Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Roundup/Caps 3, 'Canes 2

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Event Summary - WashingtonCaps.com Recap]

Like many a fan from Bethesda, the Caps rode the Red Line last night. And, like the Metro's version on many nights, the Caps' Red Line broke down before the end of the night, as the elder statesman of the Russian trio left the game early with a "lower body" injury.

Painfully tortured analogies aside, the Caps' 3-2 come-from-behind win last night - snatching victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat - is just the kind of win this team needed. Emotional. Hard-fought. Confidence-building. There's plenty to discuss, so let's get to discussin':
  • Alex Ovechkin is now in the midst of the longest goal-less streak of his NHL career, but he was an absolute force out there, with the primary assist on all three Caps goals and a game-high seven hits (despite the playmaking prowess, however, you've got to shoot on that first period mini two-on-one next time, 'kay, Gretz?).
  • When Alex Semin plays like he did last night, he can say whatever he wants about whomever he wants. Then again, he can say whatever he wants about whomever he wants no matter how he plays, as far as I'm concerned.
  • Caps penalty killers have now killed off 38 of their last 41 disadvantages (88.4%), including the full 1:03 of Carolina's two-man advantage last night. The power-play, however, still stinks.
  • The Tomas Fleischmann-Michael Nylander-Chris Clark line was pretty atrocious (and man, was Nylander lazy in his coverage on the 'Canes first goal). The trio was a combined minus-16 in Corsi Rating, minus-five in plus-minus, and only attempted three shots on goal (one of which missed). Perhaps Clark needs to go see a specialist about his lingering groin injury (wink wink, nudge nudge).
  • That said, Nylander and Nicklas Backstrom (who had his strongest game in recent memory remains without an even strength point or a goal) need finishers (i.e. Alexes). And despite reasonable success on the night, Sergei Fedorov is not a good enough playmaker to deserve both Alexes.
  • For the fourth time this season, the Caps opponent scored on its first shot of the game. Coincidence or poor prep? The jury's still out.
  • Brent Johnson made some great saves on the night - and 32 overall - but the two that did get by him, he might want back.
  • I simply cannot be convinced that John Erskine is not a horrible, horrible hockey player.
  • Let's give some credit where it's due - Cam Ward was awesome.
  • Remember when the Caps used to forecheck? That's one thing - check that, the one thing - I miss about Matt Cooke.
  • You'd think after fighting him a couple of times, Wade Brookbank would know that Donald Brashear is left-handed. Apparently, you'd think incorrectly. Then again, this is a guy who crushed a guy wearing the same colored sweater as his last night, so he's probably not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
  • I know I don't have the best grammar in the world, but Jesus H. Christ, at least I don't say "whole 'nother." With ads like that, I'm glad Circuit City's business is in the crapper.
  • Milan Jurcina's hit on Scott Walker was highlight-reel quality. We need to see him play a few games with someone other than Erskine before we can say, definitively, that he blows.
  • Gutsy job by Brooks Laich breaking up a pass and getting to bench on the PK after a sickening-sounding blocked shot.
  • The Caps won 64% of the game's faceoffs, which is a ridiculous number when you consider that Rod Brind'Amour was 12-for-18 for Carolina (Eric Staal continues to stink in the dot, winning just seven of 23 draws on the night (30%), and Dwight Helminen (whoever the hell that is) was 0-for-8).
  • One final note on faceoffs - with Fedorov out, the Caps were suddenly quite shallow down the middle in terms of guys who could take a defensive draw, and Laich ended up taking - and losing - one to Staal with 1:12 left. If for no other reason, that situation made it clear that, right now, David Steckel is more useful and valuable in the lineup than Clark is.
  • The ice at the VC cost the Caps two minutes (when Johnny tried to clear a puck on the PK), countless scoring opportunities, and perhaps two players. Why pay more than $5 million per year on perhaps the best skating blueliner in the game when he has to slog through that mush 41 times a year? Then again, the Caps haven't lost at home since Backstrom scored the game-winner for Pitt, so...
So we wait and see how Shaone Morrisonn's and Fedorov's health is, await a visit from our good friends from Gotham on Saturday night (it won't be the same without #68 in blue, will it?), and see if this Caps team has turned the corner. What do you think?

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Hershey's special teams haven't been good so far this season, especially the PK.

41 comments:

maruk said...

I too was wondering why in the hell Laich took that draw. You'd think they would at least put Gordon back there.

And is it me, or has Green taken about 52 steps back in his own end this season? Pretty soon, "game over" is going to have a whole new meaning.

Still, when Ovie and the PP get going, that's going to cover up a lot of other issues.

