Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Told You Zednik Would Bust Out

As I stated last Monday, it was only a matter of time before Richard Zednik started scoring goals for the Washington Capitals.

After 10 games of being a buzzsaw every time he stepped onto the ice, making strong plays in the offensive zone and hounding defenders on the backcheck, Zednik finally broke through with a pair of goals in last night's 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames.

Zed could have easily buried a third, deking Flames' goalie Miikka Kiprusoff out of his pants and finding himself with a wide open goal, but he couldn't quite pop home his third of the night.

Dainius Zubrus netted the other two tallies for the Caps, including an empty netter to secure the victory.

Despite failing to reach their "six points every five games" goal with the loss against Edmonton on Saturday, the Caps road trip was a huge success, taking 5 points in four games against difficult Western Conference opponents.

The Caps now have a few days off before playing back-to-back nights starting Friday with a home game against the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers. On Saturday the Caps take on the struggling Flyers in Philadelphia, a city in which they haven't won since January of 1998. That's a span of 16 games, with the Caps only even managing to come away with a point once -- a 1-1 tie in October 2000.

With the state of the Flyers this season, there may be no better chance than Saturday to snap that skid.

If you're interested in getting a glimpse of what it's like to be the most accessible owner in professional sports, Ted Leonsis posted on his blog, Ted's Take, that fans were e-mailing him after a disastrous first period against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday basically telling him how to do his job. The Caps were outshot 16-1 in the period and were losing 2-0. They came back and tied it in the second period and eventually lost in the shootout, earning a point in the standings. Click here to read the post, Let's Chill Out.

(Funny note about Leonsis' blog: You can type in Ted's Take into Firefox and it will take you directly to his blog.)

There's been a lot of talk over the past few years about the Capitals going back to red, white and blue uniforms and some fans have even called for a return to the old jerseys.

My problem with that notion is that the old logo with the lowercase, backwards italics and stick for a 't' (I always thought it looked like an L) was too "'70s looking," so in a fit of boredom I whipped up a modernized version of that logo. It's not the sexiest thing ever, but here it is:

Happy Halloween

So uhh ... why is everyone wearing Orioles colors today?

Oriole Bird

Monday, October 30, 2006

Terps Bowl Eligible, United Moves On, Ravens Win, Caps Miss Goal

With a post title like that you hardly need to read on, right?

Let's get right to business:

The Maryland Terrapins blocked a last-minute field goal to hold a 27-24 lead over the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday night at Byrd Stadium.

The win is the Terps' sixth, making them bowl eligible for the first time since 2003.

I know some people disagree with me on this, but I really think the Terps will need one more win to make it to a bowl game. Sure, if the bowl invites were being handed out today the Terps would get an invite riding high off a win over FSU on national television, but if they tank it down the stretch and finish 6-6, bowl committees aren't going to be jumping at the chance to showcase a team that has lost its last four games.

The Terps remaining schedule is brutal (and I know I said that two weeks ago and all the Terps did was win the next two games). This weekend it's a road trip to Death Valley to face No. 19 Clemson, who's coming off a tough loss to Virginia Tech. Then it's back home to face a struggling Miami team, back on the road to No. 16 Boston College, then finishing the season at Byrd Stadium against No. 22 Wake Forest.

The Miami game on Nov. 11 is still the Terps' best shot to secure a bowl bid.

D.C. United played to a 1-1 tie in the second leg of its two-game, first-round playoff series against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, earning United a spot in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Red Bulls controlled the play for much of the game and 16-year-old Jozy Altidore put them ahead 1-0 in the 70th minute, which would have been enough to send the game to overtime if not for an amazing goal for D.C. United in the 86th minute.

Josh Gros booted a cross from the right side seemingly into the pack in the middle, but at the last second United's Bobby Boswell flopped out of the way and the ball made it through to Christian Gomez, who buried it and evened up the score.

Despite the win, ESPN 2 commentators stated early and often that a similar effort from United would not be enough to beat the New England Revolution in the Conference Final.

United won the first leg at New York, 1-0, and in Major League Soccer's crazy "aggregate goal" playoff system, that means a tie was good enough to advance and face the Revolution, who beat the Chicago Fire on penalty kicks.

