A Capitals Fan’s Guide to Who to Root For in the Playoffs

The Capitals are out of the Stanley Cup playoffs too early (again), but that doesn’t mean that Caps fans no longer have a reason to pay attention to the rest of the playoffs.  Some of the reasons are emotional (teams and fanbases that we just don’t want to see win and some that we do) and some are strategic (draft position), so let’s get to it.

Boston vs. Columbus

Let’s be realistic. No one outside of New England wants to see Boston win another title, especially with championships in the two most recent major league sports (Red Sox in the World Series and Patriots in the Super Bowl). Besides, they won a Cup in 2011 (too soon) and that would leave the Caps as the only Cup winner in the decade without multiple Cups.

While the Blue Jackets are a rival, they have a fanbase that has not had a lot to enjoy, so seeing a city and fanbase that has no other pro sports teams (though the Ohio State University football program arguably qualifies), I would not have an issue with their city getting to enjoy a title. Columbus sacrificed a lot of their future at the trade deadline so their future is not as bright. Besides, they have one of the best hockey bars around (the R-Bar near Nationwide Arena).

Strategically, if the Blue Jackets advance to the Eastern Conference Final, their first round draft pick (owned by Ottawa in the Duchesne trade) drops to one of the bottom four picks.  This moves the Caps’ pick draft up a spot in the first round.

Carolina vs. Islanders

I’m glad this round is over because it was a no-win situation. Allowing Trotz to leave was going to look and feel worse if the Islanders advanced. Seeing the “bunch of jerks” and their late to the party fanbase advance isn’t exactly a joy either, but at least with Carolina advancing to the Eastern Conference Final, their draft position in the first round has dropped to the bottom four in the first round, so that does benefit the Caps.

Dallas vs. St. Louis

If Dallas advances, one of the second round draft picks that Dallas traded to the New York Rangers for Mats Zuccarello becomes a first rounder and we don’t want to see that happen.  As a Caps fan, I never want to see anything that benefits the Rangers, especially since they will select second overall in the upcoming draft thanks to the draft lottery   and they are doing a pretty good job with their rebuild in a short period of time.

St. Louis is the only remaining (and existing) team from the 1967 expansion to not win the Cup. It probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for them to win one. Besides, they went to the Final the first three seasons in the post-1967 expansion NHL, were swept all three times, and haven’t been back since. It may be about time.

San Jose vs. Colorado

San Jose is the equivalent of the Caps in the Western Conference in terms of always doing well in the regular season and always falling short in the playoffs (at least until last season for the Caps). Their core is getting older, Joe Thornton is getting close to retirement, and their pain needs to end sometime. The San Francisco Bay Area has done pretty well with the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants each winning multiple titles this decade, so that works against any sympathy for that area’s fanbase, but they will likely be getting worse before they get better and this may be their last good chance at a title.

Colorado is a feel good story after the horrific seasons that they have endured recently and there is a certain German goaltender that most people in the DMV still have a fondness for, but Colorado still has two Cups, including one during the Avalanche’s first season after relocating from Quebec, which edges this one towards the team with no Cups.  Besides, Colorado is young, talented, has the 4th overall pick in the upcoming draft (thanks to Ottawa), and should only be getting better.

Enjoy (or at least try) to enjoy some great hockey over the next month.

Hurricanes and Islanders First Night Battle

The NY Islanders did that great thing and swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one. The Carolina Hurricanes took seven games to defeat the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. The two meet in New York Friday night for the first game of round two. The puck drops at 7 pm on NBCSN. Continue reading “Hurricanes and Islanders First Night Battle”

Capitals, Hurricanes, and Islanders: Linked in Playoffs

It is always hard when your team exits the Playoffs before you are ready. This year it is a strange sensation to have the Caps out in the first round. Gone are the cries of: “It always happens.” No more can we blame the “DC Sports Curse.” We have tasted what championship winning feels like. We wanted to go back-to-back, partly because it sounded cool to do and partly because we wanted to shake up the NHL and their constant bragging about the Pittsburgh Penguins. Continue reading “Capitals, Hurricanes, and Islanders: Linked in Playoffs”

Round One 2019 Playoffs; Without the Capitals

What a crazy and fun ride the first round of the 2019 NHL playoffs was to watch. Capitals fans were in nail-biting mode for a good bit of the series. That also seems to hold true for most of the rest of the league as a couple of teams were swept and a few more went down to the wire with seven games to sort out the winner. Continue reading “Round One 2019 Playoffs; Without the Capitals”

Friends in (Slightly Further) Places; Prudential Center

Two weeks ago, I attended my very first Capitals’ away game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. Following my trip, I wrote up a ‘summary review’ of my experiences and the arena itself. The Capitals ultimately won that game, 5-3, and reclaimed their top spot in the Metro division.

