Sunday, October 12, 2008

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Blackhawks 2

OK…that’s more like it. Sure, 26 seconds in, it was looking like a rerun of last night, when Jose Theodore did his impression of croquet wickets on a rather pedestrian shot from the right wing circle by Kris Versteeg. But Theodore righted his ship – he even made a few top-notch saves (although his communication with his defense still has moving the puck being a continuing adventure). And Brooks Laich, the man Chuck Norris wishes he could be, scored one of the ugliest goals you ever might (or in this case, didn’t) see to get credit for the game-winner in a 4-2 Capitals win in the home opener.

Here is what we saw…

Let’s get this out of the way up front…the Caps need to play with a little – ok, a lot more urgency, especially in their own end. In the first period, it seemed from our perch that the Blackhawks pretty much had free openings to enter the offensive zone down the wings. The Caps were backing in a little too hard, and it force Theodore to make some difficult first saves.

The official three stars of the game were Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, and David Steckel, in that order. Fine…The Peerless’ slice o’ pie goes to Matt Bradley, who was a force on the ice just about every shift. He was like a laser guided cruise missile seeking out the puck carrier and separating him from the biscuit. He converted a nifty cross-ice pass from David Steckel to get the Caps back into the game when the contest looked as if it might get out of hand early.

Someone might stop by Nicklas Backstrom’s locker and let him know…the season’s started. Backstrom looked oddly out of place most of the night, a carryover from last night. He was abused in the faceoff circle (two wins in ten draws). He had the quietest 14:44 imaginable.

We don’t know if it will last for 82 games, but Sergei Fedorov was up and down the ice like a fiend, joing the rush one moment, then hauling a** to backcheck at the other end. And, he won 13 of 17 draws (six-for-six against Patrick Sharp).

For two guys with reputations for not liking to mix things up, Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann were sticking their noses into crowded areas all night. True, they got knocked around some, but they didn’t lack for effort. Fleischmann, especially, had a fine game effort-wise, a much better effort than Friday. Both of these guys are extraordinary at handling the puck in tight spaces.

It was a bad night for “Patricks.” Sharp and Kane were each -3 (so was Brent Sopel…is his middle name “Patrick?”).

No, folks, they were not chanting “Hyoooooooooooooooooo-ay” when Cristobal Huet took the ice for warm-ups.

Chris Clark had only 10:40 in ice time and did not skate in the last 7:34.

Viktor Kozlov had 13:14 in ice time. Only four times in 81 games last year did he have less.

Donald Brashear led the Caps in takeaways (three). That should be “Breaking News” on CNN.

Want to hazard a guess who led all forwards in penalty killing time? The same guy who now has scored a goal in each of his four career home openers (in three of them, he’s notched a pair of goals).

Jose Theodore has as many points as Mike Richards, Thomas Vanek, Rick Nash, and Pavel Datsyuk.

And is it me, in an old fart moment, or shouldn’t the pictures used to introduce players on the big screen have players dressed as…hockey players?

Nikolai Khabibulin is still looking around to figure out where those two pucks went off the stick of Ovechkin.

This was not the sort of game you’d hope to see – or expect to see – in March. But it was the kind of game you might see in October. Even as familiar as these guys are with one another, the Caps still have the look of a ship undertaking sea trials. You can see the skill, and there were guys this close to converting plays tonight, but they are not there yet. They almost let Chicago run away from them early, but Theodore played much better as the game wore on (it would hardly have been possible to do worse than give up a goal on the first shot he faced from near the bottom of the right wing circle). It would be hard to say any Cap played badly, especially in the last two periods. And again, no lead for the opposition seems safe. But two points is two points, and they count for as much now as in April.


Larry said...

"Even as familiar as these guys are with one another, the Caps still have the look of a ship undertaking sea trials."
I agree with this, but it's very odd, given that they all know one another so well. This may be a tickle-down from The Joe-Zay "Who the heck IS this guy" Factor. As it reverberates through the ranks and gets everyone very nervous. They don't seem to have donned their Attack Attack Attack hats as of yet this season and maybe the mistrust of Theodore is why. Well, no one's wearing that Attack hat except Hair-On-Fire Greener. ('Wait s sec! Where the hell is he going now?!!')

this space for rent said...

It may be an ugly goal, but it's still a goal, and I'll take it.

That second goal of Ovi's was absolutely sick. How does he do that?

All in all, a vast improvement. Yes, more improvement is a good thing, but the play was a vast improvement over Friday night.

Dan, Jr. said...

So, Backstrom did play in this game? Flash is looking great and does seem a little tougher. I swear I saw Semin putting a head lock on a Hawk. Feds is earning his pay. That's for sure.