Syria-l notes

I've been forgetting, for quite a while now, to note one thing about the chemical weapons debates ongoing in Syria.  And that is that inspectors are supposed to remove existing chemical weapons (which I have no doubt of their ability to do), but also to remove the ability to make more.

This latter I am extremely skeptical of: if this is even possible, then it absolutely destroys any chance of Russia's claims of rebel-based launching of the August attacks.  If the rebels have the equipment to make sarin gas (as has been claimed), then the government will certainly be able to do it, no matter what the chemical weapons inspectors do.

I guess we'll see.

And in other news of Syria's devolution into a third-world country, polio is making a comeback there.  NPR was reporting, earlier today, that there have been fourteen (I think) cases very recently, as a result of the breakdown of their extremely good pre-war vaccination program.  I feel even more sorry for the children over there.  With apologies to Dr Seuss, let's hope that vaccinations are still widespread enough to keep the outbreak from biggerer and biggerering.

Mr Potato-head?

[note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but apparently forgot to post it. *sigh*]

I read Posnanski's recent article about managing a baseball team, and it got me thinking about hockey.

The article talks about how he liked A League of Their Own's manager, Jimmy Dugan,

because, especially early in his career as manager of the Rockford Peaches, he had a tendency to fall asleep in the dugout.

Managers, it seems to me, could afford to do that a bit more often. If I was an owner, I’d put pillows in there.

And that got me thinking about a PPP article from this summer (so it predated Liles getting sent down), about whether GM Nonis is better than a potato:

Rules: The potato cannot extend the Leafs' UFAs, nor can it sign new ones. We will consider Colton Orr's extension a "July 5th" move. It will not undo trades, so Bolland and Bernier are still on the roster. Lastly, the potato must re-sign RFAs at 200% of their previous AAV - it's a potato, not a skilled negotiator.

Betteridge's Law suggests what the writer's opinion on the matter was, and the poll on the page overwhelmingly agreed. Let him sleep, indeed.

Let's at least be glad that McPhee, for all his flaws (and his inexplicably long tenure) is certainly better than the potato.

Clickbatingest clickbait that ever was clickbaited

XKCD, as usual, is hilarious. I'm a bit behind on my reading of it (probably two months), but did have this clickbaiting headlines for old events pointed out to me.

I don't recognize all of the events mentioned, but some are really great. I wonder if the female suffrage one was implying how a great deal of the financial support for that movement came from Prohibition supporters. The penecillin one got me to look something up... I remember hearing of Fleming being supported (I thought it was adopted) by Churchill's father. The only reference I can find is this story from snopes, and maybe that's what I heard. Ah well.

The one about the Berlin Airlift, amused me. It also reminded me of my trip to Germany for a month-long exchange, when I was sixteen; that was where I first heard about the airlift. I think I didn't even know that West Berlin was completely surrounded by East Germany, before that trip (which explains why the capital of the country moved to Bonn during that... interregnum, for lack of a better term).  Anyway, hearing about that airlift in the Rathaus in Berlin was pretty cool.

The 1968 reference, I had to look up. I knew about two of the three assassinations, but didn't realize they were that year. Also, I had forgotten that JFK was five years earlier (I had assumed he was one of the ones to which reference was made).

The Challenger reference was very creative, but mightily ghoulish (though not as much as the Nazi and Titanic ones). Anyway, the whole collection was fantastic; the idea was amazing.

Nuck'ling under

Well, there was a lot of emphasis, before the Caps game, on getting a strong start to the game. And they certainly came out firing, getting a penalty shot eighty seconds in, and drawing another penalty shortly thereafter. But they couldn't solve Luongo in those prime opportunities, and play started balancing out quickly.

Vancouver scored halfway through the period, when Neuvy left a juicy rebound close in, and the defense wasn't able to get over to clear it out. Kassian skated in before they could get there, and wristed a shot over Neuvy's glove. But the Caps didn't fold it in, and got a nice offensive flurry from the third line three minutes later, culminating in Chimmer tapping in Green's shot from the point.

At that point, overall (ie: not 5-on-5 close) fenwick was tied, and things were looking decent.

But it was a steep downhill slide from that point forward, possession-wise. The Caps did get the next goal (two minutes into the third), but that was about the only remaining bright spot. And the Canucks weren't terribly thrown off by losing the lead, as it took them only a minute to tie it up, and two more minutes to regain the lead.

I'd like to say that the Caps took control of the game after that to try to regain the lead, but that's not the case (although giving up a power play in the middle of that span didn't help). In fact, they only got four shot attempts the rest of the game (and one of those, I believe, was short-handed).

In the end, the game was an absolute disaster at even strength. In thirty-one minutes, 5-on-5 close, the Caps barely cleared 1/3 of corsi and fenwick. That's just a recipe for getting blown out, regularly.

The power play was handled pretty well by Vancouver; they put a man on OV, and dared the Caps to beat them with the rest of the team. Brouwer did get one good chance, but most of the power play shots were by Green, from up top. I think OV needed to take himself farther out of the play, to make more space for everyone else (and to give himself a chance for the occasional dart in behind the defender). In any event, in four power plays (two of which were abbreviated), there were only four shots. That's not bad, but it's unlikely to get it done against a good goaltender like Luongo.

And on the flip side, they gave up fifteen power play shots to Vancouver (on six opportunities). Somehow, they didn't allow any goals; I can only attribute that to a combination of good goaltending and an immense amount of luck.

I'm getting to the point of thinking something is fundamentally broken with this team, and I think it's largely a matter of effort. They have a lot of talent; they're not going to push the post-2004 lockout scoring record, but there is a lot of talent. But they can't sustain top effort over an entire game, or something.

I'm not sure what it is, but this team is just a little ways away from getting consistently blown out. I thought this was going to be a solid playoffs team, but I don't see that at all, now. I see a team lucky to be only two points off a point-a-game pace (tied for ninth), and headed in the wrong direction. If the goaltending falters even a little, they're headed for a very steep decline; they're just giving up far too many shots.

Well, maybe a visit to the City of Brotherly Love (boy, isn't that a joke, in this day and age?) will give them a bit of a boost. Let's hope. Go Caps!


Flame Out

One night thing about the last game last night.  I was able to watch the entire thing live, which was pretty cool.  Unfortunately, I'd observed before that the Caps were showing possible signs of improvement.  Well, last night certainly put the kibosh on those thoughts.

They came out very flat to start, and Calgary pushed them into their zone hard, to start, and kept them penned in for the first minute.  And sadly, they did not get out on a controlled breakout.  They only made it out after the Flames had started the scoring.  Things didn't improve materially right away, and a minute and a half later the Flames had a power play.

The Caps weathered that power play, but it was a combination of very good luck and excellent goaltending by Holtby, as the Flames put five shots on net in those two minutes.  Things only improved slightly from there, as the top line put a very good shift in (including a terrible whiff by OV), but that was the only sign of life before Hudler put the Flames up by another three minutes after the power play expired.

Things still didn't look so great, until the second line got a nice shift in, getting all the defense to focus on Fehr and Grabovski while Chimmer cycled back behind the Flames net.  Grabo hit him as he came back out front, and Chimmer snuck it by Ramo to cut the lead in half.

