D.C. Sports Bog Live: Caps Come Home For Game 7

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Members of the Washington Capitals react to their 5-4 overtime victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh. Video by Dan Steinberg/The Washington PostEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/The Washington Post

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Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bogger
Tuesday, May 12, 2009; 2:00 PM

D.C. Sports Bogger Dan Steinberg were online Tuesday, May 5, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the Caps' win over Pittsburgh, the Nats, the latest sports news and your questions and comments about his latest bog posts. bog posts.

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Dan Steinberg: Hey peoples sorry the time has been so erratic lately, lots of interesting Tuesdays. I'm here at Kettler Capitals Iceplexxx the seven remaining writers, at least half of whom have probably showered within the last 24 hours. Ask me questions, if you like.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you have the inside word on whether Ovie's knee-to-knee hit on Gonchar may have been dirty? Any idea what Gonchar thinks about it or whether the two have spoken privately?

Dan Steinberg: The closest I've heard to Gonchar's side of it was Brooks Orpik claiming he talked to the defenseman about the hit, and that Gonchar felt "the same" as the rest of the Penguins. In other words, that it was indeed dirty. Although I'm pretty sure we heard a clip on the radio of Bill Guerin saying it wasn't dirty. Gonchar's agent got a lot of attention for ripping Ovechkin, but he has a definite horse in this race.

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Laurel, Md.: Mike Green has looked terrible for all 13 games of the playoffs. Is he still sick or hurt? Why not bench him since he is clearly hurting the team? This is not even close to the same Mike Green we saw and loved all season, but for the sake of the team having him on the ice in game 7 will be a huge negative.

Dan Steinberg: If Green is sick or hurt, no one is saying so, and no one WILL say so until this thing is over. Bruce Boudreau is as big a Green fan as exists in the world (and likewise - Green goes out of his way to praise Boudreau), so there's no virtually no chance he'll give up on Green. Unless, you know, his leg falls over or something.

I thought it was interesting talking to some other players about Green yesterday; Tom Poti acknowledged "it‘s been a tough series for a few guys" but added that "everyone‘s been trying as hard as they can." Chris Clark, on the other hand, said that Green's lack of scoring is obvious but that he's contributing in other ways, and that "I don‘t think he‘s having a bad series at all."

Of course, you learn that quotes aren't necessarily brimming with honesty in the playoffs, so who knows. All I can guarantee is that in the days after this season ends, if it ever does, there will be plenty of questions asked (again) about Green's health.

About the stick thing....I don't think Green was trying to use it as an excuse, and even when he got his old stick delivered yesterday, he didn't use it because he said he's now used to the new stick. That was more just something to pass the time on a slow afternoon before Game 6.

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Gambrills, Md.: With such a great, fan-friendly owner like Ted Leonsis running the Caps in the same town, wouldn't you think Dan Snyder would wise up a little and take some notes on what you have to do to be a successful owner?? Leonsis is the man! I'm a Skins fan too, but Snyder is a fool!

Dan Steinberg: Ted is winning the PR battle right now as handily as it can possibly be won.

And our paper, and others, have certainly criticized Snyder plenty in the past.

I do think that if the Caps ever struggled again, Leonsis's accessibility and fan-friendliness would seem less charming, and people would launch all sorts of complaints about the direction of the franchise. Winning makes people happy. Winning makes players seem likable, owners fan-friendly, executives genius-like, and beat writers worthy of massive raises. Even when the difference between winning and losing is overtime crossbars.

And Leonsis and Snyder both shared a fascination with high-priced busty imports (Jagr). Busty in the non-anatomical sense. Both claim they've since learned. Feel free to clear your throat while muttering "Haynesworth."

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Wheaton, Md.: Any chance the Donald (Brashear) will play in the 7th game? The record is like 6-1 when he plays in the playoffs.

Dan Steinberg: I think it's actually 3-1. And 4-5 when he doesn't play. Unless we're talking about last season, in which case I'm not sure.

Bruce Boudreau addressed the media for quite a while this morning, and no one so much as mentioned Brashear's name. Maybe you reassess if this thing goes another round, but it's hard to imagine Brash suddenly making an appearance in the most important game of the year against the silly skills of the Penguins.

