Thursday, December 10, 2009

A NO-point night: Sabres 3 - Caps 0

It’s not the end of the world.

Yes, the Caps lost last night, 3-0, to the Buffalo Sabres. Yes, they were shutout for the first time this year. This game was decided by one factor, and one factor alone…

The Caps did just about everything right. The outshot, out-attempted, out-hit the Sabres. They won the turnover battle, they won the faceoff battle, they took only three shorthanded situations (none in the third period, which has been an occasional problem), and if you take a look at the shots-on-goal graphic, they got shots from high-probability-of-success areas...

This was one of those nights when they just ran up against not just a hot goaltender, but a goaltender who is at the very top of his game, playing the best hockey of his professional career. At the 30-game mark, the Vezina conversation really should begin with “Ryan” and end with “Miller.” The only debate is whether he is also a front-runner for the Hart Trophy.

At the other end, the only real “mistake” we could hang on Jose Theodore was his getting late into position to defend Nathan Gerbe’s walk-out move along the goal line that allowed Gerbe to stuff the puck under Theodore. The other goals were off a deflection from Milan Jurcina’s boot and a rebound that the Caps’ defense couldn’t clear because they were backing up furiously as a trio of Sabres gained the offensive zone with speed and under control.

Other stuff…

- The Caps got shots from the right people… six from Alex Ovechkin, five from Nicklas Backstrom, four each from Mike Green and Eric Fehr.

- Backstrom did everything but pilot the plane back to Washington (oh yeah, and score). Five shots on goal, ten attempts, three hits, and he won 12 of 18 draws. He also logged more than 25 minutes of ice time, a career high among regular season games (including extra time contests).

- We’re not entirely buying the idea that the Caps lacked energy tonight. If anything, they might have been guilty of trying to be a little too fine in their attack early.

- Among the streaks ending with this game is the 30-gamer the Caps had in which they led at some point during the game.

- Brian Pothier missed the last 28 minutes of the game with an injury. Shaone Morrisonn didn’t play much in the first period (3:45 in ice time) and missed a chunk of the second period (only 3:23 in ice time), but seemed to take regular shifts in the third period. Still, is he altogether right?

- Alexander Semin’s struggles against this team continue… Almost 22 minutes, one shot on goal.

- David Steckel did not take the ice for the last 25 minutes of the game, his last shift coming on that where Nathan Gerbe scored his goal for Buffalo. Looking at the play, except for losing the faceoff (Steckel lost two of nine on the night), he didn’t seem to be guilty of doing anything particularly wrong; the play was unfolding far away from him. That moment also happened to be the last of the sightings of Tyler Sloan, who finished the night with only 4:20 of ice time.

- Speaking of faceoffs, Jochen Hecht took it in the teeth… he won one of 11 draws. His one win wasn’t even against a center (Semin took the draw). Add that to the fact that he has just four points in his last 13 games, and this just ain’t his year.

- Tyler Myers was one of only two Buffalo skaters without a shot on goal… but he blocked eight Caps shots, and he played almost 26 minutes. OK, there were the six giveaways, but he’s a keeper, alright.

- In the “having your cake and eating it, too” file, there was another instance of tripping for one player, diving for the other. Well, no. It’s one, or it’s the other. It’s not both.

Hey, losses happen. Sometimes, a team really does run into a hot goaltender, although we’re of a mind to use the term “good,” rather than hot…Miller’s been doing this all year (he should have gotten the league’s first star of the night; he blanked the highest scoring team in the league – one that hadn’t been shutout this year – Ty Conklin blanked a team that had been shutout twice in its previous seven games, even if that team was Detroit). The trick, as always, is making sure that one doesn’t become two (as in, “in a row”). They get that chance against Carolina tomorrow.


I Rock the Red said...

Actually, they *can* call both tripping and diving... I don't like it, but it's happened before, and the NHLOA has stated that it can be called that way if it looks to the on-ice official like the guy being tripped is also diving to make SURE the other guy gets called for tripping him.

I don't like it either, but truth is truth. :-p

DrinkingPartner said...

I'm not even sure AO embellished - I'm pretty sure he didn't know the guy was behind him.

And how else would he fall except by trying to compensate and catch himself?

Anonymous said...

They call both because they say that he was tripped but he made it look worse by embellishing it.

Anyway, as always is the case in our losses, we struggle mightily to exit our zone and got hemmed in constantly. Our forecheck was not as aggressive as Buffalo's, and I thought our energy didn't match their's either, but you can't win 'em all.

Brian said...

In my opinion Miller is the Hart winner to this point in the season, and thats not just because he is carrying both my fantasy hockey teams. He's always been among the best goalies in the league and he is having his best year thus far. The Sabres are barely competitive without him. They just dont have the offense. And he isnt just making the saves he has to, behind a great defensive team, he's making "standing on his head" type saves night in and night out to keep them in games that they really shouldn't be.

The Caps didn't play great last night, but they created enough sure fire chances to where they should have won, if not made it a lot more competitive had it not been for Miller making saves that had so many Caps looking to the sky.

Hockeyx3 said...

They all struggled. Not sure why you singled out Semin. He made passes that would have been counted as assists had the shots made by others gone in -- their shots get mentioned, but not the passes. Semin had takeaways, battled along the boards, moved the puck, etc.

The Peerless said...

We didn't mean to single out Semin to the exclusion of everyone else, because you're right. They all did struggle. The point here, though is that Semin had had perhaps less success against Buffalo than any other team he's faced in his career.