Saturday, November 07, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 7 - Panthers 4

It was an odd night at Verizon Ce-- down, boy. At Verizon Center as the Capi—DOWN boy. As the Capitals roared from behind in the – DOWN!

Seems Kanoobie is excited over what transpired at Verizon Center this evening as the Caps roared back from a 3-2 deficit to open the third period, outscoring the Florida Panthers 5-1 in the final 20 minutes to skate off with a 7-4 win that was not kind to goaltenders.

Mike Knuble tied his career best night with two goals and two assists for four points, Tomas Fleischmann continued his torrid pace after a late start to the season with two goals – he is now 5-2-7 in six games since his return – and Mathieu Perreault notched his first goal of his NHL career. Brooks Laich chipped in a two-point night of his own, and Brian Pothier had, in our opinion, a whale of a game playing the role of “Mike Green” moving the puck up ice.

It was an odd game that really started from the end of last night’s 4-1 Caps win, with the teams flying through the night to get to DC for the rematch 24-hours later. We would have expected more goals tonight than last night, and in the first period, it was looking as if we were going to be proven wrong on that score. Only a Mike Knuble goal from 18 inches off the left post from a nice feed by Brendan Morrison kept the period from being scoreless.

But maybe the 24-hour turnaround was working on the defensemen a bit in the second period, they having to generally skate more minutes, make the long change, and do a lot of skating backward and taking hits to move the puck. In any case, Florida made short work of the Washington lead to start the second, Michael Frolik snapping a rebound past Jose Theodore to tie the game.

After that it was a blur – eight goals 27 minutes. For the second period portion of it, Washington took a lead on a goal by Brooks Laich, and then Florida scored a pair to regain the lead 16 minutes into the second period. The teams skated off at the second intermission with the crowd, not booing, but certainly muttering about the state of things with a team trailing the Caps by 11 points in the standings taking the lead.

The Caps who took the ice in the third, though, were beasts. Mathieu Perreault got things started by pilfering the puck from Dmitry Kulikov, passing it to himself off the back of the Panther net, then stuffing it past goalie Scott Clemmensen’s left pad for his first NHL goal.

40 seconds later, there was Matt Bradley, in the “Matt Bradley Corner,” throwing the puck in front where Quintin Laing beat a lazy stick check by Bryan McCabe and flipped the puck past Clemmensen to give the Caps the lead.

Florida wasn’t quite done as Cory Stillman defelcted a shot from the point by Kulikov down and past Jose Theodore to tie the game for the last time at four apiece. Barely two minutes later, the tie was broken when Tomas Fleischmann took a feed from behind the net from Nicklas Backstrom and roofed the puck under the crossbar as he was falling to the ice.

Mike Knuble got his second when a shot from Shaone Morrisonn appeared to clip the inside of Knuble’s leg on the way through, changing direction just enough to elude Clemmensen. Flesichmann closed it out with his second of the game and fifth of the season.

Other stuff…

- Here’s a new one… the Quintin Laing Hat Trick… a blocked shot, a broken nose, and a goal. He ended the night with all three.

- Maybe the Caps should play with four defensemen more often. Milan Jurcina and Tyler Sloan had a brutal night. Jurcina was on the ice for all four Panther goals, and Sloan was out there for three of them.

- Mike Knuble’s other four-point game was also against Florida, back on Valentines’ Day 2003, when he wore the Boston colors.

- 13 skaters had points for the Caps. The only forwards without points tonight were David Steckel (not unusual) and Alexander Semin (not good).

- Semin is now 0-2-2 in his last six games with five minor penalties, including two more tonight, both (again) in the offensive zone. Maybe it has something to do with something Coach Bruce Boudreau hinted at in the post game – with Ovechkin on the bench, he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. Perhaps he’s just not relaxed out there.

- It was the best of worlds, followed by the worst, then the best for Dmitry Kulikov, who scored his first NHL goal, then coughed up the puck to Mathieu Perreault who scored his first, then he got the primary assist on the Cory Stillman goal that tied the game for the last time. Big night for last June’s 14th overall pick.

- The Caps wearing down the Panthers over the 60 minutes shows up in the final faceoff stats. There were 10 draws in the Caps’ end of the ice for the night, 22 in the Panthers’ zone.

- Brian Pothier had an assist, was plus-3, had a hit, three takeaways, and a blocked shot. He sampled the defenseman’s buffet rather enthusiastically.

- Shaone Morrisonn had a similar game, numbers wise – an assist, plus-2, three hits, three blocked shots.

- Things could have gotten dicey right after that Knuble goal to open the scoring. You don’t want to give up a goal on the next shift. The Caps didn’t. But taking a penalty in the offensive zone isn’t a whole lot better. That one’s on the captain, who took such a penalty 21 seconds after Knuble’s goal.

- 15 Caps were credited with hits. Even Nicklas Backstrom had three. Of the three skaters who weren’t the surprise there is Brooks Laich. But he creates turnovers with just his steely gaze.

- Only one team in the East has fewer losses at home in regulation than the single loss the Caps have – Tampa Bay. Really... they haven’t lost a regulation game at home yet.

- With the seven goals, the Caps have taken over the top spot in team scoring in the league (3.76 goals/game). It was the most goals scored by the Caps since last February 1st against Ottawa in a 7-4 win. That was the first time they scored seven since a January 1st win over Tampa Bay… yes, by a score of 7-4.

- The Caps had 16 shots in the first 40 minutes, 16 in the last 20. Florida had 24 in the first 40 minutes, five in the last 20. Gotta shoot the puck to score.

- That’s three games in his last four in which Jose Theodore has allowed at least four goals. Oddly enough, he hasn’t lost a game in regulation in any of them (2-0-2, 3.72, .882).

It was entertaining, even if it assaulted the sensibilities of the old school fan. Florida didn’t get good goaltending, and their defense looked as if it was skating in oatmeal in the third period. The Caps finally showed off their depth, and the defense wasn’t as bad as four goals seems (Jurcina and Sloan picking this night to have the same sort of off night).

It is an odd quirk of the Bettman School of Standings Points that on the one hand, the Caps could have been said (as we did) to be on a three-game winless streak coming into this weekend. On the other hand, after two wins against Florida, the Caps have earned a point in 11 of their last 12 games (8-1-3).

Where you stand depend on where you sit… sit!... SIT KANOOBIE!!!


End Game?

According to Bob McKenzie at (from his Twitter feed), Michael Mylander has been placed on waivers.

True? We have no idea. But if so, we can't imagine it would be done without a purpose.

Between injuries (Ovechkin, Green, Schultz), players moving from position to position (like Tyler Sloan), and personnel moves of the "maybe" sort (Nylander), this seems to be a busier-than-normal weekend in November, hockey-wise.

Oh, and there's a game tonight.

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…