Prepping for doomsday?

For fairly stupid reasons, I was unable to continue watching the Caps game for a bit, so I flipped over to this absolute trainwreck of a show called Doomsday Preppers. Apparently, the National Geographic channel puts out a call to people waiting for doomsday, to see what their preparations are for that eventuality. I don't watch the channel, but I would certainly expect them to have higher standards for their programming.

The person they had on (who apparently had five years worth of food on-hand for herself, but was worried about defending herself) was worried about "a government takeover". I kept wanting to ask, "takeover of what? They're already in charge".

Sadly, I watched the rest of the episode, hoping it would start to make a bit more sense. But no. And at the end of the show, they had that explicit call for people to talk about their own preparations for a future show.

I knew two people who were working for the National Geographic channel back when it was starting up, and I hope neither of them is in any way involved with the show. It's just ... I don't know what I really expected from the channel, but definitely something better than that.

Then the second show (which I only watched a few minutes of) was about finding stuff using metal detectors. Well, they won't be filming any episodes of that show in Virginia.

I guess I expected pretty high-brow programming from Nat Geo, probably pretty similar to The Discovery Channel. But this was just a train-wreck. So how do I stop reception of that channel, again?

Cardiac Caps are back?

Well, tonight was quite the game for the Caps. I watched the first period without being able to pay too much attention, unfortunately (had to watch the kids), but they didn't seem all that great. And the goal allowed was some pretty terrible defense (first on Shultz, who went down too early to try to block a shot, and then on the other players who were back, who didn't pick up for him. Perreault tried to help out on the back-check, but was too far away).

But when I saw the period summary, the Caps were ahead on shots and chances pretty comfortably, so I was feeling a lot better heading into the second. The second didn't start out too well, as the Islanders were ahead on shots 8-1 at one point, but they started coming around before it was over. At the end, the Caps were way behind on shots (though ahead for the game) but still ahead on chances.

So things were still looking decent heading into the third, despite being down a goal. But a barely-deflected shot got past Neuvy a couple of minutes in, leaving the chance of walking out with a victory very slim. And the Islanders were not content to sit back and play defense after scoring, either. The Caps were trying, but couldn't get much offense for quite a while. When Brouwer took a delay of game penalty with seven and a half left, it was getting pretty dire. They killed off that penalty without any great drama, and started to generate some offensive zone time, but nothing was getting past Nabokov.

But Perreault got the puck in the corner with three and a half left, and whipped it across the crease to Brouwer on the doorstep for an easy tip-in to bring it back within one.

They pulled Neuvy shortly thereafter, and weathered some very near misses by the Lon Gislanders. New York threw the puck over the boards (onto the bench) with half a minute remaining, giving the Caps an O-zone faceoff to try to win. Halpern got the puck back, with Wideman pushing it back to Laich. Laich's shot through a metric truckload of traffic deflected off Brouwer and into the short side of the net to send the crowd into pandemonium. Unsurprisingly, both teams pretty much played four corners ball to send the game into overtime at two apiece.

Not much happened in the first minute or so of overtime, but as the line changes were just going to turn the second shift into the third, OV was sprung down the left-hand side, with just one defender. I think he was trying his old, shoot between the legs so the defender is a screen, move, but put it inside the defender. It still fooled Nabokov five-hole, though, giving OV his... 11th? I think, career overtime goal.

It was quite the finish to what had been a pretty innocuous game for fifty-six minutes. And Troy got his only two goals of the month in regulation, there.

Neuvy had a very good game, with some great saves. And while the second goal deflected so little that I'd like to say he should have had it, he made plenty of excellent stops to make up for it.

Schultz had that one gaffe, but was good otherwise. Orlov had a couple of rookie plays, unfortunately, though he also did well at the end, when the chips were down.

This felt like an '09-10 game, where the Caps were always coming from behind in the third period and OT. I'm not sure I really want to return to those days (well, I didn't like their tendency to rely on doing that, but I did love their ability to do it), but it was great to see for one night. And to see them win when allowing more than one goal.

Can't celebrate it too much, especially with Florida also winning, but we'll hope they go into Friday's Devils game riding high.


On the ball

I've been a dabbling photographer for a long time, trying to get a bit more serious, lately.

Because of that, I watied a long time to get a ball head for my camera tripod. I have a nice tripod (not a great one, I've read in several places, but a good one) which came with the standard pan/tilt head. That's the only kind of head I've ever used, plus I didn't realize the head could be replaced, so I never gave it a lot of thought. (Mostly of the, "well, when I'm thinking about replacing this one, that's what I'll do. But that won't be anytime soon" variety.)

But recently I read something that led me to think about the head being replaceable, so I pulled the tripod out and started monkeying with it until I figured out how to take the head off. And it's a good thing I did, because I found that the tripod is better than I thought, in that it can go down to only a few inches off the ground. I don't expect to use that feature a lot, but I'm sure there will be times.

But now that I knew I could put a ball head on it, I went out and got the Really Right Stuff BH-55. It's major overkill for my current needs (heck, the mid-size ball head might be overkill right this moment), but I didn't want to find myself wanting the bigger model a year down the road.

One good thing about that is that the knobs are quite oversized, so they're very easy to manipulate.

