A very Happy Turkey Day to one and all.
The Lightning roared back from a three-goal deficit and finally got the better of the Caps in a shootout last night (though it took extra innings, which really emphasized the difference in depth between the two teams up front, as Tampa sent out Vinny Prospal as the fifth shooter and the Caps countered with Tomas Fleischmann). A few other observations on the game:
- "Automatic" Alex Ovechkin is officially in the midst of his first slump as an NHLer and not coincidentally found his way into Chez Bow Wow last night for an extended period of time after trying to force a pass at the top of the offensive zone and visibly showing frustration on the ice. Is the bogus Russian law suit getting to him? Is getting shown up by Sid the Kid (including two embarassing mini-celebrations on non-goals) with the eyes of the hockey world squarely on him in his head? No and no. El Ocho is a goal scorer and goal scorers go through frustrating droughts, plain and simple. Ask Peter Bondra, Brett Hull, Ilya Kovalchuk - basically anyone who has scored a lot of goals in the NHL has gone through dry spells. Keep shooting, Sasha. The goals will come back soon, and when they do, they'll come in bunches. Large bunches. Perhaps his goal in the shootout will get him back on track.
- I don't like to complain about the officiating. My thinking has always been that if you let the game get to a point where an official is in the position to decide it, it's your own fault if they make a bad call or miss an obvious one. This is especially true in a game in which your team has a three-goal lead. Plus, it tends to sound whiny. So rather than complain about the officiating, let me complain about an official - Don Koharski. He blew at least two major calls in last night's game in which goals should have been awarded to the Caps (Ben Clymer, Brian Willsie) and another in which 99 times out of 100 the whistle blows (like it did on the Willsie-no goal) before Rob DiMaio can dig the puck out from under Olie Kolzig to score. There were other missed calls (notably on Matt Pettinger getting tripped) and phantom calls (Steve Eminger's OT high stick) - as someone noted in the postgame call-in show on the radio, Koharski must be pregnant, because he missed two periods (after the first stanza, TB had five power plays, including a 5-on-3 in overtime while the Caps had not one extra man advantage after the opening frame) - but I'll stop my belly-aching after the big, game-deciding calls. In the famous words of Jim Schoenfeld... well, you know what he thought of Koho.
- Kolzig was absolutely brilliant. So were the penalty-killers.
- Can we start calling the Ben Clymer-Brian Sutherby-Matt Bradley line "the Killer B's," or do the Houston Astros have a copyright on the moniker? It's particularly apt in this case given the amount of buzzing the trio does around the crease (like bumblebees, in the words of "The Hockey Song").
Elsewhere around the League:
- Hey, look! Wayne Gretzky's been retired for six-and-a-half years but he's still getting preferential treatment from the officials.
- Hart: Mikael Samuelsson (2G, 2A, +4)
- Ross: Mikael Samuelsson (2G, 2A)
- Norris: Dan Boyle (2G, +2)
- Vezina: Martin Brodeur (W, 24 saves on 25 shots against)
- Richard: Dan Boyle, Glen Murray, Mikael Samuelsson, Pascal Dupuis, Jason Arnott (2G each)
- Calder: Mike Morrison (W, 22 saves on 25 shots against)
- Aiken: Peter Budaj (L, 6 goals against on 28 shots against)
- Last night's game: This is getting downright embarassing. Another loss and I'm almost becoming a sure thing... to be wrong. Current Record: 5-9.
- Tonight's game: We'll try an experiment tonight. With three games on the slate, I'll pick all three, but here's the catch - since I'm barely picking above 33%, I'll pick against my instincts and presumably will end up picking two of the three correctly. Makes sense, no? Here we go. The Rangers win in Atlanta, 4-3; the Preds win at home against LA, 3-2; and the Sharks surprise the Canucks in Vancouver, 5-3.