Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday Roundup/Caps 7, Sabres 4

[ Recap - Postgame Coverage]

I often not-so-secretly envy the Buffalo Sabres and the way they've built their current team - speed, depth, work ethic, etc. - and hope that the Caps are following that playbook during their rebuild. On some nights, that development looks better than others. Last night, it looked nearly picture perfect when measured against the team that is setting the pace in the Eastern Conference. A few points:
  • The Caps have chased the opponent's starting goalie in three-straight games now.
  • Ben Clymer's goal to regain the three-goal lead less than a minute after Buffalo had cut the lead to two late in the first was huge and kept the team's confidence high.
  • The Caps won 60% of the faceoffs in the game - obviously that's very good.
  • Secondary (and tertiary, etc.) scorers continue to step up (love me some Matt Pettinger) and the overall team depth was impressive. With Dainius Zubrus not dressing, Alex Ovechkin getting kicked out of the game early in the second period and losing Richard Zednik to injury during the second, it was great to see the team's depth hold up on and off the scoreboard.
  • It's nice to win a game when Olie Kolzig isn't at his best.
Now on to the "meat n' potatoes" of last night's discussion fodder. I understand that Sabres fans are emotional after watching their team have a touchdown hung on them by a team that is "the picture of mediocrity," but let's get some of the particulars out on the table regarding the controversial Ovechkin-on-Briere hit early in the second period:
  • Ovechkin is not a dirty player and has no history of being a dirty player (despite "Ovechkin is a 'gutless piece of shit'" claims flying around the Internets).
  • The hit was dirty and deserving of a five minute major and a game misconduct in my opinion (decide for yourself below). But Briere wasn't hurt (and indeed for some reason accepted some culpability for the situation, saying "at the same time, I've got to take part of the blame, too. You've got to protect yourself a little bit better than I did."), the Sabres scored on the PP (irrelevant, I know) and the Caps had to play the rest of the game without their best skater. To me, it sounds like a punishment that appropriately fit the crime.
I understand that Lindy Ruff and his crew have to fire up the mock outrage over the hit - and I would fully expect Glen Hanlon and the boys to react the same way if someone did the same thing to a Cap. But because of AO's lack of history here and because he didn't hit Briere nearly as hard as he could have (and both skaters were skating almost parallel to the boards rather than directly towards the boads), any suspension would seem pretty silly to me (what good does a suspension do - does it send a message to an otherwise squeaky-clean player that he needs to keep playing squeaky-clean hockey?). AO is, however, on notice now and needs to be smarter going forward. If he pulls a hit like that again, give him a couple of games off to think about it. But this isn't exactly Hunter-on-Turgeon. If you must give Alex a game or two, however, I won't be raising much hell about it - the League is undoubtedly and immeasurably better off without hits like that in it.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Jeff Hamilton (3G, including game-tying goal with :34 left in the third and game-winner in OT, A, +3 in 4-3 win)
  • Ross: Jeff Hamilton (4 points)
  • Norris: Randy Jones (G, A, +1, 4 SOG, 2 blocked shots)
  • Vezina: Roberto Luongo (W, 40 saves on 41 shots against)
  • Richard: Jeff Hamilton (3G)
  • Calder: Fredrik Norrena* (21-save shutout win)
  • Aiken: Johan Holmqvist (L, 3 goals allowed on 7 shots against in just 8:06 of work en route to being yanked for the second straight game)
* Though technically not eligible for the Calder due to age, Norrena's performance was still worth noting, so consider it noted.


Tyler said...

I'm sorry, but this AO thing is completely out of hand. It was a double-minor, tops. AO barely touched him. Briere acted like he'd been blackjacked and tasered. Waaaaaah. What a baby.

JP said...

I think reaction has been fairly predictable - Sabres fans act as if AO had raped Briere's grandmother and Caps fans act as if Briere is a flopping sissy who should be ready for a blind-side attack after dumping the puck in and heading off for a change. Had the hit been Briere (or someone on the Sabres who actually hits - say, Gaustad) on Ovechkin, both groups would be taking up the argument from the other side.

