Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Roundup/Caps 3, Thrash 2 (OT)

[SeSo Open Thread]

A few weeks ago following the Caps 4-1 win over the Flyers I said to my father, "This may sound ridiculous, but I think Alex Semin might have more pure skill than Alex Ovechkin." AO can certainly do more things on the ice, plays with more passion and by just about any definition is the "better" hockey player, but if you could somehow measure "slickness" (a formula that would include wrist-shot release, curl-and-drag ability, puckhandling, etc.), I think the argument can be made that Semin would edge AO in that calculus.

I feel less and less silly about making that seemingly outrageous claim with each passing game. In fact, now I'm sure that Sasha Semin is so smooth that he can probably say "knapsack strap" ten times fast, no problem (I bet you try... and fail).

Last night, Semin had his second-straight 2 goal/1 assist game, including a beautiful breakaway goal in overtime, to lead the Caps to a 3-2 win over a short-handed Atlanta team (nice that the shoe's on the other foot for once, eh?). A few notes:
  • As AO put it, "If Semin have chance to break away, then 90 percent goal." And 98 percent no celebration. It's amazing how different his personality is from Ovechkin's, but as I said a couple of days ago, Ovie has enough personality to carry two or three lines by himself.
  • The crowd of 15,642 was one of the best of the year, both in terms of numbers and apparently in terms of passion. Olie Kolzig said of the game that "[i]t was awesome. It was loud. There was energy. And we did it against a team we hate. And then to win it the way we did, I wish all of our games could be that way." Obviously we all do.
  • His spinning pass to set up Semin's game-winner was Steve Eminger's best moment in a Caps uniform since Columbus Day, 2005 against the Rangers when he scored with less than a second left in the second period. Emmy is playing with confidence now, and that's 99% of the battle for him.
  • Kari Lehtonen is very, very good. Olie Kolzig is great. Still. Lehtonen may very well be on his way to greatness and may have even been the better goalie last night, but Olie in overtime? Oh no, there goes Tokyo go go Godzilla.
  • A week ago, J.P. Vigier's penalty shot would have hit of the post and gone in rather than out. On a night dedicated to Olie's "Athletes Against Autism" charity and mere moments after the Caps' goaltender lay on the ice after getting hit in the head with Vigier's skate, this was the only cosmically "fair" result.
  • Atlanta wasn't terribly well-disciplined. Tired, banged-up and undisciplined - they're lucky to have gotten a point out of the game.
  • Further evidence of that - if you add up shots on goal, shots blocked (by the other team) and missed shots, the Caps out-attempted Atlanta in shots 82 to 46. That's utter domination.
Now the Caps are riding a win-streak (rare for them, as they are now 19-44-6 in their last 69 games following a win), having beaten the third and second best teams in the Conference. The home cookin' continues on Tuesday against the woeful Flyers and then it's off to Florida for a couple of Southeast Division games - three straight games against the three worst teams in the Conference. Keep it rollin', boys.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Alexander Semin (2G, including the game-winner, A, 6 SOG, 4 takeaways, 1 giveaway, 2 hits in 3-2 OT win)
  • Ross: Marc Savard (4 points)
  • Norris: Dmitri Kalinin (G, +3, 2 SOG, 3 hits, 3 blocked shots)
  • Vezina: Peter Budaj (W, 24 saves on 25 shots against in shootout win)
  • Richard: Ryane Clowe (3G)
  • Calder: Ryane Clowe (3G, 5 SOG)
  • Aiken: Andrej Meszaros (0 points, -3, 2 giveaways, 0 takeaways in 3-2 loss)


The Peerless said...

I look at it as the difference between playing "basketball" and playing "HORSE."

In a game of skills, Semin is the superior player -- he has better puckhandling skills, a wider variety of shots and is about as straight-ahead fast.

But, in the context of the game, I think Ovechkin still brings more to the table. Semin has a propensity for brain-lock sometimes (whiffing on shots or leaving the puck lying around a bit too much for comfort) -- he is a high-risk/high-reward player.

Ovechkin is obviously the bigger hitter and the better defenseive player (not to say either of them is especially proficient), but what he brings is consistency. In other places, we've pointed out that in his 120-plus games in the NHL, he's a virtual metronome -- 13 points every ten games (he's never had fewer than ten in any of his ten game splits as a pro).

JP said...

