Hurry up and Wait

After walking around the tidal basin, I was going to the Smithsonian (Museum of Natural History) this morning.  I thought that, being the middle of the week and very early in Spring, that there wouldn't be too much crowd.  This is what greeted me when I got there, a few minutes after opening.

It wasn't too bad, although it certainly would've gone a lot faster without the security checks.  I wonder what those security checks have managed to get, over the last ten years or so since they've been doing them.  Is it actually possible that they're worthwhile?  Compared to the cost of all the people made to wait?

Maybe, but color me skeptical.  Of course, if asked about it, I'm sure they'd say something like, "Even if we haven't caught anything, we're scaring away people who might be tempted to do something terrible."


Hey, bud!

I went down to DC's tidal basin to take some pictures this morning.  I knew the blossoms weren't out yet, but was going to start there and walk over to the Smithsonian to take some more shots.

The picture above shows the current state of the buds, so I'm sure they'll be out pretty soon.

To track it, the National Park Service maintains a webcam (mounted at the Jefferson Memorial) showing current status.  I'm hoping Sunday morning, but not certain about that.  Regardless, my plan is to be at the tidal basin that morning, fingers crossed.


Light goes out?

I just ordered some LED light bulbs for the house recently.  I couldn't remember which ones I wanted to get (I knew they were Phillips, but nothing more), so I did a search on 'led light bulb' and clicked until I saw a page that said that I had ordered them before.

Unfortunately, the ones I really wanted were the L-Prize ones (which I'd also ordered before), which are a bit brighter and use even less electricity.

I figured I'd just return the ones I'd bought, and get the right ones.

Then I saw how much it was going to take to ship them back (about $8 for five of them), and had to think a bit more.  I worked it out, and the two lights use little enough electricity that the return price, combined with the difference in purchase price, was about the same electricity (would have been a bit of an edge in favor of return, if I was in California, I think).  So I guess I'll just keep 'em and get the right ones next time.

And I think I'll put a note in an amazon review, to keep anyone else from making the same mistake.


Ansel on Photography

I recently picked up Ansel Adams' first book on photography, The Camera.  I figured it might help improve my photography.

Well, I'm not sure if it will have done so, or not, but it certainly did help my theoretical knowledge of how the whole system works.  I already knew the practical side of a lot of concepts, but it's always good to know the theory that goes with it.

And this book breaks down the major pieces that go into a camera, and talks about how they work.

One thing that I found interesting was that I had always associated him with landscapes and large format work.  But he worked with all kinds of cameras, it seems.  The most surprising was him talking about the lengths he went to for pinhole camera photography (well, he didn't talk about it at length, but the level of detail in what he hinted at was pretty impressive).

But the biggest surprise was how current it was.  Really, digital doesn't change all that much, except the output format of the data.  Some pieces, later in the book, were a little out of date.  For instance, there was talk about small format cameras, but to Adams, 35mm IS small format.  The tiny-sensor point-and-shoots or mirrorless cameras didn't exist.

The definition of in-focus changed a little bit.  In analog terms, it was the size of the circles of confusion of points in the view.  In digital terms, it'd be something like the number of pixels to show finest detail.  And one interesting thing there was his definition of in-focus: the circle of confusion of a point had to be less than 1/1000th of an inch.  Modern cameras can have pixels that are only 4.7microns (only a hair larger than that size).

But I did learn a lot of details of how different pieces of a camera work.  In particular, I hadn't realized exactly how a modern focal plane shutter worked (mostly, I had no idea how they got it so fast).  Interestingly, that wikipedia link actually has more information on it, but Adams' discussion was a good starting point (perhaps with more historical info).

It also talked quite a bit about perspective (and choosing lenses to match a perspective), and had a lot of encouragement to just shoot.

There was also a long enough discussion of what makes a view camera so good that I was really wishing I had Nikon's 24mm PC-E lens to try out some of the things a view camera allows you to do.  I suspect Ansel thought 35mm cameras were rather crippled, without those adjustments.  At least, after reading that, I could see why he might think that.  It's unfortunate that it's still not economical to get a large-format (4x5 - 8x10) digital sensor.  That would be neat to play with for landscape photography.

There were a couple of details about aperture controls that didn't get mentioned, that surprised me.  Those were blade count and blade rounding, and how that affected bokeh.  Actually, bokeh was not even mentioned, which was also a bit of a surprise.

The other things that were a bit out of date had to do with tripods (no mention of quick-release gear or ball-heads, nor of carbon fiber), filters (nearly non-existent now, with digital postprocessing), and about meters.  Actually, not sure how changed the latter is, but suspect a bit different.  Oh, and there was no mention about white balance either, although I suppose that would go in the second volume (The Negative, which I have, but have not yet started) if the issue existed back then.

But overall, it was an excellent book, and would be especially valuable to the beginner.


The Ides of Craziness

I'm not a big basketball fan.  I've enjoyed watching it from time to time (generally pro), and do enjoy watching some of the March Madness tournament.  And even though I don't watch much (just the odd Duke game with my wife, really), I still do brackets most years for fun.

It gets to be a bit depressing, though.  The first or second year I did brackets, I missed only eight games in the entire tournament.  This year, I missed that many in the first round.

But when I watch, I mostly cheer for the underdog; NCAA ball (in every sport, really) is just so stacked against the smaller schools that it isn't funny.  So let's hear it for Florida Gulf Coast U, into the sweet sixteen.  Even though I ended up picking Miami to win it all, it'd be really cool if they could make it all the way to the Final Four.

Away on the Range

As I mentioned, the Caps went into tonight's game against the Rangers needing a win to have even a hope of a shot at the playoffs.  Unfortunately, due to a (still unexplained) DVR problem, I missed the first half hour (real time) of the game.  I also ended up missing about seven minutes of the third period, due to the same problem (very irritating).

The Caps were up 2-0 when I turned the game on, which was certainly a nice surprise.  Unfortunately, less than a minute after I turned it on, Asham was on a 2-on-1 break and shot it past Holtby's shoulder and into the top corner to cut the margin in half.

