Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Zero, Zip, Nada...No Points Tonight: Panthers 4 - Caps 3

Well…it wasn’t Brian Sutherby.

The Caps dealt the 25-year old forward earlier in the day to the Anaheim Ducks for a second round pick in the 2009 draft – a move accompanying the return of Alexander Semin from the injured reserve list.

Neither move shook the Caps from the nosedive they have taken since opening the year with three wins. The Florida Panthers were the latest to find rejuvenation in the healing waters of Verizon Center, beating the Caps, 4-3. The loss sent the Caps to a 2-6-0 record on home ice and 3-13-1 since that opening three-fer.

It was just another case of guys counted on to provide results not getting any. To wit…

-- Matt Pettinger had his ninth straight game without a point. It’s starting to show in his ice time. In his last six games, he’s taken 28-23-19-19-17-19 shifts. Tonight…12:37 in ice time. He took five shifts totaling barely three minutes in the third period.

-- Boyd Gordon extended his own goalless streak to nine games (he has one assist in that stretch). He skated less than did Pettinger – 18 shifts for 10:19. He had two shifts in the third totaling 35 seconds, both times to take a faceoff.

-- John Erskine is in the lineup to provide a physical presence. He was credited with one hit. Of course, he only had 6:31 worth of ice time, himself.

-- The defense, in general, simply permitted Florida too much freedom in front of the Capital net. The failure to compete in front of Kolzig could be credited with leading to the first three of the Panthers’ goals – a redirect by David Booth on the first goal, an inability to clear the crease – creating enough chaos in front of Kolzig to permit Kamil Kreps to swoop in unchecked to whack home the second goal, and Richard Zednik walking past Tom Poti to charge the net and create a chance for Olli Jokinen to finish. About the only two guys on defense who had a decent game were Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina. Jurcina, of course, didn’t dress.

There were three themes tonight…first, the short bench. Five skaters had fewer than a dozen minutes, and Tom Poti had more than 30 himself. Brian Pothier, who shouldn’t be getting more than 20 on the best of nights, had more than 25. Alex Ovechkin also had more than 25, and we’re guessing the game plan didn’t call for Alexander Semin to be getting more than 18 in his first game back after a long hiatus.

The second theme was the lack of coordination…this has become a difficult team to watch. How a team with this much talent (on paper) can look like plow horses on offense is one of the great mysteries of this season so far. They look like an uncoordinated bunch of plodders. What offense Alex Ovechkin is able to generate is just that – offense he generates. There is an absence of deft passing that leads to a chance. And it is a club that treats the front of the net as if it was plutonium. There are few ugly goals in the Caps’ body of work this year.

But one of them came during the usual third act of a Caps game this year – the desperate minutes of the third period that allows the team to climb to within a goal, but no further. Chris Clark’s goal with 6:25 to play in the third was as close as one comes to an “ugly” goal for the Caps, sweeping in a loose puck from the top of the crease.

It’s past getting old. It’s become routine, and that’s a really bad sign. There are those who might look at injuries, a bad bounce here or there, or bad ice, or a goaltender having a good night. But this club doesn’t do the things it needs to do at either end – keeping their own crease clear or crashing the other team’s crease – to fight through their problems. They seem to want to do things with “skill,” but they aren’t succeeding at that kind of game, either. And there is no clearer example of that failure than what the Caps have done on 5-on-3 power plays. They butchered another one tonight, before they dug themselves into a big hole. We don’t care if they’re playing on gravel, there is too much talent here to be this inept at this phase of the game, and it’s killing them.

And, with Florida winning this game upon scoring first, it marked the 11th time in 12 games that the Caps have lost when yielding the first goal. It is the worst such record in the league.

When a club like Florida – one that has struggled on the road (2-8-1 coming into this game) and does not have the talent the Caps have – looks like the more purposeful and accomplished team, there is a big, big problem.

That playoff meter over there has been stuck in the low teens for quite a while now – the Caps being 1-7-1 in their last eight games. It’s hard to scare up much in terms of optimism in the cold light of that record. It puts one in the mind of using this...


Shaggy said...

This game was like so many others - the lack of focus around the net is astonishing. When did we last see ANYONE, including Ovie, darting to the net to put away a back door feed from the circle?

AO's Sunshine State Fan said...

As a frustrated Caps fan living in Florida who purchased the NHL Center Ice package to see my playoff bound (yeah, right!) Caps, I think the organization should refund my $150 x 3 for all my pain and suffering...MAKE IT STOP!

Paul said...

AO's Sunshine State Fan said...

...I think the organization should refund my $150 x 3 for all my pain and suffering...MAKE IT STOP

How do you think I feel when I purchased my full season tickets at the end of last season.

Last year the Capitals didn't have much skill, but at least they played hard for the most part. Now? I'm traveling 4+ hours round trip to watch a bunch of millionaires sitting on their asses pretending to play hockey.

I'm utterly pissed.

Paul said...

Oh, hehe, again another nice blog entry Peerless. I meant to include that in my rant. Sorry for the double post. :)

Anonymous said...


Just come out and say it...clearly, not in a Hillary Clintonesque way...the Caps need to make a coaching change. Now! Let Hanlon stay through the Atlanta game, but fire him on Friday. If GMGM hasn't already got a replacement waiting in the wings, he should be fired too. This team is simply not playing up to capabilities, injuries or not. There is a problem with motivation and coaching, pure and simple. So don't pussyfoot around...call out GMGM and simply state that the time is now for Hanlon to be replaced.


AO's Sunshine State Fan said...

Hey Paul, I fully understand that feeling as well. As a season ticket holder for the TB Lightning for more years than I can remember, there were many WIN-less years before winning the Cup that I questioned WHY I threw good money away with the bad. But I stayed devoted and it paid off. I'm a huge Caps fan and upgrade all my Caps tix to the glass for their visits to TB...but again I'm questioning WHY! Guess I'm just a sucker, but I believe they can turn it around. Just wish they'd do it NOW! Bolts did it, Thrash did it...the Caps CAN do it. They just have to WANT too! Maybe I have more faith in them than they have in themselves?

Jordan said...


Great read on last night's game. Your article and mine look pretty similar. I agree a million percent that we'll do just fine if we get the first goal once in a while. There's nothing more disheartening than starting the game as the trailer, and that's all the Caps have done this year.


According to XM Home Ice yesterday, Ted is grumbling and supposedly looking to make changes because he's an emotional owner. So maybe there's hope in that department?

DMG said...

There are those who might look at injuries, a bad bounce here or there, or bad ice, or a goaltender having a good night

...and I am one of them. The reality is that earlier in the year the Capitals lost at least a few games for those reasons, in which they were the better team; in my opinion if the Caps had some decent luck they'd be about .500, which would be fine given the injuries. But they were unlucky some nights and unable to pull it out other nights and now they just don't look like they expect to win. I think a coaching change is imminent and needed (I'm betting 12/2). I do not, however, think McPhee needs to go.