Friday, December 02, 2011
A NO-point night -- Game 24: Penguins 2 - Capitals 1
And please, we don’t want to hear about “effort.” This isn’t 2006, and there aren’t “moral” victories of the “well, they played them close” variety. This game was played on Pittsburgh’s terms from start to finish. Despite having Sidney Crosby back in the lineup, the Penguins are still a team that has an underrated defense. And by that we mean everyone buying into it, not just the goaltender and defensemen. And they get contributions from up and down the roster. Need evidence? Look at the point-getters from last night. Craig Adams (42 career goals in 694 games coming into last night) and Chris Kunitz (one 25-goal season in a seven-year career coming into this season) were the goal-scorers. Arron Asham, Richard Park, Tyler Kennedy, and Simon Despres (in his first NHL game) got the assists. None will ever find their way to the first page of the NHL.com scoring leaders.
Meanwhile, consider this scary fact. Jason Chimera, who tallied the lone goal for the Caps last night, has now scored four of the last nine goals scored by the Caps dating back to the game against Winnipeg on November 23rd. The Caps have three goals in their last three games, and Chimera has two of them.
-- How much did Pittsburgh dominate this game territorially? They out-attempted the Caps in shots, 69-42. There were only eight faceoffs in the Penguins’ end all night, 24 in the Caps’ end.
-- The Caps had 17 shots on goal for the night. Two of them came in the third period, and those didn’t come off the sticks of players you necessarily want leading your team in shots for a period. Karl Alzner got one at 8:33 of the period; Cody Eakin got one at 14:28. Meanwhile, the Penguins blocked eight shots in the third period (they had 15 for the game).
-- Alexander Semin was credited with 12:45 in ice time. That is the lowest amount of ice time for Semin in a game he actually finished (that is, wasn’t outright benched or disqualified with a major penalty) since January 24, 2008, when he skated 12:41 in a 2-1 win over Toronto.
-- Alex Ovechkin had 10 hits. Some will say this is encouraging. Yeah, well…he had one shot attempt for the game. That’s one shot…attempt. That came at 9:35 of the first period. He’s not paid to be Troy Brouwer.
-- If there is a silver lining, Sidney Crosby did nothing to demonstrate he is “the best player in the NHL.” Eight shot attempts, minus-1, two giveaways, 6-for-22 on faceoffs, and no points. But the Penguins won, so in the curious logic of hockey media, that made him the best player on the ice.
-- Matt Niskanen – he of the 18 goals in 319 games before last night – recorded eight shot attempts. No Cap had more than four.
-- How messed up are the Caps at the moment, especially on defense? Consider the defensive pairs for the Penguins goals – Jeff Schultz and Dmitry Orlov, John Erskine and John Carlson. Anyone have bets down when the season opened on those guys skating as pairs?
-- The trio of Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nickas Backstrom had a total of seven shot attempts and three shots on goal in a combined 51:46 of ice time. Three Penguins individually had more shot attempts (Niskanen, Crosby, and Evgeny Malkin). Five Penguins individually had at least as many shots on goal.
-- It is hard to lump Nicklas Backstrom in that group, though. He did not have a point, but had at least one in four of five games going into last night’s contest. And he was an amazing 14-for-16 on faceoffs. Too bad, though, he couldn’t convert a tip-in that might have given the Caps some momentum.
-- Tomas Vokoun deserved better. He was beaten when Craig Adams was left all alone on the far post, and he was beaten on a fluttering puck that might have clicked off a stick as it was shot by Chris Kunitz. He robbed Sidney Crosby at the post and was otherwise very solid. He now has 61 saves on 65 shots over his last two games (.938), which is where folks would like to see him. At least something is working.
EDIT: We would be remiss without an enthusiastic stick tap on the boards to John Erskine. There isn't a more stand-up guy on this team than Number 4. Nighty-night, Arron.
In the end, the Caps are a mess. One can rationalize this by thinking that the team is seeing a new coach for the first time in four years, and there are changes to incorporate. But the stagnant play of Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin has been a feature of this team for a while now. Semin is 3-1-4 in his last 16 games; Ovechkin is 1-3-4 in his last ten. These are the twin engines on this boat that at the moment is dead in the water. And if they don’t start revving up soon, this could be the ugliest season in a long time in these parts.