Sunday, October 26, 2014

A TWO-point night -- Game 7: Capitals 3 - Flames 1

The Washington Capitals took care of business on Saturday night in a quiet, workmanlike way, defeating the Calgary Flames, 3-1, at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The scoring for the Caps came in expected ways, but not necessarily from the expected sources.  The first goal came mid-way through the first period.  With Joe Colborne off on a tripping penalty, the Flames were doing a credible job of nullifying the Caps’ power play. Lance Bouma got to a loose puck behind the Washington net and fired it along the boards and out of the zone.  The puck made its way all the way to the Calgary blue line where defenseman Derek Engelland was backing off to receive it.  He tried to collect the puck and make a D-to-D pass across the ice, but the puck was bouncing on him.  All Engelland managed to do was chip the puck out of his own reach and into the path of a hard-charging Joel Ward, who was pressuring Engelland.  Ward took up the puck and split the defense, rifling a wrist shot past goalie Karri Romo for the early lead.

Calgary tied the game on a Dennis Wideman power play goal with just ten seconds left in the first period, but that would do it for the Flames on the scoreboard.  The Caps regained the lead in the sixth minute of the second period when Ward struck again.  The finish was all about going hard to the net, but the start was a long exit pass from Brooks Orpik out of his zone to Michael Latta at the Calgary line.  Latta skated the puck down the right wing boards to the corner, then threw it in front where Liam O’Brien jumped up.  The puck slid past O’Brien, but not past Ward, who stepped up to the top of the Calgary crease.  With O’Brien occupied bv the Flames’ defense, Ward was clear to flip a backhand past Ramo to make it 2-1.

Nicklas Backstrom capped the scoring in the first minute of the third period.  It was another long exit pass that started the play.  This time it was Karl Alzner taking a pass from Matt Niskanen, then firing it up the middle to Backstrom as the Flames were completing a switch-out of defensemen.  Backstrom had a couple of steps on Kris Russell at the Flames’ blue line and had only Wideman in front of him to defend.  Backstrom used Wideman as a screen and snapped a shot over Ramo’s left pad to put the decision to rest – Caps 3, Flames 1.

Other stuff…

-- We noted in the prognosto that Alex Ovechkin had not gone three straight games with two or fewer shots on goal since he went four consecutive games January 15-February 4, 2012.  We also noted that the Flames could be a team he against which he could break out.  He did not.  Ovechkin had one shot on goal (9:05 of the second period).  He did, however, draw the penalty that led to Joel Ward’s power play goal.

-- Last year Joel Ward finished seventh in the league in shooting percentage (18.0 percent).  There he is lurking among the league leaders once more (28.6 percent; tied for tenth).

-- The Caps allowed 21 shots on goal, the seventh consecutive game allowing fewer than 30 shots (and counting) having done so.  The last time the Caps went seven straight games allowing fewer than 30 shots was October 27 – November 9, 2010 (24.9/game).  Oddly enough, that was two months before the Caps decided to employ a trapping defense after an eight-game losing streak.  The Caps are now averaging 23.7 shots allowed per game.

-- One of the odd occurrences that sometimes takes place in the flow of a hockey game took place in the first period.  Alex Ovechkin got no time on the Caps first power play.  Before anyone thinks it was a slight, Ovechkin had just stepped off the ice one second before the penalty to Joe Colborne was sent to the penalty box, Ovechkin having just completed a 54 second shift.  The Caps scored 29 seconds into the man advantage.  Last year, Ovechkin might have been there to start the power play anyway.

-- John Carlson is still a man, if not for all seasons, then all situations.  He recorded 18-plus minutes at even strength, two-plus minutes on the power play, and two-plus minutes in shorthanded ice time.

-- It might not surprise anyone that Brooks Laich and Joel Ward are tied for the team lead in blocked shots with seven apiece.  But Ovechkin next with six in seven games?  He had 22 in 78 games last season.  Last night he had two to tie for the team lead.

-- Mike Green might not be getting the minutes he was getting before all the injuries set in, but he might be packing more into what he is getting.  In 19 minutes and change last night he had four shots on goal and four other attempts that did not make it to (or past) Ramo.

-- Backstrom has a dominating night in the faceoff circle overall, but there was a strange lack of balance to it.  In going 15-for-23 he was 2-for-4 in the offensive zone and 4-for-8 in the defensive zone.  He was 9-for-11 in the neutral zone.

-- If you are only going to get one shot on goal on the power play all night, it’s best to score on that shot.  Joel Ward had the only power play shot on goal for the Caps.

-- Michael Latta was content to take one item each from the all-you-can-eat buffet: one assist, plus-1, one shot on goal, one missed shot, one shot taken that was blocked, one blocked shot of his own. He was 5-for-10 on faceoffs.

In the end…

In a light work week rust can set it.  The Caps did a pretty good job of fighting that off, especially after losing to Edmonton on Wednesday.   That the Caps would win through what was stifling defense is a recurring theme.  Holding the Flames to fewer than ten shots in all three periods make it 11 straight period in which the Caps have allowed ten or fewer shots, allowing as many as ten only once, dating back to the first period of the 6-2 win over New Jersey when they allowed 14 shots in the first period of that contest.  It is a welcome development, especially since it does not appear as if it is coming at the expense of offense (3.17 goals/game; tied for seventh in scoring offense).  This is a recipe for success.

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