Oddly (well, maybe not, if we consider that it's against the Sabres), tonight's matchup between the Caps and Sabres was almost a mirror image of the Rangers game.

The Caps actually put up a dominating performance (70% Fenwick for (all situations)), and just peppered Miller with fifty shots.  I'm pretty sure that's their best performance of the season.

Unfortunately, Miller was playing like someone who really wants to start for the US in the Olympics, and stopped forty-nine of those shots.  It's true that they didn't get as many screened and deflection shots (or quick one-timers) as you would like, but they still "should" have scored more.

Gru was going again for the Caps, and the defense kept the shots against him down to seventeen (kudos for that; I suspect it was their best game of the season for that, as well).

And I should point out that there was about seven minutes of four-on-four in the game (two minutes of matching penalties and five minutes of overtime), and the Caps were even more dominating in those stretches.

Unfortunately, all of that was merely preamble to the shootout, which ended up going to the sixth round.  For the first five rounds, Gru matched Miller by stopping everyone (including a great save where a shot rang off the iron, bounced off his leg, and was then caught before it could go into the net), but he was beaten in the sixth.

A bit of a frustrating game (since Miller looked so good), but actually the most encouraging one in almost three weeks.  In fact, it was the first one to push the rolling ten-game average of fenwick close upwards since the 4-1 victory over the Rangers.  Let's hope it isn't just a mirage.

Next chance to see is tomorrow in Ottawa.  I'd expect that Holtby will get the nod, but we'll see.  Go Caps!


Fehr Dinkum, Mate

The Caps/Rangers tilt the other day was basically a continuation of the prior several games.  That is to say, the Caps were managing to stay in the game, but were resoundingly outplayed by the opposition.

Basically, given equivalent goaltending, the Caps would have had their butts handed to them.  The goaltending was a bit odd, though.  Talbot was getting his third straight start over Hank (very weird) while Gru was getting another start over both Neuvy and Holtby (almost as weird).  Both choices were, I think, coaches being blinded by small samples of success, although both coaches were rewarded.

And man, it looked bad at the start.  The Rangers got fourteen shots in the first period.  IIRC, that's as many as both teams had in the first period, last time they played.  The Caps managed half that, but thanks to a Green slapshot from the point on the power play, the period ended one-nil in the Caps favor.

The second period had Pouliot and Backstrom (tough to think where Caps would have been over the last month without him) trading goals, with the Rangers again having a large edge in shots and Fenwick.

The third period started with Hagelin managing a short-handed goal seventeen seconds in (with a very nice stretch pass from McDonagh).  From there, it was basically Fehr time, with him getting a disallowed goal, and then an approved goal a couple minutes later.  And that was it for scoring in the game, as the Caps managed to hold off New York.

But man, did they look bad in doing it.  They allowed forty shots on goal (with nineteen more blocked by defenders) to a team that only averages thirty-one.  The power play, shortie notwithstanding, looked pretty good, despite getting only one score; they took eleven shots in their four opportunities.  The PK actually wasn't too bad, allowing only four shots (which really isn't great, but it is a signal improvement on recent performances).

But the key, of course, was that Gru stopped 38 of those forty.

That's great to see, of course, but is hardly sustainable.

It does seem a bit churlish to complain about the team finally getting another regulation win (which makes ten of their twenty overall victories), but I'm just going to keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Let's hope it doesn't come soon.

I'll talk about this evening's game against the Sabres separately.

Go Caps!


Enough of Clough?

NPR was interviewing Michael Sheen last week, and the interviewer mentioned a movie he'd done a few years ago called The Damn United.  They played a little clip of it, and it seemed very funny.  Also, it was about the Premiership thirty-ish years ago, so I figured my father-in-law would like it.

So we watched it a couple nights ago, and it was really interesting.

It's about Brian Clough, a top football manager of the time, and his brief tenure at Leeds United, the top team of the time.  What made it interesting was Clough had, by that point, made a lot of hay in the press attacking Leeds and their style of play.  It spent a lot of time in flash-backs that illustrated where the bad feelings had come from and on how Clough had gotten to the point that Leeds would be interested in hiring him despite the bad blood.

Basically, Clough (and his good friend Peter Taylor) had brought Derby from the bottom of the second division to the top of the Premiership over the span of... three, I think, years.  They had then left in a tiff with management (Clough had an enormous ego, to put it mildly, and didn't like ownership telling him what to do), and went to Brighton & Hove Albion for eight months or so (the movie makes it look like Clough never actually coached at Brighton).

And then, there was Leeds.  Not surprisingly, it didn't work out (lasting forty-four days, in fact), largely because Clough did nothing to try to work with the players, and try to earn their respect.  One wonders, also, if Taylor not being there (he had stayed at Brighton when Brian went to Leeds) contributed.

For further interest, the end of the movie mentions Clough's later success with Nottingham Forest, also taking them from the dregs of the second division to the Premiership championship, as well as back-to-back UEFA championships.  But he never coached the English team.

Anyway, I liked the way the story explored the past.  And it did a good job, I think, of showing football of the time.  There were two things I didn't much like about it.  One was that they showed his towering ego and difficulties dealing with people, but did not do much of anything to show what made him successful.  The one scene they had that showed a bit of that ended up being cut out (this was one of the two or three deleted scenes I wish they'd kept).

Really, the movie made it look like Clough and Taylor's success was due mostly to Taylor's scouting abilities.  And while I'm sure Taylor had a lot to do with their combined success, I very much doubt he was all of it.

Anyway, the second thing was the casting of Timothy Spall as Taylor.  He did a fine job; I'm not trying to denigrate him, but my only previous experience with him was as the witch's minion in Enchanted.  So seeing him in this kept took me out of the movie several times.

Despite those two flaws, I thought it was an excellent movie, and very enjoyable.


UPS has a policy that, up until a certain day, they guarantee delivery by Christmas.  But this year, their system was overloaded, and they failed a significant number of "guaranteed" deliveries.  I wonder what they do for the packages that didn't make it.  And I wonder what they're going to do differently, next year.

Ducking into a short vacation

I watched the Caps game against the Ducks the other night, but really should not have waited so long to write about it.

I heard that the Caps didn't do any kind of tribute video for Boudreau, it being his first trip back since going to Anaheim, and (despite agreeing with his firing) that was a missed opportunity.  Things might have gone a bit south (or south-east, I guess) at the end, but Bruce did improve the team a lot.  And I think the team (especially when things went pear-shaped) improved Bruce as well.

One thing I will say about the game is that the Caps did do quite a bit better than I expected.  Not only were shot totals much closer than I expected (49% FF 5v5, 48% close), but the Caps scored first (twice, even) and led for much of the game.

A bit surprisingly, they did very poorly on the power play; they scored once, but only managed two shots on five opportunities.  Which says to me that Bruce's PK does a much better job preventing controlled entries than Oates' (I'm beginning to think that ~75% of killing penalties is keeping the other team from getting set up).

Washington's PK, meanwhile, allowed eight shots in four opportunities (and I believe that's even after one of the penalties was stopped without a shot.  More and more, I think the Washington PK is really terrible, but that's getting masked by some really terrific goaltending.

I'm pretty much just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for Washington's record to take the kind of turn that the Maple Leafs' has recently.  The Caps have two terrific lines, one not-very-good one, and one terrible one.  On the defensive side, I think Carlson and Alzner need to be together, playing the top lines.  And Green and Orlov should probably play together as well, and Oleksy and Schmidt should take the remainder.

I've been giving it a bit of thought, and I think what the Caps need to do is stop passing D-to-D behind the net.  It just seems to consistently bite them in the butt when they do (Oates' insistence on handedness probably exacerbates this).

Anyway, despite the game being better than most of the recent ones, it still wasn't good, and still doesn't give a lot of hope for the future.  Let's hope things start improving tomorrow when the Rangers come to visit.  Go Caps!

Structure in life?

I just heard about Structure's kickstarter project today (via Brin).  It's already over, unfortunately, but it's one of the neatest projects I've ever heard of.  You can still preorder via their website, and I probably will.  The only problem right now is that I've got an iPad 2 and my wife has an iPad 3, and only 4, Air, and Retina Mini are supported.

Nothing surprising there, but it is disappointing.  I'll probably get a retina mini before too long, though, and I'll follow that order with a Structure order, if so.

Essentially, though, it's a piece of hardware that attaches to the iPad.  You connect it, and trigger it, and it gives a 3D layout of what it sees, with dimensions of everything (accurate to 1%, I believe).  I'm not sure what I'll actually do with it, but I'm excited about the possibilities.

Plus, they'll also be releasing an SDK for programming it.  Even more possibilities.

A few Premier notes

Yes, I'm over a week late posting this, but just wanted to mention that I'd watched the Man City/Arsenal game last week (well, it was played Saturday of the week before, but I watched it with my father-in-law last week), and found it very entertaining.

I found out that my father-in-law hates Arsenal, in the process, so he was very entertained as well.  (Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch autobiography, which I read ten or so years ago, formed much of my early feelings for the Premiership, so I actually tend to like Arsenal, but I like watching City more.  Especially since van Persie left Arsenal.)

