I've mentioned Threes a couple of times before (for those keeping track, that game I mentioned before is still, by far, the best game I've played).  I still enjoy playing it (although that opening animation still annoys me, and makes me wish I had a faster phone/ipad), but I yesterday became aware of some clones (1024, 2048, 16384 (played on a hexagonal field)).

Anyway, later yesterday, I was introduced to an epic (and I do not use that word lightly)-length blog post by the creators, showing all the work that went into what they made.  I'm actually still working on reading it, but it's really impressive how much they sweated the details.  And I still think it's a better game than any of the others.

What was interesting to me was seeing the conflicting reactions among them (three people wrote it) about loving/hating the clones.  And I ('d like to think I) understand that.

Really, I don't think those clones are going to hurt Threes' business; in fact, I think they're more likely to help.  But I can see how they can get annoyed that they put in all this work, and someone's trying to ... skip all that hard work, I guess.


Modernizing discrimination?

The Supreme Court, yesterday, heard oral arguments in Hobby Lobby v Sebelius, where the evangelical founders of a for-profit corporation wanted the ability to discriminate against all their female employees, and refuse to cover contraception.  That, of course, violates the Affordable Care Act (ACA); hence Kathleen (glad I looked that up; almost wrote Catherine) Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) being the defendant.

What I find interesting is listening to one of Hobby Lobby's lawyers defending this.  First, let's be clear that this is not about Hobby Lobby being able to exercise its religion (ignoring, for a moment, the farce of an idea that a corporation has religious beliefs); it's about the founders of the company being able to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

If this is allowed, then you'll definitely find things like companies owned by Scientologists denying mental health care for their employees.

Anyway, the whole reason I mentioned this is that Mr Rienzi kept talking about "least intrusive measures" to make the employees whole, and talking about the availability of the exchanges.  So, it sounds like he's saying that Hobby Lobby shouldn't be required to pay for insurance for their non-evangelical employees (or those who just want contraceptives, I guess.  The fact that a large percentage of Catholics use birth control says that there's more there than just religion).

Hey, that's a much bigger exemption than just birth control.  Let's just require employees of all companies to get insurance on the exchanges.  (Actually, let's just do it right, and go to a single-payer system, so employers have no say in their employees' health care options.)

It'll be interesting to see where this goes, but I predict a shit-storm of epic proportions if Hobby Lobby wins.


Choppy play leads to chopped result

I would have been happy with tonight's Caps result, if they hadn't started by jumping out to a two-goal lead.  We had dinner, and I had to get the kids ready for, and into, bed almost immediately after that, and things went seriously downhill while I was away.

But let's start with those two goals.  Both were within the first seven minutes, and both were on the power play.  In fact, both were OV, despite neither being a typical OV goal.  The first occurred when play had gotten scrambled, and OV was trying to hit Backstrom on a back-door cut.  But Quick got enough in front of it to deflect it, but it went into the back of the defenseman in front of him, and into the back of the net.  The second was also a broken play, as a so-so feed to Brouwer in the middle left him scrambling, but he managed to stretch out to pass it over to OV, who wristed it under Quick as Q was sliding across.

Gotta love a start like that.  My daughter's reaction to the second score: Boo-yah.

And the Caps did a good job keeping the play mostly in the Kings end for the rest of the first period (basically except for the two minutes they were killing a penalty).  Ward took an early tripping call in the second, however, and it eventually led to Richards bringing the Kings within a goal.

Although Washington was outplayed for most of the second (and there were some pretty terrible non-calls on LA in there.  In one sequence, Brouwer had his stick grabbed away, then kicked away from him.  He grabbed it as they went back to the other end, then had it grabbed again at the other end.  Then, a second or so later, another Cap had their stick slashed away, then Nicky got hit hard after chipping the puck in.  No calls on any of that; and that hit took Nick out for the rest of the game), they did manage to restore their margin when Penner pounced on a rebound in front with three minutes left.

But the Caps wouldn't be the Caps if a two-goal lead were safe.  They were absolutely dominated through the third; the Kings doubled them up in Fenwick (and Corsi was probably even less even).  And LA scored in the first, ninth, and thirteenth minutes (at least two of those were against Orlov and Wey; I didn't notice the third).

At that point, I largely gave up on the Caps.  And when Carlson took a penalty to prevent an easy empty-net goal, I definitely did.  But something bizarre happened when the Caps managed to take the ensuing faceoff down to the other end.  Halak ran for the bench, and OV charged on, throwing the puck at the net while running through an attempted stick check by a forward (whose stick went flying almost from the blue line to behind the goal line).

Quick stopped the initial shot, but his leg pad (the top part that sticks up above his knee) stopped the puck going away from the net, and pushed it back under him.  Kuzya skated in right then, and backhanded the puck into the net for the team's second last-minute, short-handed, game-tying goal of the season (Backstrom had the other).

You'd think that'd be enough drama, but the Caps still had forty-two seconds of penalty killing left in the period.  It was a bit ugly, but they got the job done.

And, in fact, they got the job done in overtime as well, as they had to kill the last minute of that penalty.  And from there, the rest of overtime was basically all Caps (there was one 2-on-1 that Green broke up nicely).  They had several very good chances, including Dima ringing one off the right post, but didn't manage to get it across the line.

So they went to the shootout again.  Kuz started off again, but had the puck hop over his stick before he could get the shot off.  Then Kopitar scored.  Then Fehr was stopped (it was close).  And then Carter scored again to seal the game.

As I said earlier, I would have been very happy with the result if it didn't come out of the Caps giving up two two-goal advantages.  Can't really be happy with that, no matter who the other team is.

Despite the four goals conceded, Halak actually had a very good game.  Not only was he barraged, especially in the third period, but at least two of those goals came from undefended players less than ten feet from the net (that would be the two Wey/Orlov goals mentioned).  He also faced several 2-on-1s and a lot of PK time.  Nothing to complain about there.

The power play did pretty well.  As mentioned, they scored twice early (and I think this marks the first time this season that the Caps lost with two PPGs, though I'm not positive about that).  Overall numbers aren't that great, though, with only ten shots attempted (six on net) in just under six minutes (granted, two of those PPs were without Backstrom, and maybe that just shows how valuable he is on the power play).

The PK did not do terribly well.  In just under six minutes, they allowed nineteen shot attempts (eight on net) and one goal.  It could've easily been a lot worse, but that isn't great.

On a trivia note, Kuzya was the sixth Cap to get his first career goal this season, joining Latta, Brown, Carrick, Schmidt, and Wilson.  Penner, Erat and Wellman also got their first goals as Caps this year.

Anyway, despite the leads blown, the Caps were incredibly lucky to escape with a point tonight.  Fenwick at fives, close, was two:one in favor of LA, and that's a formula for getting crushed.  Regularly.  And they did get a little bit of help, finally, as Columbus and Detroit didn't go to overtime and Toronto continued their skid (have now lost seven of last eight).  In fact, I hadn't realized it, but the Caps are now in a four-way tie with those teams for the two wild-card spots.

But the Caps, of course, lose the first tiebreaker against everyone, so they're still on the outside looking in.

And looking to keep them outside is Boston, coming to visit on Saturday.  The Caps will need to play a lot better to win against them.  I'm guessing that Holtby will get the start, but we'll see.

Go Caps!

HTC One-Two

Just saw that the new HTC One is out (or just announced, depending on where you are and who your carrier is).  Looks like a very nice phone, although I do have one bit of skepticism.  That is that the second lens that allows retroactively refocusing pictures (and some other tricks) looks like it's in the middle of the back of the phone.  I'd expect that that would make it awkward, at best, to take a picture.

Other than that, it looks neat, and I'd definitely be interested in trying it if it ran iOS.

Scourge of coffee?

I was bemused reading this bit by Khoi Vinh about the Scourge of Coffee.  As one who doesn't partake of caffeine (no, not a religious reason or anything like that, just lost taste for the few caffeinated drinks I once liked), I found it quite amusing.

And reading it, I ended up glad that I ended my investment in Green Mountain Coffee, despite making a decent amount of money from it.