The Caps were not looking great, and three minutes later, Chimmer took a bad interference penalty to give the Rangers a good chance to tie the game.  Half a minute later, Alzner got called on a really weak (at best) slashing penalty to give NY a long 5-on-3.  It took only seven seconds for the puck to be worked all the way around the outside, and to be put in the net.

Just as a side note, Holtby really should have saved both of those goals.  The second one was particularly bad.

But that's water under the bridge.  The Caps held it together for the rest of the power play, and went into the period break tied.

The Caps were doubling up the Rangers on shots at that point, although scoring chances were even.

The second period was a whole lot of nothing, really.  The Rangers outplayed the Caps pretty siginificantly (commensurate with the 9-4 shot advantage), although the Caps did get a couple of very good chances (one or two of those shots came in the waning seconds, plus Alzner put one off the crossbar earlier).

The third period was basically identical to the second, again without any actual scoring.

That put the game into overtime.  I thought the Caps did decently, there, although shots were 5-1 against, so it must have been a bit worse than it seemed.  But Holtby still held solid, putting the Caps into their first shootout of the season (and, of course, Wolski was again scratched.  Would have been nice to have a shootout tensai on the ice).

The Rangers elected to go first, sending Nash in against Holtby.  Nash was given a show in why Holtby is a good stickhandler, as a well-placed poke-check sent the puck back towards center ice.  Lundqvist remembered his scouting report on Hendricks, not biting on the initial move and then giving nothing.

Callahan came in on Holtby, drifted right and shot left, missing the net.  OV went next, hieing a bit left, then cut back right in front of Hank and slid the puck under him.  Stepan went next for NY (and odd choice, given his career 11% success rate), and he managed to sneak it past Holtby when Holtby got his leg in the way, but not quite square, and the puck went off his leg and into the top of the net.

I'd forgotten that Ribs was supposed to be a good shootout guy, and did not get a pointed reminder on his attempt.  He just did not put much of a move in, and shot it right into Lundqvist.  Disappointing.

But Holtby made up for it by stopping Richards, leaving Backstrom with the chance to win it by beating his countryman (again, I suppose, since he had the first goal of the night).  And he did it without getting very fancy; he just put a wrister right under Hank's glove for the win.

The Jets also won today, beating Tampa Bay, so the Caps are still five points behind them and two behind the Rangers.  I'm really getting a bad feeling that the Caps are going to finish the season ninth while Ribeiro walks.  That would be... not good.

Although it was great to see the Caps putting things together, I would feel much better if they had lost the last three games instead of winning.  Up next are the Islanders on Tuesday; another must-win game as they're tied with the Caps.

Update: I forgot to mention that Fehr suffered some sort of upper body injury.  I hope (more for his sake than for the team's) that it isn't anything serious.  On the plus side, it will hopefully get Wolski on the ice for a bit.

Subsonic Jets

I didn't watch the rematch with the Jets live at all the other night; my wife wanted to go out for dinner, and I wanted to get up early to take pictures in the morning.  Between them, it didn't seem worth getting any of it.  So I turned it on the next morning, still not really looking for a win.

Well, they came out flying, with some incredible forechecking.  At times, it felt like Hunter hockey last year, where the Caps couldn't get it into the offensive zone, except that it was the Caps doing the hounding.

Twelve minutes in, the Caps opened the scoring with a goal from Laich off an outstanding assist from Ribeiro.  Four minutes later, the lead was extended.

Right after the Jets hit the crossbar on a shot, Brouwer managed to play through a defender trying to hold the puck in, leading to a 2-on-1 with him and Ribeiro.  Brouwer played it across to Ribs at the blue line, then Ribeiro sent a beautiful saucer pass back, which Brouwer buried with authority (really, the Ribeiro pass was a complete thing of beauty, as the puck was in the air most of the way, but hit the ice just as Brouwer's slapshot was connecting).

That was all the scoring in the first, and I was certainly feeling good at that point.  Six minutes into the second, the Beagle line got into the act.  The Caps hadn't really done much of anything offensive up to that point, but they forced a turnover, which left Ward with the puck behind the net.  He started to skate it around to the outside, when he realized that Beagle was uncovered and very close to the net.  Then he threw it over to Beags, who put it past Pavelec.

That left Pavelec, who has long felt like a thorn in the Caps side, with only six saves on nine shots.  Noel decided that was enough, and sent Andrej to the showers early.

Things didn't get a whole lot better for the Jets with Montoya in net.  On the first shot he faced, OV put a wrist shot from the circle into the top corner to put the Caps up 4-0.  At that point, my wife really needed me to watch the kids, so I turned the game off (then checked the paper to see that the final was 6-1).

I was pretty surprised to see the shot totals at the end (31-24 against), although I suppose score effects (teams behind by a lot tend to significantly outshoot their opponents) account for most of that.  I should also point out that Holtby was again stellar, as he had to make a lot of saves.  I don't think he was challenged as much as the night before, but you certainly don't get thirty saves on thirty-one shots by accident.

All in all, it shows a team really turning things around and doing things right.  It actually left the Caps only five points out of first in the division (three out of eighth, I believe), which certainly doesn't feel like a lot.  But with the number of games remaining, it's much more significant than it seems.

It seems relevant to point out something Peerless wrote over a month ago.  Essentially, he looked back at teams overcoming five point deficits with 36 games remaining, and there were almost none since the previous lockout.  Well, now we're looking at the same deficit with less than half as many games remaining.

All of which leaves me a bit nonplussed.  It was great to see them play so well (and, let's face it, get some puck-luck), but it's likely to tempt management to hold pay at the deadline, which would not be a good thing.

Ah well, on to the Rangers (at MSG).  With the Rangers in eighth, a must-win game.


In the jetstream

As I intimated earlier, when I turned on tonight's Caps-Jets tilt, I wasn't all that enthusiastic about them winning.  But I watched, hoping to see some good play with a not-so-great result.

Instead, I got one of the best games of the season for the Caps.  Green was back, which helped (not as much as usual as he got pushed around a bit and fanned on a shot, leading to a 2-on-1 the other way).  But they played an excellent game, keeping play down in the Jets end, especially in the first period.

And they came out of that first period with a 2-0 lead, on goals by Brouwer and MarJo (off a sick feed from OV).

