Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's a TWO point night -- Caps vs. Lightning, October 24th

I love it when a good prognostication comes together…

Hey, it wasn’t an aesthetic masterpiece, but two points is two points. It was a night replete with what might be turning points, and efforts good and bad in a 5-3 Caps win…to wit:


-- David Steckel netted his first NHL goal in this, his 20th NHL game. It’s not as if he is unfamiliar with the back of the net; he had (note the use of the past tense…not “has”) 54 goals in 208 AHL games. It came off a nice feed from Alex Ovechkin that, had it been made by a player who wears ’87,’ would have been deemed among the five greatest passes since the invention of the rubber puck. As it was, it was nice. Steckel played well outside of his goal (on his only shot) – three hits, a split of 14 draws, and +2 in 14:36 of ice time. If he can play at that level on a semi-consistent basis, then it provides an option for…

-- Chris Clark…who seems to have no problem with the muscle memory involved in playing on the right side of Alexander Ovechkin. Clark had two goals and could have had at least two more as pucks skittered just wide of the post. The first goal was an example of Ovechkin creating space by carrying the puck and forcing the defense to collapse on him. As they did, Ovechkin left the puck in the vacated space in the middle of the offensive zone, where Clark picked it up and, having time to move the puck all the way across from his backhand to his forehand, snapped it over Marc Denis’ glove. The second goal was much more a grinder’s goal…Michael Nylander curled off in the left wing corner and sent a nifty back hand pass to Brian Pothier at the right point (who should be given some credit for working himself into a passing lane for Nylander). Pothier’s shot was stopped by Denis, but not cleanly – the puck ricocheted off Clark and into the net. It was a very nice night for the captain, which is more than can be said for the night had by…

-- Vincent Lecavalier…geez, it was brutal. His line was 0-0-0, -2, but on top of that he lost 11 of 17 draws and in a fit of frustration that must have made Lightning coach John Tortorella ecstatic, took a slashing, an instigator, a fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct because Shaone Morrisonn finished a check. Small consolation, but Vinnie probably won the fight. Trouble was, the Lightning were down two goals at the time, and when Martin St. Louis scored a few minutes later to make it 4-3, having Lecavalier in the locker room wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to the Caps in the late stages of the third period. But if you’re looking for odd stats…well, not really…look no further than…

-- Alex Ovechkin…yeah, he had a 1-2-3 night, but the number to notice is this one – “18.” That was the total of his shots on goal (6), the shots he took that were blocked (10!), and the shots he missed (2). It made up for a pretty grim night for…

-- Alexander Semin…sure, he was back after missing six games, but he played as if he was encased in rust, not merely a dusting he could shake off. He looked for all the world as if he was trying to handle the puck with a two-by-four, instead of a hockey stick, for all the success he was having in propelling it forward with any purpose. His numbers (0,0,0, -1, 5 SOG) don’t really tell the story of how difficult a time he had – his giveaway in the offensive zone on the power play led to a rush the other way for Tampa and a shorthanded goal. And speaking of that…

-- The power play still sucks…oh-for-four and a shortie allowed. And what’s worse, they look as if they don’t have a clue out there. They throw the puck around for what looks like the sheer joy of throwing the puck around. There is precious little purpose evident in what they are doing…and they’ve been practicing this stuff? What, blindfolded? But while that side of the special teams struggled, there was at least…

-- The penalty kill…three short-handed situations, three kills. And the key there is “three.” Except for two penalties taken 2:14 apart, resulting in more or less a four minute power play for the Lightning, the Caps played a very disciplined defensive game against an opponent with the tools to make opponents pay for lack of discipline. But, what Tampa is, if nothing else, is…

-- Opportunistic…the Caps made two bad errors – the Semin giveaway on a power play and Jason Ward sneaking behind Chris Clark on the weak side of a three-man play, then taking a pass from Brad Richards with no one to beat but Olaf Kolzig...he did. But the Caps had a pretty good defensive night, none better than…

-- yup, Boyd Gordon again…winner of 12 of 17 draws (better than 50 percent in all three zones), +1, and with no small role in the night of horrors that befell Lecavalier. He won’t win the Selke this year, but he sure looks like he’s got one in his future somewhere. But while some guys are in the middle of things, some are adjacent to them. Such was the case for…

-- Brian Pothier…don’t get us wrong, he didn’t have a bad game. But +4? Sure he had two assists – one of them being on the puck that bounced off Clark, the other a helper on Ovechkin’s empty netter. But he was given a run for his money by…

-- Jeff Schultz…+3? It was a pretty quiet +3, but he finally played a game that looked like some of the ones he had last year – simple and efficient. He even wound up and attempted a slap shot (it was blocked), and that is more than can be said for…

-- Tom Poti….who is supposed to take shots. He did take two…both were blocked. But attempts blocked count in this respect…

-- The Caps out-attempted Tampa Bay 57-45. That’s not bad against a team with the firepower of Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards, and Prospal. And speaking of St. Louis and Richards…

-- 23:51 and 27:06, respectively…that’s not unusual ice time for defensemen, but for forwards? Tampa has to play Philly on Thursday…have a good soak, boys…you’ll need it. But on the other end of the ice time scale…

-- 2:12 isn’t terribly unusual for Donald Brashear (he had only two shifts all night), but 2:38 and three shifts for Tomas Fleischmann? No ice time in the last 33 minutes of the game? Didn’t take him long to go to the end of the bench, did it? And speaking of time…

-- After Washington scored at the 6:33 mark of the first period on their sixth shot, they had one more shot over the remaining 13:27 of the period. The Caps turned the tables in the third, allowing only two shots in the first 14:06 before St. Louis scored on the Lightning’s third shot of the period…Tampa Bay had only five shots on goal in that third period.

All-in-all, it was the kind of game that might signal a turning point. It wasn’t especially pretty, but the Caps scored more than three goals for the first time this year, and they ran their division record to 3-0-0. Good job, boys.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

what does Pothier have to do to be credited with a "good game" by this fanbase? Truly, I'm not understanding the discontent with his play. Last year, he was thrust into top-line service, when he's clearly a 3-4/5-6 guy. He didn't succeed, as anyone who was paying attention would have predicted. Last night. he was on the ice for four even-strength goals, while being on the ice for no even-strength goals against, or the shorty. That, to me, qualifies as a "good game...a real good game". It seems like the expectation of him was to be the re-incarnation of Scott Stevens. The Caps fan base continually looks for a scapegoat on the roster to blame when things awry, with the rationale going something like this...he didn't score 15 goals, he doesn't fight, and he doesn't deliver bone-crushing checks, so he must suck. Now I understand why so many articulate, well-informed hockey fans have left the Caps message board community - they find themselves in a distinct minority among the "Pothier Sucks, Motzko Sucks, Klepis Sucks, Kozlov Sucks, Poti Sucks" crowd. And these are the same ne'er dowells that rail against those who claim Washington isn't a hockey town. I am always open to being educated, but one fan once told me, when I inquired in the deficiencies in a particular players game "Player X sucks, just take my word for it"...right... And I love those people who think that be mere attendance at a lot of games, they've become knowledgable about hockey, which is akin to saying that if I stand around in an operating room long enough, I'll end up a qualified surgeon by the sole virtue of my presence where surgery was being performed. I guess the uninformed and those who need a perpetual scapegoat need their forum too, unfortunately, it's become the Caps message boards, with the commentary on Tarik's blog following suit.

The Peerless said...

I don't want to leave the impression that I thought Pothier had a bad game. Far from it. It is probably a lot closer to the kind of game that was envisioned when he was signed (although the ice time was probably a bit high).

In that respect, I whole-heartedly agree that he is better suited as a 3/4 defenseman getting 16-18 minutes a game than a top pair getting 22-24 minutes or more. He was asked to play too many roles last year. With a shorter "to-do" list on his nightly card, he'll be more effective.

exwhaler said...

I've been one of Pothier's defenders for a while. He proved to me last year that he'll be a good 3/4 guy for the Caps (or most teams, for that matter). The icetime he had the first two months of last season was near the top of the league, and you can't expect a guy to play that many games week in and week out at a clip about 10 minutes higher than the previous season without some drop-off in play. He did well for that first month and a half, but then started to slip, got a concussion, and struggled when he came back, only regaining his form toward the end of the season. He's never going to be a star, and he's never going to be a big part of this defense--he'll probably be the first to be shopped when the likes of Alzner and others begin to compete for a roster spot. But he was the Caps' "big" free agent signing last off-season, and the fanbase put undo expectations on him, or wrote him off as a weak veteran who will hold down the young talent and cause problems with the salary cap. The reality is that he's good value for the money, and he's the perfect kind of transition player to get the Caps to the next level.

Chris said...

I tend to agree with the Pothier defenders. My question is if I am the only one who has noticed that Olie seems incapable of closing the 5-hole. I mean, is it just me or is it getting kind of scary?