Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meeting the New Guys: Joel Rechlicz

I've got enough time to do a couple more posts before all the camp mayhem begins, so here we go!

Joel Rechlicz (pronouced wreck-lihj)
Birthdate: June 14, 1987
Hometown: Brookfield, WI
Drafted: Undrafted
Height: 6’4
Weight: 220 lbs
Position: Right Wing
Shoots: Right

He has played 21 NHL games so far, 17 in the 2008-2009 season and 6 in the 2009-2010 season. And, in those 21 games, he’s fought, um, EVERYONE. I’m not kidding. Just one YouTube search of his name and you’ll find more than 10 pages of his fights. He even takes on the big guys like Wade Brookbank, Riley Cote, Georges Laraque, Zenon Konopka, and our very own John Erskine. You can find a couple of said videos at the end of this post. As you might expect, he doesn’t score very many goals…pretty much none, in fact.

But let’s focus on the positive! Much like the Caps adding D.J. King, we’ve got an enforcer for Hershey! Nicknamed “Wrecker,” he had 128 penalty minutes in just 21 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, he got 68 penalty minutes and 27 penalty minutes, respectively, while with the Islanders.

Rechlicz signed a one-year, one-way contract with Hershey on July 29, 2010. In 2008, he signed a 3-year contract with the New York Islanders. However, this past summer, they mutually terminated the contract and he was placed on waivers and became a UFA. When he signed with the Islanders, he became the first player from the International Hockey League to make it to the NHL.

I’ve got to say, for being a “tough guy” he can be a bit of an…interesting fighter. While watching a lot of his fights, he makes this pawing-like motion during the moments before the first swing. And, while pawing away, he and his opponent circle each other for quite some time. Sometimes it ends up just being more of a hug than a fight, but that happens to the best of us. Or maybe he’s just trying to hug it out? In all seriousness, he packs a good punch and can stand his own, even against the NHL veteran enforcers.

I love me some hockey fights. Here we go, Joel Rechlicz, everybody!

Rechlicz and a pretty decent fight against Tom Kostopolous.

Rechlicz even fought Brashear while Brash was in Hartford, so that's fun.

And finally Rechlicz fights Michael Rupp and does some gymnastics.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Changing Goalie Leg Pads

Apologies for the small break in posting. I was busy with work and moving apartments. But Flashy Glove Save is back!

The NHL has been putting a lot of energy into changing the restrictions on goalie equipment in recent years. The popular adjective used to describe the new equipment is “form-fitting.” It contours more closely to the body and tends to make the goaltender look “smaller.” The NHL is requiring that all pads be measured by the NHL. It’s messy and complicated over something that may appear to be only a small change.

Specifically, we’re going to take a look at how the leg pads are being altered. According to the new standards, the knee risers on the side of the pad will be smaller by about half an inch. It may not seem like a lot but that’s half an inch where a puck could slide under when going into the butterfly. Additionally, the calf protector is no longer wedged out from the leg, but sewn close to it. Another potential weak spot for pucks to slip past. But the most controversial change is the potential chance in the height of the leg pads. There is no real blanket limit for all goalies, but instead an individual measurement, proportional for each. While this may sound fair, it means that the smaller goalies will have smaller pads. Larger goalies, who already can cover more of the goal, will be allowed larger pads to possibly give them even more of an advantage.

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, we can get some insight on how goaltenders in the league are reacting to these changes.

Dan Ellis (of the Tampa Bay Lightning) is among those who have confidence that the new equipment will only help goalie speed. When asked about the new rules, he answered:

“…smaller equipment only helps to move faster”

Later, he tweeted about the official changes he had to make:

“New standards had my pads 1/2" shorter...looking fwd to the change! Easier to move. Thx NHL”

Dan Ellis is 6’0. He’s amongst the “smaller” goaltenders that have to adjust to slightly smaller leg pads. It’s probably not enough to make any change to his abilities and he can easily adapt to his new gear.

Mike McKenna, a member of the New Jersey Devils system, is 6’2. He also seemed confident that playing ability will not be hindered by the pads.

“I could go up to a half inch bigger if I wanted. Not many guys are losing inches. It won't matter anyway. Athletes > gear.”

He also was one of many to note how complex this seemingly simple change actually is.

“34+4's for me...doubt they'll fly. Short shins. Proposed rules package resembles college calculus so who knows.”

