Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Peerless' Morning After -- Caps vs. Lightning

It wasn’t quite as ugly as the opening night loss to the Rangers, but the 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay last night was not the kind of “statement” the club might have been wanting to make in this, the last of three divisional games in Statement Week.

A lot of little things – and one big one – went wrong for the Caps. First, the big bad thing – 13:24. That is how much time the Caps spent shorthanded last night on seven penalty kills. Although the Lightning went only 1-for-7 on the power play, that’s a lot of time not getting either Alexander Ovechkin or Alexander Semin on the ice, and it’s a lot of time either not getting or not having any sort of rhythm on the ice – the club is always back on its heels, defending, which is something the Lightning – a comparatively veteran squad – knows how to take advantage of.

If one part of the Caps’ club could be faulted for the result, it would be the defense. When Tampa Bay had the puck, they spent their time, for the most part, backing up. The Lightning – even at even strength – won battles for the puck and seemed to move the puck at will in the offensive zone. On offense, the defensemen couldn’t get the puck to the net and had a difficult time holding the puck in the offensive zone.

It would be easy to fault Olaf Kolzig for yielding six goals, and he did his part in this mess. The first of two goals by Nikita Alexeev was the one that should have been stopped and served to break any lingering momentum the Caps might have had during the evening. It was the second of two goals in a 22-second span that were of the ugly variety, if you’re a goaltender. The first of those – what should have been a futile wrap-around chance by Martin St. Louis – snuck between Kolzig’s left skate and the post to tie the game. Alexeev’s seemingly harmless shot from far edge of the right-wing circle seemed to surprise Kolzig, who appeared to be unfocused. That, for all intents and purposes, was the good ol’ hockey game. The rest was just details.

But I’ll say this . . . when the Caps fell behind 5-2 on Alexeev’s second goal, they didn’t quit. Brian Sutherby, who might have been the best Cap on this ice on this night, notched his first as a product of hard work in front of the net. Later, Alexander Ovechkin – who did, then didn’t already have a goal credited to him earlier in the game – got one of his very own by picking up some trash at the doorstep, tapping the puck past Marc Denis’ right pad. Ovechkin, who was frustrated a good portion of the evening by some creative “old style” (meaning “circa 1999”) hockey on Tampa’s part – to its credit – started taking his frustrations out on Lightning players in the third when he appeared to register more than the one hit for which he was ultimately credited on the evening. And I have to say, even though Richard Zednik was a -2 on the evening, he was a one-man puck possession machine – fighting off Tampa defenders deep in the offensive zone.

There are going to be games like this, when things just don’t quite . . . well, work. There is an old saying about baseball – out of 162 games, there are 40 you’re going to win, no matter what, and there are 40 you’re going to lose, no matter what. It’s what you do with the rest that matter. Well, in a season as long as hockey’s the same thing seems to apply . . . there are 20 games you’ll win, no matter what, 20 you’ll lose. This one seems to have been one of the latter.

Six goals from a team that had only 16 in seven games coming in – and five of those on the shelf with Ryan Craig injured – was not in the script. It brings to mind part of another script, one from a rather famous film . . .

“This is ridiculous . . . “

“What are we going to do?”

“Road trip.”

See you in Denver, boys.


Netsy said...

Good catch on Zednik's work in the Caps-Lightning game, Peerless. As much as I wanted to decry Richie's inability to shoot anywhere but that poorly-designed Lightning logo on the front of Marc Denis' sweater, I was rather impressed with the serious battling for the puck he was doing all game long. He gets an "A" for effort, anyway!

CP said...

Another solid post there peerless.
Zednik seems to love controlling the play behind the net and he is awfully good at shielding the puck away from the defender and sometimes even steal the puck when he loses to the defender.

Tyler said...

It was a third-game-in-four-nights second period. What's puzzling is how few penalties the Caps have drawn in recent games. We have some speed/quickness guys, but aren't drawing calls. I'd like to read more about why that is....