Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010-2011 Washington Capitals Preview

We are one week away from the start of the NHL season. Next Friday (10.8) the Caps kick off their quest for the Cup.

The Caps 09-10 run ended in extreme disappointment as they blew a 3-1 lead to the Montreal Canadians and failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs. It was still a tremendous season for the Caps, the best regular season in team history, but their playoff performance brought a lot of questions to mind. Can Bruce Boudreau get this team to the finals and win a cup? How come Semin and Green completely disappear when the playoffs start? Do the Caps need defensive help? Is their goaltending good enough?

The offseason saw minor changes to the Caps lineup. Theodore was not resigned. Belanger was also not brought back. Backstrom signed a mega deal that will keep him a Cap for the next 10 years. Semin, Fehr, and Fleischmann were all resigned. They brought in DJ King as an enforcer. A handful of small signings but the Caps are really looking to keep their core group of players in tact and bring up players who helped Hershey win the Calder Cup last year. So where do they stand?

Offensively you can't argue that the Caps are pound for pound, the best offensive team in the NHL. Ovie, Backstrom, and Knuble on the front line is probably the second best first line in all of hockey (only the Blackhawks with Kane, Sharp, and Toews is better). The Caps are a solid 4 lines deep and I agree with Andrew Gordon (Caps Forward) that they could probably send out 2 teams and both be pretty good. The Caps probably won't storm through the NHL like they did last year but they could. 2 years ago they jumped out to a huge lead in the East early in the season but stepped off the pedal and gave up a lot of ground late in the year. Last year they never took their foot off the pedal and crushed everyone in the East. They won't dominate in the same way this year but they will clearly win their division and be in the top 3 , if not the top seed in the East.

Defensively the Caps still didn't go get that big bruising defensemen that all fans would've liked to see them get. They are better on the defensive front though. Having Karl Alzner and John Carlson in DC for the entire season makes their defensive lines better. Green and Shultz line 1, Alzner and Carlson line 2. Line 3 is iffy. They kept John Erskine, who made fans cringe every time he hit the ice. Tyler Sloan is their weakest defender. Defense isn't his natural position and it shows. Tom Poti is still strong on line 3 but if he ever gets hurt an Erskine/Sloan line is bad. They did bring in Fahey and McNeil but it's yet to be seen how they play out.

Goaltending might be more of an issue this year. Although I have faith that Varly and Neuvirth can get it done, Varly already has a minor injury. Holtby is supposed to carry the load in Hershey and although they brought in another netminder on a twoway contract, I'm starting to question whether or not Varly can go a whole season. Yes, Neuvirth is good enough if the Caps score like madmen and the more experience the better he'll be. Antti Niemi was available for most of the summer and I wish the Caps had picked him up. Varly is solid come playoff time but if he gets hurt early in the season goaltending is going to be a huge issue for the Caps.

So where do they go? On the offensive front the Caps will be crazy good this year. We know if they have to score 5 or 6 goals a game to win they can. I wouldn't be surprised if the Caps traded Semin or Flash at the deadline. Both of those players signed 1 year deals and if you have to go out and get a defensemen or veteran goalie for the playoffs Semin is great trade bate.

The defense will be better. They have to be. Carlson and Alzner is a line that will help improve the defense from the get go. It's a solid line you didn't have last year and having that frees Poti for the third line, which makes that third line better. Like I said, I can still see them seeing a need for a big bruising defender to help them in the playoffs. The defense might be really solid this year and McPhee might not make that trade. But if the Caps have a ton of 5-4, 4-3 games this year, they'll need another blue liner.

