Saturday, January 10, 2009

A NO-point night: Canadiens 5 - Caps 4

It was a family thing. The Caps gave up four goals in the third period tonight – the last with 22 seconds left in the game – in losing to the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4. The Hershey Bears did the same in losing at home to the Albany River Rats at Giant Center, 6-4.

As for the Caps, sometime you lose games you deserve to win. Uh, not tonight. They played their way to this loss with some rather poor defensive zone coverage, especially in the third period, when the Canadiens scored three goals in the first 4:31 to take a 4-3 lead and put the Caps on their heels.

It would be easy to place the blame, if one were inclined to do that, on the defensive pair of Milan Jurcina and Karl Alzner, which in the last minute failed to: a) recover the puck when it was batted down (Alzner), b) find the puck when it was bouncing around in skates (Jurcina), pay attention to the only Canadien in the area (both of them), thus allowing Sergei Kostitsyn to collect the puck and slide it under goalie Brent Johnson’s right pad – itself a goal Johnson probably would like to rewind.

But that was merely the last episode of many that had one scratching their head. How does Tomas Plekanec skate in free as a bird while shorthanded and get to fire one cleanly past Johnson without a Cap within mailing distance? We can pass on the second Montreal goal – a puck that slid up the shaft of Alzner’s stick and over Johnson’s shoulder on the first half of a 5-on-3 power play – as one of those crazy bounces that just happens. But on the back half, there were all four Caps on the far half of the ice as Andrei Kostitsyn got position in the deep slot and backhanded a loose puck past Johnson.

Then, after Tomas Flesichmann tied the game at three, the Canadiens came right back 16 seconds later on some poor coverage at the Capitals’ line that allowed Plekanec to take a pass and skate down the slot unchallenged to rifle a shot past Johnson. Neither Eric Fehr, who lost Plekanec coming into the zone, nor Viktor Kozlov, who could not close in time, could help. But there wasn’t a defenseman to be found on the play, although the record will show that Shaone Morrisonn and Sean Collins were the defensemen on the ice when Plekanec scored.

The last one, well, we’ve covered that.

It was a bad defensive outing from the Caps, which made for a much more difficult night for Brent Johnson than it had to be. While Johnson was sharp in places, even spectacular on some (his save on Matt D’Agostini at the doorstep while flying across the crease was a highlight-quality save), he had a couple of goals he probably shouldn’t have allowed – the first (shorthanded by Plekanec) and the last.

Some other stuff…

Here’s a thought…dress Nylander only for games against Montreal. He has goals in each of his last two games against the Canadiens, neither of which were scored while facing the net (tonight’s came on a left boot deflection of a drive by Alex Ovechkin). They are the only two goals he has scored since October 16th.

Alexander Semin broke a six-game goalless drought with a pair. It was his fifth multi-goal game of the year (tenth multi-point game) in 26 games played. He is on a 57-goal/82-game pace. If he can stay upright, the second half should be entertaining.

Mike Komisarek had ten – ten – blocked shots. He chipped in an assist and was plus-2 to boot. Guess he was the one making a point tonight.

Speaking of blocked shots – 32? Montreal had 32? The defense had 21, more than the Caps as a team (17). The big three of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green had 17 of their shots blocked.

Short bench in the third? Eric Fehr and Chris Clark – two shifts apiece. Sean Collins, one (we’re thinking Fehr and Collins might have been sitting for their work on that second Plekanec goal). Brashear, one.

Donald Brashear had three shots in a little over six minutes of play. Doesn’t sound like much, except in terms of frequency, Ovechkin had eight in almost 23 minutes. Donald Brashear – shot machine.

The lost weekend for the Caps means Guy Carbonneau gets to go to the All-Star Game as an assistant, instead of Bruce Boudreau, by virtue of Montreal’s better winning percentage (.683 to .663).

This is a dangerous part of the schedule for the Caps. Big game (Philadelphia) followed by middle-of-the pack opponent (Columbus), followed by another big game (Montreal), followed by another middle-of-the-pack opponent (Edmonton), followed by a game the next night against a big rival (Pittsburgh), then a showdown against the best in the East (Boston). It’s a six-game gauntlet in which the Caps now find themselves 1-2-0. And, more worrisome, they’ve allowed eight goals in the last two games. Edmonton is not a top-notch offensive team, but they aren’t incompetent, either. Pittsburgh is always dangerous, their recent struggles notwithstanding, and the Bruins are the gold standard this year. For all of the goodwill and standings cushion the Caps built to get to 27-11-3, they could go 1-5 really quickly and start seeing Carolina in their rear-view mirror.


Anonymous said...

Ovechkin had ONE blocked shot, Backstrom had TWO blocked shots and Green had ONE blocked shot. -- That's FOUR, not SEVENTEEN. SLOAN AND ALZNER HAD FOUR BLOCKED SHOTS EACH FOR A TOTAL OF EIGHT!

The Peerless said...

Don't confuse blocked shots (the four that the trio had) with the shots they had blocked by Canadiens (the 17 noted).

sleza said...

This is all part of Boudreau's plan to avoid the joke known as ASG... After this they will be saving, scoring and defensing again. Right?

Dougeb said...

Peerless, you're right, we could see our 10 point lead evaporate. In fact, if the Canes had won their last 2 instead of losing (like the Caps), the lead would now be 6 points.

I still look for the Caps to win the Southeastern Division and believe they will have between 100-110 points.

I also see them getting into the second round of the playoffs.

At this stage, the Caps wouldn't be able to match up favorably with the Flyers or the Bruins in a 7 game series.

They will need to improve a bit or hope the aforementioned teams lose some players.