Sunday, February 24, 2008

A no-point night: Hurricanes 6 - Caps 3

It’s gone.

Whatever margin of error the Caps had entering the weekend was blown away in a force-5 onslaught of power play goals, courtesy of the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-3 thumping in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes now enjoy a six-point lead on the Caps, while the Caps have three games in hand. The Caps also have two games left with Carolina to be played in the last half-dozen contests of the year. After tonight, you’d have to wonder if it those games will matter. Washington is now 6-6-2 in their last 14 games with the loss tonight (including only one win in their last five), and while they still have yet to lose consecutive games in regulation under coach Bruce Boudreau, they have won consecutive games only once in the last month.

Let’s boil it down. The Caps have five games that matter – the three games in hand and the two remaining against Carolina. They have to win them all. If they win only four of them, they can do no better than tie Carolina for wins, unless Carolina helps out by having a worse record than Washington over the “non-Caps” portion of its remaining schedule. It is unlikely there will be a second Southeast Division team making the playoffs.

As for the game tonight, there just isn’t much to say about it that’s good. Alex Ovechkin registered three points (all assists, part of a 15 shots-attempted, five hit effort), Mike Green added to his league-leading goal total among defensemen, and…well, that’s it.

The bad?...let’s start with playing stupid…three hooking calls taken in a space of less than four minutes spanning the end of the first and the beginning of the second period. Whatever momentum the Caps might have had going into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead was pretty much stomped flat with that march to the box, Carolina finally cashing in on the last of the three penalties to tie the game. After that, Carolina took over the game, outscoring Washington 4-1.

Then there was this…four goals scored by Carolina were scored within 10 feet of the net (ok, 12 feet, according to the NHL play-by-play sheet). All were pucks lying open off rebounds that defensemen were not able to clear away. Another – the first Hurricane goal by Matt Cullen – was scored on a slap shot with two Carolina players screening goalie Olaf Kolzig. The defense had a ghastly night playing defense.

And that’s pretty much the story of the game – the extra whacks at the puck Carolina was allowed to have that explains their 42-34 shot advantage and 6-3 goals advantage. The Hurricane power play – or rather, the Caps giving up seven power plays – served as an added ingredient to allow Carolina to roam around the Caps’ net with little resistance.

There was a fair amount of puck-flicking and stick-banging by Kolzig after Hurricane goals. It might have been less frustration and more a realization that in this, the “biggest game of the year,” things were beginning to slip away. Unless the Caps turn things around in a hurry (as in, say, tomorrow, when they play one of those “games in hand”), that’s exactly what will be happening.

1 comment:

dmg said...

I would have started the bad with John Erskine, whose failure to get the puck out from the front of the net and failure to contain Andrew Ladd in front led directly to two goals. So that's two goals.

Broken sticks on the PK helped to contribute to two of Carolina's goals.

So if the Capitals had the sense to scratch Erskine, a little better luck (and if Cam Ward hadn't had such a good first period), the game could have easily gone the other way.