Sunday, January 09, 2011
A TWO-point night -- Game 42: Caps 3 - Panthers 2
The Washington Capitals worked their way to 6-0-2 in their last eight games last night with a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The win was significant in several respects. First, it marked the Caps working their way all the way back from the 0-6-2 streak they had in early December. Second, they recorded a power play goal. The power play remains 7-for-64 (10.9 percent) since that losing streak started, but every power play goal is a sign of hope that the team is getting that back on track. Third, Alex Ovechkin recorded a goal, only his fifth in his last 24 games. However, that goal last night was his third in five games, a pace with which Ovechkin and fans are more familiar.
-- Florida had three shots and a goal before the Caps recorded their first shot on net almost six minutes into the game. That might not be especially significant, except that the Caps enjoyed a power play in the middle of that on which they had no shots on goal and were whistled for offside three times. And that lone shot on goal had to last them another seven-plus minutes until they got their second one (at 13:14 of the period). That is pretty much the definition of a slow start.
-- Not that the Panthers were lighting up the shot meter, either. They had only three shots in the first 15 minutes of the first period. That buzzing sound was 18,398 fans dozing.
-- Speaking of 18,398 fans, that makes 84 in a row… sellouts, that is.
-- Mike Green had the power play goal last night. It didn’t come in the usual way – the weak side pinch on the right side – but rather via a backhand when he had some open ice in front of him leading to the slot. It was “usual” in this respect. Of the eight goals Green has so far this year, five have come with the man advantage.
-- Alex Ovechkin played a lot of right wing last night. One could see an effect similar to that in basketball where a player favors dribbling with one hand or the other. In basketball, if a player favors one hand or the other, a defender can overplay him to that side. Defenders were doing that with Ovechkin, either cutting off his power move to the middle from the left wing (which plays to the strength of his right-handed forehand) or leaving Ovechkin with a frustrating path if he tries that move. On the right side, his right-handed forehand makes a cut to the middle a problem precisely because he is a right-handed shot. He has to carry the puck wide to create space for himself. Repositioning him provided Bruce Boudreau with the means to force Ovechkin to do things that he probably should have been doing on the other side. It didn’t seem to slow him down; he still had 11 shot attempts and six on goal.
-- A somewhat unusual night in a defensive respect. Karl Alzner was on the ice for both Panther goals; John Carlson was on the ice for the second one. It was Alzner’s first “minus” game in his last ten. He was a plus-8 in the nine games before last night. Alzner also tied for the team lead in hits last night (four).
-- Don’t look now, but last night makes three goals in three games for Eric Fehr, four in his last six (4-3-7, plus-5). And where is he getting them from? Well, of the last three, plunking himself in front of the net to convert a turnover, a breakaway, and plunking himself right at the top of the crease last night to rook a pass from Mike Green. Go…to…the…net.
-- Nicklas Backstrom continues to struggle to find the back of the net – no goals now in his last 16 games. But with an assist last night he has eight assists in his last 14 games, four in his last six.
-- Alexander Semin did not answer the bell for the third period. He took a hit by Steve Bernier late in the second period that sent him awkwardly to the ice. Looks like a leg injury that leaves him day-to-day.
-- The 3-2 score was indicative of a game played in a 200-foot, take-the-local sort of game. The teams combined for 54 shots on goal and only 109 shot attempts in the 60 minutes. Compare that to the Los Angeles-Columbus game in which there were 70 combined shots on goal and 128 shot attempts in 60 minutes of a 6-4 Kings win.
-- Of the 27 shots the Caps had, 11 of them came from Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green. Eleven players shared the other 16 shots on goal.
-- In as tightly-contested a game as this the Caps did themselves no favors in the offensive end in getting puck possession. They were 5-for-15 in faceoffs in the offensive end.
-- 13 of 18 skaters had hits; 11 of 18 skaters had blocked shots. Defense means paying a price, and the Caps seem to be buying into that notion that holding teams off the board requires that price be paid. We can make that 16 skaters in a way, since Mathieu Perreault is out there with a shattered nose (you want to hit a guy or go down for a blocked shot with that?), and Alexander Semin didn’t play in the last 24 minutes (although hits and blocked shots are not generally a feature of his game).
-- Scott Hannan was minus-9 and didn’t have a plus game in his first eight games with the Caps. In his last eight games he is plus-3 and has not had a minus-game.
-- Semyon Varlamov just keeps on rolling. He is 4-0-2 since he was lit up for seven goals against the Rangers and marries that record to a 1.31 goals against average and a .956 save percentage with one shutout.
In the end, it was another grind-it-out sort of game for the Caps, making them 11-4-6 in one-goal games so far this year. The .524 winning percentage pace is one that would improve on last year’s 20-8-13 mark in such games (.488). It is as good a signal as any that the Caps are not relying on blowing out teams with big offensive nights. They can play these low-scoring, no-highlight games in a way that eluded them last year. It might not be pretty to watch, but it brings a smile to folks’ faces when they look at the standings the next morning.