Saturday, December 16, 2006

When it counts...

Points on game-winning goals (through last night):

Alex Ovechkin: 5-3-8 (2nd in the league in GWG)
Sidney Crosby: 2-4-6

The Peerless' Two Fer -- A Morning After Before The Night ... Thrashers, Flyers, and Stuff

Just when you thought things were darkest, when the Caps would lose their third in four games, when they would drop a fifth straight game to the Florida Panth . . . oops, Atlanta Thrashers, when they would sink further into the abyss of the also rans of the conference . . . along comes, Ovechkin!

Boy has a certain flair for the dramatic, doesn’t he?

Camp in the left wing circle for a nice pass from Dainius Zubrus . . . one-time . . . goal!

Worms his way into the slot among several Thrashers, waits for another sweet feed from Zubrus . . . snap . . . goal!

Bides his (short) time on the wing at the start of overtime . . . doesn’t watch two Thrashers “Alphonse-and-Gaston” the puck (I got it…you take it) . . . takes advantage of the opening . . . jumps between the Thrashers . . . puck squirts free toward Atlanta line . . . he picks it up . . . skates in . . . wrister . . . GOAL! Game over, man, game O-ver!

Two goals in 37 seconds to end the game. That’s a good definition of “taking over.” But it wasn’t as if it was just “The Alex Ovechkin Show.” That was a gritty performance by the Caps up and down the bench. The temptation was powerful after Monday night’s game to feel a bit sorry for oneself and let down in an opponent’s building. But the Caps came out hard against an opponent they hadn’t beaten since eliminating them from the playoffs last year. Donald Brashear set a tone early by getting after Jim Slater, who tripped him in front of the Atlanta net. Brashear took a roughing penalty to even things up that could have set the Caps behind the eight-ball early, but the boys skated off the 4-on-4.

Jamie Heward returned in full (well, three-quarter) visor to contribute almost 18 minutes of solid hockey . . . Matt Pettinger took a leveling hit from Ilya Kovalchuk and got back up to register three hits of his own . . . don’t forget who was on the front end of the first two of those goals Ovechkin scored – both came from superb feeds from Dainius Zubrus, one a cross ice feed to Ovechkin alone in the circle, the other a soft pass threaded through Thrashers to Ovechkin easing into the slot . . . Brent Johnson played a solid game (even with the Vigier goal that he might want back), stopping 28 of 30 shots. It was a fine night all around where few numbers stand out (Ovechkin’s 12 shots, the Caps losing 41 of 63 draws), and that’s a measure of the result – it was a team effort all over the ice.

But that’s in the past, now, and the Flyers are waiting at Verizon Center. Last night was an object lesson – don’t take a club lightly that you haven’t lost to this year and that is playing in your building. The Caps have beaten the Flyers by identical 5-3 scores this year. Ovechkin is 3-2-5 against Philadelphia – not Sidney Crosby numbers against the Flyers, but impressive nonetheless. The Caps have spread the wealth around to some unlikely sources, too – Bryan Muir, Shaone Morrisonn, Brooks Laich, Chris Clark, Matt Pettinger, and two for Ben Clymer rounding out the goal scoring. Brent Johnson has provided solid, if unspectacular results in the two games against the Flyers, but Olaf Kolzig will get the nod tonight after Johnson’s fine performance last night.

Philly comes in 0-4-1 in their last five games, outscored 21-11 and shutout once for good measure. Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne have about half the Flyer goal production (three and two, respectively), but also with two . . . Todd Fedoruk? Fedoruk is also the Flyers’ only “plus” player (+3). No other player who has played at least 15 games is better than a -4. Just as we suggested in the notes preceding the last time these clubs met, Philly doesn’t come upon its record – 8-19-4, good for 29th in the league -- accidentally.

This is a game the Caps should, need, ought to, had better win. It’s time to put opponents like these, playing in the Caps' building, away early and convincingly. Last time, the Caps let the Flyers hang around too long for comfort (the game was tied, 3-3, 12 minutes into the third period). The boys are coming off the lowest of lows (blowing a four goal lead) and the highest of highs (turning a one goal loss into an overtime win in the space of 37 seconds). They just need to go out and do as Joe Gould barked at James Braddock in “Cinderella Man,” . . . “All right. Stop talking…Get in there!...And bury him!!”

Caps 5 – Flyers 2