Friday, February 27, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Thrashers 3

They don’t score on style points…they don’t score on style points…they don’t score on style points…

The Caps scored early, shot often, and hung on late for a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers in a game that could be described in one word – “odd.”

Let’s get right to the odd and other stuff…

-- Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea…FLASH! Brooks Laich leads Caps in shots on goal. He actually tied with Alexander Semin, but gets the nod because he had those shots in fewer minutes. So, when was the last time Alex Ovechkin was third on the team in shots (and tied for third at that)?

-- Laich also gets the gold star from the teacher for learning the lesson. After the team had 22 missed shots against the Flyers on Tuesday and the team getting the coaches attention as a result, Laich had seven attempts, seven shots on goal – no misses, none blocked.

-- Did you “Laich” that incidental contact, no harm no foul, but I lost three fillings hit by Laich on Slava Kozlov, who not only didn’t have the puck, he was nowhere near the puck carrier when he was drilled.

-- The Caps had 16 blocked shots, six of them blocks of shots from the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk (three of them by Tom Poti). He did get loose for a goal (hey, it’s what he does these days), but for the most part was held in check. In fact, it looked sort of sad in a way, like a tiger in a pen in a zoo.

-- Speaking of tiger in a pen, or is that former Pen in a zoo?...Didn’t Colby Armstrong actually, like, hit people once upon a time?

-- Eric Perrin had a rough night for the visitors – nine minutes in ice time, six minutes in penalties.

-- So…the star gets high sticked in the chops by Rich Peverley, goes after the wrong guy (Marty Reasoner) to try and start a fight, then gets the only penalty for roughing. Of course, then Atlanta scored on the power play. Until that point they had about as many scoring chances as we do, and we sit in the balcony.

-- Michal Neuvirth reads plays rather well in goal for a rookie, but we’re glad this didn’t go to a shootout. Seeing as how the Thrashers got two goals from point blank range, we have our doubts he would have stood a chance in the Gimmick. What he did in a spectacularly unspectacular fashion was swallow the puck. If it hit him, it wasn’t rebounding out.

-- Speaking of rookies, that’s 4-0-0, 1.75, .942 for the rookie Micheon Varlavirth.

-- Tobias Enstrom had six blocked shots to lead the Thrashers. The shots came from six different players.

-- Atlanta had only four shots on goal in the first 18 minutes of the third period (18:02, actually) before getting a goal with 1:57 left. What was almost as amazing is who had the shots on goal for Atlanta – Niclas Havelid, Eric Boulton, Marty Reasoner, and Ron Hainsey. That’s a group with 19 goals among them (Reasoner has 10). You think Atlanta really had much of a chance scoring that way? No, me either.

-- Eric Fehr got the kind of goal he needs to score – he picked up a shot from Shaone Morrisonn that was deadened in front by a Thrasher, then Fehr wrong-footed a wrister past goalie Kari Lehtonen. It was all wrists.

-- Mike Green almost got off the five-game schneid he was on after setting that consecutive games goal-scoring record. But then Brooks Laich swept the puck in after it snuck through Lehtonen’s legs. Not to worry, Green got his goal anyway, his 23rd overall and 16th on the power play, tying a franchise record for power play goals in a season, held by Scott Stevens.

-- It was another one of those “if they measured time of possession” games. The Caps did a very good job of holding onto the puck, and when they didn’t, they forechecked the snot out of the Thrashers and chased the puck down. The Caps were credited with 17 takeaways from 11 different players.

-- Going hand-in-glove with that, the Caps owned the circles – 39 up and 26 down on faceoffs (60.0 percent). Oddly enough, it was David Steckel – 56.6 percent on draws coming into this game – who was the only Cap taking more than one draw to lose a majority of faceoffs.

-- And…the Caps out-attempted the Thrashers, 69-45.

-- And more…the Caps had only 20 turnovers (16 giveaways, four takeaways by Atlanta) to 31 for Atlanta.

-- Eight power plays, almost 12 minutes of power play time. That meant that some guys didn’t get the same minutes they usually get, because the power play guys were out there. Matt Bradley and Donald Brashear had a combined 12:22. They still had a combined five hits, though.

-- As someone who has watched the Caps for a lot of years, many of which were spent watching the Caps unable to complete the simplest of passes, we marvel at how good this team can pass the puck. But sometimes they fall in love with it, too. That was evident after they scored on their first two power plays. They were 1-for-6 thereafter – that being on the staple of a Mike Green “sneak in the hole” shot—a lot of the problem being a product of throwing the puck around everywhere but at the net.

-- Eric Fehr…bellwether. When he gets a goal, the Caps are 9-0-1.

-- Speaking of Fehr, after registering three goals in his first 29 games, he has seven in his last 12. That’s a 48-goal pace.

It wasn’t the most aesthetic of victories for the Caps, but the important word there is “victory.” There are 20 games left, and the team is poised to make this the most special of regular seasons in the history of the franchise. 12 wins in those last 20 games would give the team a club record for wins. Six wins at home in their last nine home games, and they set a franchise record for home wins. 25 points in those 20 games, and the Caps would have a franchise record for standings points. But those last 20 games start with the team in front of them – Boston. They’ll have to play better and with more focus than they had at times if they’re going to win in Beantown. But for tonight, it was a good job, guys...because they don't score on style points.