Friday, April 30, 2010

How The East Fell

So the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference lost. The Capitals being taken down by the Canadiens took everyone by surprise. After 3-1 series lead, the best team in the NHL losing three straight games and being held to 1 goal per game in all three was unthinkable. The Flyers got into the playoffs by the last day of the regular season and the chances of them beating New Jersey and Brodeur didn't seem likely. Boston defeating Buffalo is less of a stretch. When Vanek went out for the Sabres, we knew scoring for them was going to be a challenge.

Pittsburgh vs Montreal:

Game 1 of this series will be interesting to watch. Pittsburgh had time to rest up while Montreal is coming off a hard fought 7 game series. Does Montreal have anything left to give? Can they shut down the Penguins like they did the Capitals? I like the Pens to win this series but in how many games I'm not sure. Probably a 6 game series.

Philadelphia vs Boston

This is probably the most interesting matchup of the playoffs. No one really expected to see the Flyers and Bruins playing each other. Both teams have a similar make up and both are going with young net minders. I'm giving the edge to Boston. This will be a tough 7 game series but in the end I see Boston coming out the winner.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Washington Capitals 2009-2010. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

The people of Washington, DC woke up Thursday morning with an empty feeling in their stomach. Some woke up hungover, some just sick, but almost all of them a little depressed. The Washington Capitals carried the hope of all DC sports fans. The Caps losing wasn't just heartbreaking on a hockey fan level. The Capitals held the hope that a team from the nations capital could win a championship and we'd have something to be proud about. Instead, DC sports nation turns to the lowly Nationals for hope.

In a week the Caps went from having one of the greatest seasons ever to complete failure. Montreal had a game plan and they executed it perfectly. In 3 games the Caps had no answer. The Canadiens were willing to take an early lead and then not lose the game. In three straight games the Caps went down in the first period and could never get anything going there way. I give a lot of credit to Montreal in coming back winning this series. Yes there's an element of the Caps choking and not being to close out this series but Halak was brilliant in goal and the Canadiens won three games. They beat the Capitals and deserve to go forward and play Pittsburgh.

I watched 90% of the Caps games this year and since I started covering the Caps for Washington Sports Jam I watch 98% of the games. It was an amazing regular season to experience. The Caps outplayed the league. But they were a flawed team. They had an impressive 14 game win streak that went on for probably 5 games longer then they deserved it to.

Offensively, the Capitals were juggernauts. No team in the NHL could keep score with Caps. At the end of the year the top 5 players in plus minus were Caps. They had 7 players with over 20 goals this season (Mike Green was one shy with 19). With minor exception, the Caps were unstoppable in the regular season.

But defense was the Caps weakness. It hurt them last year and going into the trade deadline this year, fans were hoping to see a trade that would help lift this defensive unit to the next level. They did get Joe Corvo but he never seemed to fit into Washington's line-up. Mike Green had a great year and he played this best defense he has ever but you can't have 1 solid defenseman. The Caps defense was bailed out by their high power offense. It was overlooked as a major flaw in the Caps by analyst.

Also bailed out by the offense was the Caps goaltending. Although Theodore, Neuvirth, and Varlamov were all good in goal, none of them were outstanding. Yes they each had great games where they had to stand on there head, it's much easier to win games when you're team averages 4 goals a game. Talk about Theo not losing a game in regulation since January is nice but his goals against was nearly 2.8. People were concerned with the Caps goaltending going into the playoffs. It wasn't as justified a concern going into the playoffs as I thought the tv analyst made it out to be. Yes goaltending wasn't fantastic by any means but if the defense was strong, goaltending was fine.

This was the best season the Caps have ever had and it's one of the best seasons by an NHL team. But Montreal had a game plan. Montreal played not to lose. They got an early lead and were content to play defense and block shots. And it worked. It helps that the Caps were willing to give the lead away in every game and had a completely ineffective power play.

Maybe the team bough into their own hype. They had come back in probably half of the games they played this year and no lead was ever safe when the Caps played. But the secondary scoring wasn't there and with the exception of Backstrom and Ovechkin neither was the star power.

So where do the Caps go for next year? There isn't any chance the Caps have a good a season next year as they did this year. It won't happen and maybe it shouldn't. George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau have to focus and what steps they need to take to get the Capitals over the hump and winning the Stanley Cup. The good news is Hershey is loaded with talent. The two best defenseman in game 7 where John Carlson and Karl Alzner, Calson called up from Hershey for this series and Alzner for game 7. Carlson had been the best defenseman all series. Both aren't on the Caps full time. It's good that you have young talent that can step in and make an impact but they shouldn't be outplaying your starting defense.

On the defensive side I can see players like Erskine and Shultz not being with the team next year. Erskine waas the only big defensive presence the Caps had but he gave up too many plays during the regular season. Tyler Sloan, the Caps young forward turned defenseman, isn't working out. The Sloan/Erskine line made fans cringe during the season. Shultz hasn't done anything wrong and his plus minus was great but if you're looking to get younger... I don't know if Corvo will be around next season. I think an entire season with the Caps would be good for Corvo and he'd be able to find his place. Although their is youth coming to this Caps defensive unit, I'd still like to see them get someone like Chris Pronger or Hal Gill. A big, shot blocking defender. They needed to get one at the deadline and didn't. The offseason should see McPhee remedy that mistake.

