D.C. Sports Bog Live: Caps playoffs, Ovechkin, Nationals, more

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Dan Steinberg
Tuesday, April 27, 2010; 11:30 AM

D.C. sports bogger Dan Steinberg takes your questions about the Caps' playoffs, the Nats and all the area's breaking sports news.

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Blow Up the Choking Dog Sorry Caps: Great team if you want a bunch of poseurs and foo foo hockey players. The two net minders are not playoff caliber and will never win the cup. The Great 8 is all about the regualr season and I guess Semin is making his reservations for a tee time on Thursday. Coach is worthless and needs to go along with GM if Teddy ever wants to plant a big one on the Stanley Cup.So one of them pulls his own teeth out. Who cares? Did it inspire the rest of the losers and poseurs on the team? No. By 23:00 hours on Wed the palyers will be confirming their seats and heading out of town. Rarely do the teams that show a great offense and incredible scoring during the regular season win it all. Doesn't matter if its the NFL, NBA, NHL or the World Cup. Only exception to this is the Yankees who spend the money for the pitching and D to win the World Series.Choking Dogs will be playing golf on Thursday. Hopefully by next September the Choking Dogs will have traded the Great 8, their goalies, the rest of losers and have a new coach and GM in place. If not just like with Snyder and the Redskins rinse and repeat. As currently configured the Caps will never win the Cup.

Dan Steinberg: Well, get ready for lots of this. Amazingly, after a Gene Wang chat Monday night filled with vitriol and dread, and after a Tracee Hamilton chat Tuesday morning filled with vitriol and dread, this appears to be a Dan Steinberg chat Tuesday at lunchtime consisting of vitriol and dread.I'm not sure much what I can add to the discussion, other than I personally will be holding off on my scorn until 23:00 hours on Wed. Did the prior two games, or much of this series, go the way Caps fans might have wanted? Not so much. But the rules say whichever team wins four games first gets to keep playing, and I'm curious to see which team that is.Still, please feel free to unload your frustrations.

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Ovechkin!: Good luck Alex!

Dan Steinberg: Well, at least you're not aggrieved.Was Halak's hand shaking? Well, objectively, it was, though maybe it was because of the squeezing motion. Did that help Halak turn into wondergoalie on Monday? Well, if it did, it didn't seem to help in Game 3. I love the chirping, but I think these guys have enough motivation without quotes factoring in much.

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Caps not giving me a warm fuzzy: Do the Caps have a prayer even getting to the Stanley Cup Finals if they have this much trouble against the No. 8 seed?

Dan Steinberg: Sure. The expert types always said Montreal would be a tougher matchup than Philly. If, somehow, the Caps did make it past the Habs and Flyers, they'd face either the Bruins or the Penguins. It goes without saying that they're not playing very well, but they had much success against both clubs this season. made it to the finals and almost beat Duke.Different sport, sure. Much different in that the fatigure and drain of a seven-game series don't factor in. And it's been almost two decades since a team won the Cup after going seven in the first round.Anyhow, if they lose on Wednesday, I really won't like their chances, but if they win, who knows? I wouldn't bet against it.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!: BOG! Is it time to panic yet?

Dan Steinberg: I think fans are well within their rights to panic.I would prefer not to see the players panic. They have a more talented team, they'll be at home, and at worst they played the Habs even everywhere but on the scoreboard in Game 6. Like Mike Knuble said, they just have to believe in what they do, and in the results it has brought in the past. Remember the panic early in Game 2, and then the Caps did what they've done all year and had an offensive kaboom. Just need another one.

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President's Cup Curse: Why does it always seem the team with the best overall NHL records makes an early exit form the playoffs? The Caps are one game away from following this trend.

Dan Steinberg: Dumb luck, expectations, pressure, the lack of true home-ice advantage.Some have argued that the upsets make the regular season meaningless, and make the NBA playoffs a more compelling product, since an upset there is so much more arresting. Others argue that the fact that anything can happen in the NHL playoffs makes it tough to turn away.Honestly, if forced to choose, I'd trend more toward the former. The regular season is an awful long enterprise, and when you wind up with the 4, 6, 7 and 8 seeds in the Eastern Conference semis, you might wonder what the heck all those 82 games were for. But given the choice, the Caps would surely prefer to be home for Game 7, and that's what the top seed got them.

