Saturday, April 03, 2010

A TWO-point night: Caps 3 - Blue Jackets 2

Area 51.

Nope, not the alien airfield in the desert Southwest of the United States, but the undiscovered country into which the Caps skated tonight with a thrilling (certainly for this time of year) 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus.  It was the team's franchise-best 51st win of the season.

The Caps threatened to skate the home team right out of Nationwide Arena early, scoring three goals before the game was 14 minutes old. Tallies by Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann on the Caps’ first four shots chased Mathieu Garon, who had been knocked woozy when he was upended in his crease by Jason Chimera on a play that could have been another goal. The play started when Chimera skated in on a break, but was upset by Anton Stralman, both players tumbling into Garon. After Fleischmann’s goal, coach Claude Noel sent in Steve Mason.

Mason, sitting after sustaining a shoulder injury against Detroit, yielded a goal on a slapper by Mike Green through a Brooks Laich screen, but otherwise slammed the door on any further scoring by the Caps, stopping 22 of 23 shots he faced.

It ended up being the Jose and Mike show over the last two periods. Green was described by coach Bruce Boudreau in his post-game press conference as “fabulous, just fabulous.” He wasn’t lying. It might have been Green’s best performance as a defenseman this season. He was on top of his skates, he was a force in his own end, and when the Blue Jackets seemed to get opportunities in the Caps’ zone, Green was there to snuff them out.

As for Theodore, he was the Dutch boy (ok, French-Canadian boy) with his finger in the dike all night. Too often, defensemen not named “Green” were backing off to give the Jackets all the room they might have wanted in the offensive zone, and the forwards certainly were not doing their part to fill the gaps. But Theodore was there to stop 34 of 36 shots in what was his best performance in perhaps a month, given the support he was getting in front of him.

Other stuff…

-- When Steve Mason is on, he is something to watch. A real economy of movement, and even as he is a big goalie, he makes himself bigger by being calm and in position. It wasn’t the Caps going into a shell in the last two periods, Mason had a whale of a game.

-- Alex Ovechkin (as Joe Beninati pointed out during the game) has never scored against Mason, nor has he scored against Mathieu Garon. Yet, he has four goals in six career games against the Jackets. Against whom has he scored, Joe B. asked? Three against Pascal Leclaire, including two in his first game as a Cap, and one against Fredrik Norrena, the game winner in a 4-3 overtime win in February 2008.

-- Green got his 19th and the game-winner on a slap shot 13:44 in, but the play was made when he made a great stop on an attempted clear by Fedor Tyutin on a Caps 5-on-3 power play.

-- Anyone wonder why the Caps traded for Milan Jurcina to come back to the Caps saw the reason tonight. The thought of Tyler Sloan as the “depth defenseman” is not confidence inspiring. He had a difficult time tonight.

-- The disallowed goal on Chimera was the right call, but for the wrong reason, in our opinion. The boys in Toronto apparently ruled that Mason had covered the puck, but the applicable rule there would seem to us to have been Rule 78.5 (ix): “Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer for the following reasons… When a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a save.”

-- Only fourth time this season that Ovechkin’s “minus” equaled or surpassed his total shots on goal… minus-two and two shots.

-- Does Eric Belanger just know these guys better? 11-for-15 on draws.

-- Even though Mason had a whale of a game, we can’t be impressed when the two top shot producers for the Caps were both defensemen (Green, Joe Corvo).

-- And speaking of Green, he was the only Cap charged with a giveaway tonight. Nice to think about, and also not true.

-- The Caps were credited with no takeaways. Not nice to think about, and also not true.

-- Rick Nash used to be a tall, skinny guy who seemed to skate a little too much in the middle of the ice for a winger. No more. The guy is a beast. Six shots, two assists, and he showed a deft hand in passing the puck.

-- How rare is a “minus-2” performance for Alex Ovechkin? It was his first since December 28th and only his second this season.

-- Nine shots, one goal, six power plays… not too bad. But three shots and a goal against on those same power plays? Not good.

-- I get that it’s late in the season, and the Caps are trying to dial down the ice time for some guys (not, apparently, Ovechkin who got 23:50)… but a world where Sloan gets more ES ice time (15:42) than every defenseman not named “Schultz” (and only 17 seconds less than him) doesn’t seem right.

-- How often does David Steckel take the collar on faceoffs in his own zone? He was 0-for-5 tonight.

In the end, it was a win well-earned. Not flashy, not stylish, but a meat-and-potatoes kind of win. Get used to it. That’s the way a lot of them will have to come from now on.

No comments: