Saturday, April 04, 2009

A ONE-Point Night: Sabres 5 - Caps 4 (OT)

[OK…so here is what we would have written, had not our interwebnets provider not decided that their service didn’t need a vacation. We’d name the culprit, but we are not given to such Bombast, if you catch our drift]

A local restaurant franchise offers Capitals fans free chicken wings if the Caps score six or more goals in a game. The Peerless wonders, if the Caps score seven, but three of them are by their own sticks or body parts into their own net, does that count toward free wings?

That was the story last night as the Capitals earned a point and won the Southeast Division title, but dropped a 5-4 overtime result to the Buffalo Sabres in a game where Semyon Varlamov was superb when facing actual shots off Sabre sticks. He just couldn’t cope with shots that: a) deflected off of Milan Jurcina’s skate, b) ricocheted off Viktor Kozlov’s stick blade, and c) took a hop off Shaone Morrisonn’s leg among the five goals credited to the Sabres. His save percentage was .926 on 25 saves in 27 shots faced from Buffalo shooters; it was .000 – no saves in three shots faced – against his teammates.

It was a weird night all around…

- Tim Connolly missed a wide open net from about 18 inches out in the first minute of the game. Bruce Boudreau alluded to this in the post game when he remarked that things – missed open nets and shots off your own guys for goals – tend to even out. Not in Capsville, Coach…not in Capsville.

- The linesmen (Pierre Racicot in particular) had a really bad night calling offsides. They missed no fewer than three instances in they whistled the Caps for the infraction when a Cap had in fact kept the puck in the zone. How do we know this? Because there was in-house replay of each instance. We wonder if the league isn’t going to tell the Caps to knock it off and stop showing up the officials.

- And The Peerless wonders…a Cap and a Buffalo player get tangled up and roll into the goalie, all three knocking the net off it’s pegs. The Cap is down and on his back. The Buffalo goalie takes a swat at the Cap lying on the ice. The Cap gets the gate for goaltender interference. What, Alex Ovechkin’s face interfered with Ryan Miller’s glove?

- Tomas Fleischmann had only a single assist, but it was a doozy. As Buffalo was trying to clear the puck out of their end, Fleischmann – parked near the Buffalo line – dove and poked the puck across to Sergei Fedorov, who ripped a shot past Ryan Miller. Fleischmann, perhaps more so than in any game this year, asserted himself in the corners and along the boards. He initiated contact instead of letting guys push him around.

- What’s gotten into Nicklas Backstrom? 13 for 18 on draws? In his last four games, he is 53 up and 22 down (70.1 percent) in the circle.

- Sergei Fedorov – a veteran of 1,243 NHL games heading into last night – made a rookie mistake in overtime, trying a risky pass in a 4-on-4 situation with a Sabre bearing down on him. Tim Connolly broke up the play and fed a streaking Jason Pominville, who skittered past the last man back – Jeff Schultz – and snapped the puck through Varlamov’s pads for the win.

- Speaking of Fedorov, things happened when he was on the ice. He took 24 shifts last night and in half of them, the shift ended with either a goal (three for each side) or a penalty.

- Alex Ovechkin had a 1-2-3 night…and still finished minus-2. The good with the bad.

- The Caps were 3-for-7 on the power play, but one had the feeling they should have had more…like that 5-on-3 in the second period in which they failed to score in both the 5-on-3 and the 5-on-4 segments.

- If you want a thrill ride, don’t head to Kings Dominion or Six Flags America…watch Semyon Varlamov handle the puck. Between wondering if he’s going to take a wandering penalty (he’s already been whistled for handling the puck outside the Trapezoid of Despair this year, and he came close a couple of times last night) and watching him cough it up (he had four giveaways last night…the Caps don’t have than many giveaway promotions in a season), The Peerless had his heart in his throat each time Varlamov was trying to play the puck. Hey, he’s a rookie…he’ll get better.

- The Caps had a game plan with which The Peerless agreed entirely. Buffalo is not a big team. They’re built for speed and quickness. The Caps, on the other hand, are among the bigger teams in the league. So, the Caps “tenderized” the Sabres pretty well last night in an effort to wear them down. Washington had 24 hits, many of them of the slobber-knocker variety. Milan Jurcina had five hits…Alex Ovechkin had four. Shoot, even Jeff Schultz had three. For heaven’s sake, Tomas Fleischmann had three! It woulda been a great game plan, except for that pesky detail about scoring into your own net.

- The Alexes had 18 shots between them – nine apiece.

- Speaking of shots, the Caps had 37 on goal, but only from 11 skaters. No shots from forwards Viktor Kozlov, Eric Fehr, and Tomas Fleischmann – all of whom are predominantly offense-oriented (and who combined had only three shot attempts) – is equal parts weird and disturbing.

- The Caps set a record last night – in attendance. With last night’s sellout, the Caps hit 723,715 in total attendance for the year. That’s 18,093 a game, or 99.0 percent capacity.

Both teams got what they wanted – Washington got a point to clinch the division and no lower than a three-seed for the playoffs; Buffalo got the extra standings point they desperately needed. But only one team got what they needed. Buffalo got a breath of life and kept their dim playoff hopes alive in a building where the Caps don’t lose often and rarely lose when scoring first.

The Caps, on the other hand, got the bitter taste of a clinch in a loss. It was a far different ending than the manner in which they clinched the division last year. In the post game radio show, it was reported that to a man, the Caps were not happy. Coach Boudreau certainly sounded equal parts subdued and unhappy in the post game comments. The thing is, the Caps outplayed the Sabres in just about every way. Except for the odd bounce that makes hockey “hockey,” this game wouldn’t have been competitive.

Congratulations to the Caps on winning the division for a second consecutive year. However, it’s a measure of what is expected this year, and the standards the club applies to itself, that no one is shouting about it this morning (which is now evening, thanks to our interwebnets provider).

1 comment:

Biff said...

"How do we know this? Because there was in-house replay of each instance. We wonder if the league isn’t going to tell the Caps to knock it off and stop showing up the officials."

To be fair, one of the times the jumbotron operator decided to prove the puck had stayed in, the linesmen had actually whistled the play dead because the Caps had played the puck with a high stick. Of course, this didn't stop everyone in the arena booing the "offsides" call.