The Eastern Conference Final is only one game, which will be at RFK Stadium this Sunday at 4 p.m. It will also be shown live on ESPN 2.

My concerns about the Ravens falling to 4-4 after starting 4-0 have been alleviated, as the Ravens beat the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday, 35-22.

In the first game since Head Coach Brian Billick fired Offensive Coordinator Jim Fassel and took over the playcalling himself, Baltimore's offense scored three touchdowns and Jamal Lewis had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

But the offense wasn't the only side putting points on the board for the Ravens.

When asked about his playcalling after the game, Brian Billick quipped, "I particularly like the play calls of the two interceptions for touchdowns."

The win kept Baltimore a game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North.

The Ravens and Bengals face off on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Baltimore to get to the halfway point of the season.

The Capitals started their first and only west coast swing of the season promisingly, beating the Avalanche and getting a point in an overtime loss to the Canucks, but on Sunday they were trounced by the defending Western Conference champions, 4-0.

The loss meant that the Caps only managed to get four standing points in the second "five game mini season" of the year and gives them 10 points after 10 games, a pace that would probably not be good enough to make the playoffs.

The Caps wrap up the road trip tonight at 9 p.m. against the Calgary Flames.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Alexander Ovechkin: A Picture And A Quote

Alexander Ovechkin provided plenty of highlights in the Capitals 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, scoring a power play goal to put the Caps ahead 3-1, laying a hard shoulder check on Karlis Skrastins that destroyed a pane of glass, earning a penalty shot (although he shot high and wide of the goal), then ending the night by getting hit in the knee by a shot puck from his own teammate (I'm looking at you, Shaone Morrisonn).

To get everyone psyched for tonight's game against the Vancouver Canucks, here's a picture and a quote that sum up the Ovechkin experience:

Ovie DESTROYS Some Glass
(To be fair to Skrastins, despite what it looks like in this picture, he stood up through the check and was already skating back toward the play when the play was stopped for cleanup.)

In a scary moment, Ovechkin took a puck to the knee with just seconds remaining in the game and had to be helped off the rink. Fortunately he was walking fine after the game, and he had this to say to The Washington Post:

"I'm okay; Russian machine never breaks."

Damn straight.

Honestly I expect he meant it as a comment on the integrity of Russian engineering and craftsmanship rather than as a self-implemented nickname, but that's not nearly as awesome.

Tonight's game is at 10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet, and I expect you all to stay up for it. I'll be calling your house at 1 a.m. with a quiz on the game results, so be prepared.

Alex Watch: (8 games in)

(SOG = Shots on Goal, ATOI = Average Time On Ice)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekend In Review

Apparently the sporting world has decided it's OK to cheat, as this weekend Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers was found using some foreign substance on his hand, for which he received no penalty, and former Maryland Terrapin and current San Diego Charger Shawne Merriman was suspended four games for failing a steroid test.

What frustrates me more than anything in these stories is the relative lack of outrage. Is it too much to ask that professional athletes not cheat? Apparently not.

Now if you'll allow me to dismount this high horse I'll get on to the local stuff...

D.C. United won 1-0 in the first leg of its first-round playoff series against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon. The second and final game of the series is set for Sunday at 6 p.m. at RFK Stadium, and all United needs is a draw to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

MVP candidate Christian Gomez scored the only goal of the match on a sweet give-and-go from Jaime Moreno. Gomez got through the defense and chipped the ball over Red Bulls goalkeeper Jon Conway in the 77th minute.

When watching the game on TiVo I initially thought the shot missed and hit the outside of the net (which, thinking back, would have been almost impossible from where he was shooting). It was a fantastic shot.

The Maryland Terrapins avoided choking away a 20-point lead in their homecoming game on Saturday afternoon, holding on for a 26-20 victory over the N.C. State Wolfpack.

The Terps are now 5-2 (2-1 ACC) and are only one win away from bowl eligibility, although that may not be enough to actually get them into a bowl game.