But less than a minute later, Camalleri tipped in a shot by Wideman to restore the earlier deficit.  Oates decided to shake things up at that point, and put Neuwirth in (I assume it wasn't done as a criticism of Holtby, who had, I thought, looked pretty good, despite a distinct lack of support).

At that point, with seven minutes left in the first, things finally started to look a bit more even, but nothing else was put past Ramo.  Even a power play with a bit over a minute left was not enough to

In the second, play leaned slightly in the Caps favor, and Volpatti did score his first goal with the Caps, but that was the extent of the positives.

To start the third, things were looking better for the Caps.  Some of that was due to Calgary not seeking to press its advantage.  In fact, they seemed quite content to just play defense for about half the period.  And the Caps were generating some chances during that time.  But then Calgary got an offensive zone faceoff, and Camalleri put the faceoff win past Neuvy to bump the margin back up to two.  Oddly, Calgary started getting more offense after that, and scored again four minutes later to remove any doubt about the game result.

And that was when I turned it off, which seems to've been a good decision.

Overall, the power play was decent; seven shots in four chances is pretty good, although there were no goals.  The penalty kill got the job done, although it wasn't pretty (in particular, that first kill was wretched, although the other two weren't great, either).

But the even strength play was truly horrendous.  In fact, I think I'd rate this as the worst game of the season by the Caps.  Corsi and Fenwick, 5-on-5 close, were both really terrible (which was no surprise, after watching); Fenwick was about 29%.  It would take astoundingly good luck to win a game that way, so the final score was no surprise.

And it means that the game against Vancouver does not appear likely to be a close one (although I haven't looked to see if the Canucks are as strong a possession team with Tortorella instead of Vigneault).  Let's hope appearances are deceiving.


What do I do?

I recently discovered, thanks to the wonder of YouTube, and old game show from the 50s and 60s, called What's My Line.  It has a moderator, who attempts to clarify (or cloud) the issue, and four panelists who try to guess the profession of the guest.  Essentially, the panelists ask yes/no questions of the guest, who must answer honestly (well, with one or two exceptions), with the questioning stopping with ten no answers, a correct identification, or occasionally on time (or when the moderator decided the questioning was going nowhere.

It's interesting on several different levels.  First, it's a hilarious show.  The moderator, John Daly, was very funny, and did a great job of keeping things going.  It also had guests with some very odd jobs (dice pip painter, broadway orchestra conductor, rockette, journalist, rocket scientist, crocodile hunter), some of which led to some really interesting lines of questioning.  And many of those odd jobs no longer exist, which makes for some interesting social commentary.  Also, it was very noticeably a New York City show; something which doesn't happen anymore.  Another striking thing about it was the jokes are generally quite erudite and sophisticated.  Low-brow humor appears only by implication.

And eventually, they started having celebrities (singly, or in groups) appear on the show, mostly with the panelists being blindfolded.  This provided some interesting insight into those celebrities.

Anyway, a very fun show.  I wish we had shows like that around today.

Falling from grace

A friend introduced me to Wong Kar-Wai's masterpiece, Chungking Express, a number of years ago.  I got it on laserdisc, then on DVD (twice; once US, once HK), and finally on Blu-ray.  So I'm a little bit of a fan.

But I've known for a long time that it was split, during production, into two pieces.  One was the actual Chungking Express release, and the second was later released as Fallen Angels.

I've had the latter for a while; my in-laws brought me over a copy from Hong Kong quite some time ago.  But for some reason, it took me a long time to remember it was there.

Well, I finally remembered a week or two ago, so I took the opportunity to watch it.

I was glad I did, although I wish I'd rewatched Chungking Express more recently.

What really struck me about the "sequel" was how dysfunctional the new people were.  The originals were an interesting cast, with some unusual quirks, but the newly introduced ones?  Very strange.

One was a hit-man, who didn't want to make any decisions.  Another was his... agent, for lack of a better term.  Another had no regular occupation, but got by by opening (other people's) shops at night, and "selling" goods and services (really closer to blackmail, the way he did it).

There were a couple of others.  And some of the original cast came back (one, in particular, but others made cameos, or appeared differently).

It was really striking, how similar the parts with the same cast members were, which contrasted pretty harshly with the other parts.

As usual, the camerawork was very... experimental.  It worked, but gave an otherworldly feel to some of the movie.

Another thing that struck me was how old the movie was.  Not that it's ancient, but just how much some of Hong Kong had changed since then (being there earlier this year helped a lot with noticing that).

In the end, I found it interesting, and mostly enjoyable (some of the music was particularly good), but it lost most, if not all, of the charm of the original.  So while I can see myself watching it again (in particular, I want to watch it back-to-back with Chungking Express), I don't see myself watching it repeatedly, as I've done with Express.  And I probably will just stick with my HK DVD, instead of getting the blu-ray I linked up above.

Capping the geyser

I almost managed to watch the entirety of last night's Caps-Oilers game live, but some of it was on (slight) tape delay.  It was with very mixed feelings that I did so, however.

To start with, the lineup was identical to last game (and that's both good and bad, of course).

The first period very much felt like the Caps were getting their asses kicked, possessionally.  It felt like the Oilers had the puck a lot more, and for sure, they kept the Caps penned in several times.  Even in those times, though, the Caps did a pretty good job staying with their men.  The few breakdowns they had were brief, and Holtby was there to make the save for all of them.

The lone big, bright spot was that the top line looked pretty good (much better than the others, for sure).  And they executed their becoming-standard face-off play of Backstrom winning across to MarJo, who touches it back to OV for the shot and score shortly before the end of the period.

I must admit, though, that I was shocked to look, at the end of the period, and see that Corsi, Fenwick, and shots were all tied or only off by one in favor of the Jets.  It really felt a lot less even than that.  For sure, the Jets had better chances, but Holtby was there to slam the door.

I didn't check the numbers at the end of the second, but it felt more even.  Maybe it was just a matter of getting pinned deep fewer times.  And the scoring continued to favor Washington, as Ward tipped in a Carlson shot from the point (originally credited to Chimmer, but changed a few minutes later).

And Holtby continued to be up to all challenges to come his way.  And the defense felt a bit better; I don't remember so many really alarming chances as in the first.

In the third, the Caps felt more calm; less desperate.  And they played well, continuing to create chances.  And the top line finished off an excellent shift with a beautiful passing play.  OV had the puck on the right, on the outside of the faceoff circle.  He threw it all the way across to MarJo, towards the bottom of the opposite faceoff circle.  Nicky was in the middle, near the net, and got his stick on the ice in time for MarJo to toss it back to him for a pretty tip-in.

The Caps generated a steady pressure over the next ten minutes or so, eventually leading to a very nice goal from the second line.  Grabo carried across the blue line, saw Chimmer streaking ahead on the outside, and put it through the defenseman's legs to Chimmer.  Ol' stone hands then put a very nice shot into the top corner of the opposite side to put the final nail in the Oilers' coffin.

At that point, I pretty much stopped paying attention, and the Caps pretty much stopped trying to score.  But it mostly worked out.  The Oilers were able to get one back, and ruin Holtby's shutout, but the outcome was never in doubt.

Schmidt continues to look good on the back end.  He had one small screw-up in the first (actually, I thought the Oiler he was defending tripped him with their skate, but there was no call) that led to a scoring chance, but was otherwise very solid.