On the offensive side I'm not sure what the Caps are going to do. They need to resign Backstrom. After the 2010/2011 season Semin will be a free agent and I think McPhee will wait to see how Semin preforms this year before giving him a big contract. I could see Semin being a player traded either in the offseason or at the trade deadline. The Caps have a good core on offense and they have great talent in Hershey. You'll probably see more of those guys from Hershey up as full time Caps next season which means current roster spots will have to be given up. Role players like Bradley and Steckel might lose their spots but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Capitals cut ties with Fleischmann.

The goal tending situation is more cut and dry. Theodore's contract and is up and I would be shocked to see the Caps resign him. Varlamov is going to get the starting gig next year and if he can keep healthy and get a whole season under his belt, I think the Caps will be fine is net. Neuvirth will be a great backup and I don't think the Caps are worried about him having to step in. I know people talk about a veteran presence in net but when you look at this years playoffs, the goalies who have stepped up are young guys. Last years Vezina winner Tim Thomas isn't even starting in goal for Boston. There's no reason why the Caps can't win with Varly and Neuvirth.

The end of this season came way to short for both the fans and team. October 3rd is start of next season and it can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Caps Pre-game Game 7

There was panic in the streets of DC Monday night. You would've thought the Caps had lost Game 7. Was it older fans knowing that the Caps had taken a 3-1 series lead 9 times and lost all 9 of those series? Was it just general DC sports letdown?

Montreal wasn't a team the Caps wanted to see in the first round. The Canadiens had played the Caps well in the regular season and presented problems. Going into this series it was known that the Caps were going to have a tough time with the Canadiens defense and power play. Halak was an unknown factor, as was the Habs penalty kill.

Washington hasn't had anything to play for since the Olympic break. Winning 14 straight games gave them a huge points advantage. Winning the South East division was never in doubt.

Tom Poti took a puck to the eye and is out in Game 7. So the Caps recalled Karl Alzner from Hershey. My thinking is Alzner will start in Poti's place tonight. I wonder why Boudreau is going with Alzner over Erskine. John Erskine would give the Caps a bigger, tougher presence on defense.

I'm also curious as to why Scott Walker hasn't been able to get into the starting line-up. He was brought over from Carolina for his veteran playoff experience. While he hasn't been very productive since his first game as a Cap, the playoffs seems like the perfect time to bring him up.

Tonight is critical is Alex Semin and Mike Green. If the Caps lose tonight and Semin and Green don't do anything, there will be a lot of fingers pointed in their direction. Mike Green is already being label as a choker in the playoffs and he hasn't played well against Montreal.

The goalie situation is more defined. It'll be unfair that if he gives up the first goal tonight Semyon Varlamov will probably get the hook. Varly hasn't lost any games and I don't know if Theo could've played better but Boudreau is going to have to do something to spark his team and the crowd if the Caps go down early.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How The West Was Won

With minor exception the Western conference in the NHL went as planned. All the favorites won and Detroit was the only lower seed to win (although they were favored to win the series). Which means I was wrong in picking these games.

San Jose was able to beat Colorado in 6 games. Something I'm sure the fine folks in San Jose are happy about. The problem is they now have to face the Red Wings.

Detroit put together an impressive Game 7 in which they dominated Phoenix. Their defense was stout and was very affective in keeping the Coyotes out of the offensive zone. And they did a great job killing penalties (something that's been iffy for the Wings in this series).

Vancouver just flexed their muscle in LA. Quick had some strong performances in goal but everything he did, Luongo did better. The Kings just didn't have an answer in Games 5 and 6 for the Sedin twins.

I honestly thought Nashville was going to force a Game 7 but their defense and goal tending really let them down in Game 6. Chicago didn't play tight late in 6 and got lucky. What was a 6 minute power play for Nashville didn't hurt them.

San Jose vs Detroit:

San Jose will have had a nice rest between Game 6 and when Game 1 with the Wings start and that's probably good for them. I think beating Colorado in 6 games and getting out of the first round will help. They've gotten over the hump and can now just get back to playing hockey. Minus Game 2, Nabokov was stellar. I think Nabokov will be key in San Jose going forward. But the rest will work in their favor. Detroit coming off a hard fought series with Phoenix will be tired. And even though Game 7 was a blowout, Detroit Has some big holes. Their penalty kill failed them badly in 2 games against the Coyotes and there's no doubt in my mind that San Jose has a better offense and better goal tending than Phoenix does. Detroit's been to the finals in back to back years and because of that this series should be a great one and a long one. But overall I look for the Sharks to win it in 7.