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Downtown: How tired are you? I'm exhausted, and all I'm doing is watching the games on TV.

Dan Steinberg: Well, I'm lucky in that Barry Svrluga has some weird love of driving, so he shuttled me to and from Pittsburgh while I sat in the passenger's seat, reading Deadspin and Mister Irrelevant on my BlackBerry and complaining. We've now been to the Starbucks in Breezewood three times in a week. That's more than I've been to the Starbucks at 15th and K in a month.

We media folks don't root. We just sit there and watch. And still, many of us have said our hearts pound throughout the third and overtime. Maybe that's about the Starbucks thing.

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Oakton, Va.: It seems the Capitals have been playing on their heels trying to keep up with the Penguins and have for the most part been outshot badly in this series. Is the main reason for this the Penguins' speed or the amounts of extra penalty minutes the Caps have had to kill off or the extra time the Penguins got between series compared to the Caps?

Dan Steinberg: Well, it doesn't just seem like it; it's the truth. After only being outshot in four consecutive games once this season (in November), the Caps have now been out-shot six straight games, sometimes badly. (Last night was 42-24 or something like that.)

On paper, I don't think the difference is the Penguins' speed. The Caps can fly, and they all say that's when they're at their best. And at times (first 10 minutes of Game 5?) they look plenty fast.

As for the extra rest, we're talking about what, three extra days and one extra game? I'm sure it helps, but six games in, I'm not sure it could possibly help that much. I will say that you see some of these guys walking to the bus after games--Tom Poti--and they look like they're leaving a hospital after having been accidentally run over by several steamrollers. I don't understand how a guy who walks like that plays hockey.

The injury lockdown just makes it so hard to have any sort of grasp on who's healthy right now. On the official injury list, the Caps' injured players are listed like this: "Eric Fehr - injured. Jeff Schultz - injured." And so on. Not exactly enlightening.

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Baltimore, Md.: This series has been 381 minutes long. The teams have been tied or separated by 1 goal for all but 21 of those minutes. How incredible is that?

Dan Steinberg: Great stat. I saw that first on Japers Rink. If he's the originator, he's a genius.

The series hasn't been boring, that's for sure. Weirdly, all that stuff has now possibly passed the Ovechkin-Crosby story line. I feel like, aside from the boooooos, fans have now even tabled a lot of their Cindy and Ovenchicken talk in favor of appreciating/agonizing over the results.

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Don't Root, Md.: Are you saying you aren't a Caps fan? You aren't cheering for the Caps?!

Blasphemy!

Dan Steinberg: No no, that's not blasphemy. Blasphemy would be saying that I might technically free to start unloading vacation time as soon as the Caps' season ends, that I could mow my lawn and pay my wife back for doing triple duty on childcare and attempt to respond to a frightening backlog of e-mails, that I could try to boost the five-hours-of-sleep average. I'm just saying I sit there and watch to see what happens.

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Bethesda, Md.: Dan, what's your position on Jynxes?

I'm convinced I am one, and didn't watch the 2nd half of the game last night (or OT). I watched "Harper's Island" on DVR instead.

Considering the result, I'm thinking I shouldn't watch tomorrow. Am I 'that' critical to the team's success tomorrow?

Dan Steinberg: Well, I've listened to enough broadcasts of the Junkies to know that jinxes are real and must be feared.

The Junkies, by the way, don't come in so strong when you're cruising down 270 trying to get to Ballston. This forces you to instead listen to Mike and Mike and Mike. Which in turn forces you to consider turning off the radio and going for Kumbaya duets with Barry Svrluga.

As for you, Bethesda, you have to bear in mind that Eric From Beaver, Pa., is also convinced that whenever HE watches "Harper's Island" on DVR, the Penguins win. Your simultaneous jinx could cancel out and cause the world to implode on Wednesday night, or it could turn out to be a great fake. My advice is just to watch American Idol.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Coming into Game 6, I got the sense that the Caps had a desperate, yet a "we'll-show-them" kind of an attitude. How would you describe the attitude of the Penguins coming into Game 7?

Dan Steinberg: You know, we all leave the Caps (or Penguins) dressing room and say, "Jeez, I'm not sure I like what I just saw," or "Wow, they're full of confidence, eh?" But it kind of doesn't matter, to be honest.