I've been thinking a bit about it, and I think part of why I like City as much as I do is that they play a skilled, attacking game that's pretty fast-paced.

And I thought that Arsenal, with their recently-upgraded midfield, was ready for that, but they really weren't.  The final was 6-3, but it was closer to being 10-3 than it was to 6-6.  Arsenal's defense, particularly their spacing just outside of the goalie box, was exposed repeatedly and thoroughly, leading to several of those goals.

The only thing I can say in Arsenal's defense is that we also watched their match against Chelsea a few days ago, and Chelsea did not find that kind of space.

I'm pretty comfortable, at this point, in feeling that Arsenal is going to drop out of contention for the title, and that City has a very good shot at winning it all.  The one that I can't figure out is Everton.  We also watched their last match (v Swansea, IIRC), and that was a bloody boring game, especially in the first half.  Lots of sloppy play, and very few scoring chances (I don't think there were any in the first half).  Everton did win, and I did note that the commentators said that Everton has only lost one match all season, but I can't figure out how they're doing so well.  Time will tell.

Playing with fire

[I wrote this the morning before the Ducks game, but didn't post for a while.]

I missed both of the last two games (the first due to a DVR mistake; the second because I forgot about it that night, and haven't watched it yet), and I'm not terribly upset about that.

I watched the highlights for the Carolina game, and my reaction to the six-minute sequence was that the Caps allowed a horrific number of 2-on-1s. Then I looked at the fenwick numbers, and saw that they were indeed dominated (under 32%, 5v5 close). But the power play rocked, and they scored their first empty-net goal to win the game in regulation (yes, no even strength goals at all). And Gru was excellent, stopping all those 2-on-1s.

I watched the highlights for the Devils game. Wasn't terribly hopeful there, as the Devils are a very good possession team, but somehow don't win much. But the highlights weren't bad; wasn't a succession of near-misses by the Devils with a couple goals by the Caps. In fact, it seemed most of the near-misses were by the Caps. But there was only about a five minute stretch (yes, singular) where the Caps were ahead on Fenwick (overall), and the 5v5 close number was only a little better than 1/3 (35.7%).

Which leaves the Caps with the worst ten-game average of (overall) Fenwick they've had all year. They were actually over 50% (evens, close) five of the games, but only once ahead by a lot, and were behind by a lot in the other five.

These last two games, together, had 36% overall fenwick for. Ouch.

The only positive is that they somehow got three points out of them. That's not nothing, for sure, but it doesn't bode well for future success. We'll keep hoping.

Next game is tonight, when Boudreau (and Perreault... what'd the team let him go for, again? For Wilson's one shot in the last fifteen games?) returns to the Cap center. Definitely bet on Ducks having the possession edge, but hope that Caps can pull it out, somehow. Go Caps!


Skating on thin ice

I watched today's Caps/Flyers game in two chunks; the first period live, and the rest of the game after the kids were in bed.  And it kind of felt like two different pieces (well, maybe even three).

I didn't have a good feel, though, before it even started.  First, Erskine was finally back from injury.  Well, that one is a little mixed.  But the other part was that Grabo was down with "flu-like symptoms".  And that put Beagle up to the second line, which is not good.  Beagle is where scoring chances go to die (for both teams); that's not bad on the fourth line, but you really don't want it happening on the higher ones.

The first period, it felt like the Caps were doing very well, mostly keeping play at the Flyers' end of the ice.  And I think they mostly were, although Fenwick disagrees on that.  It felt like they kept play there, and just didn't manage to control the puck cleanly and get shots away.  Maybe that's a delusion, but that's how it felt.  Fenwick says that the Caps were never ahead, though.

But they were putting pressure on, and got a second power play halfway through the period.  And on this one, they got some sustained zone time (for the only time on the power play, all game).  And after working it around, Backstrom sent a puck across the goal (from OV's normal position) and it was deflected in.  It was originally credited to MarJo (who was waiting at the far post), but changed (after the game) to be credited to OV (who was charging in from between the circles).

It looked like the Caps were going to escape the first with that lead, but Giroux scored one in the final minute from out in front to tie the game up.

From there, it was pretty solidly the Flyers' game until about halfway through the third period.  It got so bad, that I almost turned it off when Voracek scored to make it 4-1 early in the third.  My normal rule is to watch until a four-goal margin, but since this was the third period, I almost broke it.  And I'm glad I didn't, although it took almost eight minutes more for me to feel like that was even marginally a good choice.

That's when Green sent a fairly innocuous-looking snap shot into the net, blocker-side-high, from the point.

Five minutes later, Dima got his first of the season off of a draw, where the defenseman, Grossman, nicely screened Mason.  Because of the screen, Mason didn't see it until it was only a few feet in front of him, and in it went, glove-side high.

Things were getting more exciting and stressful into the final minute.  Gru had been pulled already, but went back in for a center-ice faceoff after the puck deflected onto the bench.  The Caps won the faceoff, and sent it in deep.  Gru ran for the bench as Mason went behind the net to play the puck.  Mason's attempted clear went right to Ward, who passed in to the center (attempting to hit either Green or Carlson at the point, I think) and hit OV almost in stride.  OV sent a quick wrister into the side of the net before Mason could get completely set to complete the come-back.

Despite the excitement of that, the remaining forty-eight seconds were mostly spent trying to lock in the automatic standing point with getting to overtime, although the Caps did get one more good chance.

But it went into overtime, with the normal Caps (2013-14 edition) result: a shootout.  But this one, thankfully, was much more merciful than Florida.  It was resolved in the normal three rounds, with Fehr and Backstrom providing the scores and Gru stopping two.

Although Gru getting the start surprised me quite a bit (yes, he's been good, but doesn't have nearly the record of Holtby), and despite the third goal being pretty bad, Gru had a solid game.  He had two really amazing saves against Philly's power play, and generally looked comfortable.

OV didn't seem all that great, but still managed a pair of goals and a bone-crunching hit early in the first.  And that game-tying goal was his 399th; let's hope he can get his 400th in Philly on Tuesday.

Dima had a really good game again; he should really be ahead of Erskine.

Erskine, though, to his credit, looked pretty good.  At least, the few times I noticed him (and I figure it's a good thing if I don't notice him) he was making the right play.  Honestly, though, I think I'd feel better with Schmidt.  Sad, but true.

Anyway, that was the good and bad of the game.  Next is the Flyers again, in Philly, on Tuesday.  Go Caps!


Round and round and round and round and round...

Last night's Caps/Panthers tilt was definitely one of fits and starts.  When it started, and they showed the goalie stats (Gru's save pct ten percent (not ten points, but actually ten percent) higher than Clemmenson's, I commented to my wife that the Caps ought to win by three, just based on that.  Of course, I was forgetting how small the sample on Gru's stats is (mostly due to not noticing it being Gru until a moment later)).

Anyway, the game started out, and that seemed reasonable.  Greenie had a goal disallowed when Erat tripped over Clemmenson's foot a second before the shot (although I think I watched it three times before I saw the contact, which says something about how disruptive it was).  A minute later, the whistle was blown when the puck was on the ice behind Clem (OV tapped it in, not that it mattered).

Then it appeared things were going really well, as the Caps got a power play.  But it was a pretty poor effort, as they were unable to maintain any zone time.  And the next twenty minutes was pretty much all Florida, as they completely dominated possession.  Actually, you could really say that the rest of the game was all Florida, as I don't think there was more than a shift or two for the rest of the game where the Caps really dominated.

Fortunately, Grubauer was killing it, and stopping just about everything.  Despite shots being 16-7 in the first, the score was only one-nil.  The second period was almost as bad, at 13-8, but thanks to some pretty wild penalties, the score ended up tied at two.  And the third period didn't have a whole lot going on, as both teams were largely playing for the loser point (but still, shots were 9-6) and nobody managed to score.

That took it into overtime, which was end-to-end firewagon hockey (seven total shots on net), but again, no one was able to tickle the twine.

Which put the Caps back into a position with which they're very familiar: the shootout.  It started out well for the Caps, as Fehr opened with a score, while Barkov was stopped.  But then OV was also stopped.  After that, the next five shooters scored.  Then eleven (!) in a row were stopped before Kopecky won it for Florida.

All in all, a miserable game in which the Caps didn't deserve the standing point they got.  It wasn't their worst of the season, by 5v5 Fenwick close, but it was probably their third worst (I can definitely think of two, anyway, although one of those was worse by less than a point).

And honestly, I'm a little surprised it was as close as it was.  Gru had a fantastic game, and likely should have gotten the star of the game (thirty-nine stops).  Dima might be the only skater for Washington to have had a good game (at least, he looked really good to me).  Backstrom was also decent, as was Ward.

But the main point, of course, is that the Caps need to play more in the other end of the rink.  They spent far, far too much time in their own D-zone, and had a lot of trouble clearing.  Maybe those two good games really were just a mirage.

Things get a little tougher now, as a home-and-home against the Flyers in next.  First, at home tomorrow at three.  Go Caps!


Tech In-vanity

Just listened to the latest Accidental Tech podcast, and there were a couple of interesting notes.  One is that my experience has also been that Verizon's tech support is very good (you don't get dead silence when you ask about their DHCP server; something I've had to do a couple of times).  Compare that to Comcast (of whom I used to be a customer), where calling their tech support was basically only useful for having them send a tech out to the house.