Vancouver vs Chicago

Chicago has problems going into this series. The Blackhawks penalty kill wasn't great against Nashville. On top of that I'm not convinced Niemi can be consistent in goal. He had some good games and good periods but he gave up 4 goals in three games against Nashville and 3 goals in the first period of Game 6. It also doesn't work in their favor that Roberto Luongo has only gotten better as the playoffs have progressed. The question is, can the Hawks' first line be better then Vancouver's first line and I doubt it. I'm not sure Chicago has an answer for the Sedin brothers. I'm taking Vancouver in 6.

What Matters More 2.0

So I just finished watching Larry King from Friday with Jennifer Knapp. And it lit a fire in me. I know that for the things I'm about to say that I will be told I'm wrong and maybe if I'm lucky someone will say Satan is working in me... But there are moments when you can't just sit on the sidewalk. When you have to stop the parade and throw your hat into the ring and if I don't then I'm part of the problem.

Bob Botsford was the voice of the Evangelical community on the show. I don't know Bob's work and I've never heard him preach and I don't know what his theology is but on Larry King he was a prime example of christian jackassery. I mean, Botsford's stance was that of the mainline evangelical church; That homosexuality is a sin and you can't be both gay and a christian. And although I don't agree with the opinion that you have to choose between one or the other, don't hate him having that stance.

My issue with Bob on Larry King was his explanation of why being gay is wrong. I was with him until he dropped this gem. "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Seriously Bob? You're a grown man, not a twelve year old. You have a masters in divinity. And you drop God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve on television? That was a good answer and smart thing to say? When arguing why being gay is a sin that was the best response you could come up with? Oh, I've heard it used in church before and every time a pastor uses it in church I cringe. It's like responding with "you're mom." It's not intelligent. It's not a good reason. You don't sound smart or clever or whatever by using that as a reason. You sound like a jackass. Yes, God created Adam and Eve. It's not a good comeback and it's not a good argument tool.

My second issue with Bob is Jennifer had a very good point about the original Greek words and how they've been translated. And she asked Bob Botsford about what those words in Greek mean and how we've translated them. Like I said and Jennifer pointed out on the show, Bob has a masters degree in divinity. He's studied theology and the bible. But he responded with saying that he believed the bible is God breathed and God inspired and the word of God. And well yes, that is true, it doesn't answer her question. Which is a problem. Too be honest had he said he didn't know the answer would've been a better response because at least we would've been answering her question. If you don't know just man up and say it. It's better than giving a generic christian answer to a question not asked.

Bob also, like many christians on television, would not condemn Jennifer to hell. Which is always interesting to me. If you don't believe she's a christian because she's gay, doesn't that mean you also believe she'll go to hell? It's a question that always gets asked of pastors and christian leaders, if non-christians will go to hell and they always back away from this question. It's yes Jesus is Lord and he is the only way to heaven but when it comes to sending people to hell, that's God's job. Which I would be ok with if they weren't so condemning in other ways.

My point in all of this is I believe Jennifer Knapp is still a christian. If she says she still has a relationship with God and is still spiritually motivated and has a community of believers that speak into her life, then I'll take her at her word and say yes she's a christian. She is on the same spiritual walk that I am. And I hate this idea that because she's gay, she's can't be a christian. You can be gay and christian. You can be an alcoholic and christian. You can be an adulterer and a christian. You can be a liar and a christian, a gossip and a christian, whatever and a christian. Why do certain sins carry such a weight that because we live in them, it cancels out our faith? If a christian lives in gossip no one is saying they're not a believer because of it. In fact most people wouldn't attack them for being a gossip.

If sin is sin to God and each sin breaks his heart and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, why do we outcast the homosexuals? The argument is that they're living in sin and not repenting and turning from their sin. But God still loves her and theres no reason to believe she doesn't love God and that she's trying her best to live her life as she feels God is directing her. I'm convicted when I'm in my car and yell at someone for driving less awesome then I think they should. And that's a sin to me. I bet there are people who aren't convicted and wouldn't feel like that's a sin. And I could argue biblically that it's a sin to yell at people while driving. That won't make it more of a sin to them.

And I know someone just said you can't compare yelling at people while drive to homosexuality. But that's part of the problem. We've made some sins bigger then other. But Jennifer Knapp doesn't think her relationship is a sin. And it's not my place to judge her. Which I guess was my biggest issue with Botsford; his complete lack of love. His comments to Jennifer were that he'd keep praying for her that she'd stop sinning and return to Christ. And I know TV has a way of making people look bad and maybe in an open dialogue with just Botsford and Knapp talking to each other over a beer would be more pleasant or revealing as opposed to Larry King but Botsford kept coming to the point that Jennifer Knapp as a gay woman could not also be a fellow believer in Christ. That her spiritual journey was lessened by her sexual orientation, which shouldn't be so and I don't believe is true or right.

I wonder if we lose sight that everyone is a person created by God. And God loves everyone. I feel bad for those who might be in the church that are hiding their homosexuality because they fear they'll be run out of church, or ridiculed, or someone might try and perform an exorcism on them. There are probably a lot of gay and lesbian christians who are really looking up to Jennifer Knapp and who watched Larry King and don't want people like Botsford to try and reconvert them or "make them straight." They just want to be loved and accepted as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and I think we owe it to them to treat them as such.