I do wonder about K-Cups and similar systems, though.  I can certainly see the attraction for a business, where you might have people wanting a wide range of beverages.  But I've heard that many people use them at home, as well, and I don't understand that at all.  I would think the cost would preclude that making any sense at all (I figure the extremely rich, who wouldn't care about the cost) could instead hire a butler, or something similar, to take care of coffee for them).

Engineered for gaming?

Just glancing at announcement of new Nvidia GTX Titan Z, and I'm quite amused to hear that it's for multi-monitor gaming.  How many people are going to drop three grand on a graphics card for gaming?

I'm sure the number is non-zero, but I'm guessing it's a mighty small number.  For sure, none of my friends who are heavily into gaming, or their friends, would spend remotely close to that much.

It would be cool to see an ECC RAM version in a Mac Pro in the future, though.  Especially at a more sane price.

And I do wonder how it would do for bitcoin mining.


Game is a push in San Jose?

Well, not really.  As I mentioned, I was not at all optimistic about the Caps' chances against the Sharks.  In fact, the Caps hadn't won there since '93 (a couple of players in the game hadn't been born yet).  But the Caps got one they definitely didn't deserve the other night.

The lines were basically the same as the game before, although Halak wasn't feeling great and didn't start (this was a last-minute decision; it was assumed after practice that he would be).  That didn't worry me, although I wonder if it did, Coach Oates.

Washington started out quite strong, taking it to the Sharks, and finally getting a lucky goal from the third line in the twelfth minute.  They were applying strong pressure, and a shot rebounded from Neimi to the same-side defenseman, who tried to clear it.  But his shot rebounded, almost immediately, off his defensive partner's leg and over the shoulder of a stunned Niemi.  After much debate, Fehr was credited with the goal.

Things continued to look pretty good for the Caps, until a last-minute flurry resulted in a San Jose goal with six seconds left, as Marleau got a rebound in front of the net and put it home.

The second period started out being almost all Sharks (greated aided by a pair of power plays).  On one of those power plays, they did a very good job keeping San Jose from setting up in the zone, but the other was basically a shooting gallery.  But Holt-beast was in full effect, and kept the game tied.

The second half of the period had the Caps catching up a bit.  I'd like to say that they were helped by the two power plays they got during that time, but the truth is that they looked terrible.  I think they got one shot on net on the two PPs combined.  The one time they managed to get set up, a nice (lucky?) deflection of a cross-ice pass sent them out of the zone again.  Other than that, it was continual rewinds as they dumped in and had it immediately cleared.  San Jose even got a strong forecheck in on one of those power plays; that was just ugly.

The third period played basically even, with each team scoring one.  Sheppard scored on an unassisted breakaway five minutes in (and Holtby definitely wanted that one back), and Brown scored on another fluky goal seven minutes later (with nice assistance from Wilson and Penner).  Brown's goal was fluky because it deflected off two San Jose players before it went in.  Niemi couldn't've been terribly pleased with the team in front of him.

OV's high sticking call with two minutes and change left provided quite a scare, but Holtby again looked like a wall.

Washington did a very nice job, comfortably outplaying the Sharks, when the game went into overtime, but they did not manage to score their fifth OT goal of the season.

So it went into the coin flip, where Couture started things off by getting stopped.  Oates again started with his Russian enigma, and got the advantage when Kuzya put it past Niemi.  Pavelski and Fehr continued, and were both stopped to make it very tight.  Marleau put his second past Holtby after that, keeping the Sharks alive.

At that point, I tweeted:

And Backstrom calmly skated in and beat Niemi for the win.  And the crowd went wild.  Well, the Caps fans who were still awake did, at least.

Not a pretty game, although Holtby looked fabulous, especially with how he's been treated over the past several weeks.  I wonder if the thirty-four saves are enough to get him another start tomorrow or Saturday.  I hope so.  Halak's been great, but Holtby's had similarly good stretches.  Actually, thinking about it, I bet this gets Holtby the start against Boston, as he has only one regular season loss against the Bruins.

As I said, the Caps power play looked pretty terrible.  They were reduced almost entirely to dump-ins, and they're just not a good dump and chase team.  Well, not without Chimmer on the power play, they aren't.  The end result was only eight shot attempts (actually, I'm amazed it was that many, although only three of them were on-net) in six minutes.  That's massively off their normal pace, which is quite a credit to the penalty killing of the Sharks.

The PK got the job done, technically, although that's mostly a credit to Holtby.  They allowed fourteen shot attempts in just over six minutes of power play time (actually, I'm not sure how they calculate that.  There were three power plays, and none were ended prematurely.  Only thing I can think of is a little bit of 6-on-5 on a delayed call being credited as power play time), with eleven of those shots being on net.  Saying the Caps were lucky there is a massive understatement.

All in all, you just have to say that the Caps were incredibly lucky to win the game.  Lucky not to give up an power play goals and lucky to score both of the times Niemi was beat.

Really, they just looked outclassed through most of the game.  5-on-5 close Fenwick was 55% in favor of the Sharks, and I'm actually surprised it was that close.  It didn't feel like it, when I was watching.

But I'm not complaining.  At this point in the season, as I've said, there are no more style points.  It took an immense amount of luck, but the Caps managed five out of six points on the West Coast swing.  That puts them into a position where it's believable that they might make the playoffs.  The odds are still against it, but no longer overwhelmingly so.

If they can pull a pair of points out of the next two games, then I think they'll probably make it.  Go pointless, and I'd bet against it pretty strongly.

Anyway, as alluded earlier, tomorrow is the next game, and it's at home against the Kings.  Another very tough one.  I'd like to hope that this marks the end of the OV/Beagle line, but practice this morning suggest no.  Go Caps!

Home again?

I thought it was pretty bad when Duke (to say nothing of NC State) was able to play in Raleigh in the men's tournament, as that's damn near a home game.  But I didn't realize, until this evening (we tuned in for the end of the Duke women's game) that the women actually got to play at Cameron.  Is that typical?  Because, if so, that's really strongly favoring the "power" schools.


After two rounds of the NCAA tournament (sorry, four games does NOT make a round), I'm disappointed about where I am.  My best year, I got nine games wrong in the entire tournament (yes, that's considerably better than I've done since).

This year, even after picking North Dakota and San Diego State to win in the first round (and having OSU winning one game, rather than zero), my best hope is to get 22 games wrong.  Duke losing to Mercer certainly hurt a lot, in that respect, as did Syracuse losing so early.

I guess the ACC let me down.

What now?

I mentioned, recently, that I reached the end of the "tournaments" for Bejeweled Blitz, and was thinking of just accumulating up to 1M coins available.

Well, I got up to 750,000 (exactly, actually) coins a couple days ago, then got to daily spin.  Then I won, for the first time ever, the 1M coin prize.  So now what?  Have to think about it.

My average score has certainly improved a lot.  I'm down to probably 1 in 3 games that doesn't clear 100k, but otherwise not much to do.  Maybe I should just delete it, so I don't wasting time with it.


Deceptive Game

I watched last night's Caps game in LA live, for once (the one advantage of the game being so late), and ended up a bit deceived about it.

It felt, while I was watching it, that the Caps had much the worse of the play during the first (Kopitar's very nice goal fed by Gaborik didn't help that impression) period.  In fact, they just felt (to me) like they were completely outclassed.  Fenwick, however, says that they were actually ahead in possession for much of the period, only falling behind in the last couple minutes.

The second period felt like the Caps were ahead for most of it (though I should admit that I wasn't paying as close attention to this period, for various reasons), but Fenwick says they were badly outplayed starting with Backstrom's penalty, three minutes in.

Most importantly, though, they managed to keep the Kings from scoring for the entirety of the period.  Unfortunately, Quick was up to stopping all of Washington's best chances (and they had some excellent ones) as well.

That pushed the game into the third period, when Washington finally managed to get their second power play.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to do anything with it, as Quick managed to anticipate OV's shots as well as handle the shots from the other side and up top.  Backstrom took his second penalty of the game seven minutes later, but despite a strong flurry, Washington stayed only a goal back.