But the really big difference is just using a ball head. It's amazing how much easier it is to set up than the pan/tilt head. Not only does it take mere seconds to level, but getting the camera on and off with a twist and slide is so-o-o much easier than having to (un)screw it.

I suspect it's also more tightly held than before, but unfortunately I don't have any good way to measure that. But it should help make better pictures, which is definitely the priority.

So if you're thinking about getting a ball head, but can't decide: do it. You won't regret it. Most likely you'll only regret not doing it sooner.

Sparks Flying

I mentioned reading The Hunger Games last week, and having the second book on order.

Well, Amazon outdid themselves, and managed to deliver it on Monday (ordered Saturday). So, not wanting to lose the storyline, I dove right in. It didn't pick up immediately where the last one left off, but not too far from it.

As expected, much of the focus of this one is in moving beyond Kat's significance in the Hunger Games themselves. Unsurprisingly, she has become a bit of a symbol for many others. This is evident very early on, although Kat herself doesn't realize it for quite a long time.

What I found particularly compelling is her gradual conversion from fighting that to embracing it. At first, she wants to quell it, then to run away before she finally accepts how things are. Also, I thought her relationships with Gale and Peeta were extremely well done. I'd want to hit her over the head for how confused she gets at times, but then I remind myself how I was in dealing with the opposite sex at seventeen. And I didn't have anything like the pressure on myself that she had. Nor her reason for not wanting to ever have children.

The big thing I didn't expect was actually revisiting the Hunger Games, and especially not the way it happened. If you're thinking something along the lines of, "Well, it is called the Hunger Games trilogy", I'm fairly sure the third book will not be going there. I guess I'll know for sure when it arrives (Tuesday, hopefully).

Anyway, overall, I think this was a better book than the first one (helped, probably, by not being weighted down by needing to introduce the setting and characters). Certainly, it was harder to put down. Let's hope that continues in the third.

I'm less convinced about a movie working with it, though. I think more will have to be cut, and the movie will suffer for it. But I hope I'm wrong about that. And I hope it won't take two or three years for it to come out.

Caps on Fire

I haven't wanted to talk about the Caps too much, of late.

I watched the Sens game in a near-total state of disgust; following my normal pattern, I turned it off at 4-0 (although I thought about doing so at 2-0, and wish I had). It wasn't quite as wretched a performance as the one against the Canes, and it certainly helped that they showed a bit more life after I turned it off. But they still laid an egg in a game they should have been desperate to win. More to the point, they didn't even show any energy. My only regret was that I would have liked to have seen Perreault scoring with his tongue.

The Montreal game, on the other hand, was great. I didn't talk about that one right away because I only watched the first period that night; I was too tired to stay awake after putting the kids to bed.

Things were already going quite well at that point, with Perreault having scored (thanks to some terrible defending and goaltending, but we'll take it), but they blew the game open nine minutes after I turned it on yesterday morning. Chimmer and OV scored sixteen seconds apart to remove any doubt of the outcome.

Bourque did get a shorty early in the third to make it a little more interesting, but the competitive part of the game was still over.

I was really happy to see Ward get the empty netter with half a minute left. For one, it was good for him; for another, this team has done a terrible job of taking advantage of empty cages under Hunter.

Without getting too bogged down in the details, it was a very well-played game from start to finish. Neuvy had a great game. The Caps were getting offensive pressure, and shots, until the third period. The power play did decently, until the terrible play that led to the shorty (I would have said they did great, if it hadn't been for that). The PK only allowed two shots on four man advantages. As I said, a very good game.

And despite my feelings that the Caps should unload talent at the deadline this year (the Canadiens game did nothing to change that), and despite being the second game of a back-to-back, the Caps really came out firing last night against the Maple Leafs.

MarJo got things started only 32 seconds in with a wraparound (ok, that was more a matter of bad goaltending than anything great MarJo did, but at least he took advantage) score that demoralized the Leafs faithful. And Semin kept the hits coming three minutes later with a great takeaway in the faceoff circle (set up by Perreault forcing the man to stop right when Semin was coming up from behind), and turning to fire it into the bottom corner before Reimer knew it was coming.

The Caps kept regular, though not constant pressure up, and got goals from Halpern and Aucoin in the second period, ending any possible suspense. The Coiner goal was a particularly pretty passing play, with OV coming down the left wing, passing all the way across to MarJo, who dumped it immediately to Aucoin charging the net. He played it off a skate to his stick, and into the net, probably before Reimer knew he was there.

Up to that point, Neuvy had had a fantastic game, even stopping several odd-man rushes and breakaways, but he did give up two in the third. We won't really hold either against him, though; one would have been a really amazing save, and the other was just impossible.

Aucoin was named player of the game, although I think that was mostly because he's pretty much a career AHL'er. He had a good game (1G, 1A, E, 3S), although I didn't think he was the best player on the ice for the Caps (I'm not sure who I'd pick between Semin, OV, and MarJo).

In any event, it was a really great game for the Caps. Possibly their best since Hunter took over (certainly the best to take place outside of the phone booth), with fantastic offensive pressure. They had several shifts where they spent almost the entire shift in the O-zone, and some scoring generated off the forecheck (Halpern's).