N.C. State beat Florida State and Boston College at home earlier this season, which is a good sign because the Terps still have to face both of those teams (although BC will be in Boston).

The 'Noles come to College Park on Saturday for a 7 p.m. game.

Do I really need to comment on the Redskins? No? Good.

The Capitals lost, 6-4, to the Lightning on Saturday night despite two goals from Alexander Ovechkin (although you'll never convince me that the first shouldn't have been credited to Alexander Semin).

In the third period, coach Glen Hanlon played with the lines a little, moving center Jakub Klepis up to the second line to work with Semin and Richard Zednik, displacing Kris Beech who thought he was a good fit on that line.

Now it appears Hanlon will give Klepis a few games with Zednik and Semin to see if they can add some production.

Klepis has no points so far this season, compared to Beech's goal and four assists. Granted, Klepis has been playing on a line with Rico Fata and Donald Brashear.

The other concern, as JP on Japers' Rink pointed out, is that Beech is the fourth best faceoff man in the NHL, while Klepis has lost 60 percent of the faceoffs he's taken.

Ideally when you have two potential big-time scorers like Semin and Zednik on a line, you'd like to gain control of the puck as often as possible.

On a side note, how long can Zednik possibly go without a goal? It seems like he's constantly swarming around the puck, going hard into the corners, making plays and making strong moves to keep the puck in the face of tight pressure from opposing defensemen, yet he hasn't found the back of the net this season. It's only a matter of time.

The Caps start a four-game Western Conference road trip Wednesday when they take on the Avalanche at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Your Saturday Programming Schedule

A quick hit before I head off to the Maryland game:

It's a full day of sports today, starting at noon with Maryland vs. N.C. State in Terps' homecoming game.

(Also at noon is Fulham FC vs. Aston Villa on Fox Soccer Channel, for which I will be using the antiquated VCR for future viewing).

At 2:00 it's D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls in the first game of the two-game playoff series (I'll be TiVoing that).

At 7:00 the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Washington Capitals for some Southeast division action in the NHL (I may have to watch some of that from a bar in College Park ... assuming I can find a TV showing that instead of the World Series).

At 7:30 is game one of the World Series, Detroit Tigers vs. St. Louis Cardinals.

Happy sports watching!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wizards Unveil Gold Alternate Jerseys

The Wizards tonight unveiled their new alternate jerseys in front of their season ticket and partial plan holders.

Did I miss something? I thought the Wizards colors were blue, black and bronze. Some all-bronze jerseys would have been pretty original (and butt ugly).

Photo from WashingtonWizards.com.

I think the jerseys are kind of cool and I don't even mind the idea of having different colored shorts, but what's with the fat, kind of fluffy white and gold trim on the bottom of the shorts? Looks like something that a Disney character or G-Wiz should be wearing.

Some fan feedback can be found here.

I'll Have a Couple More of Those Five Goal Periods, Please

The Capitals sure came out firing last night. They scored five goals in the first period on route to a 5-2 win over the Panthers and accomplishing the goal of six points in the first five games.

The goal scorers for your nation's Capitals were:
Alexander Semin (from Richard Zednik)
Chris Clark (from Brian Sutherby and Steve Eminger)
Jamie Heward (unassisted)
Kris Beech (from Semin and Zednik)
Matt Bradley (unassisted)

Semin scored his sixth goal of the year, so here goes...

Alex Watch: (5 games in)

(SOG = Shots on Goal, ATOI = Average Time On Ice)

It would be hard to figure out just how much time they've been on the ice together (mostly during power plays), but given that the Alexes are on separate lines you've got to figure the Caps have at least one of them on the ice for about half of every game. Caps fans have got to love that.

The Capitals travel to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers at 7:00 tonight.

Something I forgot to mention yesterday when talking about D.C. United was that Fulham Football Club Manager Chris "Cookie" Coleman (no one really knows about the nickname) was seen at RFK a couple weeks ago during the United match against the New England Revolution.

Fulham is an English Premier League team (my favorite, for that matter).