And the defense, as a whole, looked a lot better.  They were a bit less aggressive, and the forwards did a good job covering when they did go forward.  The result was many fewer "ten-bell" saves, and few, if any, odd man rushes or breakaways.

And as a whole, they looked a lot better at even strength.  Corsi and Fenwick were split, with both within a few percent of even.

I'd still like to see more chances pinning the other team deep, and less times of them getting pinned, but they didn't look bad even when they did.

The penalty kill got the job done, but did allow an awful lot of shots.  They're generally going to give up a goal or two, giving up as many shots as they did.  Something else to work on (although, to be fair, the Oilers do do a good job of moving the puck quickly on the power play, which makes things tough on the defense).

The power play wasn't terribly powerful, but did generate a bit of pressure.  Given their overall record, we'll give them a pass on this game.

Overall, things were moving in the right direction, but they still need to move a lot further, that way.  I'd feel a lot better if they'd come out significantly ahead in Corsi and Fenwick at least once or twice.  Saturday, in Calgary, is their next chance.  Go Caps!

Leavin', on a jet plane...

[Again, I wrote this a couple of days ago.]

I was able to watch last night's Caps/Jets game in toto, happily. Unfortunately, it looked much like the previous game.

One early change was that Erskine was back from injury, and pushed Urbom back into the press box. Otherwise, offensive lines and defensive pairs were the same.

The first period was fairly quiet, with a lot of back and forth. The Jets started pulling ahead halfway through, in possession, but were unable to break through. And the Caps caught back up close to the end. But they were unable to solve Pavelec, as well.

In the second period, all hell broke loose. The second line mounted a strong charge a couple minutes in, culminating in Grabo slotting home a rebound from an Erskine shot three minutes in. Things were looking fairly good from that, especially when, a few minutes later, the Caps got a power play. Things looked pretty good through the first three-quarters of a minute of that, but then a good defensive play led to a short-handed breakaway and a short-handed goal by Little. Washington got a little pressure, but no score, on the rest of the power play. And then things went south, with Clitsome scoring to give Winnipeg the lead.

Things went back and forth, with Winnipeg getting a number of breakaway opportunities, but no goals. Then MarJo sprung OV for a breakaway, and he backhanded it past Pavelec to tie things up. Things were really looking good when OV scored again, a couple minutes later, three seconds after a faceoff caused by his own near-miss shot. But Wheeler deflected in a fairly soft point shot by Kane in the final minute to knot things up again.

The third period was much like the second, with Washington getting more zone time (I think; that's certainly what it felt like) but Winnipeg getting a number of breakaways and odd-man rushes. But Brouwer and Little were the only ones to find the back of the net, and regulation ended in a tie.

Overtime started well for the Caps, with them getting quite a bit of zone time (although I certainly wondered about Backstrom and Brouwer being out together). But they didn't get any shots during that minute or so, and it was all Jets from there on out. But Holtby, happily, was up to the task.

Both coaches started the shootout with a pair of the goal scorers, but all of them were stopped. Then Ladd and Backstrom both score. Then the teams started digging a bit deeper, and Jokinen, Laich, Setoguchi, and Brouwer all scored. Finally, Kane was stopped by Holtby (in a play that looked remarkably similar to the attempts of Wheeler and Little), and Erat got a chance. They didn't even give his career shootout record, but he managed to go 5-hole on Pavelec to seal the win.

Several things struck me about all this. One, the Caps aren't very good, offensively, in the shootout. The two best Caps had career marks of 35%. Three of the Jets were better than that, and a fourth, I believe, was very close.

More generally, in the game, it was similar to the game before, with lots of defensemen pushing the play leading to a boatload of odd-man rushes the other way. This is not working; it needs to be abandoned, or the wings need to get a lot better at covering. It looked close enough for them to be able to learn against Columbus; it did not, against Winnipeg.

Perhaps related (or maybe not, I'm not sure), but the power play looked only ok. Part of that was not doing as well on the faceoffs. But they gave up several breakaways the other direction that led to Winnipeg having only one fewer short-handed shot (seven) than Washington did on the power play. And the same number of goals. Ugly.

Green was held out of the entire overtime, and the shootout. I suspect that either he was hurt by a hit late in the game (goodness, I hope not) or Oates decided he was a culprit in too many of those breakaways (I only tracked the cause of a couple of them. One by Oleksy trying to duplicate his success last game; that led to a 3-on-1 with Erskine defending. Somehow, Big John got the stop, but Wilson immediately got called for crosschecking, in trying to prevent rebound attempts. And the power play problems were definitely Green or Carlson (Green is more likely)). We'll have to see.

In terms of possession, it was not a good game. The Caps did well with the score tied (razor-thin edge), but poorly otherwise.

Kane's line was particularly good, showing a lot of speed and power (Byfuglien, backing them up, contributed to the latter). Little was also causing a lot of havok around Washington's back line.

Holtby, despite allowing four goals (on 47 shots), actually had a fantastic night. He stopped an amazing number of in-close shots, and looked good in the shootout. I'm actually surprised he didn't get one of the stars of the night.


[Note: another one I wrote several days ago, and am just now posting.  Obviously, I was wrong about the display.]

Listened to latest The Talk Show today, and there was an interesting note in there.

It was about Microsoft, and being perceived as an underdog. And the fact is, Microsoft was never an underdog. Even when they were a tiny company, they had a deal to be provided on all IBM PCs (Gates' dad was a lawyer with IBM, undoubtedly the in to get that). So even when they were that tiny, there were still not an underdog.

Also, I agree that a 4k display will be introduced alongside the Mac Pro. They just made too much of a big deal about having ability to drive 4k display to only have ones by other companies available.


Putting it together

I wasn't able to watch the Caps/Blue Jackets game until it was close to over. Fortunately, the DVR didn't hose me up, and I didn't get any hints before I got the recording started.

I was aware of the line shakeup that happened before the game. So I knew Erat was up to the second (replacing Grabo, rather than Laich, which confused me), Grabo went down to the third, Fehr went down to the fourth. I still don't think they're icing their best team, but it's a step in the right direction (I'd like to see a second of Erat-Grabovski-Brouwer (or maybe even E-G-Wilson), with a Chimmer-Laich-Ward third and Volpatti-Fehr-Wilson/Brouwer fourth. That'd make the third line the checking one, and the fourth a cycling/scoring/energy line). Anyway, my hope is that Oates is still experimenting. If he doesn't consider this a work-in-progress, then I'm going to be a bit disturbed.

Let me just take a minute to talk about Wilson vs Brouwer on the second. Brouwer's a slightly better hitter and shooter (I think; neither is cut and dried), but otherwise inferior to Wilson. I'll have another point in a few paragraphs. But I think Wilson is already better at positioning and overall possession. For sure, neither one is going to be driving the play (this year; Wilson, obviously, still has upside down the line).

Getting to the game, it was interesting. Oates had obviously talked to the defensemen about being more aggressive going on offense. This was apparent as, within the first couple of minutes, Alzner was up on a break and Green tried to break into the O-zone 1-on-4. Interestingly, Alzner's charge worked out better than Green's, in that it did lead to a decent scoring chance.

