What are you gonna say about that one?
Well, San Jose was better, from start to finish, that’s what. As dominating as the Caps were in a 4-1 win over the Sharks in October, so San Jose was last night in a 5-2 win. It wasn’t so much what San Jose did as what the Caps didn’t…
Get shots, for example. For the second straight game, the Caps were held to fewer than five shots in the first period. Washington had three shots in the first period, none in the last eight minutes. And, the three shots were hardly what one might call “quality chances:”
- 3:19 – Poti, 47 feet
- 5:07 – Fleischmann, 42 feet
- 11:57 – Erskine, 50 feet
In fact, the Caps had only two more attempts on goal in that last 8:03 of the first period, one by Alex Ovechkin (blocked) in the 15th minute of the period and the other coming from the stick of Alexander Semin (blocked) in the last minute of the frame.
And if you’re wondering, no, that is not the first time the Caps have surrendered two penalty shots in a game. But you have to go all the way back to the inaugural season for the team, in fact in the inaugural month, when the Chicago Blackhawks were awarded two penalty shots in the same game against the Caps. Stan Mikita and Jim Pappin came up empty against Michel Belhumeur on October 23, 1974 in the Caps’ eighth game as a franchise. The Caps lost that game, too, 3-2.
Other than the two penalty shots he surrendered, Michal Neuvirth didn’t play badly (28 saves on 31 shots), but after making a sterling save on Scott Nichol early in the period, he gave up goals 75 seconds apart later in the first period to put the club behind the eight ball early, and the Caps weren’t playing well enough otherwise to really make a game of it.
-- One can only suppose that the official scorer for the Sharks was making a point in naming Dan Boyle the third star. Two penalties, minus-1. Yeah, he was on the ice for 23 minutes (tops for the Sharks), but a third-star worthy game? Maybe it was for the faux-tough guy thing when he got mixed up with Alex Ovechkin, then got all tough when the officials came in to save his life. Or maybe Mike Green was supposed to notice who was the Olympian and who wasn’t.
-- Thank heavens for masks. If not for such implements, chances are Michal Neuvirth’s head would have exploded from the impact of a Dany Heatley shot late in the third period that appeared to get Neuvirth square on the chin right in the “U” on his mask where it says, “Neuvy.”
-- Jason Chimera gets the all-you-can-eat score sheet buffet coupon in his first game as a Cap. In 11 minutes he had an assist (on the Mike Knuble goal), one shot on goal, a shot blocked, two misses, three hits, a giveaway, a takeaway, a blocked shot, and a faceoff loss.
-- Alex Ovechkin had five of his shots blocked in the game’s first 27 minutes (six overall). At least he spread it around; four different Sharks defensemen took one for the team.
-- Green might get some heat on that first Sharks goal by Pavelski, but rewind the tape a couple of seconds and see who was a couple of ticks late at the Caps line getting to the guy who set up Pavelski. Shaone Morrisonn took aim at Dany Heatley, but never got there in time to keep Heatley from making the cross-ice pass. Green was forced to try to sprint to the other side of the ice to keep Pavelski from shooting, but didn’t get there in time.
-- The game-within-a-game was a remake of ‘When Worlds Collide”… a reference to a couple of 230-pound guys going at it all over the ice in Doug Murray and Alex Ovechkin. Nothing dirty about it (although we could almost hear Caps fans howling for penalties). Just two guys at ramming speed getting on after each other.
-- The Caps dressed 18 skaters. You might have noticed three of them…maybe. 15 or so guys seemed to skate as if they were extras in “Night of the Living Dead.” Brooks Laich…18 minutes, one shot attempt (but he took an amazing 21 draws). David Steckel…no attempted shots. Brendan Morrison… one shot attempt. Eric Fehr… one shot attempt. And on and on and on…
-- It wasn’t as if the defense played any better. There was Morrisonn’s WTF moment. There was John Erskine doing… well, we don’t quite know what he was doing when Joe Thornton broke in alone to draw a penalty shot.
-- When we say “not noticed,” that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Jeff Schultz. Almost 19 minutes, not on the ice for any goals scored against, a shot, a couple of hits (probably an indication that the scorer had a finger spasm working the hit meter tonight… 78 hits were recorded for both teams; it really wasn’t all that physical, or maybe it’s a California sort of hit thing), and a blocked shot.
2009 came in with a bang – a 7-4 demolition of Tampa Bay. It goes out with a whimper – a 5-2 loss to San Jose. The 2010 early schedule favors the Caps – a struggling LA Kings team (losers of three straight and four of five), then a six-pack of thoroughly beatable opponents. But the Caps have to play better – individually and as a group – than they did tonight. First periods, which had been a strength of this team, have killed them in the last two games. They’ve been outshot 23-7 and outscored 5-0. Not the sort of thing from which victories are made.