Easily the loosest and most confident I've seen the Caps in these playoffs was in MSG after Game 3. I was convinced they were gonna rattle off three straight to win in 6. Then they lost Game 4. But they still seemed confident. Yesterday morning, the media psychologists (including me) thought the Caps seemed considerably tighter. Shows what we know.

Although really, an overtime crossbar separated us from you asking me right now, "Why weren't the Caps desperate enough yesterday?" Getting out-shot 18-5 in the first isn't necessarily a sign of desperation.

So anyhow, I'm in D.C. and not Pittsburgh, so I can't speak much to the Pens, but my hunch is both teams would really really like to win this game tomorrow, that it'll be well-placed and closely contested and that the team that loses will have a few moments they could turn to and say "a few inches, or a different call right there, and we might have won."

Boudreau has really nailed it: the true shame is that all this is happening in the second round.

(Which no doubt means that disrespected Carolina will go on to win it all.)

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Rockville, Md.: If Varlamov is pronounced var-LAW-mov, how would you pronounce his mother's (or future wife's) name Varlamova?

Dan Steinberg: WE have enough Slavophiles out there to help you out. I took three semesters of Russian and would guess "Var'-La-MOW-va," but I'll defer.

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Arlington, Va.: It was either you or Mike Wise (sorry for getting you confused) who predicted the Caps would come back and beat the Rangers down 3games to 1. What's your prediction for tomorrow and why?

Dan Steinberg: Don't think it was me, but I do think it's simply incredible how often we're confused for each other.

Without wishing to earn the eternal hate and spite of all Caps fans, and bearing in mind I'm about as much of an expert on playoff hockey as Mike Milbury, I'll say this: After Game 5, I predicted the Caps would win in Pittsburgh and then lose at home, merely because that seemed like the appropriately counterintuitive prediction. I guess I'll stick with that. And my prediction means nothing, is based on nothing objective, does not indicate any internal hostility, and is merely offered because you asked.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Any word on which local dignitaries, sports figures and pseudo-celebs will be Rocking the Red tomorrow night?

Dan Steinberg: Jason Campbell will be there. Trying to find out who else.

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Bowie, Md.: I disagree with the rule that if a team scores on a delayed penalty call, they don't get the power play. It seems to me that if you score after the infraction but before the whistle blows (assuming you have control of the puck), that has nothing to do with the impending power play. The team should get the goal and the power play. What am I missing?

Dan Steinberg: The fact that the team with the puck can pull the goalie without fear of disaster, meaning they already are on the power play, essentially.

But that's kind of philosophical. Let's discuss in July.

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Herndon, Va.: The officiating seems so one-sided. Last night the tackle at the end of the period seemed so obvious. The penalties on the Caps seem so ticky tack. What is up?

Dan Steinberg: The numbers are stark. And I'm not enough of an expert to judge what's slashing and what isn't. I'm just not. All the media reacted with utter shock at the call on Laich late in the third yesterday, based largely on where the "penalty" occurred and how much time was left, the situation, etc.

What I will say is this: people in Pittsburgh were, and remain, outraged that Ovechkin got a two-minute minor and no suspension for the Gonchar thing. People say stuff like, "Yes, I'm a Penguins fan, but I'm looking at this objectively, and he intentionally stuck out his knee." While Caps fans say stuff like, "Yes, I'm a Caps fan, but I'm looking at this objectively, and he was leading with his shoulder and only hit knee because of Gonchar's lean."

Which tells me no one's really looking at this objectively. Except, hopefully, the gentlemen who are being paid to do so.

Although I don't root, I was ardently rooting for the Pens not to score at the end of regulation yesterday, because then this series, for all time, would be remembered for its officiating. It's been so good that I hope it ends on an even-strength goal, and the officiating complaints can recede a bit.

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Shhhhhh: Don't look now, but Ryan Zimmerman is turning into a bona fide All-Star -- not one of those All-Stars that the Nats usually get because they need to have one representative.

Dan Steinberg: Baseball!

Barry Svrluga called Zimmerman yesterday for a story he's potentially working on. A story about the Caps.