The second period was an amazing amount of nothing, with only seven shots total.  But since the Caps were ahead, that was fine.

The third period had the ice pretty heavily tilted towards Winnipeg (helped by a couple of penalties on Oleksy) until Brouwer made a really nice play to pressure Pavelek when he was handling a clear on the second of those power plays.  He forced Pavelek to handle the puck just outside of the trapezoid, leading to a delay of game penalty.

That led to a little 4-on-4, and Winnipeg doing a nice job playing keepaway when the power play started.  But the Caps eventually got set up, and managed to completely overload one side of the ice.  Finally, Backstrom was able to get it across to OV, who was the only player on the other side of the ice.  Nobody was surprised when OV's shot hit the inside of the post on its way in.

I actually turned the game off at that point, because I needed to try to get some work done, so I missed Backstrom's goal to really ice it.

The one other thing about the game was that Holtby was on fire.  He made several really amazing, "how did he do that?" saves.  One of them was that 2-on-1 I mentioned; he stuck his leg out with his head turned away, and still got all of the puck.  I'm really glad for him that he was able to finish the shutout; he deserved it.

So I had very mixed feelings overall.  It was great to see them play so well, but if Washington higher-ups are still debating trading Ribs, this did nothing to persuade them.  And man, if they were able to play like this for most of the season, they'd certainly be in the thick of things.  But this season is a lost cause, and I'd hate to see the next couple of seasons ruined by failing to acknowledge what happened this year.


A new light?

I mentioned taking pictures this morning.  I'm not sure it's my favorite that I took, but this is the shot that I went there to get.  (And thanks, dear, for getting the kids in this morning.)

A Penn-ful reminder on the season

I don't want to say a whole lot about it, but I was able to watch the Caps game last night.  Managed to catch two whole periods live, even.  Didn't write last night, because I was getting up very early to take pictures of the sunrise this morning.

Anyway, I was actually quite happy about how things went.  Despite their relative records, the Caps were not massively outplayed (to be clear, they were outplayed, but not by a huge margin) or outclassed.

I think Oates did a very good job of coaching; the Caps intercepted several passes in the first period where the pass is not what you would normally expect the players to do (so you wouldn't expect the defense to be looking for it; that they were was a credit to preparation, I think).

The best thing for the Caps, especially going forward, was that Laich and Dima both played.  Wolski is still in Oates' doghouse, unfortunately, but at least Perreault got a sweater.

And even though it's Pittsburgh, I'm reasonably happy with the Caps losing.  I really don't want management to keep looking at things, and saying something like, "They're still in it; let's not make any moves".

Now there are two games in Winnipeg coming up.  Losing both would pretty emphatically say that nothing good is coming of this season, so I wouldn't mind seeing that.

Hmm... my daughter's now about the same age I was when I first went to a Caps game... I should see about taking her to one this season.

D-Day plus ten years

Ten years to the day after the invasion of Iraq, I wish that it looked like the political establishment had actually learned any lessons from the debacle.

Earlier today, I read quite an impassioned accusation of the previous administration by a veteran who will soon have given his life for his country.  It's very much worth a read (and some reflection on how we got here).



I don't pay very close attention to them, but I do check up on my alma mater's hockey team from time to time.  This year was pretty up-and-down, as they were quite poor at the beginning of the season, but came on strong at the end to finish second in the conference (I was particularly impressed that they swept Clarkson and St Lawrence this year).

That led to playing Brown in the playoffs.  Brown isn't exactly a powerhouse; in fact, they're fairly regular opponents for the Big Red Freakout (RPI's equivalent of homecoming).  The first round of the ECAC playoffs consists of three games between the opponents, then single elimination after that.

Well, I listened to some of the first period Thursday, where they fell behind by a goal.  I missed the second period, where they tied it up, and the third.  That was mostly close, but they surrendered one goal just before the end, then gave up an empty-netter as well right after.

Last night, they won pretty cleanly, taking the game 6-2.

Tonight, because of the Caps game, that the team had done so much better without me listening, and because I wanted to take some pictures of the Kennedy Center, I deliberately didn't listen.

I shouldn't have bothered with superstition.  They surrendered two goals early, and ended up losing 3-2 despite outshooting Brown 48-17.  Makes me feel like screaming out, "Halaaaaak!"

Maybe we can finagle an at-large bid to the NCAAs again this year.  I'd be surprised, but then, this looks to have been a much better team than last year, so who knows?

Cutting through opposition

(Taken at 0930 this morning, as we were on the way to church.  OV was less than a mile from the practice facility at Kettler.)

I only watched the first period of tonight's game against the Sabres.  It started awfully well, as the Caps won the draw, dumped it in the zone, got the Sabres to ice it, won the resulting face-off, and scored within twenty seconds.  The goal was OV's 702nd point, with Backstrom and MarJo both managing assists.  The rest of the period continued to go well for the Caps, although that was the only goal scored.  The Sabres got a couple of good chances, but most of the play was within the Sabres zone.

Well, that's what it felt like, watching it.  Now that I look at the boxscore, shots were even at five (a startlingly low number, frankly) for the period.

And things seem to have broken open in the second.  The Caps scored three more (allowing two), despite being outshot 17-10.  Weird period, it seems.  The Caps got both of the power plays, but only one of the goals was scored then (Brouwer, from Ribeiro and Backstrom).  And Chimmer finally got off the schneid, getting help from Brouwer and Ribeiro.  The third Caps goal came from MarJo (Perreault and Ward); I like that line, btw.  Wonder if we'll see more of it.

The third period did have the Caps with the edge (shots 10-8), although goals were split at one apiece.  The Caps goal was a pretty one by Perreault, who took it in the D zone in the middle, did a short give-and-go with Ward getting over the blue line, then had a beautiful deke to lose the defender.  Meanwhile, Chimmer came to a stop at the edge of the crease on the far side (from Ward), then got bumped into Miller, giving Matty a lot of net to shoot into.  A very nice, whole-line score, even if Chimmer didn't get any credit on the score sheet.

