Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ovechkin Visits Buffalo Tonight

And Sabre fan wants BLOOD.

If you don't know the back story, here's what happened when the Sabres came to Verizon Center on December 2:

Yeah, the hit looks bad on first watch, but A) it wasn't that late, B) Ovechkin didn't hit Briere that hard, C) it was made worse because Briere turned (I think to go to the bench) as soon as he got rid of the puck, D) it looked worse because Briere hit his head on the door and his helmet came off, E) despite laying on the ice for several minutes in such unbelievable excruciating pain, Briere DID NOT MISS A SHIFT.

All that being said ... if someone did the same thing to Ovechkin I'd probably be asking for the death penalty.

Ovechkin got a game misconduct for the hit and was fined $1,000.

To the credit of Buffalo fans, over at the popular Hockey's Future Boards, for every Buffalo fan who wants Ovechkin to be carried off on a stretcher there are two who say to get over it and that you can't fault an intense player for what was essentially a hustle play gone wrong.

As for Ovechkin, he's ready to go if someone wants to take a run at him.
"If it will be rough, I love play rough," he said. "I'm ready to fight if somebody want to fight me. I'm not afraid. I love make hits if somebody hit me. It's hockey. It's my game."
--The Washington Post
The game is tonight at 7 on Comcast Sportsnet.

Here is some pre-game reading:
Ovechkin Awaits Sabres' Reception by Tarik El-Bashir, The Washington Post

JP of Japer's Rink says that "these events are always over-blown by the media and the fans. Players and coaches move on - they have games to win. This is the NHL, not 'Youngblood.'"

The Washington Times didn't even mention the hit.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gilbert Arenas Goes Off On Another Western Conference Opponent

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Just five days after shoving 60 points in Kobe Bryant's face in an overtime win in Los Angeles, Gilbert Arenas a.k.a. Agent Zero a.k.a. HIBACHI! went for 54 points in an overtime win over Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.

The win, by the way, snapped the Suns' 15-game winning streak. Take that you scrawny, round-bacon eating chump.

The 144-139 OT win was the Wizards' 10th in 13 games, bringing their record for the season to 14-12.

Caron Butler added 34 points of his own and Antawn Jamison scored 15, giving the "big three" a grand total of 103 points. That'll do.

The one thing I took away from the game, though, is that I REALLY want to see a seven-game series involving the Suns and the Wizards. Could you imaging a series where 250 points are scored every night? Don't blink, you might miss 20 points ... by one team.

Talk about entertaining basketball. I got tired just watching it.

The Wizards are off until the day after Christmas when they take on Memphis at Verizon Center at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Capitals Play 20 Minutes of a 60 Minute Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, played the full 60. And guess who won?

Tampa had a 5-2 lead after two periods, through which the Caps only managed to lob 9 shots at Marc Denis, arguably the league's worst starting goaltender. The Caps stepped up their play and put 15 pucks on goal in the third period (two of them scoring), but it wasn't quite enough and the Caps took a 5-4 loss to a team that had only won one of its last nine games.

Last season I would have been positive about this loss because they battled back so well, and really if Dainius Zubrus didn't have some sort of aversion for the wide open net the game would have gone to overtime. (Zubrus had Denis down and out and a wide open goal with only a few minutes left in the game, but he rang his shot off the post.) But this year I'm disappointed. The team came out flat against an opponent that has struggled, then showed just how lopsided the game should have been once they started playing in the third period.

I guess that's a good indication of how far the team has come in a year, but it won't take too many of those "should have had" points to really cause the Capitals some damage in the playoff race.

I think just about every Caps fan has high hopes for this season given the team's play of late, but I can't help but watch a game like last night's and think that maybe they're still a year away.

It's a young team, though, and they can prove a lot by bouncing back against the Devils on Friday.

I'm going to that game as game four of my 11-game plan. And I'm taking my mom. And I'll be sitting next to my brother, who will be wearing a Devils jersey. So the Caps need to win.

Don't forget to vote in the poll: Who is the biggest star in the Beltway Sports world?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Arenas Scores 60 On Kobe ... Is He The Biggest Thing In Area Sports?

This area is dominated by Redskins coverage, so normally you'd think the most famous Redskin is instantly the biggest local sports star.

But a couple weeks ago, Washington Wizard Gilbert Arenas released his signature Adidas shoe. Then "Agent 0" shirts started popping up all over the place (I want one). And then last night he busted 60 points on Kobe Bryant in L.A.