IMO, the reality is somewhere in the middle. It was a bad hit from a player who plays the game physical-but-clean. He was kicked out. He's shown remorse. He is on notice. Briere was unhurt (which, while not the ultimate barometer of cleanliness, certainly speaks to the visciousness - or lack thereof - of the hit). Move on.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why Briere accepts any of the "blame". Since when does a player going off on a change, and who is also without the puck, have to protect himself from hits like that?
Good that he's not hurt, and the truth of it is, it wasn't the filthiest hit in the world, but it's an inexcusable hit by AO.

Tyler said...

I don't think anyone's defending AO's hit -- it should have been penalized. But a misconduct was too much. And by staying down like he was dead, he morphed into Daniel Divere. Then didn't miss a shift. Amateur stuff.

JP said...

Briere accepts part of the blame because (as Mike Vogel points out), NHL Rule 42 explicitly states that on boarding "there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, JP. That's exactly my point. Heading towards the bench for a line change is in no way "placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position."
Part of me wants to agree with Tyler. Danny boy probably lay there longer than he needed to.

Anonymous said...

Ovechkin screwed up and took his pounding from Gaustad. Slugs seem to see evil all around them.

On the psychiatrist's couch, Slug-fan would probably admit that losing to an Ovechkin-less Caps team hurt more than Danny's tumble.

Mike said...

So, what's the December 26 game at Buffalo going to be like? The Ovechkin hit and the 7-4 drubbing by the Caps has certainly raised the profile of that game on the schedule.

JP said...

Honestly, I wouldn't expect many fireworks. To begin with, I'm sure the League will warn both teams beforehand to behave themselves.

Moreover, I don't think the Sabres - or anyone for that matter - wants to get into a game of "let's run each other's stars" with the Caps. For one, most other teams have more to lose (who wins when the Sabres knee-on-knee Alex and then someone decapitates Miller? No one). In addition, guys like Brashear, Erskine, Bradley, Sutherby, Clymer, etc. can certainly take care of themselves and any related funny business.

I'm sure, as with the fallout on most of these events, the fans are much more fired up about it than the players, especially given that Briere is fine. I would expect both teams to let their hockey do the talking.

Mike said...

Yeah, there may not be any fireworks in terms of people going after one another on 12/26 but, at the very least, I imagine the Sabres will hit the ice fired-up for that game inspired by losing 7-4 and "the hit".

Looking at the week ahead, there's a lot to be excited about. We've got Ottawa Wednesday but I'm more looking forward to seeing what the Caps look like against the Ducks on Friday. Philly could be a tough game Saturday after playing the Ducks the night before. Then we have Crosby and Malkin rolling into town a week from today.

roh said...

Seems to me like the Caps jus got a little taste of their own medicine. That's exactly how they reacted to Sutton's ALMOST hit in the game against Atlanta in which they proved they're a bunch of thugs. AO should come play for Atlanta where we like to win games rather than (try to) win fights.

JP said...

"AO should come play for Atlanta where we like to win games rather than (try to) win fights."

Refresh my memory - how many playoff games have the Thrashers ever won? Or played in?

I've honestly never heard so much gloating about a team's record in early December as I have from Thrasher fans this season.

Oh, and AO's happy playing in DC for a team whose most notable moment in franchise history doesn't involve one of its players killing another one.

KevinP said...

Had the hit been Briere (or someone on the Sabres who actually hits - say, Gaustad) on Ovechkin, both groups would be taking up the argument from the other side.

Thanks for being honest, JP. I personally think a suspension is in order, but events like this always lose their emotion after a couple of days.

JP said...

Hanlon said the same thing today:

"We obviously look at it differently than Buffalo does, because it was their player that could have been injured. [Buffalo Coach Lindy Ruff] was right. If it was Ovechkin who was hurt, we'd be up in arms ourselves."

kevin said...

