Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Devils

Well, The Peerless called that one, didn’t he . . . whoever scores first wins? It’s a sign of where the Caps are at the moment that scoring first would have no meaning; that a club having difficulty coming back in such situations should not only do so, but carry a two-goal lead into the final minute.

And as for the guys who were going to be the bricks and mortar of a win? They were laid up in a hotel room battling a stomach virus, according to Tarik El-Bashir’s column in this morning’s Post. Matt Pettinger, Brian Sutherby, and Steve Eminger – all of whom have been struggling lately – ended up on the shelf. Three more players -- Chris Clark, Mike Green, and Brian Pothier – were ill, but dressed. Pothier’s minutes were reduced by eight from his average for the season; Clark and Green played slightly less than normal.

All in all, it would be hard to find much fault with the Caps last night, especially with the lineup they iced:


Alexander Ovechkin
Dainius Zubrus
Chris Clark
Alexander Semin
Boyd Gordon
Brooks Laich
Kris Beech
Ben Clymer
Jakub Klepis
Donald Brashear
Brian Sutherby Dave Steckel
Matt Pettinger


Brian Pothier
John Erskine Lawrence Nycholat
Bryan Muir Jamie Hunt
Steve Eminger Timo Helbling
Jamie Heward
Shaone Morrisonn
Mike Green


Olaf Kolzig

If there was one line that reflected the evening and had The Peerless scratching his head, it was this one . . . Brook Laich, from Lawrence Nycholat and Kris Beech. That could have been a scoring line from last spring’s Calder playoffs. And here’s one for you . . . Lawrence Nycholat registered the first two point game (1-1-2) by a defenseman in almost a month (John Erskine . . . John Erskine?? . . . December 2, vs. Buffalo). The last one before Erskine’s was October 30th (Shaone Morrisonn vs. Calgary). Whodathunkit, eh?

But here is the nub of the matter . . . New Jersey really hasn’t played like that much a better team than the Caps this year (they came in with 43 points, the Caps 39). But they know how to win games, and they know how to take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses, especially when that opponent has holes in its lineup. For the Caps, the effort was there – Herculean in fact -- but not the ability to finish. That comes with experience – another lesson on the road to competitiveness.

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