Wednesday, April 04, 2007

After-Math -- Caps vs. Thrashers

It was a TWO point night . . .

. . . and a two-goal night for Alex Ovechkin. The pair gave Ovechkin 46 on the year and a nice symmetry to his scoring in that he also has 46 assists. A four-goal, eight-point game seems a bit far-fetched in the season finale, so any thoughts of a 50-goal, 100-point season should be put away until next year.

As for the game, The Peerless partook of the trifecta – watched the first period from the Kettler Capitals Garageplex (actually a nice place, even if it does look a bit like the production set of “This Old Rink”…can they get Bob Vila to finish this place?), listened to Steve Kolbe burst a blood vessel on the radio as he was calling the Ovechkin goals in the second, and then watched from the comfort of his own family room as the boys held on for dear life in the land of the make-up call in the last minute (more on that later).

If you’re looking for stars past the obvious ones – Ovechkin and Brent Johnson with his 30 saves on 32 shots – look no further than Boyd Gordon. He was uncharacteristically on the short side of the faceoff ledger (losing nine of 15 on the night), but geez he doesn’t make many mistakes out there. He’s just so solid in all areas of the ice. He’s never going to win any trophies (well, maybe a Selke), but teams don’t often win without guys like him.

From appearances, the Thrashers got their first goal in the first 66 seconds, then spent the next 50-plus minutes thinking the Caps would just roll over. Given that the Caps came into this game with an 10-23-7 road record, had only two road wins in this calendar year, and went the entire month of March without a road win, it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation.

That they didn’t is to their credit (unless you’re one of those folks with an eye toward June 22nd). The Caps solved goaltender Kari Lehtonen for three goals in the second, all of them high on the long side, and all of them seemingly stoppable. Lehtonen would more than make up for those shortcomings with some spectacular saves in the third (Dave Steckel is going to have nightmares all the way back on the plane), but the damage had been done.

For all that, the turning point came on a play that was an obviously correct call, but one that had fans showering boos (and other stuff) on the rink for several minutes. Eric Boulton was tangled with Jiri Novotny in front of the Capitals’ net, and in the process got his stick under Novotny’s chin. This took place just before Brad Larsen deposited the puck just past the reach of Johnson’s glove and into the Caps’ net. The goal was disallowed, and Boulton was assessed a double minor for high-sticking. Rule 78.5(xi) states:

“During the delayed calling of a penalty, the offending team cannot score unless the non-offending team shoots the puck into their own net. This shall mean that a deflection off an offending player or goalkeeper, or any physical action by an offending player that may cause the puck to enter the non-offending team’s goal, shall not be considered a legal goal. Play shall be stopped before the puck enters the net (whenever possible) and the signaled penalty assessed to the offending team.”

Sorry, Brad, the penalty occurred before you shot the puck, and the referee’s hand was in the air to call the foul.

The referees, however, seemed to spend the rest of the game looking to balance the ledger. And, they did. Brooks Laich was whistled for a delay-of-game, puck over the glass penalty with 90 seconds left. This gave the Thrashers a chance to tie the game with a 6-on-4 advantage upon the substitution of Lehtonen for another attacker. But then, Milan Jurcina was called for a slash that wouldn't have dented a stick of warm butter. The Thrashers spent much of the last half-minute with a rare 6-on-3 advantage. Keith Tkachuk missed an empty net from Johnson’s right, but otherwise the Caps kept the puck well to the outside until finally clearing the puck in the last five seconds to secure the win.


- Ovechkin’s two goals, giving him three in two games after a four-game goal-less streak.

- Boyd Gordon’s 1-1-2, +2 line for the night.

- David Steckel, who made excellent use of his size and reach all night to frustrate the Thrashers ability to move the puck.

- Registering only four giveaways, indicative of an all-too-rare responsible road game.

- The Caps reached the 70-point mark, equaling their total from last year.


- An ugly shorthanded goal allowed to lumbering Andy Sutton, who somehow outskated Chris Clark and Brian Pothier, and managed to look like Pavel Bure in faking as if he was going to pull the puck to Johnson’s right, then lifting it over Johnson’s glove on the left side.

- Donald Brashear offered to scrap with Sutton, but nothing ensued.

- The Caps dropped out of the “lottery five” – they now sit 24th with those 70 points. They can finish no worse than 27th, which would give them the fourth pick in the entry draft (just like last year) if the rankings hold when the lottery is undertaken.

Hey, they won . . . isn’t that why they play the game?

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