Not too much else to say; Hillen finally returned from the injury he suffered at the beginning of the season and played quite a few minutes.  Four blocked shots and a penalty were his main contributions.  I suppose it beats having to call up another Hershey defender.

Poti was back from his undisclosed upper body injury, and managed to be -1 despite only playing 8 minutes in the win.  OV had four more shots and three hits to go with his goal.  MarJo had three more shots, in addition to his goal and assist.

Incidentally, it's been rumored that part of the reason he was playing so poorly in the beginning of the season is that he might have suffered another concussion when he and OV ran into each other in practice at the beginning of the season.  Not sure what needs to be done, but something sure does.  In any event, if he can stop being a black hole, possession-wise, he might start helping the team.  I don't really think there's any longer a chance of him taking over at 2C, but he might still make a decent second-line winger.

Perreault obviously had a good game with the goal and assist.  Why was he scratched the last couple of games, again?  And why was Wolski still there?

This team is definitely still a work in progress.  I still think they need to trade Ribeiro, and hope for a high draft pick to try to pick things up quickly next season (and really look for progress the year after, when Forsberg and Kuznetsov will be on the team).  Next game Tuesday in Pittsburgh.  Let's hope it doesn't end in embarassment.

Update: It has come to my attention that I missed Hillen being present in the Bruins game the other day, so this was not his first game back.  Sorry about that.


Not blown away

The Caps managed to staunch the bleeding tonight, and beat the Hurricanes in Raleigh.  I actually missed a lot of the game; my recording didn't start, and I didn't notice until about halfway through the first (with them already down by a pair).  I watched the rest of the first, during which the Caps looked terrible.

I did set the recording for the rest, but turned the game off after the first to put the kids to bed.  When I turned it back on, I saw the score right away (forgot to change the channel so that wouldn't happen), so I ended up watching it from there (a minute or two into the third).  Now that I look at the box score, I couldn't have missed OV's tying PP goal by much.

The Caps, for the most part, were still not looking good; it wasn't nearly as lopsided as what I watched of the first, but was still played too much in the Caps end of the rink.

But they did manage a couple of good scoring threats.  Carlson started one from his own blue line, hitting OV in stride, cutting between two defenders, at the other blue line.  OV made a nice fake to get the goalie on the ice.  Well, actually, it was too nice a fake as he lost control of the puck a bit also.  He was able to push it towards the net, and put it off the post, and into the back of the goalie's leg.  Ribeiro came by to assure that it crossed the line and gave the Caps the lead.

What followed was quite a bit of nail-biting (well, it would have, if the Caps were still in the chase), as the Canes pushed for an equalizer.  The two power plays Carolina got did not make that easier for the boys in red.  But, thanks to some good saves by Neuvy combined with some good work clearing rebounds (Neuvy was really giving up some juicy rebounds tonight), they were able to hold on.

And OV got his 700th and 701st career points.  Very impressive, considering his age and how much a lot of people are going on about how terrible he is (just remember, if he was making $5M/yr, every team in the league would want him).

Outside of that one play (that was really an amazing pass by Carlson), the Caps really seemed to be playing to their place in the standings.  Granted, I can't account for why Volpatti and Crabb played over Wolski and Perreault.  That seems like dreadful resource management.

But Crabb certainly paid off, as he had the Caps first goal, deflecting a centering pass from Volpatti.  That might be the single most unlikely scoring line ever, considering that the second assist went to Alzner.  About the only thing I can think of that would be less likely would be those same three, with Alzner being the one to put it into the net.  Shorthanded.

For the game, though, the Caps only managed 25 shots, along with Carolina blocking 11.  That's just not getting it done.  Carolina had half again as many shots, along with forcing twice as many blocks.  That kind of ratio (for the Caps) will not win many games.  Let's see... that's a PDO of... 1097? Yeah, that's a lot of puck luck.

I'd say something along the lines of "We'll take it", but at this point I'd be just as happy treading water for the rest of the season (in the standings, that is) and getting one of the top picks.  Supposedly, there are three to four nearly can't-miss prospects in this year's draft (McKinnon, Druin, Jones, and maybe one more, I think), and it'd be great to get one of them.

Ah well, still need to play out the string.  Hopefully some positives can be pulled from it.

What is that glow?

This comparison photo of the introductions of Popes Benedict XVI and Francis are impressively different. The camera companies might want to take note: all those people taking pictures and video, and (almost?) none of them are using "camera"s.

I just want to know more about the reporter using an old Nikon 1200/1700mm lens (fascinating lens story). Specifically, want to see his photos (well, and am curious how he got hold of the lens. Would expect it'd cost more than a year's salary for a journalist).


Let's just talk this out

I've long been a believer that 'Too Big To Fail' means 'Too Big To Exist', and that mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have no benefit for anyone outside of executives and stockholders (the former is entirely 1%ers, and the latter is about 60% 1%ers).

And I knew that this process of consolidation was also leading the government to send big subsidies the way of those companies.  And I'd recently learned that those subsidies were basically the entirety of the profits of the banking industry.

But it was still a bit of a surprise to find out that the FDIC had been quietly settling fraud cases with minimal settlements for a number of years.

Yeah, that'll get them to stop.  Sure it will.  As will Holder's recent admission that he is unable to prosecute these people.  Uh huh.  I'm just going to hold my breath until that works.


Yep, they're done

Well, tonight's Caps game removed any remaining doubt about the playoffs.

They played fairly well through the first period, generating some good chances and playing pretty even until the last minute (when Carolina put about six shots on net).  Unfortunately, Holtby tried to play a Corvo shot from the corner as a pass, and had it ricochet in off his head.  At least, that's my best guess about why that happened.  As good as he's been, recently, don't really want to criticise Holtby, but that was a terrible play.

And, sadly, that was as good as things got for the Caps.  They were badly outplayed through the second period (and every time I noticed them, OV's line was hemmed in on the defensive end), and ended up surrendering two goals to a guy (Nash) who had one goal on the season.  Ow.

Too much of the final period was spent on the PK (gee, that sounds familiar), and very little pressure was generated even when that wasn't the case.  In the end, the only scoring in the period was an empty-net, shorthanded goal that stretched the margin to four (terrible misplay by Carlson on a bouncing puck at the point).

