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Defense In the Caps Favor!

By Rodger M. WoodJohn Erksine 3.JPGEven after they lost 1-0 to their new Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay Lighting in overtime this past Tuesday and fell out of first place, Versus commentator Brian Engblom said, “I like the Caps chances in the playoffs now that they havelearned to play defense.”Indeed, defense has been the name of the Caps game lately. Since ending their 8-game losing streak with a win at Ottawa 3-2, the Caps shut down the Devils 5-1, lost to Penguins 3-2 in an overtime shootout, shut out the Canadiens 3-0, beat the Penguins 3-1 in the Winter Classic, and lost to the Lightning 1-0 in overtime. They’ve allowed 8 goals in 6 games, an outstanding average of 1.33 per game.Although Lightning GM Steve Yzerman may have pulled off a coup getting the veteran goalie, Dwayne Rolonson from the Islanders, the Caps have been getting Stanley Cup goal tending from its rookie goalies tandem of Michael Neuvirth (2.58 average and .911 save %) and Semyon Varlamov (2.09 ave and .925 save %) during its 5-0-2 streak the past 7 games.Jeff Schultz is back on the blue line teaming with Mike Green, Scott Hannan is taking hold, and John Erskine is playing the best defense of his career. Rookie defensive pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner is hyped by Washington press as the Caps stop combination on Crosby, Stamkos, and other top opposition lines. The defense has been doing so well, Coach Boudreau made defenseman John Erskine, whose toughness, scoring, and heart as of late have ignited the Caps, a healthy scratch against Tampa.The Winter Classic was a win and a half for the Caps. Before the game, Mike Milbury slammed Alex O as “Peck’s Bad Boy” and made the Caps out to be bad guys, while making Crosby and the Penguins look like the good guys.They went on to compare the Winter Classic contest to the blood baths the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings played in the 1950s and the contest between Crosby and Alex O. to the battle that went on between Gordie Howe and the Rocket Richard every time they played against each other.Gordie_Howe.bmp

Image from memorabilia collection owned by Jack Cross. © Unknown
For a fan who saw both the battles of the 1950s and the 2010s, let me reassure you, there is not much comparison. Alex O’ is sometimes tough and a hard checker, but Crosby is a pansy, who has others fight his battles and make his checks, unless they are blindside checks, in which case he might make them.If you had suggested to Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Marcel Pronovost, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion, or any old Canadiens or Red Wings player that they have someone else do their fighting, or make their checks, you might have been taking your teeth home in a handkerchief.While the Winter Classic was a great game and there were many hard checks and tough guys like John Erskine, Matt Hendricks, and Alex O. out on the ice playing, it is doubtful we’ll ever see the likes of the old time Detroit/Montreal hockey again.

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January 29, 2011 - 12:43 am

John Niespodzianski - Wow, I came across this article while researching rookie defensive pairings and Stanley Cup history. Being a Caps blog, I expected some bias… but was pleasantly surprised as I read the article for its relative objectivity (even with the rah-rah Caps tone).But then I hit this paragraph:”For a fan who saw both the battles of the 1950s and the 2010s, let me reassure you, there is not much comparison. Alex O’ is sometimes tough and a hard checker, but Crosby is a pansy, who has others fight his battles and make his checks, unless they are blindside checks, in which case he might make them.”Hate Crosby much?Listen, I can understand the Crosby dislike from NHL fans. I can especially understand it from Flyer and Caps fans, as Crosby-led teams have ushered their teams out of the playoffs.But a pansy?Others fight his battles and make his checks?Crosby makes blindside checks?You just lost ALL credibility. That rhetoric likely plays well to your Caps fan base, but for someone who supposedly has been a hockey fan since the 50’s that’s just outright blind and ignorant.You accuse Crosby of blindside checks, yet it was David Steckel who blindsided Crosby in the Winter Classic and likely has knocked him out with a concussion. And Crosby was nowhere near the puck. Pot, meet kettle.You also obviously watch as little of Sidney Crosby as possible, as the man is routinely abused by other players, mostly legally but sometimes shadily and it never knocks him off his game.Crosby never shies away from contact and finishes his checks when they’re there. Is he the physical presence and hitter that Ovechkin is? Absolutely not. But that’s not his game.I am no fan of Ovie’s (or the Caps), but I greatly respect his game and his abilities. He’s not perfect, and neither is Crosby. They’re both great players who play a different style of game. As an NHL fan I appreciate what both of them bring to the game. I don’t let my own personal homerism cloud what’s obviously in front of my eyes. I hate the Flyers with a passion, but can appreciate Mike Richards’ well rounded game and the game breaking ability of Claude Giroux. And Niklas Backstrom’s playmaking ability is a thing of beauty.And yes, I’m a Pens fan. But I’m a hockey fan FIRST and don’t have to insult other players to make me feel better about my team.If you and other Caps fans want to represent yourselves with the respect you want to push for Ovie, you need to start by taking off the blinders and stop presenting yourselves as homers whose team can do no wrong while painting Crosby as the anti-Christ.You don’t have to love him, and it’s certainly OK to hate him. I love to hate the Caps. But I still respect them in the morning.

January 29, 2011 - 2:18 pm

admin - Your comments about Mr. Crosby are well taken, deserved, and publishedfor others to read. I feel bad Crosby is out with a concussion – it takes something away from the NHL game, and I hope he comes back soon.In my mind, Crosby is a lot like Wayne Gretsky, a great scorer but a nonparticipant in the rougher aspects of NHL hockey. They truly are great scorers, winners of Stanley Cups, but not comparable to the tough two-way players of the 1950s, and 1960s.If I were drafting a team I’d like to put on the ice today, I’d choose Gordie Howe first, Rocket Richard second, although I am not sure they could play on the same team or on the ice at the same time.Next I’d choose Boom Boom Geoffrion, Dale Hunter, Alex O, Ted Lindsay, Bobby Orr, Marcel Pronovost, Terry O’Reilly, Fern Flaman, Phil Esposito, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier, Rod Langway, Clark Gillies, and Glenn Hall, all choices which indicate the tough two way players with a lot of heart I’d like put out on the ice.As you said, the hockey style today is not comparable to the Howe and Richard era of the 1950s and 1960s or even the 1970s or the 1980s as my draft picks would indicate, but in my article, I exaggerated for the effect of refuting the Winter Classic’s commentary about the comparabilityof the Detroit/Montreal rivalry in the 1950s with today’s between the Caps and Penguins.They were comparing apples and oranges and fired me up!.Sorryyyyy!.Rodgerrrr

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