There's no telling who he was scouting, but there have been some rumors in the past that Fulham has had interest in Freddy Adu -- although that could just be meaningless fan speculation. New England's Clint Dempsey was the other name tossed about by Fulham fans, but can I throw the name Christian Gomez into the mix? He is a finalist for the MLS MVP award, but at almost 32 he's probably too old to attract much interest from a major UEFA club.

New England also has Taylor Twellman, the 2005 MLS MVP who has supposedly received some interest from a couple of other Premiership clubs despite being snubbed by Bruce Arena for the 2006 U.S. World Cup side.

Fulham already has two Americans, Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra, both of whom play significant minutes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quick Hits: Capitals, Ravens, Redskins, Terps and United

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said on his blog that the Caps will be looking at this season as a series of five-game "mini-seasons," with the goal of earning six points in the standings for each five-game stretch. (For those who don't know the NHL's point system, you get two points for a win, one for an overtime or shootout loss, and zero for a regulation loss). Averaging six points every five games would give them about 98 points on the season, which would have been good enough for 7th place in the Eastern Conference last season.

Leonsis wrote that, in business, breaking down a large task into smaller tasks with shorter-term goals "makes it easier for all stakeholders to focus on the task at hand."

The Caps have 4 points after four games, and "mini-season one" ends tonight with a home game against the Florida Panthers. Washington needs a victory to reach their goal for the first five game stretch.

The Ravens fired Offensive Coordinator Jim Fassel yesterday. Head Coach Brian Billick will take over the play-calling on offense.

Apparently Billick decided he needed to be more involved in the offense, Fassel felt Billick already had too much input, and now Billick will have all the involvement he can handle.

Billick, who may be running out of chances in Baltimore, now puts himself in a "no one to blame but myself" situation.

After jumping out to a 4-0 start, the Ravens have lost two in a row. They are off this week before going to New Orleans to face the Saints.

The Ravens offense is ranked 28th in the NFL.

The Redskins suffered a devastating loss to the previously winless Titans, so I guess I was wrong (see number 4)... There will be no escape from the "Redskins suck, my life is over" attitude in the nation's capital in the foreseeable future.

The Maryland Terrapins came back from a 20-0 halftime defecit against Virginia on Saturday to take a 28-26 win. The victory brings them to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the ACC.

The Terps need only two more wins in their last six games to be bowl eligible, but that's eaiser said than done.

Maryland does have four home games in the second half of the season, taking on N.C. State, Flordia State, Miami and No. 25 Wake Forest at "Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium" (excuse me while I roll my eyes). On the road they take on No. 12 Clemson and No. 22 Boston College, so realistically you can forget about road wins.

A win over N.C. State this Saturday during Maryland's homecoming would be huge because the last five games on the schedule are brutal.

I was thinking after the Miami-FIU brawl that the Terps would have a good chance against a Miami squad that would have to be missing numerous players because of suspension, but as it turns out of the 13 players suspended, the only guy who may not be on the field for the Terps game is Anthony Reddick, who was clearly visible on TV running up and whacking a player on the back with his helmet. The 12 other suspended players will only miss Miami's epic and much-anticipated match-up with winless Duke. Convenient, eh?

Even with those players back with the 'Canes, the Terps' best chance to snag an upset win might be that Nov. 11 meeting with Miami, who, like the Terps, struggled against FIU.

D.C. United fell to the Chicago Fire, 3-2, in the regular season finale Sunday. After dominating the league for much of the season, United has dropped three straight going into the playoffs and is 2-6-5 in its last 13 games.

United Coach Peter Nowak told The Washington Post, "We give up the goals like an under-12 team," adding, "In the playoffs it's going to cost us a game, it's going to cost us a series, and we'll all go fishing."


They're still in first place and, lucky for them, they face one of the two teams they beat in the last 13 games, the New York Red Bulls, in the first round of the playoffs.

The first "leg" of the two-game series is Saturday at 2 p.m. That will be followed by another match on Sunday, Oct. 29, at RFK.

In the oddity that is the MLS playoffs, series leading up to the MLS Cup are two games each, and the team that scores more goals over the course of the two games moves on. The league championship is still only one game.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

2006-07 Washington Capitals Preview

Can I really call this a preview when the season's already two games in? Isn't it just a "view"? Doesn't matter. Enough with semantics.