Goaltending is up in the air for me. I like Varly a lot and Neuvy proved himself in Hershey last year. Neuvirth is a better prospect then Varlamov which made me think Neuvirth could be traded this year (because Holtby is a better prospect then both of him and after a year in Hershey, he'll be a full time Cap next year). But they just gave Neuvy an extension... So I don't know if that means Varly could be traded, or they're set with what they have. I could see the Caps trading for a goaltender with experience for the playoffs but it's not essential that they do so. If you look at the goaltenders last season, only Nabkov and Brodeur were proven vets and Brodeur got bounced in the first round. Niemi was a young goalie, Boston went with Rask and did well. Experience is good for the bench and the Caps had experience last year. It's time for the young guys to prove themselves.

The Caps will win their division this year and make the playoffs again. Games will be more spread out because there's no 2 week break mid-season this year and that will give players more rest and help for minor injuries. Ovie will get back to playing like Ovie did before the second (or third, I can't remember) suspension. The Caps need to make a serious playoff push this year. Anything less then the Eastern Conference finals is unacceptable. I don't think Gabby can last as coach if they get bounced in the first round again. Even if the Caps don't completely destroy and dominate the regular season like they did last year, I think the team will be more focused and concerned about their playoff performance when that times comes then they were last year. The Caps got cold at the end of the regular season last year and couldn't beat Halak when it mattered. I don't think that will happen this year.

Most notable game: January 1st. Winter Classic vs the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spend $5, Help a Good Cause

Wrench In the Works broke up the other day. They have some merch left over and have put it on sale with all proceeds going to Project: AK-47.

Project: AK-47 is a team of people who are always ready to invade the next hopeless situation for children in armed conflict. Our staff members on the ground are nationals who are committed to rescuing and restoring the lives of children who otherwise would only know lives of violence and exploitation. We also do a fair share of raising awareness and advocacy for these children, but we don't stop there. We can't stop there. And we hope that you won't either.

If you're interested you can see Wrench in The Works merch here or you can learn more about Project: AK-47 here

Monday, September 27, 2010

We Dreamed In Heist

So I was out of the country last week. My trip produced a bunch of thoughts that I will share in a completely random post full of utter nonsense. So... let's have fun.

Interstate 95 has more cars traveling on it from Canada then one would think. This isn't the first time I've noticed this but my last two trips on 95 I've noticed a high volume of cars from Ontario and Quebec on the interstate.

The state of Florida has more license plate variations then I thoughts were possible. I counted close to 24 different plates but there might have been more. It's nuts. I didn't know there were that many custom plates available for one state... but good job Florida. Giving the people options

My passport photo is terrible. It's really bad. I'm reminded of Schemer from Shining Time Station anytime I look at it. (Does anyone even remember that show?)

War Inc is an incredible movie and I'm ashamed I don't own it on dvd. Caught the movie at a hotel in Florida and I loved it. Reminded me of Gross Point blank. This will be a dvd purchase. Movie was great!

I finally saw The Blindside. The movie was good. Not as great as people said it was. I missed the first 15-30 minutes though... I later caught the start of the movie but it was in Spanish. I got the gist of what was happening but I feel like the language barrier messed with the emotional weight of what was happening.

7 days with no communication with my girlfriend is too much. That can't happen again.

I also watched The Invention of Lying. I heard that movie wasn't so great but I thought it was funny.

It is hot in Mexico and I think I should stop sending my resume to places that are so hot. I dislike the weather in the summer and why would I want to live somewhere where it was hot all the time? That sounds like a terrible idea.

My Spanish is no good.

There are more billboards for South of the Border in North Carolina heading south on 95 then there are in South Carolina heading north.

I watched cricket for a week. It took pretty much the entire week but I now think I understand the sport of cricket. That's right, a week out of the country and even though it was cricket, I still watched ESPN every day.

I could eat a steak and baked potato everyday.

Having a beard is enough to have the customs agent ask if you were born in the USA.

I sail very poorly

My musical selection for the week.

