Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Peerless' Morning After -- Caps vs. Canucks

Well, there’s one thing to be said for the Caps this year . . . they give fans more than their money’s worth. The fourth extra time (third shootout) game this year – that’s an extra period of hockey for the paying customer – and the fourth loss.

Losing 3-2 in a shootout to Vancouver isn’t the worst thing in the world – a road point on a far-western tour is always a plus – but it’s the how they let that second point get away that rankles. Take away the fine second period the Caps played, and they had five shots in 45 minutes of play (first and third periods, plus overtime). Vancouver’s defense has played well thus far, but the Caps didn’t exactly make their job harder, either. Maybe they were wowed by the new scoreboard hovering over the rink like one of those spaceships in “Independence Day.”

Clearly, the star for the Caps on this night was Olaf Kolzig, with 42 saves on 44 shots. But there lies the problem, too. Kolzig took a shot off the inside of his left knee late in the third, and it would be a problem for him as the clock ticked on and the leg seized up on him. He has faced 35 or more shots in five of the seven games he’s played so far, and he’s faced 92 shots in his last two games. That’s a bit much to ask of a 36-year old. It won’t show up now, perhaps, but even with Kolzig having come in lighter this year, one would think this kind of workload is going to make its effects felt once we get past game 50 on the schedule. All this work is also how a guy with a .910 save percentage for the year (.920 in his last four games) – good for 16th in the league at the moment – also has a 3.24 GAA (27th).

Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and a helper, but rang the post in a shootout for his seventh straight misfire. At the other end, Brendan Morrison snuck the puck inches over the line between Kolzig’s legs to clinch the shootout win. So, the game might have come down to a few inches – Ovechkin not banking the puck off the post and into the net, Morrison managing just enough to get the puck to inch over the line. Of such margins playoffs are gained or lost.

Much will be made of Ovechkin’s problems on the shootout lately, but there is another, perhaps more important one to think about. The Caps have been involved in three shootouts this year, and their goalies have given up five goals on seven shots. That is good for dead last in the league in save percentage (.286). Kolzig and Johnson have, on balance, played well in regulation and in overtime (where the Caps have allowed one goal in 18:02 of playing time). But the Caps have been outscored 5-0 in shootouts – did The Peerless mention yet how much he hates shootouts? The Caps’ difficulties here is the difference between being 10th in the conference – where they reside this morning – and fourth.

But all that said, let's end on a good note -- and a good thing it is. The Caps played a bad first period, giving up more goals (two) than they had shots (one). But the boys played for 60 minutes. With spit, baling wire, a tough old goalie, and some opportunistic crashing to the net they fought off a regulation loss and gained a point for their efforts. That's the kind of effort that can be rewarded over the course of a season, too.

One last thing . . . last night was, as The Peerless understands it, a “vintage” game for the Canucks. Well, let me just say that the vintage uniforms are a bland affair, but The Peerless thinks Roberto Luongo’s mask is the best of its kind in the league.

-- The Peerless

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