Thursday, April 30, 2009

Round Two: Washington Ovechkins vs. Pittsburgh Crosbys

Tonight I am all worked up about the Stanley Cup playoffs. Round one was the Washington Ovechkins vs. the New York Averys, now it’s the Crosbys vs. the Ovechkins in round two. Or that is what a casual observer may think.

If you are a casual observer or have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the superstar super scoop.
Sean Avery is a punk who plays for the New York Rangers. He started the season as a punk for the Dallas Stars but after making inappropriate comments that embarrassed the management and the entire NHL, he was suspended from the league, released by the Stars and banished to the minor league. A desperate Rangers team picked him up right about the same time they fired their coach and replaced him with John Tortorella. During the first round of the playoffs with the Rangers, the only thing the commentators could talk about was the loose cannon Avery.

Sidney Crosby is a girly hockey sensation who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was the number one overall draft pick for them in 2005 and he’s their team captain and resident douchebag. He has been an NHL darling before he was even eligible for the draft, all eyes have been on him. The problem with him is that he knows all eyes are on him & uses a dramatic flair to try and draw penalties from his opponents. He such a superstar that his linemates often serve as his entourage when trouble starts. I have seen him fight and it is not pretty. There are some areas of the anatomy where you just don’t hit another man, no matter the circumstances. I have seen Sidney Crosby break the guy code on this one. I could go on but you get the idea. I am not a fan.

Alexander Ovechkin. What to say about the Great 8? He plays for my team and I’m afraid this is blasphemy around these parts, but I can’t help myself. I don’t like Ovechkin. He is also a superstar NHL darling but I will give him the credit that unlike Crosby, Ovie fights his own battles. Actually, I would say he is the opposite of Crosby in some ways. When someone messes with Crosby on the ice, the rest of his team comes to his rescue. On the Washington Capitals, when the other team messes with any of his teammates, Ovechkin will come to their rescue. I give him a lot of credit for that because when he is on the ice, all eyes are on him. Unlike Crosby, he appears to use his powers for good rather than evil (or whining, as the case may be.) Unfortunately, Ovechkin is like Crosby in that he is a product that the NHL is selling. People don’t come to watch the Washington Capitals play, they come to see Alex Ovechkin score an acrobatic goal and slam himself up against the glass. He is always at the top of the league stats. He scored 56 goals this season, more than any other player. This certainly makes him a standout, but he also had more shots on goal than anyone else in the league. With 528 shots on goal, that puts his shooting percentage at 10.6%, that makes him #155 in the NHL rankings. On his own team, he is behind Semin, Fleischmann, Green, Backstrom and Laich. 528 shots on goal is a hell of a lot of scoring attempts. The second highest number of shots on goal in the NHL was Eric Staal with 372. Ovechkin made 156 more attempts than the second highest player, and Staal played 3 more games than Ovechkin did. Ovie will take any opportunity he sees to score and don’t get me wrong, that is a good thing. You can’t score if you don’t shoot the puck. At the same time, it explains why he is such a phenomenon. Perhaps some of it is raw talent, but he works very hard, he’s an intense player and when you take that many shots on goal, you always end up with the amazing shots that miraculously cross the line. The lucky bounces, the strange angles and pushing the puck while he’s sliding on his face – they all end up on the highlight reels so that everyone can gush about what an amazing player he is. Having watched him all season, I am not as fascinated as everyone else seems to be. I have seen how hard he works for the empty net goals to pad his stats. I’ve seen him cherry pick when Backstrom and Semin set him up with perfect assists. I have also seen him steal a hat trick from Brooks Laich by taking an empty net goal in a 3-1 game against Toronto. Two of those three goals were Laich’s. That annoyed me greatly. Brooks Laich is one of my favorite players. He always gives 100% and is always a solid player. He and Nick Backstrom are two of the most consistently good players I have seen. We have a lot of talent on our team and some of the players who bring the most to the team are ignored next to the blinding glow of Ovechkin’s popularity. It’s not just those two either, we have an immense amount of talent on our team but if you are only listening to the commentators, game recaps and news stories you would think that Ovechkin was the only one who showed up to the game. Same goes for the Penguins and Crosby. How many casual hockey fans outside of Pittsburgh know who Evgeni Malkin is?

While I am not a fan of Ovechkin, I can not deny what he brings to my team. He is a great player and a popular player. The problem is not what he brings to my team, but what he takes away from it. 90% of the Capitals merchandise you see on the market has the number 8 or the name Ovechkin on it. The Verizon Center is packed with #8 jerseys and crowds shouting “MVP! MVP!” every time Ovechkin scores a goal. He is undeniably talented and no matter what team he was on, he would be an MVP nominee as he is this season – the same award he won last season. I am glad that the Capitals are selling out every game, and I am glad we have made it through the first round of the playoffs. I hope we go much further. But if we do, it will not be because Alexander Ovechkin singlehandedly played forward, defense and did some goaltending during the line changes. It will be because the Washington Capitals are a talented team with a brilliant coach who benched our dead-weight goalie before it was too late.

Give credit where credit is due, and as long as my team is in the playoffs, I will be cheering for the Capitals, not the Ovechkins. (And most certainly not the Mike Greens. Don’t even get me started on that!!!) It takes a solid team effort to win the Stanley Cup and if there is one standout player to take your team to the championship, it is never a forward, it is the goaltender. The Caps have an impressive new goalie but he doubled his NHL games played during the playoffs. We don’t yet know what he can do. On solid team efforts, I go with Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings for the Stanley Cup finals. When it comes down to goaltenders, I say Boston takes home the cup this year.

I hate to admit when I’m wrong, but I would love to see the Caps make me do it!

