Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

Apr 16, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

What did we learn from the Caps' 3-2, overtime loss in Game 1 against Montreal? That Theodore v. Halak is going to be a great, evenly matched goalie showdown. That Carlson is going to be a factor in these playoffs. That the officials are going to call a looser game. And that the Habs had an effective game plan for the invisible Ovechkin.

It's hardly over for the Caps. But they've lost home ice advantage and they didn't play like a No. 1 playing a No. 8. The pressure is on to win Game 2? Will they? What do the Caps need to do to get Ovechkin back on track? What other lineup changes do they need to make? Let's talk.

Candians sweep the Caps. One down and three to go. Sorry Teddy your team isn't built to win the Cup but to lose in the first round. Team has no character or desire. They have had it too easy. Blow it up and start from scratch! The great 8 will never win the Cup. The curse of Tony K rules.

Good gravy. Blow it up and start from scratch? Ovechkin will never win the Cup?

Cowboy, I want to party with you.

Morning! We'll start with the most depressed fan I could find -- at least I think he/she is a fan -- and work our way up, perhaps...

Two questions: Are you going to Montreal, and if so, would you please bring me back some poutine? Thanks!

I don't have to go to a strip club to get it, do I? I keep hearing about the strip clubs.

If not, sure, because we're such good friends!

Would you remind the knuckleheads out there calling for Bruce to go and whining that OV doesn't show up for the playoffs that Halek played out of his mind, the Habs played a terrific game and the Caps, for whatever reason, were just off last night. And the game still went into OT. Also, to those asking why the Caps didn't get off to a strong start, remember that the Caps had 19 shots on goal in the first period. They started the game peppering the net. Halek stood on his head. You can win one game like this, but you are darned lucky to sustain it for four. Caps still win this in six or seven.

And here is a calmer voice. I do not pretend to have the expertise of, say, Toe Blake, but I did think the Caps weren't very crisp last night. Passing wasn't sharp. Jose was terrific and Halak was better. I don't think it's time to write them off yet, either. But they have to get Ovechkin involved, stat.

I haven't watched the Caps all year (I live in Atlanta, and have waited until the real season, i.e., the playoffs to begin) and last night was my first chance to see this team in action.

What a disappointment! How in the world did they do so well all year? The biggest thing to my eyes (I started going to Caps games circa 84) was the lack of aggression and assertiveness on the D-side. Every defenseman was moving backward as Montreal pushed past the blue-line. That OT goal was the perfect example - he walked in to the top of the crease to fire that shot uncontested - you could see it a mile away!

Is this how the Caps always play defense, or can we expect a more aggressive front at the blue line the rest of the series?

No, if you haven't seen them all season, then last night was a bit misleading. They certainly didn't play like that this season; otherwise they wouldn't have led the league in points. It was a bad start, but not a typical game. If they play that way again Saturday, however, there will be problems.

Tell me again the point of the NHL regular season. If the number 1 seed can't beat the #8 seed, maybe we should just call the regular season an extended "exhibition."

It's going to be interesting to see how the seedings fall out in all the series. However, a No. 8 seed can beat a No. 1 seed in one game. I mean, if a No. 1 seed just swept the No. 8 seed every time, what would be the point. And it's been proven that a No. 8 seed can eliminate a No. 1 seed. I don't think the seeds mean that much, other than to serve as a system to determine who plays whom. Otherwise, they would have to draw names out of a hat. And by the way, who wouldn't tune in for THAT show?

Not a factor and couldn't seem to keep his wheels, was down a lot.

He whiffed a couple of times and just looked very human. He had a lot of double teams but still ... not himself. When we're done here I'm dashing off the Caps practice where I will closely examine him for boo-boos.

In answer to your question from yesterday's discussion. I was at the Cap Center when I saw the kid with a Habs yarmulke. In the mid '80s, the Cap Center was the "home rink" for a lot of visiting teams. Flyers fans were the worse. (Deja Vu All Over Again) :)

Ah, okay. I thought that might be the case. So glad I grew up in the Midwest, where the distances precluded other dunderheads from taking over stadiums.