Also compare it to what happens if you need to deal with their billing department (say, if they lose your payment); that's an absolute nightmare.  The one time it happened, it took me over twenty hours on the phone to track down.

The other note I had was the note about the Honda CVT and paddle shifter.  Apparently, that's not just something on the Acura ILX, like I noted.



Last night's Caps game against the Lightning... wow.  What to say about it?

Well, I was right that the Caps were able to give themselves a little cushion in second place.

But man, was that ugly.  Let's start with the fact that there were two stretches of the game, of ten or more minutes each, where the Caps didn't even manage to attempt a shot.

And Green's first period?  Missed lift check led to a double-minor high sticking.  Missed poke check led to a tripping call.  Lone man back on a 2-on-1, and played the shot instead of the pass.  All of that led to three goals, and me turning the game off for a while.  When I turned it back on (after putting the kids to bed), I found out that he turned things around by taking another high sticking penalty and a misconduct less than a minute later.  Ouch.

Holtby got pulled after that third goal, although I don't think he really deserved it.  One of those goals was through a double screen (he didn't see the shot coming, and I have no idea how the puck made it through the mass of bodies.  Even after watching the replay).  The third was Green's neglecting to defend the pass, leading to an easy score.  The second was stoppable, but would have been a tough stop on a hard one-timer.

Once that penalty-box parade ended, the top line was finally able to play a bit, and scored off a face-off in the zone three minutes after that last Tampa score.

The second period mostly went Washington's way (though one could debate how much of that was due to the boarding major that sent Alzner to the dressing room for a short bit); they led in goals and shots.

They cut the lead to two towards the end of an early power play with some good puck movement.  It quickly became apparent that Tampa's entire PK strategy was predicated around stopping OV, so the Caps kept trying to feed Brouwer in the slot.  That didn't really work, but did eventually get a rebound to Backstrom while Bishop was down, and Nicky put it home.

The Caps kept trying to chip away, although Tampa got the next goal when Johnson intercepted a pass right around the blue line.  They brought it back on a 3-on-2.  I thought it'd been broken up when one of the passes got slowed a lot, but they were still able to put the shot on net and Johnson found himself undefended with the rebound.

Things weren't looking good, then, as play went back and forth with no sustained pressure for several minutes.  And then Alzner was drilled from behind, and went head-first into the boards, leading to a major for boarding (I was glad to see, on the replay, that Panik stopped to apologize to Karl for it; he could have been seriously injured).  That gave Washington the power play for the remainder of the period.

It did not take long to capitalize; they won the draw, worked it once around the zone, then MarJo caught OV making a back-door cut to the net for a goal in twelve seconds.  The second goal took a bit longer, and probably required OV's man to lose his stick, but Green passed over to OV for his regular one-timer to tie the game back up at four.  And make hats rain down on the ice.

Despite the power play lasting another minute and change in that period, and over a minute in the third, there were no more goals on it.

And the rest of the game, in fact, went without penalty (although there was a pretty egregious interference no-call at one point).

Offense in the third period, for the Caps, was basically a tale of two shifts (the first of which might have been two back-to-back).  Unfortunately, there was over ten minutes without even an attempt at a shot in between.  Fortunately, the second of those shifts (with about thirty seconds left) resulted in a goal.

That goal matched the one that the Lightning, with their steady pressure throughout the period, scored during that huge lull.

That goal was also OV's fourth of the game (and Nicky's fourth assist, to go with his one goal), so there were a few more hats thrown down.

That put the game into overtime again, which was basically firewagon hockey, as the puck went from end to end to end to end.  The five minutes got ten shots from the two teams, and there were some very good chances.  But no one was able to convert, and another one went into the shootout for the Caps.

I was initially very fearful of the shootout, with it being Gru's first (and especially remembering Holtby's first), but he looked very good.  He did get beaten twice, but had a really nice poke check on St Louis, and generally seemed calm and in control.

And at the other end, Fehr, Grabo, and Brouwer all converted, which was enough to give the Caps the two points for which they were looking.

Again, it was a brutally ugly game (33.3% FF%, 5-on-5 close) at evens, but the goaltending and special teams were good enough to even it out.  And it was probably Greenie's worst day at the office, ever.  The penalty kill was so-so; the two goals allowed in five chances wasn't too good, but they did keep it down to only six shots (which still isn't great, but is an improvement in how they've been doing).

All in all, the only things to be pleased about were the play of OV and Backstrom (five goals and four assists between them) and the power play (especially OV getting those two PPGs, despite the entire defense being keyed to stop him, personally).  This was not a formula for winning a game, but we'll be glad they pulled it out anyway.

Next up is Florida; definitely a prime chance to keep ahead of Carolina and New York.  I'd like to make a joke here about Florida and loser points (based on their record last season), but the Caps are far worse, this season.  Despite that, Go Caps!


Home on the Rangers

I alluded, in my last post, to this being a good game, and it was.

The lines were the same as against the Preds, although the D swapped Oleksy back in for Wey (though Wey was scratched, rather than being sent down.  Perhaps a sign of satisfaction at his play against Nashville?).  There was also a little bit of rest for Holtby.  Since Neuvy is still hurt (I didn't mention it earlier, but he hurt himself stepping onto the ice in the last game against Montreal), Grubauer got his first career start.

One surprise (for me) came early, when they gave Lundqvist's career stats against Washington (regular season edition).  His save percentage was only .907; not bad, of course, but less than his career numbers.  I wonder if his postseason numbers are better?

Anyway, things got off to a slow start.  Actually, it was slow for both teams, with neither able to sustain any pressure and very few good chances.  The first period ended scoreless, with seven shots on each side.  Both teams had long stretches with no shots attempted, and the Caps managed to go the first half of the period without an unblocked shot.

But it ended without any damage, and without Gru needing to look like superman, and with the Caps holding a slight edge in Fenwick.

The second period, though, as it has much of the season, treated the Caps very well.  Chimmer opened the scoring two and a half minutes in by beating the Rangers defenders to a loose puck in the crease and sliding it into the goal.  The fourth line followed that up with a long-range goal from Oleksy (good call, giving him a sweater) only twenty-five seconds later, and the team basically cruised from there.

Grabo scored on a penalty shot just before the end of the period, rifling a very short-range slapshot into the roof of the net that had Richter upset about his own performance.  Worth noting, too, that the breakaway that led to the penalty call was a nice sendaway by Brouwer, when he intercepted a pass near the top of the defensive zone.  Also worth noting that this was a rare instance of a penalty shot on a delayed penalty, as the Caps kept possession after the call for half a minute or so.  Nice, all the way around.

I can't really tell much about the third period; with a three-goal lead, I wasn't paying a lot of attention.  Schmidt scored again, and Pouliot scored a minute later, with both goals close to the end of the game.

Overall, it was a very well-played game, with the Caps playing with the edge in Fenwick for most of the game, and soundly winning.  It was a very surprising result, playing on the road in the second of back-to-back games (though, to be fair, it was the second of a back-to-back for NY as well).

Penalties were even on the game, with no power play goals from either team (although there was some significant luck there, for the Caps, as they allowed eight shots on the two power plays).  Special teams did factor in a little bit, though, as Grabo's breakaway came on 4-on-4 play.

All in all, the only negative were those PK shots; that's definitely too many, although I suppose they did get one really good scoring chance of their own, during one of those penalties.

Next game is tonight against the Stamkos-less Lightning; a good chance to get a little more breathing room in second place.  Go Caps!

Predatory instincts

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that someone on the team read my last missive on the Caps.  The last two games were probably the best two games of the season (certainly the best consecutive pair).

The D kept the puck moving, there was scoring from all over (in fact, a week or two ago, Carlson was the only defenseman currently on the team with more than one goal, and Schmidt was the only other with a goal), and the team has been able to sustain some pressure.

Lines were shuffled a bit more.  The first was untouched, of course.  The second has Fehr (playing his off-wing), Grabovski, and Brouwer.  The third has Chimmer, Erat, and Ward.  And the fourth seems to've settled in with Volpatti, Beagle, and Wilson.

I'm fairly pleased with these lines, although the elephant in the room w/r/t them is what happens with Laich, when he's healthy.  At this point, I'd plug him into Volpatti's spot, contract be damned.  I'd also rather have Latta than Beagle, but that's hardly a big deal either way.

Erat's line got the game against Nashville started off properly, with a strong forechecking effort that kept play in the offensive zone.  And that largely set the tenor of the game; the Caps solidly dominated play, especially while the score was still close.

And it didn't stay close for terribly long; Brouwer opened up the scoring in the seventh minute, pushing a rebound from between a defender's legs, and into the goal.  And the Caps didn't give one away right away; they maintained dominance of possession through getting their first power play chance thirteen minutes in.  That power play only lasted three seconds, as OV put everything he had into a slapshot from the point right off the clean win of the draw.

And, surprise of surprises, the Caps still kept up forceful play, and Alzner got a fluky one from the point three minutes later.  And there was still no immediate drop-off.

Really, the only disappointment from the entire game was the second Nashville goal being allowed twenty-three seconds after Washington's fourth.  But since that still left a two goal lead, it was a fairly minor disappointment.

