for an entire game after allowing them. The MarJo-Fehr-Chimera line was actually the best one for the Caps, although I think I'd rather see Sturm-MarJo-Chimmer with Fehr on the top line. Semin was excellent in the overtime (and given that he scored, probably in the third, as well). Carlson and Alzner were the defensemen abused for the second and third goals, so they did not have a good game (they both got assists on the tying goal to somewhat make up for it, at least). And Arnott made up a bit for his dreadful last game on the dot, winning twelve of twenty.

So the Caps manage to walk away with an away game win; the series has unquestionably started, now. They've restored their two-game lead (which is, admittedly, a bit ominous given their history of blowing two-game leads), and are in position to be able to close out the series on Saturday at home. Here's hoping that they do so.


Don't stoke those fires

Not too pleased at Tracee Hamilton's latest column in the Washington Post. First of all, she emphasizes Washington's "playoff history... put together in the past few seasons". She might want to notice that the team has been around since before 2005; their playoff history, good and bad, goes back a lot further, as well.

But what really torqued me was the headline when the article continued at the back of the Sports section. Going from memory here, but something like "Caps Need Win to Prevent Stoking Past Frustrations". Newsflash: you didn't wait until that loss before stoking the fires, lady.

Another newsflash: the series ain't over no matter what happens tonight. Even a win tonight and another on Saturday won't be enough to get "the monkey off their backs". Nor would it provide redemption. Frankly, I'm not sure anything short of a Stanley Cup victory would be. But really, going all in on this line of thinking after one game, especially one that played out the way Game 3 did, is... not helpful.

Yes, the Caps have a terrible playoff history. That history goes back a lot more than three years. But one loss is certainly not the time to panic, or to really go through that history. If they finish Saturday's game down 3-2, then we can go into that crap; but not now.


Why now?

Just as I was getting in to work yesterday morning, NPR mentioned that S&P had issued a statement saying something like, "if we re-evaluated the rating on US government debt, it's more likely than not that we'll downgrade it".

When I ate breakfast this morning, I noticed that the Post had an article on the front page about this. I was disturbed by two things in that article (which, I should point out, I didn't follow into the section when it continued). One, in discussing current spending levels, they described the retirement system as "an expensive social safety net for retirees". The part of that that bothers me is the "expensive" part. That's a value judgement, not an objective one. The Post, at least outside of opinion columns, should not be making value judgements.

The other part is this. My first reaction about hearing about the downgrade was, "Why now?" Frankly, it feels a lot like S&P trying to inject itself into a political conversation where they really don't have any place. And the timing is especially strange, given that the recent substantive developments are all in the direction of cutting the deficit, which is what the S&P says it wants.

If they were reacting to substance, doing this immediately after the approval of the extension of the Bush tax cuts would have made a whole lot more sense. As it is, it seems more than trifle suspicious (possibly even disingenuous). On the plus side, the bond market seems to have treated it appropriately, ie: ignored it. On the minus side, it horked up the stock market yesterday.

Not So Amazing

The first several times I watched it, The Incredibles was easily my favorite Pixar movie. I was anxiously awaiting its blu-ray release, and it was only the second one that I bought on the day of release (well, I preordered it on Amazon). So last Tuesday it showed up on my doorstep.

Maybe it was just that I've seen it too many times, but while I still enjoyed it, it wasn't as amazing as previously. Before this, I was greatly hoping for a sequel (frankly, I'm pretty disappointed that they're doing a Cars sequel this year), but now I'm not so sure about whether it would be worth it.

Part of it was the whole "super vs ordinary" subplot. I'd pretty much ignored that part previously, but I paid more attention to it this time, and it bugged me. It especially bugged me in the "Dash athletics" scenes. Athletics is about competition, and if someone is so much better than everyone else, it isn't a competition. Nobody involved will learn anything, or become better people because of it.

Someone might be tempted to bring up how much better some people are than others in certain fields and that's true, but the difference between Dash and his classmates is bigger than the difference between Wayne Gretzky and myself in hockey (and I haven't been on the ice with a hockey stick since I was seven). No amount of luck (short of a meteor hitting Dash) would allow those kids to beat him.

For a kid with arrogance issues to begin with, this would not help. If anything, it would just reinforce those issues, as he sees himself as so much better than them.

