Monday, March 16, 2009

A NO-point night: Thrashers 5 - Caps 1

The best that can be said of that embarrassment is that there are just some games you’re not going to win, and the Caps certainly weren’t going to win this one…not the way they played. And that means that the worst one can say of this was that they just weren’t in much of a mood to play hockey. You could point to Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green being out, Brian Pothier being in after a 14-month absence, and the team having a lack of flow on offense, but that won’t explain the job the penalty killers did. They should return their pay envelope for this game.

Getting beat is not a sin. But getting outworked, outhustled, and outhit (save for an angry Alex Ovechkin) by a team that that took the ice with a two inch and ten pound disadvantage per skater…that just isn’t part of the excuse manual.

The Caps got into a running around contest with the Thrashers early, and never found much structure to their game until the third period, by which time goalie Kari Lehtonen had long established that he was in a groove, and even if he wasn’t, it was far too late to eat into a 4-0 Atlanta lead that the Thrashers built over the first 40 minutes.

Atlanta had nine shots on goal on their first four power plays, resulting in three goals. And this was a team without Ilya Kovalchuk.

Tom Poti had perhaps his most unfortunate, if not his worst night as a Cap. Asked to assume a lot of the role of Mike Green, he was on the ice for each of the first four goals scored by Atlanta. Then he had a terrible turnover at his own line that led to the last Atlanta goal in the third period.

As for Shaone Morrisonn, he was on the ice for each of the first four goals, too…he didn’t have the excuse of having to assume a bigger role.

If you’re tracking such things, that’s 12-5, Thrashers, in two games at Philips Arena. And, they are 6-for-13 on the power play (46.2 percent). That’s pretty good against air. The Caps have one more visit – April 7th.

- And did Tom Poti kill Keith Jones’ dog or something? Jones was relentless in his criticism of Poti on the Versus telecast, even well after the game was over. OK, it was largely deserved, but Keith, it probably wasn’t the worst performance in the NHL this year.

The lie of numbers…

- If someone showed you the final scoresheet and pointed out that the Caps outshot Atlanta, 50-25, would you think the Caps lost by four goals?

- If you saw that that the Caps out-attempted the Thrashers 83-38, would you believe that the Caps converted only one of those 83 attempts?

- If you were told that Alex Ovechkin had 20 attempts by himself – 10 shots on goal – would you believe he was shut out on the scoreboard?

- Or if Alex Semin had nine attempts, that he had the same result?...or eight for Milan Jurcina, ditto?

- Someone keep the faceoff results away from the Caps’ centers. Boyd Gordon – oh-for-six…Nicklas Backstrom – two-for-10…David Steckel – one-for-four…Michael Nylander – four-for-11. That’s seven-for-31. The team was 21 up and 39 down. Brutal.

- Has there been a better waiver wire pickup in the NHL than Rich Peverley? He had a really solid game, despite not netting a goal of his own. He’s 10-15-25, +10, in 27 games since joining the Thrashers.

- Eight hits? Eight? It looked like Ovechkin had that many in the last ten minutes of the second period.

- Tell me you had Zach Bogosian leading the Thrashers in shot attempts (seven)…ok, tied with Todd White.

- Ovechkin had as many misses as Bogosian had attempts. He was launching them from everywhere to try to get the Caps jump started.

Even though the Caps launched 50 shots on goal at Kari Lehtonen, they rarely got rebounds (Lehtonen did a fine job of redirecting or smothering them), and a lot of shots ended up in Lehtonen’s leg pads, suggesting an inability to get high shots on net (when they did shoot high, it was over the net).

And, there is the matter of the secondary scoring. Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom aren’t going to score every night. And when they didn’t tonight, there wasn’t anyone to pick up the slack. It’s been that way for a while now, and it is troubling.

So, let’s go back to that scoresheet…the Thrashers won more faceoffs, had more hits, had fewer giveaways, had more takeaways, had more blocked shots. Now you know why they won. They wanted it more.

Yanking Jose Theodore after giving up four goals on 19 shots in 33 minutes sets up an interesting scenario for tomorrow. One might have thought Simeon Varlamov would get the call tomorrow night in Florida, but does Coach Bruce Boudreau put Theodore back in the saddle tomorrow and give the rookie the start in Tampa on Thursday?

OK, we get it…Fedorov was held out, Green was held out. If it was the playoffs, we expect they probably would have played. But their absence unmasked a certain delicate balance the Caps seem to have, not to mention questionable depth (or at least some inconsistency) in important roles. No one could step in and win a draw (any draw), despite having – we’re told – two of the better faceoff men in the league. And no one could step in to even assume a faint echo of the role Mike Green plays. Brian Pothier could not be expected to assume that role, not with 14 months of rust. For the moment, he’s just out there to become re-acclimated to the speed of NHL games. Tom Poti has struggled with intermittent injuries this year and has never really been called upon to be the all-things in all-situations defenseman Green was becoming.

The Caps played a thoroughly acceptable game…after the first 35 minutes. But that’s really the definition of closing the barn door after the Thrasher got out. Those first 35 minutes the Caps looked slow and unengaged as the Thrashers were abusing them on the power play. How a team with that sort of size disadvantage could do such a job of screening Jose Theodore is mind-boggling.

The Caps could have taken over second place in the East with a win (although New Jersey would have had three games in hand). It was a lost opportunity. We’ve been saying that more and more lately, and it has an uncomfortable sound to it.


Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

It was painful to watch - no doubt about it...

Flying Cloud said...

I'm sick of these No Fedorov games. He's participated in some stinkers too, no argument there, but it's boring and ugly without him.

Bryan said...

No more feeling sorry for themselves because Green is out, or Feds is out, or blah blah. This team has lost its consistency, and is struggling to get it back. One can only point to the coach, and Boudreau needs to show the league why he won coach of the year honors last season. Luckily there is more than enough time left in the regular season to figure it out, and get back to playing Caps hockey... but you DO NOT want to back into the playoffs on a losing streak. Stop PLAYING DOWN to inferior opponents.