By now, if you've been paying any attention whatsoever to the 2006-2007 edition of the Washington Capitals, you know that there's some things to be excited about. Obviously Alexander Ovechkin tops the list, but Alexander Semin announced his return on Saturday night with a hat trick.

2006-07 Capitals Toolkit



Team Stats: 2006-07 | 2005-06

Washington Post Capitals Section

Major Departures:
Jeff Halpern - C (Dallas)
   44 points in '05-'06, team captain
Brian Willsie - RW (Los Angeles)
   19 goals, 22 assists in '05-'06
Mathieu Biron - D (Sharks AHL affiliate)
   52 games played, -11 in '05-'06

Key Arrivals:
Alexander Semin - LW (Russian League)
   10 goals, 12 assists in '03-'04
Richard Zednik - RW (Montreal)
   299 career points, three 20+ goal seasons
Brian Pothier - D (Ottawa)
   5 goals, 30 assists in '05-'06
Donald Brashear - RW (Philadelphia)
   2,169 career PIMs, 179 career points

Media Previews:
ESPN.com Washington Capitals season preview
Inside Hockey Washington Capitals season preview
ESPN.com: Southeast could be most talented division in NHL
Most Caps fans didn't need that performance to be excited about Semin's return, because in the 2003-04 season he scored 10 goals and added 12 assists in 52 games while proving he had the potential to be one of the league's most dynamic young players.

When the lockout rolled around Semin went back to play in Russia, but when the NHL started up again, Semin either wouldn't or couldn't (depending on who you believe) return to Washington. The Caps sued him and his agent but were unsuccessful in forcing him to come back, but eventually Semin and the Caps reached a deal that brought him back to the team.

Semin was a skinny 19-year-old in his first stint with the Caps, registering at 6'0", 174 lbs., but anyone with eyes can see he's added some muscle in his two years away from the team. The Caps' Web site now has him listed at 180 lbs., but other sites have him listed as high as 6'1", 187.

That gives the Caps two powerful goal-scoring Russians anchoring their offense, but the big question mark, like last season, is defense.

The Caps gave free agent defenseman Brian Pothier a deal worth a reported $10 million over four years. Pothier (pronounced Poth-ee-air, not Poth-ee-ay or Poitier) previous played with Ottawa and impressed the Caps with his quickness and ability to move the puck -- traits that are highly valued in the "new NHL." On the opposite end of that spectrum they signed hulking 6'4" defenseman John Erskine, formerly of the Islanders, although he seems set to receive limited playing time.

The Caps cut ties with struggling defensemen Nolan Yonkman, Ivan Majesky and Mathieu Biron and promoted 21-year-old Mike Green (21 today, actually -- happy birthday Mike! ... as if he reads this drivel) from the AHL champion Hershey Bears.

Coach Glen Hanlon also moved Ben Clymer from wing to defense to help bolster the young defensive squad.

The Caps signed one of the league's best enforcers -- and piano players -- in Donald Brashear. Between Brashear and Erskine, the message is clear: Mess with Ovechkin, Semin or Dainius Zubrus and you're going to face the consequences. Ryan Whitney better watch himself.

Offensively, the caps dealt for a familiar face in right wing Richard Zednik, who scored more than 20 goals each of the three seasons before the lockout but only netted 16 last season. The Caps have also promoted some offense from the championship Hershey squad, including center Kris Beech, who the Caps dealt to the Penguins in the Jaromir Jagr trade in the summer of 2001 and got back in last season's deal that sent Brendan Witt to Nashville. Beech has been working on a line with Semin and Zednik. Center Jakub Klepis, right wing Boyd Gordon and center Brooks Laich are all on the big club this year as well, although one of them may get sent down when left wing Matt Pettinger comes off the injured reserve.

In goal, the Caps still have the best goalie in the history of the club, Olie Kolzig, manning the nets, although he may get spelled for more games this season by backup Brent Johnson, who posted a .905 save percentage in 26 games (23 starts) for the Caps last season.

