Saturday, March 26, 2011

A NO-point night -- Game 75: Senators 2 - Caps 0

As the season winds down, you would not think the Caps would have it in them to be setting any team records. After last night’s 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators, two club records are in sight, one good, one bad.

We’ll get the good out of the way first. In giving up only two goals the Caps kept their season scoring by opponents to 2.36 goals per game. Keeping up that pace will earn the Caps the top spot in club history for fewest goals allowed in a full season.

But even that thought is tainted a bit by how the Caps got there last night. Semyon Varlamov returned to the ice for the first time since February 20th, and for the most part played as if he had not missed a beat. He stopped the first 16 shots he faced and might have stopped the 17th, too. Colin Greening was credited with a goal after appearing to kick the puck with his left boot, that drive stopped by Varlamov’s left pad – but not frozen – and the puck then ricocheting back off Greening and into the goal. After a lengthy review the goal was allowed to stand.

The second goal…well, that’s on Varlamov, or perhaps a few lingering flakes of rust on his game. He looked to be taking his time to return to the net after stopping a puck sliding around the end boards and leaving it for Karl Alzner. Alzner tried to clear the puck out of the zone, but sent it forward but onto the stick of Milan Michalek, who backhanded a pass to Erik Condra. Condra did his best imitation of Peter Bondra and wristed a shot through Varlamov, who looked to be slow getting into position to defend the shot.

And that was all Senator goalie Craig Anderson needed. Playing his second game in two nights, Anderson stopped all 31 shots from Capital sticks to record his second shutout of the season and first since recording one in his first game as a Senator against Toronto in February.

Other stuff…

-- One might be inclined to say the game turned on a lucky bounce. Nope. This was a “performance” loss. The Caps sleepwalked their way through the first two periods, getting 19 shots on goal (few of much consequence or threat) and playing an extremely passive game in which they could not get or keep pucks deep. Twelve third period shots made the shot meter look good, but it was a futile effort at catch-up from a two-goal deficit as opposed to a concerted offensive effort.

-- And now, about that second club record in sight. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have been shut out more often this season than the ten times the Caps have been shut out. The club record of 12 is in sight, a record set in the club’s inaugural season in 1974-1975, a season in which the Caps won only eight games. As it is, this club sits in third place for most times shut out (second place held by the 1998-1999 team – a team that missed 511 man-games to injury – with 11).

-- Mike Knuble’s consecutive three-point game streak came to an end with a thud (ok, it was two games). No shots on goal, only one shot attempt, and an otherwise blank score sheet.

-- If it could be said in a game like this, Brooks Laich gets the coupon for the score sheet buffet – seven shots on goal (ten attempts), three hits, a blocked shot, and one faceoff taken.

-- Rule 41.1 says… “A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards.” Apparently, stumbling falls into the “thrown violently” category.

-- At least Marco Sturm is back to shooting the puck. He is still looking for his first goal as a Cap, but after posting no shots on goal in either of his two previous games managed four on goal last night.

-- And as for shots, the Caps got them from the guys who have to take them in the absence of Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Jason Arnott. Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, and Alexander Semin combined for almost half of the Caps 31 shots (15 combined). But there wasn’t much follow up, and Anderson was too sharp to have many of the “good look” shots squirt past him.

In the end, there had to be another stinker in here somewhere, and this was the candidate game that leaped off the page. And, it was – a stinker that is. One can look at it as a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty thing. On one hand, it was only the Caps’ third loss in their last 14 games. On the other, they have now split their last four games (2-2-0) and scored only nine goals in the process. Whether the Caps fill that glass a little more or drain it with another loss to end the road trip, well… that makes this evening’s game against Montreal – a potential playoff opponent – more important in the big picture than this game.

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