WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 16: Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals checks Greg Zanon #6 of the Boston Bruins against the boards during the first period of Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 16, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The Caps are up against it in Game 4 without Backstrom, the Nats are off to an encouraging start, and the Skins' schedule is released in this week's edition of "Chain Reactions."
Busy times on the D.C. sports scene, what with playoff hockey, the first place Nats, the Wizards lottery watch, The Redskins off-season, and, of course, Roger Clemens in court. That's right, for those that might have "misremembered", Roger Clemens' retrial on perjury charges is getting started downtown.
Sure, it is probably a HUGE waste of taxpayers' money, but jury selection is underway nonetheless. The biggest question is, where are they going to find people that have not followed the case or do not have an opinion about the "Rocket Man"? I'm guessing they will wind up pulling people out of witness protection programs or finding patients awakening from comas.
For the record, I'm rooting for the Feds since it is "our money" they are spending. Let's GO FEDS! In fact, I might have to break out my old Washington Federals Jersey.
In this week's edition of "Chain Reactions" we deal with the Caps gaining and then losing home ice, the Nats' fast start, and the 'Skins schedule.
Caps Lose Cool and Lose Backstrom for Game 4
Let me start by saying the officiating was uneven at best and awful at worst in Game 3 of the Bruins-Caps series at Verizon Center. However, it was not the reason the Caps lost and gave back home ice to the Bruins. Goalie Braden Holtby was "shaky" and the guys in front of him were not good either.
The Caps were unable to replicate the tight checking game plan they used in Games 1 & 2 in Boston. They got sloppy with assignments and allowed the Bruins to park on the doorstep of Holtby's crease too often. It was an especially rough night for Jeff Schultz and Dennis Wideman, as that combo was -2 on the night.
Adding insult to injury is that Nicklas Backstrom is out for Game 4 thanks to his match penalty for his cross-check on Rich Peverley. You can't blame Backstrom for being frustrated. The Bruins have been taking shots at his head for three games.
Even though Backstrom may have been threatened by Peverley's stick, the fact is Peverley is in a defensive stance when Backstrom is approaching him. Backstrom's reaction is excessive and reckless.
There has been an utter lack of consistency in the punishments this post season. However, what's done is done, and give the Bruins credit--they achieved what they set out to do to the Caps' star center. They got under his skin and Backstrom retaliated, even before the match penalty. He had a single-game career high in penalties (three) on Monday night.
The Caps have not been good without No. 19 this season, and they cannot afford to fall down 3-1 to the defending Stanley Cup champions. They have enjoyed being under the radar this postseason and they are WAY off it now, because without Backstrom, they seem helpless. They will need to play Game 4 with a Game 7-type of desperation, although if the regular season game against Buffalo is any guide, hopefully Dale Hunter will not tell his team that.
NL East-Leading Nationals
The Nationals are a NL East-leading 9-3 and their team ERA is now 1.91. So yes, they were serious when they said they had some pitching. The issue remains scoring runs. However, overall, times are good in Natstown these days, and Natitude remains high, except for poor Teddy Roosevelt,of course.
The most remarkable part is that the team is doing this without the big stick of Michael Morse and without closer Drew Storen, which is a credit to the 25-man roster GM Mike Rizzo has put together. The hard-throwing rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler has been strong. Plus, they still have John Lannan on standby in the minors and Chien-Ming Wang on the mend.
There is bullpen depth galore, too, highlighted by Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge doing the closer by committee thing while Storen is sidelined. Rizzo has also given Davey Johnson plenty of options on the bench with Chad Tracy, Xavier Nady, Mark DeRosa, and Steve Lombardozzi all filling in nicely when called upon.
Everyday players like Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth are off to fast starts too. The Nats still need to find more offense and get better situational hitting, however, overall the Natitude should remain very high. It should be pointed out it is still just April, but they have given us plenty of reason to believe they can compete this season. Now if only Teddy could get a curly W of his own.
Skins' Super Schedule
The NFL continues to steal headlines in their so-called offseason, and this week it was no different, with a three-hour special to release the 2012 schedules. The 'Skins will start the regular season where they want to end it ... that's right, New Orleans! No pressure RGIII (or Luck, if Indy turns the wrong card in). The good news for RGIII is that he won't have to worry about any bounties on his head in Week 1.
The schedule release was highly anticipated by 'Skins fans. Heck, Kevin Sheehan, my colleague at ESPN980 actually did a mock schedule last week, and before you ask, yes, he's married and has kids. For the record he got ZERO right. But you can't blame the guy for trying. He may have started a new web industry of Mock Schedules. Can't wait for the 2012 Washington Kastles Mock Schedule!
Back to the topic at hand. I HATE the 'Skins playing the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Why? Besides the fact that I will probably have to work, Washington has a record of futility against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, losing all six they've played against the Cowboys. Does Clinton Longley ring a bell? Roger Stabauch to Drew Pearson? Bryan Barker's nose?
Also, a final note: Joe Gibbs hates the Redskins' schedule for the 30th consecutive year. He thinks it is too hard.