Saturday, November 07, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Panthers 1

Wishes do come true.

And that is not always a good thing.

One wish coming true that falls on the good side is that the Capitals beat the Florida Panthers last night, 4-1, in the front end of a weekend back-to-back to end a three-game winless streak.

The wishes Caps fans might have to see Hershey defensemen Karl Alzner and/or John Carlson in the lineup could come true at the price of the loss of Mike Green and Jeff Schultz, both of whom were injured in the win. The injuries have everything covered, Green’s being described as an “upper body” injury, Schultz’ of the “lower body” variety. Add to that concern that Shaone Morrisonn could be facing a forced absence after boarding Kenndal McArdle in the third period, and the Caps could skate the second half of this back-to-back with half of their defenseman squad on the shelf.

But for the game, the stars were Jose Theodore and Brian Pothier. Theodore shook off two difficult outings – giving up five goals to Columbus and four to the Islanders – to turn away 28 of 29 shots. It’s worth noting that the Panthers were held to 29 shots. It is the first time the Caps have held an opponent under 30 shots since a 5-4 win against Atlanta on October 22nd. The Caps were 3-1-2 in the six games in between (two of the wins coming in extra time, as were two of the losses), and the one goal allowed was the fewest since a 4-1 win over San Jose on October 15th. But Theodore was solid throughout (“solid,” not great – there were a few juicy rebounds he left lying around, one of which led to a power play goal), especially early when he stopped all 12 shots in the first period, including a flurry in the game’s third minute of play in which Florida had several chances to get the opening goal with shots from in close.

Brian Pothier. In going 1-2-3 for the night, the Caps defenseman had his first multi-point game since December 15, 2007, and his first three point game since October 7, 2006. It was his goal on a power play slapper that gave the Caps insurance early in the third period . He added a couple of hits and a pair of blocked shots at the other end.

Other stuff…

- Mathieu Perreault did not get an assist on the Caps’ first goal, scored by Tyler Sloan, but he should have (in principle). He got the whole thing started, taking a pass at the center red dot, then curling down the right side and over the Panther line. He came to a stop just inside the line and found Chris Clark going down the left side. The puck got a piece of Pothier’s puck on the way through, but Clark collected it and found Sloan coming late down the middle as the fourth man on the rush. Sloan didn’t give goalie Tomas Vokoun a chance to react to the snapper he put on net, and the puck was in for the 1-0 lead.

- When Tomas Fleischmann uncorked a slapper from just inside the Florida blue line just past the four-minute mark of the first period, and the puck squeaked through Vokoun and started crawling toward the Panther goal line, only to be swept out of the crease inches from going over, we could not help but think… maybe one or two fewer scuffs of the clean ice by Vokoun at the start of the period, and a little less snow would have built up, and the puck would have inched over. We think weird things like that.

- Theodore also had a nice save on Rostislav Olesz on a breakaway chance in the second period.

- We liked that Brendan Morrison goal in the second period. Why? Because a younger player probably doesn’t take that extra half second to open up his stance to improve his angle and allow the goalie to go all the way to the ice before roofing the puck.

- Wish Mike Knuble could have finished that feed from David Steckel on a two-on-one down low against Vokoun. Steckel stripped Dmitry Kulikov of the puck inside the Panther line, then did a nice little curl of the puck through Bryan Allen to set himself up in the open to find Knuble streaking down the other side. Knuble just could get the extra six inches or so of lift on the puck to get it over the lunging Vokoun, who made a nice save, denying Steckel what would have been a great, well-earned assist.

- Pothier got his goal manning the Ovechkin spot on the power play and scored it in pretty much the same, if less electrifying, fashion… a one-time slap shot from above the left wing circle.

- Two things to note about the Pothier goal. First, watch the replay. Who is crawling over a Panther defenseman looking for a rebound?... Tomas Fleischmann. Strange world, ain’t it? Second, you might not know the name, “Michael Repik.” He’s the guy who took the roughing penalty that led to the Pothier goal. When he skated back to the bench after Pothier’s goal, his night was over. He did not skate over the last 13:04.

- One can’t say enough about the Caps defensemen in this one. Mike Green skated for only 2:44 before going down, Jeff Schultz for 7:27. Pothier and Tom Poti both logged more than 25 minutes. For Pothier, the 25:20 was the most time he’s logged since skating for 27:08 against Vancouver on October 26, 2007. For Milan Jurcina, his 23:12 in ice time was the first time he skated more than 20 minutes in a regular season game that didn’t end in extra time since December 20, 2008. With Green, Schultz, and Morrison gone, the Caps were left with only four defenseman for the last eight minutes of the game, Tyler Sloan moving back from forward.

- Here is what happened in that last eight minutes in which the Panthers were still in it at 3-1… Florida managed only two shots on goal. The Caps, meanwhile, blocked five shots. Five different players had those blocks – Jurcina, Pothier, Matt Bradley, Fleischmann, and Sloan. The Caps won four of six faceoffs. It’s worth noting that the of the four defensive zone draws in that sequence three were taken by (and won by) David Steckel. Steckel did not lose a defensive draw all night.

- Matt Bradley tied for the team lead in shots on goal? He had seven attempts and four on goal, you say? The odd things that happen when the big guy is out.

- Meanwhile, Alexander Semin had one shot on goal and five attempts in almost six-and-a-half more minutes that Bradley. At the moment, we get the feeling Semin is holding that stick a bit too tightly, in a manner of speaking. He needs something ugly to go in. The flair will come later.

- Accidental or whatever, you have to be more careful with a short bench than Shaone Morrisonn was in his hit on McArdle. The Caps are facing a number of teams in the next few games that have some trouble scoring, so if Morrisonn is to ride the pine for a game or so, it might not have quite the impact. But it probably wasn’t the smartest thing he’s done this week.

- What’s with the “red mallet” theme at Bank Atlantic Center? When the glass was knocked out, it was red mallet all around, none of which seemed to work… until the red sledge of death was unveiled. There’s a promotion night in there somewhere.

- The Caps had nine players with multi-hit nights. Even Mathieu Perreault was credited with one… on Keith Ballard, who outweighs Perreault by 35 pounds.

It was a solid, lunch pail, meat and potatoes effort. The Caps cashed in on opportunities, they had guys step up in terms of effort and production, they got solid goaltending. It was a fine road win for a team that is having to deal with injuries at key positions. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for tonight…


pbocaps said...

Peerless - Good wrap except it looked to me like the Panther goal deflected off of Sloan's shoulder to generate the rebound, not Theo.

The Peerless said...

You're probably right, PBO. Missed it from the angle I saw it.

Diane said...

Wouldn't be surprised if Semin is playing "nervous" and "tense" and not relaxed at all. Given that he has next to no margin of error with our fan base and had the type of game on Wednesday that only could happen in my absolute worse nightmares.

Mike said...

Who took our old Flash and replaced him with a hungry, crash the net, fight on the boards, make sick moves, and hustling top 6 winger? I had to pause and re-watch the goal when I saw him scrapping in the crease.