Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thursday Roundup/Caps 5, 'Canes 1
Gamenight: Caps @ Habs

[Boxscore - Recap - AP Preview - Preview - Official Game Day Thread]

Round 2 of the five-rounds-in-two-weeks bout between the Caps and 'Canes followed a story line similar to that of Round 1: score early (Brian Willsie tallied just 2:35 into the game), work hard (the Caps had 15 takeaways and only 2 giveaways and blocked 15 shots) and get great goaltending (Brent Johnson made 49 saves). The result was similar as well, this time a 5-1 win at the RBC Center that prevented the 'Canes from clinching the Southeast Division title for at least another day or two. The Caps have now won consecutive road games for the first time since mid-January (and for only the second time all year) and have held the League's 3rd-highest scoring team to just two goals in two games, as many as Matt Bradley had by himself in the first 22:02 of last night's tilt.

So what has been the key these past two games that was missing over the previous eight? To begin with, the team was competitive in most of the games during the losing streak, losing five of the eight by just one goal, so, despite the results, the team wasn't that far away. But the big difference seems to be that the Caps started dressing seven defensemen, giving every one of the seven a little more energy later in the game than he otherwise would have had. For example, only two defensemen last night topped 20 minutes in ice time and top rearguards Shaone Morrisonn and Steve Eminger combined for a hair under 40 minutes. By comparison, two weeks ago the Caps had three 20+ minute blueliners, another within 21 seconds of 20 minutes and the Morrisonn-Eminger duo combined for more than 57 minutes on the ice (in fairness, the game two weeks ago did go to a shootout so there were five extra minutes of hockey, but the disparity is still notable). The Caps are now 17-0-0 when they hold an opponent to two goals or fewer, so it's pretty clear that if they play good defense and get solid goaltending, there's enough offense there to win games.

The WTimes' recap is here, and the WaPo has a couple of interesting stats to go along with its recap of last night's game:
  • The 'Canes have won 14 of their last 17 at home, only losing to the Caps (twice) and the Penguins over that stretch (to me this says "worry not, 'Caniacs - your team is playing very well against the teams that it takes seriously, so they're probably just bored with the regular season and ready for the playoffs.").
  • Last night was only the second time in the Caps' 31-year history that they played consecutive road games against the same opponent in the regular season.
Now, off to Montreal for a Thursday night matchup with Les Habitants.

Finally, while the hockey world has been flooded with highlight montages of Alex Ovechkin (who scored his 48th goal of the year last night, by the way), thanks to a tip from rh71 (host of, The Rink would like to direct your attention to "Montage #2 by Niket Desai" for the most current and perhaps the best montage I've seen. As was noted on the Caps Message Board, AO has a career's worth of highlights in 70 games. Amazing.

Thread of the Day: Let Me Be The First To Say: Majesky! (a little love for the Caps' much- maligned defenseman)

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Daily Awards

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