Saturday, November 14, 2009

A NO-point night: Devils 5 - Caps 2

Well, at least it was short work. The game lasted barely two hours.

If you’re going to end a winning streak, best to leave no doubt. And after the first five minutes or so of tonight’s game between the Capitals and the New Jersey Devils, the home team left no doubt as to which team is the class of the Eastern Conference at the moment.

The Devils spotted the Caps a 2-0 lead in the first 5:02 of the game, then steamrolled them with five straight goals in the next 38 minutes on their way to a 5-2 win in Newark.

What went wrong? Gee, that’s a tough one. Not for finding something, but for trying to put them in order. Well…

There were the confused defensive zone coverages that allowed Colin White to barrel into the zone late to send a puck off Brian Pothier and behind Jose Theodore for the first Devils goal.

There was the bad offensive turnover married to an unfortunate line change that allowed the Devils to spring Zach Parise on a breakaway before Shaone Morrisonn could get off the bench and into the play that led to the Devils’ third goal.

There was the three-on-two break with the Caps caught deep in the New Jersey end that led to Matt Halischuk’s first NHL goal that ended the competitive portion of the evening in the final minute of the second period.

There was the defensive zone draw that was lost (although curiously enough, it was scored as a “win” for Nicklas Backstrom in the play-by-play sheet) and Jose Theodore fishing the puck out of the net three seconds later.

The rest was Martin Brodeur who, not unexpectedly, was sharp, and he made the pivotal play late in the second period with the Caps trying to tie the game before the second intermission. Mathieu Perreault collected a loose puck just inside the Devils’ line, took a couple of steps in, and sent a strong backhand that Brodeur had to fend off. The rebound squirted to Chris Clark who had room on Brodeur’s glove side to shoot at. Clark went for the opening, but Brodeur got across to get a glove on the puck and smother it at the left post…

45 seconds later, Matt Halischuk had his first NHL goal, and instead of going into the second intermission tied, the Caps were down two goals. The competitive portion of the evening was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Other stuff…

- With all due respect for his effort in his short time with the Caps, but if Mathieu Perreault is the best player on the ice for the Caps (and he was tonight), they are not going to win games.

- It was the best of times (he scored the Caps’ first goal, his seventh in nine games), it was the worst of times (he was on the ice for every even strength goal for the Devils). That was the night for Tomas Fleischmann.

- Nicklas Backstrom couldn’t even claim a “best of times” moment. No points, minus-3, and he lost eight of ten draws.

- Alexander Semin is one of the most gifted hockey players on the planet. Unfortunately, he is at times not among the smartest. The offensive zone turnover that resulted in the Zach Parise breakaway goal was… well, you tell me what he was thinking here as he is about to send the pass across to… uh…

- What is a slump? Well, here’s an example. Six appearances, a 2-1-2 record, getting pulled once after allowing three goals on five shots (and not getting the decision), a 4.57 GAA, a .850 save percentage, and allowing at least four goals in four of the five games you finished. Jose Theodore is in a slump.

- Well, the power play was perfect… one opportunity, one shot taken, one goal.

- Boyd Gordon came back, played six minutes, saw his shadow, and went back into the tree stump after proclaiming there would be six more weeks of winter. Or something like that.

- If you're thinking giving up five goals is bad, consider that the two guys who are plus-10 (Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble) were out. We won't argue that Ovechkin is a great defensive player, but he can put pressure on a team in their zone that will kill any thought of cheating. And Knuble is a very responsible player, which was something the Caps could have used.

- How in blazes are the Devils doing it? There are names there no one but their mothers would recognize – Pelley, Sestito, Halischuk, Murphy. Lose a player, plug another one in, and go merrily on your way. That’s “The Devils Way.”

- That was the Caps’ eighth loss of the season. The previous seven all were one-goal losses.

- Hey, they’re still on a pace for 115 points…

Look, Jersey is on top its game, and if you’re not at the top of yours, this is what happens. It is a loss, it had some ugly moments, it had some disturbing elements for the future (Theodore needs to get out of his slump, and Semin needs to wise up… well, that one’s been beaten to death). The trick, as always, is to make sure one does not become two, and the Caps will get the opportunity to right their wrongs on Tuesday against the Rangers.

(screen captures from

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