Were there any positives?  A few.  Wolski, Fehr, and Perreault looked pretty good when they were on the ice (which wasn't much, for Wolski and Perreault).  In fact, Perreault had a goal disallowed because of an early whistle.  Oddly, I don't remember seeing him on the ice after that.

Oleksy got into a fight in the third, and acquitted himself admirably.

I guess Oates was a bit mad at Poti, as Cameron Schilling got called up from Hershey to be the sixth D (with Green and Erskine on injured reserve).  He looked ok, although I'm not sure he wasn't responsible for one of the goals (can't remember who failed to do a good job supporting Schultz on one goal).

Amusingly, they had a graphic showing the ages of the six Caps defensemen (Carlson, Schilling, Kundratek, Alzner, Schultz, and Oleksy).  I knew Oleksy was 27 (which, I'm sad to say, makes it hard to get really excited about him, no matter how well he plays), but it hadn't occurred to me that that made him the oldest of the group.

MarJo was a mixed bag; he wasn't able to bury a couple of primo chances he got, and had a couple of bad turnovers.

Ward had, perhaps, the worst game he's ever had for the Caps.  He was on for all four goals, plus he got called for a high stick in the third.  I love his play, in general, but that was a stinker.

That's about it for the game (and for the season, realistically).  I'm not even sure what to hope for, now.  Tank hard for one of the studs in the draft, or improve this season?  Sadly, for long-term reasons, I'm leaning towards the former.  Yuck.


Stick a fork in 'em

Kind of depressing, these last two Caps games.  I went into Saturday's game thinking that the Caps should win (and I still think they should have).  They played reasonably well, and farily evenly, for the first half of the game.  They were still down 2-1 at that point, but the play was pretty even.

They were pretty heavily outplayed for the rest of the second period, but kept the score even.  And near the middle of the third, Backstrom even tied it up at two.  But shortly after that, they took a pair of double minors, almost back-to-back, leaving themselves in the PK for a long, long time.  Tavares scored on both power plays (thirty seconds apart, it turns out) to break the game open.

To make it even weirder, the reason I had no idea how close the two were scored is that the second one was in and out of the goal so fast that the refs couldn't tell that it was a goal.  Play continued until the next stoppage (when the Islanders actually scored again) several minutes later.  But they did award the Tavares goal (quite correctly), leaving the Caps with two more minutes of PK to go.  So they were really playing PK for almost nine minutes straight.  Ugh.

Unsurprisingly, they didn't manage to come close to doing anything else the rest of the period.  In fact, when they finally got a power play, they managed to give up a shorty only nine seconds in (I was only half paying attention by that point, but that had to be only a second or two longer than the theoretical minimum for a short-handed score without the goalie being pulled).  Sad.

That was enough for me to turn it off.  Yuck.

One note of some encouragement.  Holtby didn't get the start, which I was glad of, and with Neuvy sick again, Grubauer got the start.  I don't think Gru was great, but he wasn't bad.  I think he should have had two of the goals, but he did have a number of pretty awesome stops.  And even if he had made both of the saves I thought he should have, they still would have lost.  Oh, and while the overall save percentage was a lackluster .889, that includes saving 17 of 19 on the power play.  Yep, 19 (!) power play shots.  That's pretty darned good on the power play (and pretty sick that they gave up that many power play shots.

The other encouraging part was that the Backstrom goal was a thing of beauty.  Not the shot itself, but the three consecutive one-touch passes leading to the one-touch shot.  Fantastic setup.

Not so encouraging was that the shot total was 45-24.  Not going to win too many games getting outplayed like that.

And the kicker was that Carolina won yesterday evening, so there was nothing to cushion the blow.

Today was annoying in a different way.  I didn't check the start time until close to 1330, so I hadn't realized they were playing a second consecutive matinee game (I didn't think they ever did that).  So when I turned it on, it was just in time to see the last second or two tick off the clock of the first period.  And apparently they started out pretty strong (plus, the score was tied at one).

Shot differential wasn't looking good (down 12-8), but scoring chances were actually in the Caps favor.

That was as good as it got, though, as the ice was pretty heavily tilted in New York's favor.  The Caps did manage some really beautiful chances, but only a couple of sustained barrages, which Biron calmly met.

Penalties were again a significant factor, too.  OV managed to pick up two minors in a few seconds in the second.  The Rangers scored on the delayed call, then still got an immediate power play (don't think I've ever seen that happen before).  They then managed to score only forty seconds later to ice the game.

There were a few encouraging signs after that (the 5-on-3 at the end of the second period was particularly encouraging, and where several of those nice chances I remarked on came from), but no breakthrough.

And when they were really pushing hard, with only a couple minutes left in the game, the Rangers scored again to kill what little hope remained.  I did not bother to watch those last couple minutes.

I'm a bit surprised now, looking at the box score, that the shot totals were almost even.  It appears, though, that they weren't close at even strength.  The Caps had nine power play shots, plus one short-handed, while the Rangers only had the one special teams shot.  So at even strength it really wasn't very close.  Not encouraging.

Anyway, the Caps have only a very slim chance at the playoffs now.  I'd call them toast, although there's still a tiny chance if they can take all of the reamining games against Carolina (yeah, the next two games are a home-and-home with Carolina, and the margin is zero, there).  Half the season is left, and they can afford to lose... five, maybe?  Not looking good.


Minor laugh

My daughter still hasn't picked up the difference between winning and won.  We saw highlights at the end of the first period, showing Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  The Flyers were up 3-1 at the time, and my daughter said something like, "The orange guys won."

I laughed and said something like, "The game isn't over yet, and these two teams score a lot of goals when they play, so you never know."

But I was still surprised to check the score at the end of the game, and see that the final score was 5-4 Pittsburgh.  All I can say about that is, "Wow".

And I can't recall the last time I saw both starting goaltenders get pulled.  Amazing.

Good, old-fashioned blowout

I was eating dinner when this evening's Caps game against the Panthers started.  The Panthers lineup is pretty thin at the moment, due to injuries, but they still managed to beat Winnipeg on Tuesday.  Despite that win, I was still feeling pretty good about the Caps chances tonight, and they didn't let me down.