As already mentioned, this means that bigger goalies are not really impacted yet smaller goalies must have smaller pads. Bigger goalies may even be able to have bigger pads than they had before. For goalies 6’0 and under, such as Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Chris Osgood, etc, they have to work even harder to make up for their lack of size.

Now some may argue that there aren’t many goaltenders 6’0 and under and therefore it wouldn’t make too much of a difference. However, this new change could impact goaltending prospects. How will the future of goaltending change because the NHL keeps changing their equipment measurements? Currently, shorter goaltenders are sometimes preferred because they are usually lighter and speedier. But with smaller equipment, speed alone might not be enough.

The NHL officials mention two “advantages” of the form-fitting equipment. First, they believe it be safer for goaltenders. And, secondly, they foresee the game becoming a more high-scoring event. Let’s focus on the safety issue first.

Even though the NHL believes the new restrictions to help goalie safety, many are concerned that it will do the opposite. With these new measurements and adjustments, goalies may be forced to make quicker movements and faster reactions to stop a goal. These changes have raised many concerns about an increase in injuries to goalies. On Twitter, Kevin Weekes pointed this out:

“Me no like, enough gear changes already! When will it ever end? Hip, knee surgeries are through the roof. Scorers still score goals”

Related to the above tweet, the other selling point of the new equipment changes is the potential increase in goals per game. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a good idea. It’s easier to sell hockey to a new audience that is unfamiliar with the sport when there are high-scoring games. To those of us already in love with the game, it’s not really great news. Personally, I think that some of the most exciting games are the ones that end with a 1-0 score. And it definitely seems that guys like Alex Ovechkin, Sydney Crosby, and Ilya Kovalchuk don’t seem to be having a problem finding room to score.

So, is this going to be a concern for the goaltenders of the Capitals? Long story short? Not really, not yet. Semyon Varlamov is 6’2, Michal Neuvirth (and Braden Holtby if we look even farther) is 6’1. If any of them have to make changes to their pads, it will be very small. All three also play very aggressively so I don’t think that their style will be negatively impacted.

No word yet on how Brett Leonhardt’s game will be affected.

All photos are my own work. You can see more at my Flickr.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fighting the "South Least" Label

Yesterday it was announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning traded goalie prospect Karri Ramo for Montreal Canadiens for goalie prospect, Cedrick Desjardins. Now this may seem like a very minor move since Desjardins will most likely be spending the season in Norfolk. However, it’s a sign of the depth they’re building. And a sign that the Southeast Division is changing.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the big moves each team in the division has made during the post-season.

The Atlanta Blackhawks, er, I mean Thrashers picked up Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Sopel, all from Chicago. Obviously, these guys all know what it takes during playoffs. I think Dustin Byfuglien was a particularly good pick-up because his net-crashing abilities are needed. They also signed Chris Mason, a great veteran goaltender to compliment Ondrej Pavelec. A lot of great signings for a team that was starting to show their abilities at the end of last season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Antero Niittymaki but gained Dan Ellis. They also got Dominic Moore, Marc Pouliot, and Simon Gagne, to name a few. They regained Pavel Kubina, who last played for the Lightning in 2005-2006. As I mentioned above, they have Desjardins now, along with a lot of prospects in Norfolk. Look for guys like Dustin Tokarski, Ty Wishart, and Radko Gudas to make an impact.

Florida Panthers haven’t been making too many ripples but have gotten Marty Reasoner and Steve Bernier. Bernier is improving every year and, barring any injuries, should continue to. Dennis Wideman is also a new addition, an underrated player last season with the Bruins. They could still use a few pure scorers but are a scrappy team and put up a good fight.

Carolina Hurricanes have also had a fairly quiet offseason. They re-signed Joe Corvo after his brief stint in Washington. I think that once guys like Jamie McBain and Brandon Sutter gain a bit of confidence and steady playing time, they will take off. They’ll also bring a touch of youth to a somewhat “older” team.

Besides re-signing some key components, the
Capitals have not done too much in the offseason. They added an enforcer and mostly seem to be relying on prospects like Neuvirth, Carlson, and Alzner to take over.

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be a little intimidating when I see the other teams in our division loading up while the Caps (mostly) sit quietly. However, take a closer look at these teams. Our opponents are picking up pieces that they desperately need, pieces that will hopefully keep them in the top of the rankings. The Caps already have the major pieces they need. Sure, some might say we need a veteran D-man but I think we did alright last season without one. And the Caps are notorious for playing to their opponent’s level, in a good way or not. Think about it. How many games did the team seem to still be a little sleepy or lazy when they played against teams who were at the bottom of the rankings? Too many. But they were always awake and giving a good effort when they faced teams who they knew they stood a good chance at seeing during playoffs.

