Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Bruins . . . Again

So . . . you had a hard day at work yesterday. You get a night’s sleep, only to find out the next morning you get into your car to find that it has no first, second, or third gear . . . a spark plug isn’t firing . . . your brakes are iffy.

Hard to get to work, isn’t it?

That’s what the Caps found themselves with last night as they completed the second half of a back-to-back set of games, this one in Boston against the Bruins.

Usually, the Caps’ top line would be Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, and Chris Clark. But, with Zubrus out with an upper or lower body injury, and Clark out with dental work, Ovechkin’s first shift was taken with Jakub Klepis centering him and Ben Clymer on the right side. By the time Ovechkin scored the game-tying goal late in the third, it was Klepis centering (having just hopped on in relief of Kris Beech) and Matt Pettinger on that line (Ovechkin scored with he and Pettinger having already been on the ice for almost three consecutive minutes). In between, it was catch as catch can.

The Caps are not a deep team, and to expect: a) a victory (hey, Peerless, you did), b) a victory on the road, c) a victory on the road in the second of back-to-back games, and d) a victory on the road in the second of back-to-back games with two thirds of the top line and a third of the second line out, is a bit of a reach.

Think of it another way . . . of the 12 forwards skating, five (Gordon, Laich, Beech, Klpeis, and Flieschmann) had a total of 347 games of experience apiece, less than a full season on average.

That’s not an excuse, it’s an observation. Meaning, there will be times when the fact that the Caps’ talent will not match whatever potential it has, and as younger guys are thrust into positions of greater responsibility, shortcomings will be clearer to see.

But all that said, the Caps earned a standings point – the second point they should have earned Wednesday night against this club. Klepis scored his first of the year on a fine move in close on Boston goalie Tim Thomas, and Ovechkin one-timed a nice cross-ice feed from Pettinger to tie the game and earn the point. Brent Johnson recorded another solid – if unlucky – performance in relief of Olaf Kolzig, victimized in overtime by the Caps’ inability to clear their own zone and a near hand-pass violation by Glen Murray, who scored the game winner.

We’re at the 20-game mark, and the Caps are 8-6-6 (we’ll have more to say about that in another entry). That six at the end of the line is the number that jumps out (the Caps are 1-6 in overtime/shootout games this year). If they’d have halved those six losses and earned three more standings points, they’d still be in seventh place in the conference this morning (tied with Montreal in wins and points, but Montreal would have a game in hand). But they could be tied with Atlanta for the division lead (if they’d won their two OT/SO games against Atlanta).

What the Caps lack at the moment is an ability to finish (not to mention score a shootout goal). It’s all part of the development. At the moment, though, in the larger scheme of things it’s hard to be disappointed with where this team is at.

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