But a few minutes after that, they did manage to even the score, as Backstrom hit Kuzya in the slot, and he skated around towards the back of the net.  Just before going behind, though, he threw it out front to Ward, who stopped it with his skate and, when it got bounced back to him (off the defender's skate), slammed it past the down Quick.  Another pure determination goal for Wardo, and his fourth consecutive game with a goal.

Unfortunately, the Caps weren't able to get anything else past Quick; including in the overtime, when they completely dominated.  So the game ended up going to the shootout.

Interestingly, Quick's record is only one percentage point better than Halak's, but his win record is far, far better.

The shootout started out well, as Kuzya went first, and put it over Quick's shoulder.  Halak then watched Kopitar lose control as he went first for LA.  But it was all LA from there, as OV and Backstrom were stopped and Carter and Gaborik both scored.

A disappointing ending, to be sure, but for a team that spent much of the game looking like they didn't deserve to be on the same rink as the Kings, it was hard to be really upset.

Still, they had a chance to win their first game of the season without scoring at least three goals.  So again, it's hard to be really happy.

Halak, as noted, did very well, stopping all but one of the twenty-eight shots he faced.  Possessionally, the Caps did reasonably well at 46% 5v5 close.  Even strength, close is probably even a little better, as they solidly dominated the overtime.

On the power play, the Caps did ok, with eleven shot attempts in four minutes (six on net).  Nothing went in, but Quick was forced to make several excellent saves, so hard to be upset there.

On the flip side, the PK wasn't terribly good.  They kept the Kings off the scoreboard, but allowed sixteen attempted shots (six on net) in six minutes.  The six shots on net isn't bad, but they have very little control over whether shots are on-target or miss the net (six missed, which is a very high percentage).  So it's hard to truly be happy with it, either.

One thing that struck me, finally, watching this game.  I think the Caps do a pretty good job on the PK, once the puck is in the zone.  But they don't do at all a good job keeping the puck out of the zone, and that's why they allow so many shots.  So I'm still skeptical about the Caps chances, long-term, on the PK.

Anyway, next chance is today (this article has been in the editor for over a day) against the Sharks, at the Shark Tank.  The Caps haven't won there since I was in undergrad, so I can't say as I'm terribly optimistic about their chances.  But we'll see.  Go Caps!


Risky word choices

I was listening to the last ATP episode (originally had that as 'ATP podcast', similar to an 'ATM Machine'), and found it generally interesting.  But when it got to talking about sexism (and I must admit to having no expectation of that part being interesting when it was starting), it actually got better.

Starting when Marco mentioned his review of Vesper talking about having 'balls', and really going through the rest of the show, it had me thinking about the Freakanomics gender differences episode.  That one wasn't talking about sexism, per se, but talked a lot about how men and women are different.  What was particularly interesting was when they talked about risk-taking behavior in societies with (extremely) different gender norms.  In the Maori (whose men basically treat women like chattel) society, men and women had pretty similar levels of comfort with risk as we see in first world, western societies.  But a matrilineal society in India (I've already forgotten the name) had risk-taking levels that were reversed (in fact, the women there were even more likely to take risk than the Maori men).  Neat stuff.

I need to do some thinking about whether my own word choices are sexist.  I tend to mostly think not, but I'll need to keep my eyes open about it.


Halak survives shellacking

Last night's Caps/Ducks game was a bit painful to watch.  It started out well, with the Ward/Chimmer/Fehr line working their way to a tough goal in their second shift.  The advantage didn't hold long, though, as Lovejoy beat Halak only a minute later (after a very questionable non-call on too many men on the ice a few seconds prior).

The rest of the period largely went Anaheim's way, but the Caps did get a power play with half a minute left, and it took only twenty-one seconds for Brouwer to clean up the trash around the goal to restore the Caps lead.  I should also point out that OV caused the commotion with a great pass across the ice to Backstrom that got Hiller scrambling.

The second period had a very rocky start with Washington taking a too many men penalty two minutes in, and a delay of game penalty only ten seconds later.  But the Caps packed in around the net, which frustrated the Ducks power play.  So despite a huge amount of zone time, the Caps only gave up four shots on the double advantage, and Halak saved all four of those.

The rest of the period mostly went in Washington's favor (though not heavily), despite the two later penalties both going against the Caps.

In the third, the Ducks came out with a great deal of desperation, leading to an early goal by Matty P (one of these days I'll get used to him wearing 22 instead of 85).  That didn't much slow down the Ducks, though, as they searched for a go ahead goal.

But Winnik tripped Green, a minute later, as he attempted to corral the puck, and very aggressive D pursuit combined with fast, on-target passes got an OV goal from the OV spot after only seven seconds.

Basically the rest of the game was a long barrage of shots on Halak, though only a few of those required amazing saves.  And those amazing saves were provided, as the Capitals held on to take the 3-2 win.

According to one of the interstitial graphics in the telecast, that last goal tied OV with one of the Ducks (Perry, I think) for GWGs this season.  Not that that's a terribly meaningful stat, but it's still good to see.  Of course, with OV almost lapping the field on overall goals scored, it's hardly a great surprise.

That goal left OV only four short of fifty, which would be pretty amazing, given how low league scoring is (2.77 G/gm, per team).  I guess that cap hit continues to look ok for a couple more years.

But, in reference to OV, that Beagle experiment has got to end.  The best they've looked over the last several games together, has been to play keep-away in the offensive zone in one shift last night.  The cycling was pretty good (was especially impressed by MarJo, there), but it didn't lead to any shots.  Part of that is that OV is not a cycling player, generally.  He wants to throw the puck over to a teammate and head to a good shooting spot.  Not that that's a bad strategy, overall, but it isn't complemented by cycling.

Halak, as mentioned, looked very good, although he better get a break.  I get the feeling that Oates wants him retained, probably long term.  I think keeping him for one more year, to get Gru more work in Hershey, would be useful, but I can't see any reason to hold onto him beyond that.  And, of course, he'd never sign for one year, so it's kind of silly to pursue him.  One of the reasons the Caps have done well over the last couple years is that they've gotten good (rarely spectacular, but certainly consistently above average) goaltending for a very good cap hit.  Signing Halak would be abandoning that strategy, as I can't see him signing for less than $5M (and $7M wouldn't surprise me, given how much other goalies have signed for, lately).

Possessionally, the team did not look great.  Thankfully, much of the discrepancy happened during special teams and after scoring the last goal.  So 5v5 close Fenwick wasn't bad (47.5; not a goal, and not good, but not terrible), compared to overall Fenwick (sub-40%).  One thing to note is that the third line was the only one with a positive Corsi For.  The first line was a bit underwater, and the second was a lot (and the fourth was just buried).

The power play looked very good, scoring on the first two shots and generating eight shot attempts (five on net) in only two and a half minutes.  Gotta love that.

The PK was not great, with twenty-two shot attempts against (twelve on net) in just over eight minutes.  I don't have a breakdown on how much of that was the 5-on-3, though, so it might not be nearly as bad as it seems.  In any event, it was definitely a lot of luck that they didn't allow any goals.

I want to give kudos to Lovejoy, Cogliano, and Matty P, who all looked very good for the Ducks.  In Perreault's case, I was especially impressed with his tenacity around the net.  He didn't back off, even after having OV clear him out at the end of one scrum.  I wonder what Oates and McPhee think, when they see him play.  I hope they feel rather stupid for letting him get away for (practically) nothing.

Next up is a very tough Kings team on Thursday; let's hope they can wrangle another win.  Look for the Caps to go in the second period, especially, as the teams' scoring is equal in each of the first and third periods.  But the Caps are close to doubling the Kings in the second (78-44).  Go Caps!


Strong start leads to ekeing out victory

Before the Sunday tilt with the Maple Leafs, I was certainly feeling like this was the Caps best chance to pick up some easy points, as the Leafs are a terrible team, possessionally.  But a team PDO of 102 will certainly mask a lot of deficiencies and lead to a lot of points in the standings.  So I was definitely feeling like the Leafs record is not terribly indicative of their overall talent.