While the breakout actually looked better in this scenario, it did lead to quite a few chances going the other way, over the course of the game. So, I'll call it a qualified improvement. Meaning, when the wings get better at covering the back end, I'll call this a win. Or maybe it was just a one-game change focused on Columbus. I guess we'll have to see on that.

The other thing I found interesting, strategically, were the power play adjustments. Columbus was playing to keep containment on Ward/Brouwer-Backstrom-MarJo, stretching to prevent the Backstrom->Green pass. It really looked, at least for the first three power plays, that the only thing that could stop the Caps, despite that, was Brouwer (who took a dumb penalty to cancel one of the man-up opportunities. Another facet where Wilson is probably already superior to Brouwer. Especially considering that it was the second time this season). Trouble getting the puck to OV didn't stop them. OV still had some very good chances; the first time the puck got there, he got two good whacks at it. The second, he buried (and this one did go through Green).

Despite those chances, on the fourth power play, the Caps swapped OV and Green. That wasn't horrible, but I'm not a fan of the arrangement. I'd really prefer to see OV shooting from closer. Perhaps it was just an attempt to throw off the Blue Jackets' defense. In which case, ok, but I hope it doesn't become a regular thing (especially for a power play still clicking at one-in-three).

The other main thing to point out was that Holtby's excellent game did a lot to cover up those holes the defensive aggressiveness opened. The Caps did do a pretty good job at keeping play at the correct end of the ice. The downside was that when the Jackets got to the Caps zone, they got very good opportunities. Really, this was a game that could have gone south in an awful hurry with less-than-stellar goaltending.

The numbers look reasonably good, though, for the Caps. With the score tied, at evens (ie: through the first, and the first minute and a half of the second), the Caps were heavily ahead. That first Caps goal, scored on the power play, did not indicate further tilting of the ice, though. In fact, for the next (almost) six minutes, the Jackets had a heavy edge in Corsi and Fenwick (+8 and +9, respectively).

But Erat's line (despite Laich being the center, it was very obvious that Erat was the driver) continued to play very well, and broke through at 7:43 of the second, with a heaping helping of Oleksy curl-and-drag. Oleksy's drive to the net pulled almost the entire defense to his side of the net, leaving Laich open for a tap-in when Oleksy passed across to him.

The rest of the game was played pretty close, possessionally, with the Caps having a one event edge in Corsi and the Jackets having a one even edge in Fenwick (both calculated at five aside). But Brouwer got his second goal (nicely set up by Erat), and OV got that power play to put the exclamation point on the game.

Columbus did claw one goal back with five minutes left, and did force quite a few more good saves from Holtby, but the outcome had long-since stopped being in doubt.

I'd call it Washington's best game of the season, and it's really got me licking my chops at the thought of Erat and Grabovski on the same line, but there's definitely still some holes.

I'm fine with the aggressive defense, but the wings have got to do a better job covering that (Alzner had a second charge, later in the game, that took him all the way behind the net, and nobody covered the point before he got back there. That's no way to win games). Holtby's mighty good, but he can't be relied on for .971 save percentage (nobody can).

In the bigger picture, the Caps said that Wilson will stay up for the season. I'm definitely not a fan of that decision, as long as Wilson keeps getting only six-nine minutes (he got almost nine Saturday, which is 1-2 more than I thought he'd gotten). If he starts getting 11-13 minutes, then maybe it's not a terrible idea. But burning a year of his ELC for so little play is just terrible asset management.

Oh, and I called out Erat and Holtby for excellent play already. Schmidt continued to look good as well; I only saw one miscue by him on the night. And MarJo is definitely looking better this year. It isn't an automatic turnover when gets to the boards. He also doubled his shot count for the season! Volpatti also looked decent, I thought (yeah, my expectations were pretty low, that I feel like mentioning that).

OV had a pretty decent game (which is to say, an inferior game by his standards); he was good, but not dominating. Oh, and his line's first two shifts were... not good. And Carlson worried me when he took a penalty in the first. He gets, by far, the most PK time on the team, so I was a bit concerned with him in the box. Happily, they handled it well.

In fact, I need to give kudos to the PK team. In one of the opportunities, they managed to go over a minute before the Jackets got set up (two chances to play "four corners" in one PK. It was very, very encouraging to see that they got them, and even more so that they took them).

We'll see where things go, but there were definitely some good signs. Five on five play still needs to improve, but it looks like it's headed in the right direction.



My daughter is just starting out with some ballet lessons, and seems to enjoy them. So, I had heard about the show Bunheads last year (saw a trailer before a movie, although I don't remember which movie), and got to thinking about whether she might like it.

Well, it took only a minute or two (with discussion of topless dancing and boob jobs) to put the kibosh in that thought.

Still, I kept watching, and it's a very good show.

The premise is a little weak, in that a guy who does things as right as Hubbell did in post-Vegas interactions, and who wants to be married, is not going to be unmarried at forty-eight. Heck, he'd be unlikely to be unmarried at twenty-eight.

Still, it was well-handled, and the dialog, in particular, is very smart.

I'm certainly not the target market, but I'm enjoying it (three episodes in).

A couple storylines I see coming, down the road: is Michelle pregnant? Where did Hubble get his money (he's got an awful lot for a shoe salesman)? AA for one or more characters (seriously, there's an awful lot of drinking for a "family" show)?

I'll just try to enjoy for a while.

Trivial shots

I just wanted to note a little bit about the trivia question in the Oilers game. It asked about defenseman who led the Caps in shots for a season. I guessed it was either Stevens or Hatcher, and was half-right, I guess, since it was Hatcher. But what was interesting to me was that his total (from 92-93, FWIW) was 329. Two years ago, that total would have tied for second (in the league, not among defensemen). Three years ago, it would have been fourth; the year before, third.

Actually, looking into that a bit more, I'm surprised to see that there weren't players firing more shots back in the rip-roaring 80s. In fact, when Gretzky was clearing seventy goals every year, his highest shot total was only 369. And that did lead the league. Kind of puts an exclamation point on how incredible OV's first years were. Over 500 (!) shots?

Also puts a bit of emphasis on how much goaltending has improved, just over that span.


I really don't have a whole lot to say about last night's rather debacular game against the Rangers.  The Caps just did not play a good game.  They had a few good power play opportunities, and they had one other strong shift in the offensive zone, but there was very little sustained pressure.

They did keep the game scoreless through the first, and the first was reasonably even.  But the wheels fell off in the second.  The only thing that kept the score from being worse than it was was that Holtby played a very good game (well, that and the two posts the Rangers hit).  Unfortunately, Lundqvist had an even better one.  I knew he'd come back, but was hoping it wouldn't be quite so soon.

And the third period was not much of an improvement.  They didn't get pounded by quite as many shots, but only putting up eight shots when down two is really terrible.

The only good news is that the breakout was much better in this game.  It didn't stall out nearly as much.  Oh, and Schmidt looked quite good.  If he keeps playing as well as he did last night (I know, that's not likely), he can take over for Erskine today.

I'm really having trouble putting my finger on why they looked so bad, though.  It wasn't really one thing, consistently.  At least, not that I noticed.  But very little was working.

