Thursday, February 21, 2008

Zednik Speaks...this afternoon at 1:00

It is being carried live at

Your number for the day...


No, that's not the number of games played by Chris Chelios in his career -- that would actually be 1,604. But you'd be getting warm as to its significance.

That is the number of games of combined experience held by Chris Clark, Brian Pothier, and Michael Nylander. These three players -- all on the shelf at the moment -- might very well have played their last games of the season for the Caps.

That is a lot of talent, experience, and depth the Caps are deprived of when they could use it most, as the season heads into the last 20-game stretch.

Think of that number, and compare it to last night's lineup, one in which five of the 18 skaters have 100 or fewer games of experience under their belts. If you look at the top five scorers on the club and account for Viktor Kozlov's 810 games of experience, the other four average less than two full seasons of play among them. Alex Ovechkin is the "grizzled vet" of that bunch with 224 games played.

With all the success the Caps have enjoyed over the past three months, it is also a fact that this team is very green. While several of the kids -- Mike Green, David Steckel, Tomas Fleischmann, for example -- have gone through this at the AHL level, this is their first taste of a tight playoff race at this level. We've never had to go through it, but we're guessing it's not quite the same.

There isn't any substitute for experience but experience, and the kids are getting that "trial by fire" training in front of our eyes. It means that as a team, the Caps will have to turn things up a couple of notches over the next six weeks, but whether they are sucessful in the end in getting to the playoffs, they will be a better team for what they are going through right now.

A one-point night: Islanders 3 - Caps 2 (OT/SO)

It’s like chili without the meat…pizza without the sauce…a hot fudge sundae without the fudge.

The Capitals are missing an important ingredient to their game, and it was on display last night in getting one point – not two – in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

The missing ingredient?…the ability to close out an opponent when they’re down.

The Islanders came to town on a winning streak, but depleted due to injury. The Capitals did their part early, using goals by Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich to run out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. And then…


At least the Caps are getting the minimum daily requirement of iron in their diet. Well, Alex Ovechkin is, anyway. He rang the crossbar or the post several times, including in the shootout.

One might be inclined to give Islander goalie Rick DiPietro the credit for holding off the Caps, especially with fine saves on Semin and Matt Pettinger in overtime, but this one is on the Caps. It is a game they could have, and should have won…period. It is the kind of game they have to win if they are going to make the playoffs.

It was a season-high third straight game without a point for Ovechkin, who had only one shot on goal registered (he also had four blocked and missed six others…we’re thinking he’s still feeling the effects of the flu).

For the fourth time in this four-game series, the Caps were held to two goals and played what amounted to a game on the Islanders’ terms…again. They were outhit by the visitors (24-13) and coughed up the puck 32 times to giveaways or Islander takeaways. The Islanders more than doubled the blocked shots credited to the Caps – 21-10.

It was a game of firsts, in addition to the first three-game pointless streak of the season for Ovechkin:

- The first time the Caps have lost a game this year when leading after two periods
- The first point for Matt Pettinger (the primary assist on Semin’s goal) since January 21st, against Pittsburgh.
- The first time in six games in which Pettinger had a point and the Caps lost.
- The first assist of the year for goaltender Olaf Kolzig (the second assist on the Brooks Laich goal).
- The first time Ovechkin was held to a single shot on goal in more than two months (December 10th, against New Jersey)

And here's an odd stat…but for the five shots on goal by Mike Green, the defensemen had…


As a group, they only attempted three (Tom Poti and John Erskine each had one shot blocked, Shaone Morrisonn missed on his lone attempt). “Getting the puck to the net” apparently wasn’t in (or wasn’t paid sufficient attention) in the game plan. It’s worth noting that the Laich goal was scored off Green throwing the puck at the net.

At this time of year, every point is precious, and getting one is better than getting none. And while the 3-2 overtime loss to Atlanta last week might qualify as a “good” one-point game, this one has to qualify as one of the “bad” one-point games, as the Islanders are a team that the Caps – playing at home – should have and needed to beat.

Perhaps just as precious are games held in hand. The Caps squandered a chance to tighten the screws a little further on Carolina, on which they still hold two games in hand while trailing by two points. While it is possible that the Caps could tie the Hurricanes for the Southeast Division lead with a win in Raleigh on Saturday (and a Carolina loss in regulation tonight when they host Atlanta), the Caps could also find themselves trailing by six points when they face New Jersey on Sunday, should Carolina win tonight and on Saturday. This is a roundabout way of saying that whatever margin of error the Caps have had is rapidly bleeding away, made worse by giving up a point in a game such as last night’s. And, as if it needs mentioning at this point, last night’s disappointing result sets up this weekend’s back-to-back games against Carolina and New Jersey as of the “huge” variety.