[Photo by Jason Cohn - Reuters]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My purse is smart

I was rushing out the door to go to work this morning when I heard a beeping noise coming from my unnecessarily large purse. It sounded like an alarm, but it was my cellphone dialing random numbers. It turns out I had unintentionally called a former roommate that I haven't talked to in months and made two calls to 850-800-800808085 and 080-850-80808. When I got to work I sent an email to my former roommate and apologized for calling her from my purse at 8:25 this morning. (I did not try to apologize to the other numbers.)

As I was crafting my email apologizing for the bad behavior going on in my handbag, it occurred to me that I have an extra ticket to the Capitals & Rangers playoff game this Saturday. I bought the ticket before we had clenched a spot in the playoffs, so the seller was letting go of his tickets at a fairly low price. At that time there was no guarantee we would even be playing. I had faith in my Caps and can't pass up a bargain so I bought the tickets and a month later find myself with no one to go with. I don't know too many people willing to pay money for a hockey game, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of hockey fans around and the ones I know are always broke. So this has actually been bothering me lately. It wasn't a big deal to put up the money and treat someone to a game during the regular season, but this is the playoffs. I couldn't bear to sit next to someone and have them ask about "quarters" and "halftime" (They are PERIODS, people! There are three of them.) or take the time to explain why teams pull their goaltender to put another offensive player on the ice. I like introducing new people to the game, but the playoffs are intense high-stake games. I want someone to be excited with!

It wasn't until the accidental phone call that I remembered that Missy was a hockey fan back when we lived together. In fact, she was a Rangers fan even when she lived in Iowa. So, I sent her the I'm-sorry-I-don't-know-how-to-operate-a-cellphone email and told her if she can make it to DC on Saturday I have a free ticket to the game for her. I just got off the phone with her and I have to say, I love my purse right now! She is excited about the game and is giving up her Mets tickets to drive out here with her boyfriend. I asked what he was going to do while we are at the game. She said, "I'm not worried about it." It's true there's plenty to do here and he has friends out here too. Still, it's funny. What a good guy.

Life is funny sometimes. I knew Missy was a Rangers fan but it didn't occur to me to call her since it's such a long trip to make in a weekend. I have always believed in the power of the subconscious, but I have never known the subconscious mind to operate a telephone before.

[edit: did I say the Capitals were playing the Rangers? After hearing the game 1 commentary, I amend that statement. What I apparently meant to say is: The Alex Ovechkin team is playing the Sean Avery team. There appears to be only one player on each team. The Ovechkins lost tonight, 4-3. Boo.]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hockey Heaven!!

I'm sure most of y'all have heard a little something about the NCAA basketball tournament that just ended. March Madness has been and gone once again. Well, while everyone was filling out their brackets and watching college hoops, another sport was getting ready for their tournament. The college hockey championship, or the Frozen Four as it is appropriately called, will be in Washington, DC this year. It's the chance of a lifetime that I should be a short Metro ride away from the college hockey championship, but the tickets have been sold out since I moved here last year and they are selling on the secondary market for an arm and a leg. I have been wanting to go to this tournament so badly, and preparing myself for another disappointment of watching it on TV like I did the Winter Classic.

Nearly two weeks ago I watched the 16 best college hockey teams in the country on TV for the beginning of the tournament to narrow it down to four teams. I had no favorite team, no dog in the fight but I was on cloud 9 watching these college athletes play their hearts out. There was last-minute goals, double overtime, a puck actually went through the net and wasn't called a goal until they had continued to play another five minutes... the quarter finals were incredible and I have been trying so hard to find tickets in my price range for months. I was hoping that more tickets would be available after 12 teams were eliminated, but it didn't work out that way. I was bidding $100 on eBay for pairs of tickets that ended up selling for $300 and $400. Way out of my price range. I wanted to go badly enough to spend money I don't have and I started to doubt my better judgement when I found 4 tickets on eBay for $250 Buy-it-now priced. I jumped at the chance knowing I could sell 2 of the 4 and recoup my money, but this all happened yesterday at 5:00. The tournament starts tomorrow at 5:00 I had exactly 48 hours to get the tickets from Colorado, then turn around and sell them before the Frozen Four began. I felt a little sick to my stomach letting go of that $250, but the tickets have been so expensive, it was a pretty safe bet that I could sell the tickets and get some money back. Still, I had no control over the shipping and didn't have a buyer yet, so I was freaking out a little bit. Just a little.

Well, I'm still freaking out but this time it's because I can't believe I'm going to the tournament! I listed the tickets on craigslist, two tickets for $250 and immediately found a buyer. So, to clarify - here is the math. I bought four tickets for $250, kept two of the tickets and got my $250 back for the other two. I still have two tickets and the same amount of money I had when I started. Free tickets!! That is exactly what I could afford to pay!!

Technically, they weren't free. I paid $5 for shipping and gave someone $3 for Metro fare to deliver the tickets to the buyer. In the end I guess I paid $8 to go to this tournament. So, about the price of lunch. The tickets are for the two semifinal games and the final championship. There are four teams left. Tomorrow at 5:00 I will watch Boston University vs. Vermont and at 8:30 Miami (ohio) vs. Bemidji State. The winners from those two games will play for the championship game on Saturday.

I am taking a friend from Boston to the finals, so he's hoping Boston University wins the championship. The person who bought the two tickets next to me did his undergrad at Bemidji State - the underdog of all underdogs in this tournament. Personally, I liked Vermont's team and would love to see a Vermont vs. Bemidji State for the championship, but now I'm just babbling. Really, I just wanted to watch great hockey and I have some really great seats for what is going to be an awesome tournament. Did I mention I paid $8 total for the tickets??

I'm still waiting to find out what's the catch. Could I really be this lucky? I can't wait for this tournament!!!!