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Caps game 7: can the Caps pull off the win in Game 7 and who will or should they start in goal?

Dan Steinberg: I don't know that it much matters who they start in goal. I'd stick with Varly, because -- despite his performance in Game 7 against the Penguins -- it just gives me more comfort entering a big game. Yes, he'd like to have at least one of the Game 6 goals back, and maybe all three. Yes, you never know what happens if it's 1-0 after two periods instead of 2-0.But I just don't know that Varlamov is in the top five of reasons why the Caps lost. He's given them a chance to win every game since he took over. I thought it was weird how quickly Boudreau turned away from Theodore, but I don't see why he'd switch it up now. No panic. You're the better team. Just go win.

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D.C.: Word of advice dont go to any Dallas Mavs websites Caron Butler is public enemy No. 1 there

Dan Steinberg: Yeah, even the ex-D.C. stars are having a rough couple of days. Still hoping Caron and the Mavs can come up with something.

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future of the team's fans: Not to beat a dead horse and bring up the bandwagon issue but reading all these blogs and user comments I would bet that most of these fans who seem 'outraged' have no recollection at all of the teams misfortunes in the late 80s and early 90s being up 3-1 and losing. The real question is whether these fans, who get defensive when someone slaps the label 'bandwagon' on them will run for the exits if we lose on Wed? Will they be back next year as loyal Caps fans who accept that this is what this team does from time to time or will they pretend to be too distraught to come back and support the team. Regardless of result they are the only hockey team in town and I'll still support them

Dan Steinberg: On this I will happily disagree with you. I think a good deal of the most outraged, panic-stricken fans are the ones who HAE lived through the misfortunates, and are just scared to death of it happening again. Sure, there are both types in both camps, but it stands to reason that the bandwagon folks would have less invested in this franchise, less understanding of how magical a regular season it was, and less angst about seeing it all drift away.The very concept of the bandwagon is all about supporting the only winning team in town. As long as the Caps keep winning (even if it's just in the regular season), these people will be here. The question is what happens when they start losing, not just first-round playoff series, but in general.Obviously the level of preseason enthusiasm will vary a whole lot based on what happens here, but one playoff loss isn't chasing all these people away.

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Capitals: Can Ovie rally the troops for Wednesday evening? If not, who? Who is the locker room leader?

Dan Steinberg: I'm not in the locker room. By all accounts, Ovechkin isn't the most vocal leader, or the only leader. Players have frequently said he inspires them by the way he plays, and that when he's flying around and smashing bodies and scoring goals, they all get into the spirit. I think that's more important than any "Inches"-style speech in the locker room.Me personally, I'd hand Brooks Laich a mic if I wanted a speech like that from someone in the locker room. But I think it'd be a whole lot more valuable if Ovechkin could flatten Hal Gill and then score a goal within the first two minutes.

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DC sports : So, when will cheering for the local teams cease being an exercise in pain and self-loathing?

Dan Steinberg: If the Caps lose on Wednesday, this is a very, very fair question to ask. If that happens, you'll be looking at back-to-back 100 loss campaigns from the Nats, possibly the most depressing season in Bullets/Wizards history, one of the worst seasons in Redskins history and one of the worst postseason flameouts in Caps history, all concluded within six months.But the fact of the matter is, it hasn't happened yet. So I'd hold off on the self-loathing for a few more days.Though you are looking rather fat. And you're bad at your job. And nobody likes you. So feel free to self-loathe over those things.

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The Strasburg Arrival: How big an event will Strasburg's debut at Nats Park be? And, more importantly, will Wilbon think it's big enough to be there? I'm still kicking myself for missing Walter Johnson's first game at old National Park in Aught 7.

Dan Steinberg: Wilbon's presence really is more important to you? That's weird.It'll be huge. We thought it would be huge way before Strasburg showed up in Pennsylvania and started living up to the hype. But with the way he's pitched, it's now even bigger. At a minimum, the second-biggest game in Nats Park history, after the park's opening day, right?

