SportSquee describes itself as "an online girls' locker room," and it's one of our favorite sites that celebrate female sports fandom. Margee is the Queen Bee of Squee, and an occasional contributor to Puck Daddy -- please recall her epic "Art of the Playoff Beard" post from last season. Margee agreed to break down some of the top Stanley Cup contenders from a female puckhead perspective, as we head into the playoffs. Here's her take on the Washington Capitals. Enjoy.)
It's that time of year again! Time to accept the fact that your team just may not make the playoffs. Time, yet again, to clear the trumpets and the calliope out of the way so that you can jump on the bandwagon of a whole new team for eight weeks. But how to choose what wagon to which one should hitch oneself? Here's your handy-dandy guide to picking your post-season team.
Cool Guy: Alexander Ovechkin
You new here or something? Ovechkin is the coolest guy in the universe. And if you say otherwise you will get tommy-gunned into a cloud of black dust by the Ovechkin Police (tm Pookie and Schnookie at InterchangeableParts.wordpress.com) who troll the Internets searching for any perceived slight against Ovie or any perceived praise for Sidney Crosby.
Ovechkin's untouchable status aside, it's pretty much impossible not to love the guy. His style is completely unique to him and every aspect of it is sexy. He has the legs and hands of a satiny-soft finesse player and the bloodlust of an enforcer. The fact that he can pretty much score at will is not even the most awesome thing about him. It's the joy with which he plays that makes your hockey heart grow a few sizes. Ovechkin is having fun out there.
In an era of self-serious athletes who act like they have the world on their shoulders, Ovechkin just seems so damn happy to be playing. It's refreshing and infectious. No Ovechkin police necessary.
Street Cred: The Game Plan
The Capitals are kind of on the cutting edge of NHL franchises. They seemed to be the first team to recognize the power of the Internet when growing their fan base. Their owner Ted Leonsis spoke directly to fans in a blog of his own and management gave bloggers unprecedented access to the team. Whether it led to valid reporting or not is irrelevant. It's good PR. Similarly, they have cannily exploited the broad appeal of their superstar to maximum effect.
The Caps have never tried to water down Ovie's personality or clean him up. They've let Ovechkin be Ovechkin. And people like Ovechkin. In Bettman's NHL of Neutered Personas, especially, he's like a breath of Stolichnaya-scented fresh air. On the ice, the Capitals have also been following a sharp plan. They wisely cleaned house in anticipation of the lockout, which left them with a clean slate for the New NHL. And they have steadily gotten better through the years with a mixture of smart drafting, judicious free agency, and good coaching.
The Capitals are an example of focusing on the big picture. Instead of piling on players for the here and now (::cough::Rangers::cough::), the Caps have showed patience in nurturing the team long-term. And that has turned out to be a recipe for success.
Ninja: Alexander Semin
(Note: I will try to hold back the obvious Semin jokes. I will probably fail.)
To put it in overly-simple terms, Alexander Semin is the Pau Gasol of the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin, of course, is the Kobe Bryant. Ovechkin, like Bryant, was always astronomically talented, but he lacked the complementary player to help him take his team to the next level. Along comes Gasol/Semin, offering a whole other, threat to frustrate opponents. Another style to inject life into a game.
And Semin provides a nice yin to Ovechkin's yang (hee!). Where Ovechkin popped out of a cake with sparklers, a tiara, and several numbers from "A Chorus Line" when he came to the NHL, Alexander Semin could barely be coaxed to come to the U.S., let alone hop into a celebratory dessert. Ovechkin has immersed himself in American culture (shows up at Redskins and Wizards games, has adopted the American nickname of "Alex"), he celebrates like Ocho Cinco after every goal, and is the cheeriest of chatty Kathies. Semin remains decidedly Russian (call him Sasha, thank you), he just sort of nods his head and gets some poundage from his teammates after he scores and always seems like he's been listening to Morrissey on loop.
Ovechkin blazes all over the ice, seeking contact and scrapping when pushed. Semin is all about the sleek skating and resorts to bitch slaps when provoked (just ask Marc Staal!).
Ovechkin is a threat; a bright, loud threat visible from space. And while everyone is looking at Ovechkin, covering Ovechkin, worrying about Ovechkin, along comes Semin, tiptoeing down the ice and straight to the scoreboard. Because he can. The only person who scores prettier goals than Semin is Ovechkin.
When Semin is coming at you, it's a score. Er... I mean, the scoreboard is always covered in Semin. Umm ... I told you I couldn't do this without a Semin joke.
Comeback Story: Sergei Fedorov
Recovering from a relationship with Anna Kournikova is not easy. Pavel Bure had to retire. And authorities are still searching for Enrique Iglesias's career. But Fedorov, after an acrimonious break-up with the Red Wings (and the tennis tartlet), is bouncing back nicely. Fedorov has been putting together some nice pointage, and is once again part of a surging, winning team. And he can serve as a valuable influence over all of the youngsters. Fedorov, way back when, was a young Russian superstar, best in the game. Sound like any dudes on the current Caps roster? At almost 40, Fedorov is never going to be the superstar he once was. But he's an important part of a team once again, both on and off the ice. Nice try Kournikova.
Uterus Killer: Mike Green
Mike Green has all sorts of levels of badassery going on, so his boyish good looks seem almost silly to point out. But they're there. And need to be recognized. And are augmented by said badassery. If he wasn't such a scoring, defending fool, he may have been passed up for the twinky charms of Jose Theodore in this slot. But Green's game is so nasty, that he can pull off that faux-hawk with minimal ridicule. And, let's face it, the only people who can get away with faux-hawks these days are "Top Chef" contestants.
Why You Should Root Against Them
Franchise Rep: They're not closers!
As a franchise, the Caps have had a lot of success in making it into the playoffs. However, they've had a heart-breaking tendency to blow it in said playoffs. There was the Easter Epic versus the Islanders (yeah, they were good once). Followed by a consistent streak in the 90's of getting pushed out of the post-season by the eventual Cup winners. There was the four-game sweep in the Wales Conference Final by the Bruins. Not to mention the more recent laydown in '03 to the Lightning (yeah, they were good once, too). The Capitals have historically had a hard time sealing the deal. And since the current squad is young and largely unproven, they'll have to work hard to unburden themselves of that rep.
Nerd Alert: Viktor Kozlov
If you've ever had Kozlov on your team, and you probably have, you know that few players can make you as sick and as happy as he.
One day, he's Gallant, playing the body, using his Stretch Armstrong-like reach to extract the puck from opponents, and scoring four-goal games against the Rangers. The next week, he's Goofus, practically skating away from contact with his skirt between his legs, willfully repelling passes, and getting hysterical puck amnesia once he crosses the blueline. Comrade is streakier than a wilting Highlighter.
Low Point: Jagr
The Capitals moved heaven and Earth to nab Jaromir Jagr and his pinks cheeks of hockey brilliance. They paid him with several gold bricks and valuable human organs per game. And Jagr... earned those bucks and kidneys by repeatedly hitting the snooze button on his team spirit.
Eventually, Jagr was shipped to the Rangers, where he at last became the player the Capitals had wanted him to be; and, to rub salt in the wound, the Caps had to kick in for a big slice of Puff Nuts' salary.
In the long run, it may have benefited the Caps, as Jagr's somnambulism prompted the franchise to re-jigger their team concept. The Capitals had a fire sale of veterans and started building a young team for the future.
The future is now.