Saturday, November 19, 2011

A NO-point night -- Game 18: Maple Leafs 7 - Capitals 1

In the larger scheme of world events, a 7-1 loss in a hockey game doesn’t amount to much. But in the world of the NHL, the Washington Capitals losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs by that 7-1 margin was, and yet might be, a significant event.

The Caps were beaten early (a goal 99 seconds into the game), late (a goal in the last minute of each period for the home team), and often (tying the most goals allowed in a game this season). They were beaten on the right side (Tomas Vokoun, he of the right handed catching glove, allowing four goals on 18 shots). They were beaten on the left (the left-handed catching Michal Neuvirth allowing three goals on 11 shots).

We could summarize the carnage, but there are limits to our masochism. Let’s just go to the stuff…

-- In every sport, you learn certain things very early on – like when you’re five years old. In hockey, one of those things has to be “never, ever, pass the puck up the middle from deep in your own end.” But there was Jeff Schultz with Joffrey Lupul gliding in on him with a gentle forecheck, and instead of pulling the puck back and sending it around the boards to Roman Hamrlik at the left wing wall, Schultz tried to lift the puck past Lupul. All he managed to do was flip it into Lupul, who collected the puck and found Tim Connolly for the first goal 99 seconds in.

-- Alexander Semin was whistled for a penalty, the seventh game in a row he has been called for a penalty and the 13th game out of 18 this season. But this was, most assuredly, not his fault and not warranted. It was entirely a “reputation” call (he was called for “diving”), but it was a call that made no sense. A player looking to embellish a call does not do it by more or less boarding himself feet first into the side boards.

-- 28:42. That is how long it took for Alex Ovechkin to register a shot attempt. Not a “shot on goal”… a shot “attempt.” By that time, it was 4-1 Toronto. Ovechkin had ten shot attempts in the last 31:18 (eight on goal), but at that point, as fans at Verizon Center might ask, "WHO CARES?!” The joy looks to have been sucked entirely from Ovechkin’s game. Without that, there is no energy. Without energy, there is no fire in his skating. And without that, there is what you got tonight… a whole lot of nothing.

-- Folks talk about Ovechkin having been “figured out” by opposing teams, but there is something else that has been “figured out” that might have more important ramifications. The Caps miss Mike Green. We get that. But what it means is that Jeff Schultz, John Erskine, and Roman Hamrlik are being exposed for their lack of foot speed. And if John Carlson and Karl Alzner are a steady pair, then two of those three will be paired with one another, the third with Dennis Wideman. One of those three was on the ice for five of the first six Toronto goals.

-- Not that the forwards were doing much to give evidence that they were paying attention on defense. Time and time again, Caps forwards were too high in the defensive zone, looking to high-tail it the other way, leaving the Leafs to pound shots at Caps goaltenders, especially early. Toronto had 32 shot attempts in the first period, 16 of them on goal.

--The flip side of that is that the Leafs had only 25 shot attempts in the last 40 minutes…and scored on four of them. Not shots on goal, shot “attempts.”

-- Jonas Gustavsson allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, a score by Brooks Laich 51 seconds after the first Toronto goal. He stopped the last 40 shots he faced. This was the fourth time in Gustavsson’s career in which he faced 40 or more shots. In each of the other three he allowed five or more goals.

-- The Caps had not allowed seven goals to the Leafs at Air Canada Centre before tonight. The last time they allowed that many in Toronto was on October 13, 1993, at Maple Leaf Gardens. Here is how long ago that is. The goalie of record in that game was Olaf Kolzig. No surprise there. But it was Kolzig’s seventh game in the NHL, and it would be another 14 months before he would earn his first NHL win.

-- Joel Ward was the only Cap credited with a takeaway in this game. Fitting, because there is just nothing to take away from it.

-- Could the hockey gods script things any better than having David Steckel kick the extra point with a shorthanded breakaway in the last minute of play? Still, it seemed like it took him a minute and forty-five seconds to get from one end of the ice to the other. Parenthetically, he lost nine of 16 draws in this game, only the fifth time in 20 games he finished south of 50 percent on faceoffs.

-- There was that Lupul guy carving up the Caps again. Joffrey Lupul came into the game with 13 points in ten regular season games against the Caps, and he had four more tonight (1-3-4).

-- Slump within a slump… Michal Neuvirth did not get the decision tonight, but in allowing three goals on 11 shots he is 0-2-1, 3.85, .856 in his last four appearances.

-- In the “yeah, like it would have made a difference” category… The Leafs scored on two lay-ups that were a case of bad luck for the Caps. Tyler Bozak scored when a pass clicked off defenseman Karl Alzner’s skate right onto his tape at the doorstep. Phil Kessel had similar good fortune, a pass deflecting off John Erskine’s skate onto his blade for a slam dunk.

-- Only one Cap who dressed tonight was not on the ice for any goal. In any other game, you could be sure that such a player is the guy in the baseball cap – the backup goaltender. But with Vokoun and Neuvirth getting multiple helpings of abuse, that player was… Cody Eakin.

In the end, the Caps stunk from the inside out in all directions. There was not a single part of this game the Caps can point to and say, “we did this right,” unless you count “not shooting the puck into their own net” as doing something right. They were bad in all three zones, they were bad at even-strength, on the power play, and shorthanded. And what is worse, they looked as if they did not have even the energy to try to use more physical play to try and scare up some momentum. They had their lunch taken from them, and they were meek in allowing it to happen.

“The room” is going to be a term used a lot in the days to come. Has Coach Boudreau lost “the room?” Will someone in “the room” stand up and make a statement? Will guys in “the room” suck it up and realize that they have a lot of hard work to do? Fans can’t know what goes on in “the room,” but they can see what is going on down on the ice. And at the moment what they see is a team that is 3-7-1 in their last 11 games and a team that looks as if it doesn’t have a clue, let alone an answer.

We are reminded of what we wrote after the Winnipeg game

“[The Caps] head on the road to play that team on a big stage – Air Canada Centre in Toronto with a national television audience in Canada looking on. They do it squarely in a slump, playing indifferent hockey. The last time they faced this situation was on a cold night in New York City, and it ended as perhaps the ugliest game the Caps played all year.

Deja new…”

“Deja new,” indeed.

1 comment:

Hooks Orpik said...

The last time a struggling contender gave up 6 straight goals and got run out of town on a Saturday night in Toronto, Michel Therrien lost his job.

It's still early in the season (that was February, not November) and it's a different team so it's a different story.. But just sayin.