Sunday, October 19, 2008

All in all...

...a damned fine week.

The Caps faced three goaltenders -- Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Martin Brodeur -- who were a combined 98-66-17, 2.28, .919, with 14 shutouts last year. The three were a combined 6-0-0 against the Caps last year, 1.99, .936.

And the Caps were 2-0-1 against the three this past week, scoring 12 goals in the process. The Caps scored a total of 12 against the trio in six games last year.

Don't look now, but...

Two players...

Player 1: Two games, 0-2-2, +1...his team is 3-1-1

Player 2: Five games, 0-1-1, -5...his team dropped to 1-5-0 today

Player 1...

Eric Fehr

Player 2...

Ryan Getzlaf

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

How do we know it's still early in the season?

-- Edmonton is undefeated...Philadelphia is winless.

-- Calgary has allowed 22 goals in five games.

-- Detroit is not leading the Central Division (let alone the Western Conference)

-- Someone named Aaron Voros is one point behind the league leaders in scoring

-- And while we're at it...Alexander Semin is leading the league in scoring

-- A Koivu leads the NHL in's not Saku

-- Saku's the one leading the NHL in plus-minus

-- In fact, four Canadiens top the plus-minus list...Koivu (that would be Saku), Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, and Alex Tanguay.

-- Derek Dorsett leads the NHL in penalty minutes. Now...don't look it up -- who does he play for?

-- Tomas Holmstrom has five goals...on ten shots.

-- Jay Bouwmeester is averaging more than 30 minutes of ice time a game...guess the Panthers want to get a full season's worth of ice time out of him before they trade him.

-- The Blues are tied for the top spot in goals scored per game (4.0). They are also buzzing along at a 40.9 percent clip on the power play.

-- The Kings haven't yet allowed a power play goal

-- The Rangers lead the NHL in fights (8)

-- The Rangers lead the NHL in hits

-- San Jose leads the league in second period scoring...a good thing, too. They're last in the NHL in first period scoring with no goals. They're also 5-1...go figure.

-- All those flashy signings, and Tampa Bay has scored fewer goals than any team in the league (8)

-- Backups are ranked second and third in the NHL in GAA (Patrick Lalime and Stephen Valiquette)

-- Speaking of GAA...5.74. That's the worst in the league, and it belongs to Martin Biron

-- In the what-a-difference-a-year-makes file...Pascal Leclaire had nine shutouts last year. So far this year, his save percentage is .866.

-- Alex Ovechkin has more than twice as many penalty minutes (eight) as points (three).

-- Matt Bradley is tied for the team lead in penalty minutes...he doesn't have a minor yet.

-- Only one Capital has a combined minus record in home games played so far (Eric Fehr, -1)

-- Sergei points, -4

-- Michael Nylander...after five games last year, -3 (on his way to -19)...after five games this year, +3

"They work hard, they love to play together and they're fun to watch."

It could pass for the franchise’s philosophy, both in Washington and Hershey. As it is, it was the description Hershey Bears’ head coach Bob Woods had of his club (as noted by Tim Leone of the Patriot-News) after last night’s 7-1 thumping of the Syracuse Crunch, that being the club visiting Giant Center on the wave of an 18-game regular season winning streak, in the Bears’ home opener.

As Hershey’s play-by-play announcer, John Walton, points out this morning, “until you see the numbers in black and white, you may not have the full perspective [of how dominating the Bears have been]." Through five games:


1. Keith Aucoin (11)
T-2. Alexandre Giroux (9)
T-2. Graham Mink (9)
T-6. Andrew Gordon (7)


T-1. Alexandre Giroux (5)
T-1. Graham Mink (5)
T-3. Andrew Gordon (4)


1. Keith Aucoin (8)

Power Play Goals:

T-1. Graham Mink (3)


1. Keith Aucoin (+7)
T-2. Sami Lepisto (+6)
T-2. Tyler Sloan (+6)
T-4. Karl Alzner (+4)
T-4. Alexandre Giroux (+5)
T-4. Bryan Helmer (+5)

That would be the top six spots occupied by Bears. You might not find that many bears together in Yellowstone National Park.

Mathieu Perreault (T-1st) and Oskar Osala (T-9th) are in the top-ten in rookie scoring.

It's also worth noting that before his call-up to Washington, Chris Bourque was 2-3-5, +1, in only three games.

Hershey has 29 goals scored in five games, 12 more than any other team in the AHL, and more than double the total of any team in the East Division in which the Bears play. The Bears have nearly as many goals scored as the combined total of the next three teams in the standings in the East Division – Binghamton, Bridgeport, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (34).

There are 75 games to go, but one has to like the look of the Bears, who have a way about them at the moment a grizzly might envy.