While most of the pundits are still predicting the Caps to land in the bottom two of the Eastern Conference again, Caps fans are hoping for more, but with a team as young as the Caps it's hard to know what to expect.

While the playoffs are seemingly unlikely, solid numbers from guys like Beech, Laich, Zednik and Pettinger complementing Ovechkin and Semin on offense, coupled with solid defense from Pothier, Green, Shaone Morrisonn, Steve Eminger could give the team a fighting chance.

After messing with the lines a little bit for the season opener at the Rangers, Hanlon went back to the top line that was so successful last season. From here on out look for Zubrus to center a line with Ovechkin and new captain Chris Clark.

The second line is the biggest improvement, with goal scoring wingers Semin and Zednik centered by, for now, Kris Beech.

While Hanlon will probably mix up the lines a little bit over the course of the season, they'll likely tend to look something like this:

Ovechkin, Zubrus, Clark
Semin, Beech, Zednik
Pettinger, Brian Sutherby, Laich
Rico Fata, Klepis, Matt Bradley
(Extra: Brashear - LW, Gordon - RW)

Pothier, Morrisonn
Clymer, Eminger
Jamie Heward, Green
(Extra: Brian Muir, Erskine)

The Caps play the Wild in Minnesota tonight at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ten Random Early Week Thoughts

1. I took some time to clean the cobwebs out of my blogroll today when I added washingtonpost.com's D.C. Sports Bog (that's "bog" not "blog" ... but it is a blog) by Dan Steinberg – he was very eager to have his blog's name pushed in front of my robust readership of 16 visits a day and even offered a bribe, but my readers are loyal and no matter what anyone offers I refuse to tell my mom how to spend her Internet time... Cleaning my blogroll became an experiment in fan interest in the two competing local baseball teams. I did the Orioles first, and probably half of the O's blogs I had listed either died or hadn't been updated since April. I expected a similar result with the Nats because people just naturally lose interest in keeping up a blog, but almost all of the Nats blogs were still alive and running, and posting even after the Nats were done playing. I guess Nats fans haven't been sufficiently beaten down by losing the way O's fans have. (Side note: I thought everyone wanted Frank Robinson fired and thought he was a terrible manager, but now that F. Robby's gone every blogger is making weepy posts about it...)

2. After watching last night's Ravens vs. Broncos game, I really think it's time to give Jamal Lewis a game off. I don't know if he's still injured or what, but it's bad when every time a running back makes a big play you think, "Damn. About time," and then it turns out it wasn't the feature back. Musa Smith and Mike Anderson have both looked healthier, quicker, and more agile than Jamal Lewis all season. Let's see what they can do.

3. I told my brother before the Ravens game that I thought it was entirely possible that the Ravens would find themselves 4-4 despite starting 4-0. After losing to the Broncos they get Carolina at M&T on Sunday, then after a bye week it's on the road to New Orleans, then back home to face the Bengals. If they can even win one of those they'll be in decent shape at the halfway point, but if they lose all three they'll have a tough time bouncing back given their remaining schedule.

4. The Redskins should get healthy against Tennessee, so the gloom of this "Redskins suck, my life is over" attitude hovering over the nation's capital should be gone come Monday.

5. Tony Kornheiser is at his best on Monday Night Football when he's making fun of Joe Theismann. Other than that he rarely has anything of value to add, although that's impossible to know for sure because Theismann never shuts up.

6. Joe Theismann's was a good restaurant. It sucks that it closed.

7. A follow-up on my first Caps post of the year: Dan Steinberg did some investigative reporting for the D.C. Sports Bog on what happens to all the hats that fans throw on the rink after a hat trick. He also came up with a total for the opening night hat trick celebration: 99 hats. Although that was after some people had come by to "claim their hats" – their being used liberally. He also said he found as many Orioles hats (1) as Nationals hats, which is strange because I definitely saw about five times more curly W's than cartoon birds in the stands. What could that mean? Did the Nats fans not throw their hats? Are a higher percentage of Orioles fans than Nats fans willing to part with their hats because the O's have sucked longer? Did the Nats fans just come down and pick up their hats sooner? Is all this meaningless because the sample size is so small? Discuss.