And the first period certainly seemed to bear that out.  The Leafs only managed four unblocked shots, which did give them one goal.  But Washington had eighteen, which led to three goals of their own and a nice lead (especially as Toronto's goal was scored well after Washington's third).

Those Washington goals came from Brouwer and Ward on the power play (Ward's goal had the second power play unit on ice to start the power play, for unknown reasons, but which featured a really pretty setup from Penner, parking himself in front of the goalie).  Chimmer had the other one (the second, for those keeping score at home), and his skate tapped in a shot from Ward that beat Reimer between the pads.

The first fifteen minutes of the second period was about the mirror image of the first, as the Leafs had sixteen unblocked shots to the Caps two (three power plays helped in that cause).  Happily, Halak was up to that challenge, and stopped all but one.  That led to a lot of time for the Leafs to try to get a tying goal, but play was largely in the Caps favor.  In fact, the Leafs weren't able to pull Reimer until very close to the end (last 30 seconds or so), because the Caps kept the puck down at the other end.

It was good to see, especially as Brouwer finally managed to ice the game with an empty netter that slid in with a screen from Backstrom (who generously didn't touch the puck on the way) with four seconds left.

Overall, a good game, with Halak doing an excellent job holding off Toronto's big push in the second.  Ward and Brouwer also each hit twenty goals on the season.  And 5v5 close Fenwick was almost 57/43, which is great.

The power play looked decent, with two goals in four chances.  But that came on only seven shot attempts (five on net) in five and a half minutes, which isn't terribly good.

The PK got the job done again, holding Toronto off the board in their three chances.  But that was with fourteen attempts (eight on net) in six minutes.  That's not a sustainable way to kill penalties.  Very lucky there.

Other than that, the broadcast did have a couple of interesting notes.  May and Locker were sharing coloring duties, which was pretty good.  What I found interesting, though, were the three different age cracks May got in on Locker.  Anyway, it also had me wondering if they're looking at replacing Locker; I can't say as I would mind, if so.

The other interesting part was talking about how many of the players (all but three, although I forget the three) use skates with a quick-release mechanism on the blades, to make changing blades about a six second operation.  That can certainly be helpful, but I wonder if it helps explain the several instances I've seen, this season, of players losing a skate blade.  I particularly remember watching Oleksy struggle over to the bench when he lost his blade back at the end of October.

Anyway, it was a good game, especially to see the players working hard all night.  I still don't understand why Beagle and OV are frequently together on a line, as it seems frightfully ineffective.  I also don't understand why Holtby is in Oates' dog-house again (still?).  All signs point to him being an excellent (read: above league-average starter), and I hope his confidence has been unaffected by being sat so many times.  I'm not even convinced that Halak is better than Holtby, let alone enough better to justify this kind of workload distribution.

Anyway, now comes the real gauntlet for the season, with four games against California teams followed by a final game against the Bruins.  They need to win at least three of those games to have even a tiny shot at the playoffs, and that's a tall order, given what we know of the teams.  First up, the Ducks, tonight.  Go Caps!

Just Kuz; that's why

Friday's Caps/Nucks game was not exactly a model of decorum and tranquility.  Nor a model of a modern major general.  In fact, it really wasn't a terribly good model of much of anything.

I guess it was a pretty close game, for most of its length.  The Caps opened the scoring, with the third line pocketing one thanks to some good, persistent work in front of the net from Wardo.  Fehr did a good job throwing it towards him, and Ward knocked it down then pushed it into the net from between the skates of his defender.

The Caps were a little slow, as it took them three and a half minutes (instead of the usual two and a half) to give up a goal, as Beagle and OV collided in the defensive zone, giving up the puck to the forecheck.  A quick pass found Schroeder uncovered in the slot for a quick wrister past Halak.

The rest of the period was pretty even, but with nobody putting the squat cyclinder in the net.

It took eight and a half minutes (remarkably similar timing to Washington's first goal, now that I think about it), but Washington retook the lead on an OV power play goal from the OV spot (only thing different there was the second assist coming from Kuzya, playing Backstrom's position).

Four minutes later, Kuzya had a really pretty assist to Wilson (who displayed excellent hands to corral the puck quickly and get the shot off).  That finished off the scoring in the second, with Vancouver quickly catching up on shots.

And that's where the third went, too, as Washington had almost no sustained possession against the 'Nuck-leheads, and Halak faced a barrage.  That barrage did net a pair of goals, but Washington (in the form of Game Over Green, from Kuzya) got one back less than three minutes after the second one to provide the final victory margin.

Overall, shots looked horribly unbalanced (41-21 in favor of Vancouver), but most of the difference came with the game not "close".  So the Caps actually looked pretty good, possessionally, up 59-41 in 5v5 close Fenwick.  But I wonder if they should have done better when they were up.  I'm minded to think so, because that's an awfully big full-game gap.

Because of that huge gap, Halak ended up having a very good game.  The first and second goals would have required hella good saves, although I suspect Jaro would've wanted the third one back.  Still, that's a very good game.

The power play was pretty good, with one goal in two chances, and attempting nine shots (five on net) in their three and a half minutes.  Nothing to be disappointed in, there.

The PK was... not as good.  They did keep Vancouver from scoring, but that was allowing eighteen attempts (eight on net) in six minutes.  Those are not good rates.  It worked out, but that was a lot of luck.

Overall, hard to be upset with how things played out (other than, perhaps, bafflement at Beagle and OV being on the same line with any regularity).  Well, it'd be nice if the Caps would stop giving up leads so frequently, but that's really the only major issue.

I'll cover the Sunday Maple Leafs game separately.


Can't afford snowplows?

My daughter's school inclement-weather schedule is driven by Fairfax County, VA, the fifth-richest in the nation, per Forbes (last year).  And yet, it seems that a squirrel sneezing over the threat of snow is enough to close schools for the day.

For sure, there's been quite a bit of snow, but I question just how much closure is needed.  They've had at least one (as many as four) snow days off for ten of the past eleven weeks (including today).

I remember a couple of years, growing up, when we had a lot of snow days, but nothing that even approached this.  I'm glad she's only in kindergarten, so it probably isn't having as much effect as on older kids.


Digital health check-up

I recently read this article on techdirt comparing the NSA leaving/using backdoors into computers with public health issues, and it rang very true for me.  It reminded me of when I heard about a study investigating the deaths in the Iraq war.

Traditionally, in a war, casualty counts come out of newspaper reports.  I won't say that that's a useless way to investigate, but it's certainly known that that will undercount.  It's the nature of the beast; no reporter is where most of the deaths in a war occur.  But headlines were made when medical groups did an epidemiological (ie: done in the same way as would be done in studying the spread of a disease) study of the deaths, and found far more casualties than reported anywhere else (note that that is the second survey in that link; I hadn't previously realized there was more than one).

That was the first thing I encountered that took biological solutions to decidedly non-biological problems.  And Cory's piece cited in the techdirt article is certainly a similar idea.

It also makes me think of what struck me as the biggest problem back when security services were talking about a key escrow that would give a backdoor into all encrypted communications.  That would mean that there would be a key that could be used to decrypt, say, all SSL/TLS communications.

And the big problem with that is that it means that there's a master key that can be found.  Generally, public key cryptography relies on making it computationally infeasible to break a key before it no longer matters what the data was.  The weakness of that model is that this would be a key that would always be useful.  The amount of money that could be stolen would easily be in the trillions of dollars.

Gruber's latest podcast talked (among other things) about how much computer power is currently going into bitcoin mining.  If there was a target like that, it would be worth more than all the bitcoins in the world, and would consequently be targeted with even more computational power.  It wouldn't last long.  And you wouldn't know about the problem until it bit you in the ass.  And you wouldn't be able to do anything about it when it did.  Very scary.

Anyway, I think Cory's definitely onto something, and it bears serious thought.  What is the purpose of our government?  If it isn't making life better for people, is it worth paying for?