About Briere staying down...

I personally don't think Ovechkn hit him very hard, but he still did go head-first into the boards at a decent clip. Nobody knew if he was really hurt at first-himself probably included-and staying down until he was checked out by the medical staff. You don't take chances on head/neck injuries.

That said, I really don't think it was a "dirty" hit. Tad late, maybe. Not exactly sure where Ovy's fighting major came from, but whatever. The game misconduct was warranted, and personally I didn't think a suspension was in order-although I wouldn't be too upset about 1 game.

Love the blog. GO CAPS!

Anonymous said...

Rule 48 Checking from Behind

A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore UNABLE TO DEFEND HIMSELF, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed

Any player who cross-checks, pushes or charges from behind an opponent who is unable to defend himself, shall be assessed a major and a game misconduct. This penalty applies anywhere on the playing surface.

Just so you know, Ovechkin got exactly what was required according to the above rule which I found on

As for saying Briere was a sissy, I'd like any 1 of you who thinks that to stand on the ice & have someone push you from behind so that your head rams into the boards & you have it skid across until you finally fall down onto the ice. I don't think it felt very good & he probably got the wind knocked out of him. And as someone else stated you shouldn't move until you know what's what to avoid any major injury.

Yes, he was not hurt badly & that is a good thing. However the fact of it is not if he was hurt at all, it's whether that was a clean hit or not which it was most certainly not. I also believe that Ovechkin has remorse, not for the hit but for getting penalized. Briere did not have the puck when the hit took place & there was enough time between him getting rid of the puck & the hit for Ovechkin to stop. Even if there wasn't - YOU CAN'T HIT FROM BEHIND!

I don't think anyone is being a baby about this - at least not in Buffalo. We know what's right, we're not an aggressive team...we win by skill, speed & determination. When someone cheapshots 1 of our players, we don't take kindly to it. That's because we stand behind our teams here.

I don't know how fans are in Washington, I'm not going to judge them. All I'm going to say is here, our team is everything to us. We stand behind them through thick & thin. If you think we're overreacting, then you're not as big of a fan as we are here. If you understand where we're coming from & you'd feel the same way if the roles were reversed - then you can call yourself a die hard fan. You know the meaning of it. In Buffalo, if you're a fan, you're a die hard fan. I feel sorry for any city that isn't as passionate as we are about our Sabres.

As for Saturday's game, it's over, let's move on. I just had to stand up for my team...the rules are the rules whether you like it or not. Buffalo didn't make the rules, if you don't like it, let the NHL know.

JP said...

Wow, spirited. Except that AO got a Boarding penalty (Rule 42), not Checking from Behind.

But no one here (ok, Tyler maybe, but no one else) thinks that AO didn't get what he deserved. The question was "did he deserve more?" and there's varied opinion on that.

And I don't begrudge your passion at all - it's a beautiful thing.

Jeff J said...

Heh - 12/26 is "Boxing Day."

Frank said...

Quote rule 48, Check from Behind, all you want anonymous Sabres fan--the on-ice official made the call: Boarding.

As for saying we, as hockey fans, aren't supposed to judge/comment unless we've also been on the ice, give me a break! Such an argument is a common logical fallacy made by the truly ignorant. Hockey is a spectator sport and its spectators do not have to had any experience whatsoever playing the game in order to appreciate it! When the NHL (and all other hockey leagues) decides to disallow spectators from attending games and stops the filming/broadcasting of games, then, by all means, assert that we can't say anything!

As for Briere, he's tough kid. I'm pretty sure the hit rung his bell and he had to catch his breath. Sabres fans should be used to it, however, as Briere is a common target for the opposition. I will refrain from commenting on his past "performances" in Phoenix and Buffalo at this time.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think that if Briere didn't have a history of concussions that this wouldn't really be that big of a deal?