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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fehr Dinkum, Mate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Caps!


Enough of Clough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ducking into a short vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Structure in life?

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

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

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

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

A few Premier notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing with fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Skating on thin ice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tech In-vanity

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Home on the Rangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predatory instincts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Adventures in stock forecasting

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

A few of them are great:

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures in Marketing?

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

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

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

Maybe someone in marketing just screwed up the web site.

Caps catch-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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