Well, except in the Big Eight. That kind of crap happened in the Big Eight days. So never mind.

I was at last night's game. To me, at least from where I was sitting, overconfidence and/or laziness by the Caps didn't seem to be the primary issue. Everyone just looked out of sync, and I can't even estimate how many passes were made to no one in particular (and thus ended up on Habs' sticks).

Do you think they were simply overwhelmed by the expectations? Oh, and I thought Theo was great. I was glad to see that none of the smack talk over the last few days got inside his head.

P.S. Did you see the faceoff percentage? Wow!

Agree completely about the passing. Agree completely about Theo. The faceoff percentage was crazy. Was it nerves? You wouldn't think so; it's not their first playoff appearance. I do not believe they would think they could roll over the Habs, so surely not overconfidence. It's a mystery and they have a bit more than 24 hours to solve it.

Hi, Tracee. The other Tracee here. I'm glad you're not in Montreal, because the first chatter yesterday was pulling your leg! The worst thing you can do is speak English loudly and slowly; that's the Ugly American "if I speak loudly and slowly maybe this cretin will understand" approach.

Other than official "tourist" types (hoteliers, etc.) Montrealers expect you go speak fluent, or at least extremely passable, French. Think Parisian taxi drivers, only worse. Although, come to think of it, they may be so happy at the results of last night's game that they will forgive you.

Hello, Other Tracee. Tracee 2.0? Yeah, I knew that was a joke but it was a funny one. Reminded me of that old Steve Martin routine about going to Paris. Hilarious.

Montrealers are doomed to be disappointed with me. And if they're rude, I'm doomed to be disappointed with them. Ah, well. I believe I'm within walking distance of the rink so perhaps I can just avoid them and spare Tarik some embarrassment.

If the Caps fail to make it to the Stanley Cup, will enthusiasm wane? Expectations are so high that anything short of a finals appearance may portray them simply as regular season warriors.

Yes, I think it might. Best team in the NHL, with arguably the best player in the NHL, can't win the big ones ... yes, I think that would turn some people off, probably the johnny-come-lately fans. The long-time Caps fans will stick it out, I'm sure.

Tracee, First off, I love your column. Thanks! Second, aren't people panicking just a wee bit? Sure they shut Ovie down, but I felt as though we dominated most of the game - we out-shot, out-hit. How many shots did we have on goal even without Ovie? A ton. But the puck just didn't go in. Boudreau will make some adjustments (and torture those that made stupid penalties) and the Caps will get the job done. Please reassure me this is so.

Well, thank you. Yes, people are panicking. It's what makes us people and not, say, cats. My cats are perfectly content with last night's outcome. (And yes, they watched.) I am a big believe in Boudreau, and I am a big believe in Ovie. I can't imagine you find that reassuring but I tried!

So, the big question: Is Ovechkin hurt? I was there last night and he was not skating like the Ovi of the regular season. I don't buy into the nervousness, or defensive play against him. He has had two players on him nearly all season. I think that the Caps are hiding something.

Possible. As I said, we'll have about 47 people at practice and we'll all be examining him. Stay tuned to Tarik's blog; I'm sure he'll post something. Practice is at 11 a.m.

I didn't get to see the game (stupid tax day!), but reading Tarik's game story suggests that the Habs didn't throw anything that can't be overcome: somehow they shut down Ovie and Backs, but good coaching can fix that, and anyway the Caps took more shots. They need not to fall into a dither. For that matter, so do we.

There you go. Too early to panic. Good attitude.

If Ted had handed out a lump of goal to everyone on the team and every fan in the stands he could have collected a lot of diamonds at the end of the night. I was tense watching it on TV sensing that everyone at the building was keyed up. Not sure the answer, hope everyone can relax and get back on track.

Ha! Yes, you could feel the tension. This could be a new promotion: Make a Diamond from a Lump of Coal night!

How does "Habs" come from Montreal Canadiens? I can understand Caps, Pens, etc, but Habs?

My spelling may be wrong, but in French, it's Les Habitantes. Habitantes is French for Canadiens. Habitantes shortens to Habs. As I said, if I spelled it wrong, forgive me.

