Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Games 13–14 - November 26–28, 2010

Just one of Varlamov's denials over the weekend.

I had to shake off the remnants of the previous day's food coma and get down on F Street as the Caps continued their quest to fully rebound from a rather hideous game on 11/22 against the Devils. The first steps of rebounding took place on Wednesday in Carolina. Were the next ones coming on the ice in DC?

On The Ice
Friday night's drubbing of the Lightning made Caps history, being the first game in which the Capitals have scored five or more goals and also blanked their opponent. Unless hats being thrown on the ice bother you to the degree that you feel the need to complain about it, it's pretty hard to find a negative from Friday night. The best shared observation of the night is that when the Caps took their feet off the gas on offense, they put the hammer down on defense. Nice to see!

Sunday looked a bit like we might be getting a repeat performance, even with the newly-shuffled lines (which seemed to baffle all observers) and newly-swirled trade rumors going around (which baffled no one). Then Cam Ward really buckled down and stymied the Caps after spotting them a 2-0 lead. Would have been nice to see Mr. Steckel win that draw at the end of regulation, but hey, they picked up the extra point in the gimmick.

In The Stands
Friday evening's game was very well attended, considering the odd start time and the holiday hangover. Apparently, as a way to make up for the absence of The Horn Guy, it became "Pant Ants Giveaway Night" at the F Street Arena. That is to say that there was a pretty hefty amount of foot traffic in the aisles, regardless of the action on the ice. But while folks were in their seats, they were good and vocal.

Speaking of not having a Horn Guy, I tried my best to fill in for my buddy, but those are some big shoes to fill. I would like to thank the Caps for having things very well in hand for the third period, letting me take it easy. Heh!

Sunday's game featured a few more prolonged bits of silence than I really like. Of course, watching an officiating performance like that will tend to have that effect, I guess.

Both games featured a couple of post-Thanksgiving pageant participants with quite the festive get-ups. At least one of the headdresses made it onto the broadcast Friday night after the hat-trick.

After the game, I ran into a couple, originally from the Czech Republic, up from their home in North Carolina just to see the Caps. I hope they made it to either Lyon Hall or the Front Page and got to meet a player or two. (Actually, I wish I could have made it to the Front Page last night, but it just wasn't in the cards.

And finally, kudos to the gang in "The Corner Bar" (sections 107 and 108) and the successful conclusion to their "Trade Flash" campaign.

Above Our Heads And Beyond
One abbreviation sums up the best thing about this homestand's in-game entertainment advancements: PIP. The picture-in-picture to keep live action on the big screen while replays are being shown is a fantastic development. I assume this opens the door for more and more replays. Well done, gang!

Speaking of opening the door, there were some good gaps for crowd noise during stoppages in play on Friday night. I like that we took advantage of them to make said noise. And in case you were wondering, yes, I was a bit bummed that there was no "Bustin' Loose" for the sixth goal. Heh!

This Week's Bonus Public Plea
Just one thing I ask of those attending games in the future. If you are getting up to go to the concession stand, please wait for a whistle. Barring that, at least have the discussion about what you and your friends want before standing up to go. If you don't, and someone behind you asks you to sit down (and I do mean "asks," not "tells" or "demands") after standing up for ten seconds right in front of them while the game is going on, just give a quick "my bad" and sit down. The alternative course of action doesn't seem to end well.

And So…
Things seem to be back on track, with the customary few kinks left to iron out (well, except for Friday night). With a new piece in the mix, things could get interesting in the next couple of weeks. Fingers are crossed. See everybody on Saturday!

Photo credit: Stewart Small / Facebook

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Game 12 - November 20, 2010

At least the "Monster Nachos" were pretty good.

Saturday night on F Street and the Broad Street Bullies were down from Philly to take on the Caps. It's always usually an interesting game when these two teams get together. Whether it's good or not is often up for debate, and could depend on who you ask afterward.

On The Ice
It really looked a lot like the Caps spent a lot of tonight perfecting their dual identities of late. Strong one moment, and somewhat clueless the next. Of course, they weren't exactly helped out by the guys in stripes during one of the most oddly-officiated games that I can recall seeing on F Street in a while, or by the insane amount of posts that they hit both early on and at the bitter end.

The Caps' ability to fall behind 3-1 after scoring first was aggravating. On the flip side, their ability to storm back from a two-goal deficit entering the third was the kind of thing that makes you wonder just how scary they could be if they found the right rhythm and consistency from night to night. Nicklas Backstrom's and Jason Chimera's goals in the third combined to be my highlight of the night. The other two Caps goals were no slouches either, just for the record.

