Tuesday, February 27, 2007

After-Math . . . Caps vs. Panthers

It was a one point night . . .

Day 1 of the post-trading deadline season. No Zubrus, no Zednik, no Heward. Alex Ovechkin’s first shift on the night was spent alongside Brian Sutherby and Donald Brashear. He also spent time being centered by Brooks Laich and Kris Beech.

Such is the state of things now. The Caps will spend a lot of the remaining 19 games, including the 6-5 shootout loss to Florida, figuring out what works with the parts they still have on hand. And if that means seeing if Brooks Laich or Kris Beech can provide an accompaniment to Ovechkin on the top line, so be it.

Things started bad for the Caps – they gave up a goal less than two minutes in on the second shot they allowed. Then, they got worse. Florida went on to score three goals on their first ten shots covering less than eight minutes of game time. Looked like it would be another one of those kinds of nights. The Caps looked for all the world like a club in a state of mourning for having lost the trio of teammates during the afternoon. That they were wearing black seemed curiously appropriate.

Then, the strange happened . . . Alex Ovechkin scored a goal. Not just a goal, but one on a move Caps fans have come to recognize in his short tenure here – a speed move to the outside and with the defenseman beaten, a shot far top corner. That was followed by something even stranger . . . Brian Sutherby scored a goal. Well, maybe not so strange – it was his third goal in five games, doubling his season output. All of a sudden, we’re watching the Saturday game from Mystery, Alaska. Back and forth and up and down and in and out. It was like watching a long rally at a tennis match. Florida scored again . . . then the Caps got it back.

Then Freddy came in.

Frederic Cassivi relieve Johnson to start the second, and it seemed more to shake up the club than a result of any particular problems in Johnson’s play (it appeared that two Panther goals were scored off Capitals’ sticks or at least the result of really good screens by Caps’ defensemen – John Erskine, we’re looking at you). Freddy played very, very well, precisely because he was calm and didn’t overplay shooters. He more or less let the game come to him. He did make a couple of fine pad saves but otherwise made saves look quite routine. It was enough to give the Caps the backstopping they needed to get back into the game (he would finish by yielding only one goal on 18 shots). It would be hard to argue with Ovechkin getting the first star, or even Olli Jokinen getting the second one. Sutherby had his goal, added an assist, and won a ridiculous 10 of 12 draws, so one could see him getting the third star. But Freddy gets the slice o’ pie tonight.

Some other observations . . .

- Coach Glen Hanlon was double-shifting, down-shifting, red-shifting, and shape-shifting Ovechkin and Alexander Semin all over the place. Ovechkin finished with 26:33 in ice time, Semin 24:33.

- Milan Jurcina hits hard…very hard.

- Brooks Laich might have played his best game as a Cap.

- Ben Clymer – who wasn’t traded to Pittsburgh – hasn’t had a minus game in more than a month (he was +1 this evening). Steve Eminger hasn’t had one in more than a month, either (he was +1, too). They had some healthy scratches in there, but these two guys – each of whom had some major plus-minus problems for much of the year – have a combined 17 games between them without a minus. Small victories, folks . . . small victories.

- Did we mention, Milan Jurcina hits very hard?

- Gosh . . . the power play was 3-for-5. It matched their high in power play goals in a game this year (December 23rd -- a 3-2 win at Toronto). They haven’t had more in a game since the 2003-2004 season (March 18, 2004 – four power play goals in a 4-3 overtime win against the New York Rangers).

- It’s clear that the Caps trust Milan Jurcina and Shaone Morrisonn in tight situations. A look at the shift chart for the game shows that over the last nine minutes of the game (including overtime), they were on the ice for every other shift. On the other hand, Bryan Muir had a seat for the last 14 minutes (including overtime). We do not know if he was injured or just gassed.

- Rob Globke isn’t a name, it’s a condition . . . “hey Rob, you got a little globke on your lip…”

The Caps got a point no one thought possible at about 7:30 this evening. The shootout is a lost cause this year (so is it for Florida, so it goes to show how much a lost cause Washington’s shootout effort is), so we're going to call this a “good” point considering the Caps never led in the game.

1 comment:

CapsChick said...

Spreading the Clymer/Laich love - thank you!! I totally agree with your assessment and am so relieved we didn't lose Clymer to the flightless fowl. That combined with Zubie becoming a Buffaslug would have put me over the edge for sure.