Thursday, January 19, 2012

A TWO-point night -- Game 45: Capitals 3 - Canadiens 0

The Washington Capitals might have explained away a loss last night to the Montreal Canadiens as their having to play their third game in four nights. That is, had they lost the game. The Caps used goals from Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson to give the Caps a lead in the first period, then a power play goal from Alex Ovechkin mid-way through the second period, to combine with Michal Neuvirth’s 31-save effort in goal to post a 3-0 win over the Canadiens.

The theme lately has been shots, specifically the Cap’s seeming inability to generate many. Last night, it was an issue again. The Caps managed only 16 shots on goal for the game, the 16th consecutive game in which they did not top 30 shots and the third time in four that they did not have more than 20. But let’s break that down a bit.

In the first 4:41 of the game, a period of time ending with Mathieu Perrault’s goal, the Caps had five shot attempts (two shots, two misses, and a shot blocked) to Montreal’s four attempts (two shots, a miss, and a shot blocked).

In the next 3:42, the period ending with Marcus Johansson’s goal, the Caps had four shot attempts (two shots, two shots blocked), while Montreal had only two shot attempts (two shots on goal).

So, by the time the Caps went out to a 2-0 lead, they had nine shot attempts (four shots, two misses, three shots blocked), the Canadiens had six shot attempts (four shots, one miss, one shot blocked).

Montreal closed the first period with a rush, getting nine shot attempts in the last 11:37 – three shots, three misses, and three shots blocked. The Caps had six attempts – one shot and five misses. In the first half of the second period, the Caps would out-attempt the Canadiens leading up to the third and final goal of the evening (the power play goal from Alex Ovechkin). Washington had ten shot attempts – five shots on goal, three misses, and two shots blocked, while Montreal had seven shot attempts – one shot, three misses, and three shots blocked.

With the Caps having a 3-0 lead at the 10:44 mark of the second period, they had 25 shot attempts – ten shots, five misses, and ten shots blocked. Montreal had 22 shot attempts – eight shots, seven misses, and seven shots blocked.

After that, the Caps went almost silent on shot attempts. In the last 29:16 of the game, Washington had only 11 shot attempts – six shots on goal and five shots blocked. Meanwhile, Montreal would register 50 – that’s right, 50 – shot attempts: 23 shots on goal, nine misses, and 18 shots blocked. Of that number, 36 shot attempts – half of Montreal’s total of 72 attempts – came in the third period.

At 1-0, attempts were 5-4, Caps.

At 2-0, attempts were 9-6, Caps.

At 3-0, attempts were 25-22, Caps.

After that, over the last 29:16 of the game, the attempts were 50-11, Montreal.

Other stuff:

-- Three goals, three different players; nine points, nine different players; two even strength goals, ten different plus-1’s.

-- Montreal’s power play was every bit as bad as the statistics indicated. At first blush, getting nine shots on goal in 11:59 of power play time is not too bad, but having had that 11:59 in power play time, one might have thought they would get a goal just from having so much in-game practice and from wearing Caps penalty killers down.

-- OK, we’ve seen the fight with Rene Bourque. Kudos to Matt Hendricks for being that stand-up guy for the Caps, but it is time to move on. Although we are wondering what might have prompted Joe B. and Craig Laughlin to opine that it would be the first of several instances involving Bourque on the evening. Perhaps the lack of a second (or a third) was the product of too much time being a man down over the rest of the contest, and by the time the third period got started – the Caps having their 3-0 lead – it was a case of “what’s the point, look at the scoreboard.”

-- In the 2007-2008 season, Alex Ovechkin scored his 19th goal on November 30th in Game 26 of the season. He got his 19th of this season last night in Game 45. Different time, different place.

-- The Scott Gomez goal watch continues. It is 45 games without a goal (not including seven playoff games without one). At this point, Gomez Addams would seem a better bet to score first. Scott Gomez had five shots and eight attempts without finding the back of the net.

-- Montreal had as many missed shots as the Caps had shots. They had nine more shots blocked than the Caps had shots (25-16). The Caps had only ten shots at even strength (four on the power play, two shorthanded). We had to get that in.

-- Speaking of which, Roman Hamrlik had one shot on goal for the game… it came while shorthanded.

-- Sixteen faceoffs in the offensive end (nine wins), 24 in the defensive end (14 wins). That is still quite a difference.

-- In killing off seven of seven shorthanded situations, it is the first time the Caps handled that many cleanly since killing of eight of eight on December 13, 2008… against the Canadiens… in Montreal (Semyon Varlamov’s first appearance and first win for the Caps).

-- Mathieu Perreault had 6:09 of ice time last night covering eight shifts. A goal, three hits, and he won all four draws. A nice, tidy night.

In the end, we are still not sure this is a long-term formula for success. “Prevent” defense is said to prevent only one thing – “winning.” Allowing 50 shot attempts in the last half of the game might have been a product of this being the third game in four nights, in which case Michal Neuvirth more than deserves that first start of the night in the NHL. But if this is how the Caps are choosing to play, one wonders if teams like Boston or the Rangers, who lurk on the schedule’s horizon, will be as accommodating as the punchless Canadiens.

Still, the win pushed the Caps back ahead of Florida atop the Southeast Division, by virtue of having more wins in regulation and overtime. And speaking of the latter, maybe is has escaped notice, but the Caps have only one fewer win in regulation and overtime than the Boston Bruins.

They just do it differently.

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