My "Lowlight of the Night" was easily the third goal for the Flyers, scored by Jeff Carter as he just skated through the gaps left between the entirety of the Caps team and lifted a wrister past Neuvirth. I was shocked on the big screen replay to see just how easy of a time he seemed to have skating right on in.

The ship could use a little tightening. Hopefully there's a bit of a practice waiting for them in the next couple of days before heading up to Jersey.

In The Stands
Also in the category of "continuing recent trends" was the amount of Flyers fans in attendance tonight. There was a bit more orange and black apparel than the home game on the 7th, as well as the recently usual amount of no-shows, especially early. However, it was still a strong home crowd that had some great volume right out of the gate. I think a decent visiting team's fan presence tends to help stoke the fires.

Particularly impressive is the emotional tenacity that a lot of the crowd had, even as the Caps almost let the game get completely away from them. When the fury was unleashed in the third, the noise was robust, and the place went wild when Chimera scored the tying goal a few moments later.

Notably in attendance tonight, over to my right in section 106, was NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. I couldn't quite tell if the referees were getting so involved in the action in the second period just to show off for him or what. What I do know is that at least one fan caught up with him during the second intermission to give him a piece of his mind about the officiating performance up to that point. Let's just say it wasn't exactly a rave review.

Above Our Heads And Beyond
OK, I know that the technology behind the CrowdWave games is legit, and that the software and hardware is still being tweaked. That said, two of the three sections in tonight's "Rink Race" must have been either empty or full of corpses tonight. I say that because only half of section 107 was even participating, much less waving their arms enthusiastically enough to win. Oh well, it's still a work in progress.

Great timing for "Unleash the Fury" tonight. Nice faceoff in the offensive zone, crowd ready for a comeback goal, and perhaps in need of a little extra push over the cliff. Nicely done.

Forgot about this one last night, but seriously, 92% of the people that sent in an answer thought that Rod Langway had won the Hart Trophy? For shame.

And So…
We saw promising bursts of talent and sticktoitiveness (two comebacks in the third) coupled with stretches of head-scratching breakdowns (the go-ahead goal after capturing all of the momentum with the previously mentioned comeback), punctuated with occasionally putrid officiating (really, a phantom hook for a full minute of 5-on-3 for Philly?). Somehow, out of all of that mess, the Caps managed to wring out a point. It wasn't a particularly satisfying point, but it counts.

That's the bright side. On the not-so-bright side, there are still some really important question marks looming over the Caps. Most of them don't look all that much closer to being answered now--just under two months into the season--than they did in September.

Invoking the "Essentially Pre-Season 'Til January" mantra again tonight, I'm not really going to sweat it too much. But I don't have to. I just hope that those who do have to sweat it are working on it.

Photo credit: Joe Roos / Facebook

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Game 11 - November 17, 2010

Another weeknight tilt, but this time against an emotional, if not divisional rival in the Buffalo Sabres. I had a pretty bad feeling going into this one, but it looks like I was (mostly) off-base. I think the Redskins "game" on my birthday was still throwing me off a bit. (Once again, I want to say bravo to Chad Dukes for his epic rant on Tuesday.)

On The Ice
Oh, Caps, is there any lead you can't try and squander?

I keed (a little bit, at least), as there was progress made last night over the recent pattern of letting those big leads slip away. They never actually relinquished the lead, and found a way to clamp down on a Buffalo team that had a lot of momentum in the second period. Seeing the Caps come out and play a solid third period, withstand a late flurry, and have it all punctuated by one of the prettiest empty-net goals ever from Alexander Semin felt good.

Now, to work on those mid-game lulls…

In The Stands
Wednesday nights in the regular season will never be known for regular electricity in DC, but usually the Sabres bring out a decent amount of passion in the Caps fan community. This Wednesday night seemed to bring out a lot of Caps fans dressed as either blue seats or Sabres fans.

Not sure what was blowing in the wind that resulted in, as one of my friends noted on Facebook, "the most opposing team's fans I've seen since we've been rocking the red," but it wasn't pretty. The Buffalo rally in the second really highlighted it. Hopefully it's not the shape of regular season things to come.

Above Our Heads And Beyond
Thankfully, there was no appearance on the big screen by "Drunk Bills Fan," or Otis Day and the Knights serenading us with "Shout" (a noted staple in the songbook of Buffalo sports fans). Whatever the reason, I am thankful for that.

