Friday, January 04, 2008

A no point night: Bruins 2 - Caps 0

Sometimes, you get the bear…and sometimes, the bruin gets you.

That Bruin would be Tim Thomas, who – if he played the Caps 40 times a year – might end up in the Hall of Fame. As it is, the 2-0 shutout he rung up last night against the Caps in Boston made him 8-0-1 in his career against the red, white, and blue.

It wasn’t enough to take the shine off the back-to-back wins against Ottawa, but it was a dose of reality, that there is a lot of work to do…and having depleted bunch with which to do it makes it harder.

It wasn’t as if the Caps lacked for effort as much as for results…at both ends. Boston couldn’t put the game away against Caps goalie Olaf Kolzig until they were granted a two-man advantage mid-way through the third period. A double minor to Mike Green for high sticking and a bench minor for too many men on the ice was converted into a game-clinching goal by Zdeno Chara 36 seconds after the penalties were assessed. And even that was a product of the Caps’ netminder being leveled in his own crease by his own teammate, Jeff Schultz, who just seemed to lose track of exactly where he was. Chara had what amounted to an open net at which to shoot.

Before that, Marc Savard made good on a rebound to give the B’s a 1-0 lead in the second period, but the story of this game was two goaltenders exchanging big stops…Thomas denying Tomas Fleischmann on a break following a turnover less than six minutes into the game…Kolzig snuffing out a drive by Phil Kessel off a pretty drop pass from P.J. Axelsson…Kolzig again stopping Marco Sturm from in close in the last two minutes of the first period…Thomas stopping Nicklas Backstrom from point blank range…Thomas again, stopping Donald Brashear all alone in the slot…Thomas denying Alex Ovechkin, not once, but twice in the same sequence, leaving Ovechkin to gaze into the rafters.

It was a treat for those who like goaltenders making big saves, even if the result was disappointing to Caps fans.

Not much to tease out of the numbers for this one; it was a tightly fought affair. If anything, the minutes evidenced the problem injuries create…guys getting more minutes than they otherwise might, perhaps playing roles they might not other wise play. For example, Schultz played almost six minutes more than his season average (23:50, compared to 18:06). Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich split up a good portion of the power play time that Alexander Semin might have gotten (3:32 and 3:14, respectively…Semin averages 4:42 in power play ice time this year). Even John Erskine, who had logged barely two minutes of power play ice time for the season, registered almost a minute on the man advantage that Tom Poti might have had.

On the other side, former Cap Glen Metropolit might have been the best player on the ice last night for the Bruins not named “Thomas.” A pair of assists, 60 percent on faceoffs, no giveaways, and it was his shot from which a rebound came that Savard pounced on for his goal.

But the story was Thomas. Alex Ovechkin noted after the game that the game was "[the] most terrible game of the season for us. We don't move. We don't shoot the puck. We were sleeping tonight – everybody. Only Olie (Kolzig) played well. I don't know what happened to us."

That might have been frustration talking. In all sports, there are “fill-in-the-blank killers”…a player who just has a knack for success against one team, even if his career hasn’t been otherwise noteworthy. In baseball, the example is someone like Frank Lary – a guy who won only 128 games in a 12-year career, but was 28-13 against the New York Yankees, earning him the nickname of “Yankee Killer” and once prompting Yankee Manager Casey Stengel to hold his ace – Whitey Ford – out of a matchup against Lary, noting that if Lary was going to win anyway, why waste his best pitcher doing it. Thomas seems to be growing into that kind of “Cap-killer.”

After this loss, some comments we remember from Brooks Laich the other day seem relevant. He noted that in a long season, you’re going to lose games here and there, but you can’t let one loss become two. The Caps have to avoid streaks of the negative sort at this point, which makes the game on Saturday in Montreal important.

1 comment:

DMG said...

Very good point by Laich (and you for including it). With Boudreau I've started expecting to win every game and obviously that's not realistic. They key for any team trying to put up a good record, especially one who was in as deep a hole as the Caps were (are?) is to not have any lengthy losing skids.