Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A NO-point night: Senators 3 - Caps 2

When you play for a point, you often get none, and that’s what happened tonight as the Caps dropped a 3-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators.

Three times in less than three minutes late in the third period the Caps took icing calls, and you could sense a momentum shift after the Caps had controlled play for the second period and a good portion of the third. Then, Alexander Semin proved rather conclusively that two wrongs don’t make a right. First, he gave the puck away in the offensive zone, and then he compounded the error by taking a ill-timed swipe at Daniel Alfredsson, tripping the Senator and earning a trip to the penalty box.

As if trying to pile the bad karma onto the Capitals all at once, Brendan Bell fired a shot from the right wing faceoff circle that Karl Alzner blocked late in the ensuing power play. Unfortunately, Alzner blocked it right back onto the blade of Bell’s stick and Bell, in what was more reflex than shot, snapped the puck past Jose Theodore for the winner. The goal came with only five seconds left on Semin’s penalty – an important consideration.

Why? Because the Senators scored all their goals on the power play. In fact, that’s the only way teams have scored on the Caps lately. Since Ryan Whitney scored at even strength for the Penguins in a 6-3 Caps win on January 14th, the Caps have gone 198:34, and counting, without allowing an even-strength goal.

The flip side of that is that the 3-for-6 penalty killing performance tonight leaves the Caps having killed off only 32 of their last 44 shorthanded situations (72.7 percent) over their last eight games.

Speaking of even strength, Alex Ovechkin has a total of four even strength points in 2009, only one in his last eight games.

Here is the interesting number for the night – 13. Both teams had 13 shots on the power play. Ottawa scored on three of theirs, the Caps scored on none of theirs.

Alex Ovechkin had only one shot in the third period. Alexander Semin…one. Mike Green…none. Only eleven skaters for the Caps registered any shots in this game. Draw your own conclusions on the chances the Caps were going to get that third goal.

Jose Theodore deserved better. He gets a player shoved into him by his own defenseman to put him off balance on the first goal, has another goal scored when a puck goes off a teammate, then allows the last goal when a blocked shot ends up on the only place it could do damage – right back on the original shooter’s stick.

OK, we get that Tomas Fleischmann isn’t going to have the kind of inky scoresheet that comes with hits, blocked shots and that sort of thing. In fact, except for an assist, his scoresheet is absolutely blank – no shot attempts, no hits, no takeaways, no giveaways, no blocked shots, nothing in 12:40. Now…explain how Chris Clark’s scoresheet looks exactly the same (including the assist).

Donald Brashear looked at times like he was shot out of a cannon. Three hits, a takeaway, and a lot of pestering of Senators in his 9:53. If the Caps had won (as in, had they showed up in the third period), he’d have been a shoe-in for the hard hat.

We wonder…have services been scheduled to pay our respects to Jarkko Ruutu after Mike Green bludgeoned him at the bench in the first period? Where do we send flowers? Oh, you say Ruutu was up and perky on the bench right after? That maybe he “embellished” things a bit?....nooooooo.

Mike Green had seven shots on goal for the game. The rest of the defense?...one.

Ottawa had 22 blocked shots. The Caps had four. Who was paying the price out there?

Tell me that if before the game, if someone had said that the Big Three for the Senators would be held to two points (both goals by Dany Heatley) and go a combined minus-5, you’d have concluded that the Caps would lose this game.

It was an odd game. The forwards didn’t do much in terms of playing defense, and the defense didn’t generate much by way of offense. It was a game wrapped around a game. The game in the middle was the one in which the Caps generated 19 shots, two goals, held the Senators to three shots, and didn’t take any penalties. In other words, the game we were expecting.

The game wrapped around that one was the Caps marching to the penalty box (three minor penalties taken in each of the first and third periods), giving up three power play goals, not getting any power plays of their own in the third period (not that they were forcing the action to draw penalties), and getting only 12 shots on net in the first and last period combined while the Senators launched 31 on net.

The Caps escaped with a win yesterday because the Islanders lack talent. They didn’t escape this one because the Senators, despite their record, do have some talent. Both were opponents the Caps should have dispatched in a straightforward fashion. They didn’t and it reveals an inconvenient truth. The Caps are a team of considerable talent, but they also have a “too pretty” look about them too often, a team that doesn’t handle adversity well, whether back to back games (they are 3-5-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this year) or in killing off penalties in critical situations. With a difficult four-game stretch coming out of the All Star break – Boston, Detroit, Ottawa, and New Jersey – it can’t be an anxiety-free week ahead, even for a team with 30 wins.

1 comment:

Steven said...

If I recall correctly, the Whitney goal was scored on a delayed penalty call, with an extra attacker on the ice for Pittsburgh...