Saturday, December 13, 2008

A TWO-point, three-goalie night: Caps 5 - Senators 1

It was a full day.

First, the goalie with the hip problem has to start because the other goalie suffered a hip problem of his own (they don’t have this many hip problems at Sunset Pines Retirement Home). Then, the guy who works in web production – who conveniently enough actually played goaltender in Division III hockey – was signed to an amateur tryout contract after the team received special permission. He skated out for warm-ups, in what has to be the bar story to trump all others when he’s knocking a few brews back with friends 30 years from now, and didn’t look half bad out there. Then, the star kid goalie (Simeon Varlamov), who was called back while his team was on a bus in – wait for it – Gonzales, Texas, flies back to DC and gets to the bench mid-way through the first period.

The question we have is, “is this the first time two goalies dressed for their first NHL game since…the first NHL game?”

That the Caps then went out and pasted the Ottawa Senators, 5-1, was almost an afterthought. Certainly the Senators looked as if they considered the game an afterthought. To be fair, Ottawa did play with some energy in the first three-and-a-half minutes or so, when they registered the first four shots of the game. Then, Nicklas Backstrom, who is a lot stronger on the puck than he was last year, fended off a Senator defender, and swept a pass to Alexander Semin easing down the wing, inside of Backstrom. Semin deked a little here, dipsy-doo’ed a little there, and as soon as you could say, “game over, man…game O-ver,” the puck was slipped just inside the far post under goalie Alex Auld.

After that, Ottawa just didn’t look as if they had a lot of energy. Then they did something stoopid. You knew, you just knew that given the tender hip Johnson was lugging around, Jarkko Ruutu was going to take a run at him. He did – at 13:33, well after Johnson froze the puck on a Ruutu shot, but Ruutu skated right up to him and all but ran him over, prompting a response from Shaone Morrisonn that got both sent off for roughing.

Ruutu’s effort did not have the intended effect. Johnson didn’t miss a beat, and the Caps stepped their tempo up a notch, scoring the four goals in the next 40 minutes of clock time. By the time Jesse Winchester got a garbage time goal with 2:23 to go in the game, the Senators – Alex Auld in particular -- had the look of a team that wanted to find the bus to the airport.

Some observations…

Speaking of Auld, he took one right off the coconut that had him shaking his head to try and get his bearings, and the Caps missed a chance to make it six goals on the night as Auld was doing his best imitation of Rocky trying to get off the canvas at the end of Rocky II.

He wasn’t the only one to take abuse from a puck. Anton Volchenkov – the shot-blocking machine – took one in the leg that left him limping for the bench. He did not play in the third period. The Caps had 16 of their 34 shots in the third period. We do not see this as a coincidence.

The Caps were guilty once more of some creative ways of giving the puck back, but for the most part used the opportunity of some improved health to so their “red swarm” thing. When they have nights like this, one wonders how they ever lose a game. Having seen some of the ways they’ve lost games, we don’t wonder too long.

Mike Green…1-2-3. Sergei Fedorov…0-3-3. Think they weren’t missed?

I don’t know about the hard hat, but Donald Brashear deserves something for his effort tonight. He was flying out there and looked from time to time as if he’s spent some of practice trying to duplicate moves that Alexander Semin uses. One sequence where he lugged the puck from center ice through the offensive zone, around the back of the net, and fed a centering pass…we were wondering where the crap that came from.

Viktor Kozlov had one shot on goal and no points, but his contribution in lugging the puck into the zone under control so that the Caps could set up an offense shouldn’t be diminished.

Much will be made about the Senators getting 33 shots on Johnson. Well, the line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson had a total of four (and didn’t register a point). We’ll take that.

Alex Ovechkin had two goals…and no hits. Don't see much of that.

Coming into this game, Karl Alzner had five straight games with more than 20 minutes of ice time. Tonight, 15:45. And half a minute of that was some power play time to end the game. That’s what Mike Green coming back will do (Green had 21:56).

Good things happen to those who shoot. Just ask Brooks Laich, whose turn-and-fire from the blue line looked like it might have nicked the shaft of a Senator stick just enough to distract Auld trying to snare it with his glove.

The Caps were 3-for-7 on the power play tonight. That makes a neat 20-for-60 in their last 15 games.

Nicklas Backstrom had three assists tonight… that’s 9-17-26 in his last 18 games.

The mystery man we looked at in the pre-game – Antoine Vermette – looked really, really good skating with the puck and creating chances. Finishing those chances?...not so much. He was actually the best player on the ice for the Senators tonight.

The five goals the Caps netted represent the high-water mark against Ottawa this year, although they did allow four in two of their previous five games.

It was an entertaining hockey game, to be sure. But nothing is going to beat the guy in the cubicle -- Brett Leonhardt -- who was told by George McPhee, “Make sure your gear is down at Verizon and be ready to go at five." As a fan, we couldn’t take our eyes off him in warm-ups. What a thrill it must have been.

Only in hockey.

Great job, boys…and nicely done, Brett.

1 comment:

zelda said...

What a night! I'd been so busy in the afternoon that I hadn't had time to look at the blogs before going to the game, and we weren't able to get there for the warm-ups, so when Brett appeared on the jumbotron, I was totally perplexed. Then when they put Varlamov on the jumbotron, I was really confused, but at least I knew who he was.

Good recap of the game, Peerless. The only thing I will add is that Juice had the best game I think I've ever seen him play. The last game he was good, too. If he keeps this up, he has himself one heck of a career. He and Alzner are very effective playing together.