Sunday, April 05, 2009

A TWO-point afternoon: Caps 6 - Thrashers 4

If you wanted a title for the movie that played at Verizon Center this afternoon, it might be “Revenge of the Stunt Men.” Or maybe, “The Incredibles.” The Caps got five goals from guys who might be deemed in other circumstances “role players” in scratching out a 6-4 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Fan Appreciation Day at Verizon Center (we extended our streak to 11 consecutive season enders at the VC without winning any prizes).

Tomas Fleischmann, who last scored a goal when Millard Fillmore was in the White House, got one.

Keith Aucoin – the smallest player on the ice – was the one who seemed most inclined to stick his nose into the middle of things and got one.

Michael Nylander, last seen scoring a goal about the time Betty and Barney Rubble tied the knot, got one. Nylander celebrated in Ovechkinian fashion with a double arm-wind that was reported to have been replayed in the locker room after the game by Brooks Laich and that, according to Eric Fehr in the radio post game, had the guys hooting on the bench.

Fehr got one by jamming the crease and poking one home.

Brooks Laich added an empty netter to send the Caps fans home happy in the knowledge that wings will be on the menu tomorrow, thanks to a local restaurant franchise.

The other goal was scored by an Alex – Semin, not Ovechkin. However, Ovechkin inched ever closer to Evgeni Malkin in the dying days of the race for the Ross Trophy. He had a pair of assists to give him 106 points. Malkin was held off the score sheet in a 4-2 loss to Florida to narrow the Penguin center’s lead over Ovechkin to two points.

Other stuff…

- Ovechkin is going to give message boards all over North America fodder for discussion for this number – 24. No, not his favorite TV show, but the number of shot attempts he had this afternoon. 11 of them got through to Thrasher goalie Johan Hedberg, but none of them got past him. His shot total is now up to 507. With three games to play, he needs 44 shots on goal to get to 551 and pass Phil Esposito (1970-1971) for the most in a season in NHL history. What’s odd is that Ovechkin probably passed up four or five additional shot opportunities from what are for him high-value areas in favor of passing to a teammate.

- Nicklas Backstrom, “Faceoff Warrior,” did it again. 12 of 16 in the circle. He’s crazed, I tell ya, crazed.

- Even with six goals, the Caps could have had more if they weren’t so gosh darn cute with the puck on the power play. If the Caps wanted a sponsor for the man advantage to replace Pepco, they could have Wes Johnson announce over public address system, “The Caps are on a ‘TOTES’ Power Play.” They spent insane amounts of time passing the puck at the top of the five man umbrella. In seven power plays, they had a total of six shots. Against a team that came into the game 29th in the league in penalty killing, that’s just nuts.

- Making things worse on the power play, the Caps allowed a shorthanded goal on which goalie Jose Theodore looked as if he guessed way wrong on which side of the net Jim Slater was going to end up shooting at. Theodore did make a fine save on Eric Perrin in a similar shorthanded situation earlier in the game, which begs the question – what were the Caps thinking, giving up better chances to the Thrashers on their own power play than they were getting at Hedberg? If they draw Philly in the first round and play like that, it’ll be a short series.

- On the other hand, fans were on Theodore where we were sitting on the goal scored by Ilya Kovalchuk. Hey, you know what? Kovalchuk has scored 296 goals in the NHL and won’t turn 26 for ten more days. He didn’t score that many at such a young age without knowing how to pick a far corner over the glove. We were more concerned how it was he got open enough to get that shot off as the Caps defense looked as if it backed off, leaving Nicklas Backstrom to try desperately to poke the puck off off Kovalchuk’s blade.

- Jeff Schultz didn’t make it out for the “jerseys off our backs” ceremony. He was back in the locker room getting stitched up. Add two hits, and Schultz is turning into “The Executioner” right before our eyes. OK…no.

- Atlanta had seven shots on goal in the second period. So did Ovechkin.

- This was Fleischmann’s firs multi-point game since February 11th. It was Fehr’s first since February 11th, too. It was Nylander’s first since February 3rd. It was Aucoin’s first since January 12th…2008, when he was playing for Carolina.

- The Caps out-attempted Atlanta 78-42. Until the third period, though, it seemed as though most of those attempts were coming from Adams-Morgan.

- How many times do you see not one, but two players have their sticks broken by opponents’ slap shots on the same penalty kill? The Caps had five on two guys with sticks and two without and didn’t get a shot through to Hedberg.

- We’re not exactly sure why, but Viktor Kozlov got two shifts of ice time after being on the ice for the Kovalchuk goal. That’s two shifts in the last 24 minutes and change for the game. Hey, he wasn’t alone…Kozlov was minus-2. His linemates – Sergei Fedorov and Alex Ovechkin (at least for the early stages of the game) – were a combined minus-3. We’re hoping that can be filed under, “get it out of your system now, boys.”

- In another episode of “Dumb Play Week” (Sergei Fedorov’s pass that resulted in the game-winner for Buffalo on Frida), Jose Theodore made a play that perhaps not even a mite would make – trying to clear the puck up the middle, perhaps thinking he could score into the empty Thrasher net with under a minute to go. He made a great pass as it turned out – to Slava Kozlov, who promptly deposited the puck into the empty net…the one Theodore abandoned to make his play.

- The Caps finished the home portion of the regular season with a 29-9-3 mark, good for 61 standings points…the same number the New York Islanders have in all their games.

Like we said in the pregame, this Atlanta team – here and now – is a team that has played well for a long stretch, with better results coming into this game, in fact, than the Caps had since February 1st. It is not a bad team, certainly not nearly as bad as their complete season record would suggest. The Caps didn’t have their “A” game, at least not for the first 40 minutes, but they showed what they can do when their opponent has their undivided attention. They outscored Atlanta 4-1 in the final 20 minutes (the one for Atlanta being a bonehead play by the goalie) and held the Thrashers to seven shots.

20 minutes of that sort of play won’t get it done after this week, but we suspect the guys know that. They need to marry a thought to an action, though. They need to play like they know it.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hey Peerless, completely off topic, but I was at the Onion website today and came across a classic "news story" -- it's old, so I'm sure you've probably seen it, but here is the link anyway: