Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A no-point night...Sabres 3 - Caps 1

Sigmund Freud is said to have uttered the quote, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Whether he actually uttered those words is something of a mystery, but for our purposes here, sometimes a loss is just a loss. No more need be attributed to it.

Had this game been played while the Caps were, say, 11-11-1 it would be just a bad night. But these being the Caps, and Caps fans looking for meaning in every loss, last night’s 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres will no doubt be looked at as an indicator whether the Caps two-game winning streak was merely a detour on the trip over the cliff of a season.

Make no mistake, the Caps did not play especially well. 20 turnovers (giveaways plus Buffalo’s takeaways) – most of them of the sort that left Buffalo with excellent scoring chances – will do that. Michael Nylander was victimized on both the game-winning and the insurance goals, once having the puck taken away deep in the Capitals’ zone, resulting in a tap-in goal for Jochen Hecht (2-1-3 on the night) -- the other leaving a pass for Tomas Fleischmann that failed to connect that ended up being a two-on-one break for the Sabres, resulting in a goal.

It was a brutal night for several Caps…John Erskine was conspicuously in the area for two Sabre goals, once finding himself badly out of position and unable to right himself before Hecht rattled the puck into the net. On the second, Erskine was left to defend the Sabre’s two-on-one after the Nylander-Fleischmann turnover and could not break up the play before Olaf Kolzig was fishing the puck out of his net. That was his -2.

Steve Eminger was a -2 in his second game of the year, Nylander and Fleischmann likewise. Alexander Semin rounded out the -2 parade, prompting Bruce Boudreau to comment afterward that, "I've never seen him play…I have to believe he's going to be better."

Some observations…

-- Alexander Ovechkin scored another goal. That’s 17 for the season and eight in his last nine games; he also extended a points streak to nine games. That goal, though, was a return to the sort of Washington offense that has been present for much of the year. He picked up the puck from Steve Eminger at the Washington end of the rink…then he barreled down the left side, put a nifty little chip-and-skate-around on defenseman Brian Campbell, fired a shot at goalie Ryan Miller that was stopped, but he picked up his own rebound and in one motion buried it in the back of the net. It was a highlight goal to be sure – the only highlight of the night for the Caps.

-- Someone has to do something about that ice. It has to be the worst in the league. For most of the game, it looked as if the teams were playing on gravel. It is fair to say that both teams had to endure that nonsense, but that ice is going to be the cause of an injury at some point. Tom Poti put it best…“That’s how it is every game with this ice. The ice is pretty embarrassing to say the least. The puck bounces around like a rubber ball out there.”

-- Buffalo certainly didn’t dominate the game, but they made the most of their opportunities. Whenever the Caps would make a mistake, it seemed to end up in the back of the net.

-- Speaking of the Sabres, one can tell that they’ve played together for a while. Campbell, Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly, Ales Kotalik, Maxim Afinogenov, and Henrik Tallinder have played together since the 2002-2003 season. It is worth noting that the Sabres were 27-37-10-8 in that season (72 points). Adding Derek Roy in 2003-2004; and Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Toni Lydman in 2005-2006 added to the core. They miss Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, but they have a formidable group that has considerable experience playing together. It shows, and the difference between the clubs in that regard might be reflected in an observation by coach Bruce Boudreau – "We played as hard as [Buffalo] and as good as them, just not as smart as them."

-- Boyd Gordon played only 9:50 last night and had only one shift in the third period.

-- In 24 games, the Caps have surrendered 29 goals in the second period. That is tied for 28th worst in the league. They gave up two more last night.

-- Dan Paille has the quietest +3 you’re ever going to see.

-- A hockey club is going to have games like this where it’s close, but they’re never really in it. Trouble is, the Caps can no longer afford too many of them, such is the hole they’ve dug for themselves. As Olaf Kolzig put it, "We have to put a streak together here to get ourselves out of this hole…"

It can’t start soon enough.

1 comment:

Mike at MHH said...

So if Hecht wins some award for points or goals this season or gets bonus money for reaching a points/goals mark, does he have to give some credit to Nylander for last night's gift-wrapped goals?

Just wondering...