Saturday, December 05, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 8 - Flyers 2

"There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what's possible."

Oh, my God!... You saw the Caps game!

Wachovia Center was the “Rink of Dreams” for the Washington Capitals tonight as they scored early, scored often, and scored from everywhere but from the top of the William Penn statue in pounding the Philadelphia Flyers, 8-2. When we wrote up the pregame, we thought that the first ten minutes would be a key. It was, but not in a way we conceived, and certainly not in a way that the Flyers were hoping for – it was the Caps who got off fast, getting a goal in the first minute. Tomas Fleischmann, who snapped a seven game streak without a goal in Thursday’s game against Florida, popped one past Flyer goalie Ray Emery at the 57 second mark on the first shot of the game. Welcome, Mr. Laviolette.

Philly evened things up just past the 12 minute mark, but a couple of minutes later, the new coach got a good look at what he inherited. Daniel (not Danny) Carcillo was on the receiving end of a finishing check by Matt Bradley at the Flyers’ blue line. Carcillo then proceeded to cross-check Bradley in the back once, twice, then dropped his gloves and grabbed Bradley’s jersey. Unable to free himself from Carcillo’s clutch and in the midst of ridding himself of his gloves, Bradley was then on the business end of a sucker punch square on the cheek that dropped him to the ice.

Carcillo was given a cross-checking, an instigator, a fighting, a misconduct and a game misconduct – a total of 29 minutes in penalties – and an early shower. If he could have been given a dunce cap, he would have had one. It took his team right out of the game moments after they climbed back into it, putting the Caps on a nine-minute power play.

The Caps didn’t look especially sharp early on the advantage, but they made up for it late. Fleischmann converted a pass from Eric Fehr from the half wall, Mike Green took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and made it a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and Brooks Laich put one in from the top of the crease in the first minute of the second period to make it three goals on the extended power play and a 4-1 lead.

After that, it was pure fun for Caps fans watching, especially in seeing Chris Clark getting only his third goal of the year and David Steckel getting the 500-pound gorilla off his back by swatting in a feed from Mike Green for his first of the season. It was a pure case of doing what you’re supposed to – Steckel charging hard to the net as Green was setting up on the near wall. Making a bee line for the far post, Steckel had only to get his stick in position to convert the fine pass – it was a pretty play on both ends.

Other stuff…

- The article of goalie equipment that’s worn on the hand holding the stick is called a “blocker.” In Ray Emery’s case, should it be called the “letter inner?”

- Does Nicklas Backstrom like playing against the Flyers? Here are the lines of his games against Philly this year…

Game 1: 0-3-3, plus-2
Game 2: 1-3-4, plus-3
Game 3: 1-4-5, plus-1

If you’re a Flyer fan, be afraid… be very afraid for Game 4.

- By the way, that makes Backstrom 5-16-21 in 11 career games against the Flyers.

- If such a thing could be lost in an 8-2 game, Mike Green had a four-point night (2-2-4). That’s 17 points in his last 12 games (3-14-17), vaulting him into the scoring lead among NHL defensemen (5-25-30).

- Corey Masisak over at the Washington Times noted that the Caps have 36 goals in eight games without Alex Ovechkin. At 4.5 goals per game, Corey notes, that would be more than one goal per game more (at 4.50 goals/game) more than any other team in the league.

- 12 of 18 skaters had points, six had multi-point games. Six players shared the eight goals. Balance, balance, balance.

- Steckel’s goal came on his only shot. And yes, it was another “plus” night in the circle for him (four wins in seven faceoffs).

- The Caps had four power play goals tonight on only six shots with the man advantage. You can’t argue with that kind of efficiency. The Caps started the evening sixth in the league on the power play (22.6 percent). If no one above them improved their numbers, this evening pushed the Caps into first in the league (24.6 percent).

- Mathieu Perreault might not have had a point, but he had a nice night anyway. Five shot attempts (three on goal), a takeaway, and he won nine of 14 draws in just short of 15 minutes. And this with getting smeared into the end boards by Chris Pronger once and flattened at the goal mouth on another occasion.

- Karl Alzner, thug. That’s penalties in consecutive games for the budding enforcer. We expect Colin Campbell to hand down a supplemental discipline decision any moment now for Alzner’s egregious hooking infraction.

- What’s with all the cheering when referee Stephane Auger took one in the ear hole? Philly fans… they’d have been cheering when Ivan Drago dropped Apollo Creed in that exhibition match.

- Mike Richards was on the ice for four Caps goals tonight… not a Selke moment. At least he wasn’t on the ice for the most goals scored by the Caps. That would be the big-money free agent defenseman (five goals).

- Only three Flyers were not on the ice for at least one Caps goal, and Carcillo (and his 3:54 of ice time) was one of them. If you’re going to suck, do it as a team.

- Danny (not Daniel) Briere… 15 minutes, one shot, one hit, one blocked shot, many yawns.

- The Caps have 14 goals in their last two games (yes, without Alex Ovechkin). It’s the most in consecutive games since December 29/January 1 in the 2007-2008 season, when the Caps lit up the Senators in a home-and-home for 14 goals.

- Eric Fehr, playmaker? Two assists tonight makes four in three games, and he extended his points streak to six games, adding to his career high.

- Alexander Semin might need surgery on his wrist (or so we read)? Six points in two games after returning from injury (two assists tonight). More guys should be so hurt.

- And let’s not lose sight of the fact that when a team goes on a tear in the other guy’s zone, it takes a lot of focus for a goaltender to keep his own end clean. Jose Theodore stopped 34 of 36 shots in a very solid effort.

- And speaking of solid efforts at the other end of the ice, John Erskine – 17:28 in ice time, three hits, three blocked shots, not on the ice for either Flyer goal.

Sometimes, there are moments that give hints that a season is unfolding that could be really special, and there were two things that happened tonight that suggest that such a season might be unfolding for the Caps. First, we heard in the postgame that Matt Bradley got the hard hat tonight. Bradley played only 3:20 tonight before his evening was ended by a sucker punch, but don’t think for a moment that the guys don’t appreciate the warrior that Bradley is. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more stand-up-for-others guy anywhere; he’s the kind of guy for whom you’d be really happy if his name was sent to an engraver to put on a special piece of hardware next summer.

The other was a comment by Bruce Boudreau after the game, a response to what seemed like a provocative question concerning whether the Caps were running up the score, a reference to Backstrom and Green being on the ice for a power play when the game was 7-2. Boudreau was quick to point out that Steckel was out on that power play, too, that he wanted to try to get Steckel a goal after putting in all the hard work he has so far without getting one. Boudreau commented that it was about doing something for his team and players, not running up the score. That was the kind of comment from a coach who understands, who has put in enough miles to see how important it is to do something for the guys who don’t get the ink.

No comments: