Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday Roundup/Gamenight: Caps @ Habs

[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]

Everyone make it through that little break alright, recharged and ready for a stretch run? Good.

Now where were we? Ah yes, one point out of first place in the Southeast Division with two games in hand and three points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference - exactly where we all thought we'd be when we put the turkeys in the oven on Thanksgiving morning, right? Maybe not, but it may not be far from realistic pre-season predictions of where the Caps would be coming out of the All-Star break (hell, I picked 'em to win the Division).

So a playoff bearth is there for the taking for the boys from D.C. It doesn't matter how they started the season or how they've played in the last month or two - it only matters how they play these last 32 games, and the first of those games is the front end of a home-and-home series that opens tonight in Montreal against a Habs team with whom the Caps have split a pair of games so far this season.

And while the Caps are only a point out of first place in the Southeast, the Habs find themselves just six points out of first in the Northeast and gaining on a struggling Ottawa squad. Montreal comes into tonight's game with 15 points (7-2-1) in their last ten games (only Philly at 8-1-1 has been better over the similar stretch), but a mediocre home record of 9-8-5.

Without a doubt, the Eastern Conference is going to come down to the wire overall and within its three divisions. Every point is enormous (though no single point is worth any more or less than the one the Caps gave away in Toronto last week), and a team that doesn't show up for a single game or perhaps even for a single period may be regretting it come early April. The playoff push resumes tonight and the marathon that is the NHL season starts to look a bit more like a sprint every day - and you can bet that Bruce Boudreau's Caps know just how important it is to get a good start out of the blocks.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

H/t to Kyle for a link to Russia Today's very cool report on Alex Ovechkin in the wake of his contract extension.... We know that Chicago's Pat Kane is far from a lock for the Calder Trophy as NHL's Rookie of the Year. The rest of the hockey world is slowly getting wise to that too.... Check out Rink commentor Paul's drawings over at Capitals Art. Good stuff.... Make sure to check out Blueland Blog's coverage of the Jr. All-Stars Tournament (h/t Talkin' Thrash).... Finally, thanks to KB for the last week's worth of posts andto you all for great comments and kind words whilst I was otherwise occupied.

24 comments:

NS said...

the next 32 games are going to be as intense, i think, as the playoffs. Even though we are 1 point out of the lead, ANY of the Southeast teams can take the division lead.

Not feelin so good about the Habs game tonight. I think its going to be a rough night for the Caps.

Tyler said...

Yes, that point in TO that Olie gave away.

So BB says that he's going with Brent Johnson tomorrow. I'm amused by and disappointed in how thoroughly the Post's Caps beat writer is missing the biggest Caps story of the present: The Caps' goaltending situation.

NS said...

tyler - i'm sure he is well aware of it. my guess is he doesn't want to be the catalyst for the anti-Olie-starting regime.

Olie has been the backbone for so long that it feels like it would be like stabbing him in the back.

that being said, we need to win, and no one on the team is guaranteed a spot unless they perform...(except #8)

i doubt are goalie prospect will be ready for the NHL anytime soon either.

Tyler said...

Tarik's job is to report. And when it comes to the Caps' goaltending situation he's not doing his job.

This doesn't have anything to do with the two kids being ready. Johnson's played very well over the last month. The Caps took a pass on Bryzgalov, something that Tarik never really mentioned. And it increasingly appears as if a netminder will have to be an offseason priority.

Heck, Tarik doesn't even mention these obvious stats (thank god for blogs!): Olie is 42nd in the NHL in GAA and he's dead last in save percentage. His rebound control has been a problem all year.

Meanwhile, BB has said that he wants to get Brent Johnson more time. BJ's GAA is half a goal better than Kolzig's. Johnson is also the hot hand: He has won five of his last six starts and has had a GAA of 1.67 and a save percentage of .935 over that stretch.

Jordana said...

Tyler,

Tarik has mentioned time and time again, he is a beat writer not a columnist. He isn't paid to write editorials or opinion pieces. That is not his role in the Post or with the team.

There are others on the Post who have that role and could/should be writing about things like that, but no one else on that staff cares at all about the Caps or hockey in general which is evident in their lack of coverage.

Blame the Post if you want, but not Tarik.

Tyler said...

I hate to beat a dead horse here, but huh?!

I'm not asking Tarik to editorialize or column-ize. The No. 1 issue with this team right now is goaltending. And I think that when the Post's reporter fails to even so much as mention the most important story surrounding his beat, that's bad reporting. I mean, the statistics I cited are pretty stark.

Ogre said...

I hate to beat a dead horse, but Olie didn't give away SQUAT in Toronto.
When Boyd Gordon is held for 30 seconds by Hal Gill, with no call, and when Alex Semin struggles at keeping Sundin from getting to a rebound.
Yeah, the rebound was bad. The shot was taken to GET a rebound.
Is Olie the best goalie? No. But seriously, give the guy a break.
I agree that BJ should be getting more starts, but by no means did Olie lose that game.
Any shooter could have scored another goal, any defender could have checked up on another guy, any ref could have made a contested call that he let go cause the game was in it's final stages and he wanted to "Let them play."
And you just pick the obvious target.

kb said...

Commenting from the glue factory...

Given the time left in the game, a rebound like that is inexcusable. Given the softness of Steen's shot on goal, it's inexplicable.

NS said...

innnnconnnnceivable!!

(sorry, had to say it)

Tyler said...

I think that what we're seeing here, on other blogs, in Tarik's comments, etc. is something very human: We've all been Olie fans for years. And it's hard to see him struggle just when the Caps are turning it around. It's natural to want to deny that Olie isn't getting the job done.