Flying Cloud said...

Thanks for that, very informative. I was tele-highjacked by relatives in Ireland and missed most of the festivities. I hope you can get an update on Mr. Fedorov, and disagree strongly with your comment that he's not a good enough playmaker to deserve both Alexes -- he earned them, he's one of the very best on the attack. Luckily, we have enough good forwards that our opponents will never know exactly what to prepare for.

this space for rent said...

Deep breath.

what a great game last night. THAT was a hockey game. Congratulations on pulling out the win and about scaring me half to death a couple of times.

Now. That was yesterday. This is today. The Rangers are hot. We're going to have to fight like hell if we want the W, and IMO we need the W on this one and on Tampa Bay to shore up the streak and keep the momentum going. Whatever you guys did in the third, keep it up. Keep it going.

And shoot the damn puck, Backstrom. Please?

NS said...

amazing what you can do with good goaltending keeping you in the game...

if anyone finds a pic of Laich breaking up that cross ice pass while hobbling over to the bench, please post the link. must find.

we still can't the freakin puck out of our own zone. Rangers will eat us up if this cannot be resolved.

Semin...awwwwwriiiiiiiighhtt

Chris said...

There was a lot of ugly in that game, but I'll take the win. I do have to wonder how gutsy Laich would haved looked if the Canes had scored while he was hobbling around leaving us essentially short a man. I like guts and I am glad he made the play, but I have seen a lot of goals scored while guys tried to tough things out like that.

Boodgiesdad said...

Whatever happened to the old fashioned hockey skill of forechecking? Aside from #8 and the 4th line, (and perhaps about the last 7 minutes of the game), that was the laziest exhibition of defensive play by forwards that I can remember. 17 is clearly not whole, and I agree, should find his way to some sort of rehabilitation stint...

@maruk- Amen. Maybe it was "game over" when that big contract was signed...just sayin'

Federov continues to amaze and amuse me. He is our best defenseman this year, and it is hard to argue that he isn't the best center we have as well, although that simply shouldn't be the case. Better effort up the middle could cure many ills.

HotDog88GT said...

So why did Circuit City change the dialog in the camera commercial, anyways?

Carolina played three guys back the whole game. It looked like there were 6 'Canes out there on every shift.

Leigh said...

Does anyone else wonder why Poti refuses to shoot the puck? If there was a wall in front of me, I would have punched it when he was in all alone and decided to try the cross ice pass rather than shoot. He never shoots from the point either. It's rather frustrating.

this space for rent said...

@boodgiesdad: Forechecking, or lack thereof, was the main ugly I saw in this game. That, and first goal on first shot. That crap needs to stop.

But I'm not going to knock what I saw last night. They got the clue, they got the message, they woke up, and they made it happen.

Now they just need to take that last five minutes and carry it into all sixty minutes against the Rangers.

Tyler said...

@ Chris. I think you're kidding, but for people who didn't see the game: Laich wasn't trying to tough it out. He was trying to get off the ice but he couldn't feel his leg. Stand up, fall down. Stand up, fall down. He mostly happened to deflect a pass because CAR threw one right at his stick as he was exiting the zone.

And the noise the puck made when it hit Laich's leg had my whole section thinking (and saying) 'broken leg.'

Sometimes I think that every Caps fan should be forced to sit through a seminar on defensemen.

Boodgiesdad said...

@tsfr: I agree that they seemed to finish strong, but why can't we play the first 53 minutes the same way?

FAUX RUMORS said...

1) If Chris Clark was not wearing "The C" would he be benched? Taking an ofensive zone penalty when a delayed penalty is about to be called on the opposition is the epitome of stupid.
2) Outside of the final few minutes the team still did not seem to have the same intensity that was seen most of the post Hanlon era last season. Seems like something is missing?

this space for rent said...

@boodgiesdad: Agreed. That's what I want them to do against the Rangers. If they can play consistently like that and be more aggressive on the forecheck, and Johnson keeps the magic schmoke, we'll be diamonds.

Boodgiesdad said...

I hope so, tsfr. I have invested a lot more cash in tickets already this year....

b.orr4 said...

@jp: there's an obvious reason why Laich is taking important face-offs; he's the best on the team at it...by far:
http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20092WASSASAll&sort=faceOffWinPctg&viewName=faceOffPercentageAll

JP said...

@ b: I know what the early numbers say, but if you were up a goal with 10 seconds left and a faceoff in your own zone, who would you want taking it? I suppose it might depend on which side of the goalie the draw was on, but I still doubt it's Laich.

Anonymous said...

