It’s always good to be back at Faceoff-Factor, even if only for a little while. Now let’s get right to it, shall we?

23

I don’t think this needs any further explanation…but for those of you who have gone Rip Van Winkle on us, I speak of Sid’s scoring streak. Or as I prefer to call it: scoring rampage. The difference is that a streak is something you use effort to keep up; Sid is using little effort to keep this spectacle breathing.

And Sid will be the first to tell you that it’s not just him doing the work. The seemingly recharged Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have been setting Sid up (or finishing his passes) since this rampage began and have left most of us to wonder who Mike Comrie even is. Not to mention the successes of the fully functional, Mike Yeo-less powerplay.

Let’s face it…we haven’t seen play like this since the Fillmore administration. Ok maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But no one can deny that this is Sid playing at his finest level of his career. And that’s scary. Humans don’t redirect pucks into the goal from two feet away…but Sidney Crosby does.

Need a hand?

Pavel Datsyuk does.

The 32-year-old center broke his right paw when he tripped over teammate Mikael Samuelsson and fell awkwardly during the first period of Wednesday’s game with Vancouver.

Detroit has 12 players on their active roster over the age of 30. Pavel Datsyuk is one of the young guns of that team (just let that sink in a little). If his bones start breaking when he falls, what’s going to start happening to everyone else?

The Caps hate cameras

HBO’s “24/7” has provided an exceptional view inside both the Penguins and Capitals organizations. For Washington, the view is a little too exceptional. Anyone who hasn’t had the luxury of being in an intermission locker room for a losing team certainly had an eye-opening experience in the series’ first episode.

I can’t say I’m opposed to swearing in hockey, even by the coaches. It was the great Gordie Howe who said “All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.” But the difference is that hockey players know when not to use inappropriate language. In fact, I’d say hockey players and coaches could teach just about every other sport on how to handle themselves in the public eye (with the exception of Sean Avery, perhaps).

On the contrary, I rather enjoyed watching Bruce Boudreau swear like a sailor. It reminded me of a soft-spoken adolescent child who just learned these words and was sharing them with his friends.

So where’s the conflict here? Only that the Caps have gone 2-6-3 in their last 11 games, including a 7-0 shutout at the hands of the New York Rangers (which I’ll get to later). Now, however, the Caps can’t sit back on their heels and anticipate a division title by default with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming up strong.

So it seems the story continues…The Washington Capitals have earned national attention and, once again, they can’t deliver. Some call it bias (as Matt Bodenschatz reported about Monday) on the behalf of HBO. I say Washington is looking for a scapegoat.

Milbury calls out Ovie

Speaking of the Capitals’ woes…everybody’s favorite Fred Flintstone impersonator, Mike Milbury dove into the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry this week. Milbury said that if Ovechkin ever wants to get to Crosby’s level of “greatness” and play him in the Eastern Conference finals, he needs to learn a lot about the game.

Wow, Milbury, I didn’t know you made sense. You should try that more often instead of your constant banter with Pierre McGuire.

Ovie’s had enough

Ok this is the last Ovechkin bit, I promise. I just thought I’d get it all out at once.

In the 7-0 spanking the Caps received from the New York Rangers last week, Alexander Ovechkin felt like he had to dip to his last resort and drop the mitts with Brandon Dubinsky. I think I speak for everyone else in the NHL who would love to see him go toe to toe with some of the other enforcers in the league.

Ovechkin vs. Goddard? I’d pay for that.

I hate being over-shadowed

As some of you may know, I had the good fortune of attending the first Winter Classic in Buffalo (and it was well worth the 9.5-hour crawl home in the snow storm). I knew that my days in the sun were numbered being able to say I attended the largest outdoor hockey game in the history of the sport, especially with the Heinz Field game approaching.

However, I was blindsided! I found out only days before the Michigan/Michigan St. game that it was going to be played in the Big House. Who can do better than nearly 110,000 people? It didn’t even snow! What’s the fun in playing in subzero temperatures with blinding wind if there’s no flakes? I’d be a little less critical if it were a good game…but 5-0?

Let’s hope for some good ol’ fashioned western PA snow on New
Year’s Day.

NBC grinds my gears…already

It didn’t take long for the National Broadcasting Company to get under my skin. When I learned about the alumni game being played between Pens and Caps of days past, I thought, “Wow that is going to be really cool to watch.”

“Oh…NBC isn’t showing it….that’s ok I suppose.”

NBC snatched the cookie right from my hands. Ultimately, they decided not to broadcast the alumni game for fear it would make too much sense. I’ve had my troubles with NBC’s coverage in the past (namely that stupid behind-the-net cam they use at the start of every powerplay) but I have a feeling this is going to be an exceptionally bad year on the peacock.

What would Ilya do?

Nothing.

Or I should say he has done nothing since signing his super contract. Eight goals in 33 games? Are you serious? It looks like the Devils should’ve taken that first rejection of Ilya’s contract as an omen…

In a way, I’m glad Kovalchuk is playing like he has concrete in his skates. And I don’t mean this just from a Pittsburgh perspective. This could be a tremendous lesson to all those teams out there (Chicago, listen closely to this next bit) who are trying to sign players to these “illegal” contracts …even though the league doesn’t do anything about them anyway. This is a prime example of what could happen when you give a money-driven superstar a free pass for the rest of his career.

Kovalchuk knows he doesn’t have to work hard. He’s virtually under contract until the next Haley’s comet. If the league won’t stop these deals from happening, maybe Ilya’s awful play will.

Islanders fans…don’t get too excited

Ok I know you’re not in last place. And I know you just beat New Jersey and forced John MacLean out the door. But did you read the last section of this column? Beating the Devils isn’t really that big of an achievement.

The problems on Long Island are beyond repair. Though they’re getting the good draft picks, they simply aren’t developing chemistry. The players on their roster aren’t meshing because they’re cheap.

I can’t even fault the ownership. Because they at least try. They just don’t have the money to bring in what they need or to even sustain a suitable arena. If the Nassau Coliseum stays around any longer, it will start looking the Roman Coliseum.

As a hockey fan in general, it pains me to see an organization that was once shrouded in success now tattered and flailing.

The Bolts exceed expectations…so far.

It’s looking like 2004 in Tampa. The goals are pouring in, the defense is solid, and, with the Caps loss to the ‘Guins, the lightning are in first place in the Southeast division.

Their powerplay is so potent that it is actually illegal in five states and two territories.

With their shootout victory over the Rangers, Tampa Bay now has a seven-game points streak going.

But I’m still skeptical. Now I did pick this team to go to the Eastern Conference finals but I do think that there are some things to take into consideration about the Bolts. They’ve yet to have that playoff season where they take their lumps. Things have changed since they last won the cup with St. Louis and Lacavalier. Not to mention, they’re still shaky between the pipes with Mike Smith (3.20 GAA, 88 save%) and Dan Ellis (3.03 GAA, 88 save%).

So be cautiously optimistic, Tampa Bay. I have my eye on you.

Well folks it was fun to be back for a spell. I hope I brightened your holiday season just a little bit more. And who knows, maybe I’ll be back for more soon.

Until then,

Happy hating!