I think I'm still in favor of selling this year, although I must admit that it doesn't look as necessary as it did two days ago. But I think they can get enough for TVo and Wideman (plus, I don't think they'll miss Wideman nearly as much as what his return would be worth) to make deals worthwhile. And I don't think they'll miss Hamr at all. I didn't think that to begin with, but his benching the last two games did nothing to dissuade me of that.

Plus, the big thing about selling now would be that it would give a much better feel for the mental toughness of everyone left, which would be very valuable going forward. Especially with as fragile, mentally, as this team has very regularly seemed.

We'll see. Next game is against the Islanders on Tuesday, which is the day after the trade deadline. So we will definitely know by the time the puck drops for that game.


Blown away

I didn't get to see hardly any of the Caps game tonight. My recording had a large chunk (all?) of Bloodsport, which was quite bizarre. The crawl along the bottom said that the game couldn't be shown. But when I went to live (the game was still in the second period), it was on. So, not sure what happened.

In any event, though, I ended up glad that the recording was blown. When I turned it on, it was late in the second, and the Caps were already down 4-0. Almost immediately, I saw at the top of the screen that takeaways were 9-0 going the wrong way. That, combined with the fairly listless play I saw in the several minutes I watched, led me to just turn it off.

And, given that the Caps couldn't manage a single goal against Carolina's third string (I think) goalie, I'm glad that I did. And while the Caps did manage to get a few takeaways, the final tally was 20-4. So it didn't get any closer. I would have been really pissed off if I'd sat through that.

Oh, and score effects be damned, because they only managed 17 shots on goal. Oy.

If there was a positive to take out of the game, I have no idea what it was.

This is a team that should be desperate, and they seem to have sleep-walked through the game. Ugh. If this is the best they can do, McPhee should cut bait on this season, and trade Wideman, Knuble, Vokoun, and just about every other non-core veteran. Then, at least, games like this will be less painful, as they'll improve draft position for next season.

Ogres are like onions...

Ok, don't really want to talk about Shrek.

I finally got around to watching Sucker Punch last night. I bought it a while ago (late August, I see), because the trailers had left me curious and a bit confused. By the time I got around to watching it, all I could remember were the shots of the various fight scenes (which were very confusing because they covered several milieux), and feeling like it should be a Tarantino movie.

Well, it certainly wasn't a Tarantino movie.

Anyway, I'll come back to it in a second. To discuss it, I also need to talk about Inception, which my wife and I watched last month. I'd been meaning to write down my thoughts on it, but kept skittering away every time I thought about it a bit. But it fits in with Sucker Punch very interestingly.

Surprisingly, Inception was the easier one to follow as it went along.

Inception is all about invading people's dreams to find information. Or, at least, that's what the main characters generally do. But this time, they're hired to try to use a businessman's dreams to plant a new idea in his head. What makes that especially tricky is that the businessman must think the idea was his own.

Getting back to Sucker Punch, we're introduced to the main character as her mother passes away. Her step-dad finds that her and her sister inherit everything (apparently the big house they're living in was mom's), and goes to attack her. She fends him off until he decides to go after the (much) younger sister, and he locks her in her room. While he goes after the sister (who locks herself in the closet), she goes out her window, down a downspout to the ground, in the front door, gets his gun from his study, and gets to her sister's room. She seems to be too late, but threatens him with the gun as he's in the doorway of the sister's room.

She can't take it, and tries to shoot him. She misses, and apparently kills her sister (maybe; when it first came up, I thought he had already killed her. It was unclear). Broken by that, she stumbles out of the room, threatens to kill him again, then drops the gun and runs away. He has her arrested, then thrown in a mental institute.

What's missing, entirely, from that description of the first two or three minutes of the movie is that there is no dialogue (though there are a few sentences of narration at the beginning; the key to note there is who does the narration. It doesn't say, and I had no idea, but the choice is interesting), the only sound is a stripped down remake of the Eurhythmics' 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)', with Emily Browning (again, I had no idea while watching) performing.

What's also missing is how stylized the camerawork is. It's fantastically well done in a noir-ish sort of way. I don't really know how to describe it better.

The thing that brings it around somewhat to Inception is when she enters the institution, we find that the stepfather has arranged things with one of the keepers there that she'll get lobotomized in five days. Realizing that, she becomes detached from reality in an extended, imaginary sequence where she's an orphan left there, to be claimed soon by a high roller.

Getting back to Inception, the movie starts with a detached scene where a man (DiCaprio) is found on a beach and taken to see an old man in a Japanese-style castle next to the beach.

We then go to another scene of DiCaprio breaking in to the same castle, but there's a lot more bustle and energy, and he seems to be trying to extract information. This is used to introduce how dreams are manipulated, and some strengths and weaknesses of the strategem.

But it gets really interesting when the target of the second dream tracks down DiCaprio's character in real life, and works to convince him to plant the idea I mentioned. This is thought to be impossible, but DiCaprio doesn't brush it off as such, and he is eventually convinced to undertake the mission.

The leads to the assembling of the team; most importantly, finding the person who will design the dream worlds through which the synthetic dreams will take place. Along the way we start to get hints at why DiCaprio isn't the person doing that, as he seems to have once been.