I agree JP, I think Jurcina is handcuffed by being paired with Erskine, he needs to be paired with a good skating puck mover like Poti, Green, etc. They are too slow footed as a pair, and they freak out when handling the puck, they treat it like a friggin hand grenade. Remember how great Jurcina played with Fedorov, he needs that type of partner.

CD said...

@leigh: i'm surprised you're the only one to have pointed out that Poti pass this morning. i damn near lost it when that happened last night.

A little less passing and a lot more shooting would have been nice.

NS said...

a chipmunk would play well with Feds as his defensive partner...

Tyler said...

Jurcina played well last night. Juice runs into trouble when he tries to 'make up' for Ersky, when he runs around and tries to play 2/3 of the ice. That's a logical way to play when paired with Ersky, who is a complete and total clusterf*ck out there.

When 23 plays within himself, when he hits guys and makes the easy/smart play with the puck, he plays well. And that's what he did last night. (And for the last week or two.)

b.orr4 said...

I can see your point, jp, but Laich's been taking big faceoffs quite regularly this season and winning most of them (even though he wasn't great last night). I don't think the numbers lie on this one and I think that's why Bruce put him in the circle with a minute to go. I wouldn't have a problem if Gordo were out there as well, but Laich is a tremendously under-appreciated faceoff man. In any case, the Caps completely owned the Canes last night in faceoffs, even though Brind'Amour was very good, as usual.

DMG said...

Whatever happened to the old fashioned hockey skill of forechecking? Aside from #8 and the 4th line, (and perhaps about the last 7 minutes of the game), that was the laziest exhibition of defensive play by forwards that I can remember.

I believe that would be backchecking.

@ b: I know what the early numbers say, but if you were up a goal with 10 seconds left and a faceoff in your own zone, who would you want taking it? I suppose it might depend on which side of the goalie the draw was on, but I still doubt it's Laich.

I think that's exactly what it was. If I recall correctly, the faceoff was the Johnson's left, so a right handed draw move bring the puck to him while a left handed draw would have put it in the corner. With Fedorov hurt and Steckel in the press box, Laich and Backstrom would have been the two left-handed options...I would have picked Laich

Tyler said...

FWIW, Gordo was on the ice for that faceoff Laich took late. But if memory serves, it was to the left of BJ1, ergo not Gordo.

But even taking the faceoffs out of the equation, 17 < 39 at this point. Except for that 'C' thing. Sigh. I agree with JP's solution: Send Clarkie to a groin specialist. He's obviously not himself. (terapSutherby redux?)

Boodgiesdad said...

@dmg- Two different points, albeit delivered together without a breath between. Thanks for the smug clarification.

Clark was standing still, 4 feet behind the 'Cane that tipped in the first goal. One half of a stride would have put him in position to at least give the guy something to think about.

Leigh said...

cd-
I'm also surprised more isnt being made of their apparant need to tick-tack-toe the puck around to score, rather than bombing away from the point. Poti's non-shot doesnt fit that description (since he was 3 feet from the goal, all alone!), but its the same general idea.....

Mike said...

Maybe it's time to give up on Erskine and Jurcina together. Waive them in order to send them to Hershey and call up Lepisto and Alzner. Those two being up with the Caps will not only improve the play, but will also clear up some cap room as they both make less than either of the two.

Tyler said...

Uh, leaving alone the insanity of waiving two NHL-quality D (ok, ok, one NHL D plus a guy who oughta wear a suit on game nights and play 20 games a year)... how will dumping guys who have lower cap numbers than Alzner -- a lot less -- clear cap room?!

Shaggy said...

The fact was, the Caps were more better than them Canes when they needed to be. You could feel that tying goal coming.
Cam Ward WAS awesome - for about 57 minutes. Then he was...okay. Certainly the tying goal was flukey, but he needs to stone the best pure goal scorer in the game when there's 10 seconds to go.

Now the Rangers - that's a whole 'nother story. King Henrik is playing out of his mind.

Melvisdog said...

Agreed that Erskine still isn't a great d-man but his last two games were perhaps his best efforts as a Cap. It's like saying he's not quite dead yet but I digress... Backstrom seemed to have found his stride and ability to change directions quickly. That was his best game by a long shot. Kozlov looked like somebody lit a candle plus a pound of TNT under his a$$. He was backchecking and in general working better than in games past (which again, isn't saying much). He didn't generate many scoring chances but I recall the same type of efforts last year as a prelude to consistent production.

My general conclusion is there was some unabashed yelling after the Buffalo fiasco which created frantic movement for the Ottawa game. But they made many, many mistakes running around in a very undiscliplined way. Last night looked like the results of very focused coaching. "Nick, you need to find space with puck. Victor, you need to use your frigging body. Ovie, get it deep and no blind passes." All in all a better effort but the PP still stinks.

