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Brian Eller

My first hockey experience

I will be the first to admit I'm not a big hockey fan. Growing up around Baltimore there was no NHL team and the only hockey I was exposed to was the short-lived Baltimore Bandits of the AHL (sweet logo, btw).

This year, however, I decided I would try to get into the sport and the Washington Capitals would be the team to hopefully spark my interest. So Wednesday night I sat down and caught most of the Capitals game against the New York Islanders. It was a pretty dull game (at least to me) with the Capitals scoring a late, power-play goal to win, 2-1. That being said, there are a few things I took away from the Caps I thought I would share ...

1. That Alexander Ovechkin guy is pretty good.

Yea, I know all about him through Sportscenter highlights and my old roommate's fascination with Sidney Crosby, therefore hatred for Washington's left wing. But having a chance to watch him for an entire game let me see a man who is deceivingly fast, great at handling a puck and unquestionably the leader of this team that is picked by many to go far in the postseason. His goal toward the end of the second period restored the energy in the Verizon Center and his strike on the power play with less than five minutes remaining led to the winning goal from Nicklas Backstrom. Very impressive, indeed.

2. Michal Neuvirth deserves just as much praise.

During Wednesday's third period, the Islanders' strong front line came at Neuvirth with a vengeance, rattling off 12 of their 24 shots on goal at the third-year goalie. While he let one slip by him in the first period, all 12 shots fired at Neuvirth during the third period bounced off of him. It seemed like New York was constantly hassling him, even when both teams were at full strength. During the Islanders' only power play of the period, they managed zero shots on goal, helping Neuvirth improve the Capitals' record to 3-1 this season.

3. Fights in hockey are pointless.

Maybe it's because I'm still very raw with my hockey experience, or maybe because I'm a lover, not a fighter. But watching these guys fight on the ice doesn't get me riled up. In fact, it's annoying. I don't really see the point of two guys exchanging blows just because one guy got away with something the other guy didn't like. They'll both drop their gloves, other players will give them space and fans will hoop and holler for about 60 seconds until someone has "won." The problem is that despite taking off their gloves, the players are still extremely padded and standing on ice wearing skates doesn't really allow you to stay stationary for too long. This evolves into both guys spinning around while holding each other by the jerseys in an attempt to land a punch that, more often than not, doesn't even come close. It's like watching a really ugly music box figurine dancing to the tune of 30,000 fans screaming their heads off. Call me old fashioned, but I'll take a guy charging the mound any day.

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Well Brian I am glad you decided to attend a hockey game and a Caps game to boot. Admittedly you are new to the sport but I encourage you to give it a chance. The first thing you should do is gain knowledge through other sources and maybe pick up a bit of history.Background knowledge always helps in learning to appreciate anything new. The Complete Book of Hockey compiled by "The Hockey News" is good. Hockey Blogs: Japers Rink, On Frozen Blog, Capitals Insider, Jumping the Glass to name a few will give you insight and a better grasp of the game, the players, and their particular skills (or lack thereof). You dont like the fighting, fair enough, but if you invest the time to learn the sport I believe you will find that hockey does not suffer (mostly) from the same negative aspects that we have come to see from football, baseball, and basketball e.g off rink crimes, steroids or other drugs, and any number of unfavorable things you read and here about in the press from the other professional sports. Hockey players are mostly home town guys who are the best at what they do. Watch and listen to their interviews and you will find most are low key, humble, and want to do whats best for the team. Give'em a chance.

Regarding my comment, I incorrectly typed "here" instead of "hear". I do know the difference. Go Caps!

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