But, in the context of the game, I think Ovechkin still brings more to the table.

Without question.

Tyler said...

Semin is still a European, 8 plays like a Canadian. But Semin has shown flashes of digging in corners, etc. this year.

Eminger is playing with vinegar and it suits him well. He had a terrif night in the D-zone too.

Klepis: Next bus to Hershey.

I thought we might see more Boyd Gordon last night, especially late. He had a monster faceoff night and he's showing some offensive gusto of late.

Mike Green: One shift after about the 14:00 remaining mark. Under 13 minutes TOI. Why oh why...

JP said...

Sure, Semin plays a more Euro style, but he's not afraid to throw his body around. In his first stint with the Caps I remember thinking "if this kid doesn't start playing less recklessly, he's gonna get himself killed."

As soon as Klepis was benched the other night and Hanlon made some comments about his penalties, you knew he was gone. Bradley comes off IR Tuesday, and I'd expect that to be Jake's cue to leave (for now).

And I'd thought Gordon was stronger in the dot too, but he was only 8-for-14 and only 3-for-7 in the defensive zone. Huh.

Anonymous said...

"This may sound ridiculous, but I think Alex Semin might have more pure skill than Alex Ovechkin."

I've been thinking the same thing since the home opener against the 'Canes. And as much as I love his game, Semin's penchant for diving needs to stop. The flop on his breakaway in the 1st was not only embarrassing, it deserved an unsportsmanlike.

That said, another great game from him last night. It was especially nice to see him get chippy with Hossa.

Pete said...

It's amazing that I was thinking the same about Semin and Ovie this morning. Semin has more quarterback qualities in him (more qq, lol), he can slow down the game, he can speed it up. This is very rare quality at NHL level. His wrist shot looks more impressive than Ovie's, I am not sure if it is more effective, probably not.

I am not sure either if Semin has better puckhandling skills, he just might looks more impressive. But remember Ovie last year? His puckhandling was much better.

Ovie tends to get dull with his puckhandling a bit. I think this is because he is being watched by top NHL d-men and when you lose one-on-one battle, it's not helping you confidence wise. When next time comes it only gets worse w/o confidence.

Semin definitely will get better with his physical play. He is already better, more confident. He was roughed several times after his outstanding start, and as a result got quiet on the scoring board and on the ice. The first time I saw different Semin was in Toronto. He was coming off the bench and Sundin was coming to the bench. The two were skating somewhat close. All of a sudden, Sundin extended his arms and pushed Semin. Alex didn't expect it at all. He got confused for a moment, and then looking back, he saw it was Sundin. "I am not getting anything like that from another Euro", said Semin. :-) He turned back and pushed Sundin back.

Now I saw the same yesterday with Hossa. Hossa kicked Semin's stick when it got loose. Semin pushed Hossa in turn. I think Hossa didn't expect it at all. It was different Semin for him. And I believe it woke up Semin a bit and he went ahead and scored two goals.

Semin is very talented player. Will he reach his potential? I doubt it. He is typical Russian, get's lazy at times. Just like Tarik said, he'll be another Kovalev.

Ovechkin is overachiever. This kid will get better with qq :-) and he'll get sharper with puckhandling. Just watch it when he'll finish the season ahead of Crosby in goals and points. And the only reason Semin might reach his potential is the positive influence of Ovechkin.

Crosby has Malkin, Ovechkin has Semin. Nobody believed Ovechkin could beat Crosby, he did. He will make Semin better too. That's another unbelievable quality in Ovechkin. He makes all players around him better. That's a leadership quality and it is even more rare than qq.

Fauxrumors said...

1) Yes, Semin's game has been awesome of late. Geez, if this guy succeeded on a higher percentage of his scoring chances he's be leading the league in goals!
2) He misses the net with his booming shot more often than not, but despite that has 21 goals! Just what the Caps needed most, a second 1st line player that prevents opponents from solely keying in on AO.
3) Now if the caps can get some of those other guys to start to contribute now and then they'd be a legit threat!

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if we had a decent second line center. We could have Semin and Petty getting more goals consistently. Both those guys can find the net, they just need someone who can get them the puck.

And I don't know if Backstrom is going to be the solution, let hope so.

JP said...

There's little question in my mind that Backstrom will be the solution. The only question is when? Even if it's from his first NHL game onward, that still does nothing for the team this year.