They scored on their first two shots, and again a few minutes later.  Those first two were actually enough to get Markstrom pulled, and Clemmenson put in.  Not surprisingly, Clemmenson wasn't the answer.  But changing goalies still might have been the right call.  Erskine's slapper from the blue line (first goal) and Wolski's fake wraparound (second) both should have been stopped.

But changing didn't change the outcome, for sure.  Only two minutes after Wolski's score, Carlson scored on a shot from the point that had eyes (incidentally, this goal brought the Caps season goal differential back to zero).  They actually had a really good shot of this one that looked almost straight down the path of the shot; you could actually see it curve a bit on its way there.

And a couple more minutes in, Ribeiro scored from the slot, off a nice feed from OV and helped by a great forecheck from Hendricks.  So, in less than nine minutes, the Caps were up by four, and things were looking great.

As a mirror image to Tuesday's game, I did the same thing as that night.  That is, I gave the kids baths after the first period, and came back to the live feed of the game after they were in bed.  Again, it was the end of the second by that time, and I was very happy to see that they'd scored another goal (on a five minute power play.  After seeing the replay, I was a bit surprised it was even a penalty, let alone a major and a game misconduct.  I guess because it's a relatively recent (and rarely called) rule change).  They'd overloaded the right; Ribeiro found Brouwer in the slot; Brouwer didn't handle it cleanly, but still managed to push it away from the two defenders to OV, all alone on the left.  OV, of course, buried it in the half-open net.

Outside of that goal, the Caps were pretty seriously outplayed in that period, but I was certainly pleased with the results.

I was only half paying attention to the third, really, but did manage to not miss anything (unlike the first, where the first three goals were all scored when I wasn't looking at the TV).  And there was a bit to see.  Shots were tied in the third, but Holtby was the difference again (I'm assuming he was most of it in the second, as well; getting outshot in a period where you have a five minute power play is pretty tough).

Fehr got the first goal of the period on the power play, after some really nice cross-ice passes gave him a mostly-open net.  Skille got Florida on the board halfway through the period when he was left undefended in the left face-off circle and put it past Holtby.  And Perreault closed out the scoring with a minute left.  Wolski had a great feed to leave Matty one-on-one with Robak.  Matty got him to bite on a fake move behind the goal, leaned back to the front, and, falling down, shot the puck into the top netting of the goal.  Quite likely, it will end up being the prettiest goal he scores in his career (not most unusual, however.  His deflection off his face, last season, certainly takes that distinction).

Along the way (between the two Caps goals, but I don't remember more specifically), Hendricks also put one in the net.  It was initially called a goal, but then decided to have been kicked in.  Ah well, it was still a very nice individual effort to get through the defense.

This was the first real blow-out for the Caps that I've watched live in, probably, twenty-five years or something.  The last one I can recall was a 10-2 win, aided by several goals scored on one five-minute power play, and featured a goal by Langway.

There was nothing to dislike about tonight's game.  They definitely got some puck luck, but they also played very well, and remembered not to let up when ahead.  The scoring was spread around: four players had three points apiece, but only five players didn't have a single point.

Let's hope the fine play carries into the weekend, with back-to-back games against the two New York teams upcoming.  Oates has said that Holtby won't start them both (thank goodness; he's playing out of his mind, and can surely use a bit of rest), but nothing more specific.  If it was me, I'd go with Neuvirth Saturday and Holtby Sunday, but we'll have to wait and see.

More adventures in sportswriting

Haven't been watching the Post sportswriters much lately, so haven't had much to talk about. I did see (the first page of) Boswell's paean to Bryce Harper, and thought about writing about that, but couldn't get myself to finish reading it.

(Incidentally, his statement that Harper was the best 19-yo ever wasn't quite as ridiculous as I initially thought. I'd looked, maybe 2/3 through last season, and seen Harper as 5th all-time in OPS+ among 19-yo's, so it seemed a stretch (he finished 6th). His WAR ended up at the top, although I take WAR totals relying on defense with more than a little grain of salt, especially for players over ten years ago (ie: those Harper would be compared against). So it's not undeniably true (which I was sure of), but it is, at least, arguable. And while it's far from a slam-dunk, Harper does seem to have a chance to be among the all-time greats.)

Anyway, the point is looking at today's article by Jonathan Newton, about the Caps and expectations.

You'd think, if you're going to hang your article on how much the Caps have changed, you'd check your facts about how much they have.
The lineup Oates put on the ice Tuesday against the Bruins featured exactly three home-grown players — Backstrom, Ovechkin and Fehr — who were on that Presidents’ Trophy team of three seasons ago.

I wonder how he considers Alzner (21 games in '09-10), Carlson (22), Perreault (21), and Neuvirth (17; might not have played Tuesday, but was certainly in the line-up)? There's also a little bit of misleading here, too, as Schultz was scratched (although that could be argued in all sorts of directions). Anyway, there might have been some way to qualify that statement to make it true (I can think of several), but then it merely becomes misleading instead of false. Not a huge improvement.

Plus, it ignores Poti and Erskine, who might not have been drafted by the Caps (what difference does it make how many were drafted, anyway?), but have been around that long (and Fehr, of course, hasn't, even though he was drafted by the Caps).

Bad B-randing

For the most part, I think Senator (it still kills me to say that, and not in a good way) Rand Paul is, quite simply, batshit insane, especially when it comes to social issues. (Which is particularly galling, given that his professional background is in medical care where most of his patients were medicare recipients. You'd think that would give him a healthier (hah! I kill myself) perspective on those sorts of issues.)

But I wanted to say kudos to him for his filibuster yesterday over Brennan's appointment to the CIA. Drones are an important issue that is getting ignored far too much. The fact that (AG) Holder can't say, categorically, that is clearly illegal (actually worse, unconstitutional) just blows my mind. This idea that some sort of back-room deliberation that follows no known process would qualify as "due process" as guaranteed by the constitution would seem to be, on its face, absurd.

"Trust us" is not an acceptable response.

Let's hope that more Senators (and Congressmen, for that matter) start asking this question, because if the answer isn't "It's illegal", then we do not live in anything resembling a democracy.


