Friday, March 4, 2011

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Games 33 & 34 - March 1 & 3, 2011

So, I was working up a note about my reasoning behind glossing over shootout losses for last Friday, with every intention of including it in a recap of the game on the 25th. Then the game against the Rangers (which we will speak of no more) happened, and I decided to add blowout shutouts at home to the "let's just move along, shall we?" list. Hopefully there will be a little bit more for me to write about over the last few weeks of the season. But there's some legitimate goodness to speak of in the meantime.

On The Ice
The initial inclination about Tuesday's contest would be to say that the first 59 minutes were a frustrating struggle, and the last three saved the day. That wouldn't be entirely fair. The first five minutes of the game were pretty outstanding as well. It was those pesky 54 minutes in between good parts that were a bit hard to stomach. The new guys seemed to blend in as well as can be expected with the short notice, and Sturm almost made his mark early with a shot that went through Lawson, but trickled wide.

The Caps wound up going 7 periods without a goal at home, scoring just one goal in the last 11 (and that goal from Ovechkin against LA was so early, that game felt like a virtual shutout) before the GTG and OTGWG sent everybody home, well, more slightly relieved than happy, I'd say. Still, it's nice to see a number besides a 1 or, thank the fates, another 0 under the Caps name on the board at home. It was also encouraging to see them keep plugging away and not totally fall apart in frustration. Jason Arnott's post game comments (the best summaries of which can be found here and here), may just be words right now, but I am definitely excited to see the results of him putting them into action.

Stringing together the first back-to-back wins at home since Thanksgiving was a great way to follow the late heroics on Tuesday. There was the usual "let the other team score first" maneuver, but the sluggishness to respond was not evident the way it has been in spots recently. Goals from combos of grit and skill kept the pace with St. Louis, giving Jason Arnott the chance to welcome himself to our little show with his GWG on a honey of a pass from Semin. Does Semin make that pass to another player besides perhaps Ovechkin? I know it's only a couple of games and a few interview snippets, but I'm thinking the newest 44's impact could be a lot bigger than numbers he puts up on the ice.

In The Stands
After the Rangers had quite a warm visiting team welcome on Friday night, I was expecting a bit of the same on Tuesday for the Islanders. From where I sat, that wasn't the case. Although I would venture to say that's a result of empty seats not being able to cheer for either team. A Tuesday night against a currently lackluster opponent doesn't exactly bring out the throngs. That said, those Caps fans who stuck around and made it to the light at the end of the frustration tunnel on Tuesday were pretty raucous as the game wound down. Was it faith? Was it legitimate enthusiasm? Was it the byproduct of frustration? Perhaps it was a bit of all three (for me it was a LOT of the latter), but whatever it was, it resulted in some volume that hasn't been heard on F Street in too long.

While there were a few more fans on Thursday night dressed as empty seats, and way more dressed as CEO's than usual, there was a palpably different vibe from the mounting frustration of Tuesday. This was a crowd made up mostly of people antsy to cheer for something good, and they got their chance. The noise during that timeout taken by the Blues late in the third was very nice to hear. It's always a weird feeling to not have The Horn Guy in the house, so I hope I picked up at least a bit of the slack.

Above Our Heads
A shot from Semin in the third period on Tuesday night that clearly soared well over the goal and into the netting above the glass prompted the goal horn to sound. Initial theories were that they wanted to see if the horn still worked in a game situation.

Is it me, or is drinking on the job apparently required of the organ player at the F Street Arena?

Did anybody else notice George McPhee in the tunnel behind the bench waiting for Jason Arnott to finish his post-game interview Thursday night? I saw him for a split-second on the big screen, and thought it a little unusual.

Speaking of being on screens, I was apparently on during the broadcast last night late in the third, during the aforementioned Blues timeout, then they ran the commercial I was in last year. Kinda cool, at least for me.

And So…
For the first time in a long time there were a lot more happy faces and a lot less running the gamut from perplexed to furious on their way out of the arena. Again, although it's early, the arrival of Jason Arnott and his attitude are looking promising to many of us who were looking for something to latch onto in the "hope" department while providing a potential anchor for a second legitimate scoring line, which can only help the overall team dynamic. Last night really wound up being a whole lot of fun, which isn't really something I could say with a straight face a whole lot recently. Three straight wins, and a little blink by the Lightning, and we could be in for a very interesting weekend which could make the rest of the stretch run a lot more interesting than I previously expected it to be.



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