Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A one-point night: Red Wings 4 - Caps 3 (OT/SO)

Step back…take a breath…and think of this number…

25

Those were the combined number of home wins for the Caps’ opponents on this abbreviated two-game road trip. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings ranked third and first in the league, respectively, in that category. And the Caps won three of four possible points in those hostile environments. It makes last night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Red Wings a little bit more palatable when looked at in the larger perspective.

Often – too often this year – we’ve noted points that the Caps have squandered. Well, last night they stole one. On paper – our prognostications notwithstanding – the Caps probably shouldn’t have been within three goals of the Red Wings, given their talent and ten-game points-earned streak. The Red Wings got to add a win to that streak, but it didn’t come easily, taking Bettman’s Gimmick to get it. In the hockey portion of the evening, the Caps played the Red Wings as even-steven as it gets, the teams splitting six goals, 60 shots, and 16 total turnovers right down the middle.

And, Alex Ovechkin had the game on his stick in the overtime when he took a nice feed from Mike Green and skated in alone on Detroit goalie Dominik Hasek. Ovechkin couldn’t nudge the biscuit across the line, though, and the decision was left to Bettman’s Gimmick.

Which brings us to the one discouraging word you’ll read here…Olaf Kolzig hasn’t been a very good shootout goaltender. In the hockey portion of the competition, he’s been dependable, superb at times. But in the three years of Bettman’s Gimmick, he’s stopped 44 of 75 shots (.587 save percentage). In the last two years, it’s 15 of 31 (.484). We’re sure there are theories – big goalies are at a disadvantage, shooters know the holes, blah-blah-blah…but shootouts have been a problem – scoring in them and defending them.

That said, Kolzig kept the Caps in it when the Red Wings were threatening on a couple of occasions to take command. His save in the last two minutes of the second period at the end of an almost-two-on-one with Jiri Hudler just stepping onto the ice in time to feed Tomas Kopecky in deep was highlight-reel quality. And one might keep in mind that the Red Wings hadn’t lost in regulation on Joe Louis Arena ice in eight consecutive games, averaging 4.1 goals a game in the process and notching five goals in three of the last four. All things considered, Kolzig had a solid game.

As for the rest of the numbers, there isn’t much to pick from that give hints of advantage one way or another – the teams were that even. A couple of them do stick out…

-- The Caps had no takeaways…none.


-- Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for 8:22 of the Caps’ total of 11:22 in power play time. That might not be especially unusual, but his 17:46 in even strength time was almost two-and-a-half minutes more than any other forward.


-- Quintin Laing led the team in hits with four. He hasn’t been just a guy to fill a sweater in his call-up from Hershey. He’s contributed the gritty sort of stuff – hits, blocked shots – that a club needs as much as scoring.


-- The Caps had only four giveaways – half the number the Red Wings had. Without that kind of discipline with the puck, this game probably doesn’t go to overtime.


-- David Steckel shook off some sub-par performances in the circle, winning 13 of 16 draws (81.3 percent). This game being even as it was, though, Johan Franzen had similar results for the Red Wings (12-of-15).

Losing isn’t fun, even if it comes as the result of a gimmick. But three points in the two road games is another brick in what the Caps have built over the last three weeks. Now 7-4-2 in their last 13 and 5-2-1 in December, the club might not be putting together a long unbeaten streak, but they are on a run of some solid hockey coming against good competition (the last seven games have been against playoff teams from last year).

We said at the top of the year that the Caps would likely struggle early, but be a much better team late. We didn’t think they’d struggle so much as to find themselves last in the league and playing for a new coach, but the team they are right now is looking more and more like the team we thought they’d be developing into. There is much more road to travel – 48 games worth – but Caps fans ought to be rather pleased with this team, right now.

5 comments:

Christopher said...

As I watched the shootout last night, I said that I would be happy with the point. As I wake up this morning, though, there is one frustrating thing -- the Caps really could have won this game. Some dumb penalties (thanks again, Donald) and some missed opportunities cost them dearly . . . no, I was right the first time, I will happily take the point.

I will say again that I agree with you on the gimmick. I don't care whether the Caps win or lose in one, I HATE THE SHOOTOUT! It is almost as bad as the ridiculous one-hand-on-the-stick hooking and tripping calls that the NHL is handing out to try to make up for the fact that their rinks are too small. Gary is certainly doing his best to make the NHL unwatchable.

DMG said...

Christopher:

although it benefited the Caps last night, I think the puck over the glass call is as bad as it gets.

Peerless, I'm with you - forget the the shootout, it's a gimmick (although I'm not totally against it). The game was a tie. And considering that, I'm pretty happy.

Christopher said...

DMG:

I can take or leave that rule. Given that it helped push Semin of the shnide last night, I'm in a taking mood.

Jordan said...

I don't think Brashear should have been given a penalty for that hit. It just looked dirty because the guy hit the boards weird.

Chris said...

Jordan:

I have to disagree. Boarding by definition is when a player violently pushes or throws another player into the boards. Moreover, while the hit itself might have been clean, the follow through was high. Hard hitting is good hockey, but when you raise your fists or elbows to head-level and a guy goes into the boards hard it is going to be roughing or boarding every time. It was a dumb penalty, but Brash was not alone in taking one last night.

That said, the Caps have been taking less penalties, certainly a positive sign.