D.C. Sports Bog Live: Caps playoffs, Ovechkin, Strasburg debut, more

Apr 13, 2010

D.C. sports bogger Dan Steinberg takes your questions about the Caps' playoff hopes, first-round opponent Montreal, the Double-A debut of Stephen Strasburg all the area's breaking sports news.

Steinz, Will you get to Montreal to cover the Caps? More importantly, might you be coming up to Harrisburg later in the week to see Strasburg?

Hey people. Welcome, and please do your best to get me to say something stupid and controversial, causing others to link to my chat.

This is a great question, in asmuch as I'm currently sitting in my living room doing this chat instead of talking to hockey players in Ballston. So no, I won't be going to Montreal, at least not for games 3/4. The theory is that I can do what I do nearly as well at home, and that it's a lot cheaper and there's much less time wasted in airports, cabs and/or poutine shops.

What day is his next start? I'd say I doubt it for that, too, for all the above reasons, plus the fact that it's a Nats thing. You know, because no one clicks on Nats things. Not because I don't love and adore the franchise.

What a travesty, no Pulitzer for the Sports Bog!!! The expose on the 'Skins sign debacle should have at least garnered a honorable mention. You need to do a sports bog at a Tea Party rally, in a war (or earthquake) zone, or outer space to get attention. Keep it up.


I'm pretty sure I was third runner-up in the "posting bad photos of banned signs taken out of stadium garbage cans" category.

What do you think Dan?

Yeah, this would be my guess. But this is probably the easiest guess in the world to make. "Caps Sweep" just seems like there's too little margin for error, though that's what Alan May is saying on CSN.

As long as we're feeling so confident, is it time yet to handicap most likely second-round opponents? I'll say it goes like this: Pittsburgh, Philly, Ottawa, Boston. Philly is inflated a bit, because if they win there's a 100 percent chance they'd play the Caps.

I believe last year you mentioned that the Nationals would not show the Capitals playoff games at the Red Porch. I think we should start a campaign to make sure the Nationals will broadcast Caps playoff games now and I think you're the only man in town with enough power.

So...can you help with this? Can you start asking Kasten about this now, maybe post something? Lets get get some momentum. If I were the Nats, I'd be promoting "Come to Nats Park and watch the Caps!"

The Red Porch is such a cool venue watching hockey on TV with baseball live would be awesome. And I'm a season ticket holder and don't want to waste my tickets. Too bad the Flyers didn't end up as the 8 seed - I'm sure the Nats would have catered to Philly fans and showed the Flyers games.

I don't remember at all writing this last year, but I will ask them if this is possible. It seems like a no-brainer.

Baldinger sounds like your typical crazed, loud-mouth Philly fan rather than an objective, paid analyst. His rant is an indirect insult to both Reid and Shanahan, Reid for being dumb enough to stick with a not-so-good QB for 11 yrs, Shanahan for being dumb enough to bring him here.

Funny, McNabb for most of his tenure with the Eagles had no supporting cast around him in a good running game and NFL-caliber receivers, yet he managed to get the team to 5 NFC title games and even more playoff appearances. Reid must be the greatest coach in the world since, if McNabb is that bad, he basically had the Eagles as a premier team for so long with basically no offense to speak of.

I wonder why I would watch their games and envy their offense. Well, it's nice to know we'll have the same smoke-n-mirrors offense here from this point on.

I think you could spin it as "objective, paid analyst" or as "strongly opinionated, direct analyst." He's not supposed to not have opinions. That wouldn't be interesting.

His opinion is that McNabb is overrated, was the benificiary of having a good defense for years, and consistently failed to excel in key moments. You can disagree with it, but that's his opinion, and I don't think he crossed any lines of good taste.

His opinion is also that the Redskins aren't good enough to become a playoff team merely with a slight upgrade at quarterback. You can argue this a lot of different ways: that McNabb is more than a slight upgrade, that NFL teams can improve their talent dramatically in a single offseason, that he's forgetting the impact of Shanahan over Zorn. But that's his opinion, and I don't think it's necessarily absurd.

I think the biggest improvement this year is coming from the guy in the headset, though. I believe that Jim Zorn is not a good head coach, and that Shanahan is. If the Skins make dramatic improvements this season, it'll be fun trying to figure out which of these things gets the most credit.

Is this guy a short timer? He sure appears to be trying to tick off every local fan base before leaving town.

Who has he ticked off? Caps fans, for sure, but I'm not sure anyone else. I guess some Redskins fans with the nickname column, and most West Virginia fans....am I missing anyone?

Tony K worked in this market for two decades while ticking off Caps fans at every turn. So no, I don't believe Mike Wise is a short timer.

I do believe that it's just absurd how many people come up to me and say "Mike Wise!" We just don't look that much alike. Plus he's like four inches taller than me.

