Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A ONE-point night: Stars 4 - Caps 3 (OT/Gimmick)

Well, it wasn’t ALL bad.

The Caps saw their 13-game home winning streak come to an end, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Or more accurately, a puck that crawled over the line in the Gimmick, as the Dallas Stars took away a 4-3 skills competition win over the Capitals last night.

The not all bad part…

-- The Caps launched 52 shots in the hockey portion of the program at Dallas goalie Marty Turco, a season high in shots on goal.

-- Alex Ovechkin got off the schneid with a pair of goals to tie Sidney Crosby for the league lead.

-- David Steckel and Tom Poti collaborated for a nice goal when Steckel fished the puck from along the boards, heard Potio tapping his stick from the middle of the ice, and sent a pass to Poti all alone down the slot for a goal.

-- The Caps got a standings point.

-- No one got hurt.

That about covers the “not bad.” After that, this game turned on two things. First, Turco. If that wasn’t his best game of the season for the Stars, it was in his top three. He wasn’t often spectacular, even as the 49-save total might suggest. But he gave the Caps nothing in the way of second chances. Frankly, he should have sued his skaters in front of him for non-support. For 40 minutes, the Caps had free reign in the Stars’ zone, launching shots from everywhere. What Turco didn’t give the Caps was second chances.

Think of it this way… for all the shots the Caps had, Mike Knuble had a total of… one. There wasn’t any garbage laying around for Knuble to whack at. And even though Brooks Laich had seven shots, you couldn’t say he had a lot of put-back opportunities, either.

The other thing was the penalty killing. Folks talk about the Caps’ goaltending (and we’ll get to that), but the Caps’ skaters on the penalty kill were awful. Too much standing around, too much letting Dallas set up in front to screen Caps’ goalie Semyon Varlamov. Of note, Joe Corvo was on for both Dallas power play goals, which was part of a larger problem that he just doesn’t yet look comfortable in this scheme (there was another occasion, not on a power play, in which he abandoned coverage in the middle of the ice on a Dallas rush that left two Caps defensemen on the same side of the ice, leaving room for a Star to skate free down the opposite side for a scoring chance).

But about that goaltending. First, the Stars took three shots, scored on two of them. True, both of them involved traffic in front, but Varlamov did not look to be establishing himself to be in position to stop those pucks, either. And the third goal for the Stars… that wrist shot by James Neal was more the kind you see in pre-game warm-ups. It didn’t look to have a lot of mustard on it, but Varlamov just wasn’t in its line of flight. Right now, this isn’t the goalie who had two shutouts in four games before he was injured. This isn’t a goalie you want to go into the playoffs with. He’s shown himself to be better than that – he needs to start showing that form.

Look, it’s not as if Dallas played well. They didn’t. Their offense, such as it was, wouldn’t scare anyone. The Caps had more shots blocked (27) than the Stars had on goal (26). Their scores came on poor play by Washington, not on superior effort with the puck. You had to think that against this team, Jose Theodore might have had a second straight shutout.

The Caps – shoot, the whole arena – looked dead. It was just too stereotypical of a game against a rarely-seen opponent on a weeknight. There were a fair number of empty seats, there didn’t seem to be a lot of energy in the building. Even Ovechkin, in scoring the two goals, looked for long stretches as if he was coasting (or tired).

Ovechkin did try to drag the Caps along on his shoulders after a lethargic first 30 minutes. Both goals were from the standard catalogue. The first came on a feed from Alexander Semin from the far edge of the left wing circle. From the top of the right wing circle, Ovechkin let fly with a wrist shot that beat Turco clean over his right pad.

The second came when Nicklas Backstrom stepped around Mike Ribeiro at center ice, then slid the puck over to Ovechkin. Cutting down the left side, he cut to the middle, leaving Stephane Robidas guarding air. Another step later, he wristed the puck past Turco to tie the game at three goals apiece. After that, it was an uneventful overtime, then trick shot time, where Loui Eriksson put the Caps and their winning streak out of their misery with a deke and a shot past Varlamov’s right pad that just had enough to get through.

A few other things...

-- Two power plays for the Stars, only 1:32 of total time in getting the two goals on three shots.  That is beyond bad.

-- Watching the stylings of Alexander Semin is like watching the artist who can paint the masterpiece one moment, then can't keep inside the lines in paint-by-numbers the next.  He had some wonderful opportunities in dangling the puck on a string and snapping wrist shots (16 shot attempts in all).  Then there was the shootout.  We didn't see it, but we understand even Marty was shaking his head at that one.

-- Mike Green sometimes just has the air of the teenager who is smart, but can't be bothered doing his homework -- the kid who will make you tear your hair out with his "whatever" attitude.  It's not that he doesn't care, it's just that sometimes he skates himself into positions he can't get out of, then does something really, really bad with the puck.  There was a lot of that last night.  He was charged with only one giveaway.  The scorer must have been at the concession stand often when Green had the puck.

-- Nicklas Backstrom probably had his best game since the break, but that isn't saying a lot.  He still seems to be getting separated from the puck more often than was the case before going to Vancouver.

-- It was a night in which the Caps couldn't fire on all cylinders (again) in this respect -- they got two goals from Ovechkin, but this was the night the secondary scoring was absent. 12 shots on goal from the third and fourth lines, no goals, two points (Steckel and Bradley assisting on the Poti goal).

The Caps can't even be said to play down to the level of opponent in this one.  They had the look of playing in a whole other game.  They just didn't look engaged; there wasn't any energy there.  All in all… just a blah sort of night…


mkat83 said...

My husband and I were watching when Semin took that shot and fell forward. Afterward, they showed Turco, who was basically sitting inside the net at that point, and he had the weirdest look on his face. The facial expression through his mask was pretty funny. He did shake his head, and my husband and I just looked at each other and laughed. It was an odd look he gave, but I don't blame him.

This video doesn't do it as much justice as watching it on tv, but it gets the point across:

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

I'm not saying the Caps played a great game, they didn't but I didn't sense the lack of energy either in the Arean or on the ice you mention. They did have 52 shots on goal, the issues to me were five-fold: 1) Turco was a vacum cleaners - as you state - no second chances; 2) the Caps didn't adjust or crash the net enough 5 on 5; 3)durig the first two periods it looked like the Caps new lines were truiong to do many things and get used to each other instead of throwing the puck on net and crashing it, almost like at times they were having a scrimmage, 4)the third period calls against the Caps were weak, in fact the only thing that took some of the focus off the poor penatly calls by the refs were the even worse "offsides" calls by the linesmenand 5) the Caps PK was as you rightfully point out, horribible....