And wow, just looked at the fenwick/corsi totals from the game.  It was butt-ugly (not terribly surprising, I guess).  Even in the twenty-six minutes played down two goals, there was little to no catchup.

I don't really know what happened; they didn't come ready to play, or something.

Let's hope Saturday's game against the Blue Jackets goes a bit better.

Greasing the skids

Last night's [I wrote this several days ago] Caps/Oilers game was almost a mirror image of the prior game against the Avs. This time, the Caps got the goaltending, and the Oilers didn't. The play certainly felt like it was tilting the Oilers way (in the first, it felt like the Caps couldn't manage a breakout to clear their own zone).

Further to that, the Caps only managed three shots in the first, and their Corsi and Fenwick were pretty terrible (Fenwick was 15-8). But Oleksy made a nice (if risky) keep-in thirteen and a half minutes in, and found Laich behind the play (turning around in the slot). Laich took the pass, reversed his turn, and threw the puck into the far side of the net to tie the game up.

In the second, things looked a lot better. A lot of that was the break-out looking much better (I wouldn't say it was great, but it wasn't cripplingly bad), some was getting power play opportunities, and some of it was just better luck. The first of those power play opportunities came while playing 4-on-4, when Smid tripped Grabovski. Ward won the ensuing draw (although I missed why he was taking it), drawing it back where OV barely held it in. OV tossed it over to Backstrom, who got the defenseman, Justin Schultz, hung up about standing or blocking. Backstrom slid it past him to Ward on the far side, who calmly planted it at the top of the net for the score.

That got the Caps moving in the right direction, and they played well for several minutes until the top line got another shift. And it was a dominant one, penning the Oilers in for a bit until OV got open in the slot to pound it in.

The Caps got another power play opportunity half a minute later when Wilson gamely took a stick to the side of his head, putting the normal first power play unit out. After a clean faceoff victory, it took only fourteen seconds to pot the goal off a knuckling shot from Brouwer, low in the slot.

While the announcers said that was goals on three consecutive shots, that kind of shows the weakness of shots on goal (measuring anyone other than the goalie, that is). A couple of seconds before OV's goal, he had fired another shot that went a foot or so wide to the left. Backstrom (I think) collected, before returning the puck to OV for the goal, and that certainly contributed to the goal not being in a set position.

Anyway, Brouwer's goal was the end of the game, as a competitive one.

As you'd expect, given the score, the Oilers got quite a bit more rubber towards the net the rest of the way. They did managed to claw one back, as well, with less than two minutes left. This one, I'll partly blame on Backstrom leaving his man, near the net, to attempt a steal along the boards. When he missed it, his man planted himself on the doorstep, and had an easy goal when his Oiler teammates found him.

All in all, not a terribly promising game, despite the score. The Caps' shooting percentage started to come back to a reasonable number, but they really need to start doing better in possession. Especially, their breakouts need to get better.

One other thing, it turns out that Erskine didn't play in either of the last two games. I thought maybe I wasn't the only one starting to doubt whether he's a playable option, especially against fast teams like the Avs or Oilers, but there was a mention, at the end of the game, that he was hurt. Feel better, Big John.

Schmidt did play both games, and looked reasonably decent (although I didn't notice if he was a significant part of the breakout problem). Oleksy, as noted, did pretty well (though he might have also contributed to the breakout issues).

I was glad to see that Wilson and Beagle got a few more minutes; I guess because the team was ahead, rather than playing catch-up. But more, for Beagle and Wilson, still meant only eight minutes. I'm not terribly thrilled with leaning so heavily on the top lines. Let's hope this balances a bit. Also, I'd like to see more of Latta; I think he's generally better (that is to say, outside of faceoffs) than Beagle, and shows some promise of providing offense.

I think it might be a good sign to see minutes a bit more balanced on the defensive side. The third pairing got a bit over seventeen and a half, with the top getting only twenty-one. Carlson, since he's being leaned on so heavily on the PK side, led the team but was still under twenty-two.

One bit surprise came out. The west has been annihilating the east head-to-head, so far. I believe they said it was 26-4-3, which is just insane. And the Caps have two of those victories, thinking about it. Too bad they can't feast on the "Southleast" again this year.

Well, next game is against the Rangers, on Wednesday, where Lundqvist has been considerably less than kingly, so far. Let's hope it goes well.



I wasn't able to watch hardly any of last night's Caps/Avs game.  Again, the DVR failed; I really need to figure out why it keeps failing.  Worse, I didn't look (we were visiting friends, then getting kids into bed) until there were only five minutes or so left in the game.  The first thing I heard (before the picture came on) was something about people in the arena leaving.  That sounded like a blowout, going the wrong way.

So much for my hopes of the Caps handing the Avs their first loss of the season, hopefully along with attendant blow-up by Patrick Roy.  Very disappointing.

From what I can see, this was a game almost entirely decided by goaltending.  Varly (yes, we miss you a bit, still, Varly) continued his fabulous early-season performance (40 saves), and Neuvy had a terrible game.  Shots and Fenwick, 5-on-5 close, were both tied, and Corsi had only a slight edge to the Avs.  Overall Corsi was heavily in the Caps favor (not surprising, given score effects, and the Caps trailing by 2+ for most of the game).  Also, for the (almost) seven minutes the game was tied, the Caps were ahead on all three measures of possession.

Watching the postgame report (which I rarely do, but made an exception to watch a little, since I missed almost the whole game), it looked like Fehr's line had a fantastic game, with lots of cycling and chances (plus the lone Caps goal).  They were also all +1, so they weren't on for any goals against (a big surprise, as they've been the worst line w/r/t goals against on the season).

OV's line was on for two against (and the primary power play unit allowed a really terrible shortie; which is to say, not a breakaway.  Also, that was definitely a terrible save attempt by Neuvy).

So, the game ended 5-1, and the Caps still have only one period that has ended with them in the lead.

If Fehr's line has gotten a hold of things in the defensive end, then I'm definitely feeling better, going forward.  They've been pretty decent outside of their own blue line up to this point, but pretty bad on the other side of that line.  Defensively, they've been the team's weak link.  Let's hope this was a sign of improvement, not just good luck.  If it was, this is a much better team, going forward.

Blowing in the wind

I wasn't able to watch all of the Caps/Canes game the other night. My DVR didn't record it, for some reason, and I didn't try to turn it on until almost half-way through the second period. Then, I went upstairs at the period break to get the kids to bed, and missed another five minutes of the third.

All in all, it was disappointing. Fehr's line still looks pretty bad in its own end (and hasn't done the good job of intercepting passes in the offensive- and neutral-zones since game one), although I did miss their goal in the first. Erskine still looks pretty terrible (actually, I'm beginning to wonder if he's even fit for third pairing).

Holtby looked pretty decent; there was nothing he could have done on the first goal. And the second? Well, I was surprised he didn't get all the way across, but Semin does have a wicked shot, and it was 5-on-3, so I'm not terribly upset.

OV continues to look like a force of nature, now with five goals already. I can't see how that's a sustainable pace, but nothing really jumps out as deserving regression (maybe shooting percentage, although that's not absurdly high, either, considering his eight shots per game). My reaction about his line, and defense, from game one definitely was out of line. Their Corsi and Fenwick is pretty darned good (60%, all situations).