Given the stats you mentioned in the Bog -- 20-0-3, .922 sv pct -- how many games does Theodore have to perform well in the playoffs in order for people to come around on the Caps' "goalie situation?"

To be honest, it'll be a lot easier for him to have one bad game and have the entire continent screaming "Told you so, told you so!" -- than for him to have two or three solid games and have people come around. It's a lot less fun to say "Well, maybe the Caps are sort of a B+ in goal with enough offensive firepower to make that irrelevant" than it is to say "the situation in net will prevent them from a serious Cup run."

Dan, what will the myriad of journalists do with their time, ink, and melodious voices now that the 'Tiger Woods' circus appears to be winding down? Wow, has anyone or any event ever received as much coverage and attention as this thing has since Thanksgiving?? Almost 5 months of "All Tiger, All The Time!"


I agree. Barf. I guess answering this question is a failure to ignore the topic, but I'm almost positive I've written zero blog entries on Tiger Woods in the past five months.

Also, I can't be the only one who thinks this was all karma from inviting Tony Romo to be his pro-am partner at a D.C. golf event, right? Next time, choose Darrell Green, and everything will work out just fine.

You can't honestly believe Boston has a chance against the Sabres! Buffalo has the best goalie in the league. You're a traitor to your homeland.

Um, they were ranked last on my list. There are four possibilities, and I had them fourth. I'm not sure how much lower I could have put them.

The Nationals relented last season and showed the Caps - after a lot of people complained. I remember watching hockey up there during a few May baseball games. I'll be at Nats Park next Wednesday and I certainly hope to catch some/most of Game 4.

There ya go.

Sorry goaltending bites the Caps and they get swept in four games. Offense fails to show, too. Montreal shuts out the Caps in two games and they score two goals total for the series.

Alex blames you, Danny, for interviewing his dad and mom. Teddy bans you from interviewing the Caps as long he is the owner. You are also banned from the Verizon Center as a result!

You win the Pulitzer for your coverage of herding trials!

I'm going to come right out and say it's more likely that I win a Pulitzer for my coverage of herding trials than the Caps score two goals total in this series.

Though if I'm banned from Verizon Center for negative Caps work, would I still be permitted to go to the horse show? I love the horse show. Horses are way more entertaining than herders.

"You just measure it by what the guy does in big games."

Wilbon also recently went on the record in the Crosby/Ovechkin debate saying winning championships is the one true measure of who is the greatest. Can you take one aspect of the game and judge all athletes by how they perform in only that area, or is that just stupid?

I think you can do it moreso with quartebacks than just about any other player in any other sport. We've seen so many big NFL playoff games in recent years decided by quarterbacks in two-minute drill type situations, where they're more in charge of what happens than a single hockey player could ever be.

I like Wilbon, understand where he's coming from and agree that if Crosby finishes with four Cups to Ovechkin's none, that will be an indenible part of their legacy. Even if Crosby's Penguins beat Ovechkin's Caps this year, I'd say it's a worthy angle of inquiry. But I wouldn't hold the Olympics up; each man was too small a part of a game filled with too great an overall disparity.

And while he wasn't great in Game 7  last year, you really can't accuse Ovechkin of not showing up in the playoffs.

After Farhi's piece, what's your take on Lindsay Czarniak's career trajectory? Move to ESPN or stick around and become a DC institution?

I have no idea what Lindsay will do, but she sort of already is a D.C. institution. There aren't too many media folks who do one job for 50 years and then retire any more, and it's not like the 11 o'clock news broadcasts will become more and more popular over the next few decades.

Maybe she'll decide to become a blogger, now that I think about it. That's really where the glory is.

That 20-0-3 and .922 save percentage is great and all that, but a litle context please. Currently six goalies have a .922 save percentage or better -- for the entire season!

Another three are above .920. So it's not like he's set the world on fire with this save percentage; he's been upper third for a quarter of the season. Still good numbers, of course, but definitely VERY much helped by the offensive firepower.

My fun stat of the day: of the top ten in plus-minus, five are Caps (including the top four), four are Canucks, and one is a Dallas Star. Now THAT is scoring dominance!

I think a lot of knowledgeable fans -- or at least one knowledgeable fan with a huge forum through his blog -- would argue that the penalty kill is perhaps the issue most to be feared during the playoffs.

I wasn't trying to argue that Jose Theodore is setting the world on fire; that would be illegal, anyhow. I was just saying it might not be accurate to say Montreal has an advantage in net.

As for the plus-minus, Jeff Schultz is, simply, Mr. Nasty.


Have you seen any old guard Caps fans treat newer ones like Wise describes? He seems to offer many generalizations without giving many examples

Well, you certainly see old guard Caps fans unhappy with bandwagon leaping media members who don't know too much about the sport. And, at least in online comments, you see chatter here and there about some behavior/cheers from the newer fans, and about the prices of tickets now that the Caps are winning.

