Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Devils

Well, now we’re going to see why it is that the Caps aren’t at all a sure thing to make the playoffs this year . . .

Depth.

The Caps lost a game last night to a good, if not great Devils team – the product of the play of a great, not just good goaltender, Martin Brodeur. But that was incidental to the bigger picture – as Tarik El-Bashir reports in this morning’s Post, the Caps are without the services of Matt Bradley (broken finger), Richard Zednik (abdominal surgery), Bryan Muir (broken foot), John Erskine (broken foot), and Shaone Morrisonn (flu). All except perhaps Morrisonn will be out for a stretch of games.

A young team that loses almost a third of its starting skaters might not be expected to maintain for any significant length of time the performance level they’ve enjoyed (in this case, the Caps are still the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference this morning). Holes get filled by the likes of Alexandre Giroux (three NHL games of experience) and Jeff Schultz (first NHL game last night). Another call-up from Hershey is expected before the Caps take the ice against Toronto tonight. One can speak of this as an opportunity for others to step up (it is) and a chance to see a couple of kids playing well at Hershey on the bigger stage (it is), but it makes a young team younger and an inexperienced team in the ways of winning at this level more so.

The Caps’ problems were evident last night. The Devils executed their game plan – take advantage of the power play (2-for-4), shot down the Caps’ power play (0-for-4), make things tough for Alex Ovechkin (five shots, but not a large factor for most of the game).

On the other hand, the Caps put forth a credible effort and had some chances, especially early in the contest, but it was a case of having too few bullets in the gun to compete at the same level with a veteran team such as the Devils.

This is a dangerous part of the schedule for the Caps coming up. From now until their next division game (Atlanta, January 9), the Caps have only one game against a team not competing for a playoff spot (Phoenix). They start in Toronto tonight, then face off with Buffalo, Montreal, the Devils once more, the Rangers, that Phoenix game on New Year’s Day, and Montreal again, before returning to division play. Doing it with a somewhat depleted team makes the task just that much harder. The Caps have 37 points in 34 games. If they take the ice against Atlanta on January 9th with, say, 44 points in 41 games, they might be said to have weathered a storm . . .

. . . provided they incur no other major injuries.

That’ll do it for The Peerless until next week. Here’s hoping you and yours enjoy a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a joyous Kwanzaa, and many hours of happy hockey thoughts . . .

“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

-- Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” December 1843

2 comments:

Tyler said...

Exactly. I was thinking that in the second period. With Zed on the Caps' fourth line there's at least a minor scoring threat somewhere else. With him gone that's absent. With 87 on that fourth line and with CBS on the third, you have two punishing lines. Also currently absent.

Tyler said...

I also thought J. Schultz acquitted himself well, especially considering he played 22 minutes. Heck, the Caps have been unwilling to give Mike Green that kind of ice time.

Princess, Suts, Semin: Invisible.

Hanlon may have been so cute trying to keep AO away from John Madden that he destroyed his team's flow.