A ONE-Point Night: Devils 4 - Caps 3 (OT/SO)

This morning’s word…


Meaning…“confused or disconcerted; upset; frustrated”

That was the Caps in a nutshell last night as they earned (well, “earned” really doesn’t capture it…”slunk away with”) a point they had no business getting in a 4-3 Gimmick loss to the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center.

There isn’t a stat that jumps out so much as a visual…the shot chart:

The Caps might have had 27 shots, but it was often a case of “bombs away” from the outside. Martin Brodeur is too good a goalie to allow much from that distance. The Caps had some success from between the hash marks, but there wasn’t enough of that. That the Caps scored three goals is somewhat amazing in light of that visual.

The statistics of the game reflect the even nature of the scoreboard. The Devils enjoyed a wide lead in shots (37-27), but the teams were more or less even in blocked shots (Devils, 15-13), hits (Devils, 18-14), takeaways (Devils, 9-8), giveaways (Devils, 14-15), faceoff wins (Caps, 35-30). But what one gathered in watching the game was that the Caps just weren’t into the little things, like winning battles along the boards. If the puck was somewhere near the edge, and two or more players were fighting for it, one could be pretty confident that a Devil was going to come away with it.

One of the numbers that does leap out is the shots late. The Capitals – a team that showed an ability to finish well (they are tied for third in third period goals this morning) – allowed the Devils 14 shots in the third period and overtime, while posting only seven of their own. The Caps allowed the Devils to dictate the tempo in the last half of the game.

What we took away…

What the Devils lack for in offense (and three goals doesn’t really reflect just how boring it is to watch), they made up for in balance. Eight skaters had three or more shots on goal, none had more than four. Only two skaters – Colin White and Bobby Holik – failed to register a shot. And Holik played less than seven minutes, breaking his pinkie finger on an Alex Ovechkin clearing attempt in the second period.

John Erskine might have been “even” for the night, but it seemed that every shift he had out there was an adventure of some kind. Another delay-of-game penalty…having to dive to poke away a puck after it trickled off his stick…being the guy who didn’t tie up Petr Vrana enough to keep him from deflecteing Patrik Elias’ point shot for the Devils’ first goal.

This was the first time in five games (career) against the Devils that Nicklas Backstrom failed to register a point. Backstrom is shooting the puck more (he had seven attempts last night), but he looks just a bit off in, well, most everything.

That pass from Sergei Fedorov to spring Alexander Semin for a breakaway goal was a thing of beauty. No other Caps defenseman makes that pass. It might not be accidental that he and Milan Jurcina – a pairing for much of this game – were the two Caps defensemen who were not on the ice for a Devils score (although Jurcina was not on the ice for the last 7:28 minutes of regulation and all of overtime).

Holik is a not the player of years past, but one thing he still does well is take faceoffs – he won seven of eight.

Speaking of time, the Devils had four skaters who logged less than ten minutes – Holik, Mike Rupp, Petr Vrana, and David Clarkson.

The Caps had the guys they wanted shooting the puck. Ovechkin had six shots, Semin three, and Mike Green three. Part of the trouble was that Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Chris Clark, and Brooks Laich were credited with one apiece.

Since Viktor Kozlov left the lineup mid-way through the 5-1 win against Vancouver, Backstrom and Ovechkin have a combined 26 shots, no goals, and one assist.

We had one right in the players to ponder…Jamie Langenbrunner had assists on both of the Devils’ third period goals.

One power play goal in eight tries (and the one coming on a 5-on-3). The Caps look as if they had the part of their brain holding the “what we do on the power play” wiped clean. The Caps had eight shots on eight power plays; the Devils also had eight shots…on four power plays. The Caps spent most of the 5-on-4 time playing the role of the dog in the time-honored game of “fetch.”

Alexander Semin had two more goals – he is now second (to Thomas Vanek) in goals and the league leader in points. He also had no shots on the power play.

The Devils’ TV analyst remarked in the third period that if he was a Devil, he wouldn’t give up the puck in the Caps’ zone until he wanted to, because the Caps weren’t pressuring the puck at all. That was one of the confounding truths all night…the Caps looked very passive in defending the Devils, who are not nearly as explosive a team as the one the Caps played on Thursday in Pittsburgh. They seemed to give the Devils too much room and too much respect.

There really is a glass-half-full, glass-half empty aspect to this game. If you’re a “glass-half-empty” kind of person, you’re probably thinking that last night’s effort and intensity just weren’t there. And, in fact, they weren’t, at least not so that we could see. The Devils play a system and make life very annoying for teams that want to run and gun, but the Caps looked pretty passive out there, too.

If you’re a “glass-half-full” kind of person, you’re thinking that the Caps got a point out of a game they had no business getting one from, and they did (if on a fluky goal) come from behind late. They carry a four-game points-earned streak into a western road trip. And, they did it despite missing some important cogs in Kozlov, Tom Poti, and Donald Brashear.