Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Exhibition Home Opener Comments

My tickets are behind the visiting goalie so I can watch the Alex's in action, so I had only one period to observe the D close up. The Alex's are clearly ramping up but are not yet in full playing from. Green was definitely impressive, and was constantly opening up the ice for the offense. Particularly impressive was a powerplay shift where the Russians were all on the ice with laser precision passing. I noticed Backstrom has a pretty serious problem in terms of his size and being able to stay on the puck. He was not tossed around like Semin is but it is clear that he will be even better once he matures and gains some more bulk.

Though he let in two goals, Ward made some amazing saves and definitely kept the Canes in the game. Ward gets back into position with amazing speed and his efforts to slim down and get faster over the sumer after a marginal year last year have paid off.

HD Extravaganza and Home Whites

Went to the game last night and the new scoreboard is impressive. Even the clock and the scoring data is digital. So clear and sharp it is actually a little annoying, but a nice problem to have. The advertising is not up on the boards yet, which gives the feel of a game from the early 80's.

I have heard two separate statements about home and away uniforms. For whatever reason, the Caps were wearing their white jerseys last night. The alleged road uniforms look sharp with the blue shorts, that is for sure.

Not a big crowd but not bad. Both Goat, the incredibly loud guy Goat and the horn guy were there, whic is no surprise.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Varlamov's Career Over Before Starting

The message board sophisticates have spoken and Varlamov is done. GMGM should probably trade him now while there is still some value, maybe a couple of 7th rounders in '15. For those apparently unaware of Varlamov's stellar performance in the RSL, it seems better to judge Varlamov on a 3 games instead. Let's review some facts before we trade Varlamov:

1. Varlamov is playing behind a defensively challenged Russian team.

2. That is really saying something given the lack of interest in playing defense in Russia.

3. Varlamov is playing against the best Junior team on the planet.

What this needs to be viewed as is a great learning experience. Varlamov is learning how to deal with a meltdown. Also he has some technical issues to work, which are also a good thing, because itshows that he has come to this point on raw talent and has tremedous upside. He is young, the whole point is for him to get all of these problems out of the way for Russia, Hershey, his RSL team, whatever, as long as it doesn't happen for the Capitals.

Let's give the kid, and he is a kid, a break.

HF Rates the Caps Prospects

Hockey's Future just published their top 20 rankings for the Washington Capitals today. Backstrom, Alzer, Fehr were the top 3. The surpise was Keith Seabrook being rated ahead of Jeff Schultz. Keep in mind HF considers upside in their ratings so Schultz may still be the more NHL ready of the two.

Would Varlamov be rated over Neuvirth if the analyst had watched the latest game in the Super Series?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Is Olie a Playoff Goalie?

For those of you too impatient to run through statistics or read my methodology to come this conclusion: The answer is yes.

Alan Ryder, (His website, Hockey Analytics, is here) the closest thing to a Sabermetrics expert for hockey around, wrote a great article this past April about playoff goaltending that got me thinking about Olie and the playoffs, given that the Caps have a legitimate chance this year.

Ryder has explored whether there really is such a thing as a playoff goalie, and the stats pretty much back him up. Ryder looked at the two Stanley Cup finalists for the past fifteen years and found that the goaltender of the Cup winning team saw a .019 improvement from his career regular season SV% to his Cup winning playoff performance. In other words, as Ryder points out, they got “hot” for the playoffs beyond the trend of steady performce year after year in the regular season.

For the runners-up there was an average of a .009 improvement in playoff performance over career SV%, but there were 5 goalies out of 15 years that underperformed their career numbers and their teams paid the price. Olie was not one of the 5.

Some quick notes before I explain the numbers:
SV% is the only stat a goalie truly owns, unlike GAA, which really is an indicator of defensive unit as a whole. With SV% it doesn’t matter what the defense did, the goalie either stopped whatever came at him or he didn’t, period.

To refine the data a little bit I used Kolzig’s numbers from 1994 to the present for the NHL only.
Unfortunately it has been awhile since the Caps made the playoffs so there is a little less clarity for this analysis than for most of the other teams in the league. Still the .910 SV% from last year is comforting.

So here is the verdict:
From 1994 to now Olie’s average regular season SV% is .906. and his average playoff SV% .918 a .012 improvement from regular seaon to playoffs.

On average, the Stanley Cup winning goaltender saw a single season improvement of .019 from career and regular season SV% to playoff SV% in what we could call the “hot streak percent."