Exploring the ability to shape dreams is a fascinating sequence, and leads to the shot that's used on the cover of the disc. Man, I would have killed to have been able to do that sort of thing when I was a bit younger; playing with both space and physics. Very neat stuff.

And the big question, of course, is how they will implant this idea; they need to work out a plan for that. We already know that dreams can be nested within dreams; we saw that in the second dream sequence. They decide that four levels of dream nesting are required for this task.

Once they get into the man's dreams, the movie really takes off, as it becomes truly action-packed.

But the action isn't an excuse to not have a real story. It really does advance the plot. This really was, if you'll excuse the phrase, a brilliantly conceived idea with excellent execution. When they encounter a couple of curve-balls, their reactions to them are very good.

Returning to Sucker Punch, she enters somewhat of a dream world where she envisions a plan to get out of the institution (or whorehouse, as she imagines it). She enlists several of the other inmates to help her, and they need to acquire several items to help them make their way out. One part that's interesting is that it actually cuts back and forth between reality and her dream, but it's easy to miss those cuts. I think I missed most of them until I looked back after the fact, and realized that that was what was going on.

But what really made it funky was when they tried to get each of those items. They don't show what is done (though there are hints); this is where the fight scenes come in. The fights scenes are straight-out allegories of what they're trying to accomplish.

And this is all very well put-together; I didn't know what was going on until the end. In fact, I was very confused several times about what the deal was. But it all came together beautifully in the end.

Inception, on the other hand, despite having more layers, was actually more straightforward to understand. I was never lost in that one. I wasn't sure how they were going to pull things together, and there were a couple of loose ends that I wasn't sure how they tied in, but the overall structure was pretty clear. And again, it was neat to see how those loose ends were tied in.

The explanation for why DiCaprio's character didn't do the dream architecture anymore was quite interesting, and very well told. And it tied in beautifully with why he agreed to take on the inception mission (as well as why he was sure that the inception mission was fundamentally possible, when others didn't believe it was). It was also pretty neat how that led to the mission having a fifth layer that was the true climax of the movie.

Overall, these were two fantastically good movies; not the happiest of movies, not ones that I'll watch repeatedly, but really, really excellent execution. I really liked their multilayered approach, and both the storytelling style and art of each one. They each have their own character (Inception outright warping reality while Sucker Punch was escaping reality), that comes through beautifully. Both movies were also pretty gritty, in that major things went wrong.

And both were very well acted as well. DiCaprio I have a love-hate relationship with; sometimes I think he's great, while other times I hate him. I liked him in this one. And Ellen Page was also excellent. Abbie Cornish, I think, gave the best performance in Sucker Punch, but everyone in it was good. Plus, major props to Sucker Punch for the music. They chose good pieces, and remade them in a way that I still liked them.


Another upcoming movie

I noticed recently that Dr Seuss' excellent The Lorax story is being brought to the big screen. I must admit that my first thought was to be completely dismissive, as the last several adaptations of his books haven't been very interesting (I get the impression that his estate doesn't care too much about it). But then I saw that the creative group behind it is the same ones who did Despicable Me. As I mentioned previously, I liked that one a lot. So now I'm really curious about this movie.

How much do you want it?

The upcoming movie, Hunger Games, got me kind of curious, so I got the book recently, and finished reading it yesterday.

I could see why they wanted to make a movie out of it; it should translate to the screen fairly easily. And it was well- and sparingly-written, had a very compelling plot, several interesting characters, and an interesting world.

The world is some kind of post-apocalyptic one, where the US (or maybe all of North America) broke up into regions with a capital at Panem (exact location unknown, except that it is somewhere along the western feet of the Rockies). Sometime before the book began (75-100 years prior, it seems), the thirteen Districts rose up against the Capitol, and were put down. One of the Districts was completely extinguished, in fact.

The remainder are pretty harshly ruied, with minimal food and energy, a lot of policing, and an annual droit du seignor-type ritual called The Hunger Games. Adolescents (age 12-18) are chosen from each District by lottery; one boy and one girl, and sent to compete at the Capitol. To win, all you need to do is survive. And the game environment changes every year, but it is always some kind of wilderness.

Kat, the main character, is actually in pretty decent shape for this. Although she's at a disadvantage, being a girl, she's been hunting all her life (bow-hunting, mostly, although some trapping as well) and knows a lot of wild plants, as well.

We see how she grew up (poor, in District 12, which seems to comprise Appalachia), and how her father died in a mining accident when she was young. Plus, we see how the clinical depression her mom sunk into when her father passed away left her as the family bread-winner (her sister, Prim, was much too young), and destroyed her trust in her mother.

After all that, Prim is really the only one Kat loves (she did love her father very much also, and he, thankfully, was able to teach her to hunt before his passing). So, when her sister is chosen, Kat volunteers to take her place in the Games (this, we're told, is almost unheard-of in that District, though common in a couple of the wealthier ones).

Things get more complicated when the boy chosen from their District is one that Kat doesn't really know, but feels deeply obligated to.

So the question becomes, can she live through the games?

I kind of expected the book to become about more than the Games themselves, and to a small degree it did. But not substantially, though it appears that that is what happens in the second (and third, I assume) books in the series.