But largely I'd say no, I haven't seen any unwelcoming behavior to any new fans, and I've never heard a peep suggesting that older fans wish newer fans would stop showing up. I'd hope at some point we could stop talking about the bandwagon; this is now three straight years of playoffs. Even if you didn't get interested before the first playoff run, I don't think three straight seasons of being a fan is really "bandwagon" any more.

Did you see that the NHL decided that none of the Flyers-Devils games will be shown on NBC or Versus? Those games will only be shown locally in those markets. The NHL is still struggling to rebound from the lockout, so how could it leave two of its most recognizable teams off of national TV?

Well, those are two massive media markets, but as you point out, the games will be shown there. Outside of the Philly/NYC area, who's a bigger star, Mike Richards or Sidney Crosby? Do people want to turn in to see the Devils, who allowed the lowest number of goals in the NHL, or the Caps/Penguins, who were 1 and 2 in the East in scoring?

I'm not sure these are dramatic differences in ratings one way or the other, but I sort of can see the logic.

Doesn't he have a huge following there? I thought I heard something that he was really looking forward to the All-Star Game there because he has a lot of fans there for some reason.

He is massive in all of Canada, but especially in Vancouver and Montreal, from what media members and Caps PR folks say. They all said that the scene in Vancouver this year was unlike anything they've seen in any other city. That's the scene that had Bruce Boudreau comparing Alex to the Beatles.

But yeah, he's also just huge in Montreal. It should make for some good scene for the traveling media folks.

Steinz, on to the important questions. Who's growing, who's not? Even if half of our team is so young that they couldn't if they wanted to!

Seems like it's been pretty much 100 percent participation in recent years. Backstrom is just about a complete scratch in facial hair. Maybe Carlson too. But I'll bet they're all in on it.

I have a mustache as of this writing. Not sure how long I'll keep it.

When & where will the President's Cup be awarded to the Caps?

Last Friday at the Verizon Center. It'll be/was awesome.

In a shocking development, BB just named Jose his playoff starter. Think he has a longer leash than last year?

Yeah. But not the longest in the NHL, that's for sure. I'd say he can survive an opening game meltdown, which he couldn't survive last year. If he has two bad games though? People will at least start asking the questions.

There was a rain delay game last year (ended up being the infamous Metro stops running game, and I believe Nats first win of the season) that caused some concern. The Caps game was on at the Red Loft, then turned of, but then after five minutes of everyone texting angry messages to the Jumbotron, the Caps game came back.

I just don't have a good memory. I don't remember this at all. But I believe you, because you're an anonymous person on the Internet.

I'm getting tired of die hard Caps fans bellyaching about new fans jumping on the bandwagon. I mean really? You have that big of a chip on your shoulder that you can't welcome new fans? You'd prefer to cheer on the team in a half empty building?

As a longtime Wizards/Bullets fan, and Nationals fan, I would welcome newbies if and when the teams become competitive. Sure, they'll be a healthy bit of pride that I was at Verizon Center for March games against the Nets, or at Nationals Park for mid-August losses to Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, but the kind of resentment some Caps fans show is really strange.

But (and this is obviously belaboring the point) does this "bellyaching" have any real world implications, or is it just a few people posting comments online? Sure, if Caps fans throw hats on the ice after someone with two goals scores during a shootout, the old timers will snicker, but that's hardly offensive behavior. I mean, if old guard fans are roughing up new fans in the bathrooms and stenciling their sternums with "1974 OG," I'd be interested. If it's just snarky Internet comments, I think we could all move on with our lives.

I want to make a sign that will be insulting the the Canadians, without insulting our players. Any suggestions?

I'd recommend something about the Expos, but I don't have anything great. People, any ideas?


Hey, here's one from the way back machine regarding plus minus. The three worst plus minus totals in a single season all belong to the Caps!

From their first season. Check it out:

  • Bill Mikkelson, 1974-75, (-82)
  • Jack Lynch, 1974-75, (-69)
  • Greg Joly, 1974-75, (-68)

Tracking down those three gents would make for a good story, huh?

And I don't know what any of them are doing, so I'm not being purposefully insensitive if one of them has been struck by some tragedy.

Also, if I were Bill Mikkelson, I'd definitely get a personalized "Minus 82" license plate.

DC United starts 0-3, still no stadium deal on the Mayor's desk, and yet we're gonna get AC Milan at RFK for fun. I want a real team for the real regular season in a real stadium! What are the chances this will happen in the next 2-3 years?

Gee, are you hearing a lot of stories about a site being close to finalized? I mean, where are we even talking about now? I like Kevin Payne's strategy of a media blackout, but it doesn't give lots of reason to play for Opening Day 2013 in a new stadium.