With an improvement of .012 in the playoffs since 94, Kolzig comes alive in the playoffs and wouldn’t need that great an improvement ( only .001) in his career playoff SV% to put him in that statistical band that helps lead a team to the Cup.

Let’s just hope the Caps can get him there.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Development Camp Goaltending Report

Made it to the last day of development camp at Kettler on Saturday and have some notes about the Goaltenders there. AS a quick aside, in the final period there was a rash of puck dinging masks that I have never seen before at such a rate IN MY LIFE. All that plus a collar bone shot on Varlamov, fellow you goalies you feel that pain.

Before I begin I want to make two points:

1. I have some experience as a goaltender.
2. I had one scrimmage to look at these guys, my observations are far from an airtight case against them. I will point out however, that conversations with the Caps faithful who observed every scrimmage found my observations to be pretty much in line with theirs. Still, one scrimmage is just speculation.

I sat at one end of the ice to observe Varlamov initially, who was playing for the Blue team. I had a poor view of Neuvirth as a result.

At one point there was a video of Varlamov from Central Scouting that was posted on the Washington Capitals Message Board. Varlamov looked like a crab and had a very bizarre playing style. Drafting him made sense to me, some easy fixes in his technique mixed with his raw ability could lead to some spectacular results. Well, the “crabby” crouching too low was completely gone, he either worked that kink out since being drafted or was playing hurt of something in that scouting video.

The good:
Varlamov looked good and made some very acrobatic saves. He will even drop the paddle and flop on the ice in a more controlled Hasek-like style. With great numbers last season in the top Russian league and an entertaining style, he is a great future goaltender who will put up good numbers and wow the crowds.

The bad:
Varlamov looked very tentative in the crease and did not come out of the net far enough. Considering he was in his 4th or 5th day on a smaller NHL size rink, with the greater speed and closer shooting that entails, I find that understandable. Varlamov needs to play in North America (assuming there is starting room for him somewhere) to adjust to the smaller rink. If Varlamov has to go, at least he will be in a ling with a lot of offense and not much of a defensive mindset, which means he will have a lot of work. If he were going back to Sweden I would be very concerned given the more defense minded games the Swedes play which hides a goalie’s shortcomings rather than exposes them.

The good:
I could not see him very well and focused my attention on Varlamov. As a result I don’t have a lot to add, unfortunately. A lot of people said that he had outperformed Varlomov over the past few days and he seemed very solid. I would point out that he should outperform Varlomov, given his time adapting the North American rinks playing Canadian Junior.

The bad,
I didn’t really see him, can’t beat on a player with secondhand observations, so I won’t.

Darren Machesney,
The good
Machesney had great reaction time. He seemed to be playing the angles well and wasn’t required to do much, having been in good position. I think he played well, but has had a bit more development time than Varlamov or Neuvirth and perhaps would have appeared more dominant. I didn’t track save percentage or anything and may be giving Machesney a bad rap.

The bad
I don’t think I saw enogh to say anything bad about the guy. Perhaps a reader can chime in about Machesney in SC or Hershey this last year…..

Dan Dunn
The good:
Dunn is very young and big. Really big. Karri Lehtonen big. Technique can be learned and the Caps can see if the NBA maxim “you can’t teach size” applies to prospective NHL netminders as well.

The bad:
Dunn is an uncoordinated Karri Lehtonen. His technique is atrocious, the mitt of his glove hand is always square to the boards rather than the shooter. He is so tall his 5 hole looks like a roadside caution triangle. I am worried that he will be forced to cheat to close his 5 hole and will pay big time as he plays with more talented players. Still, a great gamble for a late round pick that may be a tradeable asset or a back up perhaps.

Justin Mrazek:
The good:
I can’t beat on the guy at all, he seemed pretty solid. It kills me I missed the drills where I could get a better view of all of these guys technical skills but work tragically interfered with hockey.

The bad:
Was not looking terribly bad. He has some size and seemed to do pretty well.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Why not more of an effort in Richmond?

Interesting story from the Richmond press about the lack of marketing DC sports team do in Richmond. I appreciate that the Yankees up in Balitmore are more likely to be hockey friendly but there are a number of teams that do well further south. Can it really hurt to try to get a few more peple from Richmond to make treks up for games. Given the few number of games and the fact they are virutalluy all on the weekend, the Redsjkins analogy is not quite fair but why not a special 10 game weekend package or something specially discounted for people in Centrral Virginia?