And the defense was definitely contributing offensively.  I already mentioned Alzner's first of the season, but Schmidt's first career goal was the fourth goal (assisted by strong forechecking from Erat's line).  The Grabovski line also contributed strongly, with two goals and three assists among the three of them.  It should also be noted, beyond helping on Schmidt's goal, that the Erat line had a number of chances that they were unable to convert; they looked strong all game.

And although they didn't show up in the scoresheet, the fourth line also contributed with a number of strong cycling shifts in the offensive zone.

I've mentioned the defense a couple of times.  It's worth adding that they changed a little bit, with Dima back (finally) and Wey (shocker to me; he was replacing Strachan, but I didn't hear why) forming the third pairing.  They were a bit of an adventure, with some good hits and some not-so-good decisions.  Overall, though, not bad.

Wey did not look overmatched in his first career NHL game.  Actually, he was quite a surprise to me.  I've been hearing about him off and on for several years, but I was pretty much ready to write him off when he was sent down to Reading (ECHL) to start the season.  But he's played himself all the way up; kudos to him.

Anyway, that was the game that was on Saturday.  I'll post about Sunday's Rangers game separately.



I've been a casual fan of the A's for quite a few years.  No, I don't follow them especially closely, but I'm happy to hear about them doing well.

So this article about their recent run of semi-success caught my attention.

But I've got to say that it's pretty misguided, on a fundamental level.
Over the past fourteen years of the financially-stingy Moneyball era, Oakland has played in six ALDS Game 5's and lost all six.

It’s taken a decade to realize that [Moneyball team-building] sinks like a stone in a flooded dugout in the postseason.

And, frankly, that's a silly thing to say.  To start with, judging success or failure in baseball on six games is ludicrous.  Luck dominates over that time span.  Try picking six games out of a player's season, and see how representative they are of the whole season.  It would, of course, be possible, ex post facto, to pick ones that would, but randomly picking, that would be very unlikely.

Plus, there's the fact that they did get to Game Five of all those series; they were no blown out in any of them.  They belonged in each of those games.  If you're going to say "Moneyball can't compete", you need to show that they didn't even belong in those games.

Muddying the issue even further were that it took very flukish plays to not win two of those games.  Giambi not sliding, and the catcher not being called for runner's interference for blocking the plate without having the ball.

That's what Beane meant, when he said that "His shit doesn't work in the postseason"; not that it wouldn't work, but that all the good work in the world can still have you losing to an inferior team in a short series (and even seven games is really a short series).

For an even more extreme example, look at the 2001 Mariners.  Unbelievably good team, playing to its potential that year, and they still lost the division series.  It happens; the A's have been very unlucky.  They'll get over the hump.

Also, if you want to look at another example, look at the Rays.  Their payroll hasn't been terribly higher than the A's, and they've gotten past the division series.  So it's absurd to say that the A's can't advance.

It sucks, I know (believe me, as a Caps fan, boy, do I know), but it happens.


Adventures in stock forecasting

I've been meaning to write about this article for a while.  It's talking about things financial analysts say that don't make any sense.

A few of them are great:

4. "Earnings met expectations, but analysts were looking for a beat."
If you're expecting earnings to beat expectations, you don't know what the word "expectations" means.

And most of them are pretty good.  But I do take a bit of an issue with this one:

2. "Earnings were positive before one-time charges."
This is Wall Street's equivalent of, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

And that's because it's rarely true that those one-time charges are enough to sink a company.  And unless they are, all you really care about is whether the company can continue to make money.  If continuous revenues and expenses lead to a profit, you don't really care if one lawsuit knocked that into a quarterly loss.  Unless that lawsuit is immensely bigger than revenues, or unless you can reasonably expect it to be repeated by a bunch more follow-on suits.

For instance, investors didn't really care about the SECs recent $13B fine against JP Morgan-Chase.  It's roughly seven months profits, but has zero long-term effect on health of the company.  Now, if that had been a $130B suit, they would care (and the flip response there would be dead-on), but at that level?  Big deal.

Adventures in Marketing?

I got a flyer in the mail from Acura today (well, sometime in the last several days; I didn't notice till today) saying that they're having a sale, and listing some of the models.  Nothing terribly surprising, there (my last two cars have been Acuras).

But the first page mentions an ILX, which didn't exist last time I looked at new Acura's.  So I looked a little closer.  Anyway, what caught my eye in the model comparison is that it mentions, for the hybrid models, a Continuously Variable Transmission and Sequential SportShift Paddle Shifters.

I can't quite figure out why one model would have both of those.  The whole point of CVT is that there aren't set gear ratios to be shifted between.  The ratio changes continuously to provide optimum (define optimum here however you want; it doesn't change the point) power/performance at all speeds.  So I can't figure out how you'd use a paddle shifter with it.

Maybe someone in marketing just screwed up the web site.

Caps catch-up

Another reason I haven't been too enthusiastic about posting is that the Caps pretty much are what I'd been suspecting.  I have actually managed to watch all of the games (well, for DVR-related reasons, I missed the first period of the Islanders game, and also turned off the Carolina game when it got to 4-0.  But I saw pretty much everything else), and they've convinced me that something is fundamentally wrong with this team.

I'm not sure what it is.  I felt really good about Oates as a coach, last year.  But this year, he continues to baffle me.  Most notably with the way Erat is being jerked around; it blew my mind when Marty was scratched, a few games back.  It certainly wasn't a surprise when, a few days later, Erat asked for a trade; I can't blame him.

But that's hardly the only puzzlement.  Fehr plays pretty well (to be fair, sometimes he's excellent) when he's in, but has been scratched an awful lot.  Volpatti is still getting a sweater just about every game (which is said not to denigrate him or his play, but by no stretch of the imagination is he better than Erat or Fehr).

Laich and Brouwer were finally separated, but it took an awfully long time.  I think part of it was that they do do an excellent job together on the penalty kill, and Oates wanted to use players from the same line together on the PK, but that seems to be putting the cart before the horse.

And separating Laich and Brouwer resulted in splitting the phenomenally successful Chimmer-Grabo-Ward line.  I'll give a little bit of a pass on that, since it was replaced by the previously-successful Chimmer-Laich-Ward line, but I don't think that was the only possibility.

And the end result of all the machinations is that the team has a top-quality first line and a top-quality third line (25-84-42) but still can only win by getting phenomenally good goaltending.  That's great when it works, but it's hardly a recipe for predictable success.  Yes, if you've got Hasek-level goaltending (relative to average), you can do it, but goaltenders are kinda hard to predict.

Despite the talent on the team (the only glaring hole is 4D, and I think Schmidt's been at least adequate in that role), their possession numbers are pretty bad, and they're playing catch-up all too often.

In fact, they were making a big deal in the broadcast (in the Carolina game, I think) about the Caps leading the lead in late-last-period tying goals (and let's face it, that game-tying shortie by Nick was pretty incredible).  While it's great that they've been able to do that, what isn't great is that they've needed to, so often.

How many times have they gone down to start?  How many of those times have they seemed to be on autopilot for most, if not all, of the first period?  How many times have they allowed a matching goal within two and a half minutes of scoring?  Too many, a bunch, and way too many, respectively, I think.

I'm beginning to think there's something fundamentally wrong that has little or nothing to do with talent.  Maybe it's a lack of pushing by team leaders.  Maybe it's a coaching problem (the problems on the breakout certainly seem to point to this) with a bad system, or with a system that demands that all the players have Oates' personal ability to see the ice.  Maybe it's assistant coaches?  I loved Calle as a player, but he's in charge of the PK, and the PK doesn't do a good enough job keeping the other team out at the blue line (no, I'm not claiming to know what's off, there, but I'm pretty sure something is).

What I do know is that the team has gotten a lot of luck (especially in the shootout, but also in goaltending on the PK), and, while they are in second place, they're closer to last than to first.  They also have the fourth-worst ROW in the conference, so they're not going to get any tie-breakers.  The one bright spot is that they do have the second best goal differential in the division.

As far as individual games over the last couple of weeks, I thought they played well against the Islanders and against the Leafs.  And they were doing pretty well against the Canes, until things fell apart impressively quickly.  Other than that, I've been pretty underwhelmed.  Update: I forgot to mention that they looked pretty good in the first Montreal game, but Budaj had a hella good game.

I guess we'll see if the current trend (towards better possession numbers) holds for a while.  If it does, then maybe I'll revise my opinion.


I've been a bit distracted from writing, lately.  The little bundle of joy in my daughter's arms has obviously taken a lot of time and energy.  And the other two haven't helped with that, either.

Worth it, for sure, but it ain't easy.


Fasttracking Sunday

I just noticed, a few days ago, that On the Fasttrack does Sundays now.  Somehow I hadn't noticed sooner.  So then I had to go back and get all the old Sundays (to 2010-11-14) and save them to my archive.  And now I still need to update my downloading script to stop skipping Sundays.

In the process of geting them, I found out that the naming scheme on the site has changed a few times.  I guess I just forgot updating my script previously, to account for that.

And now I need to look and see if the Sunday comic appears in the newspaper.