This is why I have a problem with not allowing homosexuals to marry. It's discrimination and it's wrong. I don't think being gay or lesbian should be a reason why you're not allowed to have a nice monogamous marital relationship. I don't know how Jesus would approach this issue if he were living on Earth right now but part of me has a feeling that he would hang out with the gay and lesbian community because that's the type of person Jesus was. He wouldn't let their sexual preference get in the way of him loving them and I don't think we should either.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs - Caps vs Habs Game 6

It was like Deja Vu. The Canadiens come out and score 2 goals quick in the first and the Caps go down earky and have to come back. Now Game 6 was different because the Caps came out firing and with determination and they played physical hockey. But they gave up a penalty and the Habs power play killed us again. Cammalleri has killed the Caps in this series and he didn it tonight on the power and then he did it again 2 minutes later on a play that looked exactly like the power play goal.

And even though he allowed three goals, and yes he should've had that third one, I still can't blame Varly for this game. He's not losing games. He's not really winning games for you but he hasn't lost a game. Yes two early goals in back to back games looks bad but the defense and penalty killers haven't helped him out. I would stick with Varly in Game 7. He's been solid. And at this point in time, going to Theo isn't going to win Game 7 for the Caps. Yes, you can't let the Canadiens score twice in the first 10 minutes in back to back games. But you also can't give up stupid penalties and be in the box. The Caps penalty kill and defense has been a point of concern all season and getting Joe Corvo at the trade deadline hasn't helped. If they Caps win Game 7 and you can get Jurcina back for the Flyers, that will help. And Mike Green needs to get his stuff together.

The biggest problem with tonight's game isn't a problem with anything the Caps did. The problem is Halak. When you out shoot a team 54 to 22 you're doing your job. 54 shoots and you only get one past Halak. Halak was on fire tonight. To be fair, the Caps could've done a better job at crashing the net and getting rebounds (which I've been saying since Game 1) but when you take 54 shots...

Fleischmann had an empty net chance but took too long to shoot and didn't get the puck up enough. He shot the puck into Halak's midsection. I saw a ton of good shots that were all met with saves from Halak. There were a bunch of rebounds the Caps could've had but if you're not crashing the net and still getting 54 shots on goal... Gabby can only ask so much.

I do have one complaint. The Caps had a 5 on 3 and only had 1 shot. Boudreau had to be furious. I was furious. They spent a minute passing, waiting for a lane through the middle to open up to make a pass to the net but it never came. When they finally took a shot it was blocked and the puck went out of the zone and the 5 on 3 was killed. At some point you need to stop worrying about perfect shots, or looking pretty, or having a highlight reel goal and just put the puck on the net and hope you get a bounce or deflection or rebound in your favor. You're not beating Halak taking 54 one timers so you need to get rebounds and just whack the puck in the direction of the net and hope for the best.

I saw Semin hesitate on shots, waiting for a perfect look that never came. It's hard to say there wasn't enough shooting when they had 54 shots on goal but there wasn't enough shooting. The Caps have been held to 1 goal on back to back games. That's a first for this season. It shouldn't be happening.

In Game 7... I don't know what to say. I'd go back to some form of the original lines, Ovie-Backstrom-Knuble, Semin-Belanger-Laich, Flash-Fehr-Chimera, Steckel-Gordon-Bradley. I don't know if I'd healthy scratch Flash and throw Scott Walker in but it's an idea. I might see if I can Erskine in on defense for Morrisonn or someone, just to have a bigger body in there.

Game 7 should be a good one. If the Caps don't come out and play hard and crash the net and block shots and play their hearts out... Even if they win Game 7, if they look flat, it might not be a long run in the playoffs. They need to play with intensity and heart and kill the Canadiens.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I just finished Donald Miller's book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. And it's good. I think I'm one of the last people on the planet to have read it. It was a struggle to get through the last couple of chapters. Not due to anything other then it was hard for me to keep my composure in parts. Reading through tears is hard. There are sad moments and happy moments, and triumphant stories that all brought tears to my eyes and I was glad when I finished.

I've always been a fan of Don's work and Searching For God Knows What is one of my favorite books. A Million Miles seem to really tough on a lot of things that seem to be bugging me in life right now. I mean Don has kind of been begged as the Every Man. He's relatable. Don seems like he'd be your friend and you'd love to sit around, drink some wine, and talk to him.

Reading A Million Miles didn't change my life and although it's got me thinking about some things differently, my life hasn't changed or been altered yet. But it does inspire me. And it did get me thinking. It did get me thinking about old dreams and new dreams. And that's important. Because thinking get me talking (to myself). And talking gets me to talking to God. Which is awesome and needed.

It's a good book.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs - Caps vs Habs Game 5

So... I was a little shocked on Friday. I was shocked at how lackluster and unmotivated the Caps started Game 5. I was shocked at how similar Game 5 looked like Game 1. And I don't really have an explanation for it.