However, during the very first stoppage in play, the organist let go with the rhythmic chant that those in blue and yellow could sing along to, in the form of the five-beat/five-clap chant. I understand that it's a good idea to mix things up instead of doing the same thing over and over and over. However, there are some nights where some things can just stay on the shelf, of only for the one game.

From a more positive perspective, I like the very high-quality look of some of the new video packages, especially the new second period intro and the "extremely letterboxed" video that played later on. Nice work, gang!

And So…
The streak continues at home. There can be nitpicks about the way things are getting done, and there very well should be, but the fact remains that the points are piling up in the standings right now. Since I'm still holding to my mantra of "pre-season until January," I'm OK with nights like this for now.

Let's just hope, after seeing what they're capable of in a loss against Tampa, the Caps can hold the Flyers to less than seven on Saturday night.

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Game 10 - November 14, 2010

Unfortunately, I missed this one. I had prior obligations this evening. As a result, I missed something that might never happen again, as John Erskine not only scored the game-winning goal and had a pretty stout fight with Eric Boulton, but he was also named first star of the game.

That's what I get for missing the game. Hope everybody had a great time. Sounded like quite the roller-coaster ride from the text updates I was getting, most notably the one informing me that "Bustin' Loose" was again played after the Caps sixth goal.

Very nice.

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Game 9 - November 11, 2010

Even the light rig behind the goal wasn't immune to the action on this night.

Apologies for the lateness on this one. It's been kind of a crazy time since last Thursday.

On The Ice
I always seem to take a little extra pleasure out of wins against the Lightning. I'm not sure why, but there's just something about the team that kinda irks me. Add a hat trick on top of it, and it's a full evening as far as I'm concerned.

In The Stands
Southeast Division opponent… check.
Weeknight game… check.
Semi-uninterested crowd… check.

There's just something about these match-ups that brings the apathy out, at least early on. As things got heated down the stretch, and the goals kept coming, the crowd got riled up as well. There was a pretty good amount of energy in the place as the final minutes played out as well, which is always nice to see and hear.

Thanks to a few machinations on the part of my buddy Jay, my folks were in attendance for the second time in three games. They picked a heck of a game to follow up the previous Friday night's contest against the Bruins with, and had a blast. (Especially my old man, who was happy to see that all of those years we spent bellowing at the TV together when I was a kid have panned out - heh!)

Above Our Heads And Beyond
The Veteran's Day montage was a nice touch. There's always at least a few nods to vets and active troops during each home game, but this one had a cool personal touch that made it a bit more special.

Other than that, I only have two words to sum up my favorite part of tonight's game presentation: Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers' "Bustin' Loose."

May this always be the song played when the Caps' goal total climbs high. The exuberance behind it, coupled with it being a home-grown hit, makes it one of my absolute favorites.

And So…
We got a nice win to get a firm hold on the top of the division, coupled with some fun extracurricular activities for me and my folks. Can't complain.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Home Stand That Was: One Goat's Opinion
Home Games 6–8 - November 3–7, 2010

The Caps played three games in five nights, and I managed to fit a wedding somewhere there in the middle. Forgive me if this one is a little scattershot.

On The Ice
Gotta love the fact that the home team is racking up the wins where they can.

Of course, if they could avoid some of the drama, that would be appreciated. Giving up three goals to start the third period in two consecutive games against the Maple Leafs and Bruins is a little worrisome, and certainly is a setback to the "Quest for a 60-Minute Effort" that we all hope they're on. However, finding the resolve to take those games back is admittedly encouraging. Finishing strong on Sunday against a pretty strong Philly team, without Brooks Laich (even if it did take a little help from Chris Pronger's wayward stick) was good to see.

Now, if they can find a way to start keeping games away from the fire in the first place, instead of having to pull them out of it in the end…

In The Stands
It felt as though everybody in the house was just mentally somewhere else during the opening 20 minutes on Wednesday night. Even a near-goal (two, if you count both chances in the same sequence) from Mike Knuble didn't jumpstart anything in the stands for long. A fight that felt staged and unnecessary between DJ King and Colton Orr followed a few minutes later, and the indifference from much of the stands was palpable. Thankfully, the Caps had their big outburst in the second, and that got the fans into it enough to spur them on even after they surrendered the lead in the third. Although I was on the concourse (per usual) those who remained in their seats seemed to enjoy the gimmick.

There was one particularly noticeable Leafs fan in section 108, who almost seemed to be the driving force in Toronto's comeback effort early in the third. He was routinely standing up and hollering, both for his team and almost pointedly at several fans around him. Kind of surprised, but glad, that it didn't get ugly over there.

