Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Peerless' Morning After -- Caps vs. Thrashers

Flat . . . they were so flat for the last 30 minutes, you could have poured maple syrup on them and had them for breakfast.

And that’s what is so infuriating. For the first 26 minutes of the game, they played some really fine hockey. The got a nice goal – a scorer’s goal – from Dainius Zubrus pouncing on a succulent rebound from Thrasher goalie Johan Hedberg. They got a shorthanded goal from a streaking Chris Clark, who took advantage of an indifferent attempt to collect the puck by a Thrasher player to pick up the biscuit, skate in alone on Hedberg, and snap the puck into the twine.

But here was the key play of the game at 6:14 of the second period . . . a holding call on Glen Metropolit. Here was the chance to put the game away, to end the competitive part of the contest and let Thrasher Coach Bob Hartley go all whiny and chippy for the last 30 minutes.

And the Caps gagged. They had no shots on goal recorded in the two minutes, and they sent three netward . . . one was blocked by J-P Vigier, Richard Zednik sent one wide, and Kris Beech missed over the top of the net. That was it. A little more than three minutes after the penalty expired, Jon Sim (he of the “I wish every game was against the Caps” Jon Sim) rifled a nifty pass from Ilya Kovalchuk almost through the back of a wide-open net to halve the Caps’ lead.

From there, the Caps played as if their skates had no blade under their toes . . . they were back on their heels. It’s a pity, too, because it wasn’t as if Atlanta played an inspired game. They played as if they came into the building slumming, trying to play just well enough for a win, which is pretty much what they did.

The Caps wasted what was a fine offensive effort from Dainius Zubrus, who had two goals and who continues to show an aggressiveness on offense that has heretofore been unseen in his tenure as a Capital.

The Caps are, as yet, a team that does not have a talent to address adversity very well. They’ve shown an ability to withstand other teams getting a lead and then scratching back, but they haven’t really developed either the killer instinct to put a game away when it’s on their stick, nor have they developed the fortitude to deal with the change in momentum when a club begins to mount a comeback, themselves. Such was the case last night. The Caps looked ill equipped to deal with the Thrashers getting their first goal and swinging the momentum in their direction. Two more goals in 3:17 later, and the Caps were behind.

While that point is where the Caps switched into comeback mode, it should not have come to that. They should have put the game away, or at least maintained the momentum through pressure, on the power play following the Metropolit penalty. But the weak effort gave the Thrashers reason to think they could come back and eat into the most dangerous lead in hockey, the two-goal lead.

The Caps will get a chance to correct this problem against an inferior opponent this evening in Philadelphia. But this was a divisional opponent, one who had taken two extra-time decisions from the Caps already this young season. It was two points the Caps had on their plate and a chance to eat into the Thrashers’ standings lead.

They gave them away. This was a step backward.


Tyler said...

With better talent (and I'm thinking of the team's stupefying weakness up the middle -- GMGM has known this was a problem since NB decided to stay in Sweden) up the middle, that 2-0 lead + a power play might have become a 3-0 lead. The weakness up the middle last night was overwhelming.

The Peerless said...

No argument from me. The Caps are a donut team . . . no middle. Zubrus is having a fine start, but he hasn't given notice that he's a long term solution as a first-line center. After that . . . the second line is a moveable audition. Everyone is getting a shot . . . Beech, Klepis, even Sutherby took a couple of turns there last night.

Tyler said...

I think that what's frustrating to me as a fan is this: It was OBVIOUS that this team was short a C and short a D. And still GMGM did nothing, including letting several affordable options go elsewhere. Even if you're not going to make the playoffs or contend this year, think about how much better a Yannic Perreault would have been for Semin's development than, say, uh, whomever we have there this shift.