And the line about "Everybody's special, Dash" "Which means no one is" also bugs me. Yes, everyone is special. But not all in the same way, which rather negates the part about nobody being so.

Anyway, the whole thing is disturbingly Rand-ian. And she might well have been the most self-centered person ever. Or, at least, she's managed to make complete selfishness socially acceptable, which is sad. Frankly, without her, the current political debates would be much more heavily influenced by reality. And that would certainly be a good thing.


A Couple more notes on "Class Warfare"

I don't really have too much to add to these links. The first is from Daily Kos, and it talks about the dangers of considering government to be a business. This is something I've been wanting to talk about for a while, but I haven't taken the time to put my thoughts down in any coherent way.

This manages to touch most of the main points I was thinking about, but phrased better, and adding some other details I didn't realize were applicable.

In addition to that, here's an excellent piece from EJ Dionne about the moral fecklessness of the richest people in the country. It also touches on how that recklessness is stupid, as well as evil, and even brings Teddy Roosevelt into the picture (always a good addition, in my book).


A Whole New World

I showed my daughter Aladdin yesterday, for the first time. I've always liked the movie; it's just so much fun. But I did notice a couple of things I hadn't, before.

I've always liked the in-movie version of A Whole New World better than the Regina Belle/Peabo Bryson version at the end. I assumed it was because they had the same people singing, but it turns out that they didn't. I believe (which is to say that that's what I remember from the credits) it was Lea Salonga and Brad Kane, where the actors are Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin.

I definitely did find myself wishing that it was on Blu-ray at times. Well, most of the time it didn't matter, but around the computer-generated Cave of Wonders it felt soft. I'm kind of curious what this toy would be able to do with it, but I don't see myself being able to buy it, so I'll just have to keep wondering.

Also, I've always liked Gilbert Gottfried as Iago in the movie, although I don't think I was ever before able to connect him to any other roles he's done. He's usually incredibly annoying, but he did a great job here. In fact, this might be the only role I've seen him in where I liked him.

But most importantly, my daughter did enjoy the movie.

Still Hasn't Started

There's an old saying, which I'm generally a bit skeptical about, but which does have some truth to it: "A playoff series hasn't started until a visiting team wins". By that metric, the series between the Caps and Rangers still hasn't started, as the Caps lost, 3-2 today at MSG.

I missed the first period, unfortunately, thanks to an unplanned nap (becoming a bed for my daughter didn't help) and not checking to make sure the game was going to be on Comcast Sports Net.

The second period seemed to be where the refs decided that the Caps shouldn't win, calling four penalties (three of which would be called weak even in the regular season, let alone in the playoffs) on the Caps compared to none on the Rangers. The penalty kill did a nice job, though, stopping three of the four, including the nine seconds of 5-on-3 (which came on top of a first-period 5-on-3 for almost 90 seconds). But the continuous penalties definitely kept Washington from building up any attacking momentum. They were still able to score one of their own without a power play (despite two non-calls each less than ten seconds before the score that were much more blatant than anything the Caps were called for) on a nice deflection by OV (extremely nice if you account for it being backhanded, and him having a very heavily curved stick). The Caps did get one big break as a puck entered their net right at the end of the period, but was ruled to have crossed a tenth of a second after the expiration (although I'm still annoyed that they didn't consider calling interference as the Ranger in the crease kept Neuvy from being able to get across to try to stop it).

The third period was not a good one for Carlson. First, he blew a coverage that allowed Vinny Prospal to shoot a close-range deflection past Neuvy (OV was also in the neighborhood) to put the Rangers ahead a second time. Then, after the Caps managed to tie things up on the power play, he took a matching roughing call to put the teams at 4-on-4. I thought going 4-on-4 would be good for the Caps, but I remembered shortly before the Rangers scored with two minutes left that Carlson is the second-most-important player on the Caps at 4-on-4 (Green being the first).

One thing that definitely hurt was that the Caps did terrible on face-offs for the night. They won only 43% on the night, and it actually felt worse than that (maybe they did better in the first? Or maybe I just didn't notice too many of their wins). Gordo was the only one positive on the night, and he won two-thirds of his. Oh, and Backstrom was even. The real culprits were MarJo, who won 40% again, and Arnott, who won 21%. Ouch. On second thought, the total difference was ten face-offs, and Arnott lost eleven more than he won, so he was more than the total difference. Double ouch.

