Saturday, October 25, 2008

A TWO-point night: Caps 6 - Stars 5 (OT)

It’s still two’s still two points…it’s still two points.

It might not have been an aesthetic masterpiece, but tonight’s 6-5 overtime win by the Caps over the Dallas Stars is still two points, and it salvages a three game road trip for the Capitals.

The operative word in this game was: “deep”… in, the defenses of both teams were beyond awful deep in their own zones. Let’s start with Washington. Here is all you have to know about how bad the Capitals were deep in their own end. Sean Avery scored a goal on a long rebound off the right pad of Jose Theodore – that one’s on the goalie. But the last four Dallas goals were scored from a total of 48 feet…an average of 12 feet apiece. That’s pretty much four point-blank goals. If anything, Theodore kept the Caps in it, as the Stars might have rung up double digits with the chances they had.

At the other end, Marty Turco was an adventure all to himself. He was more of a beer-league goalie early – giving up four goals on 19 shots through two periods – but turned into the missing Flying Wallenda late, personally stuffing Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin twice apiece when the pair has almost open nets at which to shoot. Strangely, if not for some timely play from the goaltenders, this might have been an 11-10 game, instead of a 6-5 game. The respective defenses were that bad.

But enough of that…next April, if…when the Caps are getting ready for the playoffs, this will be just another game in October. Meanwhile, there were milestones tonight:

- Tyler Sloan netted his first NHL goal when he converted a rebound at the doorstep to Turco’s left.

- Sergei Fedorov passed Alexander Mogilny as the top-goal scoring Russian in the NHL with his first of two goals tonight.

- Sean Avery scored his first goal as a Star.

- Marty Turco sustained his first career loss to Washington.

Some other things that stand out…

- Another indicator of how bad these defenses were…Dallas blocked only 15 of 55 Washington attempts, Washington blocked only 10 of 55 Dallas attempts. In today’s NHL, that seems mighty low. Only one player on the ice had more than three – Philippe Boucher, and one would not say he had a very good game.

- So there was Krys Barch, doing his best Matt Bradley imitation, trying to move up in weight class to take on Donald Brashear on the faceoff following a Dallas goal. Like Bradley against Pittsburgh’s Paul Bissonnette in a recent game, Barch got his beak cut and ended up on the wrong side of the pile down on the ice.

- 35-12. No, that wasn’t the score of the Weber State – Montana State game a couple of weeks ago (ok, it was), it was the hit totals. No, Washington did not have the 35. Only three Stars were not credited with a hit. Meanwhile, three Capitals’ defenseman failed to register a single hit (Morrisonn, Schultz, Sloan). The other three – Erskine, Green, and Jurcina -- had a total of four…the same number Joel Lundqvist had in barely nine minutes of playing time.

- Nicklas Backstrom showed some more signs of life tonight. He has an assists, attempted five shots, had a couple of takeaways, and tied for the team lead in hits (ok, the team lead was “two”).

- It’s worth noting that this six-goal outburst came on a night when the top three lines of opening night were re-united: Ovechkin/Backstrom/Kozlov (0-2-2, even), Semin/Fedorov/Laich (3-3-6, -1), Fleischmann/Nylander/Clark (2-2-4, +3).

- Here’s an odd one…Mike Ribiero and Brenden Morrow were on the ice for the last four goals scored in this game – two by Dallas and two by Washington, including the overtime winner. Loui Eriksson might have made it if team skated five a side in overtime. He wasn’t on the ice for Alexander Semin’s game-winner.

- The more we see this Ovechkin on the penalty kill thing, the more we don’t like it. It might have been a “high-risk, high-reward” kind of idea, but it looks more and more like “high-risk, low-reward.” But we’re wondering…if Ovechkin got 2:46 of penalty killing time tonight (third among forwards), and Chris Clark got none, is there a problem with Clark (total of 11 minutes and change)?

- Fabian Brunstromm got a power play goal…and he was on the ice for two Caps goals. He’s been on the minus side in five of his last six games (-2 tonight).

- Tomas Fleischmann is looking like a real live NHLer more and more these days. As Craig Laughlin put it tonight, he had lightning in his stick. If not for Turco’s acrobatics, he could have had four, perhaps five goals.

- Boyd Gordon won 13 of 17 draws, but in the ends, he was eight of ten in the defensive end and won both offensive zone draws. In fact, the Caps won 15 of 22 draws in the defensive end – no Cap had a losing record in their end.

- This was the third time in four games that the Caps have coughed up a second intermission lead. And, they had trouble finishing off periods, giving up a man-down goal with ten seconds left in the first and another (Turco having been pulled for the extra skater) with 57 seconds left in the third.

- Marty Turco stands a 41st in the NHL in save percentage (.842) out of 42 ranked goaltenders. Maybe he was distracted by his alma mater losing their fourth home football game of the year this afternoon, the first time in 40 years that’s happened to the Michigan Wolverines.

- Don’t worry, Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson are on the “second page” of the rankings, too (31st and 34th, respectively). It’s actually a fairly esteemed group on that second page…Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, and Martin Biron are back there, too.

This was a 140-foot game…for the defense, as they played (for lack of a better term) between the face-off dots. Both offenses managed to get the puck deep often and made the best of their chances. The Caps played well enough to win, perhaps, against Phoenix, and didn’t. They certainly played badly enough – on defense – to lose this game, and didn’t. Getting three of six points on this road trip would have been satisfying, even if it didn’t throw fans into a delirium. Getting none would have been a disaster. Getting two? Let’s just say, “ok, that’s over,” and pick things up against Nashville on Tuesday.

Because, it’s still two points.

photos: AP


Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

While last night wasn't his best effort as a Cap so far (his save percentages against Calgary and Phoenix were better), Theodore definately deserved the win. As you point out Turco was a beer leaguer through the first half of the game before he woke up, and Theodore kept the Caps in the game (again). Thankfully, despite letting the Stars tie it up with less than a minute to go, the Caps salavaged 2 points.

To me the key thing to point out is through these first 8 games of the season since the end of the first period of the second game, goal-tending has NOT been the Caps problem. That's why I'm sure better days are ahead, and that ain't bad for a team that from a points available/points captured perspective is 0.500. Now lets get out there, tighten up the defense a little boys and get the offense scoring some more.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

Also I thought Marty played for Michigan not Michigan link to MSU - "the Spartans" not Michigan "Go Blue/Wolverines"...

I could be wrong though....

The Peerless said...

Marty did play for Michigan, and his alma mater lost. The link I chose was to the winners (and, my alma mater, although I also claim, with some embarrassment, to having earned a degree at Michigan).

Anonymous said...

A win is a win, and they don't take off points for winning ugly. That's not a great road swing, but as you said, it's passable. Goaltending is certainly looking up, but where was the D? Some of those guys on the blue line looked like they would have trouble defending the Mustang Ranch on Saturday night.

And as for the college grids, hey, my alma mater (Towson) got pretty much demolished on the road at UNH. Surely there must have been some Caps fan, somewhere, who had a good football Saturday.