But... beyond the fans, there are 20something other guys in that room/injured and they deserve the best too. And tonight, as BB seems to know, that's Brent Johnson.

win tonight please god said...

ogre, youre completely wrong, that was totally kolzigs fault and if we miss the playoffs by a point it will be his fault then too. hes given us garbage goaltending sprinkled intermittently with highlight saves, which were due mostly to his lanky 6'3" limbs, anyway, not his quickness or reflexes. hes old and hes dropping off fast, it sucks yes, but something must be done. for now, that something is a combination of playing bj a hell of a lot more and complaining about olie when he does start.

Oly_for_Olie said...

Three things I've learned not to blunder in to -

1) Never get involved in a land war in Asia

2) Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line

3) Never get involved in a Caps goalie controversy.

Crosby's Cup said...

There's no Caps goalie controversy. Next home game, I'll be near section 102 to sell rose-colored glasses.

Move along. Move along.

Paul Nichols said...

I'm sure that the one point given away last week in Toronto won't be the only thing we can point to IF the Caps don't make the playoffs.

And I sympathize with those who hate to even bring the Olie situation up, because he's been the rock of the franchise for so long. AND, as I told my son just last night ( he's 11 ), Olie is the ONLY reason we made it to the finals in '98.

Maybe it's the beginning of the end, or maybe it's just a bad year. But it's obvious that he's not up to his standard, and it's hard to watch a player - in any sport - as he gets near the end of his playing days.

Ilya Bryzgalov said...

suckaaaaaaaas

FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Just to change up the topic abit: What is the over/under on when the Caps will admit that Shaone Morrisonn has a fractured foot? "Bruises" don't generally require multiple weeks to rest!

Tyler said...

Faux(es) gets one right. The primary purveyor of the 'bruised foot' explanation: Tarik.

Hazardous said...

Tyler: Olie didn't "give away" that point. The whole team did. It was a flutter of a shot, and normally you'd expect someone like Sundin to get all his stick on it. If anything, Olie's the last person to blame that shit on. Yes, he's been playing crappy lately, but that game, much like all games, was a team giveaway.

Just do yourself a favor and comment like you know what you're talking about.

I read the link aabout backstrom, and like an idiot, I kept reading. "2. Can the Penguins qualify for the playoffs without their captain?

Forget Pittsburgh, the question might be if the NHL can thrive south of the border without Sidney Crosby."

Which "south of the border" is this monkey talking about? Mexico? Head's up, douchebags, Crosby is NOT the NHL. He never has been and he never will be. I don't watch the NHL to see secondary assist after secondary assist. I watch it to see hockey, nothing more, nothing less.

Win tonight please god: Ogre's completely right. There's more than 1 shot that determines a game.

Just remember, kids, if you need a scapegoat, pick the guy with the worst numbers. It doesn't matter how circumstantial things might be, it's always that guy's fault. Always.

And I'll say it one last time: Bryzgalov who?
We don't need him. Plain and simple.

Tyler said...

Lemme get this right: A season's worth of 37 statistics are "circumstantial?" Uh, no.

Daniel said...

Granted that I have to watch the games on TV when I'm not in town... but I can't remember hearing an "Olie " chant all season...

-d

Ogre said...

Opening day at home - Olie threw a shutout. Olie chants abounded.

Dec. 26th against the Panthers there were plenty of Olie chants.

Regardless, one person doesn't cost you a point, unless that one person physically takes the puck and puts it into your own net ten times.

Hockey's a team game.
Who lost the game tonight? You can't blame Olie. You can't blame Ovie? Everyone worked together to lose tonight. The entire team was flat and outworked.

That's two points we could have had. If we miss the playoffs by two points, you won't point to this game, will you?

Every team has off nights. It's reacting to them that is what seperates bad from good.

And I wouldn't complain too much about Huet. I happen to think BJ can't carry a starters load. I also happen to think Huet will not only be trade deadline bait, but also UFA bait. I would NOT be surprised to see Huet in a Caps uniform if someone decides our junior goalies are not NHL ready.

Hazardous said...

Tyler: I didn't say the entire season is circumstantial, but there are definitely certain circumstances that could improve the numbers if bounces went lucky instead of unlucky. It happens. Regardless, you're scapegoating 1 person for the whole team, and that's wrong. And that's been my point, so please, PLEASE just hush.

Touching on what Ogre said; Did Olie cost us points tonight?

JP said...

Alright, enough.

The goal in question had plenty go wrong on it, from a possible missed call to a lazy backcheck to a horrible rebound kicked right into the middle of the slot on a shot that wouldn't have broken a pane of glass. I don't know if it's fair to blame a single player for that goal (though I tend to think it is - and there certainly can be multiple players to blame) or if it's fair to blame a single goal for a lost point, but I do know that it's legitimate to wonder just how many NHL goalies would have played that shot the way Olie did. His rebound control has been atrocious this year, and that was the most glaring example of it, hence the blame.

But did that bad rebound cost the team any more than some of the other bad rebounds he's given up just because of the situation in which it happened? I'm not sure that question can be answered.

And let's try to keep the discourse at the high level it has been - this ain't the official message board.

wittcap said...

@Ogre:
Exactly what I was thinking watching Huet play. Interesting to see what he does the rest of the year considering he's never played more than 42 games in an NHL season. A career .920 SV% and not much wear and tear. Could get really interesting, and he'd be about $2M cheaper than Olie. Of course Lundqvist is an RFA...ah, to dream.