Who is the biggest star in the Beltway Sports world?
Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
Alexander Ovechkin (Capitals)
Ray Lewis (Ravens)
Steve McNair (Ravens)
Joe Gibbs (Redskins)
Clinton Portis (Redskins)
Sean Taylor (Redskins)
Miguel Tejada (Orioles)
Umm ... Nick Johnson? (Nationals)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

So that got me thinking: Who is the biggest star in the Beltway Sports world?

My first task was to narrow it down to one player per team. Much like Michigan coming in second in the Big Ten and still thinking they should have been in the national championship game, how can you be the biggest star in the area if you're not the biggest star on your own team?

I then decided that, since football is the king of American sports at the moment, the NFL teams could each have one defensive and one offensive representative in the poll.

So here's who I came up with:

*Gilbert Arenas (Wizards) - The shoes, the shirts, the scoring prowess ... Gil's even got the craziness that leads one to give an opposing coach the finger (times two) and get an elaborate system set up in one's house so that one can train and live in higher altitude conditions for better stamina. It seemed like Arenas spent the offseason making a name for himself as a personality, and now he's proving again that he's one of the best players in the NBA. Yet he wasn't going to be an all-star last year until Jermaine O'Neal got hurt, and Coach Rat Face Krzyzewski supposedly would have cut Arenas from Team USA had he not "suffered a groin injury" and taken himself out of contention.

*Alexander Ovechkin (Capitals) - One of the top two or three stars in the NHL right now ... but that's like saying "one of the top two or three comics on MADtv." It's hard to be the biggest star in the area when you're on the least talked-about team (in the "big four" sports, anyway), but he won the Calder Trophy last year for the NHL's top rookie and he is currently tied for the league lead in goals with Marian Hossa and Brendan Shanahan.

*Ray Lewis (Ravens) - The guy's got an MVP award, and the only other person on this list who can say that is his teammate, Steve McNair. Unlike McNair, Ray Ray brought a Super Bowl to this area. That's something no other player on the list can say. His off-the-field issues with the law seem to be far behind him, but I think it's always somewhat limited his superstar status.

*Steve McNair (Ravens) - If you're simply going by "whose every game is scrutinized and written about the most?," McNair is probably only behind Joe Gibbs in that category. Acquiring McNair gave the Ravens instant championship credibility, but the fact that his best years were all in Tennessee may hurt his chances in this poll.

*Joe Gibbs (Redskins) - Gibbs coached the Redskins to three Super Bowls in 12 years before retiring to do NASCAR stuff, then saying he could never work for Dan Snyder, then doing just that when Danny backed the cash truck up on his front lawn. Back when Gibbs was winning Super Bowls with Mark Rypien at quarterback this probably would have been a no-brainer -- or even when Gibbs first returned in 2004 -- but now he's in the midst of his second losing season in the three years since his return.

*Clinton Portis (Redskins) - The only local star who tries harder than Arenas to propel himself into the limelight is Portis, who has made a habit of putting on wacky outfits for press interviews. This season he also made a habit of getting hurt and now Ladell Betts is making 100-yard games look easy.

*Sean Taylor (Redskins) - Like Ray Lewis, Taylor is a ferocious hitter and a defensive leader. Also like Lewis, Taylor has some serious allegations on his rap sheet.

*Miguel Tejada (Orioles) - Tejada made headlines in the 2005-2006 offseason when he asked the Orioles to ship him out of town because he was tired of losing. He later backed off, then went out and posted monster numbers for a mediocre Orioles team despite trade rumors following him all season. Miggy batted .330, hit 24 home runs and knocked in 100, but many fans thought he lacked the enthusiasm and hustle that he showed when he first came to the O's in 2004.

*Nick Johnson (Nationals) - It was hard to pick a star from the Nationals now that Alfonso Soriano signed a megadeal with the Cubs, but while rookie Ryan Zimmerman got a lot of love last year, Nick Johnson is still the Nationals' best player. His .948 OPS in 2006 was good for eighth in the National League, better than New York golden boy David Wright, better than Braves slugger Andruw Jones and, get this, better than 2006-teammate Soriano. His injury history has been a problem, though, and 2006 was the first year he missed less than 30 games.

So who do you think the local sports world revolves around the most?

