Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A ONE-point night: Bruins 3 - Caps 2 (OT)

Boston 3 – Washington 2, overtime….

We do not think of this as a one-point game on a January night against the Bruins, but as Game 3 in a playoff series (the first two won by the Caps). These are teams that seem as likely as not to meet in the playoffs come the spring, and it’s as good a time as any to think in those terms.

That said, and after all the knashing of teeth about a “lucky bounce” (we think it might not have been so “lucky,” but we’ll get to that), the Caps lost game three because they couldn’t – yet again – kill penalties. Boston scored two of their three goals with the man advantage (on five opportunities). The Caps… 0-for-6. Game.

Let’s return to the first Bruin power play score at 14:12 of the second period. The Caps got to running around a bit (in the end, too much) in their own end. It starts with Patrice Bergeron diving to poke the puck and keep it in the offensive zone, but while he’s doing that, the Caps had their two forwards pointed – headed, it seemed – in the wrong direction… to exit the defensive zone.

Then, three Caps are pinned to the left side of the ice as Bergeron passes the puck across to Marc Savard at the edge of the right wing circle…

The Caps are left with two defenders – Boyd Gordon trying to get back into the play and Karl Alzner – in a nether land with Savard alone to shoot and Milan Lucic camped in front of Jose Theodore...

The result was predictable...

This makes nine consecutive games having allowed at least one power play goal. In that span, the Caps are 35-for-49 on the penalty kill – 71.4 percent. Just as alarming, that is seven times in the last eight games that the Caps have had at least five power plays to kill. The Caps are bad at penalty killing at the moment, and they’re getting lots of chances to demonstrate that lack of skill.

Almost lost in this was the pair of scares that the Caps got from the Alexes. Ovechkin suffered what was described as a “stinger” when he was checked by Zdeno Chara and fell awkwardly into the boards. Semin took a stick in the neck early in the third period from Chuck Kobasew but did return to play almost six minutes in the third period.

Way back in training camp, Michael Nylander, Tomas Fleischmann, and Chris Clark were matched on a line. There was some reason to think this could be a productive scoring line. Last night was the first time this season (49 games) the three combined on a scoring play, Nylander from Fleischmann and Clark.

Ovechkin suffering a stinger didn’t keep him from finishing with 16 shot attempts – or seven hits for that matter.

The Caps were credited with no giveaways… none. Every city seems to have its quirky scoring aspects. This must be Boston’s.

Nicklas Backstrom won seven of nine draws. Was somebody practicing over the break? Trouble is, that was his hooking penalty in the extra period that led to the final goal, and he otherwise had a pretty quiet game.

We’ve looked at that winning goal on replay a few times now, and we can’t help but think that when Shaone Morrisonn went down, David Krejci edged in with the purpose of trying to shoot the puck off of the defender. Sure, he might have been trying to thread a pass through to Marc Savard on the other side, but it sure had the look of Krejci gingerly shooting the puck with Morrisonn’s leg in mind.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before… outshoot the opponent 14-8 in the first period… other goalie plays well enough to keep his team in it… Caps can’t put the game away, carry only a one-goal lead into the intermission (and that coming on a goal with 21 seconds left). Outplaying a team as much as the Caps did (and have done with some regularity) early, and failing to put them away, only leads to bad results.

Michael Nylander played 16 minutes. That might not seem especially noteworthy, but it is only the second time since Christmas that he’s played more than 15 minutes (and no, he didn’t get any ice time in overtime).

The good news is that the Caps have earned five of a possible six points against the Bruins this season and have “won” the season series (The Bruins can earn only four points). But in the larger scheme of things, the series is now 2-1. But this was the first game in a treacherous 16-day span of seven games. Detroit comes to town on Saturday. That game is followed by contests against team that individually pose their own unique problems for the Caps. Relatively poor teams such as Ottawa or Los Angeles already have beaten the Caps this year, the Devils are hot, Florida has a very good defense, and the Rangers have Lundqvist.

And what makes this especially dangerous is that the Caps are depending on things that they probably can't sustain, things that in fact have shown some cracks -- winning every game at home (they've lost two of their last three) and keeping the other team from scoring any even strength goals (Boston scored one last night). The Caps simply have to find ways to kill penalties and to win on the road. If they don't...

Screen shots from video.


Anonymous said...

I think the real issue with that particular kill was Semin's play along the boards. He was trying to chip the puck up and out to himself and go for the breakaway, rather than just chip it out and dump it down.

I don't have a real problem with the play, since he is a "score first defend later" player, but if they are going to play Sasha on the PK, they are going to see some results like this.

The Peerless said...

The penalty kill has allowed 50 goals this year -- only Atlanta has allowed more.

They also have five shorthanded goals -- tied for eighth, but having far more opportunities (233) than the three teams with which they are tied.

They might have to rethink this.

Anonymous said...

I take a little bit of issue with you calling out Backstrom for the hooking penalty in OT. In that situation, you absolutley have to take that simply can't let Chara have any chance of touching the puck with the net wide open. The better question is whether or not there was a breakdown earlier that let the Bruins spring free. I don't think so. It was just the situation where you have a great rush and chance up ice, the puck bounces out as you have guys going forward, and then you are stuck with an odd man rush. Great play by Thomas to stop Backstrom on the rebound and a great breakout by Boston. Just one of those things...