Last night, I took a solo road trip to Newark, New Jersey, to watch our reigning Stanley Cup Champions take on the New Jersey Devils. I purchased my ticket about a week ago, and sat in the last row (23) of Section 13 (lower bowl), behind the Caps’ shoot twice goal. I paid just $38 on TickPick (no fees!). Much to my surprise, a friend that I had met through the Linkin Park Underground chatroom was also attending the game, so we finally met up, in person, before the game at the Dinosaur BBQ. From D.C. the drive is just about 3 1/2 hours, without stops. Prudential Center, otherwise loving referred to as ‘The Rock’ by Devils’ fans, is situated in the center of Newark, very similarly to Capital One Arena. There are two main general entrances, as designated by the all-glass rotundas on either end of Lafayette Street.

Pictured: Lafayette Street Entrances

Built in 2007, the arena is just over 10 years old, and is beautiful, inside and out. Boasting the largest jumbotron in the NHL, at any given time, players for both teams would be indicated, and during commercial breaks, they would show scores around the league as well as Vegas betting odds. Possibly related to the nickname of ‘the Rock’, and Bruce Springsteen, the arena DJ mixed almost exclusively rock music. Despite hearing the goal horn just once for the Devils, it was not nearly as deafening as Wells Fargo Center. However, it did command your attention at any time during the game.

Pictured: A View from My Seat (and the JUMBO jumbotron)

There were LOTS of Capitals fans in attendance. While both teams sport red as their primary color, it was very easy to pick out the Caps jerseys.

Refreshingly, the New Jersey fans were gracious and kind. Unlike in Philly, we were not boo’ed at, or thrown the usual “Ovechkin Sucks!” chants while walking through the concourse. In my section, there was no chirping or trash talking to speak of (I’ve actually heard more of that from NJD fans at Capital One when we’ve played the Devils). Well, except for when Tom Wilson existed. Then they would ‘boo’. The Devils’ fans would start and join in on “Lets go Devils!” chants and eagerly participated in commercial break/intermission entertainment, which was nice to see. Despite only having a handful of Caps’ fans surrounding me, when we scored, it was easy to see just how many were in the building. My only complaint was related to when the opposition scores a goal; the goal light was slightly delayed, and from my seat (probably not an issue elsewhere) it was difficult to see when a goal was scored. Any questions I may have had, those around me were more than willing to answer, and converse further. I even got directions to the closest Tim Hortons. Both Devils and Caps fans began to empty out of the arena noticeably sooner than I’ve observed elsewhere, despite the fact there was over half of a period left to be played. When I stated, “There’s still 10 minutes left for you to tie it”, the New Jersey fans around me admitted, “Nah, no way, not with this team,”. At the end of the night, I again shook hands with those in my row and in front of me, and we parted ways.

With losses by the Islanders, the Penguins, the Flyers, and the Blue Jackets, and a 4-1 win over the Devils, the Capitals were able to snag that top spot, once again, in the Metropolitan division. With the win, the Caps closed out the season series against New Jersey, having won 3 of 4.

Although it was just a short day trip to and from Newark, NJ, I intend on returning to Prudential Center in the future. Likely before Wells Fargo Center ($$$). You just cannot beat the ticket prices, the location/ease of access, and the general pleasant nature of the hometown fans.

My ratings for Prudential Center are as follows:

Parking: 10/10 (I reserved my parking ahead of time, and only paid $12 for the evening, but there are a plethora of other lot options, as well as street parking).

Security: 9/10 (much more lenient on what is permitted, such as posters, but they were thorough when searching peoples’ bags. Pro tip: don’t bring them).

Concourses: 9/10 (once entering the arena, you have to go up a set of escalators to reach the main concourse, very well-maintained, not crowded at all during intermissions).

Prices: ?/10 (could not comment).

Sound System: 8/10 (Loud, but not obnoxious, on par with most other venues.)

Jumbotron: 10/10 (Largest in the NHL, didn’t block view of ice, lots of screens for additional information, similar to Wells Fargo, shows who is on the ice at any given time).

Seats: 9/10 (good size, the cup holders were weirdly situated closer to one seat than the other, comfortable.).

Intermission Entertainment: 9/10 (No mites-on-ice, lots of fun mini-games, but a lot going on, unique commercial break fan interactions (i.e. emojicam, air guitar/air drum dance contests, digital skeeball, Ric Flair video montage ‘wooooo’s’)

Hometown Fans: 10/10 (Every single person I interacted with was kind, gracious, and respectful. It didn’t matter what team you were cheering for, both sides respected one another, as well as the players i.e. everyone in the building commented on that amazing save by Blackwood in the third period).