Update: It just occurred to me that there's another national security angle to this, as well.  If these exploits are allowed to fester (so the NSA can use them), then other governments can also do so.


I got an email this morning from Amazon, saying the price for Prime will be going up at next renewal.

Not good news (we've been using it for years), but not terrible.  They have added streaming video, and that has been good.  I've found a couple of truly excellent shows that way (Sherlock and Downton Abbey), and the kids use it to watch Sesame Street or Bubble Guppies.

And those were not there when we started.  Back then, the advantages were that you always got second day shipping (sometimes it ended up as second day, even when you ordered standard shipping), could upgrade to overnight pretty cheaply (I've only used this a couple of times), and didn't need to worry about the order minimum.

The latter was the biggest factor for me, and that's actually become less of an advantage as you now have some items that are 'add-on' items which require meeting that minimum, even if you have Prime.  I must admit to getting pretty annoyed at those.

Let's hope that the price increase leads to more service (music streaming is rumored).


Why is metadata surveillance dangerous?

A small academic study showed why pure metadata surveillance is dangerous to privacy and liberty.

Participant A communicated with multiple local neurology groups, a specialty pharmacy, a rare condition management service, and a hotline for a pharmaceutical used solely to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis.

There were several others that were similarly dramatic.  And this was a study of almost 550 people over a couple of months.  Scary stuff.

If anyone tries to reassure you that the NSA's PRISM program "is just metadata", point them at this.

This is how we teach teachers?

Just saw this horrifying video of a Chicago Public School Professional Development session.  Who do they think they're teaching, second graders?  I'm fairly certain they all have Bachelors degrees, at the least.  Does the administration actually think this is helpful?  And how much did they pay the consultant leading the "class" to read off that script?

Musical cameras?

I ran across this article about taking a camera to a music festival, and I have to wonder about something.

If I take a camera to a festival (and my main camera is a pro-level one), why do they even put restrictions on it?  Is it going to take money away from the festival?  No, if anything it will add money (maybe not for this year, but for next year), by making the festival look good.

Plus, in posting it, I'd be implicitly endorsing it.

What's the downside?

Lightning note

Recently mentioned progress on Bejeweled Blitz.  Well, I said that I was getting close to the end of tournament progress, just based on how close I was getting to my personal high score.

It turns out that I was even closer than I thought, because the Phoenix at 1M points is the last one.  When you defeat it, it shows up at the top of the list again the next week, again at 1M points (all others increase their scores a bit after being defeated).  So I think that's the end of the road.

I guess my next goal in the game will be to try to reach 1M coins available (I've gotten a little over 800k before, and am currently at 640k).

Stumbling towards obscurity

There were no moral victories in last night's Caps/Penguins game.  The Caps didn't deserve to win, and they didn't.

The game got going quickly, once going almost fourteen minutes without a faceoff.  During that time, there were very few chances for either team (not a big surprise, I guess, as chances tend to lead to stoppages, via goalies holding pucks, deflecting them out of play, or watching them go into the net).

And possession stayed close until nearly the end of that time.  But after that, for an entire period, the Penguins solidly dominated.  The Caps stayed close, with Halak only letting one in (and that, a wicked deflection that was impossible to stop save via sheer luck).  Brouwer also made a very nice play early in this stretch, at the last second breaking up what appeared to be a 2-on-1 by diving (from behind) to deflect the pass across.

The Caps started catching up, possessionally, in the second half of the second, and even more strongly in the third (in fact, they did catch up in the third, according to Fenwick), but they didn't have that many great chances (and were helped by power plays).

They were screwed on a power play, though, as Backstrom took a phantom penalty a minute into a power play to end that one.  So they finished with three minutes and change of power play time, getting eight shot attempts (six on net) during that time.  Not bad numbers, there.

On the penalty kill, they did not do well; Pittsburgh attempted seven shots (all on net) during three-ish minutes of power play time.  They were lucky not to give up any power play goals; that's a pace of over 120 shots per sixty minutes.

Individually, I don't think anyone had a really good game.  Orlov and Green need to get back together, because they each made some really terrible mistakes last night (Green did have a couple of nice plays to somewhat offset his gaffes).  For whatever reason, they don't seem to take as many chances when playing together.

Anyway, that makes 1-4 record since trade deadline.  That's not exactly getting it done.  They basically need to go 11-4-0 the rest of the way to have a chance of getting in.  This team has shown nothing to convince me they're capable of that (and that's ignoring the California road trip coming in about a week).  Put a fork in 'em.  Is there time to get into lottery position?

Blackbird on high

I finally finished a fantastic (if long) interview of a former SR-71 Blackbird pilot, Rick McCrary.  There's a lot of interesting information in there, from what the suits were like, to some vague performance descriptions of the plane (able to sustain full afterburner for over an hour, took off with half-load of fuel and immediately refueled before getting to altitude, etc), to info about the selection and training of pilots.  It also has some really neat pictures, along with some fascinating anecdotes.  One, in particular, got me curious, as it described an emergency landing at a remote (packed-ice runway) airfield in Norway; how did it stay so secret with incidents like this?

Anyway, I'm probably selling it short; if you have any interest in aviation, give it a read.


State with no rainbows?

I earlier wondered why it took so long for Arizona governor Jan Brewer to veto the pro-discrimination bill that the legislature passed.  I think I found out, today.

Top aides to Gov. Jan Brewer sought and got proponents of a “religious liberty” bill to make changes to SB1062 more than a month before she vetoed the measure

So she wanted to approve the bill, but was "persuaded" not to by allies.  And it took a while for those allies to make themselves heard.

Arizonans should definitely be embarassed, although I wonder how many of them really are.

Understanding virtual currency

Was listening to the latest The Talk Show, and there's a lot of interesting stuff in there (including some discussion of Jeopardy.  I don't know the exact timeframe, but it's true that there was a rule change about not phrasing as a question.  I don't know when it became ok in single Jeopardy, but it wasn't when I was a kid).  The biggest, though, is some very good explanations of how BitCoin functions.

I knew a tiny amount about that it, but I learned a whole lot more about it.

And I did want to point out that there was a mention of DogeCoin.  I don't know much about that, specifically, but it was mentioned as having a small amount of inflation, and I wanted to mention that that is a good thing.  Large amounts of inflation are bad, but a small amount is good; it makes debts slightly smaller over time, which is good for almost everyone.

PDO parable

I mentioned watching last night's Caps game against Pittsburgh; as is usually the case, I wasn't able to watch it until the kids were in bed.

Things looked a tad better for the Caps, as Kuznetsov was ready to go, with Laich and Dima returning (from injury and suspension, respectively).

The center situation looked a tad better, with Beagle demoted from second to fourth line, and MarJo slotting in on the second.

And the play that resulted was a lot better.  In fact, possessionally, it was the Caps third- or fourth-best game of the season.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start as, on Crosby's first shift, Green tried to jump a pass going cross-ice from Crosby to Kunitz, and missed.  That send Kunitz in alone, and he fooled Halak with a short-side backhander.

Fehr scored a nice goal (off a good pass from Chimmer, from a very nice off-the-wall drop pass from Ward) only a couple minutes later.  It was very nicely played from skate (in front!) to stick by Fehr, who was charging down the right side.

But that was answered less than a minute later, with Crosby scoring on a one-timer (marking his 18th (!) career, multipoint game against the Caps.  I'm not sure, but I think a separate graphic during the telecast said it was only his 33rd regular season game versus Washington) from the circle on the power play.  Kunitz did a very nice job winning the draw back, a few seconds before.  But it was an amusing goal, as it was basically a mirror image of many of OV's power play goals.

Play was pretty even (slight edge to Washington, which surprised me when I saw it) the rest of the period.

Early in the second, helped by a power play, Washington opened up a big edge in possession, which eventually culminated in Laich tipping in a Backstrom pass (for some reason, nhl.com has this as Backstrom from Laich) for a goal.  It was a very similar play to Chimmer's power play goal from a month or two back, except that Laich went straight in front of the goal, rather than circling around the back.