Penn-ciling in a loss

Well, wasn't that a kick in the face?

I was finally able to turn the Caps game on around nine last night (thankfully, I'd remembered to set the recorder), and ended up wishing I'd just gone to sleep earlier.

Given the chance to seize first (and for OV to jump up to equal/beat Crosby), what happened?

Well, they came out pretty flat, and never (outside of the odd shift here and there) looked like they were in the game. In fact, they were doubled up in shots in all three periods (ok, one short in the second), even though they were down by three or four in the third.

I thought they did ok when they managed to get the puck in the offensive zone (and that shot differential gives an idea of how often that happened), but they were badly outclassed in the other two zones. And Holtby did not have a good game; not a terrible one (Crosby's PPG, for instance, I was amazed he was even close to saving), but not a terribly good one either.

Wow; finally looked at the Fenwick close mark (only nine minutes of the game). A complete white-wash. Wow. Hard to believe that's even possible. At evens, it was only 29% for. Man, I knew it wasn't good, but that's far worse than I thought.

I had a little quibbling; I thought there were a couple of penalties that weren't called (the puck-over-glass on Fleury, interference by Malkin on Martin's goal). But I don't think they mattered.

I hope the team takes this as a gut check, and an indication of how far they need to go. Because it sure looks like they have a long way to go (as I've been saying for a while).

I don't know how many other teams have the talent to exploit the Caps like what happened here, but there's certainly a few.

The only positive I can take out of it is that they did manage to get four points out of the last three games, which is better than I'd've predicted (I think I would have been hoping for three, and expecting two). But that's cold comfort, this morning.

Anyway, I guess it's over. Next up is Montreal, on Friday. Let's hope that, at the least, Green is back (and hey, let's try Dima over Urbom, too; it wouldn't be a huge difference, but I'd at least look to see if it is a difference). And maybe pull Fehr out of whatever purgatory he's managed to fall into? Go Caps!


The war of...

I grew up in Maryland, as border-state as a state could be.  And it's below the Mason-Dixon Line (true story: on the way back from Oshkosh, this summer, my dad and I drove past a furniture place called Mason-Dixon Furniture (or something very close to that), and I made some fairly snide comment about not being south of the line (you don't generally hear it mentioned in the north, in my experience).  Then, about a hundred yards later, we passed a sign saying we were crossing that line.  Oops), so you'd think my experience would be in sympathy with the South.

And I have a great admiration for Robert E Lee, which you'd think would make me even more sympathetic to the South.

But the truth is that when, as a teenager, I heard someone call Maryland a southern state, I was frankly baffled.  While I can see (now, at least) several reasons for calling it that, it didn't match my experience at all.

Anyway, I've heard (only in the last ten years or so) people calling the Civil War the War of Northern Agression (in fact, there's a plaque across the street from where my son has a sports class that says it), and I find that ludicrous, on several levels.

First is the fact that the phrase wasn't used until more than fifty years after the war ended (meaning that the Rebs never felt the need to justify their conduct like that).  Second is the fact that the Southern States separately declared secession from the Union whose Constitution they had approved (and came damned close to saying, "We're not giving up our slaves.  nyah-nyah." in the process.  Note the mention of 'slaveholding States' in the first paragraph).

The anniversary of Lincoln's address reminds me of the fundamental point that the states that seceded had fundamentally forgotten, that all men are created equal.  It also makes me wonder about how good a job we're doing about that, even now.  Better than then, of course, but how much better?

An address for all times

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

-Abraham Lincoln, seven score and ten years ago today.


Blues News

I watched last night's game against the Blues nearly live (we'd had a neighborhood gathering earlier, though we ended up having to leave it earlier).

It was definitely a weird game, to start. The Caps got off to a decent start, getting the first six shot attempts (although only one ended up on net). St Louis had the next six (none on net). So, seven minutes in, there was only one shot listed, although six were blocked. OV followed that with another shot wide (off the faceoff), and the Blues then brought the puck back up.

Oleksy got it away from the attacker, and pushed it up-ice where Backstrom deflected it (backwards, between his legs!) to OV just outside the zone. It looked fairly innocuous as OV carried in (1-on-4, for those keeping track at home) and took a long slap shot that found the top corner, wide side. If I'd been watching it after the kids went to bed (as usual), I'd've probably woken them up, I was so surprised and happy to see that go in.

Things went more towards normal after that (that is, no super-long stretches without "shots"). And, let's be honest, the Blues badly outplayed the Caps the rest of the way. A little bit of that was special teams (The Blues had ten power play shots, and three short-handed ones, while the Caps only had three and zero), but even strength shots were thirty-four to fifteen also.

Really, in retrospect, it felt a bit like the Montreal/Washington playoff series from several years ago (Halak starting in goal for St Louis made me think about it, of course), except with the shoe on the other foot. That is, the Caps were sitting back and waiting for counter-strikes. Well, I don't think that's true, but it felt a bit like it.

But OV got another goal when he backhanded in a rebound from an Alzner shot from the slot (which, incidentally, tied him with Steen for league lead in goals scored). And Grabo potted a rebound (from mid-air, no less) of a Chimera shot a few minutes later. Given the Caps only having six shots at that point, Halak was given the rest of the night off.

That was enough to send the Caps into the first intermission with a three-goal lead. And, in fact, it was nearly the end of the scoring. All that remained were the two teams trading power play goals in the second.

But really, the rest of the game was a siege of Holtby. To a degree, that's expected with the score that lopsided. But man, it finished 47-20 in shots. Ouch.

As I said, special teams was much of the story. The Blues looked very good on both the power play and the penalty kill. In fact, their penalty kill matched the Caps power play in shots (as alluded earlier), and the power play... I don't know how they were held scoreless.

But they managed not to fold, and ended up a point ahead of Pittsburgh for the Metropolitan Division lead (how's that for the "damns of faint praise"?).

And now, they get to face Pittsburgh for the chance to keep that placement. And OV gets a chance to catch Crosby for scoring on the season (he's currently one point behind). I don't think there's any real argument to be made that, at this point in their careers, OV is better than Crosby, but it'd still be sweet to see him catch or pass Crosby. Go Caps!

(Update: Right after I finished writing this, I saw ESPN had a poll, asking for the quarter-season MVP. I looked at the choices, and decided I'd rate it as a tough call between OV and Sid (close enough that I'd have to do some research to decide between the two). But I decided to vote for OV anyway, just on general principles. Picture of the results below. Tough call, indeed.)

Winging by

I can't say as I had good feelings about the Caps playing the Red Wings last Friday. I was expecting them to get outplayed, and they did (although it was actually very close).

But they did jump on the scoreboard early with a nice semi-breakaway by Laich (sprung by Oleksy).

Detroit did score the next three goals, although I will say, in the Caps defense, that two of the goals were extremely lucky. That is, Franzen scored from not too far out, despite Holtby being in perfect position; it was an impressive snipe of the short-side corner that didn't appear to be visible at all (which is not meant to take away from Franzen's skill, but just to point out that it was an extremely low-percentage shot). And one of the others (I think Franzen's second) was set up by a nice pass across the crease that went near (or through; it was hard to tell) several sticks and sets of legs to find Franzen uncovered on the back side for an easy tap-in.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that, despite being outplayed, it was a very narrow margin.

But, happily, OV got one back early in the third, and Latta got his first on a rebound (nice example of hard work paying off, that one), eight minutes later.

That was enough to send the game into overtime, where each team has only one goal on the season. And the overtime was a tale of two halves, with the Caps dominating the first half, and the second half just about all spent in the Caps zone.

Part of that was driven by penalties. The Caps got one a minute in, though it was cancelled out a minute and a quarter later when Backstrom got his stick between the legs of Lashoff when falling down (it didn't appear deliberate, but what can you do?). So quite a bit of the overtime was spent 4-on-3.

But the Caps didn't break (somehow), sending the game into the gimmick. Datsyuk came up first. I had mixed feelings about him; I've seen lots of videos of him doing some amazing things there, but don't think I've ever seen him live. So I was torn between wanting to see something amazing, and wanting the Caps to win.

Well, he didn't really even make a terribly good attempt, and Holtby had no problem with it. Grabo followed, and couldn't lift the puck over Howard's leg.

Holtby did not leave me feeling great when he poke-checked Franzen's attempt (his history on those isn't great), but he timed it perfectly to prevent even seeing a shot. OV was next, and... I think he did about the same as Grabo, except on the opposite side. DeKeyser came next for the Wings, for his first career shootout attempt (perhaps a reward for scoring the third goal, earlier in the night?), and had it poked away also.

That left Backstrom to go last. He looked like he was going wide for the shot, but then neatly slid it under Howard for the win (it was a subtle move; very sneaky).

Interestingly, the result left Backstrom's lifetime shootout percentage only .1% behind Datsyuk's. I wonder if it's just because he's less flashy that his success isn't noticed as much (including by me; I was talking to a friend after the game, and said something about OV having a better percentage, but he doesn't. And it isn't close).

Anyway, it wasn't a great game by the Caps, although perhaps a tad better than my expectations (and they won, which did exceed those expectations).

And one thing I didn't mention: the Caps again allowed way too many shots on the PK (credit much of that to Detroit's skill on the power play). There were nine shots in five attempts (with two successes).