I'll post the results and some thoughts later.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vote For Your NHL and NBA All-Stars

Well since the local teams are all taking the day off, you should take a few minutes tonight to vote your favorite Capitals and Wizards into their respective all-star games. And by favorite, I mean if your favorites are Alexander Ovechkin, Olie Kolzig, Gilbert Arenas or Antawn Jamison. If not ... well ... you get one write-in vote.

Go here to vote for the NHL All-Stars. The NHL's first all-star game since before the lockout will take place in Dallas on January 24 at 8 p.m. The game will only be televised on Versus.

You can vote as many times as you want before 11:59 p.m. EST on January 2.

If you'll remember, last time I was given the opportunity to vote for a local player an unlimited number of times I voted for Orioles catcher Razor Ramon Hernandez over 1,000 times in a single day. I expect similar dedication for Olie and Ovie.

Obviously I'm voting for Ovechkin and Kolzig, but I've also been writing in Dainius Zubrus because he's having a good year ... and the Easstern Conference is filled with too many Penguins, Sabres, Flyers and Jagrs that I just can't bring myself to vote for.

You can vote for the NBA All-Stars here. The NBA's first all-star game since last season's will be held in Las Vegas (where there is no NBA team) on February 18 at 8 p.m. It will be shown live on TNT (watch me explooooode).

For the NBA you can vote once per day until January 21, 2007.

My only request as you vote for the NBA All-Stars -- other than to vote for Arenas lest he take offense, come to your house, drop 45 points on you in your driveway and flip you the bird as he's leaving -- is to recognize that Shaquille O'Neal has only played in four games so far this year. Just because he may be the only center in the Eastern Conference whose name is even vaguely familiar does not mean you should vote for him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wizards Face Nuggets Tonight, Caps Try To Find Support

The Wizards will take on the Denver Nuggets tonight at the Verizon Center at 7 p.m. The game is on NewsChannel 8 and "Comcast Sportsnet Plus," which for Comcast Howard County suckers ... err ... customers like me is channel 95, which comes in about as clear as George W. Bush's plan for Iraq. (See what I did there? Yeah. I could write for the Post.)

If the Nuggets wear their shiny powder blue uniforms and the Wizards wear their new shiny gold uniforms, it'll look like everyone's wearing their pajamas!

The Wiz are 9-11. The Nuggets are 12-7 and play in a much better conference.

In other Wizards news, on Monday Gilbert Arenas was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. He averaged over 37 points a game in a stretch that saw the Wizards go 3-1, including their first two road wins of the season, AND he released his kickin' new shoes.

As the Capitals look for ways to pump up home attendance, they've turned to the loud and proud D.C. United fan group, the Barra Brava.

The group's first attempt to bring their raucous soccer-fan style of cheering to the Verizon Center was the December 8 game in which the Caps were spanked, 6-1, by the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, and the soccerheads were met with mixed feelings from Caps fans.

Despite the complaints, they've been invited back and will try again on Tuesday, Jan. 9 when the Caps play the hated Flyers. (Seems like I've been saying "hated" a lot recently when talking about Caps opponents. I HATE THEM ALL ARGHGHHGHGHHG!!!11one)

Tickets are a discounted $19 for the yet-to-be-named section.

I think it's a good idea, because it would be great if the Caps could cultivate a group of loud and crazy fans, assuming they can keep them centralized in a set location where they won't be too annoying to the fans who bought regular tickets not expecting to be stuck next to (or in the middle of) a group of drum-bangers who stand for the whole game. It may take a while before the Caps brass figures out how to set up these nights in a way that best limits the complaints.

My (not so good) name suggestions:
The House of Representatives
The Lobbyists

At the moment Army of the Potomac (a Civil War reference that I don't get and am too lazy to research) is getting a lot of run, but is trailing "5th Line" in the very unofficial message board poll. I like 5th Line just fine. I'd like it even better if they somehow incorporated Rod Langway's number five in the logo.

The Terrapins men's basketball team takes on University of Missouri - Kansas City tonight. Marquee match-up if there ever was one...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What The Hell Happened Last Night?

It started with the Capitals debacle. But when your playoff history is littered with squandered 3-1 series leads to the Penguins you kind of have to expect things like 4-0 leads turning into 5-4 shootout losses. (But hey, at least Ovechkin converted a shootout opportunity and Crosby didn't ... sometimes it's the small victories ... aided by the fact that we're still ahead of them in the standings.)

