Saturday, October 05, 2013

A NO-point night -- Game 3: Stars 2 - Capitals 1

Last season the Washington Capitals skated more than 2,900 minutes in 48 games.  Less than 300 of that amount was spent on the power play.  It is nice to have the league’s best power play, but you win consistently when you win at even strength.  The Caps got their power play goal tonight, but lost the even-strength battle, 2-0, and dropped a 2-1 decision to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

Washington opened the scoring on their first power play of the evening when Alex Ovechkin flipped a change of pace one timer past goalie Kari Lehtonen’s blocker on the short side at the 4:26 mark of the first period.

That would be it for the Caps as far as their offense was concerned.  Dallas did a superb job keeping the Caps to the outside at even strength, allowing the Stars to win battles along the boards and prevent the Caps from generating any offensive rhythm.  It paid off for the Stars when Erik Cole tied the score eight minutes into the first period when he was left all alone in the slot, free to take a backhand feed by Tyler Seguin from behind the net and slam it past goalie Braden Holtby.

Dallas got what would be the game winner in the 13th minute of the second period when Alex Chiasson swatted home a rebound of a Cody Eakin shot taken from a severe angle.  Lehtonen made it stand up, turning away the last 21 shots he faced to secure Dallas’ first win of the season.

Other stuff…

-- Through three games the Caps have been outscored at even strength, 10-3.  They are 3-for-69 shooting at even strength (4.3 percent).  They are 0-for-28 in the first periods of games.  That will kill their “PDO,” which at the moment stands for “pretty damn oh-ful.”

-- Hard to fault Braden Holtby on either of the goals.  Erik Cole had no one within ten feet of him right between the hash marks on his score.  All he had to do was get the pass from Tyler Seguin on net to score that goal.  On the other, Alex Chiasson caught the Capitals facing the wrong way when he sped down the slot to bang home a rebound.

-- Back to those even strength shots.  Twelve forwards combined for nine even strength shots.  Alex Ovechkin had one (none after the first period), and the top line had just two.  Nicklas Backstrom had the other one, that one coming with 2:13 left in the game.

-- When John Erskine ties for the team lead in shots on goal (four), it is not a fireworksy kind of night on offense.

-- Martin Erat skated 8:27 in total ice time.  That tied a career mark for consecutive games with less than ten minutes of ice time.  Those games would be the first three games of the 2003-2004 season when he skated a total of 22:35.  He has a total of 23:58 through three games.  Mike Green (28:18) and John Carlson (24:48) average more ice time per game.  Based on his pay this season, Erat has been earning $6,874 per minute played.

-- Eric Fehr won eight of 11 draws tonight.  That makes him 21 for 32 through three games (65.6 percent), ninth in the league in faceoff winning percentage.

-- Until the last three seconds, Kari Lehtonen could have written an opera in goal for all the pressure the Caps put on him.  But those last three seconds were something, including his desperate throw-up-my-glove-and-hope-for-the-best save on Grabovski attempt at a redirect of an Ovechkin pass.

-- Significant of nothing in particular, the fourth line of Erat, Tom Wilson, and Jay Beagle/Michael Latta has a combined seven shots on goal.  They had one tonight (Beagle).

-- Here is what Rule 69.1 says about interference on the goalkeeper…
This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.  For purposes of this rule, “contact,” whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body.

The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.

OK, so… did Nicklas Backstrom, “either by his positioning or by contact, [impair] the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal” when he nudged the puck past Lehtonen 8:01 into the second period for a goal that would have given the Caps a 2-1 lead?  Apparently, the referee thought so.

In the end, the Caps might have gained momentum from the goal that was disallowed.  They might have forced the Stars out of their patient push-‘em-to-the-outside defense.  But really, do you believe that?  The Caps were in this game to the very end, but they never seemed to be “in” this game.  It was as if they were locked in a box with no means of escape, as if they were, well…

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