It was extremely well done, and I've got the second book on order (was at the library yesterday, but there was a long waiting list to get it). The only negative thing I can say about the book is that it shied away from what would have been some pretty brutal moral decisions. But I think I'm glad that it did; while that makes for a much more interesting story, and main character, it definitely puts distance between the character and most people.

We'll see, but as I said, it should translate well, and I'm looking forward to the movie even more, now.

Update: It occurs to me that I should have been a bit more specific about Kat's duties after her father died. It wasn't like she found a job (mining, it seems, would have been her only option, if she was old enough); she had to hunt and gather so she could get food for the family. And she traded more that she'd found for the stuff she couldn't hunt. And that trading was why she wasn't arrested for her illegal hunting; some of her "customers" liked to get the extra meat she brought.



So how did tonight's game go against the Lightning, who are trailing the Caps in the standings?

Answer: not well. The first period went reasonably well, with the Bolts ahead on shots, but the Caps ahead on chances. The downside: the Bolts converted on one of their chances. The Caps? Not so much.

Things went downhill quickly after that, especially for Hendricks. Early in the second, the Caps had the offense going pretty well in the offensive zone, when Hendricks got the puck at the point, in the middle, and went to pass it over to a defenseman at the wall, just to keep the puck moving. Well, he didn't lift it, and Stamkos poked it to center ice, where he had a clean breakaway. As you'd more or less expect, he converted that for his 40th goal of the season.

And yeah, as things have been going for quite a while now; allow two? You lose.

Perreault and Laich did combine on a nice bang-bang play to bring the margin back within one, but it was all Tampa, the rest of the way. The Caps taking two dumb penalties in the third (and not getting the calls when the Lightning appeared to have returned the favor), did not help any.

So, all hope is not lost, but things are not looking good, going forward. The Panthers stay two points ahead, and get a game in hand.

Now the Caps get a day off, then get to face Carolina in Raleigh, on Monday. Let's hope they play a lot more like they did last night than they played tonight.


Last night's game against the Panthers was probably the best road game the Caps have played under Coach Hunter. They came out playing hard and hungry, and really took it to Florida.

The one lapse in their play (nobody covered Flash, close to the net), late in the first period, did cost them, resulting in them finishing the first period down by a goal. They were ahead, 17-12, in shots and 8-7 in chances.

The rest of the way they did a great job of keeping ahead on chances, being especially effective stifling the Panthers' chances. I don't have the chance numbers, but the cats only got 11 shots the rest of the way, all of which TVo was ready for.

Things were still looking bleak for quite a while, though, with the Caps unable to get on the board at all until OV put a power play goal in about five minutes into the third. So the game was tied for quite a while, but Sasha minor put one off a defenseman's stick and into the top corner about nine minutes later.

Further encouragement: I expected the Caps to pull back into a shell from that point on. While that was largely true, they did still manage to generate a few more chances the rest of the way. And, as mentioned, the shell did hold.

So the Caps managed to win their second game in the last month or so, where they allowed an opposition goal.

Cynicism aside, there was a lot to like about this game. The effort was there, from start to finish; they outplayed Florida solidly; and they balanced the playing time a lot better than Hunter has generally done.

And it was a great time to put on such a performance, going against the team ahead of them in the standings.



Was at the grocery store last night, and needed to pick up some cereal. I normally eat unsweetened shredded wheat, of some sort. Post was at full price, and there was no store brand. But, looking for the store brand, I saw the Kashi 'Autumn Wheat', which looked pretty comparable. They do healthy stuff, right?

So I spent a couple of minutes looking. Kashi has sweetener (dried juice, I believe), and uses organic whole wheat, instead of whatever Post uses. Should be better, shouldn't it? Well, slightly fewer calories (odd, given the sweetener), and more iron, but no B-vitamins, which Post has quite a few of. And Post had small amounts of zinc and... one other mineral.

So, overall, the Kashi is less good for you. Who'd'a thunk it?



Well, I can't say as expectations of the Caps winning were all that high coming into the game tonight against San Jose. Even if we were to ignore how the teams are doing lately, there's also the matter of how lopsided their head-to-head record is. Punctuated, of course, by the score of their last encounter. And seeing Holtby in net for the Caps, given his record in the AHL this season, didn't exactly help matters, either.

But the Caps did manage to come out punching, giving up some chances, but getting a few of their own as well. In fact, the first period ended pretty even; the Caps were down a goal, but were up one in shots. They were looking pretty good, actually, despite the score. And they managed to keep it that close despite being 2-0 in penalties given up. As I said, not too bad; especially against the Sharks and playing for the second night in a row.

But things went a bit wobbly pretty quickly in the second. Pavelski got his second goal three and a half minutes in with a complete fluke from center ice (doesn't that sound familiar?). The Caps continued to play well, but surrendered another with four minutes left on a deflected shot that bounced off Holtby's arm, and over his body, and was pushed in by Marleau (both of those goals were on the power play). I was about ready to turn it off when that one went in, since it seemed things were not going the Caps' way, but am glad I didn't. Orlov managed to put a slapper past Greiss with less than a second left in the period (it was nice to be the one scoring one of those, for once, instead of giving it up).

I'm not sure how they decided it, and under what rule, but they decided not to drop puck for the ensuing face-off, and declared the period over (to be sure, there was only about 3/4 second left, which wouldn't be long enough to score, even off a slapshot off the draw, but I still don't understand how they can just declare the period over).

The Caps really came out roaring in the third, getting seven shots in the first two and a half minutes, but none of them found the back of the net. When San Jose scored again, two minutes later, I decided that I had had enough. It appears that I missed a Marleau power play goal (I thought we had a good PK, at home... Tonight? Not so much), and Hamr and Sarge adding goals to make it look more respectable.

Recker was called up for the game, in a move that completely baffles me. He played only a minute and a half, and somehow managed to get a misconduct penalty while on the bench. Not bright. Was that worth the bench spot? I'm pretty sure Aucoin or Knuble woiuld have provided more value. Enough to win the game? Of course not, but it's all about giving yourself the best chance to win, and I can't see how Recker is that.

I'm getting more and more disenchanted with Hunter as a coach. I don't know whether his system rots, or he's just completely failing to get the team to play it, but things are not really going right. Offensively, they're supposed to play for very good chances, I think. At least, that's the only way to explain the dearth of shots (tonight was much better in that respect, but again, much of the edge there was when they were down two or more goals). And if you're going to do that, you bloody well better have a high shooting percentage. But the percentage has dropped under Hunter (not a lot, but they didn't start out with a large margin).

Their "success" under Hunter has all been predicated on awesome goaltending. As pointed out earlier on Japer's (see JP's comments), the Caps have allowed a total of one goal (yes, combined) in all of their wins in the last thirteen games. That's definitely not a recipe for success. They must score more consistently.

I've pretty much given up on the team even making the playoffs this year (especially given the utter lack of good news on Backstrom). Trade Semin (maybe the Kings will be sufficiently desperate), trade Wideman (unless they can re-sign him for next year, which I don't think they can), trade TVo. Whatever. Stock up on picks and young studs.

Of course, that still leaves them with a coaching situation to be addressed, and I have no idea what to do, there. I don't think Hunter's the answer, but I can't say that I have any better ideas. French, from Hershey? No clue if that's a good idea or not.

In the shorter term, we've got another Florida trip coming up, with the Panthers on Friday and the Lightning on Saturday. If they can't pull out all four points, I'm all for blowing things up, at this point.

Update: After sleeping on it last night, I think I juxtaposed a few things in my mind last night. Or, at least, I was a bit harsher than deserved, because of being disappointed with the result. The effort was really good last night, and I shouldn't be as down about the cause of the shot differential, because it was still about even when the game was close. I'm still pretty pessimistic about the season as a whole, but shouldn't be so down on last night.

Better Late than Never?

Yesterday's game started off on the wrong foot, with me not having the recording set. Fortunately, I went to turn it on pretty quickly after it started and only missed ten minutes or so. How did that go for the Caps? Not great, as they appeared to be getting outplayed by quite a bit. The silver lining was that there was no score, so they were far from out of it.

And they were generating a few chances of their own, at least.

But I ended up pretty irriitated at the whole game. The one strength of this team, under Coach Hunter, has been their ability to avoid giving up odd-man rushes. Really, that's been the only bright spot that might be attributed to the coach (the other bright spot being that the goaltending has rebounded to about where we expected it to be). And how did that go, yesterday? I saw either three or four 2-on-1's yesterday (the last one was on a power play in the third, and who was the one? That would be OV. There's no doubt about him having a lot of skills, but he's still just about the last player on the team you'd want back for that. As you'd expect, that turned out to be the winning goal).

How did Neuvy do, in goal? Very well, actually; the winning goal was the only odd-man rush on which the Rangers scored. All three of the goals would have been fantastic saves, if he had been able to make them. And he did make a few more fantastic saves to keep the team in the game.

One small (very small, actually) bright spot was that they did show appropriate desperation once they were down by a pair, which led to some great offensive zone shifts. That was the sort of play we want to see when they're tied, or up. You know, keeping play in the offensive zone.

But they still ended up behind on shots for the game, only having a slight edge in the third (you know, when they were down by two).

So, all in all, it was a pretty irritating game to watch. There were some nice moments, particularly Semin's sniping of the top corner for the first goal, and some of the saves. But it completely failed as evidence that things are headed in the right direction with this team.

And San Jose is coming to town tonight. Now would be a very good time to refute that statement, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

On the personnel front, Green is starting to skate, and Knuble has now been a healthy scratch in the last two games. I hope the team is doing something with him like they did with Sarge, because getting scratched in favor of Aucoin and Beagle is not a sign that team management is happy with you. Or that you have a future with the team. We'll see what happens, I guess.


Jettisoning position

The game started out with great promise, with the Caps completely dominating play through the first period (to the tune of 12-4 on shots, 6-3 on chances). The scoreboard, however, showed nothing had hit the twine. The summary put up showed Hendricks doing great: something like a shot, a hit, and 5 of 7 on draws. Not too much to notice, there, I think, except that that meant that he took almost half the draws for the period (there were 15). I guess Halpern was getting thrown out of pretty much every faceoff for the period.

The second period was pretty even, with chances dead even at 5 and shots 12-11 in favor of the good guys. Again, though, the score remained deadlocked (though the Caps looked very dangerous in their lone power play).

It was the best game for watching in quite a while, though; the Caps were doing a good job of keeping most of the play in the offensive end.

It was in the third when things started to go sideways. The first ten minutes were pretty even, with, perhaps, a slight edge to the Caps. Then the Caps got a power play and scored in ten seconds. A couple of minutes later, they got a double minor, and scored in twelve seconds. The second half of that double minor had about thirty seconds of pretty atrocious play, but didn't allow any damage (and looked pretty good the rest of the two minutes). But then Hamr took a slashing penalty. The PK was looking good, but a minute and change later Laich was called for playing with a broken stick (he stopped a shot with it, and then passed to Brouwer, probably not even realizing that the shot had broken his stick).

And that's when all hell broke loose. Winnipeg had already pulled Pavelec, because of the power play, so now it was 6-on-3, and it was pretty ugly. They held it off for a while, but allowed a goal with only ten or so seconds left on Hamr's penalty. That wasn't too bad, but twelve seconds later, Big Buff took a shot from the red line which caromed off a defender's stick, and took a weird hop right into the net. Total fluke.

The Caps played pretty well the rest of the way, but were unable to solve the riddle of Pavelec, even through overtime. The 18 seconds of power play they got at the end of overtime didn't really help, either, so they went into the gimmick. And yeah, things didn't go so well, there. OV scored, which surprised me, but Semin and Perreault didn't really challenge Ondrej. And TVo didn't get a stop. *sigh*

Anticlimactic end to what had been, to that point, a very good game. I hope they take heart in the sixty minutes (well, 59:48) that they played really well, and can forget about the fluky lapse.

We'll see on Sunday, when they head up to New York to take on the Rangers.


Weird thought

Just occurred to me; a bizarre, themed movie marathon:

8 1/2 (Fellini)
Nine (Marshall)
9 1/2 Weeks

I'm not sure what it says about me that I only have the first two of those, but have only seen the second two (not recently).


Eye of the Tiger

The Caps looked really good tonight, opening the scoring only thirteen seconds in, and controlling play almost from end to end. Even when they were mostly just sitting back and defending (much of the third period), they still looked calm and methodical about it. It was a very good performance, highlighted by scoring at even strength (twice; Perreault and OV), on the power play (OV), and short-handed (Chimmer).

To top it all off, TVo stopped all 42 shots that made it to the net.

But maybe I'm just getting excited at puck luck. Now that I look, the Caps had 14 giveaways, and that's about ten too many. Also, the shot total was only 24. That's also too low; getting four goals on that many is quite a bit of luck. Still, that shot total was probably skewed a fair bit by the Caps large lead in the third, when they had only six shots (coming with some sustained offensive pressure, and one or two rushes (OV was trying hard for the hat trick)). But they mostly spent the third defending.

So I'm not sure whether to be too happy about this one. On the plus side, the special teams were very good, with nothing allowed on the PK (obviously), and scoring on the only PP opportunity. On the minus side, they need more shots, more power play opportunities, and fewer giveaways.

Still, it's nice to be back in the division lead, even if it won't last for very long (which it very well might not, given the upcoming schedule).

In any event, we won't have to wait very long, with Winnipeg coming to town Thursday. We'll see if any momentum was generated by this game.

Ah, and in a side note, Laich did play, if sparingly. So I guess it really was just a day-to-day thing. Hopefully, he'll be able to keep playing.

And I really need to not wait so long to write up games; I completely forgot about the two penalty shots in the Montreal game until I was watching tonight's game. I have no idea how that slipped my mind.


My wife asked me, a few nights ago, "What is that tower you're working on?"

She had seen the shared view of my game of 'tiny tower'. It's kind of a goofy resource-management, building game. This one consists of building one tower, and filling it with residential and shopping (several categories) space.

It's a real-time game, which makes it more interesting. Each operation (constructing something out of an empty floor, or restocking a shop) takes a set amount of real time. It has two kinds of currency, coins and towerbux. The former is for building new floors and starting restocking operations, the latter is much more flexible. Towerbux can be used to hurry any operation, to quickly sell inventory for coin, upgrading the elevator, immediately finding residents, or directly traded for coin.

What makes the game interesting is that it can be played two different ways. One is to actively play, constantly monitoring things, and running people up the elevator (this accomplishes several things, but most directly, brings in more coin). Also, every few minutes, you'll get the option to find a given resident, which will give you a towerbux when you finish.

Or you can just let things run themselves, checking in every so often. The downside to this is that your inventory won't be handled as quickly, and you won't get towerbux. You also won't get such a high quality of workers. The upside is that you can do other things.

And, obviously, there's a balance there. The game never stops (there is no pause function), so you can't always be playing. So there's always time that you need to step away and let things run themselves. When you wake up after sleeping, for instance, there's always a lot of restocking to do.

So what do I do, strategy-wise? I always do the missions to find people. I keep more residential space than, strictly speaking, necessary. This allows me to get more residents. The advantage there is that I almost always kick them out, looking for people whose dream job matches stores that I have. That's a big key; you get two towerbux immediately for placing them, and you get double inventory when they work. That hugely raises your profit margins on goods, since you pay the same coin and time for stocking. Without that, there's almost no profit on level one goods (every shop has three goods, that give one, two, or three coins when sold), but the profit when stocked by dream workers is huge.

And you need to do something along those lines, if you want to build the tower at all quickly. The price (in coin) per floor goes up on a roughly exponential rate (5-10% per floor increase, it appears), and the time to finish each one goes up by half an hour.

One other advantage of playing actively, though, is that you will sometimes (it's random, but seems to be several per hour, on average) get VIPs appear. These people will help construction or restocking (taking three hours off, in either case), buy a lot of goods, or populate an apartment with as many people as it will hold (they hold up to five). And you can take added advantage by seeing what kind each VIP is, and maybe taking actions before selecting them to go to a given floor. (There are several tricks that can be played, this way, to maximize the benefit of each one.)

Anyway, there is no "goal" of the game, per se. You can try to achieve several accomplishments, and there are "awards" you can get in gamecenter for certain tasks. But mostly it's a matter of building as big a tower as you can, and keeping it functioning.

Is it fun, though? Yep, it is.

But don't use towerbux to hurry things early in the game, and you won't need to buy more bux, as I did shortly after starting. (Thanks for the gift card that paid for it, Richard.)

Caps weekend

I was pretty happy with the Caps game on Saturday against Montreal. I wasn't able to pay total attention to it; I had to watch both of my kids while my wife was doing work. But they looked pretty good, from what I did see.

They weren't outplaying Montreal by much; it was a much closer game than the score would indicate. But things were moving in the right direction, I think. And I'm pretty sure the scoring chance numbers after two periods were indicative of that.

Like the Tampa game, they were moving play more in their own direction. Not as much as I would like, of course, but baby steps are being made. (Of course, maybe it's just a case of Tampa and Montreal not being very good teams, so I'm reading too much into nothing. :) I just hope that they keep making these steps until they're tilting the ice in their own favor, even against the good teams.

Unfortunately, I watched too many other things since the game, and don't really remember anything more specific.

And that's despite missing the Boston game entirely. For some reason, the DVR didn't record that game at all. The only thing I can think of was that it got confused when I stopped the upcoming recording of the NBC Sports hockey game, and stopped recording of both games.

I will say that it went about as I expected, though I'd certainly hoped for better. The shot totals are slightly encouraging, but only slightly, because Boston was leading in shots and goals after one. It was only once they were behind that the Caps managed to get ahead.

And Brooksy went out with a knee injury. Oy. If he's out for any length of time (and yes, I know Hunter claimed that it is day-to-day, but so was Green, before he went out for four weeks and change. Then went out again almost immediately for another six weeks. Yep, I totally completely believe team injury reports), I'm beginning to think that the Caps should be deadline sellers, and just write off this season. Sad, I know.


I've got sunshine, on a cloudy day...

Well, the Caps' trip down to the Sunshine State didn't go all that well. They brought home one of the four points they could have earned, leaving Florida ahead by a point for the division lead with a game in hand.

And yet, I'm not terribly upset. Mildly disappointed, yes, but actually feeling a bit better about how they played. Shot totals were moving in the right direction; they were still outshot (and outchanced in FLA; I didn't see the chance numbers for TAM. Verdammt NBC Sports), but at least it was closer.

Neuvy had an odd night last night; he looked great quite often, but also let in a couple of clunkers (especially the first one; although kudos to Samuelsson for being able to put the puck on-net from that range when not looking).

Sarge managed to get onto the ice last night; I was surprised, as I thought he was in team purgatory. Still, as usual, he looked decent, if unspectacular.

Rechlicz managed to get signed, in an odd choice. He tried to get a couple of people to drop the gloves in his two and a half minutes of play. Sadly, no one was willing to take him up on that. Let's hope that he can convince Bourque to do so when they face Montreal on Saturday. With Backstrom still out, I wouldn't mind him taking a bit more punishment.

In any event, getting back to the play, I'm still not thrilled that they're riding the edge of competitiveness so much. Getting OV back will help a lot, and will Backstrom and Green (whenever those happen), but they really need to stop trying to turn every game into a coin flip.

They really need to focus on sustained offensive pressure; sitting back against withering attacks by the other team is just a terrible way to play. I did like that, interviewed during one of the two games, Hunter said that the problem with the power play is that they need to take more shots. That's definitely not just a power play problem.

Actually, the biggest problem with the power play are the zone entries. Once they get the puck into the zone, the power play looks quite good. But they spend too much time trying to get into the zone. They should really be looking to control the puck in the zone at least half of the times they skate up the ice. I think they're more like 1/4 (maybe less).

But I'm glad that Hunter is aware that they aren't shooting enough.

The only really good thing I can say about recent play is that they very rarely give up odd-man rushes. That's certainly a good thing, but seems to come at the cost of not being able to puck up-ice (the only thing I can think of is that they're not spreading the ice enough on the break-out, so they're easy to defend. But that's just a guess).

There's glimmers of hope, but not large ones. I'm about ready to close the book on Hunter already, sadly. We'll see; there is quite a bit of season left.