Friday, November 23, 2007

A TWO Point Night...Caps 4 - Flyers 3 (OT)

A TWO point night…that’s right, a TWO point night.

Been awhile, hasn’t it?

So, having announced the obvious, I’ll be the one to say…and?

There is the good, the bad, and the ugly in the Caps’ 4-3 overtime win over the Flyers – sort of a Readers’ Digest version of the Caps’ season so far.

The Good…

- For those of you scoring at home, this was only the third loss at home of any kind by the Flyers this season (6-1-2 after today’s 4-3 overtime loss).

- It was the first NHL win in his first NHL game as head coach for Bruce Boudreau

- It was a game-winning goal for “shoulda-been-first-star” Nicklas Backstrom. The kid plays like he’s been in the NHL ten years…ok, maybe five.

- It was a solid game by Brian Pothier. The trick to his game seems to be to play within himself. If he does that, he probably won’t be on the ice for a lot of goals for, but he won’t be on for many against, either, and that is really the more important consideration for his role.

- The depth of Alexander Ovechkin’s game. He was held to one shot on goal in the first two periods, but ramped up his whole game quite a bit in the third. Four shots, four hits, three takeaways, and the primary assist on the game-winner.

- Chris Clark…one might think that he was a little over the top in coming to the defense of Boyd Gordon, taking a double minor, a major, and a misconduct (wearing the visor does have its drawbacks in the rules…see Rule 47.6). But the Captain was sending a message – to the Flyers and to his teammates. Had the double minor resulted in any more than the goal by Daniel Briere, it might have been different, but in service of a win? Clark earned “stand-up” points for taking on Scott Hartnell.

The Bad…

- Matt Pettinger…not that he played badly, but he is in one hellacious stretch of bad luck. He can’t buy a goal at the moment. Five shots, and nothing to show for it, including an excellent chance when he was in alone on Martin Biron. Right now, he could be firing pucks at Martin Short and wouldn’t find twine.

- Milan Jurcina…was better than he’s been the last 3-4 weeks, but that shouldn’t be confused with being good, either. He had his moments when he was not in any position to make a play, and that’s a bad place to be for a defenseman, especially in his own zone.

- Jeff Schultz. One might have noticed that there were no Capitals’ defensemen in the frame of the shot when Mike Richards was left alone in front of Olaf Kolzig to sweep the puck in…those defensemen would have been Schultz and Jurcina.

The Ugly…

- The Jeff Carter goal…it almost defined the term, “wish I could have that one back” for Olaf Kolzig. Coming two minutes after the Briere goal, it could have spelled curtains for the Caps, but today was a different day…

…and speaking of which, the Caps clearly had the “new coach jump.” A team that looked to be skating through the motions for the last month looked invigorated. When pressured, they didn’t buckle. When dealt adversity, they didn’t wilt.

But kids, that is one game. Unless it escaped our attention, the Caps are still last in the East and will be when they take the ice in tomorrow’s contest against Carolina. But a team can only win one game at a time. And the Caps won this one against an opponent that was playing decently (3-1-1 in their last five games) and was very difficult on their ice (6-1-1 at home coming into this game).

The Caps had a different “look” in this game, though, that goes beyond the level of intensity. Not since the opening game of the season had the Caps shown this degree of willingness to press an attack. Like the first few games of the season, the Caps did a much better job in controlling both the puck and the terms of play. That they out-attempted the Flyers, 60-45 (shots, attempts blocked, missed shots) is testimony to that fact.

Bruce Boudreau is 1-0-0. He will not go 61-0-0. But his team might be pretty interesting to watch, if this game is any indication of the style he intends to impose on the club.

Photos: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images, Rusty Kennedy/AP