Neuvy had quite a good night, despite the three goals allowed. One of those, as I alluded to earlier, was a player left alone ten feet from the net, and the final one was initially stopped, but the rebound deflected off the back of the defenseman (Alzner, I think) and over Neuvy's shoulder. Very bad luck on that last one.

So the team has a couple of days to work on things, and try to get a split of the MSG games on Wednesday. Let's hope Boudreau can come up with something (although I should point out that that sort of thing isn't his forte, so I'm not particularly optimistic about that part).


Class Warfare?

The Diane Rehm show came on NPR Thursday morning, and I was listening to it as I frequently do. But when one of their guests was first given the chance to speak, he goes off about how Obama's plan was class warfare.

Frankly, I was so disgusted by the whole thing that I had to turn it off immediately.

If you'd like to see class warfare in action, take a look at the book Perfectly Legal, about how the tax code has been wildly distorted over the past decade or two to heavily favor the rich. You will find out how it can be cheaper for a company CEO to take a corporate jet than to take a taxi (which is outright thievery from the shareholders, but also from taxpayers). You can also be reminded about how badly Social Security and the mortgage income deduction favor the rich. Plus how there is more money put into enforcement of the Earned Income Tax Credit (which pays the working poor to make it worth their while to work instead of just taking in welfare) than there is to making sure the rich pay the appropriate amount in taxes (where far more money is at stake). Frankly, if you aren't sick to your stomach well before the end of the book, you must be stupid or both wealthy and amoral (hmm... I suppose poor and amoral, but with aspirations of getting rich is also possible).

And, perhaps, an even starker example can be seen in a , comparing justice for poor criminals versus that for rich criminals.

Continuing the Push

Well, a fantastic result tonight for the Caps. They were actually outplayed for the first, and much of the third, periods, but managed to keep the Rangers off the board. And in the second period, when they were really pushing, they managed two goals, one of which was on the power play.

It's funny how these things roll around. I really didn't want Chimera on the ice tonight, he just hasn't been able to finish some wide-open chances for quite a while. He even had one in game one, where he was part of a 4-on-2; when the pass went over to him, I screamed at the TV, "Not to Chimmer". But tonight he managed to finish a nice tic-tac-toe play from MarJo from Laich going from directly behind to the left side, bottom of the circle, to the front of the net. It was pretty. But I still would have been happier with Fehr playing both games.

The one thing the Caps did well tonight, even when they were being outplayed, was keeping the Rangers to the perimeter. They gave up a couple of really good chances, but not many. And especially not many when you consider how much more possession the Rangers had.

Oh, and a shout-out to Alzner for playing very well. He had a nice shutdown on a 2-on-1 (he would be my first choice for which defender to have back on a 2-on-1), and a beautiful stretch pass to spring OV for a breakaway in the third. OV didn't bury it, but it was still a beautiful job getting him the puck.

Other than that, Neuvy did a fine job again, getting his first playoff shutout. He didn't face a lot of shots, and, as I said, most were from the perimeter, but it was still a good job. And again, he never looked rattled, even when Avery was really trying to shake his cage. Oh, and he should really thank Erskine for one of those saves, when Neuvy was totally out of position (I forget the exact details, but I'm not blaming him for being out of position), Erskine stood tall in the net and batted it aside.

So, overall the game was pretty encouraging. They do need to do a better job of controlling possession, but they did show that they can do that.

But the Rangers are definitely not to be overlooked, even at this point. Not just because they're determined, but also because the Caps have blown two game series leads in '85, '87, '92, '95, '96, '03, '09, and '10. Yeah, that's a lot of playoff frustration. Oh, and the Caps have never swept a seven game series; it'd be nice to break that streak.


Starting the Real Season

The real hockey season started tonight, with the Caps facing off against the Rangers, who limped into the playoffs when the Hurricanes lost their last game.

One vs eight. Should be a breeze, right? Well, last year certainly showed that that isn't necessarily the case.

I was still feeling pretty good about this one, though, despite the Caps two terrible games against the Rags earlier this year. Callahan being out was certainly part of that.

