Had enough exhilarating Caps-Panthers action yet? No? Good, because you'll be getting another couple of heaping portions of it tonight and Saturday night. By the end of Saturday night, the Caps will have played four of their previous ten games against Florida. Memo to Gary: that's why people hate baseball.
Gratuitous scheduling rant out of the way, let's turn our attention to the game, a home game of sorts for the Panthers. Why? Because they're 9-2-0-1 in D.C. since the start of the 2003-04 season.
But those weren't Bruce Boudreau's Caps, so let's wipe that slate clean and start anew, something we had thought the Caps had done last Thursday. Monday night's game against the Sabres, however, looked a bit too familiar. The turnovers were the readily apparent manifestation of what killed the Caps, but to me, they were more the symptom than the disease. As Rage noted to me in an email (and I'll paraphrase), when the Caps looked good, it was largely the result of great individual efforts, whereas when the Sabres looked good, it was the result of crisp passing and skating to open spots. I couldn't agree more.
Now, some of that certainly can be attributed to a new coach with a new system and some new linemates - you wouldn't expect everything to come together overnight. But a lot of it was simply players taking unnecessary risks in bad places on the ice, and that has little to do with systems and teammates and everything to do with focus.
Speaking of Michael Nylander, he's an NHL-worst minus-13 (tied, interestingly enough, with that stalwart defensive defenseman for whom everyone was clamoring in the offseason, Scott Hannan). But if you want an encouraging spin on that stat - and who doesn't? - head over to Peerless's neighborhood.
And sure, Alex Semin may have two more giveaways in the seven games he's played this season than Nyls has all year, as well as the worst giveaway-to-takeaway ratio of any forward in the NHL with at least two takeaways (sorry, no link - I did the calculation myself), but as he shakes off the rust, that will no doubt change - he had a respectable ratio last year.
So let's just throw out that Sabres game and see what the Panthers game brings. Most importantly, let's hopefully continue to start everything anew.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Ted Montgomery's take on the Caps, two months in: "Semin's been hurt and the defense has been awful."... Greg Wyshynski has a much more insightful review of the Caps' season so far.... Please. Stop. The. Stupidity.
- Hart: Pavel Datsyuk (2G, including the game-winner, A, +2, 6 SOG)
- Ross: Pavel Datsyuk, Jarome Iginla (3 points each)
- Norris: Matthias Ohlund (2A, +2, 4 hits, 3 blocked shots)
- Vezina: Roberto Luongo (26-save shutout win)
- Richard: Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Alexei Kovalev (2G each)
- Calder: Carey Price (43 saves on 46 shots against in shootout win)
- Aiken: Miikka Kiprusoff (3 goals allowed on 15 shots against in just 24:30 of work)