Also, don't look not, but the Nats' offense is turning into a bona fide Major League offense, not one of those units the Nats usually trot out because the rules require that they employ batters. Saying "it's too bad they're not getting any pitching" is like saying "it's too bad the Republicans aren't getting any votes," but the Nats appear to be legitimately closer to being interesting.

And if they come home and the streak is still alive, I would very much want to go to Nats Park every night.

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Atlanta, Ga.: I have to respectfully disagree with Bruce and say that the shame of it all is that this series is not being seen on a platform worthy of its magnitude. I went to Kansas City last week on business and people had no idea about the series. Took me a while to find a sports bar that was willing to show the games over the Royals. Then again, it just might be the town proving it's not a worthy enough place to hold an NHL franchise at their precious Sprint Center.

Dan Steinberg: I would agree with this. The ratings in Pittsburgh are berserk, but even the press releases about Versus rocking the ratings still show shockingly low national numbers for basically the greatest second-round series you could imagine, involving no blowouts, three superstars, ill feelings and dramatic endings.

Versus just isn't working. RCN customers in D.C. do not get that network. That's absurd.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you a fan of the teams you cover? Just wondering how you separate yourself, since a lot of your reporting is on the fan bases.

Dan Steinberg: It is a bit tricky. Also, my traffic goes way way up when the teams in question are going good. And I like for my traffic to go way way up, because then I don't get fired. In that sense, the actual existence of my job is based on local teams not being awful, and I happily root against awfulness.

Also, as many sportswriters have frequently noted, when you get to know some players, and even like them, it's easy to fall into a pattern of not wanting them to fail.

I do not, however, wear team t-shirts or get logos tattooed on my buttocks or ask for autographs or punch walls in anger over the results of local games.

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Oakton, Va.: Dan,

I want to thank the collective media for getting Semin out of his no-show funk. Any idea why he was quiet for most of the series?

Dan Steinberg: Considering he's been quiet (in the sense of not addressing the media) for the last 47 years, no, no idea.

I did have a quote in the early edition of today's paper about how Semin has struggled, and I had to take that out for later editions, so in that sense you can absolutely thank me and everyone else.

If you ever go watch warm-ups at Verizon, the Caps conclude every session with Mike Green and Semin tossing the puck back and forth and then firing slappers toward net, where Alex Ovechkin deflects them in. They do this all the time. Yesterday, it was just Green and Ovechkin. I was convinced that meant Semin wasn't going to post. He did.

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Leesburg, Va.: Yes, I'm a Caps fan, but I'm looking at this objectively, and Pens fans are doo-doo heads and Crosby's playoff "beard" would make a lot of 7th grade boys jealous...objectively.

Dan Steinberg: Huh. Here I thought he had just gotten some chocolate sauce on his lip.

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Houston, Tex.: "Celebs" at games -- so I only can watch the versus feed -- but can you tell me why we have seen so many Pittsburgh celebs and no D.C. ones? The other night we saw Mike Tomlin, Mario, like a hundred times and then last night some random PIRATE! I realize that Tomlin just won the SB, but what about some props to Zorn or the other 'Skins that are in the house?! My fiance thought I was nuts when I complained there was no shot of Zorn and then a few days later -- Mike Tomlin -- what gives? Just no love on versus?

Dan Steinberg: This is the first I've heard. Troubling, if true. Tomlin, unlike Zorn, was wearing a Pens jersey, but Zorn had knee-high red socks and made out with his wife on the Kiss Cam. That's a clear win for D.C.

Speaking of which, Nicklas Backstrom wore a Redskins hat today while addressing the media.

Mario isn't exactly a celebrity; he's an integral part of the franchise, and the star player's landlord. I don't think that counts as a gratuitous Pittsburgh celebrity shot.

Also, lost in the Zorn game were the appearances of Flip Saunders, Mike Sellers, Vinny Cerrato and Chris Samuels.

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WDC: Can I send the Caps my medical bills? These elimination and OT games are friggin killing me.

Dan Steinberg: I just posted an item about how the parents of both Matt Bradley and David Steckel have hinted to their sons that they might have coronaries by the end of this series.

As I was writing that, I was wondering whether that was offensive to folks with hereditary heart disease.