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Caps: i'm not one to buy into the bangwagon bs, but if that first poster was serious, i would like him to jump off now. win or lose this year, the teams best years are ahead. this roster is and has been flawed from the beginning. unsettled goalie situation, lack of rugged dman and no number 2 center. those will be addressed in the off season and through young guys coming up. this has been obvious to anyone not caught up in the hysteria. everyone needs to calm down...great 8 all about regular season? has this guy even looked at his playoff stats. now is his time to lead. i dont think semin plays golf anyway..

Dan Steinberg: No, I think you're right on the golf. A discoteque joke would have been better.I just dont think many fans will buy into your "best years ahead" philosophy. Maybe you're right. But maybe Ovechkin gets hurt. Maybe none of the young goalies develop the way you expect. Maybe the salary cap becomes an even bigger issue.You just can't count on a dynasty as some god-given inevitability. Everyone associated with the team would admit as much. Right now, they have a fabulous young core of talent, certainly on the offensive side. They had the best record in the league, home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, and two years of postseason experience. Sure, it's not the end of the world if they lose, but you don't know how often you get a chance like this. Can't just cavalierly say "Well, there's always next year."

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jeez: What a bunch of whining pessimists! You've still got a great team here. Why is everyone forgetting all the goals they pumped in while winning games 2-4? Montreal had their backs against the wall. Now they will have to win their third in a row over a very good team that arguably totally outplayed them in game 6. I still like the Caps' chances on Wednesday. I hope all of you ship-jumpers stay away! Who needs these fair-weather fans?!

Dan Steinberg: I think all the anguish and then some will be fine if they lose. If I were a fan, though, I'd conserve the anguish until then. If the Caps pull it off, they'd still be heavy favorites to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, and it's hard to take back all the boo-hooing at that point.

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Cleveland!: So, I'm way late to the game, but I've been busy with work. Thank you for the defense of the city last week. Born and raised in the area, moved to DC and sure, Ohio has problems and the economy sucks there, but walk from Public Square down the mall to the lake, catch the breezes, and you pass the first electric street light in the country. Plus, the Cavs are spanking the Bulls (happy it's not the Wizards?)

Dan Steinberg: As much as I've made fun of cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, as someone who was raised in Western New York, I think they're basically good places to live. Of course, Buffalo and Cleveland haven't had many more titles than D.C. in recent years. But like I always say, the rust belt cities need it more than we do. We live in a pretty vibrant place, and we all mostly feel ok about ourselves and our town. Places like Buffalo and Cleveland could really use the emotional boost.

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Ovechkin/Halak/Hand-shaking: Dear Dan,Maybe I missed something, but what does all of this Ovechkin/Halak "his hand is shaking" nonsense stem from?

Dan Steinberg: After Game 2, which the Caps came back to win in D.C., Ovechkin said he watched the replay of Eric Fehr's goal, which made it 2-1, and saw that Halak's hand was shaking. Replays did indicate that. Ovechkin said it meant Halak was nervous, which was good for the Caps.Mostly just sillliness.

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Ted: Dan - has Ted Leonsis made any comments durng this series?

Dan Steinberg: Certainly he has on his blog. He's been very forthright and honest there.He also was on Fox Sports Radio this am. I'm efforting the audio of that one.

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Stay Medium: Praise to high heaven after Game 4, venom and fire the team after Game 6. Is this wild swing just normal fan passion? Maybe we need zen master Zorn to tell everyone to "stay medium." We have Game 7 in our building, where we have been very good all year. We had the same thing last year with Lundquist and the Rangers. Caps have been here before so here's to hoping they don't press and panic.

Dan Steinberg: Right you are.The thing is, the expectations aren't the same as two years ago or even last year. The expectations were a Cup run. Matt Bradley said the season would be a failure if they don't win the Cup. From that standpoint, no matter what happens on Wednesday, people fear that something bad has been exposed, and that the effort required by this series is hurting the ultimate goal. That's a fair fear.But in the short term, forget about all that. Just know that the Caps have a better team and should win on Wednesday. If they don't, prepare for a cavalcade of yuck.

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Nats ratings/attendance: So if the nationals stay at or above .500, how will this impact the off season coverage of the Redskins? Please phrase your answer in terms of during Capitals/playoff coverage and post Capitals/playoffs coverage.

Dan Steinberg: I'd advise you not to draw your sports-based satisfaction from the amount of coverage devoted to the Redskins. I don't think anything any local team does will lessen our coverage of the Redskins, which is -- by a massive degree -- the most popular thing we do. If we decided to decrease what is far and away our most popular feature, we'd be doing a disservice to our readers, and to ourselves.The traffic the Redskins Insider blog has gotten over the last month, for example, is just absurd. Crushing every other sports blog on our site. Stomping them beneath its hairy paws.Do we all hope that all the local teams win, driving interest for all of them skyward? Yeah, I think so, but that doesn't mean we'll back away from what people are most interested in. Hope for more coverage for all, not less.

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journalist or 'homer'?: Gene Wang - "I'm here to bear the brunt of the frustration"......Really? I thought he was a sportswriter. I didn't realize he worked for the Caps front office. Should fans expect an honest assessment from those with greatest access to a team, or should fans expect 'homerism'?

Dan Steinberg: He was just kidding, he just meant you all should feel free to vent your frustrations. Fans should absolutely expect an honest assessment from those with greatest access to the team.I would hope that any Post sportswriter would tell you that this series has not gone well, and that playing seven against Montreal is not the ideal start for a Cup run. That said, Gene -- like just about all of us -- thinks it's best to see what happens Wednesday before writing the post-mortem.

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Dippin' Dots: If you think Dippin' Dots aren't controversial, I guess you never read any of Marc Fisher's old chats. (He doesn't like 'em, which is putting it mildly.)

Dan Steinberg: I did not know that.I've only had them occasionally, but have always found them to be delightful. Weird, but delightful. I'm not sure there's any ballpark food that I actually dislike. Nothing can touch peanuts in the shell, but that should go without saying.

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Caps game 7: So how many drinks should I have tomorrow afternoon/evening before they drop the puck to begin game 7? I think I'll need to be numb if I'm going to survive watching THE WHOLE GAME!!

Dan Steinberg: Depends if you have to work on Thursday I guess.Not that you need my psychoanalysis of this game, but I figure it's going to be absurdly rowdy (if nervous) during the first few minutes, and that the Caps will be everywhere on the ice. If that happens, and if the Habs still get an early one, I'd be terrified of a repeat of Game 7 against the Penguins. I really, really, really think it'd be a good idea for the Caps not to fall behind in this game. I also think some Mike Knuble/Brooks Laich hard work in front of the net might be the best way to make that happen. That's my magic recipe, anyhow.

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Capstronaut video: So what was in that video you posted that's since been removed from YouTube? Leonsis didn't seem especially happy with the ol' Capstronaut on his blog a few days ago.

Dan Steinberg: I missed that.Capstronaut was inside a bar, sort of swaying around in a way that sometimes people sway after they've been in bars for a while. It was just sort of amusing, but I have no idea who was in the suit or what he or she was doing.

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Don't jump!: Everyone needs to calm down. Yes, we should have already put this series behind us and started resting for round 2 but calling for BB and GMGM to get fired! We played pretty well last night with 54 shots on goal. Any typical day we win that game 6-3. So step back from the ledge, take a deep breath and get ready to rock the red on Wednesday!

Dan Steinberg: I agree with most of this, but I'm not sure how much the 54 shots is a measure of playing well. I'd say it's a measure of a lot of puck possession, certainly, but as many have pointed out, it's the quality of the shot that matters much more than the quantity. There were certainly plenty of great chances, but a good deal of those shots were from distance without a screener. I don't know that those 54 shots yield six goals on any typical day.More importantly, do they yield four goals?

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Caps and the Late season trade: I admit my memory can be faulty, but it seems to me that the Caps downslide coincided with clinching the playoff spot and the big trade near the end of the season. At the time, I thought that trade was crazy. Not because the players aren't good, but because it changes the chemistry on the team and on the lines. Essentially it's changing a well oiled roster right before you need it to perform at peak. My opinion is that maybe you put in one new person but bringing in the number the Caps brought in seems like it's messed with the formerly winning formula.

