Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Canadiens 3 (OT/SO)

Today’s arithmetic lesson…

2 points ugly = 2 points pretty

It wasn’t pretty, to be sure, but in the end a couple of Gimmick goals (one ugly, one pretty) were enough for the Caps to come from behind and earn a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Let’s go to the ugly first…

Penalty killing… giving up three goals on four Montreal power plays. This game isn’t really close at even strength. Montreal simple didn’t threaten much. But they needed only 1:04 of combined man advantage on three of those power plays to get three goals. And even the penalties were of the ugly sort – three hooks and a whopper of a delay of game when Mike Green let fly from the Zamboni corner and nearly hit Craig Laughlin in the head in the TV booth. OK, not quite that far, but you could see Craig from where it landed.

Then there was the bad…Hey, refs?...if the microphone isn’t working, turn it the hell off! You guys were static of the sort that was having air traffic controllers at Reagan National airport shouting, “KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF! WE’RE LANDING PLANES HERE!!”

And the weird…Uh, somebody want to explain how it was that the forward who led Montreal in ice time was… drum roll, please… Tom Kostopoulos? Kostopoulos is a hard working sort of cuss, but in the end, you’re doing us a favor there, Guy.

Of course, there was the good…Nicklas Backstrom has a really good set of hands. The give and go he worked with Sergei Fedorov was a thing of beauty to watch. Feeding the puck down to Fedorov, then strolling toward the net as if he was out to get the morning paper. Fedorov laid the puck right back on Backstrom’s tape, and Backstrom flicked it into the net with the sort of calm that wouldn’t ripple a pond if he fell in. That wasn’t the end of it. Backstrom also netted a Gimmick.

But then, there was the sublime…You’re charging like a wolverine on crack after the puck, racing a Montreal defenseman to see which one of you will get there first. Of course, you do, but instead of taking a hit or sweeping it away, you have the presence of mind to spin and backhand the puck off the side boards, where it ricocheted behind the defenseman you were just in a race with. Then, you peel out like a Lamborghini, chasing down the puck where another defenseman is desperately trying to poke the puck away, or ride you off the play, or seek help from a local deity. Instead, he pokes your skates and knocks you off balance. You go skidding on your side toward the opposing goal, but before you go careening into low earth orbit, you cue-shot the puck past the goalie’s pad and inside the near post for a goal that would be talked about for ages, but for an even better goal you scored three years ago.

Another day in the life of Alex Ovechkin…

You want other stuff?...

The final tally will show that the Canadiens won the faceoffs, 31-27. Seeing as how they won 11 of the first 14, the Caps didn’t finish that badly.

The Caps had more misfires (37: 23 blocked, 14 missed) than Montreal had shots on goal (33).

This will hardly surprise you, but the Caps had a total of 4:12 in power play time. Ovechkin and Mike Green were out there for every second of it.

Think the Canadiens didn’t miss Alex Kovalev? Well, the Kovalev that actually shows up to play, anyway. He’s their leading Gimmick producer (good on three of six tries this year).

The Swedes (Backstrom and Nylander) were a combined eight up and 18 down in faceoffs.

Those three Montreal power play goals? They came on a total of four power play shots.

Think Carey "Pant Load" Price (look closely...he has the biggest pants this side of Rosie O'Donnell) is going to need a new mask? He was hit twice with Ovechkin shots, once stopping play because of equipment malfunction.

Bruce Boudreau rode his work horses. Five players played more than 23 minutes – Tom Poti, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green.

It seemed as if this was the opposite of a heavyweight fight. You know, the one where the opponents come out a feel each other out for a couple of rounds before trading haymakers? Not this game. There were 20 hits in the first period, evenly divided between the teams. There were only 19 over the remaining 45 minutes (including overtime).

A couple of the TV-feed descriptions of the play…

“What a power play…this is sickening” (as the Caps were playing keep away in front of Carey Price and getting opportunities in high-value shooting zones)

“That’s insanity” (a description of the Ovechkin goal)

Despite the commentary from the TV guys on the Canadian feed, this wasn’t all that pretty a game by the Caps. They did not play badly; in fact, they seemed this close to finishing plays several times. But this is a Montreal team that can’t score these days, and that was with Alex Kovalev. With Kovalev sitting at home, Montreal getting three goals has to look disappointing, especially when all of them came on the power play.

But in the end, it’s two points, and that’s what pays off in this league. Nice job, boys.

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