OVERALL RATING: 9.25/10

Friends in (Not So) Far Places; Wells Fargo Center

Yesterday, March 6th, 2019, was my 25th birthday. Coincidentally, our Washington Capitals took a short train ride up to Wells Fargo Center to take on the Philadelphia Flyers, hoping to extend their four-game win streak. Despite having attended nearly 70 Caps games over the last three years, I had never attended an away game. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to finally watch my favorite team take on a division rival in a barn that ISN’T Capital One Arena. Thanks to a friend of mine (whom I met through the Capitals), we snagged tickets through the Caps Road Crew, booked an Airbnb, and drove up to the City of Brotherly Love.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of rumors about Philly sports fans; how they’ll trash talk you, throw beer at you, and challenge you to meet them “out back after the game”. How they’ll burn their city, win or lose. With that being said, I am a strong believer that if you go into a situation looking for issues, you’ll find them. I personally just wanted to have a good time in a city I haven’t visited since that 6th grade field trip, in a new arena, and watch the Caps snag a win for my birthday. From DC, the trip is only about 2 1/2 hours, without traffic. Side note: if you’re ever in Philly, and want to try something new, Banana Leaf is a hole-in-the-wall Malaysian restaurant, and it was INCREDIBLE. Donning our jerseys, we set out on an adventure. After visiting a number of local sports bars, per locals’ recommendations, and befriending a handful of Flyers’ fans, we jumped on a free shuttle (shout out to Chickie & Pete’s) to Wells Fargo Center, thus officially entering ‘enemy territory’.

I’ll be honest with you, I truthfully didn’t know what to expect. I prefer to let my experiences speak for themselves, rather than rumors and anecdotal stories from others. While in line, we were lightly harried for wearing ‘Crapitals’ jerseys, but once we thanked them for beating Pittsburgh in the Stadium Series, it didn’t last. There’s nothing quite like a mutual distaste for a team to bring rivals together, eh? Once inside, we headed down to the glass for the pregame skate. Everyone I interacted with, Flyers fans and Caps fans, were wonderful. First of all, the new sound system at Wells Fargo Center…? Yeah, we need that at Capital One Arena. It is loud, it is reverberating, and it is deafening. There was A LOT of red in Wells Fargo, which was amazing to see. Being so close to DC, it is so easy to just drive up to Philly for a game. At times, our chants were louder than the home team. The cheers for Caps’ goals were LOUD. It seemed as though Flyers fans didn’t truly start ‘cheering’ until they scored their 3rd goal. But they BOO’ed. A lot. Despite being surrounded by Flyers’ fans, there was no name-calling, no beer-flinging. As someone who attends A LOT of hockey games, I am not bothered by the casual chirping and trash talking. We had started a “Let’s Go Caps!” chant, and was just told to “shut the f**k up”. No big deal. Some may be bothered by that, so if you’re easily triggered, I’d recommend you watch from the comfort of your own home. I, however, draw the line at targeting a single person. Generalized cheers and jeers are are just a part of hockey.

The only issue we had all night was a single woman a few seats down from us who took the chirps a little bit too far, and a man who screamed some unintelligible nonsense at us with three minutes left in the game. Belligerently, she began to swear at us, making excuses for her behavior because its ‘her house’ (which to an extent is acceptable). What at first was innocent haggling evolved into targeted ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’. Maturely, we were non-reactive. Regardless of venue, when you go to watch a hockey game (or any event), the best way you can respond to harassment, is to not respond at all. The row of guys in front of us would trash talk, we’d trash talk back, but at the end of the night, we shook hands and parted ways. We got some “Ovechkin Sucks!” and “Holtby Sucks!” chants, but that was to be expected. We sat in the lower bowl with the Caps Road Crew, so I assume we would have had more issues if we had sat in the upper levels. Again, if you’re looking for trouble, you will certainly find it. However, if you are simply looking to enjoy a good hockey game, and aren’t easily upset, I would recommend Wells Fargo Center to any hockey fan. The best part of all, the Capitals won 5-3 on the road, and extended their streak to 5 wins, and are again first in the Metropolitan. Overall, I would chalk this up to a positive experience, and I absolutely intend on returning to Wells Fargo Center in the future.

My ratings for Wells Fargo Center are as follows:

Parking: 4/10 (we took a shuttle to the arena but it looked like a massive logistical nightmare trying to leave WFC).

