Sunday, March 07, 2010

A TWO-point night: Caps 2 - Rangers 0

Spartan: (spär' tn): sternly disciplined and rigorously simple, frugal, or austere.

Tonight, the Capitals were spartan in their approach to dealing with the New York Rangers, and hammered out a 2-0 win to give the home team its 13th consecutive win on home ice, extending their franchise record.

Eric Fehr got his 17th goal of the year for the Caps on a power play, and Eric Belanger got his first for the Caps to give goalie Jose Theodore all the cushion he would need to record his first shutout of the season and 29th of his career.

-- The two goal night ended a 23-game streak in which the Caps scored at least three goals. Over that streak the Caps scored 109 goals, an average of 4.74 goals a game.

-- Think Eric Fehr doesn’t hear footsteps behind him? Never mind the power play goal he scored, look at the play he made about five minutes into the game when starting flatfooted as the puck exited the Capitals’ zone, he outraced Matt Gilroy and Wade Redden to the puck and broke in on goalie Alex Auld. He didn’t get the goal, but that’s the kind of hustle having so many forwards competing at the back end of the lines will inspire.

-- And then there is this. Fehr’s 17th goal of the year scored tonight would have him tied for second on the Rangers. For the Caps, it leaves him seventh on the club. But the amazing thing is that Fehr is doing this – 17 goals in 54 games – while getting only an average of 12 minutes a night.

-- Since getting a hat trick against the Penguins on February 7th, Alex Ovechkin has now gone six games without a goal. It is his longest streak since a nine-game streak in 2008-2009 (October 13-November 8). That’s 31 shots and counting, if you’re keeping score. He’s not shy about trying to break out, though; he had 12 shot attempts tonight.

-- And for the first line as a whole, 21 shot attempts (the Caps as a team had 50) and no goals. They didn’t lack for volume.

-- With their 44th win, the Caps have now tied their sixth highest win total in franchise history (44-24-12-2 in 1999-2000).

-- From the “anything you can do, I can do better” file, the Hershey Bears shutout the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight, 4-0 for their 48th win of the season (putting the current edition of the Bears in a tie for fourth highest win total in franchise history).

-- The Caps had a rough night in the own end in this respect – they won only two of 12 draws not taken by David Steckel, and Jason Chimera (a winger) won one of those.

-- Sometimes, there is a story within the story. Here is the fourth line’s night (David Steckel, Matt Bradley, Scott Walker) – no points (in fact, only one shot attempt), but four hits, two takeaways, and no turnovers. Little things matter in low-scoring games.

-- John Carlson… a shot, two hits, a takeaway, and two blocked shots in 14 minutes. Solid game. It’s going to be tough to send him back to Hershey.

-- On the other side, Wade Redden… former All-Star, gobbling up $6.5 million in cap space… 11:50 in ice time. And there was everyone’s favorite pest, Sean Avery, getting even less (11:15).  Aren't these guys players that the Rangers are supposed to be depending on other than as filler and obnoxiousness?

-- In the 2010 portion of the season, Jose Theodore is 13-1-2, 2.46, .926, with one shutout. Before we get too enthralled, in last year’s first 16 decisions of 2009, Theodore was 10-4-2, 2.40, .915.

-- Brooks Laich… no shot attempts, lost all five draws, but he did have a nice assist on Eric Belanger’s goal. Superman finds a way, even when his cape is wrinkled.

-- With ten home games remaining, the Caps are now within five of the franchise record for home wins (30, set in 1985-1986).

The Rangers just weren’t going to engage the Caps in an up-and-down track meet tonight, and Alex Auld had a good night in net for New York. That meant a grind-it-out sort of effort was necessary, and the Caps supplied exactly that. It was the second consecutive game they scored three or fewer goals in a game and won, a good sign as the regular season winds down. And with the shutout, the Caps have allowed eight goals in their last four games – another good sign.

Next up will be Dallas, victims of having given up 11 goals in the two games they played since the Olympic break. If might be an opportunity for some Caps to get back on track offensively, but if they keep putting out defensive efforts like this, they will be able to weather the slumps that come to every shooter sooner of later.

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