For the Caps to come out and let Montreal dominate them in the first 10 minutes and score twice... It was unreal. And yet when Ovechkin scored I thought that was going to be enough to propel the Caps onto victory. But it didn't.

I can't say anything more then I already have. The Caps need to be better on both the fore and back checking. They need to crash the net and get rebounds for goals. Too many times were there rebounds of slap shots and if there was a player at the net it was an open net for an easy goal. And it seems pointless to bring up the defense.

Semin did have a good game for the first time in the playoffs on Friday night. He took good shots, had some great defensive plays, and even though he didn't score he looked good. It was a promising sign.

Not a promising sign is Mike Green. I said it after Game 4 and I'll say it again, something is seriously wrong with Mike Green.

I don't know what to expect Monday night. I'm sure we'll see Varly in goal because he's played well and you can't put Game 5 on his shoulders. Yes he took a dumb late penalty but he's been solid in net and his record at Bell Centre is great. So he'll be in goal. And I honestly expect the Caps to play better. Boudreau is a good coach and this team ran through the regular season with a purpose. I thought after seeing Pittsburgh lose Game 5 would give the Caps just enough motivation to go out and make sure they closed out their series but they didn't. Even if they lose Game 6, they'll play a lot better. There's no chance this team is held to 1 goal in back to back games.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs - Caps vs Habs Game 4

Semyon Varlamov is the man. Mike Green and the rest of the Caps defense owes this guy a beer. Varly turned into the Varly all of Caps nation fell in love with last year. His second period prompted Joe B to proclaim "He's back." And without Varly coming up big in the second period this series looks a lot different.

Alex Ovechkin finally broke the Caps power play drought in the first period but a a minute later the Canadiens beat Varlamov to tie the game. I don't blame Varly for that goal because the defense in this game really let him down. The second period looked a lot like game 1 and game 2. A lot of mismanaged puck handling between the blue lines, poor defensive play, and a lot of pressure made things tough for the Caps in the second period. Varly saw 21 shots and only surrendered 1 goal on a Canadiens power play. The saves Varly made were incredible. He was the Caps penalty kill and kept that Caps in a game that could've been ugly fast. The Caps just couldn't get anything going in the second period.

The Caps ended the second period with a short handed breakaway by Boyd Gordon leading to a Knuble goal. And when he scored Bell Centre went dead silent.

The third period saw Ovechkin and Chimera score to go up by two. They put in an empty netter, got a little lazy and saw the Habs score and then put in another empty netter to win Game 4 and take a 3-1 series lead.

I saw a bunch of issues in the game and although I don't think any of them preventing the Caps from winning this series but it is a slight cause for concern going forward.

The biggest issue I had with tonight was the Caps got away from what made game 3 so good; the Caps weren't crashing the net and getting rebounds to score goals. The Caps had a lot of good scoring chances but there were a lot of rebounds just laying there with Price out of position and if the Caps had done a better job getting to the net this game would've been over in the first period. Defense clearly isn't the Caps strong suit so they need to make sure they get the puck in deep, forecheck, and get the rebounds and score. Score early, score often.

And that brings me to my second point of concern... Defense. SOmething is wrong with Mike Green. He seemed to shy away from getting hit tonight and he was out of position of the first Canadiens goal. The Gomez breakaway from game 2 had Green lagging behind the play. I don't know if he's hurt, sick, or just terrible in the playoffs but something's wrong.

Also on the defense is Tyler Sloan. Shaone Morrisonn was out tonight and I can see why Erskine wasn't activated for tonights game but the defense can't have Tyler Sloan, forward converted to defenseman out there going forward. Sorry Sloan, I don't like it when you're on the ice.

Game 5 on Friday should be a good one. I have complete confidence the Caps will close out this series on Friday and send the Habs back to Canada crying.

Birds and Cages

So this blog has become my own personal hockey column as of late and it will probably continue to be for some time. But maybe it's time for something a little different.

Life never works the way the expect and dealing with that can be tough. And honestly, I don't deal with that well. Vince Anderson at Revolution NYC talked about mourning our dreams and that struck a chord with me. Sometimes we need to let dreams die and sometimes we need to let go of dead dreams so we can grab hold of new dreams. Sometimes we just need to dream.

I guess my biggest thing right now is not being one of Job's friends. They were so convinced that Job has sinned and done something wrong ad God was punishing him for his sin despite Job's claims of innocence. I think it's easy for me to wonder if things aren't happening in my life because of sin and if I would only get things straight then God will open the floodgates. And so I rack myself with guilt trying to figure out how I failed God.

But I don't think God wants me to become one of Job's friends. Because I'm unproductive when I spend all my time in guilt and not spending my time praising God and living for him. Repentance is great and God wants us to repent but I become pretty useless to his purpose when I'm miserable and spending all my time beating myself up.