I must admit to some disagreement about putting Neuvy in net, though. No slam on him, but I'd have felt better with Varly playing. The last several games, especially, did not alleviate that (except for the last one); Neuvy looked a bit shaky for significant parts of those game.

But the game started ok, with the Caps dominating possession and getting good opportunities, but failing to beat Lundqvist. And when things did break down a bit, Neuvy was looking very good.

So the first two periods went by without any scoring. But the Rags got on the board first, with a one-timer in the slot by Gilroy off a pass from behind the net finding the bottom corner. The Rangers seemed to do a good job keeping the Caps out of good scoring opportunities for a while after that, getting me quite annoyed. But with a bit under seven minutes left, Semin and OV both went to one side of the net and managed to cram the puck under Lundqvist just before the whistle blew. OV got credit for putting it in, and the game was tied.

And then, half a minute later, all hell broke loose as my recording ended precipitously (this was largely the fault of the Caps game bumping the scheduled Wiz game). But it ended pretty well, as I flipped over the CSN, and found the game still going on, with two minutes or so remaining in OT. The timing was phenomenal, as Arnott intercepted a weak clearing attempt on the next shift and found Semin between the circles. Semin sent a laser of a one-timer to the top-left corner, beating Lundqvist stick side. That was sweet.

So I'm feeling good about the team's ability to bring this home in five, assuming they avoid complacency (and that Lundqvist doesn't get into a zone similar to what Halak did last year). But the complacency part is very real; the Caps are the more talented team, but not so much so as to be able to breeze by. Hopefully, Arnott's presence and the memory of those two earlier blow-outs will prevent that.

Oh, and I should mention that our hopes were answered by the return of Green to the line-up, finally. And he looked good, so even better. I'm not at all sure I understand him being paired with Erskine, given that he's worked very well with both Hannan and Schultz. I hope the big gaffe they had that led to a very good Rangers scoring chance will be enough to put the kibosh on that experiment, but we'll see. Regardless, very good to see him on the ice. Now if we could just get Poti or Wideman back, we'd have one hell of a top-to-bottom defensive corps.


Moving Costs down the Income Ladder

I've been hearing about Rep Ryan's budget proposal that would, among other things, eliminate Medicare.

I guess it's pretty typical for a Republican proposal: push as many costs as possible off of the government and onto the poor and working class.

In this case, it's ending Medicare and replacing it with a voucher plan. This is projected to save $5.8T over the next ten years, because the vouchers allowed can be set at a constant value over those ten years. Of course, that $5.8T will still need to be paid (and since Medicare's rates are lower than the rates for private insurance, the true amount will go up), and who will pay it. It will be everyone on Medicare. And of course every one of those people will have their share of the $6T or so to pay. Of course.

So this attempts to push the cost off onto the patients.

Who, mostly, will not be able to pay it. So the costs will be pushed back onto government when these people are coming into the emergency rooms for life-extending measures when they can't afford them. Or onto their kids. Yeah, that's an improvement.

And that's ignoring the GOP attempts to repeal the recent healthcare bill, which outlaws denials of insurance based on pre-existing conditions. If the repeal effort succeeded (it can't, for the foreseeable future, but stay with me for a minute, now), what happens to all those currently on Medicare who have pre-existing conditions? How many people on Medicare don't have something that can't be considered a pre-existing condition? I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and guess that it's significantly less than 10% of them.

So what good are the vouchers if you can't get insurance to begin with?

Granted, that lowers the government's initial obligation catastrophically, but it also results in a lot of dead people.

Having a heart, here, is actually good for the country. Keeping people alive, even if they're past working age, is still good for the nation.

And I've ignored another issue: jobs.

And I wrote the rest of this before seeing Krugman's take, but that backs up some of what I posited.

Caps Notes

Thanks to Comcast not showing the Caps/Panthers game the other night (well, not until 0130, anyway), I didn't see the game until I'd found out the result (verdammt radio). So I missed the beatdown the Caps put on them, alas.

That put the Caps at winning three of the last four games, as I'd hoped. It left us four points up on Philly, with them having two games remaining and the tie-breakers, ROW and goal differential. So it wasn't until Philly's (overtime) loss to Buffalo tonight that we clinched the Conference title (not that it matters too much, given the lack of trophy and Caps home record in game sevens).

Still, good to have.

