Friday, November 10, 2006

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Hurricanes

One step forward, one step back . . .

Last night, if it needs to be said, was the latter. Brent Johnson showed up . . . the rest of the club? Pretty much left their game in DC. It’d be hard to find much in the way of a silver lining in that dark cloud of a 5-0 pasting at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. I guess one thing that could be said is that as bad as the Caps were, they were still in it deep into the third period (Carolina didn’t score their third goal until nearly half-way through the last frame).

The Caps spread around the good cheer, too. Mike Green was the only defenseman not on the ice for any Carolina goal. Only Alex Ovechkin, Jakub Klepis, and Tomas Fleischmann were spared among the forwards.

It was a team loss.

Turning point . . . a stretch of 3:45 beginning at the 7:33 mark of the second period with Carolina clinging to a 1-0 lead. Glen Wesley, Chad LaRose, and Niclas Wallin took consecutive penalties giving the Caps uninterrupted power play time, including a full two-minute 5-on-3 in the middle of all of that. And they got squadoosh. Alexander Semin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Dainius Zubrus had consecutive shots in an 18 second span early in the power play – none solved Cam Ward. Ovechkin had another shot later in the advantage, but the power play looked terrible. It would be the last advantage the Caps would have. When Eric Cole scored his second of the game less than two minutes from intermission, the rest of the air left the Caps’ balloon.

Perhaps the boys were feeling a little too good about themselves after the comeback win against Ottawa on Monday. Maybe it was bad barbecue. Maybe it was the shock of playing in front of a packed house in a Southeast Division venue. Whatever it was, it was a wake-up call. The Caps are what they are – a team of some promise that will, from time to time, show glimpses of that promise (as they did in their last two games against Philadelphia and Ottawa). But they are very much a work in progress that will win more games on grit and perseverance than on skill. All were lacking to an extent last night, save for Brent Johnson.

Your odd stat for the night – 17:47. That was Alexander Ovechkin’s ice time. He had only three shifts (two abbreviated) in the last dozen minutes – the Caps weren’t killing any power plays, either (only a penalty coming with 21 seconds left). That tells me he’s still nicked, that his ice time is being marshaled.

Saturday, it’s the Rangers, something of a disappointment to start the year, but they are 6-3-1 in their last ten. No rest for the Caps this weekend.