Friday night had its ups and downs as well, but wasn't quite as apathetic to begin with. A good chunk of me and my wife's friends and family were in town for the game, so I was hoping they would get a good taste of how much energy the crowd at the F Street Arena can provide, and those in attendance did not disappoint. Obviously there was more grumbling when the three-goal lead evaporated, but things reached a nice crescendo towards the end. All of our personal special guests had a blast.

Sunday games are always just a bit different, at least for me, because the start time is usually, um, unusual. The home crowd brought it pretty strongly for a late afternoon game. Having the Flyers in town probably helped a good bit, and it always makes me happy to see and hear. Big thanks to my man The Horn Guy for doing a lot of the heavy lifting at the Flyers game, as I was still a little groggy from the festivities the day before. That may have also contributed to my mini-rant at Mike Green at the end of regulation, who quickly shut me up with his GWG not 40 seconds later. Well done, sir.

I've seen it mentioned on a couple of blogs in the last few days, there sure seemed to be more visiting fans over this home stand than there have been in a while. Certainly nothing like it was before the Caps became the hot ticket in town, but a little out of the recent norm.

Above Our Heads And Beyond
Wednesday night, from the opening drop of the puck while the strobe light was still going off in the Olympia ice resurfacer's home corner, I could feel that there was something just a little "off" in the air. Overly-long TV timeouts (thanks, TSN) that began and ended awkwardly, and slightly mistimed announcements just added to the "out of wack" vibe. Even the second-earliest unleashing of the fury--during the first TV timeout of the third--didn't quite reach its usual grandeur. Oh well, there's bound to be an off-night here and there.

Friday night was a bit of a return to form, and a return of the cool metal weagle sign that they let me hold up on opening night. I was a little surprised that there was no attempt to unleash fury that night. Guess it was an instance of "holding it back to keep from wearing it out." Special thanks, as tweeted on Friday night, to the fine folks on the Game Entertainment crew for finding a place for ZO2's "Red Line Highway" in the musical rotation! Thanks as well to my outstanding ticket rep Justin for helping me secure the tickets for the visitors, and the shout-out on the matrix boards.

I can't even think about anything else, entertainment-wise, beyond the picture at the top of this post and the sequence it was involved in. The "Clyde's Fan Of The Game" segment fires up, and who would happen to be up there but my lovely new wife, looking mortified to be on camera, followed by a quick cut to the picture above, and then it was time for me to make the usual ass out of myself. Heh! Big thanks to Wes and the rest of the gang involved in that one. It really was a perfect end to a great weekend.

And So…
I could not have asked for a better week/weekend from the Caps both on and off the ice to surround the best thing that's ever happened to me. Well, I guess if I was being greedy, I could ask for them to have avoided the shootout on Wednesday, but that just seems unreasonable.

I took long enough to post this that I actually finalized it in the post-game glow of the Caps win in MSG. Now I'm really looking forward to Thursday!

Photo credit: Picture of the big screen by Stewart Small / Facebook.
Picture ON the big screen from Wes Johnson / Twitpic

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two Point Nights, Coincidental Timing, And Great Gifts

In all of the run-up to the big event this past weekend, I had the chance to spend some time with my (now) wife's parents and aunt. In the time since I met Aunt Lou a few summers ago, the subject of my Capitals fandom has come up on more than a few occasions, as it is often wont to do.

Well, this past Friday, Jill and I were each given a "pre-wedding gift" that we were to open straight away. As I was unwrapping mine, I was told that it would be a sort of test to see how much of a Capitals fan I really am, and asked if the names Mary Jane and Ron Weber meant anything to me (which, of course, they do, as they should to any Caps fan of tenure worth their salt.

I opened the box, and inside I found this:

That's right, my new bonus aunt (I prefer "bonus" to "in-law" because it seems more positive) gave me a pencil that belonged to Ron Weber, with whom she has a mutual friend out in Michigan, the night before I was gonna get married, which happened to be just a couple of days before he will be honored with the Foster Hewitt Award at the HHOF. Not too shabby, eh?

Now to find a place of honor for it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

28 Messages In 12 Hours

That's how many emails I've received with the following common subject:

[superstars]RE: You've pressed your record - now what? MIA MIND MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT PROMOTION

The most messed up thing is that all but two of them are messages with ever-increasing amounts of vitriol asking to please be removed from the sender's email list. Me, I just marked the first 23 as spam, and the rest are being taken care of.

However, perhaps someone who works for this "entertainment company" might want to be made aware that they seem to be spamming at least two different time zones with what amounts to the potential to be the biggest unintentional "reply all" chain I've ever seen.