Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Peerless' Morning After -- Caps vs. Flyers

Check . . .

Score early . . . Ovechkin on a pretty between-the-legs to himself pass and goal 3:53 into the game . . . check

Score often . . . four goals in the first, the last two coming 37 seconds apart in the last two minutes of the period . . . check

Stem the momentum . . . after the Flyers tied the game on a Simon Gagne breakaway (as Brian Pothier was being mugged at the Flyers’ blue line to set him free), Ben Clymer whacked the puck almost out of the hand of Mark Cullen and past goalie Robert Esche to restore the lead . . . check

Be efficient . . . eight shots, four goals . . . Alex Ovechkin – two shots, two goals . . . check

Take the crowd out of the game . . . those last two goals in the final two minutes of the first period chased Esche and brought the boo birds out in force . . . check.

Play a solid second period . . . check

Don’t wilt when the other team gets a goal . . . Philly got a pair in the final frame, but by then it was well into garbage time (note: Alex Ovechkin had only three shifts in the third, only one in the last 12-and-a-half minutes) . . . check.

Some other observations . . .

Look, I like Alexander Ovechkin as much as the next person, and Ben Clymer had a nice coming out party in his return to right wing, but how about a slice o’ pie for Brian Pothier . . . more than 30 minutes of ice time, plus-one for the night, six blocked shots . . . and all those missed shots some fans complain about? . . . you might watch to see if there is someone for the Caps trying to camp out at the post to get a deflection on some of those “errant” shots.

Steve Eminger returned to the ice last night, but this is a guy playing with his confidence tank approaching “E.” He needs something to give him a spark – a bone-rattling hit, a shot that glances off several players in finding its way to the back of the net – something.

What in heaven’s name has happened to Joni Pitkanen? He’s playing like Joni Mitchell our there (yeah, I know, different pronunciation). He looks disinterested in his play.

The Clarke Legacy . . . the Flyers’ goaltending situation is a wreck. Esche is not, and never has been the high-end goalie one needs for a deep playoff run, and Antero Niittymaki – the guy Clarke said once upon a time made it easy to move Maxime Ouellet – doesn’t appear to be that guy, either. Philly is playing atrociously in front of these guys, but they’re not going to steal many games for them, either.

Tomas Fleischmann only had about seven-and-a-half minutes of playing time, but he looked a good deal more sure of himself out there than in other stays with the big club. He wasn’t bashful about pulling the trigger, almost netting one off a quick-release wrister in the first.

Boyd Gordon had one of those games you need guys to have among the lower half of the forward lines. Most notably, he won 14 of 19 draws, giving the Caps the opportunity to win the “time of possession” game.

Coach Glen Hanlon pretty much ran the third and fourth lines out there over the last 12 minutes. If you look at the shift chart, there’s a lot of white space for Ovechkin, Semin, Fleischmann, and Klepis. The veterans – Dainius Zubrus and Chris Clark – got time, but it wasn’t as if the Caps were pressing on the throttle at that point.

If there was one Flyer who seemed interested in actually playing, it was little Freddy Meyer. Giving away four inches and 20 pounds to Alex Ovechkin, The Peerless gives a tip o’ the hat to him for planting a couple of nice hits on Ovechkin on the same shift, including a fine example of the dying art of hip-checking. After Ovechkin picked himself up off the ice along the boards, he was looking around with a look on his face that said, “who the heck is that?”

It was as good a road game as one could hope for. Yeah, the Flyers had 36 shots and three goals. We’re not impressed by that, nor discouraged over the Caps' third period. Some guys got a breather in anticipation of the high-octane Ottawa Senators coming to VerMCIzon Center on Monday, so it was a welcome turn.

The Caps were 6-8-0 after 14 games last year and had been outscored on the ice, 60-32 (not including shootout scores). They are 5-4-4 this morning, outscoring the opposition 43-42 on the ice. Going from -28 to +1 can’t be interpreted as anything other than a good thing. But now, the object is “winning streak.” The Caps have not won consecutive games this year – it’d be nice to do that and get Olaf Kolzig his 259th win to pass Ken Dryden on the all-time victories list for goaltenders.

-- The Peerless