The truth is I'm selfish and my outlook needs to be refocused. God is good and it's really about what God has done for me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs

I'm not only watching the Caps and honestly, it's been an interesting playoffs so far. The home teams are struggling a bit. I'll start with the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia vs New Jersey:
I kept hearing that Philly wasn't a team you wanted to play in the first round and they've handled New Jersey pretty well. Boucher has been pretty solid in net for Philly and they need that if they're going to get anywhere. I'm not sure the Devils can put together a win streak and take control of this series. They haven't been able to generate enough offense and Philly has been a scrapy team and getting to Brodeur. I like Philly winning this series but it might take 7 games to do so.

Buffalo vs Boston:
With Vanek out the Sabres are in trouble. Yes, Miller is great in goal and he can keep them in games but you need to score to win games and these tight 2-1 games are going to be tough for Buffalo to get. Boston has a tough defense with Chara leading the way. If Cooke comes back for the Bruins it'll be lights out for Buffalo. I'm not willing to tip my hand to Boston yet because Ryan Miller has been outstanding in goal. But this series probably also goes 7 games.

Pittsburgh vs Ottawa:
I thought this would be a close series but with Pittsburgh taking the series lead I'm giving this series to the Penguins in 5. Ottawa will have to do something tonight to get me to change my mind. I don't think the Sens have enough to stop Crosby and Malkin and I feel like Pittsburgh is beginning to hit their stride and they could be tough going forward. Pittsburgh's goaltending might be a cause for concern going forward but I don't think Ottawa will be much trouble/

Western Conference

San Jose vs Colorado:
Poor San Jose. They can't catch a break. They lose game 1 at home causing everyone to go ahead and call this another year where San Jose can't get it done in the playoffs. Then with the series tied at 1 a piece they make a huge mistake at the beginning of overtime; the defense puts the puck into their own net and Colorado gets the win. It's embarrassing. Goaltending was a huge problem in the first two games of the series and the Avalanche could very easily be up 3-0 in this series. And I'm not buying into San Jose. I don't think Colorado has any real punch going forward in the playoffs but I like them beating the Sharks in 6.

Detroit vs Phoenix:
Bryzgalov. Remember that name. Hockey town might be the favorites in this series but the Coyotes are the number 4 seed and were one of the hottest teams going into the playoffs. Bryzgalov has been the man in goal and I like Phoenix's chance against Detroit in this series. The Red Wings won't lie down so I'm seeing a hard fought 7 game series but the Coyotes are coming out the victors.

Chicago vs Nashville:
Despite dropping game 1 and despite Nashville's goaltender Rinne playing great I still like Chicago. I think in Nashville tonight, they'll manage to take game 3-1 and win this series in 6. The Blackhawks are the better team and even though these series have all been pretty even matched and surprising to some extent, I still think Chicago takes their experience from last year and put this series to rest. Rinne will be tough to beat in goal but the Hawks have enough weapons to make it happen. They won't need to score much more then 2 or 3 goals a game to win.

Vancouver vs LA
Hello LA. The Kings are the most surprising series leader of this years playoffs so far. LA has been fantastic on the power play and were 3 for 3 last night in the victory that sent Luongo to the bench. Quick has made the big saves when he had to and the Kings are being tough on the forecheck. Vancouver can still pull this series out and I'll still give the Canucks an advantage in this series but it'll take 7. I'll Vancouver in 7 but they need to be better on the penalty kill or LA will win this series in 6.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Meltdown

I figured I'd post this here to.

Stanley Cup Playoffs - Caps vs Habs Game 3

Wow. Now that was the Caps team I'm used to seeing play. That's the team I've bee waiting for 2 games to see. The Caps took game three 5-1. They take the series lead 2-1 and more importantly, they made a statement.

The first period wasn't terrible for the Caps. They had some bad passes in the offensive zone, the penalty kill wasn't as solid as I thought it could've been and they were a lot of breakaway chances for the Canadiens.

Jose Theodore got the hook tonight and Varly was the goalie for the game and all I have to say is thank god. This was playoff Varly from last year and the saves he made in the first period were incredible and heart stopping at times. It was good to see Var so good again. He was lights out and the goal he gave up was on a Habs power play and the defense let him down.

The goal scoring tonight came from everyone: Gordon, Fehr, Ovechkin, Laich, and Bradley. Five different goal scorers, and with the exception of Ovie all the scoring game from the 3rd and 4th lines. The Caps are a high powered offense and putting up four goals in the second period shut up Bell Centre fast. The first period had Bell Centre loud. Really loud. But after three goals and Halak getting the hook, the noisy arena turned into a library. And it was great!

I know Gabby was saying Theo could start in goal on Wednesday but it's going to be hard to pull Varly after how good he was tonight. It was a great moved and Bruce looks like a genius because of it. I don't think anyone will question him if he gives Theo the nod for game 4 but I don;t see a reason to go with Theo when Varly has played well against the Canadiens this years.

I like the Caps chances to make this a 5 game series. If they can put together a game like tonight on Wednesday, I think that will completely demoralize the Canadiens. My point of concern is the Caps have yet to score on the power play and Green and Semin haven't contributed like they need to for this team to make the finals. If Green and Semin can get rolling and the Caps figure out hwo to beat the Habs power play, this series is in the bag and the Caps can have a day or so of extra rest before round 2. I don't doubt the Caps winning this series, I would just like to see them figure some things out before they get deeper into the playoffs. But tonights game was very hopeful and a step in the right direction.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs - Caps vs Habs Game 2

A little late getting this post up. Game 2 was exciting. I'm kind of happy I missed the first period and only heard the second on the radio.