One bright spot was that the Caps finally ended a period with the lead. Yes, sad to say, the first period of this game was the first one all season where the Caps led. Ur
bom (recently claimed off waivers from New Jersey) played and had a quiet sixteen minutes and change (and for a defenseman, that's a good thing).

Unfortunately, that's about the best that can be said about the game. Nothing went spectacularly badly, but nothing really went well, either.

And so, it ended with another Caps loss, this one to a (once and future) division rival.

The one bit of encouragement (slight though it is), is that the Caps ratio of goals, 5-on-5, with score within a goal, is unsustainably low. It will improve, just about no
matter what the Caps do. Less encouraging, though, is that their Corsi and Fenwick under the same circumstances, are not good (49% and 47%, respectively). Not terrible,
but not promising. But they can't keep shooting 4.5% under those circumstances. They have plenty of legitimate NHL talent, so that will not continue.

Let's just hope that that change comes soon.


iPhoning it in

There's a really neat article up at the New York Times (yes, it went up several days ago, but I finally finished reading it) about the backstory behind the iPhone.  The original iPhone, that is.

It makes for very interesting reading, seeing how much of a gamble the project was, and how fine a line the original demo (the one six months before they went on sale) was.  You see a number of the ways that that could have crashed and burned, and an idea of how badly that would have hurt the company.

It's amazing, too, that we don't see more stories like this, even after the fact.  Although the article does show some of the ways that explain why it doesn't happen before the fact, which is also interesting.

Grinding on

The government shutdown is just an ongoing nightmare.  It's had minimal direct effects on me, so far (unavailability of the Smithsonian and various parks in the area (one of which I hadn't previously realized was a federal park) is about it), but I've seen its effects on a lot of other people that I know, and with whom I work.

This whole thing is getting more surreal by the day.  First, it was over an extraconstitutional way to repeal a law.  Yes, a law, not a bill, as Republicans kept insisting.  Not only that, but a law that the Supreme Court had already weighed in on.  Even more ironic (and stupid), it was a law that had its origins with the Heritage Foundation and Congressional Republicans.

But no, we had to get rid of it, or it would be the end of Civilization as we know it (yes, their rhetoric really did reach that level of absurdity).

Then we had to do keep the government shut down so that one of a number of concessions could be wrung out of the Administration.

Then it had to be kept shut down until Republicans got something out of the shutdown, even if they weren't sure about what.

Now, we're hearing that even a default wouldn't be a big deal, because tax revenue is more than enough to keep up with debt service payments.  Revenue being more than debt service is probably true, but everything else in that statement is false or misleading.

1) The market doesn't look at it, and say, "Well, I'm being paid, so even if a number of other people aren't, that's ok."  No, they look and say, "That entity isn't paying all its bills, so I could easily be next to be skipped or cut off".  That's how you start the sovereign equivalent of a bank run.

2) Counting revenue to be more than debt service would require stealing (and this is outright stealing, no longer having it under the table) from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

3) It would also mean canceling all tax writeoffs.

4) If a default isn't a big deal, then there really is no leverage over the Administration.

5) A more pernicious side effect is that, right now, CDS contracts on the government defaulting are going up a lot.  If the government fails to pay its bills, those will cash.  Those cashing will probably bankrupt the banks that issued the contracts (the biggest problem with so-called banking reform is that it failed to require banks issuing CDOs to keep sufficient cash to cover a reasonable percentage of issued CDOs.  So they don't have the money to pay out any significant percentage of failures).  With the government defaulting, there will be nobody left to save the banks.  No, not even the 'too big to fail' banks (and believe me, that's an even bigger problem today than it was five years ago; the other major flaw of so-called banking reform).  So you can probably kiss the entire banking system goodbye.  And if the banks go down, nobody will be able to get their money (probably not even people with money overseas).

Do any of points 1, 2, 3, and 5 sound like no big deal?

This is a big deal, and it will poleaxe the entire global economy.

The fact that this has been allowed to go as far as it has just blows my mind.  The GOP needs to stop this colossal game of chicken, because it will hurt everyone.  Badly.


Star Power

The Caps went to Big D yesterday 0-9-2 in their last eleven games there, and not having won in regulation Dale Hunter and Mark Tinordi (whose son is now playing for the Canadiens) were mainstays of the team.  I must admit, hearing that at the beginning of the broadcast made me feel much less well about their prospects.

Also, they did say, at the beginning, that Hillen had to get surgery for his leg (knee?  I didn't hear), and is out for several months.  I'm sorry to hear that, although I don't think it'll hurt the Caps much, as there isn't a whole lot of difference between Hillen, Oleksy, Kundratek, and Carrick (and Urbom, too, probably), defensively.

But things did start out pretty well.  Faceoffs weren't going the Caps way, and Dallas had, I think, slightly the better of the play, but it was close.  Then Robidas got whistled for tripping Laich, and the Caps power play went to work.  It took them two times with control in the zone, but they got their preferred play with OV on the empty side throwing Green's sneaky pass into the net (OV was a bit fooled by the pass, too, as he didn't get a chance to wind up).

Play was largely going the Caps way for several minutes after that, but Erskine blew his back-side coverage four minutes later, and left Cole open in the slot to tie the game.  Erskine took a penalty a couple minutes later, as well.

At the end of the period, shots were about even, as well as scoring chances (although both favored Dallas).

There wasn't a whole lot going on in the second period.  The Caps were mostly playing better, and hit the goalposts several times (four total, for the game, I believe).  They also has a Backstrom goal disallowed, as the followthrough on his shot (hitting the puck out of the air) hit Lehtonen in the mask.  It was initially ruled a goal (which surprised me, although I couldn't see him hit the puck at full speed), but then ruled not to be a goal.  Very weird officiating, it seemed to me.

Four minutes after that, Chiasson scored off an assist by Eakin.  This one, Holtby probably should have had, although it was a very near, and not defensively contested, shot.

The third period was one long session of frustration.  The Caps were getting increasingly desperate, but were effectively stymied by Dallas, with the result that there were almost no shots in the period (only ten by both teams, combined).  The Caps only managed to get set up in the zone a couple times, and never for very long.  They did come close to tying things several times (as well as nearly losing it one time, when Seguin put it off the inside of the post), but were never able to put it over the line.

Oates, I think, deserves a bit of criticism here, as he allowed Green to play too much of the third (in fact, Green and Carlson were out together for very long stretches of the third), and the Caps passing needs to get crisper (there were a lot of passes in people's feet or just out of reach), but mostly it was just some bad luck.  They certainly had some chances.

The power play has, amazingly, improved on last season (50% so far).  The PK has managed to improve to around league average for last year.  But they just can't find the back of the net at even strength.  Given the relative amounts of ice-time, you really don't want 60% of your scoring to be on the power play (plus, there's no question that 50% is unsustainable).

There's been a bit of bad luck, and Holtby has been underperforming, so far, but it's a bit discouraging.

On the plus side, they have a few days until Carolina comes to visit on Thursday.


Snatching victory...

I don't have a lot of time to write this, but I wanted to jot down a few notes about last night's Caps game, which I was finally able to watch tonight.  I wasn't feeling great about it, as last night I turned it on a few seconds after the Flames opened the scoring.

