Monday, September 15, 2008

Ho. Lee. Crap.

I'm in control of The Pensblog. This must be what it would've felt like to take the Death Star out for a spin. Oh, the blogs I could blow up right now like so many Alderaans...

But really, you (Pens faithful) and I (Caps fan - and save the jokes... they're very Philly) have more in common than you might realize.

Both of us hate the Flyers (and, btw, I'm pissed at you guys for not getting my back as I was flamed by all 50 Philly fans who know how to type when I eulogized their team over at Puck Daddy).

Each of our favorite teams has one of the best players in hockey on it (and you guys have Sidney Crosby, too).

Both of us celebrated big Nicklas Backstrom goals last season.

And, most importantly, both of our teams have emerged from recent lean years to once again excite the fans and the League and contend in the East.

I'm here to today to provide you (or your mother or whomever dresses you) with a little fashion advice tell you a little more about the Caps, so when the Pens' decades-long ownership of the boys from D.C. finally and mercifully expires in the near future, you're not, well, stunned. Here are five things you need to know, in terms to which you can relate:

1. The Caps' offense, like Ice-Cube's junk, runs deep. Six Capitals forwards have scored 20 or more goals in at least one of the last two seasons (last year's Pens had seven such players), and that doesn't include super soph Backstrom, 13-time 20-goal-getter Sergei Fedorov or former two-time WHL 50-goal scorer Eric Fehr, who will be playing his first full NHL season in 2008-09. Lots. Of. Goals.

2. A sign of things to come? Last season, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green became the first teammates to lead the NHL in goal scoring by a forward and blueliner since Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey did it for the Pens back in 1988-89. Two seasons later, the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup.

Quick detour: I feel this is as good a time as any to clear up some confusion. As a friend of Greg Wyshynski's in "meat space" (turns out we were a perfect match on eHarmony), people often ask me, "Does Puck Daddy wear those shades and fellate that stogie everywhere he goes?" to which I laugh and reply, "No." In fact, here's a picture of him working from home on his now infamous "What's so insane about expecting Pittsburgh to take a huge fall?" post to prove it:

Alright, back to the knowledge-droppin'...

3. The Caps' team defense is highly underrated. In fact, according to someone smarter than me, the Caps had the best defense in the Eastern Conference last season, and that was before the arrival of ├╝ber prospect Karl Alzner at some point this Fall. Whether or not you buy the "best defense" tag (as supported by stats), the more knowledgeable among you will note this as another similarity between the Caps and Pens. As my buddy Peerless pointed out, "Pittsburgh became a Cup contender, not because of its offense (however prolific it might be), but because of its defense." The Pens' defense last year seldom got the credit it deserved, and the Caps are in that same position right now... but we all know what's what.

4. Jose Theodore has a great chance to succeed. Seriously. Granted, he's not as good as the clowns at ESPN Fantasy Hockey think he is, but the Caps went 23-13-7 (a 98-point pace) from the day Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench last season until Cristobal Huet was acquired. Over that span, their number one goalie, Olie Kolzig, went 17-9-6 with a 3.02 GAA and save percentage of .886. Does anyone doubt that Jose Theodore - a guy who had a 2.34 GAA and .915 save percentage in the second half last season - can do at least that well? The Caps' team defense and system will give Theodore every chance to put up big numbers (as they did for Huet), and if Jose returns to anything resembling his Vezina/Hart form, look out.

5. The Caps have lost their playoff virginity. It's amazing what a single win in an 82-game season can mean. For the Caps, beating Florida on the last night of their regular season earned them a division title and a spot in the playoffs. They were spent and unprepared for what awaited them, and once they got their legs under them and got over the jitters, it was too late. But with that experience behind them, they'll be hungrier - and ready - when the playoffs role around this year. Sound familiar, Pens fans? Literally, that one win against the Panthers saved the franchise a year in its quest for a Cup.

So there you have it, your formal introduction to this year's Caps. I bet they sound quite familiar, don't they? And when you guys come to D.C. (if you can still afford tickets, that is) drop me a line and we'll grab a beer or six. See - we're not so different, you and I.

Now someone show me where that button is so I can start a blog war....


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