8. If the Caps trade 5-2 wins and losses all year, they'll make the playoffs. And actually give up 13 less goals than they gave up last year. Ouch.

9. After three years of waiting by angsty 20-somethings like myself, Saosin finally released their first full-length CD, and I'm hooked. It's like Thrice, only good. (Really I'm not all that angsty... I bought the new Keane CD the same day.)

10. There's no local sports on tonight and it's Tuesday, so no football. But I'm here to help, so here's what I'll be watching tonight: At 7 p.m. the Flyers take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Versus (formerly OLN) and I'll be cheering for both teams to lose, then at 8 (and by 8 they mean intros start at 8, so I'll actually have time to watch the whole hockey game that should end around 9:40) I'll switch to Fox for Tigers vs. Athletics in ALCS Game 1 so I can cry about how I wish the Orioles had any shot at all to get Barry Zito.

Monday, October 09, 2006

And Me Without My Hat

So my experience as a Washington Capitals "partial plan holder" got off to a real nice start on Saturday night as the Caps took a 5-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes by scoring three third period goals.

Alexander Semin scored his second, third and fourth goals of the season and the hats went on the ice. Not only did I not wear my A.O. Hat Trick Hat ($14.99 at the Beltway Sports Beat Shop), but it was a different Alex doing the scoring anyway, so it wouldn't really have felt right to heave it onto the playing surface.

I'm thinking I need to fix that hat so it just says "HAT TRICK HAT" or "ALEXANDER HAT TRICK HAT" with an 8 and a 28 on it. Not that anyone's buying them. (Come on people. Only a couple months before the holidays.)

I think this is where I rehash my idea about selling a hat for $5 at Verizon Center concession stands that just says "Hat Trick Hat," bring 'em out when someone has two goals, sell them for five bucks, then sweep 'em up, throw 'em through the wash and sell 'em again! These are the kinds of visionary ideas I should be paid for.

So in two games Semin has amassed 40 percent of his previous NHL total of 10 goals, all scored in his rookie campaign (and only prior season in the NHL) in 2003-04 when he played 52 games for the Caps.

This Alex and Alex combo is going to be nice.

Yes, it felt good to be back at the phone booth. The pregame ceremony was fun, including some sweet graphics on the ice and a cool team introduction (minus some flubs between the announcer and the AV team), and the team followed with five goals in a winning effort.

The crowd collectively held their breath when 'Canes defenseman Tim Gleason gave Ovechkin a low hit to the legs, leaving the Caps star on the ice in a heap for several minutes, but he got up, got a Band-Aid and didn't miss a shift.

Maybe it didn't help that Chris Clark leaped to Ovie's aid by jumping Gleason ... with both of them landing right on top of Ovechkin. But you like to see the new captain standing up for his star player.

Plus it's nice to think that on November 9, Timmy Gleason should have a face full of Donald Brashear.

Great game, great experience, and I've still got tickets to 10 more!

Time permitting I'll do a full Caps preview, hopefully between now and the next game, Thursday night at Minnesota.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Time To Put This Steroid Saga To Bed

OK maybe not the whole steroid saga, but at least the part that involves Jason Grimsley's identification of Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons and Miguel Tejada as anabolic steroid users.

And here's why. (The Baltimore Sun)

Grimsley's lawyer sez:

"As to all five players named, Jason did not attribute steroid use to any of them."

And the clincher:

"There was no mention of Roberts or Gibbons at all ... The agents didn't even mention Roberts or Gibbons."

You can take that to mean Tejada was mentioned by someone at some point, I guess, but I'll assume that's the lingering effect of Rafael Palmeiro's now-infamous vitamin B-12 defense.

The L.A. Times isn't looking so hot right about now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

U.S. Attorney's Office Refutes L.A. Times Report

The newest twist in the Jason Grimsley affidavit saga has been provided by the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco, which issued a statement saying that the Los Angeles Times' report claiming that the names supplied by Grimsley to investigators included Orioles Miguel Tejada, Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts.

Here's a link to the article in The Baltimore Sun.