Washington continued to play well, but Pittsburgh scored a few minutes later when Crosby's shot rebounded right to Kunitz, charging down the other side, and Chris put it past Halak.  Backstrom was in position on the back-check, but missed the puck when it came to him.  Very unfortunate.

Actually, extremely unfortunate, as that turned out to be the winning goal.  The Caps had quite a few more chances, but were unable to put any of them past Zatkoff to tie the game.

The one criticism I have is for Oates (who is now 0-6-0 against Pittsburgh; I don't think Bylsma fears Oates, exactly), who, when the Caps got a power play (too many men; precipitated by a very nice charge up-ice by Dima) with just over two minutes, kept Halak on the ice for about a minute.  No concept of going for it, apparently.

Overall, the Caps played very, very well, and deserved to win.  But they're past the point in the season where moral victories matter; they need to win damned-near all the remaining games if they want to get to the playoffs.

As to the parts of the team, the first and third lines looked very good (especially the third, which was mostly going against the Crosby line; though Pitt's first goal was scored against them).  The fourth line did too, actually; in fact, Beagle and Kuzya had the top two Corsi's on the team.  Kuz didn't try to do anything big and dramatic; I think he's still trying to get comfortable.  But he looked good out there, making the right play.  Let's hope it's a sign of things to come.

The power play looked very good, with fourteen attempted shots in five minutes and change (ten on net).  Disappointed that they couldn't put at least one more in the net, but they did what they could.

The PK, I think, did pretty well.  They held Pittsburgh to nine shots attempted in four and a quarter minutes.  That's not a terribly good number, but not bad when you're facing the top power play in the league.

Unfortunately, the loss puts the Caps in a very bad position (though identical to the one they were in, two years ago at the same point in the season).  As stated before, there are no more moral victories.  It was nice to outplay the Pens, but they need to win.  Now.

And we don't need to wait; next game is tonight in Pittsburgh.  Go Caps!

Post-al Code?

A couple weeks ago, I heard this radiolab piece on NPR when heading to meet family for brunch.  It talked about end-of-life issues, and what people wanted done when they were in danger of dying.  And most people wanted just about everything done for them.

But doctors were also surveyed, and doctors didn't (to a very large percentage) want anything except painkillers.

And they went on to talk about it a bit more about why, and talked, specifically, about CPR.  And they said that only about 8% of those resuscitated survive.  And just less than 40% of the survivors will be able to live a normal life afterwards.  About another 40% of the survivors will be vegetables.  And the rest will be somewhere in between.  I wish they'd given us those numbers one of the times when I've taken a CPR class.

Anyway, I was thinking about that this morning, when I heard more details about what happened to Rich Peverley in a Dallas Stars game last night.  Essentially, he collapsed on the bench, in the middle of the game.  When I heard about it, watching the Caps game, they had stopped the game for twenty-ish minutes, but had no more details.  Well, they did say, later, that he was conscious later.

What I heard this morning was that a) the game ended up being cancelled at that point (I'll come back to it, but I do think that was a good idea), and b) he was resuscitated before he was conscious.

So, best wishes to Peverley and his family.  As pointed out above, his odds are not good, and let's hope that he can beat them.

It also got me thinking about how rare cancelling a game is.  I can't remember hearing of it happening before, although I suspect it also happened when Hank Gathers collapsed and died at a Loyola Marymount basketball game in 1990 (incidentally, I didn't remember much about this incident; just hearing about it.  And I remember watching LMU's game against the Fab Five Michigan in the tournament.  That was quite the track meet).  Really, it's amazing how rare it is.

Good luck, Rich.


Lucky in Glove?

I wasn't able to watch Saturday's Caps/Yotes game; we were having friends over to watch the Duke/Carolina game (my wife went to Duke).  I tried to avoid finding out what happened; I ignored the TV that had the game on when I went to pick up food.  I did watch five or so minutes of the beginning while waiting for people to come downstairs for the basketball game (and the Caps looked pretty good).  When I saw a hockey score on the chyron during the basketball game, I resolutely ignored it.  But towards the end of the game, I happened to look down right as the Caps score came up.

Knowing the result, I haven't yet gotten myself to watch the whole game.

There was certainly some scary stuff in the lead-up to the game.  Beforehand, the Caps needed about a 106-pt pace for the remaining games to hope to make the playoffs.  I also saw the lines, and the centers were (in order, top to bottom): Backstrom, Beagle, Fehr, and Stoa.  After Nicky, that's a scary bunch, and not for the opposition (Beagle, 2C?  Really?).

Also, Kuznetsov finally signed with the Caps, but wasn't available for the game (no practicing, I would guess, although I didn't hear a reason given).

So I was shocked when the Caps looked pretty good for those few minutes.  And I was similarly shocked when I found out they had won, 3-2.

So how did they do it?  Well, they did outplay Phoenix for the first ten minutes or so.  Then, they flat-lined for the rest of the period (yes, zero (!) fenwick events), and were still outplayed for most of the rest of the game.  But Halak stood strong (never thought I'd be happy to say that), and only allowed two goals, and it looks like the Coyotes went to sleep in the middle of the third.

In that bed-a-bye time, Alzner and Laich (Huh? and huh?, respectively) scored, with Brouwer picking up a power play tally a few minutes later for the decider.  The three scorers had five shots, between them, although Alzner and Brouwer were one and two in CF% on the team (Chimmer, Ward, and Hillen were the bottom three).

So, overall?  Well, we'll take the result, unlikely as it was.

Next up are the Penguins, home and home, tonight at the phone booth.  Let's hope Kuzya (fourth line, to start) shines, and Caps abuse the Pens bottom two lines, because that's what it'll take for them to win.  Go Caps!


Back! Up!

I'm listening to the latest Mac Power User podcast.  Generally, while much of it feels like an ad, there's definitely good stuff in there.

Anyway, they spent a lot of time talking about the incremental nature of a backup strategy.

First, I'd argue that any non-incremental backup utility is fundamentally broken.  Second, rsync is included with OS X.

rsync -vurpt source target

In an initial execution, it's equivalent to copying everything over.  But it saves timestamps, so on later executions, it'll merely incrementally copy changes.

Of course, time machine also does things right (actually, it does some really funky things behind the scenes that does even better), as it saves multiple versions, whereas rsync just has one version of the tree.

One advantage of rsync, though, is that you can just back up part of the tree.  And another is that you can add '-e ssh' to the command to copy things remotely.

And I'm surprised there was no mention of backblaze, to keep off-site backup copies.  It sounds really good, and I've been thinking about it.  I haven't, mostly for security reasons (I'm super paranoid about these sorts of things), but it seems really good.

Still broken

Well, last night's Caps game was not approached with any optimism.  In addition to all the problems seen the night before, Erskine (unknown) and Laich (wonky groin, again) were both out with injuries as well.  So the recently-acquired Brown was called up, as was Schilling.

The result?  About what you'd expect; the team looked not-good to horrible in every section of the ice.  Worse, they looked worst in the defensive end, where it's most important to be together.  Coverage was terrible, there was no structure, and players were even getting in Holtby's way.

There's just no way to sugarcoat it.  They played like a very bad team, and were lucky that the score was as close as it was.

In fact, they looked so bad that I even fell asleep through much of the third period (that two-goal margin never seemed surmountable).

Fenwick, 5-on-5 close, was 26% for the team.  It didn't feel that close.

There was some not-great officiating (Thornton got away with several cross-checks and high sticks, while Washington got called for a ticky-tack play that resulted in Boston's first goal), but I can't say as that changed the course of the game.  The only difference that would have made was how much of the game was played, 5-on-5 close.

It would be nice if that concluded the tough part of Washington's schedule, but no.  There's still a lot of that remaining.  Next up is Phoenix on Saturday, as Washington sees several familiar faces (Erat, Ribeiro, Halpern).  Let's hope some people get healthy, and it goes a bit better.

If nothing else, can we see Schmidt taking Erskine's place instead of Schilling?  And it will be good to see Orlov back.

