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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Puppy power

By Ryan Cooper

Some notes on the weekend:

- Now that the NFL’s annual exercise in pseudo-patriotic treacle that would make even a Tea Partier blush, semi-famous writers throwing temper tantrums about the weather, and product placement is over, I’d like to welcome all those NFL fans who are now tuning into the Caps and the NHL for the first time this season. You were missed (but not really).

- Even without three of its biggest stars (Crosby, Malkin and Semin) in the game, Caps/Pens still was better television than anything that happened later that evening. It goes to show that even a good hockey game devoid of most of its star power between two bitter rivals is still a thousand times better than the “best” football games. I think the NHL is slowly getting people to realize that, especially those like myself who were completely disgusted by all the “junk” surrounding the game.

- Coach Boudreau took a ton of heat last season from the fans for not being a good enough tactical coach in the Montreal series. But his work against Tampa Bay Friday was simply masterful. When the ‘Ning clogged the neutral zone with their 1-3-1, the Caps simply dumped the puck in long range past Tampa’s defense, and didn’t play into their transition game (which is what the 1-3-1 is designed to expedite). Playing with a lead, the Caps were content to rag the puck in their own zone (and in the process, take Tampa’s crowd out of the game), and force Guy Boucher to up his forecheck before starting their breakout. An absolute masterful gameplan on the part of the Caps coaching staff, and I wonder if other teams will look at the tape on that and similarly adjust to Tampa’s system.

- I feel like the Caps and ‘Ning need one more good series in the playoffs for this to develop into a real rivalry. The hostility between the teams is there, and there’s a lot of history now between the two teams (and both teams are now really good). It will never be on the level of Caps/Flyers and Caps/Pens, but for those who scream about the lack of natural rivalries in the Southeast Division, here’s one that’s building.

- Every time I want to bury Mike Knuble and demand he be scratched, he shows up and has a great game like yesterday. By the end of the game, he had taken so many sticks to the face that he was leaking blood everywhere, and resembled YA Tittle.

- Speaking of injuries, Mike Green’s was horrifying. That should be Exhibit A for any player that doesn’t want to wear a visor. I shudder to think what would have happened if he didn’t have one and turned the wrong way.

- I can’t say enough about how awesome Matt Hendricks is, and what he’s brought to the team this year, especially since he came here on a tryout and no one else wanted him. Great find by GMGM.

By Ryan Cooper  | February 7, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  | Tags:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  
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I love football, but the Caps/Pens was the high-light of my day Sunday. Great game. Caps players and coaches seem to be answering the questions about their heart, performance, identity and strategies. I hope this everything finally clicking in place. I liked the high flying Caps, but I honestly think this is a much better brand of hockey and more entertaining to watch.

We'll see if it continues. But it seems like BB is finally coaching at his best and the players are playing as a team.

Posted by: jmurray019 | February 7, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

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