Home court, too; remember those ads for Boulez games where the only pictures were of the opponents?

Yes, that carried over into MCI Center for a few years, too. And if they don't improve, we may see it again for Verizon.

I've been to Montreal a few times. I speak French. Most people in Montreal will start a conversation in French, but are more than capable of speaking in very good English. It was rare to find someone who really couldn't speak English or gave you attitude about it, so long as you were acting within the bounds of human decency.

I'm always within the bounds of human decency. I really never had trouble in France. A smile and some graciousness helps a lot.

I was on a ski trip with some friends and family back in 1996 when that huge ice storm hit. It knocked out power to our hotel, and the border was closed. We had to go to one of the only places with electricity - Montreal. As the dads and uncles went to bed, the rest of us just-out-of-college guys decide to hit the town. They've got strip clubs like we have Starbucks. It's like Houston but with French accents and less barbecue.

I don't have an answer for this, I just like the visual of strip clubs like we've got Starbucks. Great!

No question, Ms. Hamilton, just a statement. The earlier poster nailed it right on the head. You could see the game winning goal coming a mile away.

Defense going backwards, and what I thought was a very soft goal allowed by Jose. Caps looked just plain flat, completely outplayed. Need to do better to win this series. Go Caps!

Flat is a good word for it. I like flat.

I have been saying this for the last two years, but the Caps are not built for the playoffs...They are built for offense and in the postseason, offense takes a backseat as teams play a more defensive style of play. The Caps can't do this, because well, they don't have a good defense. Opposing teams are just clamping down in their own zone (similar to the Devils' style in late '90s) and not letting the Caps play their normal freewheeling style. I want the Caps to win, as I have been a casual fan and grew up in the DC area, but I have to wonder if the way they play is geared towards May and June!

It is interesting that the game changes so much in the postseason that the best team in the league can be considered not good enough for the playoffs. Only in hockey is this the case, I believe.

I still don't care about hockey. Sorry. Can I still come here for your wit and charm, though?

Well, of course you can. I'll even try to find a few non-hockey questions for you.

I think BB should have put Semin back on the 1st line the way the game was going. Montreal had two guys on both Ovi and Nicky. That would have put the pressure on them and perhaps evergized the boys. What say you?

That's a good idea. I expect we'll see some line changes, at the least. One thing about Boudreau, he's not afraid to shake things up.

Tracee, I know you're going to be conducting online therapy for the Caps' fans, but I thought everyone would appreciate this little gem of a story, especially those annoyed by the obnoxious Phillies' fans (is that redundant?) on Opening Day. A "fan" was arrested during Wednesday's game in Philly after getting drunk, cursing continuously in front of children, spitting on them and then, when he was being hauled away, intentionally vomiting on them. Details, if you care, here. Clearly they're no better when they're back on their home turf.

This is just amazing. Sad and amazing.

Candians? Canadians? Halek? Can any Caps fans spell? Go Habs.

Well, now, let's not be ugly. You won Game 1 and now you want to win the spelling bee, too?  This from a country that gave us "centre." Come, come, can't we all get along?

I submitted a question already and i still like your column, but your bio has two errors in it - genealogy is misspelled and it should read "if there were a Jayhawk" - subjunctive mood. (sorry, i was a copy editor in another life). Love your column!!!

Well, I know I didn't type that bio because I NEVER misspell genealogy. I will get it fixed, and thanks!

(Now the Habs speller is going to jump on me!)

It's pretty simple, Caps. You can't let the Habs fly unmolested through the neutral zone whilst you keep turning the puck over at your offensive blue line. Staying out of the box would be nice too. Dump it in if you have to and wear down their D, but for God's sake stop turning it over in the middle of the ice.

There, a final piece of advice for the boys to take with me to Ballston. They'll appreciate all my help, I'm sure.

I won't be here Monday because I'll be en route to Canada to dazzle the natives with my spelling and my total inabilit to converse in French. Wish me bon chance and join me Tuesday. We will have plenty to talk about by then!

In This Chat
Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinions and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from genealogy to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there was a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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