Friday, October 30, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Thrashers 3

They gotta stop doing this.

Another run out to a lead, then hang on for dear life at the end sort of game against a team they should have squashed like a bug. But those are our Cappies these days, winners of a 4-3 decision last night.

Alex Ovechkin got his points early (2-1-3 in the first 25 minutes), Semyon Varlamov got his saves late (17 on 20 shots in the third period).

For all the teeth knashing that might have gone on in the third period (and Coach Bruce Boudreau had a look about him that would melt iron in the post game), the game turned on a five minute sequence in the first period. It started with a simple play that the Caps haven’t been getting right much lately. With Jim Slater in the box for the Thrashers after a hooking penalty, Brendan Morrison won a faceoff over to Brooks Laich along the boards. Laich sent the puck back to Mike Green, who forwarded it to Alex Ovechkin on the left point. Ovechkin wired it past goalie Ondrej Pavelec before he (or Marty Reasoner, who had that part of the ice to cover) could react, and the Caps had the lead.

Then, Jim Slater was hooked down as he was crossing the Caps’ blue line on a breakaway. A penalty shot was called, and Slater had his penalty shot attempt swallowed up by Varlamov. A minute later, Nicklas Backstrom found Ovechkin streaking down the middle, and Ovechkin undressed Pavelec with a leg-kick-wrist shot over the glove hand and just under the crossbar. What could have been a 1-1 game was 2-0, and with leading goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk out of the lineup, it was a deep hole for the Thrashers to climb out of.

Other stuff…

- We noted that the Caps scored a goal on a play that they hadn’t been getting right lately. Well, Brendan Morrison taking an offensive draw on a power play is a signal of a lingering problem. Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t finished a game on the plus side of faceoffs since October 10th against Detroit. Since then he has been over 40 percent only once and under 30 percent three times (including last night) in six games. Perhaps ironically, Backstrom was on the plus side in the offensive zone last night (4-for-7), while Morrison was not (4-for-9).

- Having said that about Backstrom, we have to point this out, too. His assist to Ovechkin was magnificent. From the top of the circles in his own zone, he lofted a saucer pass out and over Maxim Afinogenov’s stick between the Caps’ blue line and the red line, right onto Ovechkin’s stick blade just outside the Thrashers’ blue line. There aren’t three people on the planet who make that pass. Backstrom seems to make those saucer passes three times a game (though not that spectacularly).

- Brooks Laich: three assists. And yes, he has done it before, the last time being last March 27th against Tampa Bay.

- That’s two straight games the Caps have surrendered 20 shots on goal in the third period. That’s not something you’d like to see become a habit.

- Two minor penalties speak to the kind of road-game discipline you’d like to see. The two shorthanded situations faced is the low for the year so far.

- Tomas Fleischmann might not have gotten on the board, scoring-wise, but seven shot attempts, a hit, and splitting two faceoffs in 16 minutes of ice time was indicative that he’s ready to go.

- Speaking of hits… your hits leader: Jeff Schultz (3).

- It was good to see Mike Knuble break the five game goal-less streak, even if it was an empty netter. The odd part, though, is that his 15:11 in ice time was his low for the year.

- Ice time was distributed rather evenly. Only three Caps had over 20 minutes, none of them forwards, and only Tyler Sloan skated for fewer than ten minutes.

All-in-all, it was another successful, if exasperating result. But, to wear the grooves on this record down some more – two points is two points, and they sure beat the alternative.

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