Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Peerless' Morning After -- Caps vs. Flames

2-1-1 . . . If anyone had anticipated that the Caps would go 2-1-1 against . . . a club that had 43 wins and 95 points last year . . . a club with a goaltender that has given the Caps fits in recent outings . . . and Stanley Cup finalists in the last two seasons . . . I daresay folks would have been thrilled.

For the record . . .

- The Caps held Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary to an 11-11 standstill on the scoreboard (Vancouver would get an extra “goal” by virtue of a shootout).

- The Caps were 3-for-15 on the power play (20.0 percent). They killed off 21 of 25 shorthanded situations (84.0 percent).

- The 11 goals were spread among six players . . . Dainius Zubrus (4), Alexander Ovechkin (2), Richard Zednik (2), Chris Clark, Mike Green, and Matt Bradley.

- Olaf Kolzig went 2-0-1 on the trip, 2.27, .947. Brent Johnson, even though he took the only regulation loss, wasn’t too shabby, either. He turned aside 24 of 27 shots.

- 15 different Caps registered points on this trip. Alexander Ovechkin led the group with 2-3-5; Dainius Zubrus was next at 4-0-4.

- Your plus-minus leader for the trip? . . . Donald Brashear at +3.

As for the Calgary game, that was a mighty fine road win. Let’s leave out that Olaf Kolzig had to face 39 shots. That is – and remains – a troubling statistic (that’s 43.7 shots faced in his last three games). The Caps did not panic when they gave up the first goal; they did not panic when Jarome Iginla scored on a breakaway to narrow the Caps lead to one goal midway through the third period. Dainius Zubrus showed a level of aggression on offense he does not show every night. Richard Zednik finally had his level of effort rewarded, first with a rebound whack past Miikka Kiprusoff, then on a breakaway off a nifty turn-and-dish feed up ice from Alexander Ovechkin (itself the product of some fine work from Shaone Morrisonn to gather the puck and move it up to Ovechkin). The Caps withstood a 22-shot assault in the third period, but for one mental error that allowed a breakaway by Iginla, they didn’t permit much in the way of outstanding scoring chances.

Eleven games in, the Caps find themselves squarely in the playoff mix. With 12 points, they are tied with Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Florida for sixth (the Caps have games in hand against Carolina and Florida). While the history of sport is littered with teams that looked good in the first dozen games, only to be playing for pride in the last dozen, the Caps are starting to show a certain resiliency – their skill is catching up to their effort. Not only are they a team that can be difficult to play against, they can make other teams pay for yielding under that effort.

It’s early, but if anyone says that this road trip was anything but a good sign for this club, have ‘em go tell that to Mr. Plus-Three.

-- The Peerless