All aboard

One of the things I found kind of funny about a bunch of the Disney Land rides was that they gave "boarding pass"es to people getting on them.  I don't know if it's changed since the last time I was there, but they certainly didn't have these at Disney World.  Maybe it's just me, but they feel kind of... goofy.

Oh, and if you look closely, you'll see that this one is for the Dumbo ride.  Worst line we had the entire day (a bit over 45 minutes), for a one- or two-minute ride.  Not one of our better decisions (especially as they had a virtually identical ride in the space area).  Still a good day; just not one of the high points.

Trains that feel very long

I loved a number of things about the Hong Kong subway:  it's fast, reliable, clean, and punctual.  There are some more minor things I like as well, one of which you can see from this picture.  There are no doors between cars (only the second subway system I've been on like that), so you can see a long ways into a train.  And get a lot of warning about slopes and turns, if you're in the back of the train.

What you can't see in this picture are the subway maps at every door.  They show the whole line that you're on, tells what direction you're going, what stops you're at/between, which line(s) you can transfer to at the next stop, and which door will be opening.  It's a very nice, compact, map that conveys a lot of info.  Very well done.

A Night of Surprises

Tonight's Caps game started out similarly to expectations, with the Bruins pretty solidly outplaying the Caps.  When the Caps got the first power play, I was feeling a little more optimistic, but then Carlson misplayed the puck at the point, slightly, then lost an edge, leaving OV trailing Marchand on the back-check as the only defender.  It went about as well as it could, until the shot was released.  Then OV got called for hooking (a perfectly reasonable call), which became a penalty shot (not quite so reasonable in my mind, as the penalty was after the shot was released).

On the ensuing shot, Holtby committed to going all the way across a hair early, and Marchand was able to tuck it under him for an early 1-0 lead.

Things did not improve for the Caps, after that, as the Bruins continued to tilt the ice with Holtby at the bottom of the slope.  Ten minutes after their first goal, Chara took a wrister from the point that hit Krejci (screening Holtby), and bounced back to Chara, who had followed his shot towards the net.  He was able to slide the short rebound under Holtby to double their lead.

On the subsequent face-off, Erskine decided to dance with Thornton for no apparent reason.  It didn't seem to give any real advantage to either team, nor was it even a decisive fight.  Total waste of time.  Maybe Ersk just needed to get to the bathroom early.

OV took another penalty a minute later (on a really suspect call, as he hit Kelly just after Kelly lost possession of the puck), giving Boston their first chance with the man advantage.  The Caps did well at first, clearing the zone (I think twice) until Boston got it in to stay.  Once they did, they worked it around a little until Hamilton took a slapper (their first shot on goal in the power play) from the point that beat Holtby up high.

At that point, it was time to put the kids to bed, so I turned it off for a while.  Normally, when that happens, I change the channel so it won't go right back to the game (and I can resume play with the recording).  This time, however, I didn't bother.

It took quite a while to get them to bed, and by the time I made it back, it was right in the middle of the statistical summary of the game.  I was shocked to see that shots were almost tied, and the score nearly was, as well (3-2), but it gave me hope, so I kept it on to see the third period.

It's interesting, looking at the shot totals (15-8); it looks like the Caps were utterly dominated territorially (and maybe they were), but it didn't feel like it at the time.  I kept thinking they'd find a way to tie things up.

And, about 3/4s of the way through the period, they did.  Fehr carried into the zone, and shoveled ahead to Wolski, who was charging down the wing.  Hamilton (the defender) tried to stop the puck with his leg, but it slipped through, leaving Wolski alone with Rask.  One quick, back-handed shot to the upper corner, and the score was tied.

For the rest of the period, it was nail-biting time as the Caps tried to hold on into overtime.  Perhaps that was where the shot totals got so distorted, because the Caps definitely didn't manage much for the rest of the period, offensively.

But Holtby was fantastic, and carried them into the extra period.

As it was starting, I was thinking, "well, we've got two shootout wizards (Wolski and Hendricks), so we should be in good shape, if it goes that long".  And, frankly, that's how hopeful I was, as that seemed best case.

But the Caps surprised me, and on their second break-out of the extra period, Backstrom lofted a beautiful saucer pass to Fehr, who was, essentially, in the middle of the four Bruins.  Fehr bulled his way between Seidenberg and Hamilton (don't think it would have worked so well if Chara had been there), and got off a top-shelf shot that caught Rask off-guard for the win.

So there was quite a bit to like, on the game, and a few things to be frustrated by.  The power play, especially on that first one (where Marchand ended up scoring on the short-handed penalty shot), did not look very good (in fact, they gave up twice as many shots as they took).  The penalty kill did not look that good, allowing a goal on only two chances.  On the plus side, they did a better job of staying out of the penalty box than usual.

OV had an uneven game, taking two minors and committing the foul that led to the penalty shot (as noted above, not entirely his fault).  But he also made some great drives to the net that led to some good opportunities.  They probably would have worked a lot better if it hadn't been Chara defending, though.

Brouwer was sick, and was missed.

Holtby was only decent in the first period, but was awesome in the third.

Perreault and Beagle swapped lines, and that definitely didn't help the team.  I hope that was a one-game message to Perreault about his shortcomings in the game before.  If not, it does not bode well for the future.  Related, I don't think the fourth line played at all in the third period (and only the second line played in overtime).

Fehr continued his excellent play.  He's almost looking like the guy who got drafted one slot ahead of Getzlaf (almost).

Wolski has been possessionally very good of late, and it was good to see him finally convert.  I will be very disappointed if he and Brouwer don't play, leaving Crabb in the press box.

Backstrom had a very good game, with three assists.  He's still short of where we'd like him to be at this point in the season, but maybe there's been too much worrying about him.

Hamr got waived before the game started.  Given that his start went to an AHL'er (Oleksy, #61) who was signed earlier in the day, you've got to think, even if he doesn't get claimed, that his time on the team is done.

Anyway, winning the game was a huge boost for the team, as it was quite a big surprise.  Plus, if they had lost, they'd be ten points behind the Canes, and you'd have to stick a fork in them.  Actually, I haven't been watching the standings closely enough; I hadn't realized they were eight points behind, as is.  Even worse, they've gained two points in the last ten games.

