Friday, January 19, 2007

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Hurricanes

A two point night! . . .

. . .and that’s why Olaf Kolzig is important to this team.

A disappointing road trip . . . three straight losses . . . finishing up against the defending Stanley Cup champs . . . in their building . . . and they haven’t lost a game in regulation to a division opponent in more than two months (9-0-1).

So what do the Caps get? A 34-save performance, including 13 in the third period, when Carolina was trying to mount a furious comeback.

(AP Photo/Stan Gilliland)

It was a closer game than the final score would indicate, surely. Two empty net goals in the last minute will do that. In the first 59 minutes, though, there was a weeks worth of odd bounces, some benefiting the Caps, some not.

There was David Tanabe suffering a moment of brain lock (ooh, look at the pretty butterfly . . . ) trying to knock down a puck that was headed from Chris Clark’s stick to the far left wing corner. Well, that’s where goalie John Grahame thought it was going, so he wandered off the reservation to try to corral it. But thanks to Tanabe’s trying to use his stick like a butterfly net, the puck was redirected just past the stick blade of the diving Grahame and into the Hurricane net.

Clark managed a second goal – scored as an one of the “empty net” variety – but it’s hard to adopt that characterization (yes, The Peerless understands the scoring rule here) when the puck caromed into the Hurricane net off a sliding Carolina defender.

In-between, there was Alexander Semin, who scored two mighty spiffy goals – one of them four seconds into a power play when Dainius Zubrus won a draw in the Carolina end, and Semin sccoped up the puck, danced between two Carolina defenders as if they were extras in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and snapped a shot over Grahame, who waved wanly at the puck as if saying farewell to an old friend (hey, that Acme School of Goodly Writing is coming in handy!).

Semin’s second goal was a similar thing of beauty as he took a nice stretch feed from Donald “Wayne” Brashear, flipped the puck to his forehand, and in one motion snapped the biscuit just under the crossbar. It would be interesting (meaning: “I’m too lazy to do the leg work”) to see just how many of Semin’s goals were scored above the goalie’s shoulders this year. More than any Cap, he seems to have a knack for scoring high.

(AP Photo/Stan Gilliland)

Looking at the other side of the scoreboard, it would be difficult to find much fault with either of the ‘Canes’ goals. Steve Eminger actually had inside position on Erik Cole when a puck was sent toward the Cap net from the other side of the ice. Kolzig managed to get a piece of it, but it flipped over him to the other side of the net, and Cole did what scorers do – he snapped around and timed his backhand swipe at the puck perfectly to deposit it into the empty half of the Caps’ net. The second goal was the product of a deflection off the shaft of a stick from far in front of the net. Kolzig seemed to be tracking the slap shot taken on the play, but the redirect sailed over his right shoulder.

The Caps played with energy last night – something that has been strangely missing from their game in the last two outings, especially. 17 shots in the first period and a whopping 33 hits credited for the game (maybe it was the scorer – he had the ‘Canes with 34 . . . there isn’t that much hitting in a Jermain Taylor fight).

And let’s have some huzzahs for Jeff Schultz. Almost 19 minutes of play, pressed into emergency service as a result of injuries, and he acquitted himself well – no Carolina goals were scored on his watch, and that’s always a good thing for a defenseman. One can look up and down the Cap lineup and find nice performances . . . Shaone Morrisonn: 5 hits and a +2 . . . Steve Eminger: 4 hits, a couple of blocked shots, and a +2 . . . Alex Ovechkin: 5 hits, 6 shots, an empty-netter, and a +2 . . . Ben Clymer: might have had a -1 for the night, but he had five shots to set the tone in the first period and had four hits to go along with it . . . Chris Clark: a +3 to go with his pair of goals . . . and of course, Kolzig being the sturdy rock in the nets with 34 saves on 36 shots. It was among his best performances of the year, given the opponent and the circumstances.

The Caps took a good team playing well and stuffed them in their own building. That’s a glimpse of what this team can be. They are not good enough or experienced enough, yet, to do that every night. They can be. Now, let’s see if they can work on consistency Saturday afternoon on “Payback Saturday” against the Panthers.

1 comment:

Tyler said...

I didn't see the second or third: What happened to Pothier? Out hurt?

School of Good Writing: Go dig yourself some Raymond Chandler.