Saturday, November 20, 2010

A ONE-point Night -- Game 21: Flyers 5 - Caps 4 (OT/SO)

Well, it could have been better, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The Washington Capitals dropped a 5-4 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in extra time this evening, yielding the extra standings point when Danny Briere potted a goal in the Gimmick phase of the proceedings.

If anything, this was the sort of game that reveals the Gimmick to be a worthless appendage on the end of a hard-fought game. The Capitals “played” a very good game in many respects, but were not rewarded for their efforts. More iron was rung by Capitals (including by Alexander Semin in the Gimmick) that you’ll find in most belfries.

And then there were the power plays. Philadelphia had nine power plays, the most the Caps have allowed since allowing nine to – well, looky here…Philadelphia – on October 9, 2009 in another extra time loss, a 6-5 overtime decision in Philadelphia. It was the most power play opportunities allowed at home since the Caps allowed (and killed off) ten power play chances to the Florida Panthers on January 20, 2007 (a 4-1 loss).

The Flyers gagged again on a two-goal lead, the fourth time they have done so in the last two games. And, they gave up a third period lead, the first time they have done so this season in 12 games. In that respect, earning a point tonight wasn’t the worst thing that could happen for the Caps.

But the Caps had so many opportunities. The game really turned on the Caps inability to finish, whether it was Alex Ovechkin failing to convert a breakaway opportunity in the first period or Alexander Semin hitting a post and the crossbar in an effort to extend the Gimmick another round and everything in between.

Other stuff…

-- You would like to think that tonight, Alex Ovechkin looked like that hitter in baseball who has been in a slump but starts spraying line drives all over the place into fielders’ gloves. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but you know something is going to break. You would like to think that.

-- Marcus Johansson probably had his best game as a Cap. In addition to the goal, he was really up on his skates, creating chances for himself and others with his ability to find holes in the defense.

-- Jason Chimera probably deserved a star for his effort in this one. A goal and an assist, and he skated 2:50 on the penalty kill (which was 8-for-9 on the night).

-- A breakaway, hitting the post, and breaking his stick on a one-timer in the first period. Right now, Alex Ovechkin can’t catch a break.  But he looked a lot better in this game than he has for most of this month.

-- You have to like Marcus Johansson, Eric Fehr, and Jason Chimera getting goals tonight. It made up for the absence of Mike Knuble, and it took some of the heat off the top line, which did manage a goal (Nicklas Backstrom) and two assists (the Alexes).

-- The Caps’ power play was quite efficient tonight. 15 shots in seven opportunities and three goals. But the odd part of it was probably that only four shots came off sticks of the Young Guns. Brooks Laich had three, Matt Hendricks had a pair, and Eric Fehr had a pair. You would like to think this could bear dividends down the road.

-- Did anyone have Tyler Sloan leading all skaters in hits (five)? Didn’t think so.

-- And give Sloan credit. A night after going minus-4 he was not on the ice for any Flyer goal.

-- You can get a book on referees in a game like this. Of the 16 penalties called, nine of them were stick fouls (two hooking, four slashing, two tripping, one high-sticking).

-- Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann led the Caps in shots (six and five, respectively). How many times will we say that this season?

-- Mike Green skated 9:55 of the third period. That would be amazing in itself, but Green also skated 10:03 in the second period.

-- With this win, the Flyers are only 5-6-2 against teams with a winning record, 8-0-0 against teams with a .500 or worse record.

-- Think about who figured prominently in this game… Johansson getting a goal and playing perhaps his best game as a Cap. Michal Neuvirth stopping 31 of 35 shots and keeping the Caps in it when they could have folded when down 3-1, John Carlson skating more than 22 minutes, Karl Alzner more than 21. These are rookies. The dues they pay now could very well pay dividends down the road… like in June.

In the end, this was a game the Caps really should have lost in regulation. Between the puck hitting iron all over the place and the Flyers spending 14:29 on the power play, it was a game that offered little chance for the Caps to find their way clear to put the Flyers in a hole. But to their credit, the Caps fought hard for 60 minutes. When the Flyers took a two-goal lead, they came back to tie. When the Flyers took a lead late, with less than ten minutes left in regulation, the Caps found a way to tie the game.

It was a standings point the Caps seemed destined to lose, but they gritted their way to the Gimmick, where anything can happen. Not getting a win in either of the past two games is not the way to end the week, but given the forces that seems stacked against the Caps tonight, getting that standings point was not the worst thing that could happen.

Coupled with the 5-0- shellacking against the Thrashers on Friday night, this makes for a less-than-happy weekend, hockey wise. But in playing that second of back-to-back games, coming back not once, but twice, and gritting out a standings point… it wasn’t as bad as all that. The Caps still have the best record in the league ( a 117-point pace) and now finish the month of November with games against New Jersey, Carolina (twice), and Tampa Bay.

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