And the Caps power play was pretty good, even though they failed to score in four chances. They also got nine shots in those attempts.

One interesting footnote. Detroit lost again in the shootout yesterday (to the Islanders), leaving them with five consecutive overtime/shootout losses (and six losses, overall). I wonder how many times a team has managed five consecutive OTLs.

Anyway, I'll post my thoughts on last night's Blues game separately.


Data amusements

I'm working on some data capture tools, grabbing game data. Anyway, in looking at what's available, I found some interesting things.

One, nhl.com keeps game data back to the 1997 season (less complete in older seasons). Two, I was looking at game number 266 (counted via game start time; haven't looked at how numbering is done for games at the same time), and noticed a couple of somewhat interesting things. Last night's Caps/Blue Jackets was the earliest in the calendar (Nov 12) that game has ever been played; the latest was Nov 26, 1996 (ignoring the lock-out shortened season last year, of course).

The Caps have played in that game three times. The previous time was in 2007, with Zednick getting one of Florida's two goals in their win (OV had Washington's only goal). Ironically, the first time, Zednick also had the first goal (this time, for Washington) in a tie against Carolina.

And the last bit of amusement was that the team logo in the boxscore is the current one, even if it wasn't the one back when the game was played. I noticed that when I ran across one of the Ducks games.

Anyway, nothing terribly deep there, but I found it a bit interesting.

"We'll talk more..."

I was amused to hear, yesterday, as I was driving in to work, that the NSA had identified all remaining documents that Edward Snowden took, and was going to proactively address the media about what is in those documents.

Two interesting things about this. One is that it admits that merely mentioning the existence of these programs is not, itself, a security threat. That's progress, of a sort.

The second, though, is that the NSA has no credibility in these matters. At every step, their MO has been to do one of lying, misleading, or outright denial. And every claim has been discredited, either with already-available info (such as the claim that there were 54 specific terror threats prevented with mass surveillance) or with other documents later released from the Snowden Cache.

So I can't say as I really care what the NSA claims, going forward. Nor, I think, should anyone else.

Jacket is a tight fit

I wasn't able to watch last night's Caps/Blue Jackets game live, although I was close. I watched most of the first period only half an hour or so late, and the rest more like an hour and a half late.

In any event, the roster was basically the same as the last several games (whither Fehr?), with Holtby in goal.

The first period did not go so great for the Caps. It felt like more time was spent in the Caps zone, although the Caps did get several very good scoring chances on Columbus turnovers in their own zone. Happily, the Caps were able to escape the period without any damage done.

The second period started a little better, with the Caps possession numbers improving. It wasn't looking so great when the Blue Jackets got the first power play of the game. But a clear led to greed by Bobrovsky, who tried to play it up-ice off the glass and missed. That led to a couple of decent chances (though no great ones), until a nice play by the Blue Jackets led to a 2-on-1 going the other way. That was broken up by a combination of good defending from Green and good backchecking by Brouwer.

Unfortunately, Brouwer ended up with the puck behind the Caps net (or at least with it under him), but had it immediately stolen away by Dubinsky. And it seems that everyone else on the Caps assumed the threat was already neutralized, because when Dubbie skated in front of the net, not only was no one there, but nobody was even close. When Holtby made a (probably ill-advised) poke check attempt to get the puck, 'Binsky used his long reach to make a nice move around him and put the puck in the back of the net.

Play was pretty even for the next six minutes or so, until Erat made a very nice power move past a defender who ignored the puck. It was just close enough that Bobrovski tried to dive for the puck, but Erat got free just enough to slide the puck to the side, where Carlson dove at it, putting the puck (and himself) into the wide-open net to tie the score. Major kudos to Erat on that one (and to Carlson and Wilson, who both put themselves into position to take advantage).

Carlson, after not scoring in the first thirteen games, now has twice as many goals as the rest of the defense combined (and that includes Carrick's goal). Nice job, John.

The play over the rest of the game was largely favoring the Caps, although the Blue Jackets were still getting good chances. In fact, it felt like they were getting the better of the chances. The Caps got the next goal on the PK, with a clear down-ice taking a weird bounce off the glass, and going right to Wardo, who planted it into the nearly-empty net from a sharp angle, to the surprise of everyone (himself included, I think).

To the surprise of few, it took Columbus just under two and a half minutes to tie the game again, although it took a lucky bounce off a player in the crease (possibly off his stick, although, if so, it hit it between his hands) to do so. To give an idea how much luck was involved, there, the player in question went head-over-heels as the puck was getting to him, and finished the fall by kicking Holtby on the top of his head with his heel.

Three minutes later, Columbus opened a lead when Cam Atkinson's wrister beat Holtby.

Things were looking pretty desperate after that, with the Caps pouring on the pressure, but not looking terribly good in doing so. But Grabo jumped on a rebound of a Chimmer shot from very wide, and put it off Bobrovsky's arm and in to tie the game again with less than two minutes left.

The pressure, from there on, was almost all by Columbus, but the top line (well, MarJo and OV, who followed Backstrom and Grabo, I believe), put a nice play together. MarJo took the puck into the zone, nicely slipped by a check against the wall, got his balance, skated into the middle to put a backhand shot on Bob. And OV, coming from the other side, skated right to the puck and chipped it over Bob's leg for the Caps first overtime goal of the year.

All in all, it was a very mixed bag for the Caps. The top line didn't do well on the game (outside of the overtime goal, obviously). The power play wasn't, as it allowed the shortie, didn't score any goals, and only had two shots in three chances. The PK was pretty good, getting the fluky shortie of their own, and stopping the other chances. The second line was quietly pretty good. The third line played like the top line, getting quite a bit of zone time and a few chances. The fourth line was pretty quiet, although they played less than six minutes (again, why is Wilson here, playing such limited minutes?).

Urbom was pretty quiet; he did get beaten pretty badly in the corner on one early play, but he recovered pretty quickly and looked decent otherwise. Schmidt looked pretty good as well, with some good keep-ins and no mistakes. And Alzner and Carlson were very strong.

One thing that didn't work in the Caps favor was that they were owned, on the dot. The Caps are normally pretty good at that, but they won only 38% of the faceoffs. I have to wonder if that was a significant factor for the power play.

The defense, on the Columbus side, though, didn't seem too good. A couple of goals on uncleared rebounds; some of that is luck, but not all. And Erat's assist; that's probably a bad choice by the defender there, to just play the body. Still, he did put a good check on, and it took a very good play to get around it.

The Caps were behind in 5-on-5 close Fenwick, although it was close enough to have been entirely decided by the shots Columbus took after Grabo's goal. Still, I'd like to see improvement there.

And we're back to the Caps needing to start faster. They can't keep giving up so much possession early on. It's just not a recipe for success.

And now comes a bit of a gauntlet, starting with Detroit on Friday. To make matters worse, Greenie is questionable; let's hope he's up to it, although that would probably give Dima a chance. Still, Detroit's long been a very strong possession team, and one that doesn't make many mistakes. The Caps will need a top effort if they want to win it. Go Caps!


Mos Df?

Nikon introduced, last week, a new full-frame camera, called the Df.  It doesn't really break any new ground, so far as I can tell, technologically, but is designed as a throw-back to earlier film models.  Personally, I don't get the appeal.  Yes, I did my first photography with film cameras (like) the ones it's based on, but it still seems like a waste of time.  I was happy to move to more modern models.

It seems like some people like it, and it doesn't seem bad, but does seem significantly inferior to a D800 at only a couple hundred dollars less.

I guess I'm just not a nostalgic person; but I'd rather see Nikon breaking new ground.

Buried again

Which brings us to Saturday's game against the Avalanche, which certainly had the potential to be a measuring stick for the team.

Well, if you want to use it as such, they certainly came out short.

There was certainly more time spent close, at evens, than I would have guessed, looking at the final score. In fact, thirty-four minutes of it; almost two periods (strictly speaking, the first two periods, less the three power plays during those periods). And that time did not go well for the Caps; they were crushed in all possession measurements for that time.

Even worse, the one score they managed during that time span (by Wardo, continuing his excellent play with his shorter stick), was matched by another Colorado goal less than thirty seconds later. Emotional let-down? Dunno. Sure seems common for this team, though.

The Caps did even things up a bit during the third period, at least in possession measurements. They weren't rewarded on the scoreboard, though, as Varly continued his excellent season (outside of that whole 'domestic violence' thing; that was very disappointing). In fact, they allowed two more goals.

Anyway, it's hard to get terribly upset about the trip as a whole, as it was tough group of games, and they did manage three points in the three games. But I'm fairly happy I didn't watch that third game.

Well, things aren't getting easier, looking forward. Tonight's game against Columbus is the lull before the storm, as Detroit, St Louis, Pittsburgh, and Montreal follow. Let's hope tonight gets things off on the right foot. Go Caps!

Power play central

I didn't watch Friday's Caps/Yotes tilt, although it looks like the Caps played pretty well. It was a weird game, though, with four of six goals scored on the power play.

The lineup was basically the same as against Minnesota (I'm still wondering if Fehr's injured), although, with the back-to-back, Holtby was held back for Saturday's game.

