Friday, October 17, 2008

You have to love this guy

In his Capital Insider column this afternoon, Tarik El-Bashir writes...

"[Matt] Bradley said he required a dozen or so stitches on the inside and outside of his upper lip after his fight with Paul Bissonnette last night. The complexity of the stitch job, he said, is what prevented him from getting back on the ice sooner. 'I wanted to come back earlier, but it took them to the end of the second period to finish,' Bradley said. 'It was a tough job; they did a great job.' He added: 'Stitches aren't a big deal. After that I was fine.'

Bradley said the minor league recall 'wanted to make a name for himself' so he began chirping at him and John Erskine early in the game. 'We were down at that point,' Bradley said. 'So I figured let me do something to spark the team.'"

That's called stepping up for the team. Every day, Bradley seems to be cementing his legacy as a Capital "plumbers" hall of famer.

Just sayin'...

In their last 23 regular season games, the Caps have...

- A record of 18-5-0 (that's a 128-point pace)

- Outscored their foes 80-48 (exclusive of Gimmick goals)

- Eight wins of at least three goals

- A power play humming at 21.5 percent

- Eight come-from-behind wins

It's early, which is cause for temperance, but ya know?...they're pretty good.

A TWO-Point Night: Caps 4 - Penguins 3

The Caps proved once again that: a) no lead is safe, and b) that they have issues to deal with, as they came back from a 3-0 deficit 22 minutes into the game to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3.

Here are our take aways for the game…

- Pittsburgh came into the game as a bad five-on-five team. They finished the game as the worst five-on-five team in the league, giving up three goals for each one they score (they were outscored 4-0 at even strength last night).

- For all the talk of the stars – Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby – their effects were more subtle. Crosby, as one might expect, was sharp in directing the power play. Ovechkin was an important decoy on the winning goal…Marc-Andre Fleury had to know out of the corner of his eye that Ovechkin was lurking on the weak side when Boyd Gordon snapped the puck past him for the game-winner.

- We learned from the Pittsburgh TV crew that #14 for the Caps is “TOH-mee” Fleischmann (not Tomas, like it says in the program).

- Crosby didn’t play badly, but he was conspicuously involved in the Caps third and fourth goals, turning the puck over in the offensive zone and allowing the Caps to breakout (Nylander finishing off a pass from TOH-mee Fleischmann) and losing a faceoff to allow another breakout by the Caps (Gordon finishing with Ovechkin on the doorstep).

- Ovechkin didn’t play badly as much as he’s in one of those streaks when the puck just doesn’t find a hole. He had five shots and had four others blocked. He also had three hits...all, we think, on Evgeni Malkin, who wondered after the game, "Ovechkin is a great player, but every time he hits me - I don't know why." It’s because you have the puck, pal. Geez, you took nine shots…think folks won’t be paying attention?

- Speaking of shots…Malkin had nine, Crosby five, and the rest of the Penguins?...12.

- How hot is Alexander Semin? He is 4-4-8, +5 in his first four games. If you take the first four games of each of his previous three seasons and combined them, he was 6-3-9, +1.

- Alexander Ovechkin has two goals in four games…the same two goals after four games he had last year…and the same two goals in four games he had the year before that.

- For as much grief as Olaf Kolzig took last year for his inability to recover once he made an initial save, Jose Theodore is picking right up in that regard…that goal from Alex Gologoski (did this game set an early season high for Alexes on the ice?) was not what folks had in mind when Theodore was brought in.

- Today’s “do what you can when what you do isn’t working” award goes to Nicklas Backstrom. No goals, no assists, no points in 20-plus minutes of work, but he did have three shots on goal, had four others blocked, two hits, two blocked shots of his own, and won seven of 13 draws.

- Gotta give a round of applause to Matt Bradley. Paul Bissonnette is a load…he had 26 fights in the AHL last year (and another three in the ECHL for good measure), and he had four in this year’s preseason. He’s a practiced puncher. Bradley walked into one that got him a bloodied nose, but he came back out for the third and took four more shifts (generally his average per period).

- Eric Fehr quietly had an effective night with two assists, including the one (born out of fighting off Hal Gill for the puck) that sprang Gordon out of the Caps’ end of the ice for the winning goal.

- Kris Letang had a brutal night…-3, and he had a really good view of Fleischmann’s goal (late to cover him at the top of the crease) and of Fleischmann’s pass to Nylander for a goal (when he got turned around as the last man back and was late in stepping up on Fleischmann).

- Speaking of that goal, the setup actually came when Alexander Semin was crossing the blue line and found Fleischmann on the far side as Nylander was cutting between them. It was a superb play on Semin’s part.

- So far this year, the Caps have been outscored 8-4 in the first period. Fortunately, they’ve outscored opponents 8-2 in the second and 5-3 in the third. Here’s an idea…get off to better starts. Yeah, we know…easier said than done.

- The Caps have yielded seven power play goals in 24 opportunities. They’re not last in the NHL in penalty killing, but they can see it from there.

- Consistency…four…four…five…four. That’s the goals scored by the Caps so far.

- Tom Poti played 4:23 before departing with a groin injury. The Caps don’t have to call up a defenseman, but if they move Sergei Fedorov to the blue line, Chris Bourque might be getting a call.

- It’s early, so we’ll qualify this observation with the fact that there are 78 games to go, but the Penguins look an awful lot like the 2006-2007 Tampa Bay Lightning…a good team, not as good as the year before, and one that is very top heavy (in this case with centers) at forward. None of the wingers for the Penguins impressed last night, with the possible exception of Miroslav Satan, who was the right guy in the right place for a goal. Getting Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney can cure some of that problem, but they’re not wingers, and the Penguins are neither strong, nor deep at that position.

- So let’s see…the Caps beat guy they couldn’t beat with a baseball bat earlier in the week (Roberto Luongo)…they beat a team that beat them like a dusty rug the last three years (Pittsburgh). Next…Martin Brodeur, who is 32-12-4, 2.11, .913 in his career against Washington. This could be a nice week with a win on Saturday.