Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A TWO-point night: Caps 4 - Predators 3 (OT/SO)

It’s still two points…it’s still two points.

Hey, if the Caps win 45 more games as ugly as that, color The Peerless pink with glee. For those of you who didn’t suffer through the Eukanuba Dog Show on Versus – oh, excuse me, the Flyers 7-0 win over Atlanta – the Caps sleep-walked their way through the last 45 minutes of regulation and overtime, ultimately relying on a couple of backhand scores in the Gimmick round of the competition to beat the Nashville Predators, 4-3.

One might be tempted to say that the Caps did everything they could to give the game away, but the verb “to give” is a verb of action, and there was precious little action on the part of the Caps in those last 45 minutes of actual hockey-like skating. It was more like, “Hey, you want it? Fine…let us know when to lock up.” And even with all of that, the Predators couldn’t snatch victory from the jaws of…the napping.

The best that can be said of this is that it is a win, and with it the Caps have gotten to ten points (actually 11 with the win) faster – in their ninth game – than any season since 1997-1998 (when they did it in six games and went to the Stanley Cup final). Other stuff…

There are times, watching Alexander Semin, when one might think, “if he had a bow, instead of a stick, he’d be Rostropovich on the cello.” His pass to David Steckel, springing the latter for a shorthanded breakaway goal, after peeling back and around to restart the play was a sight to behold. Then there was his own goal, catching Preds goalie Dan Ellis going the wrong way and lifting the puck (it actually looked like something of a mishit) over Ellis’ glove. Finally, there was his nice-as-you-please backhand in the shootout that looked like one of those “why can’t everyone do this” kind of score.

Just an observation, but watching Boyd Gordon skate is a little bit like watching Walter Brennan in The Real McCoys. He gets there, but he has an odd way of looking about it.

The Caps skated real purdy in the first period, and for all their synchronized skating got absolutely squadoosh. The scored on an ugly goal from in front and a breakaway that looked like it leaked off of Steckel’s stick and caught Ellis thinking it would be a crisper shot.

How many times on the Caps’ five power plays did anyone plant their caboose in Ellis’ face? For that matter, how many times did anyone bother to stand to the side and wave their stick? If the answer was “none,” it would not surprise me. Except for when Semin scored eight seconds into the last Capitals man advantage, the power play looked like an advertisement for Totes (that’s an umbrella thing).

Mike Green had an interesting night…four shots, four giveaways, four takeaways, four blocked shots. But here might be the most interesting number on his line. He was on the ice for 7:03 of the total 7:53 of Caps power play time.

When you lead in shots 23-6, then give up a goal to tie the game 2-2, you usually come out on the losing end of the final score. Give credit to the Caps for not letting the night slip entirely away.

If defensive defensemen can be in slumps, it seems Shaone Morrisonn is in one. The interference penalty he took late in the third didn’t look like a smart play. The puck was headed elsewhere, and he didn’t disengage from the other player.

Nicklas Backstrom looks like he is this close to getting a four assist night. This was the rare night this year where he looked as if he was doing a better job of getting the puck to people where they could do something with it.

The Caps got Michael Nylander in part for his ability in the Gimmick. One could see why tonight. His backhand was pretty, too.

The Caps outshot Nashville 19-4 in the first period. OK, so why didn’t it look as if Dan Ellis was making many tough saves?

Jason Arnott got two of the flukier goals of his career – the first when the puck bounced all the way across the crease past three player and right onto his stick for an uncontested backhand, and another when the puck snuck through a clot of and Arnott redirectred it off the post and past goalie Jose Theodore.

The Caps split 64 draws with Nashville, but won 11 of 18 in the defensive zone.

The crowd was announced as 17,011. Hallowe’en must have started early with all the folks dressed as purple seats.

It was a curious kind of game in that the whole arena seemed to lack intensity. Perhaps it was a case of no Ovechkin, no Horn Guy (at least I did not hear him), and no Voice (at least I didn’t hear him). Even the mites-on-ice feature at the first intermission seemed to fail in exciting the crowd.

For all the whining of yours truly, though, the Caps are now atop the Southeast Conference, and they have not lost a game in regulation at home (3-0-1). Alexander Semin stands alone at the top of the scoring rankings, and he is tied for the league lead in goals. It’s worth noting that Semin has eight goals in his first nine games this season. That’s something Alex Ovechkin has not accomplished in any of his four seasons (he’s had six three times).

Hey, in the end, it’s two points. This isn’t the Beauty Contest Series of college football, where you get style points for whoopin’ your opponents. Two points ugly pays the same as two points pretty. That’s the bottom line.