And it didn't really go all that well after.  The Flames scored more before seventeen minutes had been reached, and Hillen suffered a leg (probably knee) injury in there as well.  Wilson responded to that with a few good punches and a nice takedown on the person delivering the hit that caused the injury (on replay it looked pretty clean, but in full speed I didn't think so).  But Holtby was pulled after that third goal.

The Caps did get a few chances in there (OV was close a couple times), but nothing sustained.  It really wasn't looking good by the end of the period.  The only encouraging thing was that the shots were close (in fact, the Caps were up one, which surprised me quite a bit).

And things didn't look much better for a while in the second.  Then Carrick got a hooking minor (weird call; looked like Carrick was the one being fouled).  The PK did well this time (the third goal in the first was a PPG, so it hadn't started well), and at the expiration, MarJo got the puck and found Carrick at the other blue line.  Carrick took it in on the breakaway and deked Ramo down, calmly depositing the puck behind him.

But, a minute and a half later, Neuvy misplayed the puck behind the net fairly badly, and gave up an open-net goal to restore Calgary's three-goal margin.  And the play still wasn't looking too good for the home team, although they did have the occasional chance.  Then Jones hit Carlson in the face with his stick to give the Caps the man advantage (and I'm impressed the refs saw this one.  It was there, but was very quick).

The Caps won the faceoff, worked it around for a bit, then fed OV for the one-timer for a goal on the first shot (sadly, though, it was the Caps first shot since Carrick had scored).

The Caps got within one four minutes later with OV again finding the back of the net.  Off an icing call, Backstrom won the faceoff over to MarJo, who dumped back to OV, who rocketed it into the net.

And the Caps looked great for the remaining four minutes or so of the period.  Lots of chances, many of them very close.  But none were converted, which took us into the third (other than the bench minor with thirteen seconds left).

The team was doing a good job killing that penalty for the first 59 seconds, then Erskine (with time) cleared it the length of the ice, and over the glass at the far end.  How often does that happen?  Well, for the Caps, this season, every game, apparently.  To their credit, the team did a great job killing the two-man advantage.  The remainder of the delay of game wasn't quite as smooth, but they got the job done.

The Caps drew two more penalties, and the second of those provided the tying score.  OV wristed it into a defender laying in front of him, the puck bounced around some skates to Grabo, who calmly passed over to Backstrom, who settled it and wristed it between the defender's legs, and past Ramo.

Things didn't look too good after that, but they managed to get into overtime with the tie.  The overtime felt pretty heavily Calgary's way, but shots were equal.  In fact, they were equal for the entire game, which surprised me.  The Caps really didn't seem to have equal control of the play, other than five or six minutes at the end of the second.  Although score effects would, normally, help equalize quite a bit.  I'm sure it wasn't nearly even when the score was close.

Anyway, they managed to drag it out into the shootout, where Grabo and OV both deked forehand, then scored on the backhand.  And Neuvy stopped Baertschi and Hudler to cement the win.

It wasn't pretty (though you've got to figure that being short a defender didn't help with that), but they got the job done.  It was actually less encouraging than the Chicago loss, but the result was better.

Holtby definitely had a bad game.  Neuvy, outside of that one puck-handling misadventure, looked very good.  Erskine did not; he mostly looked pretty terrible (though I'm surprised to see he was even on the night).  MarJo was, quietly, very good.  In addition to his beautiful helper for Carrick, he had assists on both of OV's goals.  And OV was a force; the two goals, nine more shots, second assist on Backstrom's goal, and the shootout winner.  The only weakness was taking his second slashing minor, but at least he had company going to the box, this time.

And Grabo looked great.  He had a number of nice passes, and was regularly threatening.  Fehr's line, I noticed several times looking good, although I suspect I'm forgetting several (maybe many) not-so-good plays.  Erat and Wilson looked pretty good; unfortunately, Beagle was centering them.  They managed to get a few pretty good chances despite him.  But again, I suspect I'm forgetting a number of not-so-good times.

Anyway, hard to know what to make of the game.  It was a win, which was nice, but it was a butt-ugly one.  Not to mention feeling a bit like the old Cardiac Caps.  And I never liked that feeling.  Still, we'll take it.  Dallas is tomorrow night; we'll get to see Eakin again.  Hopefully, the game will go a bit better.

The Wiz?

Just a funny note. I was reading about the Persian Empire (Archaemenid), and got to the part of Alexander the Great kicking their butts. In there was a note about a companion of Alexander, a historian and architect, named Aristobulus. I was very amused by this, as I had no idea where Joel Rosenberg (no, not THAT Joel Rosenberg, of whom, incidentally, I haven't heard until he was mentioned recently on the Colbert Report) got the name for his wizard in The Sleeping Dragon. Very cool when you find things like that.

Ondrej the giant?

I was reading the Down Goes Brown recently, and McIndoe's opening night post. Some funny stuff there.

But what got me thinking was his bringing up Ondrej Pavelec. I hadn't looked at his overall numbers, but has seemed to me that Pavelec has done pretty well against the Caps, over his career. So I was surprised to see his overall numbers aren't that great.  So, has he been that good against the Caps?  Well... not so much. Not that that's terrible, but it's a bit below league average (though a hair better than his overall numbers). I wish I had the breakout by year.

The other part that I found interesting was his number of games against, by team. He's played the Caps quite a bit more than anyone else; 25 against the Caps, with the second highest being the Lightning, at 19. I wonder if that's just because the Caps have been good, so they never (outside of that one game) put the backup in against Washington.

Anyway, I might be the only one, but I found it interesting.

Clancing thoughts

I just heard, this morning on my way in to work, that Tom Clancy had passed away earlier this week. First of all, I was very surprised that I hadn't heard about it earlier.

Then I started to think about his work. We actually had to read 'The Hunt for Red October' as summer reading for Ninth Grade. And I must admit that I liked it. So much that I read 'Patriot Games' and 'Cardinal of the Kremlin' soon after. I read 'Red Storm Rising' in there somewhere as well, although that was not read straight through (I read a chunk of it, put it down, read another big chunk, put it down, then finally finished it. Oddly, given the vast scope and cast, I didn't have trouble remembering who was whom upon picking it back up).

I was surprised to find out, shortly after reading Red October, that Clancy was an insurance agent in Crofton, MD, (long) walking distance from where I was living at the time, in Davidsonville (I only walked it once; the roads were not conducive, to put it mildly). It was cool to see someone so local succeeding so grandly. And it was neat that it was published by the Navy, with the Naval Academy so close (I'm sure that wasn't a coincidence). Clancy, I'm told, soon after bought a huge place on the Chesapeake (and, of course, stopped selling insurance).

Of those books, Patriot Games was actually my favorite of the group, perhaps because it was the most personal for the hero, Jack Ryan. I wonder what it says about me, though, that the character I most identified with in Cardinal, was the geek doing SDI work. I also wonder if that would still be the case, if I reread it.

Anyway, once it came out, I read Clear and Present Danger. It wasn't bad; I ended up reading it a couple of times. The idea of the invincible sniper was a cool one for me, at the time.

Then my dad got me Sum of All Fears when I was still a freshman in college. Again, I read it and enjoyed it. Jack Ryan's promotions seemed borderline on silly, but it still wasn't too bad.