Anberlin - Blueprints For the Black Market
Anberlin - Never Take Friendship Personal
The Glorious Unseen - Tonight The Stars Speak
Hammock - CHasing After Shadows... Living With the Ghost
Haste the Day - Attack of the Wolf King
Haste the Day - Dreamer
A Hope For Home - Realis
House of Heroes - Suburba
Living Sacrifice - The Infinite Order
N.I.V. - Flesh and Blood
N.I.V. - Tipping The Scales
Norma Jean - Meridional
Project 86 - Songs to Burn Your Bridges By
Thrice - Beggars
Wrench in the Works - Decrease/Increase
Wrench in the Works - Lost Art of Heaping Coal

That's it. I'm glad to be back home.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blame It On the Holy Rollers

So I had a great time Friday night seeing Advent and Sleeping Giant. Both bands were amazing and both have a great heart for what they're doing. Both bands were very honest as to their faith and why they play music and what they want to see. Sleeping Giant was very open about the hardcore scene being a place to come and worship God in a different way from conventional church that, a place where some might be more comfortable worshipping, and being able to worship in their own way. Sleeping Giant even played two "worship" songs, ending their set with Oh Praise Him (their version of course).

Honesty is nice and both Advent and Sleeping Giant are two of the most honest bands I've seen in the scene for many years. While I will always respect bands that don't preach and let their music and actions speak for themselves, the scene needs bands who want nothing more then to see people come to Jesus and have true, real relationship with him.

Here's a video fo Sleeping Giant. You can see me enjoying myself. (I'm the guy with the beard in the NIV shirt).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Story Time - Linthicum Heights

So my drive down to see Advent and Sleeping Giant on Friday prompted a memory, which is kind of funny, kind of embarrassing, and should be shared with the class.

I went to a lot of shows and saw a lot of bands in high school. The first show I ever went to on my own when I could drive was Norma Jean and mewithoutYou at Linthicum Heights Methodist church (where the show Friday was). Got there fine, went inside, paid, and enjoyed the show. The opening bands were alright. Vanderbilt played, as they always did. mewithoutYou played a shortened set, as Aaron was sick. I still thought it was a solid set. Norma Jean took the stage and got about 30 seconds into their song when the power went out. Power came back on, they started over and 30 seconds in the power went out. Power came back, they started for a third time, got about a minute in and then power to the block went out. End of their set, end of the night.

I stayed around for 20 minutes or so making conversation with bands and fans a like but the power wasn't going to be coming back on so I bolted. It's an easy trip. You get on 695 and take that to 70, which takes you back home. Simple. An easy 45-50 minute trip. But for some reason my 16 year old brain had it in my head that I needed to take 195 home. I took a random exit, got on something, took another sketchy exit and ended up on 95 north headed to New York.

I knew I had made a mistake when I hit the toll. I did not have the money to pay the toll. My hope was that the toll attendant would feel bad for me that I had messed up that she would just let me through. Now she did tell me how I could get back to where I needed to go but I still had to pay the toll. So I started counting out pennies. Luckily the guy in the car behind me asked if I was lost and then offered to pay my toll. Great guy. So I went through the toll, got back onto 695 and made it home.

There were no travel issues on Friday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gang Signs

I'm going to see Sleeping Giant and Advent tonight. I'm super excited for this show. I've only seen Sleeping Giant once (at the last Facedown Fest in like 07) and they were amazing. I've never seen Advent (missed their set when they came through town with Demon Hunter).

My goal is to stay in the loop with the local hardcore scene and get to more shows. Kobra Klutch does a great job of booking shows and getting bands to Maryland and I want to get back into going to the hardcore shows. Maybe not like I used to in high school when I was going every weekend but I want to be more frequent in attendance and showing support for bands and music I love. I mean music is my passion and my life.

Over the last 8 months or so I've really redeveloped my passion for christian music, christian hardcore and metal to be exact. Running the music blog I've noticed I've really started covering a lot of metal and hardcore. I mean it helps that the Facedown Family has been killing with their 2010 releases. It seems like every album they put out is on point and awesome. I've gone back and and really dug into the Facedown Records discography. There's a lot of killer stuff on that label.