DMG said...

@ Boodgiesdad,

I apologize if my remark came off as smug, that was not my attention. It had occurred to me that those may have been two different thoughts and I have to say that I agree on both counts - especially the Hurricanes first goal. It was a very nice play by Walker but I couldn't help notice how Nylander was drifting around the slot area (seemingly) lackadaisically while Walker was able to get significant space.

SBB said...

Mo and Juice played well together when Juice first came from Boston. Why not stick the two of them back together for awhile? Mo's been a pile of overpriced crap so far this year, but maybe putting the two of them together again will shake something loose.

wittcap79 said...

I love roller coasters, but sometimes this one makes me a little sick.

wittcap79 said...

@dmg

I apologize if my remark came off as smug, that was not my attention.


I believe the word is intention. :b

b.orr4 said...

@Melvisdog: Backstrom may be in the same situation as Semin last season. Ankle injury in preseason that slowed his game conditioning until mid/late November. Nick looks to be getting stronger and faster in each succeeding game and last night, he was a close to the old Nicky that I've seen all season. He will start producing points and Ovechkin will start producing goals and then the Caps will start winning games in the second period and not the third. The good news is that without the two of them, they're still 6-4-2.

Ogre said...

I don't get why we goat Erskine. Oh, I do, he doesn't skate fast. Too bad he hits and he's in position a large percent of the time. If there's two d-men you just wanna cut, make them Mo and Jurcina.

That said, due to cap reasons, if you just cut someone, you get a cap penalty for the year, and then the rest of the years they were under contract. That won't work.

Melvisdog said...

@ b.orr4,
Agree that injury had 75% to do with Backstrom's slow start. The other 25% I attribute to Twinkies and Akvavit. My confidence in him is rising though. I just pulled a lowball trade for him in my fantasy league :). Slight tweaks are most likely responsible for Kozlov's slowww start and could explain Green's relative immobility skating backward.

Somewhere/sometime Mo's confidence must have been injured... The playoffs maybe?

Tyler said...

No one had a worse game last night than Abe Pollin and the VC icemakers. Not only was it humid inside VC, but I was wearing a t-shirt. I mean, it doesn't take a genius to realize that when...

Hazardous said...

I actually found myself, for the first time, stopping halfway through your bullet points out of disgust.

You're telling me John Erskine is worse than Milan "I sit in front of the goalie at all times, screening the hell out of him, except for the times when I'm putting the puck in front of my own net" Jurcina? Get the fuck out. That's the most ludicrous shit I've heard in a long time.

Just tell me Sidney Crosby is the best player in the league about 25 times. I'll probably have an easier time believing that.

Also, his "hit" was he put his arm up and the other guy started to lose his balance before contact was made. It looked a lot meaner than it was.

JP said...

Congrats on making it this far without being disgusted - you've outlasted most.

And what I'm telling you is that I'm not sure ye, whether or not Milan Jurcina can be a competent NHL defenseman. I am sure, however, that John Erskine is not one.

And as for Juice's hit, I said it looked pretty, not that it was bone-crushing or even a great defensive play.

It's happy hour on Friday, 'Zard - have a beer and relax, my friend.

Hazardous said...

Believe me, I'm plenty calm. I just don't know how anyone watches the same games I do and takes longer to realize who's bad and who isn't and why. Erskine is not a great defenseman. That much is known. He's definitely a last pairing quality defenseman. However, he's solid as he needs to be for that position.

Jurcina has been crap since we got him. Last season, around mid season, he started to show a little improvement, so I backed off. But come late season, he went right back to the same garbage he's been doing, and it's costing us goals against. To say that you're sure of Erskine being terrible and not sure of Jurcina is unfair, to say the least. If you want to say both suck, then by all means, both suck. But there's no way in hell Erskine is WORSE than the worst player on the team.

To put it shortly: I'm annoyed at the number of people scapegoating John Erskine but letting boneheads like Morrisonn and Jurcina have so many freebies when they blatantly allow a play that results in a goal to get by them. They do it far more than Erskine does.

But this is nothing new, scapegoating has been around for some time. First it was kolzig, then it was fleischmann and semin. Two of those are now the reason we win games.

Ogre said...

Who was it that said defensemen don't hit their prime until age 31? I hear John Erskine's got 4 more years. I'd rather have him as my 6-7 than Juice or Mo next year, when (Hypothetically) Alzner, Lepisto, and Possibly Carlsson and Sloan are ready for real NHL minutes.