Dan Steinberg: If I'm adding correctly, the Caps got 19 of 24 possible standings points in the 12 games after the trade deadline.Maybe they weren't playing as well as they had been in the winning streak, but few teams ever do.

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DC Sports pain: "If the Caps lose on Wednesday, this is a very, very fair question to ask. If that happens, you'll be looking at back-to-back 100 loss campaigns from the Nats, possibly the most depressing season in Bullets/Wizards history, one of the worst seasons in Redskins history and one of the worst postseason flameouts in Caps history, all concluded within six months."Don't forget about DC United probably moving away.

Dan Steinberg: Right.

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Ticket hike: If the Caps go out in the first round, how does Leonsis justify raising ticket prices next year? At the time, it appeared as though that decision was based on the seeming inevitability of the Caps winning the Stanley Cup (or at least, making a deep run in the playoffs), not losing in the first round to an 8-seed.

Dan Steinberg: They'd still be on the lower end of NHL prices, for a team that would still be at the higher end of both entertainment and success. And a team that sold every single seat this season. Let's not get carried away. Teams don't run around slashing prices because of first-round playoff losses, unless they actually can't sell the seats.

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"Will they be back next year as loyal Caps fans who accept that this is what this team does from time to time...": As a lifelong Caps fan, pooping the bed in the playoffs is what *usually happens.* The thing that happens "from time to time" is actually winning playoff series.

Dan Steinberg: This.

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Southest Division: Can we petition to get out of the Southeast Division? I think a large part of the team's unreadiness that last two years in the first round has a lot to do with basically have nothing to play for after January. Maybe Tampa will be more competitive with all of its high draft picks.

Dan Steinberg: I understand the concern, but as noted, the Caps had massive success in February and March. The Flyers had everything to play for down the stretch, and yet they closed 4-7-1 and backed their way into the 7th spot. Montreal lost its final three games to back its way into the 8th spot.We can come up with a million excuses. The fact is, the Caps have better talent and need to find a way to win.

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Somebody hasn't been paying attention: "MONTREAL -- Verizon Center will play host to a fourth Game 7 in three seasons on Wednesday -- an almost unthinkable scenario five days ago ..."Surely anyone who has followed the Caps for at least the past, oh, 14 seconds, knows this was and is entirely thinkable, no?

Dan Steinberg: I thought the Caps would win in 5. I thought that before the series, and I thought that after Game 1, and I dang sure thought that after Game 5.That said, I don't think much of anything is "almost unthinkable" in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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If we clinch round 1...: will we get a fresh start or do you think we will be haunted by no power play conversion, sloppy passes, dumb penalties etc?

Dan Steinberg: My guess is that it'd be closer to a fresh start. Certainly they'd be able to exhale. After they polished off the Rangers a year ago, they played pretty great in those first two games against the eventual Stanley Cup champ Penguins.But I don't know any better than you do on this question.

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More dead horse beating: Dan, I have to respectfully disagree with you and agree with the previous poster. I think that most long term Caps fans are also plain hockey fans and they were too busy watching the Blackhawks/Predators game to bother with a Caps post-game spewfest. How many of those folks will watch the 'Yotes/Wings tonight? How many will be watching the playoffs into June? I think that more of the long term fans will than the mob with the torches and pitchforks.

Dan Steinberg: Fair enough. Though if a long-term Caps fan could really shut off Game 6 and peacefully watch Hawks-Preds without sadness in his or her heart, I'd be pretty impressed.I also don't think anger toward the Caps is necessarily proportionate to watching the Stanley Cup Finals or not. Sure, the long-terms are more likely to follow along with the rest of the playoffs, but that doesnt' mean they won't have pitchforks of their own. Maybe I'm wrong; just judging from people that I know.

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Are Nats on the cust of luvable losers?: The Nationals have become a scrappy, hardworking team that's been holding their own. Do you think they could gain some DC love? Everyone loves an underdog.