The Caps play 24 games a season against other Southeast division teams. I’d much prefer to Caps to play those 24 games against solid competitors than against some bottom rung teams. It’s more experience and more talent to face, similar to playoffs. Maybe it’ll be that little push or reminder that you do not get handed a win based off of who “should have” won.

Last season, Southeast teams took up 4 of the bottom 8 teams in the league. This season they work to change that. So, what do you think? Is the Southeast Division working its way out of the “South Least” label? I guess we’ll have to let this season do the talking.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meeting the New Guys: Brian Fahey

When you look at the current roster on the Capitals website, you can’t help but notice that it looks like one guy snuck himself in. That guy is defenseman Brian Fahey. On July 7th, 2010, it was quietly announced that he had signed a one year, two-way contract with Washington. He didn’t even get his own announcement; it was split with the signing of forward Kyle Greentree.

Name: Brian Fahey
Birthdate: March 2, 1981
Hometown: Glenview, IL
Drafted: 4th round, 119th overall by the Colorado Avalanche
Height: 6’1
Weight: 216 lbs
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right

I have to admit that my bleeding heart wants him to get a call-up this season. At 29 years old, he’s an established AHL veteran but he has yet to play a game in the NHL. Last season, he was called up by the Colorado Avalanche in November but was sent back down two weeks later without dressing for a single game. He was called up again for depth during playoffs but the Avalanche were eliminated before he was needed.

Hershey lost a few veterans this off-season and will probably lose their prodigies, Karl Alzner and John Carlson. I think he’ll be an excellent addition to Hershey. He adds to the defense and brings years of experience to the team. He helped lead the Chicago Wolves to a Calder Cup Championship in 2008, getting ten points in the post-season. CapGeek.com lists him as making $500,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL. As John Walton says, “Hershey doesn’t rebuild, they reload.”

However, Fahey isn’t new to Hershey but he is new to Washington. He played 12 games for the Bears in 2002-2003 while they were still Colorado’s affiliate. In those 12 games, he had no goals and one assist. That same season, he spent most of his time playing in the ECHL for the (now defunct) Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies. Fahey was named to both the WCHA and the ECHL All-Rookie Team during his career.

Fahey also brings the kind of attitude teams like to see in their veterans. During the 2006-2007 season with the Chicago Wolves, he was awarded the “Tim Breslin Unsung Hero Award.” This award is given to the player on the Chicago Wolves “who best typifies Breslin’s on-ice spirit and team-first attitude.” In
Lake Erie, he wore an ‘A.’ Coaches seem to feel comfortable giving him a bit of responsibility and he seems to feel more comfortable having that responsibility.

The University of Wisconsin graduate played with the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He finished with 11 goals and 14 assists in 71 games. He got a lot of time on Lake Erie’s power play unit: 6 of his 11 goals were power play goals. While not a fighter, he does seem to have a bit of a physical playing style. He accumulated 97 penalty minutes in the last season.

As always, I end this with a video. It’s good to know that literacy is important to Fahey.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Impact of Steve Pinizzotto

The Capitals are still looking to fill a few holes in their roster before the season starts. While, I don’t think that Steve Pinizzotto will make the opening day line-up, I would like to propose the reasons why he should be one of the first call-ups from Hershey.

Fans (and sometimes coaches) often get annoyed when the high scorers in the AHL are called up and do not immediately make the same impact in the NHL as they did in the A (see: Alexandre Giroux). Barring nerves or other outside factors, I think that Pinizzotto can continue to play the style he’s comfortable with and see results. And anyone willing to rock the facial he did at the Calder Cup Rally is okay in my book.

To put it simply, Steve Pinizzotto is clutch. Of the 13 goals he scored in the past regular season, 5 of them were shorthanded. That means that over a third of his goals were shorthanders. Money. And, sure, he can score those shorties, but he’s also a great penalty killer because of his defensive prowess too. He can read plays with the best of them and he knows just where to be to either clear the puck or to stop the puck.

Now let’s take a look at some of his stats from the past two seasons.