Oates, can we at least see some compete level?  Rolling over and playing dead is not what we want to see, even if they're going to be losing.

GO, caps!


Out of order

Well, leading into tonight's game against the Flyer's, there was a lot going on with the Caps.  First, Orlov got a (deserved) two-game suspension for his hit that resulted in the major in the last game.  Second, Hillen has finally recovered from his broken leg, so he was called back from his (rather brief, it seems) conditioning stint in Hershey.  Third, Penner was acquired from the Ducks for a 4th round pick (the same pick the Caps acquired in the Perreault trade).  Fourth, Erat was finally traded, and brought back Klesla and a decent minor league prospect (3rd line potential, from what I hear).  Fifth, Klesla was packaged with Neuvy, and sent to Buffalo to get Halak (traded a few days ago from St Louis to Buffalo in the Ryan Miller trade).  Sixth, since Halak couldn't make it in time, Gru was called up from Hershey.  Seventh, Ryan Stoa was recalled to fill out the fourth line.

So that left a defense of Carlson-Alzner, Green-Hillen, and Erskine-Carrick; not exactly an encouraging group.

So how did that work out?  In a word, badly.  In two words, very badly.

The Caps managed all of three shots in the first period, and that includes a power play.  They had two good scoring chances in there, and Brouwer pushed one a couple inches wide (the other was a fairly nice save from Mason).  The biggest surprise for me, when it was done, was that they held Philadelphia to only thirteen shots.  Not because that's a great number, but just because it felt like Philly spent most of the period in the Caps zone.

The Flyers got two goals in there, and could have easily had more.  The first came off a bad play by Hillen, while the second was just the result of Philadelphia pressure from the Giroux line.

What was interesting was that the Caps power play came after a line brawl precipitated by Wilson going after Luke Schenn for a hit on Stoa (which wasn't too bad, although it could have been, as it occurred at the corner where the boards to back behind the bench.  If I had to guess, Wilson was told to start something to try to get his teammates to wake up).  Simmonds wanted into the mix, and things spiraled from there.  Erskine and Lecavalier were both ejected (normally, I'd applaud this exchange, but it did leave the Caps with only five defensemen).  Wilson was initially ejected, but it was later reduced to a normal (rather than game) misconduct.  Simmonds, for several dirty plays in the sequence, should have been ejected, I thought.  In any event, it was one hell of a weird sequence, especially for having very few punches thrown in earnest (for whatever reason, most of them seemed pretty half-hearted).

One bit of amusement was, during the replay, having an announcer saying that no one was sitting down for this, and seeing two of the people right behind the glass still sitting to watch.

The second period was largely going the same way (minus the fighting) for the first half, and Philly scored two more to blow the game open.  That's when I decided to turn it off, because the Caps just didn't look like they were even prepared to play.

Looking at the results, that was an ok decision.  Gru came in to replace Holtby (even though Braden was not the problem; he just had complete shit for defense in front of him), and he seems to've done a pretty good job (only one more goal against).

And the team seems to've woken up a bit afterwards (although maybe it was just Philly relaxing, with the four-goal margin).  Ward, OV, and Laich all scored on the power play, with Brouwer adding another at evens.  But it wasn't enough, and Downie added an empty netter in the final minute to seal the game.

Extraskater is still crunching the numbers, but does have the fenwick chart up, and it appears that the fenwick numbers were only close for a couple minutes in the beginning, and a few more minutes in the third quarter of the final period.

Basically, the Caps did not look ready to play one of the biggest games of the season.  And that's largely on the coaching staff.

There isn't much time until the next game; less than twenty-four hours, in fact, until they need to take the ice in Boston again.  Let's just say that my expectations are... low.

The only positive I got out of the game was that Penner looked pretty good; left me wondering why his contract is so low.  If they can sign him next year for a similar contract, they should definitely do it.

I would expect Halak to get the start tomorrow, although that's purely speculation on my part.

Anyway, we'll see what happens.  Go Caps!


Workplace irony

I took this picture a while ago; we were meeting some friends to see a Wizards game downtown.  But I saw this building, and couldn't resist taking a picture.  If the text isn't legible, it says "The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers".  I wonder who voted for a headquarters that was all steel and glass for a bricklayers' union.  It's pretty, but that's seriously ironic.  Maybe it was a hipster move?

It reminds me of a couple of later verses of "London Bridge is Falling Down":
Build it up with brick and mortar,
brick and mortar, brick and mortar.
Build it up with brick and mortar, my fair lady.

Brick and mortar will not stay...

Build it up with iron and steel...

Hmm... no mention of glass in that song, now that I think about it (at least not in the 10-12 verses that I know).

Regression to the mean?

I thought this was pretty hilarious.  Congress-critter Steve King of Iowa went on TV to say that people will pretend to be gay so they can sue.  I have no idea whether that's true or not (I tend to think not), but there's a very easy defense, if so.  Don't discriminate, and there will be nothing over which to sue.  No problem.

Caps early up, ended late

All of this finally brings us to today's game against the Flyers.  As I mentioned, I would have missed this one if it hadn't been for watching the Bruins game this morning.  As it was, I did miss almost eleven around nine minutes (though, happily, did get the recording started just in time to catch a replay of Dima's goal from the seventh minute).

Looking back, it seems to've taken Washington about five minutes to get started, offensively, but they took off like a rocket when they did.  That resulted in the Orlov slapshot from the point that put the Caps up by a goal, six minutes in.  And they kept pressing, although the next goal came with Philly on the power play, as Giroux' slapshot from the circle beat Holtby (although I've got to say that calling Wilson for roughing when he ran into Mason was a little weird.  Especially when Wilson was trying to stop, and had just been pushed off balance by a Flyer).

Regardless, the Caps got a power play back half a minute later.  They didn't, technically, score on that power play, although MarJo tipped Chimmer's pass from the corner into the net within a second or two of the penalty expiring.

Play went back and forth for the rest of the period, with Washington generally having the advantage, but nobody found the net.

In the second, Philly definitely had the better of the play for the first half, but Holtby stood strong, and kept the score line intact.  Nine minutes in, Downie took a high-sticking double-minor, giving the Caps an extended power play.  They started out fairly well on that, until Laich took a slashing call, negating the advantage.  Nobody really had much advantage for the first part of that, but then Washington starting getting some shots.  And then Laich's minor expired, and everyone apparently said, "We've got this now" and relaxed so much that Cooter was able to steal the puck in Washington's end and surprise Holtby with a pass out front to a charging Hall for a short-handed goal.  OV, in particular, was terribly complicit in this exchange.

It only took a minute for Washington to re-establish it's edge, though, as Green carried in down the side, threw it to the front of the net, where Wardo was fighting with a defender.  Ward managed a nifty behind-the-back pass across the net to Beagle, who put it past a shocked (and completely out of position) Mason.

It took three minutes, but the next shot on goal was a Dima shot from the point that slid under the legs of a prone Chimmer (good job noticing and getting those legs up, big guy!) and into the net, giving Washington their fourth two-goal lead of the post-Olympic season.

And it took a while (thanks to some incredible plays by Holtby), but this one, too, dissolved.  The tying goal came with just over a minute left in the game, on a tip-in from right in front of Braden.

Dima apparently decided to make up for his excellent play up to that point by taking a five-minute major for charging just before the ten-minute mark of the period.  That only led, directly, to one goal, but the team was flailing a lot after that (Erskine taking a minor during that major, even when it was part of off-setting minors, did not help either).

With that, it was certainly not a big surprise when Philly played better in the OT, and eventually got the deciding goal when Vinny Lecavalier got on his horse and slid it past Holtby.

Despite the five goals on thirty-six shots, Holtby had an excellent game behind some occasionally-terrible defense.  He made several stops (three or four) on guys who were completely behind the defense, and there was nothing he could do on three of the goals.

The power play was, to put it bluntly, not good.  It's certainly impossible to say it's good when it allows more goals than it scores, especially when that shortie came due to lack of effort.  They did attempt sixteen shots in nine minutes, which is not terrible (my rule of thumb for good play is two attempts per minute), but man...

