Pens fans had a glimpse into their team's future on Tuesday night. On Wednesday night Caps fans got a similar sneak peek as Mike Green's rush and subsequent finish may have officially announced the young blueliner's arrival to the rest of the NHL.
But it wasn't all lollipops and puppy dogs for the Caps last night. Yesterday I said "when these Caps are challenged and excited, it usually means you can expect lots of penalties." Well, to no one's surprise, that's exactly how last night's game in Colorado started, as the Caps committed five first-period penalties including an offensive zone trip, a delay of game, a couple of hooks and a hold (the latter of the hooks and the hold resulting in a two-minute long five-on-three). Yikes. But great penalty-killing, blocked shots and solid goaltending helped the visitors to a 1-1 tie after one period (I hesitate to say "great" goaltending, despite Olie Kolzig's 17 saves in the opening stanza, because the goal on which the Avs scored was the result of a real juicy rebound - maybe Olie just wanted to get Joe Sakic's 1,500th point out of the way early).
The Caps owned the second period, tallying twice - Green at even strength and Alex Ovechkin on the power play - and outshooting their hosts 13-8 (not coincidentally, the Caps stayed out of the box for the entire twenty minutes) to take a 3-1 lead into the locker room.
The third period opened with a glass-shattering Ovechkin hit on Karlis Skrastins ("Wow, I'm stronger," Ovechkin said) and an early Sakic goal, followed by a great power move and finish by Dainius Zubrus to restore the Caps' two-goal lead. Incidentally, last night was Donald Brashear's best game as a Capital, and he was rewarded with his first point of the season on the Zubrus goal.
Anyway, with just over eight minutes left, Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot after being hacked down on a breakaway and, well, he didn't score on it. