Showing posts with label Hanlon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hanlon. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday: Young Guns and an Old Coach

Tomorrow night, the Caps will visit the Anaheim Ducks in the midst of a 5-0-2 streak that has seen them leap to the head of the Southeast Division and the third spot in the Eastern Conference. Over those seven games, the Caps have scored 24 goals and allowed 14. The Young Guns – Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green – have been the key parts on offense in crafting that streak:

Ovechkin: 5-8-13, +13
Semin: 5-6-11, +11
Backstrom: 2-10-12, +11
Green: 2-4-6, +10

But lost in all that is the 14 goals allowed in seven games. Jose Theodore is 1-0-1, 2.20, .924 in his three appearances in this streak. Good as that is, Brent Johnson has been lights (as in “red” lights) out – 4-0-1, 1.82, .949. And one could conclude it really has been goaltending, too, as the Johnson/Theodore tandem have had to face a somewhat higher number of shots per game in this streak (33.7) than they did in the previous ten games (27.2).

It is a case of what a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the Caps were returning home on heels of what had been to that point a dismal November -- 1-6-1, scoring only 12 goals while allowing 24. The Young Guns were very much young, but not gunning so much:

Ovechkin: 5-1-6, even
Semin: did not play (injured)
Backstrom: 1-3-4, -1
Green: 0-1-1, -4

Then there were the 24 goals allowed in those eight games. Olaf Kolzig was 1-5-0 over that stretch, 3.05, .898. Johnson was backing him up and was 0-1-1, 2.64, .905. It wasn’t a matter of poor goaltending as much as it was mediocre. 24 goals in eight games is not great defense, but it isn’t a catastrophe, either. But getting shutout twice in those eight games, and scoring more than two goals only once (the only win) made life difficult for Kolzig and Johnson on a night-in, night-out basis.

When the Caps returned home a year ago tomorrow night, they would lose to Florida 4-3, seeing a furious third period rally fall short. But in the midst of falling to a record of 2-6-0 at home in that game, fans began voicing their displeasure in the second period by chanting, “Fire Han-lon” – a reference to head coach Glen Hanlon – as the Panthers were building a 4-1 lead.

Hanlon probably deserved better. He drew a bad hand when he took over as the Caps’ coach after 28 games of the 2003-2004 season. It was a team that had been bloated by payroll, demoralized by performance, and looking for purpose as the team was in the throes of a transition to a youth-centered rebuild.

Hanlon would be relieved of his duties after the second game of that late-November home stand last year, a 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. The rest is a fond memory for Caps fans. But as we’re getting along toward Thanksgiving week, it might pay to heed some lessons and give some thanks. First, thanks to Glen Hanlon, for if he wasn’t the right guy to bring the Caps all the way home, he was the right guy to get them started. That shouldn’t be forgotten. And the lesson is perhaps that just as fortunes can turn for the better in short order, so can they turn in the other direction as quickly. The Caps have shown themselves to be a very good team, not just the best of the lot in a weak division. But there is much work to be done by those precocious youngsters putting up those gaudy numbers this month…and all their teammates.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Morning After -- Caps vs. Kings

It was a TWO point night!!

A win is a win is a win . . .

. . . but boy, was it ugly. Watching that game left little to the imagination as to why these teams are fighting for seeding in the June draft instead of for the playoffs. Pity, too, since the crowd of 15,527 was among the larger ones of the season. It was a very quiet crowd, but frankly, the home team didn’t give them a lot to cheer about for very long stretches of the game (as in, “all but the first half of the second period and the last ten seconds of the contest” . . . the rest? It was a major yawn).

It was hard to figure out what was worse – the Caps power play (0-for-4 and now two for their last 30 chances) or Mathieu Garon’s ineptitude in the second period, allowing goals on the first three shots he saw in the period. One of the Caps’ major problems this year reared its ugly head once more – the inability to clear the puck from their own end. If time-of-possession was a statistic as keenly kept as it is in the NFL, the Kings probably would have been on the long end of a 40-20 split in minutes. You could argue – convincingly – that this is a product of the youth of the defense (five of the six starters combined had 531 total games experience coming into this contest – less than two seasons apiece), but the fact remains that the Caps routinely have difficulty getting the puck out of their own end.

But let’s not dwell anymore on the bad (we’ll have more to say about Brian Sutherby another time); what about the good?

No, really, there were some good parts . . .

- Let’s start with a win. That’s two in three games and points in all three of those games.

- The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, and Chris Clark – while broken up at times tonight – did end the game a combined +7.

- Alex Ovechkin got off the schneid with an assist. He very nearly had the goal that was credited to Ben Clymer (who was on the ice for the Kings’ third goal – he did not return for the remainder of the game).

- Boyd Gordon scored the kind of goal a guy who doesn’t get a lot of chances gets now and then. Shorthanded, he took the puck through the neutral zone and instead of deking and circling and all that nonsense, he just . . . shot the puck. Garon just plain whiffed on the puck trying to secure it in his catching glove. Gordon also won 15 of 24 draws, including a whopping eight of 11 in his own end.

On the Kings’ side of the ledger . . . Rob Blake . . . yeesh. He was awful to the point of looking positively disinterested in lacing up his skates (well, he did come in a -19 and added to that statistic with another -3). He was in the frame for the video of Boyd Gordon’s shorthanded goal, so one knows he had a really good look at it. It seemed a little too typical of his evening.

Glen Hanlon mentioned in the post game that the Caps are not yet at the point where they can look at the schedule and say they should beat this team or that. But the Caps do have one fans might look at as a strong two-point possibility in the New York Rangers tomorrow night. They’ll need it, because after that the road gets hard – Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Montreal, San Jose, home-and-home against the Devils, and then the pesky Panthers to end the month.

Oh, and will somebody buy Don Van Massenhoeven a whistle? He seems to have lost his.