In any event, the PK was also not good.  Twenty shot attempts against in under six and a half minutes (eleven on net), with two goals; that's definitely not getting it done.

It's hard to be upset with five points in three games (something the Caps will have to manage another time or two in the remainder of the season), but it's hard to be happy with giving up three two-goal leads in those games also.  And while net 5-on-5 close Fenwick was slightly better than 50%, it was only by a hair.  That doesn't bode terribly well.

I'm still skeptical about the team making the playoffs (let alone doing damage when there), but I guess they largely did what they needed to do.

And at least they won't be mortgaging the farm on a rental of Miller, who got traded to the Blues over the weekend.

We'll see, I guess.  Next up is another game against Philly on Wednesday, this time in Philadelphia.  I suspect the Caps won't be feeling the "Brotherly Love".  Go Caps!


OV ties Bruins, Caps win

As I mentioned, I didn't watch yesterday's Caps/Bruins game until this morning (and I'm glad I went to look so soon, because I would have missed today's Flyer's game entirely, if not).  I wasn't feeling at all well about the Caps prospects in the game, with it being a) in Boston, b) against a very strong Bruins team, c) without Grabo, and d) also without Erat (hurt blocking a shot, apparently).

But the Caps were much more psyched up to start this one, jumping to an early possession advantage, and keeping that for almost the first thirty minutes.  And that includes a full, two-minute two-man disadvantage only seven minutes in (I still don't know what happened there, to be honest; I didn't see either of the penalties).  And Laich broke his stick on the opening draw of that penalty.  Somehow, the Bruins only got one shot off on that advantage.  Stellar penalty killing, there.

Washington finally got a penalty of their own with just under two minutes left in the period with an interference call on Kelly (a hit after the whistle, IIRC, where Chimmer wasn't even looking at him).  The Caps took up right where they'd left off against Florida, scoring in under half a minute, with the old around-the-umbrella play (Backstrom on half-wall to Carlson up top to OV on the other half-wall with the one-timer).

The fine play continued into the second period, with Chimmer drawing a second penalty in the first minute.  It took quite a bit longer, and was actually done on the rush, but OV scored on another one-timer a minute-forty-five later.

Boston started clawing their way back after that, with a solid edge in play, but Washington actually scored the next goal nearly eight minutes later.  It was off a center-ice face-off; Ward fought off his man when Boston won it, and intercepted a pass between the two defensemen, and fighting his way behind both of them.  Rask went for his forehand shot, but Wardo pulled it back to the backhand and put it into the empty net.  Mighty impressive play, from beginning to end.

But Chimmer gave back a penalty half a minute later, and Boston scored seventeen seconds later when Bergeron found himself with time in the slot and put it over Holtby's shoulder into the top corner.

Boston scored again, seven minutes later, when Thornton tipped Paille's shot between Holtby's legs to bring the margin down to one.

No goals resulted, but there was a weird situation a minute later when Washington went on the power play, and Backstrom broke Chara's stick keeping Zdeno from clearing the puck.  Play continued, but Chara appealed to the ref and got the call.  I've never seen that happen before.  So Washington's power play only lasted five seconds as Backstrom went to the box.

But thankfully, nobody scored as a result, leaving Washington ahead at the end of the second.

The third period went quite quickly, with Washington managing almost no offense outside of the power play.  The only good thing is that the "almost" there did include a play where Fehr got the puck from one of Boston's D, and sprinted past into a clean breakaway.  And beat Rask between the legs with his quick wrister, restoring the Caps two-goal lead.

Despite a lot of pressure, the Caps managed to prevent any other goals (Holtby played extremely well, although he didn't have many flashy goals), and took the game by the final of 4-2.

Overall, despite missing Erat and Grabo (although they did get MarJo back, and he did look consistently dangerous), the Caps actually looked better than they did against Florida.  The Caps needed to win and they did.

As mentioned, Holtby looked very good, stopping thirty-six of thirty-eight shots.

The power play was decent.  The two goals were very good, but they also allowed several very good chances against.  The eighteen shot attempts (fourteen on net) was also quite good, coming in less than nine minutes.

The PK was not great, allowing nine shot attempts in less than four and a half minutes, although only five were on net.  Gotta say they were fairly lucky to only allow one goal.

I should also note that OV reached eight hundred career points with the five he had in the two games.  I'm glad to see that he seems to have come back mad, rather than depressed, from the Olympics.  Let's hope that continues.

Overall, though, at this point in the season, and especially with the schedule remaining, results are all that matter for this team.  I'm still not feeling great about their chances to make the playoffs, but this was a big step in the right direction.

Brouwer-power play puts Caps over Cats

I knew that the Caps had a tough schedule coming out of the Olympic break, although I hadn't realized just how quickly it got going.  I watched last Thursday's game against Florida after putting the kids to be that night, but missed yesterday's Bruins game until today (part of that was being a bit sick), and almost missed today's Flyer's game entirely.

But first, let's talk about that Cats game.

The Caps started the first period very slowly.  In fact, I don't think they managed any offensive zone possession until they got their first power play, five minutes in.  Fortunately, they held Florida to only one shot over that time as well (I have no idea how, as the Cats had quite a bit of zone time).  Even worse, Grabo was injured in that time, and was out for the rest of the game (and maybe the season?  I need to find out).

But things went well on that power play, with several quick shots resulting in Brouwer pocketing a rebound to give the Caps a lead.  Two and a half minutes later.... the Caps scored again, as Orlov jumped a pass and fired it ahead to OV for a 2-on-1 with Laich.  That ended in Laich's nicest goal of the season, as he rifled the pass behind Thomas to double the lead.

Play went back and forth for the rest of the period, with a small edge to Florida in possession, but the Panthers did manage to score on a very pretty pass from Winchester in the corner to Flash out front.

The second period started pretty slow for the Caps as well, with Florida scoring in the first minute to tie the game up.  But Washington retook the lead three minutes later on an innocuous-seeming play that finished with Erat shooting it into Thomas, and Backstrom cleaning up the rebound into an unguarded goal.

Washington looked pretty good, with play going back and forth for much of the rest of the period.  But they got another power play with a minute and a quarter left, as Jovo-cop had to trip Brouwer to keep him getting in alone behind the defense.  That resulted in another power play goal half a minute later, with Brouwer tipping in OV's shot to get back to another two-goal lead.

The third period didn't seem to start with a big lull like the first two periods, but there still wasn't much happening for quite a while.  Unfortunately, when something did happen, it followed Holtby accidentally putting the puck over the glass, and Shore found the back of the net on the resulting power play.  Just over a minute later, Boyes also found the twine to tie the game up again (ugh!).

Thanks largely to several more power plays, the rest of the period went largely in Florida's favor, although Washington did manage to score again when Backstrom sprung Laich and OV on another 2-on-1 and OV scored on pretty much the mirror of Laich's earlier goal.

One bit of fun in there came half a minute earlier as Green was sprung coming out of the box on one of those penalties, and got a clean breakaway.  His subtle move actually got Thomas to trip himself, but Tim stayed with the play and got his glove on the final shot (oh, to have gotten that shot up just a little bit) for the save.  Very disappointing.

But the Caps did hold on for the win, happily.  It wasn't impressive looking (though Fenwick 5-on-5 close did favor the Caps, slightly), but they got the job done.

Holtby looked pretty good; it was hard to fault him for any of the goals scored, although that delay of game penalty certainly didn't help.

The power play was certainly cooking.  They got two goals in less than a minute and a half of total man-advantage time, after generating ten shot attempts (eight (!) on net).  Gotta love that!

The penalty kill looked pretty good at first glance, with only the one goal in almost ten minutes of time short-handed.  But that was with twenty-two shot attempts (eleven on net), which is far too many.  So we'll have to chalk the results up to good luck and good goaltending.

Overall, the only thing to be upset about was that they twice failed to hold two-goal leads, which is not exactly a new situation with the Caps.  The old trope about it being "the most dangerous lead in hockey" is certainly crap, but it didn't feel like it in that game.