Security: 10/10 (they’re strict with what is allowed in [posters under 14×14, no flags, noisemakers], but they were super efficient and appeared to like their job).

Concourses: 8/10 (the upper concourse was recently renovated, but I didn’t see it, so I’m rating the lower level concourse. It is older, but it’s much larger and not as crowded, even during intermissions).

Prices: 6/10 (overpriced, but typical for the event).

Sound System: 10/10 (I would rate it higher if I could. Recently updated, deafening, reverberating, definitely the best part of the arena).

Jumbotron: 9/10 (large, presumably what the new Jumbotron will be like at Capital One Arena, cool information and statistics centrally located, didn’t obstruct view).

Seats: 5/10 (decently sized, but old and worn, and many were in the process of breaking).

Intermission Entertainment: 6/10 (two bouts of mites-on-ice, a performance by the cheer squad, and some weird commercial break games)

Hometown Fans: 8/10 (its Philadelphia, they’re passionate about their sports. There’s always that occasional bad apple wherever you go).

OVERALL RATING: 7.3/10

 

KeyBank Center Review

Today I went to KeyBank Center for the game. While the game itself was painful, the stadium was a pretty nice venue to watch a game. There was a very decent variety of food options and the food itself was good for arena food. I ordered a roast beef sandwich that was tasty and I enjoyed the food I stole from my parents as well. Continue reading “KeyBank Center Review”

Beware, Blue Jackets pick up Matt Duchene

This morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they have traded Vitali AbramovJonathan Davidsson, and two conditional 1st-round draft picks (2019/2020) in exchange for the Ottawa Senators’ top center Matt Duchene and Julius Bergman. While this isn’t necessarily Caps news, it is something to be aware of. Columbus is going all-in. We could potentially have a round-two with them and their newly acquired fire power.

Formerly drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, Duchene blew up in his early years as an incredible playmaker. With other stars like their captain Gabriel Landeskog and the “fastest-skater-with-the-puck” Nathan MacKinnon taking over as the face of the Avs, they were pretty stacked at the time and pushed Duchene to the backseat. He eventually went through a rough patch with the club and decided to request a trade. He got what he wished for and was traded to Ottawa. The Senators have been a struggling team for quite a while now, especially this year, placing dead last in the Eastern Conference. In hopes of getting a hold of some young stars, they put Duchene up for grabs and the Blue Jackets were happy to scoop him up.

img_6357Photo Credit: Isiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Columbus has been a thorn in the Capitals’ side for the past few years and solidified the rivalry after mocking Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s bird celebration after their first 2018-2019 regular season win over the team. If these two clubs meet in the post-season, the Caps must be aware of Duchene’s talent he adds to Columbus’ scoring abilities. Fast skater, quick hands, and some incredible hand-eye coordination; definitely a player to watch out for.

img_6356

Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire

Columbus now has a pretty stacked center core. They have Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexander Wennberg, Riley Nash, Boone Jenner (flex), Brandon Dubinsky, Lukas Sedlak, and now Matt Duchene. My guess is  that Sedlak is scratched to fit Duchene in their lineup. Down the middle would be Dubois-Duchene-Wennberg-Dubinsky, Jenner is currently on the wing so he’ll probably stay put. They’re going to be a huge threat in the playoffs.

Senators Trade Matt Duchene to Columbus Blue Jackets

Earlier today, NHL Network confirmed that Ottawa Senators forward Matt Duchene would be the newest addition to the Columbus Blue Jackets roster. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Columbus will be sending a 2019 first round draft pick, as well as a conditional 2020 Draft first round selection. Ottawa will also be acquiring right wingers Vitaly Abramov, a third round pick in the 2016 draft, and Jonathan Davidsson, a 2017 sixth rounder.

With the Senators underperforming for another consecutive year, both general manager Pierre Dorion and head coach Guy Boucher felt as though some changes needed to be made to their lineup. Ahead of the trade deadline, the rumor mill began to churn, and Senators Duchene and Mark Stone were right in the middle of it. Through 50 games with Ottawa this season, Duchene has tallied 27 goals and 31 assists, for 58 points (theScore). The Columbus Blue Jackets are currently one spot out of a wild-card position in the 2018-19 playoff race, and are sitting in 5th place within the Metropolitan Division.

The Ottawa Senators are currently 8th in the Atlantic, and bottoms out at 31st in the league standings. Coincidentally enough, the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets will face off tonight, and Columbus head coach John Tortorella fully intends on playing Duchene.

Pictured: Center Matt Duchene, recently traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. (TSN.ca)

theScore. (2019). Ottawa Senators Roster. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/4/roster.