Friday, January 25, 2008

A TWO-point night!...Caps 2 - Maple Leafs 1

On November 22nd, the Caps were on a pace for 53 points for the season. With tonight’s 2-1 in over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Caps are on a pace for 84 points. But if you look at the Caps over the last 29 games, during which they have amassed a 17-8-4 record, keeping up that pace in the 32-game post All-Star break sprint to the finish would result in 93 points.

You’d have to think that 93 points would: a) win at least an eighth spot, or b) win them the Southeast Division outright, given the state of the other four teams in the division. The Caps stand at the all-star break one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes with two games in hand.

Tonight, the Caps ended the figurative “first half” of the season on a high-note in a low-down game. There wasn’t anything pretty about it, nothing that would commend it as an example of what the Nu-NHL strives to be. It was played zone-to-zone and along the boards with a singular lack of continuity or flow. What chances there were came out of nowhere and were few and far between, despite the 52 shots combined shots recorded by the two teams.

In other words, it was exactly the kind of game Toronto wanted to play…and they still lost.

Brooks Laich tipped a drive by Alex Ovechkin…Boyd Devereaux tipped a drive by Pavel Kubina…Viktor Kozlov cleaned up after another drive by Ovechkin with goalie Vesa Toskala far out of position to do anything about it.

That did it for the scoring. They were blips on an otherwise flatline of a game spent largely in pursuit of pucks in the corners and along the boards. Toronto did another efficient job of taking away the center of the ice, clogging passing lanes and leaving the Caps to dump, chase, and hit (the Caps had 22 hits). When Toronto managed to move the puck out of their own end, they dumped, chased, and hit, too (they had 18 hits).

Since this was more to Toronto’s liking in terms of style, they had -- for lack of a better term -- the “advantage” of play for the most part. They managed 32 shots on Caps’ goalie Brent Johnson, but except for the wacky deflection just under the crossbar by Devereaux, Johnson was more than equal to the task of keeping the net free of pucks. He did manage to make a few top-notch saves, particularly a glove save on Mats Sundin on a drive from the edge of the left wing circle in the third period.

For the record, the 10:45 sports report on WTOP radio proclaimed that Kris Beech netted the game-winner. We hope Viktor Kozlov does well in Hershey.

Hey, we all make mistakes.

As for the numbers and other stuff, there isn’t much in there that leaps off the sheet…

For Alex Ovechkin, it was a deuces-are-wild night…two assists, two points, two shots (two??), two shots blocked, two shots missed, two giveaways.

Nicklas Backstrom made it back to the scoresheet with an assist…he hasn’t been held scoreless in consecutive games in a month.

Tonight’s big bopper was Milan Jurcina – six hits, including one on Alex Steen in the first period that effectively ended his evening. Steen did not return after the first intermission. He also had four blocked shots to tie for the team lead (go ahead…guess the player with whom he was tied).

No Cap had a losing record in the circle. As a group, they won 33 of 53 draws (62.3 percent) and were led by Boyd Gordon (11-for-18) and David Steckel (10-for-16).

Heard on the 3WT post game…”Big Boo”…apparently, this is a nickname the studio guys have given to Bruce Boudreau. We don't think it's going to catch on.

The Peerless knarfed down three dogs, in case you were wondering.

As for the second period hot dog eating competition…no one should contemplate giving up their day job, and that includes the “Black Widow,” who looked for all the world as if she was struggling mightily to keep her “lunch” down. We already can’t wait for next season’s competition. Maybe they’ll have bloggers.

We miss not seeing Kerry Fraser’s coif-of-perfection-and-envy. Fraser in a helmet is like putting Saran Wrap around the Mona Lisa. He looks like one of the mites out there in that thing.

Brent Johnson’s 31 saves on 32 shots faced added fuel to the fire for a goaltender controversy. For a town that almost invented the term, “quarterback controversy” in football, it could make for an interesting situation.

Alexander Semin had no shots on goal. In case you were wondering, that’s only the fifth time in 31 games that’s happened.

It was “deuces-wild” for Mike Green, too…two shots, two shots blocked, two shots missed, two giveaways, two blocked shots.

Green also had 11 seconds of penalty killing time. That is almost twice as much as his average (six seconds/game).

Of the 18 skaters for Toronto, only Anton Stralman and Darryl Boyce were held without a shot on goal, and Boyce only played 3:20 (he left the ice in the second after catching a skate in a rut and didn’t return).

With this loss, the Maple Leafs lead the Eastern Conference in road losses in regulation (15).

Ovechkin scored two points and dropped from a tie for second to third in scoring...Daniel Alfredsson leap-frogged both Ovechkin and Vincent Lecavalier with a seven-point night in an 8-4 win over the Lightning.

The 23-22-5 record on this date is the best for the Caps since the 2002-2003 season (22-18-6-3), the last year they made the playoffs.

The 23 wins equals the total number of wins recorded in the 2003-2004 season.

And there you have it…the Caps are poised to make a run at a playoff spot in the second half. If they can get Chris Clark and Brian Pothier back, it’ll make the club that much stronger…and give Bruce Boudreau some more of those hard choices coaches are supposed to love.

Hang on, kids…it gets to be a wild ride from here.


DCSportsChick said...

So true about Helmet Head. Who doesn't miss seeing that coif?

Jasper said...

"Tonight’s big bopper was Milan Jurcina . . . "

No kidding! And very entertaining to boot. You could have made a training film last night on the topic of "stepping up and creaming the attacker".

RE: "scoring" -- Kudos to Johnny and all, but you failed to mention that one particular Leafs shot that rang off the post behind him sounding like one of the big bells in the National Cathedral. And probably heard from that far away as well.

I kinda like "Big Boo", actually, as a moniker for Boudreau. It actually fits quite well. Boundreau and McPhee: Big Boo and Spanky

Hooks Orpik said...

We tied in hotdog eating with 3. I was going for another but at my station was told there were no more dollar dogs available at the moment, they were cooking.

I too was thinking/hoping/expecting the "Black Widow" to puke as well during her demonstration. Now THAT would have been a show.

I did the student rush for the first time...Ended up in row G of section 114. Unbeliveable.

DMG said...

If the Caps finish with 93 points, I think they'll take their division pretty handily

b.orr4 said...

Let's face it, the Caps were a tired team last night having played seven games in eleven days. Yet they still managed to go 5-2 during that stretch. What most impressed me last night was that they won a game that really doesn't suit their personnel; a close-checking, hard fought defensive battle. After the All-Star break, there are going to be a lot more of those and the team that works the hardest is the one that's going to win this division.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

Kerry Fraser looks like a little geek (or something worse) organ and his calls last night stunk.

Chris said...

Johnson and Jurcina had great games. Alex Semin did not.

This game was the textbook definition of an "escape." I think the all-star break will do this team some good.

One thing. With a couple of exceptions (a lot few than in most NHL games these days), I actually thought it was a well-officiated game. There were, of course, a couple of Bettman's mandatory phantom hooking/interference/holding calls, but I think a lot of Caps fans were calling for penaties that just weren't there.