Wednesday, April 16, 2008
It isn’t so much that the Caps lost to the Philadelphia Flyers last night, 6-3. It is how they did it. They were outshot, outhit, outworked, and out-attituded (ok, it’s not a word), as well as outscored. The Flyers imposed their will early and never allowed the Caps much of a respite, despite the Caps providing some anxious moments for the home team in the third period.
Games are almost never all about the numbers, but the numbers are especially revealing in this one and in this series through three games. There is one number from this game that leaps off the page…
25…That is the number of Capitals’ shots the Flyers blocked. That number is more than the total number of shots on goal (19) registered by the Caps. Ten different Flyers had at least one (the Caps had 11 total blocked shots). It is an especially significant statistic given the unfortunate experience Patrick Thoresen had in blocking a shot in Game 1. The Flyers paid, and continue to pay a price for success in this series. Thoresen, it should be noted, played in this game (no, he didn’t have a blocked shot, but he did register two shots of his own -- more than Alexander Semin, Viktor Kozlov, or Nicklas Backstrom).
Then there was these numbers…
153…It took the Flyers that many seconds late in the first period to score three goals (wrapped around a goal by Eric Fehr) and accomplish the dual goals of putting the Caps on their heels and get the crowd revved up even more than they were.
4…the Flyers scored that many goals in the last two minutes of a period (two in the first, one in the second, the empty netter in the third).
19…when the thought-to-be weak link for the opponent is the goaltender – one who might be forgiven for being a bit distracted with the birth of his child the previous day – getting only 19 shots on goal isn’t going to get things done.
5-3-1…those are the shot totals for Alexander Semin in each of the three games. If Philly is going to take Ovechkin away – and they’ve done a very good job of that so far – others have to step up, Semin foremost among them.
1-3-4, -2…that’s the combined line of the second line (Semin, Sergei Fedorov, Matt Cooke/Brooks Laich) over three games – the goal belongs to Laich, scored last night. If that line doesn’t improve, this series is probably over.
12.5…the Caps’ power play conversion rate (in percent, 2-for-16). 16 chances is not bad, but the Caps have not made the Flyers pay any sort of price for their indiscretions. The Flyers will continue, and probably increase, their friskiness – especially so as it concerns running goalie Cristobal Huet – as long as the Caps go meekly through power play opportunities.
70…that’s the total number of shots the Caps have recorded in three games.
57…that’s the number of Caps’ shots the Flyers have blocked in three games.
+2…that’s the best plus/minus on the club...Eric Fehr and Donald Brashear. That’s right, Eric Fehr and Donald Brashear.
12...the number of shots for Ovechkin. Here is his shot chart through three games. He’s being pushed to areas from which he is not nearly as likely to score.
0-0-0, -3, five shots…that would be Viktor Kozlov through three games.
0-1-1, -1, two shots…that would be Nicklas Backstrom through three games…one assist, -4, and seven shots in three games from two-thirds of the top line. And these guys are presumably skating in clearer ice with so much attention being paid to Ovechkin. Actually, they’re not, but that is evidence of the effort being put forth by the Flyers, which the Caps have not matched. Despise them, we do, but we have to respect the ethic they have displayed in three games. They have not so much outplayed the Caps as outworked them. And at this time of year, “will” is as important as “skill.”