Dan Steinberg: Yes.

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great Halak? poor shooting!: last night and this morning, so much of the coverage has been on how great Halak was. I saw shot after shot into his midsection though. Semin shot at the logo on his jersey over and over (when he wasn't shooting wide), Ovechkin backhanded it right into his stomach on a breakaway, and Fleischman totally whiffed when he had about 4/5 of an open net to shoot at. Halak did make a couple of nice glove saves, but he was also wagging his glove around in a bit of showmanship on those, just getting into the Caps heads.There wasn't a lot of crashing the net or pouncing on rebounds, and there weren't a lot of magical saves, that I saw. Halak is human, and he's in the Caps heads (just like the Caps had previously gotten in his head with the water bottle drama). He got chased in game 3 for a reason, the Caps need to remember that.

Dan Steinberg: The Fleischmann one was brutal. As a non-goalie and non-scorer, that one struck me as 95 percent on Flash and 5 percent on Halak.But enough people with decades in the game have raved about what Halak did that I'll go ahead and grant that he was doing something right. Maybe Varly would ahve been able to wag his glove had he stopped some of those shots from distance; he didn't, and Halak did.

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Upperville, VA: Memorial Day weekend herding trial Berryville, VA see akc.org for further info.USBCHA Sheepdog Finals Sept 18-26 Belle Grove Plantation in VA.Clear you schedule now. You can blog from Belle Grove all week and transcribe interviews from your 4 legged BC friends.

Dan Steinberg: And so it begins.

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Mike Green: What will it take for the Caps to sit their worst defenseman, Mike Green? It's amazing how Carlson is able to play well in his playoff debut despite very little experience.

Dan Steinberg: Would you rather have Erskine or Sloan on the ice? Obviously you would not.

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Don't give me "if we advance": Don't give me this nonsense about "if the Caps advance." There's no way the Caps win on Wed. I've cheered for the Caps since I was a child in mid 80s and this is what the Caps do. More than anything else, even Ovie, the Capitals are defined by choking in the playoffs. It's what they do. I thought Ted, BB, et al might remove that stench that hangs over this team at all times, but it seems that this has proven even bigger than all of them.Losing.This is what we do, folks.Welcome to Washington.

Dan Steinberg: reversejinx reversejinx reversejinxWell done.I will believe, from now until the day I die, that the results of an April 1987 playoff series do not hang over the head of a kid who was born in Sweden in November 1987. This isn't the Cubs, where players have to deal with curse talk from a massive media corps. I'll bet half the guys on this team have no idea about the choking dogs stuff. If you want to decide that Alex Ovechkin is defined by postseason choking, feel free, but it has nothing to do with your childhood.

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The Biggest Surprise of Game 6...: The Capitals' inability to score when they had a 5-3 advantage.

Dan Steinberg: I don't know if that was the biggest surprise, with the way the power play has been going, but it was definitely the biggest disappointment. The first 25 seconds were agonizing to watch: pass down low, defender lays down, pass up high, pass down low, defender lays down.That's how my mind remembers it, anyhow. It just seemed like there was some sort of magic forcefield preventing any good looks, which is now how a 5-on-3 is supposed to go. I almost thought it was bad when the second penalty came in, because I was worried about how deflating a 5-on-3 failure would be.

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movie comparrison: I think that the Capitals are like the Three Amigos. They thought this first round was just a formality until Montreal (El Guapo) shot them and made them realize that they were in a legitamte series. Not to worry, Caps will defeat the Canadiens in Game 7 just like the Amigos defeated the infamous El Guapo and restore sanity to the people of Verizon Center (Santa Poco)

Dan Steinberg: I'll close with this. Let's hope so. And if not, you can count on The Post providing 16 chats for you to vent on Thursday.In closing, my biggest hope is that we can all get out of that building on Wednesday without anything unpleasant happening, and I'm including boos in that list. I know it's not my bank account that was emptied out for playoff tickets, but golly, there were some cool things that happened this season, and it'd be a shame if the final sound was of jeers. Best way to avoid that is to win. The Caps are the better team. They just have to believe that, and play like it.


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