And as a minor note, I'd called our last two games against Florida a home-and-home series, but I hadn't noticed that that wasn't the case. Florida had to get their rears handed to them by Tampa again tonight in between the two games, it seems.

So, what did we find out tonight? Caps win conference. Buffalo (by virtue of beating Philly) will be in the playoff mix. Carolina is in, for the moment, and will stay there if they can beat Tampa tomorrow. If they lose, the Rangers can still sneak back in. Pittsburgh now holds the tie-breakers over Philly, and can retain second in the conference by beating Atlanta on Sunday. Atlanta, for its part, seems to want Carolina in the playoffs, seeing as they destroyed the Rangers and were crushed by the Hurricanes. If Boston wins two while Pennsylvania loses two, the Bruins can still sneak ahead of both of them. And the West is still very jumbled up at the bottom, but will probably be much clearer when the games being played right now finish.

So where does that leave us? Hoping that Mike Green is healthy enough to play tomorrow, and that no one is injured in tomorrow's game. And a win would be nice, but definitely isn't worth killing ourselves over.


Complete Lack of Balance

Two really good pieces about how unbalanced taxes have gotten between the rich and middle class. The first is by Robert Reich, and can be found at Salon. The second is by Joseph Stiglitz, and can be found at Vanity Fair (in one page).

Both are must-reads, if you're concerned about where this nation is heading. The second one is particularly important, I think, as it ties in a couple of factors I hadn't previously considered. In particular, why we can't seem to get out of any of the wars in which we're currently involved.

Winning the Division

Well, it became official this evening: the Caps are the 2011 Southeast Division champs. In fact, they capped it off rather in style, winning their game while the Lightning were knocked off by the Sabres.

The game itself, for the Caps, wasn't that great, though. Carlson had a very up and down night. He committed a pretty dumb penalty early on, and Toronto converted on the ensuing power play (pretty soft goal, at that). He somewhat made up for it a bit later, as he managed to draw a hooking penalty while circling behind his own goal (with the Caps already on the power play). I've noticed that he's lately trying to join the rush even more than he had been previously. I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

Neuvy had an ok night; as I said, the first goal he allowed was a bit soft. But the second one was a failure by Schultz to tie up the stick of Lupul on a back-door cut; nothing Neuvy could have done. And that was it for Toronto scoring; Neuvy stopped everything else, saving his best stops for the third period. But Toronto didn't have a lot of chances; the Caps did a great job of dominating play for most of the game.

But Reimer had a great game for the Leafs, stymieing the Caps time and again. The only two goals he allowed were a one-timer slapshot at the top of the left circle from OV on the 5-on-3 power play, and a fluky point shot from Erskine that deflected in off a defenseman (Schenn, I believe).

So it ended up coming down to the shootout, where everyone seemed to want to go glove side-high. After three misses and four saves, Knuble finally potted one by going a little bit lower on the glove side.

The icing on the cake for the night is that Ottawa managed to pound the Flyers in the second and third periods, skating away with a 5-2 victory. So the Caps not only clinched the division, but also gained a little bit of space between themselves and Philly. Sweet.


Dog Days of Spring

Quite a final game last night, with UConn outlasting Butler in the end. It was a hard-fought defensive war, with only 91 points scored between the two teams. And that actually sounds better than it is, as at least half a dozen of those points came from Butler loosening up its defense to try to generate more offense.

But Butler ended up shooting less than 19%; not surprisingly, a record low. I ended up a little bit disappointed with the game, because of that.

Still, as I said, it was a very well played game. And it was generally very close; UConn's first five-point lead was at 31-26, six and a half minutes into the second half. But Connecticut pretty much ran away with it from there; Butler was just unable to buy a basket after that. And that was unfortunate, because they did get a few good looks.

Anyway, the game was quite a way to cap off one heck of a tournament. I read somewhere that, of the five million and change brackets that were submitted to ESPN, only two had the correct final four. I wonder if either of those two had the correct last three results.



I ordered Tangled a while ago; we had planned to try taking our daughter to see it when it came out, but it never happened. So I was looking forward to it arriving last Tuesday, but we still didn't watch it until yesterday.