I think I might have read one more (I have a vague recollection of Jack becoming acting President, and can't remember if that was in Sum or the next one), but I basically lost interest in him around that time. I guess maybe I finally saw through the 'gear X spins cog Y, which touched button A, to disastrous effect' elements. Or maybe Jack became uninteresting as a character? Or maybe the plots were just too ridiculous? I really don't remember (though it wasn't politics; I've become far more liberal since I stopped reading him, and I don't think there's any connection there).

But I knew he went on to write many more books. And some were made into movies (I think Red October, a very quotable movie, and Patriot Games were the only two I watched. I liked RO. The lack of authenticity in Patriot Games (places quoted were, for the most part, not the actual places) bugged me enough that I don't remember thinking much of it. And, of course, many were made into video games. Surprising that, as much as I was into video games during and after college, I never played any of them. I suspect that's where he made the most money (NPR, where I heard about his passing, only talked about the video games).

Despite how long it's been since I've read one of his books, I'm very sorry to hear about his passing. I think I'll reread Red October, and maybe Patriot Games, in memory of him.

Resquiescat in Pace, Mr Clancy (ironically, it was probably also in ninth grade that I learned the conjugating necessary to fully understand that phrase in the Latin).


Hawked over

The lineup, last night, was a little bit weird to start the Caps/Hawks game. Fehr was third center, with Ward and Chimmer on his wings. Erat was on the fourth line, providing stability for Latta and Wilson. That seems nearly criminal mismanagement for a $4.5M player. Carrick also got a jersey, although that might have been due largely to him being from Chicago.

Despite that, I think, overall, the game went pretty well. It certainly didn't start out all that well, with Bollig scoring four minutes in, right after a Caps penalty had expired. And things didn't really improve after that (outside of one nice passing play culminating in OV just missing the net), until Bollig got called for roughing, six minutes later. The power play went pretty well, moving the puck around until Grabo managed to shovel the puck across the crease to OV for a quick deposit into the top of the net.

Despite Chicago restoring its lead thirty seconds later, the rest of the period was generally going the Caps way. In fact, they ended up outshooting Chicago 13-8 in the period. That's a pretty good formula for winning, in the long run.

And things went very, very solidly the Caps way for the first six or seven minutes of the second. They kept the play at the right end of the ice for nearly that entire span, although they were not rewarded for it. Fehr's line, in particular, looked very good over that span, generating a number of good chances. Things started going downhill after that, although Ward did manage to spring Grabo and Chimmer for a 2-on-1 halfway through the period.

I must admit, watching that play develop, at no point did I think Grabo was going to pass. So I was pleased when he buried it short side to tie it up again.

But, outside of that one play, things were going very solidly Chicago's way, and Carrick got caught with hooking a couple minutes later. They started very well on that power play, with several clears, but when Chicago made it into the zone, it took them very little time to find a very open Brent Seabrook for the score. I will say, though, that I was a little disappointed with Holtby on this goal, as Seabrook was at the top of the circle, and there was no one in the way.

While that was the only other goal allowed, the last five minutes of the period were very bad for the Caps. For the period, shots were 18-6 home team, and two of those shots were clean breakaways (though Holtby made nice stops on both).

Things really went a bit wild in the third, with things just going back and forth, and nobody sustaining pressure for long periods of time.

The Caps power play really hit high gear early on, with Grabo deflecting Green shots twice in the first six minutes to finally give the Caps a lead (the first was initially credited to Green, and I must admit to not being able to see the deflection even on replay).

But things were certainly looking pretty good at that point, even after Saad tied things up again a couple minutes later on a nicely-played give-and-go.

Six minutes later, though, things took a sharp turn for the worse, as Oduya put a slapshot past Holtby. On initial viewing, it looked like a very weak goal that trickled in off the edge of his catching glove. But it looks like it was deflected a little bit, and that might have put it enough lower to throw off Holtby.

That put the Caps into full-desperation mode, greatly aided by Sharp getting called for running over Holtby (on replay, looked like Sharp was trying to avoid Green, and went right over Holtby. Not sure what he was thinking, there. Or why he argued with the call). The Caps got the ensuing face-off, and put some nice pressure on until Nordstrom cleared the zone. Unfortunately for him, he cleared the other zone as well for a delay of game penalty to give the Caps a 5-on-3 for about 90 seconds.

At that point, the Caps really needed to a) shoot more and b) not collapse around the net. But the collapse allowed the defenders to cover more lanes, with the result that the Caps only got a couple of decent shots away. Those were very good chances, but Crawford managed to stop them.

And then, Hossa got the puck out, after Holtby had beed pulled. Green managed to catch him, and deflect the puck away, but it was judged a penalty shot infraction on an empty net. Can't say as I agree with the call, as Hossa went down tripping on Green's torso (so I don't know how you say that Hossa was past Green). But what Green hit the puck with to deflect it would determine whether it was a penalty at all, and I can't say as I could tell, watching.

Anyway, I wasn't terribly upset at how things played out. OV's line didn't look great, I thought. Just no defense there, and wasn't able to maintain possession. Also had the giveaway for one of the breakaways mentioned.

Grabo's line looked pretty good. They had a number of chances, and did a decent job disrupting Chicago.

Fehr's line actually looked very good. I was impressed with Fehr's defense, in particular, in the offensive and neutral zones. He intercepted a number of passes, and came close on several more. They also had a number of good scoring chances.

Erat looked good, when he was on, but that wasn't much. Wilson also looked good, but that was even rarer. Latta wasn't bad either, but he had even less time. Not sure what to make of all that. Definitely don't like Erat getting only nine minutes, although I can see why he's with Wilson and Latta. And I can't see why Wilson (or Latta, for that matter) were kept up, if they're going to get less than seven minutes a night. That just can't be good for their development.

On the defensive side, the top three looked as good as you'd expect (outside of Carlson's one really bad turnover that led to the second of those two breakaways. He actually looked excellent except for that one play). Erskine was definitely a mixed bag. He did a good job a couple times, taking Chicago's top forwards to the boards. But he also failed to get the puck to another player one time on the breakout, starting behind the net without pressure.

I can't say as I ever much noticed Hillen. He seemed to do decently. And Carrick? Well, it was not a good night for him. He had the hooking penalty, and the first and fourth goals were largely due to him failing to tie up the stick of the forward. Not the way he was hoping to start his NHL career, for sure.

On special teams, well, the power play was obviously fantastic. Who was that center that left in the offseason, again?

The penalty kill seemed pretty decent when I was watching, but one of four with eight shots allowed isn't terribly good. Certainly room for improvement, there.

So, the 6-4 final wasn't terribly good. At least one, and possibly two, weak goals isn't good either. But, as the first game of the season, and probably facing the best team in the league, I'm not terribly upset. There's certainly room for improvement, but there's reason to believe that they'll make that improvement.

The Corsi/Fenwick numbers for the game are pretty good, considering they were going up against one of the top-two or -three possession teams in the league. So that's very encouraging.

The one big hole that I'm seeing is fourth D (not that that wasn't predictable). Erskine isn't really up to the task, is paid like he is, and there's no cap room to seek a replacement later. On the offensive side, there's certainly reason to expect improvement, but I don't see where it comes from, defensively. Gonna have to hope, a lot, on this.