Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A ONE-point night: Senators 5 - Capitals 4 (OT)

When a team scores on their first shot of the game, you get the feeling the other guys are not going to have a good night. The Ottawa Senators scored on their first shot against the Capitals tonight – a harmless enough looking little shot by Peter Regin 1:24 into the game – and the Caps did not have a good night, despite earning a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Senators.

Don’t be deceived by the score. The only reason this was close, frankly, was the disparity in depth of skill between the teams. The Senators outshot, outhit, out-blocked shot, out-worked, and ultimately outscored the Caps. If not for a couple of nice goals by Alexander Semin, a seeing-eye goal by Mike Green that popped over goalie Brian Elliott’s shoulder and into the net, and Mathieu Perreault getting his second goal in as many games with some deft stick work in pulling the puck into a shooting position in fron of goalie Brian Elliott, there were long spells where the Cap just didn’t have an extra gear.

It was somehow fitting that the final sequence began with Nicklas Backstrom taking an offensive zone penalty with 41 seconds left. This being the new NHL, the faceoff went into the Caps’ end, where Jason Spezza beat David Steckel on the draw. Fourteen seconds later, Alex Kovalev put the Caps out of their misery, redirecting a shot past Caps goalie Jose Theodore, Kovalev’s first point in more than a month spanning a dozen games (0-0-0, minus-10 in 12 games is no way to go down a stretch run).

Other stuff…

- It was really hard what to make of the game Jose Theodore had. The first goal came on a shot he seemed unprepared for, the second came when he was bowled over in the crease on what looked like a textbook instance of goaltender interference by Mike Fisher (not necessarily by the rule, but in the manner with which it gets called these days). The third came when both Caps defensemen – Shaone Morrisonn and Joe Corvo were caught on the same side of the ice (it looked like it was Corvo who was coming back from the quadruple wisdom tooth extraction, not Morrisonn), and defenseman Chris Campoli had a clear lane to the net coming late. The fourth goal was the killer, letting Jason Spezza bank one in off his pad from the goal line extended. But then there was several instances of big, big stops. We’d just as soon he make the saves on the Spezza-like shots and have the defense keep opponents from getting some of the wide open chances that Ottawa had. Better division of labor.

- Alex Ovechkin was another hard one to figure out. If you look at the event summary, it will show you that Ovechkin had five shots on goal and 20 total attempts. But he had only five attempts in the third period and overtime combined, and only one shot on goal (that coming a mere 1:54 into the last period in regulation).

- In addition to the goaltender interference the four eyes in orange stripes on their sleeves appeared to miss, there was the matter of missing Matt Cullen playing the puck with a broken stick and a tripping call when Mike Knuble was taken down at the Ottawa line while carrying the puck. We’re at a loss as to how an official – presumably one of them was looking in the direction of the puck – missed the calls (the folks in the replay booth didn’t miss them; the interference and trip were played on the video board).

- One might give Theodore a break on the first goal, inasmuch as Peter Begin ended up with the puck after Nicklas Backstrom coughed it up to Jason Spezza at the side of the cage, and when Spezza got off a quick shot, it squirted all the way through to Begin. Still, we think Theodore would like that one back.

- The best line of the night for the Caps – too many times – was the fourth line of David Steckel, Quintin Laing, and Matt Bradley. If they could have traded skill sets with the first line for one shift, they would have had a goal on that shift. If the reworked second line of Mike Knuble, Eric Belanger, and Tomas Fleischmann could have traded energy with the fourth line, this game would not have been close.  Yeah, they don't have a lot of time together, but it really, really showed.

- Anton Volchenkov was not missed. Ottawa had 28 blocked shots, seven more than the Caps actually placed on net. The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin had 15 of their shots blocked. Only nine of their shots reached Brian Elliott.

- At the other blue line, there is an interesting and subtle piece of Mike Green's game that seems to be coming out just in time.  Yes, he got a goal...nice.  But he's played with a bit of an edge, lately.  One could see it in mixing it up with Eric Nystrom in the game against Calgary on Sunday, and it was there again tonight (three hits, and a couple of after whistle meetings).

- In what has to be one of the strangest results of the season, only eight of 18 Caps skaters (keep in mind, this is the most prolific offense in the league by a wide margin) had shots on goal. Only six of 12 forwards registered shots on goal.

- We’re going to take a new tack on this whole “players to ponder” thing. Sunday we had Rene Bourque for Calgary, and he finished with a goal and two assists. For tonight’s game we had Jason Spezza, and he finished with two goals and two assists. We’re thinking Eric Boulton for Thursday.

- The Caps killed one penalty. The Senators scored three power play goals in a total of 2:23 of ice time. Not good.

- Interesting to see Jason Chimera skate in from 50 feet out to take up the challenge when Mathieu Perreault was being abused. Chimera had a pretty solid game with an assist, five hits, a takeaway and a blocked shot in 12 minutes and change.

- There are nights when you think Eric Fehr can be a 40-goal scorer in this league with his hands, his shot and knack for making the most of few minutes. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights. It was rather one of another sort he is occasionally guilty of having, and that is in disappearing in the offensive end.

- Back to Perreault… did you notice him going right after Andy Sutton in the corner after the faceoff and just before Fehr fed him the puck? Sutton is eight inches taller and 60 pounds heavier, and Perrault annoyed him just enough (“hit” is not really the appropriate word here) to free the puck so Fehr could collect it.

- This one makes seven extra time games in the past 11 for the Caps. They are 3-4 in those games, three of the losses coming at home.

In the end, the Caps played as if they knew they were the better team and had little to prove. There has been a lot of that going on lately, and it’s playing with fire. Last year they finished with four losses in their last nine games (largely against weak opponents), and it cost them an edge going into the playoffs. Well, now the Caps have six losses in their past 11 games and look not at all like a President’s Trophy winner (unless the president is Millard Fillmore).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The reason why there wasn't a trip called on the Knuble takedown was that the pluck was played with a highstick. As soon as Knuble gained possession of the puck the play was dead, despite the fact that a millisecond later he was flagrantly tripped. Bad timing on that one...