Friday, November 09, 2007

A TWO point night: Caps 4 - Senators 1

You might want to stake out your places on the parade route, now, Caps fans.

OK, that’s The Peerless’ snarky moment, but doesn’t winning beat the ever livin’ crap out of losing? Of course it does, and a 4-1 win over the heretofore 8-0 in their last eight games Ottawa Senators – on their ice, no less – is even better (OK, we know, doing it to the Penguins would top this).

So, how’d they do it?

Pretty simple, they scored more goals.

Actually, there is a story in that, too. This might have been a coming-out party for a couple of kids. We must guard against getting carried away, but after the common sight of an Alexander Ovechkin goal – one that cemented the win with less than four minutes left in the contest – having both Tomas Fleischmann and Nicklas Backstrom score goals in the same game is a breath of fresh air.

The game certainly had its moments, though, when Caps fans might have slumped in their chairs and muttered, “here we go again”…like right off the opening faceoff when the Senators broke behind the Caps’ defense, Patrick Eaves setting up Chris Kelly in alone on Kolzig. Eight seconds in, Kolzig might have saved not just Kelly’s backhand but the game as well. If Ottawa scores there, then it might have been the Caps slumping, not just their fans.

Kelly was there at Kolzig’s doorstep again six minutes later, splitting Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina off a stretch pass…Kolzig made that save, too…

But Kolzig made those saves, and the Caps did to the Senators what a lot of teams have done to the Caps this year…they hung around. Playing the home team even past the halfway point of the game, Viktor Kozlov won a battle for the puck along the boards, spun between Wade Redden and Randy Robitaille, and stepped to the net to slip the puck past goalie Ray Emery.

Then the kids took over…Nicklas Backstrom got what would be the game-winning goal barely two minutes later when Kozlov walked the goal line to Emery’s left on a power play. Faking a move to come out on Emery’s glove side, he dipped around the net and fed the puck to Backstrom, camped at the top of the crease. One swat later – and getting knocked over in the process -- Backstrom was celebrating his first NHL goal from the seat of his pants.

Then it was Fleischmann barely three minutes after that, taking a nice blue line-to-blue line feed in stride from Kozlov, skating in on the right side, and firing the puck far side over Emery’s leg pad. Three goals in 5:45…it was positively Senatorial, so to speak. A minute later, the Senators reminded everyone why they had that eight-game winning streak with a snappy “give-and-get-go” from Daniel Alfredsson to Dany Heatley to Mike Fisher and back to Alfredsson for the easy lay-up. That could have been the start of a dam-break, but Kolzig and the Caps skated out the third period without further damage and added the Ovechkin clincher for their first two point night in ten days.

In every respect, this was the photo-negative of the games the Caps played on their four game losing streak…

-- They had 35 shots on goal, but only 13 of them blocked. That is the latest in a downward trend in that statistic since having 30 shots blocked against the Rangers (30-25-20-13-13). Getting shots off isn’t quite the same as getting shots to the net. Parenthetically, Ottawa’s Anton “Hakeem Olajuwon” Volchenkov had…one. Of course, he only played four minutes, leaving early-on with a bruised hip, but still…

-- Their 20 misfires (13 shots blocked and seven misses) was barely half of those put up by Ottawa (35: 14 shots blocked, 21 misses)

-- Ottawa got off fast with the breakaways in the first seven minutes, but failed to capitalize…it was the Caps who would weather than storm and post the first goal.

-- The Capitals took frequent penalties (three in the space of 3:22 in the second period) and didn’t allow a power play goal, including killing off 1:04 of a 5-on-3.

-- The Caps had 13 power play shots (on six man-advantages) from eight different players. Although the Caps scored only the Backstrom power play goal, that kind of production will be rewarded in more games than not.

-- Conversely, they held the Senators to seven shots on five power plays, four of them coming from Alfredsson.

-- Although Ovechkin dominated the shot chart, at least he had help…Fleischmann had six shots, himself, and Kozlov had four. Combined, they had 20 shots and only seven misfires (three blocked, four misses). Not coincidentally, perhaps, each had a goal. Motto – shoot the puck…intelligently (that is, get it to the net)

It’s worthy of mention that the Caps came into this game on a losing streak, skated in a difficult arena where they haven’t had a lot of success, did it against a club that was steamrolling the rest of the league (outscoring their opponents 30-13 on their eight-game winning streak), still missing their captain and second-leading goal scorer from a year ago (a combined 68 goals from 2006-2007), and…won.

The first star might have gone to Viktor Kozlov, the big saves might have been made by Olaf Kolzig, and Alex Ovechkin might have had another multi-point night, but in a way, this one belonged to a couple of kids who needed a breakthrough kind of game. For Nicklas Backstrom and Tomas Fleischmann, it might be just a nice game in a long season, but then again, it might be the signal that they’re arriving.

The Peerless knows it’s against Caps fans’ nature to think otherwise, but at least until Saturday night, let’s think of it as the latter.

Nice game, boys.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Definitely the best game of the season for the Caps. I could not believe what I was watching. I kept a running diary of the game as I watched the replay this morning on Comcast, planning to have plenty of opportunities to rant. I have never been so happy to be so wrong.