Being up 4-1 in the NHL is usually enough and the way the Canadiens defense had been playing I'm sure they probably felt like they could keep it up. And then Nick Backstrom happened. A goal late in the second to cut the lead to two before the second period ended and then a goal sandwiched between goals from Ovechkin and Carlson. Plekanec scored for the Habs late in the third to take back the lead and then John Carlson scored with just over a minute left to take the game to overtime. And then 30 seconds into over Backstrom lit the lamp for the win, getting the hat trick and tying the series at 1 game a piece.

Backstrom stepped up in a big way Saturday night and John Carlson has continued to be the best defenseman on the ice for the Caps in the playoffs. Ovechkin drove the net, got big hits, and scored a goal, all things that need to happen if the Caps are going to win this series. And I have a feeling this series could take a real quick turn in the Caps favor.

Jose Theodore was pulled after he gave up two goals on two shots, a move Boudreau said was to try and give the bench a lift. And yes Varly still gave up three goals but he played well (you have to remember the Caps defense don't always make it easy for the goaltenders). This move has led to the question, who will start in net on Monday night? Theo or Varly? And it's almost a 50/50 tossup. But my opinion is Theo will be in goal come game time. Last season saw Jose pulled in game two only to have Varly become an instant love for Caps fans. But Gabby's a good coach and I think this year is different. Theo has played really well all season and although he has given up some soft goals in this series, the defense and the play between the blue lines hasn't made it easy for him.

If the move on Saturday was to try and help the bench and give the team a little life, then having Varly start on Monday doesn't make sense. Theo wants to start Monday night. He wants to play better and help his team win this series and win the Stanley Cup. And if Theo gets the defensive help he needs and if the offense can produce like they did in the third period of Saturday's game, Theo will be just fine in goal. I think Boudreau will give Theo the nod in game three but I wouldn't be surprised if Varly started game 4 or 5. I think the plan all along has been to run with both goalies and if one got hot to ride him but I don't think Theodore was ever going to get the nod for every game of the playoffs.

There has been some stellar goal tending in this years playoffs but there's also been a lot of scoring. Where there have been some amazing saves and some real highlight reel stuff, the scoring in about half the games has been crazy. The Caps are good at scoring. Scoring 2 goals in game one was shocking. I think I can count on one hand the times the Caps have scored only two goals in a game this season. They are a high powered offense and it'll be hard for even the best goaltenders to keep them under 3 goals a game. The Habs defense in game 1 was amazing and it looked good for two periods in game 2. But one the Caps started coming straight down the middle in the third period and driving the net, they made it really hard for the Habs defense to stop them. You'll see more of that in game 3.

My final thought is simple; The Caps need to be better on the power play. The Canadiens have done a great job defending the umbrella and taking away the passing lanes that make the Caps power play affective. Boudreau is going to need to figure out how to score with the man advantage. To really take hold of this series and crush the Habs, they're going to have to score on the power play.

Rock the Red!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stanley Cup Playoffs - Caps vs Habs Game 1

I'll probably post my blog thoughts on each of the games for as long as the Caps go through the playoffs (although I'll miss part of the game on Saturday).

So the Caps dropped game 1 in overtime. A stunning 3-2 loss that I think really had all of Caps nation in stunned silence. I was shocked. Not so much shocked on how they lost, just that they did. I was covering this game for Washing Sports Jam and I had tweeted that one of the poor passing turnovers was going to end up being the killer and in the end it was.

The Caps had a pretty strong 1st period. They out shot the Canadiens 19-7. A power play goal given up, followed by a Joe Corvo slapshot ended the first period 1-1 and all seemed ok. Halak looked god but the feeling was that if the Caps kept up their intensity, they would beat Halak and put this game away in the second.

But they didn't. Knd of back and forth for the first 10 minutes of the second period and then the Habs turned it on. They had a nice long shift from their top line in their offensive zone to keep the pressure on Theo and to wear down the Caps. No goals in the second period but things weren't looking great.

The third period brought a Backstrom goal that lifted Verizon Center and my hopes. A 2-1 lead was nice and if the Caps could keep the pressure on and could get another goal then the game would be over and the Caps would take game one. But on a nice breakaway Gomez was left open and had an open net that tied the game up.

The end of the third period and overtime was some sloppy play. Poor passing from the Caps through the middle that just seemed lackluster and half-hearted, like they didn't need to try hard because they could come back and score at will. But the Canadiens' defense was strong and held the Caps, continuing to force turnovers between the blue lines and in overtime one of those turnovers led to the Habs game winning goal.