Those four PPGs were scored on thirteen total power plays, with an even split on both opportunities and scores. Because of all that, less than half of the game was played at evens, close (although more than I would have guessed, especially with the Caps having a two goal lead for nearly an entire period).

Overall, it appears to've been a pretty good game for the Caps, although it's impossible to avoid it feeling like a missed opportunity, with the two very late goals allowed. Still, Corsi/Fenwick/shots were all heavily in the Caps favor during those twenty-six minutes of 5-on-5 close play, which is encouraging for the future.

One other bit of slight weirdness. Those two power play goals were scored by Brouwer and Carlson, the former getting a secondary assist by Neuvy. Have to figure Green (with the primary assist on that goal) did just about all of the work, there. Still, congrats to Neuvy for his first point of the season.

Anyway, those two late goals left another game going into overtime, where the Caps again failed to register a goal (despite another power play).

And this time, their run of shootout luck came to an end, as Neuvy failed to stop a shot, and the forwards failed to pot one.

I do wish I could have seen the game. Ah, well.

Wild game

I was able to watch last week's Caps game against the Wild, and it was the challenge that was expected. And I'm not sure if I'd call the challenge one that was met, despite the final result.

Anyway, it started out well enough, with the Caps looking pretty good, despite not getting shots. Then, the Wild got a power play. Although the Caps survived, there were a number of chances.

But they went back to it after the PK, and got their own power play chance a few minutes later. Only nineteen seconds in, Backstrom, next to the net, sent a beautiful (no-look?) pass across to OV in his normal spot. Surprising no one, OV buried it before Harding had a chance to get across to cover the net.

But Minnie was undeterred, and kept their steady attack up, eventually beating Holtby on their own power play late in the first. It felt like the Wild were basically in control for the rest of the game.

It helped that they added another goal (at evens) six minutes into the second, but my saying that isn't really based on the score. It just felt like they were the ones with all the offensive chances, although the Fenwick chart shows the Caps did manage to close the gap towards the end of the third.

There was a Wild attempt to push for a late goal to break the tie, but Washington withstood it to get a regulation point.

In overtime... well, neither team managed to get their first overtime goal, despite some good chances (and some odd line choices by Washington; Chimmer and Ward as a forward line were followed by Grabovski and Backstrom).

Again, it looked like Washington's shooters were outclassed by Minnesota's (without counting Parise; who was apparently hurt blocking a shot late in the game, and didn't appear), but Holtby didn't seem phased. Holtby held up his end of the bargain, stopping all three shooters, leaving Backstrom's lone goal as the winner.

It wasn't a terribly pretty game, although it looks like it was a bit more even than it felt, watching.

For tracking purposes, I'm going to post separate notes of the two weekend games, which I did not manage to watch at all (travelling).

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Just got back, late last night, from a weekend visit to NYC.  We didn't do a whole lot, but it was a good trip.  The kids loved the Museum of Natural History (as expected).  And we had several very good meals.

One thing we missed was seeing the building that was just certified for its height today; 1 World Trade Center.  I'm a bit disappointed at that, although, given that we went to SoHo and Chinatown, it's probably entirely due to us not looking around for it.  I must admit that I hadn't heard anything about it since the design was approved, several years ago, and had forgotten about it since.


iPhone-ish notes

[I wrote this several weeks ago (9/23, if the file modification is to be believed), but apparently forgot to post it.]

I don't, normally, but this week I listened to Gruber's podcast, The Talk Show. It's kind of weird, listening to. It isn't something that reaches out and grabs you, but it does throw out some interesting tidbits (which would certainly be an argument for editing it down to a more manageable length; which would certainly get me to listen to it more often).

One bit of speculation that I found interesting was the idea that Apple might be starting to move production back to the US in order to have more control. That is, that all the leaks about the iPhone 5c/5s were on the hardware side, and came out of the Asian supply chain. But there weren't any leaks on the software side (ie: from the US). It's an interesting observation, and I wonder if there's something to it.

Also, Gruber has noted, several times, that he thinks the iPad Mini is the best one, despite the technical limitations of the device (compared to the flagship model). I think he showed why that is, in here. He likes to read things at night with just the iPad and a beer. Hard to do that with the 10" screen, since that requires two hands to do it comfortably.

I also hadn't realized the lengths iFixit was going to, to ensure they could post their teardown first. Apparently, they fly to Australia, and buy one there, and can do the teardown there before the phones are on sale where I am, on the East Coast of the US.

They also talked about photo management. I do everything with Aperture, myself, and my experience mirrors much of what they talk about. I haven't tried the new photo management on the phone, but it certainly does sound like certain problems are handled better with that management than they are on my D4 with Aperture. I can do more with Aperture (and with the bigger camera and lenses), for sure, but I can see where the iPhone's management will end up being better for most cases (assuming shot was taken (technically) correctly).

If I do a burst with my D4, it's certainly true that there is no good way to keep only the ones you want. I don't even try; I just delete when I get to Aperture (full disclosure: I almost never delete photos on my camera. I just fill the card up, then reformat it). I'm curious to see what the new iPhone's interface looks like; it certainly doesn't seem at all a stretch that it would be a huge improvement, though.

Oh yeah, almost forgot that they talked about the annihilation of the compact camera market. I disagree that it will result in no camera market. But it will certainly result in massive shrinking of it. Mirrorless will probably take over, and the marketing emphasis for point and shoots will need to become focused on quality. Plus, the cameras will need to get a massive software overhaul, probably driven by what's going on on the mobile side.

Virtual jewelery

I've gotten away from playing the classic bejeweled lately, although I've still been working my way through Candy Crush (I even paid to get past a level once, on 147. I'd played it thirty or forty times without getting close, then ran out of moves with a guaranteed finish in two moves. Of course, playing it again on my phone, I got past it fairly quickly without cheating. *sigh*).

But I've somehow ended up playing Bejeweled Blitz again (which I'd played briefly for a while before finding classic). I can't decide whether I like it better or not. It's harder to stop, since it's so fast-paced (insanely so, at times), but the games are much shorter. And because of the pace, you really don't want to try playing it right before bed.

Anyway, one thing that annoys me finally struck me. When starting a game, you need to hit Play twice, and (often) buy (or defer buying) a power-up in between. Buying that power-up required a button push, with the button placed exactly where both of the play buttons are. That's a subtle way to strongly force someone to buy that power-up (not long before I noticed that, I'd accidentally bought it once, and wondered how that happened.  And even knowing that, I've bought it accidentally a couple of times; once because I hit play before the screen to ask appeared). Not nice.

Anyway, my high score is now a bit over a million.  I'm thinking that my odds of beating that score are very low, although I've cleared 500k sixteen times (oddly, eight times each on my ipad and iphone).  While my high score has gone up a lot the last couple of weeks, I don't feel like the average has done much. It seems mostly due to luck in crystal arrangement for variations in score, now.

But I'm still having fun playing.

Learning from history

I'm a bit bemused, hearing commentary looking at the results from last night. I keep hearing people saying that Christie's solid victory last night is a big boost for his (acknowledged) presidential aspirations, but I don't see it. There are two problems I see, with that.

One is that he's moderate. He's shown that a moderate Republican, especially one who gets things done, can win in a blue state. I think that's a strong plus for him, but I don't think it is for Republican primary voters (most of them, anyway). I think most people in "red" states will say something along the lines of, "Who cares if he can win in NJ, I want someone more conservative".

And also, he particularly goes against Tea Party and libertarian followers, because of his effectiveness. He's showing that government does actually work, which those people don't want to acknowledge.

So I see his greatest strengths (as a liberal, I'd strongly consider voting for him. And probably would, if he were running against Hillary. Nothing against either Bill or Hillary, but I think one president in the family is enough.  Although I hear that exit polling of NJ voters show that most of them disagree with that, to the point that Hillary would beat Christie, head to head, in NJ) as being detrimental to a large swath of Republican primary voters. I think he'd do fine in the general, but I just don't see him being able to get there.

I guess we'll see.

Marching down the isle

I wasn't able to watch last night's Caps game until the kids were in bed, which probably means I started it in the first half of the third period. But the important part is that I was able to watch the entire game without interruption (and mostly without commercials, yay).

And it started out looking pretty good, with the Caps generating some good pressure, until Grabo got called for a high sticking penalty. It was a bit of a weird call, though, as his stick came up and hit Tavares as he was going down from being tripped by Tavares.

In any event, the PK unit went to work, but not very well. Five shots were allowed on the ensuing power play, and a goal was scored less than a second after the penalty had expired. The one good part was that Holtby looked very good on the power play; he made several routine stops and one or two very good ones.

Anyway, the Caps showed no signs of a letdown after that, working hard for the rest of the period, even though they weren't able to solve Nabokov.

Going into the second, both teams had close to half their total goals on the season in the second period (the Isles were at half, and the Caps weren't far off), so it was expected that scoring would pick up a bit. And it did not disappoint; the first goal came only three minutes in, with Carlson succeeding on a risky keep-in at the blue line. He pushed it past the forward trying to get by him with the puck, then fired a laser of a shot into the far side of the net.