Here's what the bloggers are saying about the loss:
"Painful" (Team Owner Ted Leonsis on Ted's Take)
"I am still amazed as to just how pathetic the Penguin Scum looked last night even as they were staging their comeback." (Caps Nut of Bleatings From a Caps Nut)
"I love Glen Hanlon, but why in the hell did he put Chris Clark on the shootout? ... How can you leave Matt Pettinger (our best breakaway guy) on the bench for Clarky? Bad move." (Gregg Kanner of Capital Punishment)
"Well, I’d write it off as the normal fluctuations of a young team, except it’s against Pittsburgh, and the Caps choked, hard-core, against relatively equal opposition. ... Worst loss of the season, and that includes the Anaheim game." (Empty Maybe of On Frozen Blog)

The bigger local story is that D.C. United traded 17-year-old Freddy Adu to Real Salt Lake.

United signed Adu three years ago when he was just 14, and it was pretty much the biggest event in the history of the MLS.

Adu wasn't the instant success that the media hype indicated he should have been, but that's why European leagues have developmental squads. With nothing of the sort in the District, Adu had to develop at the pro level.

In his time on the team, he squabbled with coach Peter Nowak about playing time and came off as a young prima donna, but it seemed like he was finally coming around. In United's playoff loss to the New England Revolution Adu looked like the most dangerous player on the squad until Nowak inexplicably yanked him from the game in the middle of the second half.

There's speculation that a European club will come calling for Adu once he turns 18 next year, which could mean that Real Salt Lake won't even have Adu for all of the 2007 season.

In the deal, United also shipped former starting goalie Nick Rimando to Salt Lake. The only live body D.C. got in the deal was reserve goalie Jay Nolly, but their big compensation is a "major player allocation," which allows D.C. to sign a fifth international player.

In MLS rules, a team is only allowed four "international" players who are 25-years-old or older, and three who are under 25. However, it does not consider a player to be international if they are a U.S. citizen or have a green card.

Since all the best players come from outside the U.S., the ability to add another international player is a big deal.

For Real Salt Lake, who has struggled in its first two years of existence, they now have Adu to go with 2006 MVP finalist Jeff Cunningham and MLS all-time leading scorer Jason Kreis.

Here's what the bloggers are saying about the Adu deal:

"I'm sad to see Rimando go ... As for Freddy, eh." (DCSportsChick of DCSportsChick)
"All six fans of the DC United are likely crying in their beers tonight. ... Adu's career in DC has been disappointing, primarily for Freddy who wanted more playing time, and for the United." (Tom Bridge of Metroblogging DC)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Capitals Take On The Penguins Tonight

Your nation's Capitals take on the hated Pittsburgh Penguins/Pengwhines/Pengweenies tonight at 7 at the Verizon Center and in front of a national audience on Versus.

It's round five of Alexander Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby, with the Penguins taking three of four of last year's meetings.

This year both teams have added another Russian stud to the mix. The Caps have Alexander Semin (12 goals, 12 assists), and the Pens have Evgeni Malkin (14 goals, 14 assists).

A few analysts ('sup, Barry Melrose?) have said that many GMs claim they would have taken Malkin over Ovechkin in the 2004 entry draft. I'm not going to claim that no GMs said that, but I'm going to call them out as the dirty liars that they are. Because before that 2004 draft, Ovechkin going number one was as much of a lock as Crosby going number one in 2005. And even in 2005 some scouts claimed that, had Phil Kessel been available, Crosby just might have been number two on their draft board.

A) Easy to say when it's not your pick.
B) Phil freaking Kessel? He's alright, but he was picked fifth last year. You're fired if you suggest Kessel over Crosby.
C) Sometimes when you have the number one pick, there's a pick you just HAVE TO make. Crosby in '05 was one. Ovechkin in '04 was another. LeBron James in the NBA in 2003. Reggie Bush in the NFL in 2006 ... whoops!

But enough about that crap, because the real talk is Ovechkin vs. Crosby.

And when I say "the real talk," I mean in USA Today, SI.com, ESPN.com, and on the Versus Web site (the network also ran banner ads on NHL.com and washingtonpost.com hyping the game).

So there's your pre-game reading.

Ovechkin's 18 goals lead a group of five Caps already in double-digits less than 30 games into the season. That group also includes Semin (12), Dainius Zubrus (12), Chris Clark (10) and Matt Pettinger (10).

Malkin and Crosby are the only Penguins with more than 10 goals thus far in the campaign.