First off, Theo was strong in goal. All I've heard for two days is how the Caps can only go as far as their goaltender will allow them and to be honest, I'm confident in Theo's abilities as a goalie to keep the Caps in games and winning games. He made a lot of great saves to keep the game going as long as it did. Theo went 30-7-7 this year. That's pretty good. In fact, that's really good. Yes it helps when your team can score 4 or 5 goals a game but Theo's been a monster all year and in the Caps defense was better, Theo would be getting more respect.

Ovie had no shots tonight... And although I think for the Caps to be successful in the playoffs Ovechkin has to be scoring but I don't blame him for tonight. The defense played him well. Which is my second point, The Caps have to find a way to beat the Canadiens' defense. The Habs play team defense. WHen the Caps would get the puck and try to start a breakaway their would be all five of the Canadiens' back on defense. They did a good job of protecting Halak and a great job at clogging up the middle. The Caps need to have better passing between the blue lines and they need to beat the defense.

Lastly the Caps need to shoot the puck. They had a 2 on 1 and a 3 on 2 where they got on shot of goal. That's a problem. The 3 on 2 had Halak on his bely and Backstrom didn't pull the trigger. On Wednesday night all four of the playoff games had goals scored that were taken from bad angles or blind shots that got redirected for goals. The shots don't have to be pretty or perfect but you have to pressure Halak if you want to win.

I'm upset I'll miss most of game 2 but I look for the Caps to play much much better then they did tonight and I look for Ovie to have a goal. Down 1-0 sucks but I'm not counting the Caps out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What matters more

Jennifer Knapp has just done an interview with Christianity Today and in it she reveals that she's a lesbian. She made a comment in the interview that I can totally relate to.

"But I've always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I've found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place. If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I'm sorry. I'm going to be a miserable failure."

It's an interesting interview from someone who was a big part of the Christian music industry in the early 2000's.

You can read it here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Top 5 Films

This has been what seems like an ongoing conversation in my life and to say that I actually blogged something here are my Top 5 Favorite Movies.

1. The Incredibles
2. High Fidelity
3. Pulp Fiction
4. Casablanca
5. The Birds

Friday, April 9, 2010

Surrender to the Sound

This is the link to the Andrew Schwab blog I mentioned in my last post.

Free Fall

Andrew Schwab posted a blog the other day about music and how it connects us to God and how it's a part of us and of course I loved the blog. And it resonated tonight as I was driving.

I was listening to Stavesacre's Speakeasy, an album I like more with time. And that in and of itself isn't anything special. It's a record I listen to often and it was just an album to enjoy while I drove home in the rain. Bu Free Fall came on, and it's a good song but I've never paid it much mind and tonight the lyrics really hit to me.

Freefall (from Hand To Hand)

Sleepless eyes open wide before Heaven I stand again
If there's no winning this war tonight I was wondering
If you could steady my spinning head

And trusting gets harder now
I wish you were here beside me
My failures my fears and doubts have been haunting me
I'm just not who I thought I'd be

Freefall weightless and terrified
On I go crossing over from living to so alive
And purified I know weeping is cast for the night
And joy...

Thought I was a good man and fell short of my standards
Now what am I left with All or nothing
And my first taste of freedom

Freefall weightless and terrified
On I go crossing over from living to so alive
And purified I know weeping is cast for the night
And joy...

If I fall down
If I fail you
When I fall down
When I fail you
I hope to find you there
I hope to find you there
I know I'll find you there
I've always found you there

When I fall down, down

Freefall weightless and terrified
On I go crossing over from living to so alive
And purified I know weeping is cast for the night
But joy comes in the morning

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Had No Intentions

There's something about a sad song late at night that brings a certain sense of comfort to my soul. Damien Jurado's "And Now That I'm In Your Shadow" is playing and it just puts me at a sense of ease. I love metal and punk and hip-hop, music you can dance to or drive really fast to. Stuff to be enjoyed. But there's something about a haunting, dark, beautiful song that puts me at ease. Whether it's an ambient piece or a singer/songwriter who crafts minor chords under lyrics about dead and lost loves. The title track, And now that I'm in your shadow, is one of my favorites. Damien Jurado has a knack for writing great songs. Gary Murray on LN is another songwriter who writes that most hauntingly beautiful songs.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Easter Tradition

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life [d] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Let The Music Do the Talking

I set up a kick, snare, and hi-hat this morning and played drums for the first time in at least a month. Just put on some hip-hop beats and played along for a half hour or so. It felt good.

I started a new Echo Broke Alone ep this week. Just started the writing process. The album is going to be called Can't Lose Heart. I'm excited to be working on completely brand new Echo Broke Alone material. Just writing and recording an album of songs from the ground up. A fresh start.

I also have two other project I'm considering working on. I have a handful of metal songs that I'd like to expand upon and create some sort of demo and record some metal song. I haven't really worked on a metal record where I've played all the parts and wrote the songs, so it would be something different for me and it would draw me out of my musical shell and help me expand some of my writing processes.

I'd like to do a singer/songwriter album too. I don't really have ideas for songs or how to attack this but I've been craving to do something along the lines of Richard Swift or Damien Jurado. Just work on song writing and do something simple.

I'd like to be drowning in music.