The great thing about these overtime games: you get the teeth-clattering joy of sudden-death, without the productivity-destroying sleep deprivation of quintuple overtime. All three overtime games have ended fairly promptly.

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Washington, D.C.: Big fan, but -- criticism: your blog was much more entertaining, in my opinion, covering the Redskins and the Wizards the last few years than the Caps this year. It seems you've had any number of posts regarding fan complaints on both sides (started old and getting older), along with almost-traditional stories about the players' desire to win, etc. Very few stories making me laugh and feel (however artificially) I'm getting to know the players. Probably Web traffic demands you follow the winning team, but to some extent, I feel like the lesser teams are a better fit, as an alternative to analysis of the game is more important. Thoughts?

Dan Steinberg: I agree with all of this. Some of the stuff I'm posting about the Caps has nothing to do with what I'm supposed to be doing.

Wait, did you just refer to the Redskins as a "lesser" team in D.C.?

Anyhow, maybe it's me, or maybe it's the Caps, but the whole "hahahaha here's what we're really like, and here are our wacky locker room hijinks, hahahaha" shtick just hasn't worked for me here. There are too many ESL speakers, too many players who don't like to clown for the media, and too many players who seem like they'd like to throttle the life out of my body. Sorry.

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Shot Charts: Looking at the shot charts comparing 8 and Crosby, it's clear that all of Crosby's goals are from very close in while 8's are from range. What does this indicate about style of play, ability to work inside, etc? Also, is there a way to make the chart more descriptive by highlighting those shots that came on powerplays?

Dan Steinberg: The chart is awesome. Props to the folks who have put that together. And the PP thing is a good idea.

Bruce Arthur of the National Post wrote a column about this very thing, citing our shot charts, and drew the conclusion that Crosby does the workmanlike thing better than anyone, and Ovechkin makes you spew soda better than anyone. The game-tying goal by Crosby last night was classic in that regard, just as Ovechkin's second and third goals in Game 2 were vintage OV.

If any of these games are wrong, blame the car ride from Pittsburgh. It rattled my memory.

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Arlington, Va.: If you were to go to one sporting event in your life, which one would it be? I'm thinking of trying to get over to the World Cup next year (even if I don't have tickets).

Dan Steinberg: That's a good one, for sure, and often headlines sportswriters' "if I could cover one event I've never covered" lists. Kentucky Derby and Masters are too other popular choices. Unfortunately, I'd argue that the bigger events I've been to (Super Bowl, Final Four, Olympics) have often proved to be the biggest let-downs. I'd probably choose something with much less attention and no TV coverage, like, dunno, the Calder Cup finals? The College World Series? The Canadian curling championships?

(These answers are largely stolen from other people in the media room here at Kettler.)

The Frozen Four might be the best live sporting event I've been to in the past 12 months, unless I'm forgetting an obvious better answer.

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Washington, D.C.: As much as I enjoy the Caps and enjoyed watching last night's game from start to finish, was it really necessary for the Washington Post to have a picture that started at the top of the page and continued below the fold? It's not like the Caps won the Stanley Cup or even the series; it was only game six. Seems a little excessive.

Dan Steinberg: Every time we run large sports photos or stories on A1, we get comments like this. On the one hand, I sympathize--most Mondays, the results of men in tight burgundy pants slamming into each other does not technically rate among the six or so most important things that happened in the world.

On the other hand, we exist to serve readers' interests. Readers are interested in sports--more than 235,000 households were watching last night's game at its peak, tens of thousands go to Skins games, hundreds of thousands discuss these events at water coolers, assuming any companies still see fit to provide free water. Heck, we don't have separate sections for such trivial matters as "The World" and "Business," but we do for sports. People like this stuff.

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London, U.K.: Perhaps a far too broad sociological question, but what do you think accounts for the differences in zaniness that you've seen between Penguins and Caps fans?

Dan Steinberg: Jeez, I wish I knew. It's not necessarily inherent zaniness--people in D.C. aren't thought of as being the quirkiest sorts. It's just public, sports-related zaniness. This isn't close to comprehensive, but I've now been to playoff games in four cities over the past two years, all geographically proximate, and by far the Caps' fans were weirdest.