I really don't have a lot to say about it. The story type is about what you'd expect from Disney; though the Lasseter influence was pretty obvious as well. And there were no real surprises in the whole story (except the third musical number, which kind of came out of nowhere and didn't really make a whole lot of sense even after the fact. But it was still fun), except for Flynn's lack of concussions.

And yet, my daughter and I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I'll certainly watch it again sometime.

The only negative for me, I think, was that the witch's comments to Rapunzel were so cruel, and yet didn't hardly get a reaction out of her. I'm not sure that I should expect a reaction, given their relationship at that point, but it really bugs me that there wasn't one.

Well, and one other thing about it is that I haven't read the original (or, if I have, it's been too many years, and I don't remember anything more than the broadest of outlines of it), so I can't really compare it to that. If I had to guess, though, I would expect that there were very large liberties taken with the story.

Still, it was very well done. Oh, and I haven't watched it in 3D yet. We'll have to see if that makes any difference. Now that I think about it, I don't think it will, except maybe in the lantern scene. I would expect that scene to look really wild in 3D (it already looked mighty cool to begin with).

Taking it on the Run

We had friends over last night to watch the basketball games, so I didn't watch the Caps game until this morning. Unfortunately, I didn't set enough automatic recording for the basketball game, so when I came up to add more recording for basketball, I was stuck seeing a minute or so from the third period of the Caps game.

Because of that, after the Caps scored their second goal in the first five minutes, I fast-forwarded to the third period. I was astounded at how quickly the Caps let Buffalo back in the game, allowing two in the second five minutes. Then there was a whole lot of nothing (really; no scoring and no penalties) until the last ten minutes of the game.

Those last ten minutes provided time for four more goals, two for each side. The Caps twice went a goal behind, and then came back. In fact, the last of those goals was quite dramatic, coming on the power play, with the goalie pulled. OV took a shot, Arnott was camped in front of the goal. He smoothly took the rebound, pulled it over to his backhand, and calmly dumped it into the middle of the empty net.

The overtime was looking like it was also going to be a whole lot of nothing, but OV got the puck in the corner, wheeled out around a defender to the half-wall, then into the middle. Finally, he fired a shot that was headed towards the far corner when it deflected off a defender's stick, then off another defender's skate, and finally slid into the far bottom corner of the goal. I think I'd rate that as OV's second-most lucky goal of the season, behind only the one fairly early in the season that had missed the goal short-side, but the goalie stuck his stick out in mid-air (I still don't have any idea what the goalie was trying to do with that). The blade of the stick (vertical, at this point) deflected that one on goal; I can't remember if it hit the goalie again before going into the net.

The parts of the game that I saw looked pretty good, but it sounded like the intervening span did not, based on the Post's quotes of Boudreau. Certainly, that was more shots against than you want to see, and more pucks getting past your goalie. John Carlson had looked really good, earlier in the night, but one of the two later goals (I think Stafford's) was totally his fault, as he got trapped too far up ice, and was a little out of control getting back. He ended up hitting Neuvy, slipping the puck past him.

One definite positive of the game was that, not only did both power plays score, but they both looked good in doing so. I liked the strategy on the last power play, in particular (where Neuvy had already been pulled), parking Knuble and Arnott in front of the goalie. I don't know that there will be too many chances to replicate that, but it was very nice.

So, the win put the Caps in front in the East, although the Flyers caught back up in their overtime loss to the Rangers today. But tied on points and games (though not ROW, sadly) is still a pretty good place to be.

Now if we can just get some defensemen back, that would be nice. A third pair of Sloan and Collins (hadn't even heard of him before the game, I don't think) did not inspire confidence. I think I would have felt better if Orlov had been the call-up (despite him only having played 10-ish games in North America), although I think he's on a Hershey-only contract for the rest of this season, so I think he wasn't an option.

Hopefully, whatever the state of our blue line, we can take at least two of the remaining three. The last two being a home-and-home with Florida, currently mired in last place in the East, would seem to make that feasible. Well, that and that the Caps have generally done well with Toronto.

I guess we'll see about the latter on Tuesday.

Catching up with the Caps

(I wrote this a couple of days ago, but didn't post it until tonight. I'll write about the Sabres game separately after this.)

I seem to have skipped writing about a few Caps games in a row, again. Hmm... need to work on that.

Since that last post, we've played Philadelphia, Ottawa, Montreal, Carolina, and now Columbus.

