Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Roundup/Caps 4, Flyers 3 (OT)
Gamenight: 'Canes @ Caps

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Super Stats - AP Preview - Preview]

Many an eyebrow was raised when the new sheriff in town placed his twenty-year-old playmaking pivot in between a pair of plumbers on the fourth line. A goal and two assists - and, more importantly, a win - later, pursuing that line of inquiry will have to wait a bit.

Nicklas Backstrom, who had the first multi-point game of his career just five minutes into the second period of Friday's game, showed the patience of a veteran on his second NHL goal, the overtime game-winner.

Was he especially fresh for overtime as a result of his fourth line time (he had 13:45 of ice time - more than two minutes less than he had been averaging per game so far this season, and the least ice he's seen in nearly a month)? Maybe.

Was he feeling less pressure centering this trio than one of the top two on a team that's not scoring? Probably.

Was he a little more confident as a result of the confidence his new coach was showing in him (Nick had 1:22 of time on the penalty kill Friday, which is just 47 seconds less than he had in his first 21 NHL games)? Perhaps.

Whatever it was, it worked. Here's some more of what did - and didn't - work in Bruce Boudreau's Capitals coaching debut:
  • Backstrom's pass on the Mike Green goal was brilliant and the finish sensational. It's glimpses like these of kids not yet 23-years-old that give one hope.
  • New head coach, new Tom Poti? T.P. had half as many points Friday (two) as he had all season prior.
  • New head coach, same Jeff Schultz. A horrendous delay of game when the Caps were already down a man and a failure to tie up Jeff Carter's stick on the Flyers second goal - will Gabby bench this guy?
  • On that second Flyer goal, Olie Kolzig has to be set earlier.
  • Matt Pettinger missed a golden opportunity to give the Caps the lead in the final minute or so with a short-handed rush that found him alone in the slot. Still, I thought Petty had a pretty strong game, and it's only a matter of time before he gets back on the score sheet.
  • I can appreciate sticking up for a teammate, but Chris Clark went a little overboard defending Boyd Gordon (maybe I missed something - visor rule?). His double minor, as KB pointed out, went a long way towards letting Philly back in the game, and is exactly the kind of penalty a team like the Flyers tries to rope you into taking.
  • I didn't think Alex Ovechkin had one of his best games (save for more or less creating the game-winner), but his stat line still looks good - assist, +1, 4 shots on goal, 3 hits, 3 takeaways, 1 giveaway.
  • Michael Nylander won 10 of 14 draws (71%). As a team, the Caps are ninth in the NHL in faceoff percentage.
  • The Flyers give up the most shots against in hockey and take the fewest. Yesterday's totals were just about right on those averages, and if Philly doesn't reverse those two trends somewhat, I can't see them going all that far - Biron is just not good enough.
  • Friday marked the Caps' second win all season when allowing more than one goal and first win in a game in which they allowed a power-play goal.
So one game, one win. We'll certainly take it. Game two is tonight at the VC against the Hurricanes, who are coming off a big win last night against the Bolts. Expect to see Brent Johnson in goal... and Nicklas Backstrom on the fourth line - where, perhaps, he belongs for now.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

The Hockey News ran a nice piece on Boudreau yesterday.... Scott Morrison on Glen Hanlon and Boudreau.... Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this "Great Moment in Biron Brothers History": on this date four years ago, the fantastically talented Mathieu Biron became the first NHLer to score a goal on his brother (Martin) since Phil Esposito did it back in 1980.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Nicklas Backstrom (Game-winning OT goal, 2A, +2, 2 SOG, 50% faceoffs won)
  • Ross: Jamie Langenbrunner, Nicklas Backstrom, Radim Vrbata (3 points each)
  • Norris: Chris Pronger (2G, +1, 4 SOG, 3 blocked shots)
  • Vezina: Martin Brodeur (22-save shutout win)
  • Richard: Chris Drury, Chris Pronger, Radim Vrbata (2G each)
  • Calder: Nicklas Backstrom (Game-winning OT goal, 2A, +2, 2 SOG, 50% faceoffs won)
  • Aiken: Johan Holmqvist (L, 4 goals allowed on 22 shots against, including 3 on 12 in the third period of Tampa's 4-3 loss)


Anonymous said...

what article is that quotable from boudreau pulld from?

usually frustrated caps fan said...

Nice post JP.

I thought the line pairings worked real well. I don't think Ovechkin - Nylander at even strength works for either of them though. Also I though Ovie's game went well - his fore and backchecking were as good as they have been all year.

You always seem down on Schultz and up on Green my 2 cents is they are both young, both show promise, and both still make mistakes so the jury remains out. The young D-Man I thought had his best game of the year so far was Morrisonn even though there's nothing good or bad on the highlight reel from him.

More of my musings at:

Oh yeah and LET'S GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Please don't bash me about what I'm about to say.

I've watched my fair share of Bears games and Caps games, and IMHO, I don't know yet if BB's coaching style and strategy suits the way Ovechkin plays. I am unsure yet if Ovechkin will be able to succeed under BB's system, but only time will tell.

I think AO may fall into a scoring slump or drought in the coming games until he adjusts to the way BB wants things done.


Anonymous said...

How 'bout we wait and see, Malkin Fan/anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Malkin fan? Not sure what you are talking about.

Anyways, I already will wait and see. I'm just putting it out there and stuff to see what others think.

JP said...

Boudreau's Bears scored the second-most goals in the AHL last year. What part of BB's strategy/style/system are you thinking AO will have trouble with?