Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Morning After -- Caps vs. 'Canes

5-0 . . . 4-1.

That, folks, is the difference between knowing how to do a thing and learning how to do a thing.

It serves little use to try to assign “blame” to any player or aspect of the Caps game in the 4-1 whupping they took at the hands of Carolina last night. Suffice it to say, Carolina is better and leave it at that. Carolina has earned – as if a Stanley Cup isn’t enough to demonstrate – their advanced degree in “hockey.” The Caps are still, in many respects, a group of underclassmen.

If it wasn’t the Caps on the other end of the scoreboard, it could be said that it was a treat to watch the ‘Canes play the game they played – patient, efficient, effective. I had the feeling after about ten minutes of the first period that it was just a matter of time. The difference in the teams came down to this – the Caps spent a lot of energy chasing the play, the Hurricanes spent their time letting the play come to them. They owned the puck, they tilted the ice toward Olaf Kolzig, they had an answer for everything the Caps tried.

That’s not to say that the Hurricanes were dominating in the Buffalo beating Philly, 9-1 sense. They weren’t. They played the game they had to play on the road to win – excellent team defense and opportunistic offense. When finally presented with chances – gift wrapped in the form of four power plays in the second – they took advantage, netting two goals in 1:46. Game over, drive safely.

The stats of the night for the Caps, in an odd way, belong to Alex Ovechkin – 18:48 and three. That would be ice time and shots on goal. He had only five shifts in the second, one of those in the last 21 seconds of the period. Hard to make a difference sitting on the bench.

I don’t feel nearly as bad about this loss as I do the shootout loss to Boston, an opponent the Caps should have buried (and frankly, should bury tonight). If Carolina plays at or close to the top of their game, and the Caps do likewise, Carolina is going to win most games. That’s just a fact of life at this stage of the teams’ respective states of development. But the Caps competed. They didn’t play as if in awe of these guys (they outhit them, 24-16, although Carolina isn’t generally a team given to a lot of hitting). John Erskine and Alex Ovechkin led with three hits apiece, but even Richard Zednik got in on the fun with three of his own. But that isn’t much solace when you get only 22 shots on goal, only four of those from your second line (Semin, Beech, Pettinger).

This goes into the category of “lesson given, lesson learned.”

1 comment:

Tyler said...

Why is A. Semin so happy to settle for shots -- usually wristers -- from above the circles? And I'm not loving him on the point of the PP. It encourages the soft-n-settle mindset in him.