The Philly game was one of the more frustrating ones I've ever watched. The Caps were decent through the first period, but after the early second-period goal, they just seemed to fall back into a shell, hoping to outlast the Flyers. Surprise, surprise, that didn't work. The Flyers got a couple of really nice goals (Briere's tip-in was particularly nice), and suddenly it was tied. The good thing is that the game getting tied got the team back into trying, but they still ended up behind shortly thereafter. Then they really started trying, and managed to tie it up again on a MarJo goal. That was enough to get it into overtime, where not much happened. The Caps won it on the shootout, with all three shooters scoring. Now, to be clear, the reason I was so frustrated with this game was that I had very low expectations of the team, especially given their injury situation. But to sit back after getting several gift goals just had me really torqued. Enough so that I almost turned it off once they fell behind (the penalty calling did not help here, either).

The next two, as back-to-back games, were kind of linked in my mind. Before the first, I was thinking about a final score, and was thinking 2-0, but in the opposite direction. I don't remember being really upset as I was in the Philly game. I think I was annoyed about the second goal allowed, but that's about the extent of what I remember. As you'd expect, I was pretty happy with the Montreal game. I didn't really agree with Holtby being the star of the game, despite the shutout. Not that he wasn't good, but he just wasn't challenged all that much (which is to say that I think he was good, not great). I think I would have gone with Backstrom or Semin.

Weirdly, I'm remembering less about the Carolina game, I think. I thought the team played quite well, and was a bit unlucky. I really kept expecting them to score again and win cleanly. I was also very surprised by that Skinner goal in the third; that was quite fluky (similarly to Semin's goal in Montreal, if taken from an even worse position). Oh, and that penalty shot? That was probably the weakest penalty shot call I've ever seen. It was just sad. If LaRose had scored on the shot, I'd have been really peeved. And that was the game with the astounding non-call with half a minute left when OV was sent flying just after crossing into the zone. That sort of thing being a penalty at one point in the game, and not in another, is why I don't watch the NBA. Oh, and the biggest thing to come out of the game was the injury to Wideman. Ugh. Hope he comes back soon, although it doesn't sound like he will.

Last night's game against Columbus was, again, pretty good. The pressure was consistent, and they were definitely playing to win. Mason did a good job of stopping first shots by the Caps, but left three rebounds that turned into three tap-in, empty net goals. And the fourth one was a beautiful center-from-behind to one-touch shot, from Sturm to Arnott. Unfortunately, Neuwirth did not have a good game (not horrible, but this definitely should not have gone to overtime). Kudos to Chimmer for the OT goal, especially since I was shocked he was even on the ice in that situation. And kudos to Carlson and Knuble, who both had fabulous games in ways both obvious and subtle.

The big downer was that Erskine got into a fight at the end of the first (never did see why, either), and seems to have gotten hurt, as he only played one more shift the rest of the game. Sloan was already in the game; if this means we have Sloan and Fahey both playing the next game or three, that does not bode well at all. It'd be nice if we could hear that Poti is able to return, finally.

In any event, this isn't looking good, at all. Next up is Buffalo, tomorrow. We'll keep our fingers crossed that we can finish out the season with three more wins. That would pretty well guarantee keeping second place, with an outside shot at first. As I said, fingers crossed.

Not Every Dog Has His Day

The Dogs were not served last night in the national semifinals. VCU and Kentucky both went down, although both games were quite good.

The Butler/VCU game actually left me with an ambivalent feeling. It was good to guarantee that the two underdogs would play each other, in that it guaranteed one of them would play for the title. But it was bad in that it didn't give them a chance to both knock out another top seed, and be able to play one another for the title.

In any event, I was happy to see Kentucky go down. I was disappointed about VCU, however. I was hoping that they could continue their run. Like George Mason, five years ago, I had a feeling they were going out, but I was definitely hoping the feeling was wrong.

In any event, major kudos to the Rams for showing so many other teams their horns. I hope that they'll do a bit better next year than GMU did the year after their run (winning their conference but wiping out in the first round of the tournament, as I recall).

In any event, Butler/UConn tomorrow night promises to be a good game, as well. Unfortunately, if I were a betting man, I would put my money on UConn. But we'll hope for one more for the dogs.