Thursday, November 29, 2007

On the rocks

The folks at On Frozen Blog offered up an opinion on the Verizon Center ice on which the Capitals play. It is not offered to sing the praises of the facility.

Let's look at this another way...

-- The Caps have the worst home record in the NHL (3-8-1, compared to a 5-7-1 road record).

-- The Caps are 29th in the league in home scoring (2.25 goals/game)

Given how this team is built -- with "skill" puckhandling and shooting guys like Alex Ovechkin, Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom -- is it a coincidence?

A deep hole...

The Caps are 2-1-1 under interim coach Bruce Boudreau. Over a whole season, five points every four games gets you 100 (102, actually), and you're in the playoffs, if not a divisional champ.

But five points every four games won't quite do it at this point. With 57 games left to play, that pace will earn them an additional 71 points. Added to the 18 they have this morning, that's 89...probably good enough for about 10th or 11th in the conference.

Close, but no cigar. Such is the hole they've dug for themselves.

A ONE point night -- Florida 2 - Caps 1 (OT/SO)

Did The Peerless mention, shootouts suck?

Well, they do, and not just because the Caps, well…suck at them. They just do.

But one point is better than none, although two is what the Caps need…in bunches. And they need to take advantage of teams like the Florida Panthers that, outside of games against the Caps, are 9-12-1. Last night’s 2-1 shootout (ugh…) loss to the Panthers was just another frustrating night on F Street. Make no mistake, Tomas Vokoun is a fine goaltender, but 3-0-0, 1.62, .944 against the Caps? Are we sure the Panthers traded Roberto Luongo to Vancouver?...Or does he make special appearances against the Caps?

Who is Tomas?...Who is Roberto?...for the Caps, does it matter?

Part of the problem is special teams – specifically, the Caps’ power play. With last night’s 0-for-4, including an unsuccessful power play in overtime, the Caps are now 1-for-13 against Florida (7.7 percent).

But today’s special number is this – 44.

That’s the percent of even strength time Alexander Ovechkin spent on the ice (20:36 of 46:46). Such a number might not be extraordinary for a defenseman – Jay Bouwmeester logged 20:24 of even strength time, for example, but it seems rather unusual for a forward. It is one of those subtle things that reflect the state of the offense that is the Caps right now. Chris Clark’s goal last night notwithstanding, the offense pretty much runs through Ovechkin. Over the last ten games, in which Ovechkin is 8-3-11, he’s had a hand in 46 percent of the Caps’ scoring. He’s had a third of their goals. But we’re not noting anything new. That the Caps have had trouble scoring has been this year’s running theme. And Alexander Semin reinjuring his ankle, as reported in this morning’s Washington Post, isn’t going to make things any easier.

On the other side, this was the eighth game of the season in which goaltender Olaf Kolzig allowed two or fewer goals. He is 0-1-1 in such games against Florida, 5-1-0 against the rest of the league.

There really isn’t anything remarkable about any of the numbers of this game, save how “quiet” they look. Statistically, Washington was the better team – more shots, more chances, more hits – but they just couldn’t finish. For some guys – Jeff Schultz, David Steckel, Brooks Laich – a quiet night isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But for others…Alexander Semin, Tom Poti, Mike Green, Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov…a quiet night isn’t the best thing, either. Combined, they had ten shots on goal, four of them by Nylander. Compare that to the 11 shots that Ovechkin had by himself, and you get the feeling that other guys need to be sharing the burden of production more.

But did we mention that shootouts suck?