The Caps pressure continued, and they were rewarded with a power play a minute and a half later. OV potted one on a fairly weak wrister (odd, for him; he rarely shoots at less than full power) off the ensuing faceoff, and things were looking great. But the team had another letdown, as they allowed Okposo to score only seventeen seconds later (the Okposo/Tavares/Vanek line was buzzing all night, even if this was their only score; they caused a lot of problems for the Caps, and had nineteen shot attempts between them).

It was pretty much all Caps from there on out, though. The Caps scored again (MarJo, on a rebound in the crease) two minutes later, and again a minute and a half after that (Urbom on a top-corner snipe from the point off a nice pass from Wilson, who was on his ass a few feet from the goal). And they didn't let up; they kept pressuring, although it took a penalty on newly-acquired Tomas Vanek for the Caps to get on the board again.

Vanek was called for interference with about three minutes left in the period, and it took all of nineteen seconds for the power play to strike again, with OV potting a really nice feed from next to the goal, by MarJo. (Credit that one partially to the Islanders defenseman who failed to cut off that passing lane, although it was a good job by MarJo to see it.)

That finished out the scoring for the period, although not for the game. The other thing that made me happy about this game was that the Caps didn't collapse back into a shell, even with a three-goal lead. Not even when the Islanders tried to make things quite chippy (there were a lot of penalties handed out in the last two minutes of the game). And in Washington's one power play in the third, they managed to get another score, as OV fed Wilson for a tip-in about fifteen seconds into the power play.

It really wasn't much of a goal, but it was a nice reward to Wilson for a very strong game (even discounting the goal and assist, he looked very dangerous all game), although his playing time was still only ten minutes. Congrats to Wilson for converting, and getting his first points of the season; we're looking for more of that. :)

For the rest of the team... Well, OV had a great game (the two goals and an assist were merely the punctuation marks); he was mostly playing with Backstrom and Erat, and those two gave him several one-on-one chances over the course of the game. I really liked watching that line.

MarJo had a good game, and not just on that goal. His line had quite a bit of zone time, and a few good chances. His line was still the weakest, but it wasn't a sinkhole. As long as they can maintain that status, this is looking like a really good lineup.

Grabo's line looked very good again, with a number of good chances, and very good possession.

And the fourth line looked pretty good too. As I said, Wilson looked very good, and the others weren't stopping him from doing things.

On the defensive side, the top defenders looked like top defenders. Schmidt continued his excellent play, although he did make two small mistakes (one was an ill-advised point-to-point pass, and I forget the other). And the third pairing looked pretty good as well.

What I couldn't figure out was why Fehr was a healthy scratch. That is, if they weren't lying about him being healthy. Because if he was healthy, I can't figure it; he's been playing well.

Dima was also a healthy scratch. Hard to fault that one, though; no obvious pick of whom he would replace. Urbom, I guess, would be most likely, but he looked decent enough all night. But I'd like to see more of Dima; he was certainly exciting (in a good way) two seasons ago.

The one thing that didn't thrill me, and that I should mention is that there was some serious line-shuffling going on, primarily in the top two lines, over the course of the game (especially in the second period). I'm not sure I understand that, but it's hard to argue with results.
As I said, I liked the top line, and hope it continues. The second line seems decent, although I'd move Fehr to MarJo's left (since he seems to be the only player Oates will play on his off-hand wing) and send Laich down to the fourth.

I wouldn't mess with the third, and would be left with a fourth of Laich, Latta, and Wilson, which would make a heck of a checking line. And could be trusted for more than seven minutes a game.

The power play was, again, very good. In fact, four of the goals were PPGs. On the six opportunities, the Caps got eight shots in only three minutes and forty seconds. No way to argue with that.

In fact, even though the Caps had one more power play opportunity, they had six minutes and twenty seconds less power play time. Pretty good.

The penalty kill was five for five, but allowed another thirteen shots (not counting the shot that scored right at the end of the first power play). They actually looked really, really good on one penalty (the "holding the stick" penalty that Chimmer took, early in the third), but generally allowed way too much zone time for the Islanders. I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but expecting a .980 save percentage to continue when down a man is highly unrealistic.

The one goal in forty opportunities is certainly nice, but they're there mostly due to luck, not skill. Something has to be done to improve the PK. I'm not sure what needs to be done (getting better at holding the blue line, maybe?), but something certainly does. I hope someone on the coaching staff is thinking about that.

Getting away from that, one last thing to talk about, which is possession. Despite being way down in power play time, and despite being way ahead for about half the game, the Caps still came out of the game with good possession numbers. All-situation Fenwick, they were up one. 5-on-5 close Fenwick (twenty-one and a half minutes, roughly, and it was Corsi and shots, as well) was over 60% in the Caps favor. Really, there was nothing not to like in last night's game.

Minnesota is coming to town Thursday, though, and they're a very strong possession team. That'll be a good test of whether last night was really a sign of significant improvement, or just a mirage. Also, look out for that first period. Minnesota has a hair over a third of their goals in the first, while Washington has less than a fifth of theirs. Also, if it goes to overtime, neither team has an overtime goal on the season. Go Caps!


Crime and Punishment

I heard, today, of another case of a bank (well, really a hedge fund, but that's a fairly blurry line) getting fined for wrongdoing.  In this case, it is SAC Capital being fined by the SEC for insider trading.  I'm glad to see that there's at least a little enforcement here, although I wonder if the punishment fits the crime.

What is known is that the firm admitted wrongdoing (rare, these days), and is being shut off from outside investors (this was also a surprise), and is paying $1B.  That sounds like a lot of money, but I wonder if it really is.

The NPR piece about it, this morning (on Marketplace, I think) mentioned a single one of the incidents on which this case was based, netted $300M.  Which begs the question of whether the firm still came out ahead, even after paying the fine.  Given that they apparently were getting 25% annual returns, and that that was only one incident (though undoubtedly the biggest one), I suspect, in pure dollar terms, that they're still coming out ahead.

If that's the case, you have to wonder if that actually serves as disincentive for those doing the trading.

The one reason I'm not sure it isn't one is that, for one, they're being cut off from outside investors.  That could be a deathknell; we'll see.  And two, there are ongoing cases with eight of the employees as well.  If those eight are nailed to the wall, then perhaps there's a bit of deterrent for the future.  If not, this seems like another slap on the wrist (a la JP Morgan, paying seventh months profits (yeah, that $13B fine seems like a lot until you put it in those terms) for mortgage fraud that robbed thousands (via pension funds, probably tens of thousands) of people out of their homes and/or savings) to the banking industry.

What's My Line?, as social commentary

I mentioned, earlier, that I've recently enjoyed What's My Line, the 50's and 60's gameshow. And there's some interesting things to take away from the show.

Mostly recently, I was reminded of what's wrong with just about all "reality" shows, these days. This clip could have turned into the sort of self-absorbed, meandering soliloquies that characterize a lot of those shows, but every time the contestant appeared that he might wander off into one of those, he was cleverly and politely cut off by the moderator.

But what I really wanted to talk about was some of the mores and assumptions that are different from what we see, nowadays.

For instance, female guests are always asked whether it should be Mrs or Miss (now considered a faux pas), and the host always gets their chair for them.  You can tell, when a pretty lady is about to be a contestant, from the whistles as soon as the audience can see her; I guess that part hasn't changed.

One of them was how long the clips are. Some of them approach ten minutes long, which we'd never see, these days, without commercials. Of course, most of them have product placement, and there are occasional "words" from the sponsor. But there isn't the regular breakup, every five or six minutes (or whatever it is; since I watch almost non-sports TV, I don't keep track), to go to commercials. And some of these would certainly suffer from being broken up.

Another difference is that you will hear the occasional french, german, or spanish (generally no more than a few words at a time, but it does happen) on the show, which would probably not fly, nowadays (other than the spanish, I suppose). R's got rolled, as appropriate, is one change.

Another change is that any humor that tends towards the crude is just glossed over (probably with a laugh or three). There isn't much of that around, now.

You also get an interesting perspective on celebrities of the time, whether they're panelists or guests. It's a much more interesting perspective, I think, than just a straight interview.

Also, when government people show up as guests, they're praised for public service, not castigated. Granted, not everyone would be treating them as lepers, these days, but a sizeable percentage would be (the Tea Party "patriots", in particular). Yes, even the head of tax collection was greeted with applause.

SNAP to the tune, my darling!

I meant to talk about this Friday, but forgot in the evening. But SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; AKA Food Stamps) was cut on Friday as the boost from the stimulus act went away.

But what I wonder about is this. Much of the stimulus act consisted of tax cuts (which, if you're looking to boost the economy, is the least efficient way to do it. The GDP boost from SNAP, for instance, is about three and a half times as much, on a per-dollar basis, as a tax cut for the rich); I believe it was about a third.

Anyway, I wonder if the tax cuts went away as well; I suspect that they're still with us, thanks to stuff like budget battles. After all, why would we risk making the rich lose a few cents of investment return when we can make the poor starve.

I go to a church that is generally very good about this sort of thing (one of these days, I'll write about why that is), but I was disappointed to see no mention of this during mass this weekend. It was especially weird, given that the Gospel reading was about marginalized people. Well, here is a major, current case of people being increasingly marginalized. Slightly disappointing.