For whatever reason from my senior year of high school until really when I went to Facedown Fest I was really out of the hardcore/metal scene. I got really into emo, indie rock, and post rock/ambient music after high school and really didn't involve myself with hardcore anymore. Whatever the reasoning, my passion for heavy music was diminished. I just called it getting older but whatever. I would hear songs and albums I liked but never really dove in and involved myself.

And the scene has changed since I was in high school. Hardcore shows in the day were always at VFW Halls or church basements. Every now and then the bigger bands you'd see at Ottobar or some other small bar in town but you'd mostly go to the local Knights of Columbus, take $5 and a canned good and see 5 hardcore bands. It was awesome.

Now, because of myspace or Hot Topic or just the ever changing landscape of music, metal and hardcore acts have more exposure. Christian bands have a lot more exposure and are more popular now a days. Underoath, As I Lay Dying, Norma Jean, Demon Hunter, and a slew of others are really big not just in christian circles but in normal metal circles. Which is awesome. Yes, christian bands have always toured with non christian acts but it's different nowadays. All the shows are in legit venues and some bands have huge followings and the cost of seeing your favorite band could be $30+.

I imagine it can be tough on parents trying to monitor their kids musical intake. If your son or daughter is a fan of Underoath and they go see them live, they're also going to be exposed to some band that's not christian that I know parents will have an issue with. I know I saw tons of non christian bands in high school at scows I went to but their were a lot of straight up all christian tours. Once a month I could go to Mt Oak church and get a great christian hardcore or punk rock show. Those seem to be fewer and fewer in the hardcore scene these days (although Scream The Prayer is a great summer metal tour).

But l always see shows with christian hardcore acts in places that I didn't think still put on shows. And like I said, Kobra Klutch does an excellent job getting Facedown artist to Maryland and providing hardcore shows for fans and a place where local young bands can play. And I want to do a better job at getting to these shows and showing my support.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Brian McLaren on Worship

Great stuff from Brian

LA Ink

So I was watching LA Ink last night for the first time in a while. I used to be a huge fan of the show but I had fallen off the wagon after 2 seasons. AT the end of season two when Kat called things off with Orby, I dropped off. I think I caught the first episode of season three but that was it.

The first 2 seasons were really good. Season 1 was the best because it was mostly about the shop and tattoos. Corey, Hannah, And Kim were all great tattoo artist (I would never let Kat tattoo me. I think she's terrible.) Season 2 things started to derail. There were more, random, artist in the shop and Kat's personal life started to overtake what the show was about. It was still a good chunk about the tattoos and the three real artists in the shop continued to kill it with each piece they did. The last couple episodes of Season 2 dealt with Hannah really having issues being in LA and not in Chicago with her daughter and whether or not she would come back to the shop.

Season 3 started and there was no Hannah and no Kim. So two thirds of the reason I watched were now gone. But Corey was still there. Anyway, my schedule or tv watching priorities changed and LA Ink got lost in the shuffle.

So what did I miss... From the episodes I've caught here and there, the show became less about tattoos and more about Real Housewife style drama and fighting. And I hate that stuff. A handful of tattoo artist came into the shop and didn't work out and they ended up at American Electric (a second shop the show is now following). They do have a great new british tattoo artist, Dan Smith (whose band The Dear and Departed are awesome). There was a shop manager who caused a lot of drama between Kat and Corey which ended with Corey leaving High Voltage. Major bummer.

But I guess season 4 has just started and there have only been two episodes, which I've now seen both. Corey came back to Kat and they talked through some stuff and Corey said he'd like to come back. Weeks go by and Kat herself doesn't contact Corey and he decides that what's best for him is to just stay away from High Voltage. The good news is it looks like Corey is going to take his appointments to American Electric and work there and thus still be on the show.

Will I continue watching the show... Maybe. I wish it would be more about the tattoos because that's really what I care about. I will probably watch next week. Here are two videos of some awesome Corey Miller tattoos.

And Hannah tattooing Tim from As I Lay Dying