Airing Out the Play of the Caps in Month One

For me, radio appearances are a total blast. I never pass up an opportunity to go on the air — especially locally — and talk pucks. There’s something distinctive about radio as a media vehicle for conveying passion about a subject. It’s a medium that places a premium on precision of words and inflection and timing and interplay between host and guest. Media has evolved so enormously in the past decade most particularly, and yet radio has endured with it seems a relatively modest amount of alteration to its DNA. I like that.

When I’m invited on a local show, always it seems it’s because the host(s) has found value in something we’ve done, and that’s edifying. I started doing local radio maybe a year after I started OFB, simply because WTOP’s Jonathon Warner dug the site a bit but especially because he saw value in the aggregate efforts of Washington’s hockey blogging community. At least twice each hockey season Jonathon convenes what he calls his ‘Bloggers’ Rountable,’ and what I like best about those sessions is that they are equal parts informative and amusing — we don’t take ourselves too seriously in Jonathon’s Northwest D.C. studio, and we generate a lot of laughter and smiles throughout.  Covering hockey isn’t like covering the Pentagon, or Wall Street, and so we ought to be having fun with it, I think.

About three seasons ago the Hershey Bears’ John Walton began inviting me on his game broadcasts during intermissions on my visits up North. I love going on the air with JW and bringing a bit of the Washington perspective to our extraordinary development community, and I confess, while I’ve done quite a bit of radio over the years, to the extent that I get nervous for appearances, I’m most so with those Hershey gigs — that’s a community that knows its pucks alright.

Last night I made a return engagement on 106.7 the Fan with Danny Rouhier and Bill Rohland. I’ve made no secret of my affinity for that station and its coverage of the Caps, relative to its competitor, and Danny and Bill in particular genuinely get pumped talking pucks. I’m a good fit with those two. We try and gab together on air just about every Wednesday night. Last night we pursued a general theme of the top 5 storylines for the Capitals one month into the season. Here’s what we covered:

(1) The Caps enjoy an impressive 11-4 record, but about half the wins have come in OT. Their games tend to be white-knuckle affairs. Were it not for Michal Neuvirth’s stellar netminding, particularly in the second half of October, this team could be sitting at 8-7 or worse.

(2) The dramatically improved PK. The Caps have slipped a wee bit from their perch in the league’s top 5 of penalty killing — they’re 10th this morning — but it’s been a dramatic improvement over 2009-10. Danny and Bill last night asked me for an explanation for the turnaround. I told them that it was tactical, that the Caps’ coaching staff in the offseason looked in the proverbial mirror and acknowledged that what they were asking of the killers wasn’t working, and they overhauled their approach. Also, the team generally is playing more disciplined  — we really aren’t seeing those nights of egregious parading to the penalty box — and fewer penalties to kill makes for more effective killing overall. Meanwhile, the power play, which struggled mightily early on, is rounding into form, and Mike Green’s returned health has a lot to do with that.

(3) Alexander Semin remains a bit of an enigma, but he’s playing the best hockey of his life, and whereas last spring a good many in media believed him likely to be traded, this fall he looks to be a vital component of the Caps’ contending core. I think the Caps will make a hard play to resign him.

(4) Still no Killer Instinct. Recent third period collapses are worrisome (Leafs, Bs, consecutively). I personally believe that teams trailing the Caps, even by three goals in the third, never feel out of the game. That’s not a good thing. It could be addressed, IMO, by a notable trade (for more brawn, more piss-n-vinegar, particularly on the blueline). The Caps need to be tougher to play against in general but especially when leading. They need to demonstrate over time that once they take a lead, it’s lights out.

(5) We want no part of this President’s Trophy business again. Last night I termed it the Hope Diamond of Hockey — it curses, savagely. Let’s let someone else have it this year and skate just shy of their excellence. But Danny Rouhier made an excellent observation amid our laughter on this point: It sure seems like Washington’s hockey fans are promised another fall and winter of very victorious hockey. That’s cause for celebration indeed.

This entry was posted in 106.7 the Fan, hockey blogging, John Walton, Jonathan Warner, Media, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, special teams play, The President's Trophy, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

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