In other news, is there any chance that Ryan Whitney gets introduced to Donald Brashear tonight? Please?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wizards Win On The Road!

Gilbert Arenas dropped 37 points the day after his new shoe went on sale, Antawn Jamison played great and the Wizards beat the Knicks by 11 to get their first road win of the season.

And a whopping 75 percent of Beltway Sports Beat voters predicted correctly and/or voted after the result was clear!

Look at these robust statistics:

Take that, ESPN SportsNation.

The Wizards look to make it two on the road when they face Allen Iverson's 76ers in Philadelphia Friday night at 8.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"If he is not happy, I'll punch him."

The best quote of the MLB offseason is courtesy of Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, in reference to Miguel Tejada. Here's the rest of the context from The Baltimore Sun article:
Mora said he spoke to Tejada about five days ago and the shortstop was "excited about every move the Baltimore Orioles made." ...

"He's fine," Mora said. "He says he is 215 pounds of muscle. That's what he tells me. He says that he is going to hit 40 home runs this year and drive in 200. I was like, 'You can drive in 200.' You know how many people we left on bases [last year]?

"If he is not happy, I'll punch him," Mora said. "He's happy. Sometimes, he says something because he wants [to win], but now he is relaxed and quiet. He knows the front office is making some moves. When we talked the other day, he said, 'Wow, did you see who we signed?'"
On an interesting side note, Mora said he'd be willing to move to left field if it was in the best interest of the team. The O's need a good hitter in left ... unfortunately Mora's 2006 isn't really what the team has in mind, I don't think. A .733 OPS isn't going to cut it, but Mora's 34 and I'd like to think he'll rebound.

If he's moving to left to make room for Aubrey Huff then we have all sorts of other problems to talk about, because Huff is terrible against lefties just like the rest of the Orioles and he can't field.

By the way, J.D. Drew has signed with the Red Sox, so I'm sure we'll be able to add him to the list of mediocre sluggers that torch the Orioles once they go to the Sox or Yankees.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wizards Snap Mavs' 12-Game Win Streak

The Wizards shot lights out last night and looked like a team that should be at the head of the pack in the weak Eastern Conference, not a 7-10 team in fourth place in their own division.

The Wiz made almost 50 percent of their shots from the floor, including over 40 percent of their three-pointers in a 106-97 win over the Mavericks last night. Washington took the lead early in the first quarter and led by 22 going into the fourth, so the game was never really as close as the 9-point difference indicates.

At times both Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood looked like real NBA centers, combining for 21 rebounds.

The Mavericks came into the game having won 12 in a row dating back almost a month (and after starting the season 0-4).

When will the Wizards win their first road game this season?
In New York on Wednesday.
In Philadelphia on Friday.
Sometime on the four-game road trip from Dec. 17 - 22.
At Charlotte on the 27th or at Milwaukee on the 30th.
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Washington is now 7-2 at home and 0-8 on the road, which is an excellent opportunity to do the first ever poll in Beltway Sports Beat history!

So will they parlay that big win over the Mavs into the momentum to get back toward .500, or will they go in typical Wizards fashion and suffer a let-down loss just when you think they're getting back on track?

Personally, I have faith that the Wiz can beat the Knicks in Madison Square tomorrow.

For what it's worth, at the moment Gilbert Arenas is tied with Kobe Bryant for eighth in the league in scoring, averaging 26.1 per game.

Gil averages 33.7 points at home and just 17.6 on the road. Talk about a dropoff...

(By the way, the NBA has a great page for statheads here. If you ever need to know how players rank when it comes to free throw shooting on three days rest, that's the place to go.)

Wednesday night's game is at 7:30 on Comcast Sportsnet. How it's going to compete in the local ratings with that crucial University of Maryland men's basketball match-up against Fordham, I have no idea.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Maryland Is Going To Orlando For The Champs Sports Bowl

The Washington Times reported that the Terrapins football team has accepted a bid from the Champs Sports Bowl. The Terps will face Purdue in the game, which will be held in Orlando on Dec. 29.

Nothing screams cheap airfare like Orlando between Christmas and New Year's ...

Maryland finished the season 8-4 (5-3 in the ACC) and were just one win away from competing in the ACC Championship game. Purdue, 8-5 (5-3 in the Big Televen), managed to avoid Ohio State and Michigan this season but got smoked by every ranked team they played.