Saturday, November 23, 2013

Washington Capitals: A NO point night -- Game 24: Maple Leafs 2 - Capitals 1 (OT/Gimmick)

There are good one-point games, and there are bad one-point games. The Washington Capitals might have seen what was unfolding in their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, victimized once more by a goal scored on a high deflection that went to video review, watched as shot after shot…after shot… was turned away by Leafs goalie James Reimer, and crumbled late.

They did not.  The one goal was all they would allow, and their incessant shelling of the Toronto net paid a dividend late to get the Caps to overtime.  The Maple Leafs won the game in the freestyle competition, 2-1, but all things considered this was not a bad point for the Caps to earn.

The deflection came on a power play mid-way through the second period when David Clarkson set up in front of the Caps net, gave Tyson Strachan a subtle shove to get some separation and get his arms free, then got his stick up to deflect a drive by Jake Gardiner down and past goalie Braden Holtby to give the home team a 1-0 lead.

It almost stood up.  Toronto outshot the Caps, 7-6, after the Clarkson goal to close the second period, but the Caps poured it on in the third period.  Through the first 15 minutes of the period the Caps outshot the Leafs, 15-4, but Reimer was up to the task and turned all 15 away.  Then, with the clock approaching the 16 minute mark of the period, Mike Green took control of the puck at the Capitals’ blue line and started up the right side.  After taking a couple of strides, he lifted a soft dump-in that hit the ice in front of defenseman Dion Phaneuf, but not within a stick’s reach.  The puck stuck like a sand wedge on the 18th green, almost sitting up for Alex Ovechkin to one-time it past Phaneuf, past Reimer, off iron, and in to tie the game.

That would do it for the hockey portion of the evening’s scoring, leaving it to the Gimmick.  In the bonus round Eric Fehr and James van Riemsdyk exchanged goals, which it where things stood until the fourth round.  Joffrey Lupul  scored, Troy Brouwer did not, and the Leafs had the extra point in the standings.

Other stuff…

-- If you are keeping score, the Caps have now gone 215:33 since a player other than Alex Ovechkin recorded a goal.  For the record, that would be John Carlson at the 9:27 mark of the second period in the Caps’ 4-1 win over St. Louis last Sunday.

-- The 50 shots on goal for the Caps was the most in a game for the club since they had 52 in a 4-3 loss to Dallas on March 8, 2010.  Ovechkin had two goals in that game.

-- That is the sixth time in 24 games the Caps have scored fewer than two goals.

-- Ovechkin did not have a shot attempt over the first 25 minutes of the game.  He had 10 attempts (six on goal) in the last 40 minutes.

-- Mikhail Grabovski had two new linemates tonight – Eric Fehr (who hadn’t played since November 2nd) and Troy Brouwer (who had only 17 shots on goal since November 2nd).  Fehr finished with five shots on goal (12 attempts), and Brouwer finished with five shots on goal (seven attempts).  Grabovski had two shots of his own on five attempts and a few dozen stitches, courtesy of David Clarkson’s skate blade to the cheek and nose.

-- If you do the math, the Caps averaged one shot attempt per 38.6 seconds of this game (101 attempts in 65 minutes).  They had as many of their attempts blocked (28) and Toronto had shot on goal (28).  Eleven of the Caps’ 18 skaters had five or more shot attempts, led by Fehr (12) and John Carlson (12).

-- James Reimer got the first star, and he deserved it. He was the first Toronto goalie to face 50 shots in a game since Vesa Toskala faced 52 in a 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey on March 3, 2009.  He is the first Maple Leaf to win a game in which he faced 50 or more shots since Ed Belfour faced 53 shots in a 5-4 win over Boston on October 24, 2005.  But it was not as if Braden Holtby was leftover poutine out there.  His 27 saves on 28 shots was his fifth best effort, save percentage wise (.964), of the season, lifting him into a tie for 14th with Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils at .925 for the season.

-- The other side of the shots ledger was the Caps allowing only 28 shots on goal in 65 minutes.  It was the first time in five games that they held an opponent to less than 30 shots on goal and only the fourth time this season in 24 games.  They are 1-2-1 in those games.

-- There was a fair amount of smack talk going around in the social media over Grabovski’s performance (he did not record a point in his return to Toronto), but in addition to making his new linemates look good in terms of opportunities, he won seven of nine offensive zone draws, too.

-- The Caps went 0-for-3 on the power play.  That leaves them 4-7-1 in games in which they do not score on the man advantage.

-- Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin in the shootout, we get.  Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer?  One had not played in three weeks and had not attempted a trick shot this season, the other had only one shootout attempt (successful).  Oates took his chances and came up 1-for-2, Fehr scoring, Brouwer denied.

In the end, this game probably would look a lot better if the Caps had not lost two games at home before taking the road to Toronto.  Taken on its own merits it is not a bad loss.  They “played” well, dominating possession for long stretches of the game, even if their shooting was not rewarded.  They kept after it, scored late, and earned a point it looked for 55 minutes that they would be frustrated from getting.

Having said that, now the Caps return home for games against Ottawa and Montreal on Thanksgiving week after they get the next three days off from game hockey.  Good will from a hard-earned point in a game like this has a shelf life.  They need to get back to winning these games.

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