Ok, I now completely agree with the people who've been saying the Caps need to trade Ribeiro now (I was previously on the fence about it, but leaning towards yes).

Wow, seeing they're that far behind completely takes the wind out of my sails.  The only (slight) amelioration is that they have a game in hand.  Bleh.

Well, next chance:  Florida, in DC, tomorrow evening.


Learning slowly

I'm still sorting through the pictures I took on our trip to Hong Kong, and a couple of things have jumped out at me.

The first is that I'm not used to shooting in full daylight.  That leads to some options for editing that I'm not used to having.  It's also nice, in that I rarely need to run noise-reduction software on the pictures.

The other thing is that I should have done something to have a flash handy.  Too many shots with just backlighting, where a flash, especially one off the camera, would have done wonders.

What I needed to do about that was to use the belt system that I've thought about (well, ok, I actually bought it, but haven't used it yet), keep a flash in there, with this little doohickey (scroll down to the second picture) and a cable on hand.  Then I could have easily pulled it out and used it quickly.  Live and learn.


We hear he is a whiz of a wiz...

A friend asked if we wanted to go to the Wizards game tonight; we were in a group with lots of kids, and the older kids got to go down to the court and high-five the wizards as they returned from halftime (this is the best picture I have of her; a security guy was standing between us when the players were going through, and I couldn't move).

I can't say as I was exactly riveted by the game; it was very sloppy on both sides.  But the kids had a really good time, and the Wiz won, so it wasn't a total waste.  And it was a very close game; the biggest lead I noticed, by either side, was seven points.

The only downer was that Bradley Beal hurt himself, and had to be carried off the court.  Unfortunately, I didn't see what happened in the play, and they refused to show a replay (not sure why; everything stopped for a couple of minutes, and the scoreboard screen wasn't even showing anything).

Oh, and the sound effects were too loud a few times; my daughter did get upset at that.  And at the fire that shot up at the very beginning.

Despite that, we had a good time.

Update: It appears that Beal's injury was just a sprained ankle.  Glad to hear it wasn't something more serious.


Come fly with me

Quite an interesting game for the Caps, today.  And for the first time all season, I was able to watch the entire game live (well, I was near the TV live; thinking about it, there were lots of interruptions in the first, especially early).

Holtby had quite the game.  Like the Canes game the other night, he seemed very nonchalant about everything that came his way.  That part was fun to watch.  There were a couple of close calls, where he got lucky with scrambles in front of the net, but he was mostly a vaccuum cleaner hoovering up every puck nearby.

My impression, from what I did see of the first, was that the Caps were outplayed, though possibly not quite as badly as the shot totals (15-5) would indicate.  Why?  Well, possession seemed more even than that, plus, the Caps five shots did include some really good chances.  Chimmer got robbed on a point-blank shot; I think that was in the first, and there were definitely one or two more.

But, thankfully Holtby was that good, which allowed the Caps to escape the period with a scoreless tie.

The second period was almost as lopsided for the Caps as the first was against them.  And thankfully, a few seconds after taking down Wheeler (who, thankfully, did come back to play in the third) with a slapshot, they did manage to put the puck past Pavelec eleven minutes in.  It was definitely not a typical Caps goal, with Hendricks tipping a Ribeiro pass in from the doorstep (the kind of goal I keep wishing the Caps would score).

That was it for the scoring for the period, but the Caps did look very good.  In fact, they looked so good that it was hard to believe it was almost the same squad that got squished like bugs by the Flyers the other night.  The changes, btw, were that Wolski was benched (WTF?  And Crabb got six minutes?  Which of these two is more likely to contribute?), Green had a relapse (*sigh* this is getting to be expected, with him.  Let's hope it's only this game), and new acquisition Volpatti got five minutes as well (well, five on the ice and five in the box).  Oh, and Schultz played (and fairly well, judging by the few times I noticed him).

In the third, the Caps weren't managing much in the way of offense, but were defending well, until, three and a half minutes in, a Brouwer shot took a lucky bounce off a defender into the top of the net.  Then, forty-five seconds later, Ribeiro cleaned up an OV rebound to give the Caps a three-goal margin.

I was feeling pretty good, at that point; it isn't often a three goal margin gets squandered in the third.  But they definitely spent a lot more time than I would prefer on the defensive.  In addition, they didn't try too hard on the double-minor power play they got with five minutes and change left.

But Holtby cleaned up all the messes to get the Caps out of there with the win (and shutout!).

The PK really didn't do a good job of helping him out.  They gave up 11 (!) shots on the power play for the game, and that's WAY too many.  Particularly when you consider that they only gave up three minors.

The power play showed moments of brilliance, and a lot of lethargy (they gave up more shots than they took).  Overall, there was a lot of luck flowing the Caps way.  We'll take it, but it isn't a good indicator for the future.

One good indicator was that Perreault had another very good game.  His line was buzzing, he made a couple of good backchecking plays, and, more surprisingly, was pretty good along the boards.  Oh, and that interference call?  Seriously?  He pushed a (much) bigger player into Pavelec?  Color me skeptical.

Anyway, Boston's coming to visit on Tuesday.  If the Caps can manage a point in that one, I'll believe they have a chance at the playoffs.

Shot, and a miss

Went down to the Mall, this morning, to try to take some shots of the sunrise.  My plan was to go to the West edge of the WWII Memorial, and take advantage of the water, there.  Well, it was a morning of disappointments.

First, I got there about ten minutes later than I'd intended, and for a sunrise, that's a huge miss.  I didn't miss the sunrise, but I did miss some of the predawn light.  Second, the water in the WWII Memorial was drained (for winter, I assume).  Third, they were doing construction on that edge of the memorial, so there was no way to set up anywhere close to where I wanted to be (not that that mattered much, when there was no water, but it was a bit insulting to be denied quite so emphatically).

I ended up at the other end of the Reflecting Pool, and took a few.  Nothing I was thrilled with, but some decent shots.  Now to see if it's likely to be clear tomorrow morning (if what I saw last night is any indication, the answer is no :( ).