Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A ONE-point night -- Game 41: Lightning 1 - Caps 0 (OT)

Well, it could have been worse. But it could have been a whole lot better, too. The Caps got off to a sluggish start tonight in hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning, but fought through the fog of the first period to dominate the middle frame. In neither period could the Caps score, though, but then again, neither did Tampa Bay. The third period was played as if each team was looking to ensure at least one standings point. That would be all the Caps would get as Martin St. Louis sent a rebound of a Vincent Lecavalier shot through the legs of defenseman Tom Poti and into the back of the net to give the Lightning a 1-0 overtime win and sole possession of the Southeast Division lead.

We heard a number commentators after the game expressing surprise at the fact that this game – featuring two teams in the top ten in scoring – would end regulation scoreless. We fail to see the mystery. The Caps came into this game having allowed only 13 goals in their last eight games, while Tampa Bay came into the contest having allowed only 16 goals in their last nine contests. Both teams were having considerable success keeping pucks out of their own nets. And what added another dimension to the situation was Tampa Bay having added Dwayne Roloson in goal, obtained in a trade with the New York Islanders on New Year’s Day.

This had all the makings of a potential low-scoring affair, but the pace of the game seemed more that of a 4-3 or 5-4 game. Tampa Bay came out flying (or the Caps came out flat, depending on your perspective). Tampa outshot the Caps 5-0 in the game’s first eight minutes, the Caps not getting their first shot on goal until the 8:06 mark of the period. From that point forward through the end of regulation, the Caps caught and passed the Lightning in shots on goal, finishing the last 42 minutes with a 34-28 lead after allowing those first five shots. The Lightning dominated the extra session, though, outshooting the Caps 5-0 over the 2:54 played. It was just enough to earn them the second standings point.

Other stuff…

-- Semyon Varlamov certainly wasn’t sluggish. He was sharp from the get go, turning away 37 of 38 shots. That makes of 149 saves on 155 shots, a .961 save percentage over his past five games.

-- Vincent Lecavalier didn’t get a star, but he wins the buffet award, sampling the entire score sheet: an assist, plus-1, a minor penalty, six shots on goal, one shot blocked, two misses, three hits, a giveaway, a takeaway, a blocked shot, and 18 faceoffs taken (of which he won only four).

-- Alex Ovechkin had eight shots on goal and 16 total attempts. But of the eight shots on goal and the five misses he had, they were taken from an average of 36 feet. Not exactly getting chances from in close.

-- If Alexander Semin was, say, Bob Smith, he would have one foot in the press box and the other about to take the last step into it. He was sloppy with the puck and posed almost no threat in the offensive zone tonight. Since scoring four goals in two games to end the month of November, he is 0-5-5, even, over his last 13 games.

-- On the game-winner, Tom Poti was in a no-man’s land trying to defend against the rebound shot of Martin St. Louis. He had already been on the ice for 1:03 when he could only wave at the St. Louis drive as it rocketed through his legs.

-- We get that Mike Green is filling out his game by being responsible and even at times dominating in his own end. But he had one shot attempt tonight (blocked) and four hits. Is that an effective mix?

-- So, you pull the other guys sweater over his head, and you STILL lose the fight? Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Downie.

-- Marcus Johansson was one guy with jump in his step tonight. He is skating with a good deal more confidence. When he adds some bulk over the next couple of years he is going to be a force out there.

-- Funniest sight of the night…Mathieu Perreault, giving away nine inches and about 50 pounds, going into the corner against Victor Hedman and pestering him off the puck.

-- Nicklas Backstrom has now gone 15 games without a goal and has only seven assists over that span. Right now, there is no Backstrom-Ovechkin magic. The Caps will need it.

-- The Caps had two power play goals against the Lightning the last time the teams met, on November 26th. Since then the Caps are 7-for-64 (10.9 percent) and have not had any multiple power-play goal games. They were 0-for-3 tonight.

-- On the other side of special teams the 3-for-3 night makes the Caps 29-for-30 on the PK over their last eight games (96.7 percent).

In the end, the Caps “played” a fairly decent game, especially considering that: a) they played the biggest regular season game in franchise history the last time out, and b) they sleepwalked their way through the first ten minutes. If there was one consistent shortcoming tonight, it was that they appeared a half-second slow pulling the trigger on shots, allowing goalie Dwayne Roloson to look a lot better than he might really have been. In that respect, this might be as good as it gets for Roloson and the Lightning, although a shutout of one of the league’s best home teams is quite a way to start one’s career in a new uniform.

For the Caps, this was the first 1-0 overtime loss in team history, so you can call this game memorable, if not ultimately satisfying. But the Caps are 5-0-2 in their last seven games and have allowed as many as three goals in a game only once in the last nine contests. All things considered, it is hardly an end-of-the-world night, although there might be a few Caps fans to think otherwise, preferring to wallow in the belief (misbegotten though it might be) that a changing of the guard has taken place. It hasn’t. Dwayne Roloson upgrades the Lightning in goal, but can he carry a number one load over the last 45 games or so? Over the previous eight seasons Roloson has topped 50 games played twice, so we’ll see.

For now, the Caps just need to keep plugging through the dog days of their schedule that now enters a dangerous phase with six of their next ten on the road and four of them against Southeast Division opponents. If they keep playing defense like they did tonight and the way that they have been over the past few weeks, they should be successful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...is quite a way to start one’s career in a new uniform."

Make that "partially new uniform." ;)

Great recap, as always!