As for the 0-3, this is the rare upside of being the MLS team in a five-pro-sport market. Fans justly complain when winning United teams don't make the front of sports, but when the team isn't winning, at least you don't have to worry about columnists dropping any hammers. They're too busy talking about the bandwagons for other teams.

I don't really view that as someone being guilty of a bandwagon fan. That person just doesn't know hockey. I moved to DC in 2007 and slowly gravitated to the Caps, but I had the knowledge to know that wasn't a hat trick. I think it just embarrasses the fan base as a whole when the Verizon Center does that, especially given the increasingly sterling reputation the Rock-the-Redders are getting now

So you can be a bandwagon fan who does know hockey, then? I don't think those are really the subject of this dispute, if there even is a dispute, which I don't think there really is. I think the pseudo-fake-dispute is whether hockey newbies are somehow diluting the purity of the fan base.

I still maintain that someone could throw a hat in the above circumstance as a joke. But no one agrees with me.

Man was I glad to read that the Nats managerr had the chutzpah to bait the homeplate ump and get tossed out of the game during the Phillies game - even if it was all for naught and the Nats still gave up the lead and lost the game.

JR stood up for his pitcher who got squeezed by a bad pitch call and for that I have increased respect for him. Manny 'the man' Acta would have just sat in the dugout and looked bored if he was still around. Go JR!

I don't think you could find a Nats fan who disagrees with you on this. The lack of Actavation was just infuriating, even to objective observers. Manny was a terrific guy (or is, I guess), but even Jim Zorn could get fired up once in a while. It seemed like all the criticism about the lack of fire made Manny dig his heels into that vanilla pudding, refusing to get mad simply to prove the point that he could be effective without public displays of anger.

Obviously, after he was fired, enough players made it clear that they would have appreciated some vinegar. Curious to see what the strike zone for Nats' pitchers looks like on Wednesday, post-ejection.


I was there. I remember the awful conditions the NHL gave the Capitals and the Kansas City Kings, unlike any expansion team before or since. I don't remember the exact details, but the expansion draft rules wee something like "all existing NHL teams can protect every player on their NHL squad, half the players on any minor league team, and the first-born son of any team executive."

It used to be standard practice in any sport to make expansion teams horrifically loserific in their first 70 or so seasons, right? I remember how outraged I felt when the Panthers and Jaguars did so well in the NFL playoffs in 96. Just didn't seem fair.

Plus, it's much more memorable now, 35 years later, to be able to look back on a historically awful inaugural season instead of a merely mediocre one. Wonder how many people there are who have been season ticket holders every season of the Caps existence?

I think the real question about these new fans is whether they will stick with the Caps when they aren't a top 4 seed in the East. Also, know when something is a penalty vs. offsides/icing wouldn't hurt.

So now after I'm defending the old timers, you have to go and drop that, huh?

Will there be less excitement when the Caps dip in the standings? Obviously. Old timers will be less excited, and newcomers will be less excited, and the media will be less excited. Will people who care about the Caps right now stop caring entirely? If they do, then they don't really care. Don't worry about 'em. Try to be happy. You can do it.

Shouldn't be too hard to track down Mikkelson. According to his wiki page, he's got a son playing for Anaheim and a daughter on the Canadian women's hockey team.

He's from Manitoba, road trip, Steinz.

Let me run this one by my editor, but something tells me if I'm not going to Montreal for an actual Washington Capitals hockey game, I'm not going to Manitoba for a story about a dude with a Minus 82 rating from 1975, before I was born.

Also, everyone tells me that Calgary is a much, much, much more enjoyable city than Winnipeg. True or not true? I've only been to three Canadian provinces, which is a real personal failing.

Just out of curiousity, what are the chances he shows up the Game 1 Thursday night?

Ooh, that's a good question. And what would the reaction be? Combine the Baltimore-based Caps fans with the Redskins-haters with the McNabb haters, and it might be surprisingly mixed. But I'd guess the cheers would win out.

He is going to be on PTI tonight, from what I understand. Maybe they'll ask him about the Caps.

With Backstrom hurt and apparently questionable for game 1 any chances of a Sergei Fedorov sighting? Or are we more likely to have Eric Fehr tweets us some inside info on Nicky B's injury?

Tarik reports that Bruce Boudreau says Backstrom is "ill" and questionable for Game 1. Guess this is why the team traded for 17 extra forwards back in March. Unfortunately, none of them scored 100 points.

As for Fedorov, one of the Russian reporters (Dmitry Chesnokov?) wrote that Fedorov planned to be in D.C. during the playoffs. If he is, I'm guessing his first interview goes to either Caps.com or NBC 4. Hopefully he'll have a red beard.

Ok, I'm off to try to find more controversial French language newspaper stories. Enjoy the playoffs, everybody. Can't say that too often around these parts.

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Dan Steinberg
Washington Post staff writer and D.C. Sports Bogger.

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