I think maybe it's because hockey fans are used to feeling sort of marginalized and cultish and niche here. As long as you're considered kind of "outsider-y," you might as well act out and be flamboyantly weird. Same reason I used to go to school wearing a clothes hanger around my neck, I'd guess.

I sweear, I thought I was going to start an international sensation with that move.

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Capitol Hill: Why do the Penguins get their fans to wear all white then have the team wear black jerseys? It looked like the Caps were the team playing at home last night!

Dan Steinberg: Apparently it's a remnant of old times. Same reason Pens fans wear mustaches and mullets.

I object less to the color than to the corporate nature of the thing, sponsored shirts given out at the gate. I mean, people in Pittsburgh don't own enough white shirts to get that thing done without a freebie? You can't show much originality in your wardrobe when everyone's wearing the exact same shirt.

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Fusheezi, Va.: I'm not sure this stat is readily available but what do you think is the percentage of times the Caps score within 2 minutes of "Unleash the Fury?" It seems everytime I attend a game the Caps score immediately after the Verizon Center has been whipped into a frenzy by that video. I'm also aware Unleash the Fury is only shown in the third period, less than 6 minutes left in a close game. However, for an important game like we'll have Wednesday -- Game 7 vs. the hated Penguins -- wouldn't it be acceptable to play that at the beginning of the game to get the crowd blisteringly loud from the get-go? Don't get me wrong, it's still loud in the VC at the beginning of games, but UTF could take it to a whole nother level.

Dan Steinberg: That would be a great stat to get. I'm not sure how I could do it, though; I don't think the team's stat department has an UTF column, though clearly they should. As I mentioned when I wrote the making-of blog a few months back, one visiting executive later e-mailed a Caps official and said he believed UTF actually contributed to the team's win. That might be a marketing guy talking, but it's still kinda striking.

And sorry, I don't think I like your idea. It works pretty well where it is, and we're all like trained seals now, knowing when it's going to come. A first period surprise might be good at the time, but then late in the third we'd be forced to watch the blooper compilation.

(I've never said anything before, but I have strongly mixed feelings about the bloopers. On the one hand, it immediately crushes any noise/enthusiasm/atmosphere in the building, and seems like as big a wet blanket as could be imagined. On the other hand, I can't stop watching, and laugh out loud at least three times. "Look, look, that dog just ran straight into the refrigerator! That fat lady just fell through the table while she was doing a sexy dance move! That kid just fell off his bike and banged his head onto the cement, possibly causing lifelong brain damage!" Overall, I'd vote nay on bloopers.)

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Heart Disease: "As I was writing that, I was wondering whether that was offensive to folks with hereditary heart disease."

Didn't I read a story in the post around 2 weeks ago about how Mike Green's mom doesn't watch the games live because her heart literally can't take it? She only watches them on DVR after the outcome has been determined.

Dan Steinberg: Uh, yeah. You're right. I'm now glad I didn't ask Mike Green that question.

Sheesh.

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Penguins fan: Hey! Knock off the mullets!

Dan Steinberg: There's one Caps fan I always see who has just a marvelous feathered mullet. He also wears the old-skool black jersey.

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D.C.: The female for Varlamov is pronounced var-LAH-muh-vuh.

Dan Steinberg: And there you go. I was wrong.

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Arlington, Va.: Steinz,

Did you catch Ted Leonsis on 980 the other day with Andy and Czaban? He came across as his usual likable self, but it was also mentioned how he let The Undertaker build this team into one that can contend for years. At this point, the elephant in the room was the stark contrast in management styles between the local NHL owner and the local NFL (and 980) owner, and their very different Win/Loss results.

Len Shapiro pointed out yesterday that letting Al Koken's 980 contract lapse "made no sense at all" given his hockey knowledge and the Caps playoff run.

Do you think Snyder bought 980 not so much with making money in mind, but controlling the most visible outlet for critics of his NFL owner status.

I also wonder if Ted Leonsis will be back on 980 any time soon.

Dan Steinberg: I will again join the chorus of people making vague or not so vague hints that 980 will very likely not have a local monopoly on sports talk radio for long.

There are no more vocal critics of Snyder than Pollin and Czaban, with help from special guests like Feinstein. If they're all wiped off the radio dial, I will grant all points. I'd also guess that if Redskins criticism made 980 the most popular radio station in D.C., maybe this wouldn't be a big deal.

