Blog Posts from April 2011 (page 1 of 1)

Playing With The Lead

Ovechkin Celebrates the Capitals' First Goal in Game 5

Obviously, the Capitals win Saturday was huge. It put them through to the second round for only the second time since their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. It was also the first playoff series in the Ovechkin/Boudreau era to be settled without having to go the full seven games. The Capitals have played four seven-game playoff series in the past three years. It’ll be nice for the Caps to have the extra time off to rest and heal for a change.

As we wait to see who the Capitals will face in the Conference Semifinals, I want to highlight what I think is a huge change from series from the past three years: The Capitals went 3-1 against the Rangers when they held the series lead. Over the four series in 2008-2010, the Capitals went 2-5 in games where they held the series lead. That’s pretty bad. It gets even worse when you realize that both of those wins came early in their respective series. The Caps won game #2 against the Penguins in ’09 to take a 2-0 series lead. Last year, they won game #3 against the Canadiens to take a 3-1 series lead. In both of those series, the Capitals proceeded to lose the next three games. They eventually lost both series.

So when the Caps lost game 3 and we’re down 3-0 at the start of the 3rd period in game 4, it certainly seemed as if the Capitals we’re going to choke away another series lead like they had the past two years. Instead, they came out for the third period and played like their backs were against the wall. And while the Capitals’ have sucked at defending a series lead, they have played very well well when facing elimination – 6-3 to be exact in the past three years.

If the new-and-improved Caps can combine their traditional talent of playing from behind in the series with the ability to drive nails into coffins win games when they have the series lead, the Capitals will be a very hard team to beat this year.

Shocker at Staples

My passion for the Washington Capitals is well documented. What you don’t know is that I was actually a Los Angeles Kings fan before I was a Capitals fan.

I wasn’t into hockey growing up, but I caught hockey fever when I was going to college in southern California. That was the Gretzky era  – he led them to the Stanley Cup finals the year after I graduated from USC – and the Kings were the hottest ticket in town. But that era faded with the 1994 lockout, bankruptcy, trading Gretzky to the Blues in 1996 and missing the playoffs four years in a row. But unlike most of my then-fellow Angelenos, I stayed on the Kings bandwagon.

In 1998, the Kings finally made it back to the playoffs, facing the St. Louis Blues (Gretzky had moved on to the Rangers by then). The Kings had lost the first two games in St. Louis, but held a 3-0 lead in the 3rd period of Game #3. Then this happened:

In a game that will be talked about for years to come, the Kings saw a 3-0 lead wiped out by four St. Louis power-play goals within a 3:07 span after defenseman Sean O’Donnell received a fighting major for beating down the Blues’ Geoff Courtnall, who had knocked down goaltender Jamie Storr.

Pascal Rheaume, Brett Hull and Pierre Turgeon scored goals to tie the score and then Terry Yake knocked in the game-winner as the Blues rallied for a 4-3 victory Monday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Great Western Forum.

Meltdown on Manchester
Los Angeles Times, April 28 1998

I was one of those 16,005. It was the ugliest feeling I have ever had walking out of a hockey game.

I imagine the fans at the Staples Center last night are familiar with it.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” defenseman Matt Greene said after the Kings squandered a 4-0 lead and gave up a season-high five goals in the second period.

San Jose winger Devin Setoguchi finished off a three-on-two break with a deadly wrist shot past Jonathan Quick 3 minutes and 9 seconds into sudden-death play, stunning a Staples Center crowd that had been taken for a long and wild ride all night. What seemed like a chance for the Kings to take control of the series instead became a potentially devastating defeat that left the Sharks leading the first-round series two games to one with Game 4 scheduled for Staples Center on Thursday.

Kings turn four-goal lead into 6-5 overtime loss to Sharks in Game 3 
Los Angeles Times, April 20 2011

I watched the 2nd period last night at first with jubilation (Kings go up 4-0 less than a minute into the period), then slight concern (Sharks finally get on the board), then increasing concern (Sharks close the game to 4-3), then relief (Kings score :15 seconds later to make it 5-3) and finally horror (Sharks score twice in the last :90 seconds to tie the game 5-5).

I couldn’t watch any more after that. I saw that it had gone to overtime, but I didn’t know who won until I looked it up online this morning.

Frozen Royalty calls it the “Flop on Figueroa”. Purple Crushed Velvet has a broken heart. Hockeywood calls it an “epic meltdown” but then suggests Kings fans need to “Keep Calm and Carry On” because “One game a playoff series does not make”.

Technically, that’s true – the Kings are only down 2-1 and have shown they can win in San Jose. But with momentum shift of blowing a 4 goal lead, I don’t see how the Kings win this series. I’d like to be wrong, but I don’t see how they win another game this year, much less the series.

DevHawk Has A Brand New Blog (Engine)

So it would make a crappy song, but the title of this post is still true. This is my first post on the new-and-improved DevHawk running on WordPress.

I decided a while back that it was time to modernize my blog engine – DasBlog is getting a little long of tooth and there hasn’t been a new release in over two years. I spent some time looking at different options, but settled on WordPress for much the same reasons Windows Live did: “host of impressive capabilities”, scalable and widely used. Also, it’s very extensible, has about a billion available themes and has a very active development community. I was able to find plugins to replicate DasBlog’s archive page as well as archive widget that replicated custom functionality that I added to DasBlog via custom macros.

Of course, moving eight years worth of posts to a new engine took quite a bit of effort and planning. I wanted to make sure that I maintained all my posts and comments as well as take advantage of some of the new features available to me from WordPress. For example, I took the opportunity to flatten my list of categories and move most of them to be tags. I also went thru and converted all of my old code snippets to use SyntaxHighlighter instead of CodeHTMLer or Pygments for WL Writer. Of course, I automated almost all of the conversion process. For anyone interested in following my footsteps, I published my PowerShell scripts for converting DasBlog to the WordPress WXR import/export format up on BitBucket.

Not only did I want to save all my data, I also wanted to make sure I saved my search engine mojo (if I have any left after blogging a paltry six times in the past sixteen months). So I hacked up a WordPress plugin to redirect my old DasBlog links to the new WordPress URLs. That’s up on BitBucket as well for anyone who wants it. It’s got some DevHawk specific bits in there (like the category cleanup) but if you tore those parts out it would be usable for any DasBlog-to-WordPress conversion. If there’s interest, maybe I’ll write up how the conversion scripts and redirect plugin work.

The plan is that now that I’m finally done moving my blog over the new back end, I will actually start writing on a more regular basis again. We’ll see how that works out.