Friday, April 20, 2012
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4: Capitals 2 - Bruins 1
Now, last night the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1, to tie their first round playoff series at two games apiece. It was the fourth one-goal game in four contests as the series inched past the half-way point.
The half-way point. Want to take another deep breath? We’ll wait…
The Caps got goals from Marcus Johansson in the game’s second minute and Alexander Semin on a power play with less than two minutes left in the second period. Braden Holtby made them stand up, allowing only a first period goal by Rich Peverley among 45 shots he faced to secure the win.
-- Had Boston scored a goal in the dying seconds to tie the game, this game might have forever been known as “Clockgate.” With 9.5 seconds left and a faceoff to Holtby’s left, the linesman dropped the puck, and then the clock… didn’t… start… for… almost… five… full… seconds. That’s right (we timed it when we watched it later on replay). Instead of 9.5 seconds, the Bruins had 14 seconds of time in the Caps’ zone, and it was in those free four-and-a-half seconds at the end that Braden Holtby had one more save in him, gloving down a shot from Patrice Bergeron at the horn.
-- OK, it wouldn’t have counted. Bergeron’s shot technically came just after the horn and is not on the game’s play-by-play sheet.
-- The Capitals made good on taking their minimum daily requirement of Swede. Marcus Johansson had a goal, two shots (three attempts) and even got more than two minutes on the power play.
-- For all the run up about helmets being knocked off, after-whistle scrums, waking sleeping beasts, this and that, Game 4 was a relatively cleanly-played game. Four penalties, all told, only one of them for what was a “physical” foul, a slashing call to Rich Peverley late in the first period.
-- The guys who got their first taste of action didn’t figure in the scoring, but they did make their presence felt. Defenseman John Erskine had four shot attempts (a good month for him) and three hits in 11 minutes of ice time. He did try to effect a sliding block of Peverley’s shot that become a goal in the first period but just missed.
-- The other newcomer to this series – Mike Knuble – had three hits and a takeaway in just under 12 minutes, but he did not have a shot attempt, and he took the Caps’ only penalty of the game, a holding call midway through the third period.
-- About that Boston goal. It might have been the only “mistake” Braden Holtby made all night. It looked as if he was cheating a bit, anticipating a pass from Peverley to Dan Paille as the Bruins were closing on a 2-on-1. Peverley snuck a shot in through the opening Holtby left on the short side as a result.
-- The Bruins out-attempted the Caps in shots by an 83-44 margin. The Bruins had 45 shots to the Caps’ 44 shot attempts. But here’s the thing – 36 of those shot attempts for Boston came from defensemen. There is good and bad in that. The good is that it is a lot of shots coming from outside. The bad is that they are getting to the net where a lot of mischief can occur with loose pucks being batted around by Bruins. By way of comparison, the Caps’ defensemen had 16 shot attempts, four of which were on goal (three by Dennis Wideman).
-- We have talked a lot about getting “secondary scoring” (Marcus Johansson was last night’s example of getting some). But “secondary faceoff wins?” Among the non-centers taking draws when Caps were thrown out of the circle (Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, and Joel Ward), they were six wins in six tries.
-- Six shots on the power play in 4:50 of power play time. Not bad, and they were getting shots from players the Caps want getting them – Dennis Wideman, Alex Ovechkin (2), and Alexander Semin (the goal).
-- Lost in all this was the fact that the Caps could have run the Bruins out of the building if not for a fine performance from Tim Thomas in the Bruin net. The Caps broke down the Bruins defense often for odd man situations or good scoring opportunities. Thomas allowed a goal on the first such situation, when Brooks Laich fed Marcus Johansson for the goal, but Thomas came up big on a drive by Brooks Laich early in the second period, he snuffed out an attempt by Ovechkin off a turnover mid-way in the second, then he denied Keith Aucoin off a centering feed from Joel Ward mid-way in the third that would have given the Caps an insurance goal.
-- Teams that start fast and fail to convert almost always regret the lost opportunities later. The Bruins had a 24-5 lead in shots half-way through the game and had only Rich Peverley’s goal to show for it.
-- The teams are now a combined 2-for-24 on the power play in this series. Alexander Semin has both of the power play goals. Boston is the only one of 16 teams in the playoffs without a power play goal.
-- For all the commentary about how rough and tumble this series is, only Phoenix has fewer power play opportunities (11) than the Caps and Bruins (12 apiece).
In the end, we are just past the half-way point of this series. No team has yet to enjoy so much as a second with a two-goal lead. This is the sort of series that, according to the game plan, the Caps have been preparing for over the last several months. The sort of series in which goals are hard to come by. The sort of series where intensity cannot descend into frenzy, where one must have a certain resolve and steeliness to play within one’s self and well with small margins for error. This leads one to believe that there is a lot of hockey yet to be played. So… not too low with the lows, and not too high with the highs.
It was nice, though, wasn’t it?