U.S. Attorney and lead investigator Kevin V. Ryan said in a statement, "please be advised that these reports contain significant inaccuracies."

So now instead of questioning Grimsley's motives or knowledge of the situation, supporters of the supposedly accused can now question the accuracy of The Times' report as well.

Gibbons had the best reaction to the situation upon hearing the statement:

"What a shocker. This is all inaccurate? ... Like I said before, this is a complete joke."

Gotta love sarcasm.

Roch Kubako has some interesting takes, including a conversation with David Segui, who admitted to being named in the affidavit.

Segui says he doesn't even know how or why Grimsley would have known whether or not Roberts, Gibbons and Tejada were using performance enhancing drugs. Segui also said Roberts was "about as milk and cookies as you can get."

Kubatko also points out that Gibbons has always been one of the most outspoken players in the Majors about the need for steroid testing.

Here are the links to Roch:
Initial reaction
On Gibbons and Roberts (bottom few paragraphs)
Speaking with Segui

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Possible Fallout

By now it's all over the place.

The original story in The L.A. Times.


The Baltimore Sun ... x2.


All of them say basically the same thing. Jason Grimsley, who was caught in June receiving a shipment of Human Growth Hormone, said in an affidavit that three Orioles were using anabolic steroids when he was on the team in 2004 and 2005.

Miguel Tejada, Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts.

Tejada has been through this suspicion before. Jose Canseco speculated in his book that Tejada was on the juice because he bulked up and got a big payday when he put up power numbers. Then Rafael Palmeiro said he thought he might have tested positive because of some vitamin shots that Tejada gave him. However, the league went out of their way to say that Tejada had never tested positive.

Gibbons and Roberts have never been subject to any real documented suspicion, but I'm sure people have wondered.

The problem is, they test for anabolic steroids. This isn't human growth hormone, which the league does not test for. Wouldn't these things have shown up?

I guess that's the Orioles optimist in me coming out. I even wanted to believe Rafael Palmeiro until it became impossible.

But all this has me wondering what Peter Angelos' reaction will be.

The team will wrap up its ninth straight losing season this afternoon and Angelos was the subject of a fan protest a couple weeks ago. He's got to be feeling some heat to make things happen. Will the second team steroid scandal in as many years be what leads him to blow the team up?

Many thought Tejada should have been traded in the middle of the season and some still think he will be traded this offseason. Gibbons' injuries have had many questioning the contract extension he received last year, and he's a man without a position now that he's said he doesn't want to be a fulltime designated hitter and Nick Markakis has stolen his spot in right field.

But the big question mark is Brian Roberts. He's arbitration eligible and it seemed his extension was going to be a high priority for the team this offseason. If Angelos decides to blow up the team, can you really just deny arbitration to one of the game's most valuable second basemen with no replacement and only an implication and no proof of guilt?

Potentially, Angelos could feel the need to cleanse himself of this whole mess by creating a team almost entirely of players acquired or promoted after testing started. There's still no way to know that they're definitely clean, but at least there would be no Grimsley accusations and it would be hard to prove anything if they haven't been caught.

Markakis, Ramon Hernandez, Corey Patterson, Kevin Millar... It's a start, but not a very good one.

Of course this is purely specualation, and given Angelos history of an "ohhhh things will get better in time" attitude, it's hard to believe he'd actually feel the need to start over from scratch, but who knows what his reaction to this news will be?

One thing is for sure, this can't help in the efforts to lure big name free agents like Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee or Jason Schmidt. All of which means ... yes ... more years of sucking!

Your Worst Case Scenario

It's 3 a.m. on Sunday, October 1, and for some reason I'm awake and seeing this article from ESPN.com.

Basically, the names that Jason Grimsley implicated when he was taken in by police after a raid of his home have now been leaked, and they include three major players on the Baltimore Orioles.

Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons were all said by Grimsley to have taken anabolic steroids.

I guess the question is, do you trust a guy who was trying to save his own ass when he names three of the biggest names from his former team? I'd argue you do not, but it makes you wonder.

At the moment I'm skeptical. When I wake up on Sunday and have a clearer mind, that mood may turn to devastated.

I hate this.