Friday, February 02, 2007

The (yeesh) Morning After -- Caps vs. Panthers

You know what? . . . So what?

Alex Ovechkin is perfect for 2007. 13 games, points scored in every one. 8-12-20 over that time.

And the Caps are 5-8-0.

So . . . so what? The object of the exercise is not a Ross Trophy, it’s the playoffs and a Stanley Cup. Any further thoughts of either should be put in a box and placed in the closet for the remainder of the season. Players can’t think that way – that’s the nature of competition. But for fans? Let’s shed the cold light of truth on what’s happening. The Caps have lost 14 of their last 20 games, including three to the Florida Panthers by a combined score of 17-7. Last night’s indignity just served to slam the point home with a pile driver.

It was like watching a movie replayed over and over once more. The Peerless feels like this guy . . .

Once more, the Caps got out of the box poorly, giving up a goal 77 seconds into the game. They trailed at the intermission (2-1). They played an awful second period (outscored 3-0). They were outhit (29-22). They couldn’t kill penalties (3-for-6 on the penalty kill). They've made Josef Stumpel seem like the second coming of Phil Esposito (4-3-7 in five games against Washington; 11-23-34 in 47 games against the rest of the league) and Martin Gelinas the next Mike Bossy (four goals in five games against the Caps, four goals in 48 games against everyone else). They’ve permitted the Panthers to score at a 4.00 goals per game clip in five games this year – Florida is averaging 2.77 goals per game against everyone else. And now, the Caps find themselves at the bottom of the Southeast Division, 13th in the Eastern Conference, 24th in the league.

And here is an inconvenient truth . . . Since the Caps defeated Philadelphia on December 16, they are 6-14-0. In that time, the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, and Chris Clark is a combined 26-33-59. Doesn’t sound half bad; they’re averaging more than a goal a game out of that line. But they are also a combined -25. What they’re scoring, they’re playing a part in giving back and then some.

That the Caps have 49 points in 52 games is not surprising. Even the manner of how they got here isn’t surprising; we felt the club would show the glimmer of a contender early before succumbing to the grind of the season that would expose their lack of depth and experience. But the stark and utter collapse of the last 20 games, including lopsided losses to clubs the Caps should be leaving it their rear-view mirror, has been disheartening to fans, certainly. Giving up 78 goals in 20 games (3.90) has been the problem that screams off the page. That, and getting no points in games against Florida and Phoenix – eight points left on the table that if earned would have the Caps a point behind Carolina for eighth place with two games in hand – have washed away what good feelings surrounded the club in mid-December.

This is a reality check. The Caps are not a good team. They are a young team, a green team, a team with potential but one with a lot of holes, especially on defense. Time and experience will help solve these problems, and the Caps now have much of the former to obtain a lot of the latter. That’s what they’re playing for now.


JP said...

Ned? Ned Ryerson?

The Peerless said...

Phil? Phil Connors? Phil Connors, I thought that was you!