I hate to see any of the local guys let go, because the moments I truly loathe myself for listening to sports talk radio involve the syndicated folks like Mike and MIke and Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd. I've gotten to the point where I will change the station to bluegrass before listening to those guys.

Though I do still listen to the syndicated stuff late at night, which is about as uplifting as stopping in to get a Payday and some Hazelnut coffee at a Sheetz at 1:30 a.m.

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D.C.: If you're Eddie Jordan's agent are you sending up to Philly the city of brotherly love or to the serene settings of Northern California in Sacramento

Dan Steinberg: Wizards! A Wizards question! Huzzah!

Here I thought we'd spend all of May looking forward to the draft lottery lottery draft thing. And then we got all distracted.

I'm very curious to see how Eddie does, wherever he lands. For family reasons, and a chance to get back at the team that fired him, I have to guess Philly is a better choice.

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D.C.: I'm not sure I understand what the Pens found so dirty about the hit on Gonchar. Ovie went straight ahead, and Gonchar dodged, sticking his knee out towards Ovie in the process. I'm not sure how that's Ovie's fault. Did Ovie pull a Jedi mind trick convincing Gonchar to poke his knee out?

Dan Steinberg: Pittsburgh fans and some media do not believe Ovie went straight ahead, nor do they believe that Gonchar's dodge caused parts of his body to move in the non-dodging direction.

I've watched it a few times. At full speed, I find it impossible to judge.

There was also a brief flap about Ovie shooting a puck toward Scuderi's head at the end of Game 5, I think. That one was a much stupider flap.

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Bowie, Md.: Is Donald Brashear coming back for Game 7? If he was suspended for six games, shouldn't he have been eligible to play last night? If he was, any logic in NOT having him play?

Dan Steinberg: Yeah, he was eligible, and he was there. His style is perhaps not as suited to the way these games have been going. This series isn't unfolding quite the way the Rangers series did.

Anyhow, the last two forwards (Chris Clark and Jay "Puck Hound" Beagle) logged a combined five or so minutes. Donald Brashear wouldn't be deciding the outcome of this one.

His playoff beard, though, is just magnificent.

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Gilberts Corner, Va.: So who ya got in the shadow series -- Baby Penguins or daBears?

Dan Steinberg: Bruce Boudreau noted today that the Baby Animals series has progressed in the exact same order as the big boys. Same locales, too. The scores have even been similar. Bruce says this is a further reason to root for the Bears tonight, even aside from the organizational objectives.

You can watch the game online. Something called the B2 network or something like that.

In another key Hershey storyline, the supply of Hershey candy here at KCI has been massively depleted by the visiting national media hordes. All that's left right now is Special Dark. I HATE Special Dark.

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Fusheezi, Va.: Couldn't UTF be played at the beginning of the game AND at its regularly scheduled time? Not on a consistent basis but for Game 7 vs the Pens I think we could allow to UTFs.

Dan Steinberg: That's ok, I guess, but there's something to be said for scarcity.

Also, the More Cowbell doesn't do it for me. Especially because the Penguins play the same clip. I know UTF isn't unique, but it seems less non-unique to me than cowbells.

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Arlington, Va.: Steinz,

What is your favorite kind of cheese to autograph?

Dan Steinberg: This is when you know it's time to stop answering questions.

I've never autographed a piece of cheese. I was, however, asked to sign a few autographs at a recent high school journalism conference I addressed. I told the askers we were all wasting our time if it's come to that.

Anyhow, the big 75-pound Parmigiano Reggiano wheels come with these special fancy cutting tools. It's lots of fun. You could easily scratch your initials into the rind of the cheese. So I'll say that.

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Dan Steinberg: Ok, thanks for all those questions. That was 90 minutes in which I didn't have to try to do real work. I apologize to those of you who asked more technical hockey questions; I'll leave those to our hockey beat guy, former star high school goalie Tarik El-Bashir, who will be chatting at 3 tomorrow, after his first-ever appearance on the ESPN family of networks. Ask him to break down MAF's technique between the pipes, please. And send me all your crazy fan stories from Game 7.

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