Well, it seems that the Caps’ formula for winning can be summed up with this acronym:
“Get a Lead” . . . “Let Olie Do It.”
Last night, the Caps withstood an early storm by the Tampa Bay Lightning, made them pay for letting the Caps off the hook by getting a late first-of-game goal from Kris Beech in the first period, pounded three pucks into the back of the net in the second to take a 4-0 lead (and seemingly end the competitive portion of the game), then turned the game over to Kolzig in the third (25 shots on net faced, two goals surrendered – not a bad game total).
The Peerless will tell himself all morning that it’s not “how,” it’s “how many” – wins that is, and this one is nice, given that it: a) ends a six-game winless streak, and b) comes at the expense of a division opponent on their ice.
But let’s not kid ourselves, either. But for the rank ineptitude of the Tampa power play (nothing to show for seven opportunities and 24 total shots on goal with the man-advantage) and the Comanecian gymnastics of Kolzig in the nets (saving 48 of 50 shots on goal), this would have been an ugly game for a Caps fan to endure.
The number that sticks in The Peerless’ head this morning is this one . . .
That represents the total of shots on goal, missed shots, and shots blocked by Capitals. That’s approximately one shot sent toward the net every 45 seconds. And let’s put that number in further perspective. Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks scored more points in an NBA game than any other team – 109. In doing so, they took 85 shots from the floor (we don’t include free throws for this comparison, since the clock is stopped for those instances). The Tampa effort was as close to a run-and-gun NBA game as you’re likely to find. With apologies to Cristobal Huet and Roberto Luongo – both of whom are goaltenders who had fine games last night – neither was better than Olaf Kolzig in earning their respective three-star recognition from NHL.com.
But what about the good stuff? Well, there was, actually, and not just the win. The Caps had five different players score the five goals – Beech, Boyd Gordon (shorthanded), Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, and an empty-netter by Alexander Ovechkin. That’s two from the first line and three from . . . SOMEWHERE ELSE!
Then there are the even strength goals. In the six-game slide, the Caps had two of that sort. Mites score more at the intermission of one game. The Caps had four even-strength tallies in this one (including the Ovechkin empty-netter).
And there is John Erskine. Plus-three and a swat at everyone’s favorite wind-up doll, Martin St. Louis.
But if The Peerless had to give a slice o’ pie to one Cap last night, it would have been Matt Pettinger. As time goes by, he gives more indication that his coming-out last year was not fluke. He had the primary assists on each of the Caps first two goals last night – one in his role as the right wing (the “Chris-Clark-lite” role) on the second line, the other in a penalty killing situation. He was plus-three for the night and played with a consistent level of intensity.
But heavens to Murgatroid . . . what a night for Kolzig. 48 saves on 50 shots (.960 save percentage), 25 shots faced in the last period (13 of those from the big three of St. Louis, Brad Richards, and Vincent Levcavalier), 24 power play shots faced.
Sometimes, you lose games you scratch your head and ask, “how?” You play at a high effort level, you get a ton of chances, and you end up losing the bounces of the puck that night. Then there are those games you have no business winning. You get outshot, outchanced, outplayed. But you take advantage of just about every opportunity you get, and you get a standout performance from the goalie. It isn’t pretty, but this isn’t the Beauty Contest System that is college football, either. Two points is granted for every win, no matter how it looks. And two points looks mighty fine this morning.