2008-2009: 45 GP | 4 G | 7 A | 11 Pts | +4 | 61 PIM

2009-2010: 69 GP | 13 G | 28 A | 41 Pts | +40 | 124 PIM

2009: 21 GP | 3 G | 2 A | 5 Pts | +5 | 28 PIM

2010: 21 GP | 5 G | 3 A | 9 Pts | +6 | 33 PIM

This past season, his 5 shorthanded goals tied for best in the league and he tied with Bourque for the lead in shorthanders during the playoffs. He had the highest +/- rating on the team with +40 and was third in the entire league.

During playoffs, his five goals included a shorthanded goal, a game-tying goal, and a game-winning game. He also received a number one star during the Conference Finals.

Despite the increase in penalty minutes this season, Pinizzotto has been a smarter player. There are less needless retaliation penalties and therefore less selfish decisions. Of course, that’s not to say that he has backed away from his physical style of play. Take the March 14th, 2010 game against the Worchester Sharks. Pinner got 16 penalty minutes, 14 of which came after the game had ended (It’s also worth nothing that he finished with one assist and a +1 rating, despite the 6-2 loss). But you can watch any game and Pinizzotto will never be a non-factor.

When it boils down to it, I’m rooting for Pinner to come to Washington because he’s aggressive but still has the offensive touch that can balance him out. He’s not a pure scorer, like Ovechkin, but he’s not a goon, like King. He’s a grinder and he’s going to work hard every shift. He won’t back down from any challenge. My only complaint would be that he should consider shooting a little more often. He doesn’t average very many shots per game but he’s got a pretty vicious aim. But he knows his role and understands that his job is to keep the game under Hershey’s control and tempo. Whether it’s a huge open ice hit or blocking shots, Pinizzotto is an energy guy and he has a huge impact on the team morale.

We’ve got a great prospect on our hands here. He went undrafted and we signed him in March of 2007. According to CapGeek.com, he’s slated to make $105,000 in the AHL and $537,500 in the NHL. It’s a lot of potential for not a lot of money. Pinizzotto is a UFA after this season and we need to see him in action in the NHL before we risk letting his contract run out. His confidence and level of comfort are growing every season and I think it’s time he finally cracked the big league. Washington could use his care-free yet aggressive style of play if not for a ton of minutes, then at least for the penalty kill.

To wrap up, some videos of Pinizzotto beating up guys named Lane:

And an awesome “History Will Be Made” parody, featuring Pinner:

All photos are my own work. You can see more at my Flickr.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What Have They Been Up To? Summer 2010

We all know the popular things that hockey players like to do in their offseason; they golf, they vacation, they train. And, for the most part, that is exactly what the players in the Caps organization are doing. Now that Varly is back in D.C., we’re going to look at a few of the activities that the guys we know and love have been up to since the season ended.

Joining the ranks of Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Fisher (and pretty much every other celebrity who has gotten married this summer), Dean Arsene and Keith Aucoin each got hitched this summer. Both tied the knot in July: Arsene in Abbotsford, BC and Aucoin in Atlantic City. I’m running out of cute wedding idioms so we’re going to have to move on to the next topic. But BIG congratulations to both of the happy couples. We hope you have many more years of happiness together!
(By the way, if you’re questioning Arsene’s presence in a blog about Caps/Hershey players, please excuse yourself. He will, always and forever, be a Bear to me.)

Since the NHL Awards, it has been mostly quiet on the Mike Green front. But at least we know that he got to enjoy a Blue Jays game and even got his Roberto Alomar jersey signed. Hockey players…so like us.

Brooks Laich and Matt Bradley took part in Bruce Boudreau’s charity golf tournament. And if you haven’t seen this interview with the three on Off The Record, then you are seriously missing out. The video won't embed but you can click the picture to see the whole thing.

Alex Ovechkin…has been quite busy. This is probably surprising to no one. When he’s not vacationing and partying with his new gal and friends, he’s got his job as advisor to the president of the Unified Hockey Club Dynamo to keep him occupied. Recently, he took part in a fun competition, sponsored by Reebok, that pitted him against Pavel Datsyuk. It looks hilarious. I wish I could have seen it. You can find more pictures and an interview with Ovechkin at Alex Ovetjkin.

And, finally, members of the Hershey Bears have been enjoying their days with the Calder Cup. I know that Andrew Gordon and Bryan Helmer are still waiting for their days but Mathieu Perreault and Ashton Rome have already gotten theirs.

I hope the guys have been relaxing and enjoying their free time because camp starts in six weeks and I, for one, will be busting down the doors of Kettler Capitals Iceplex.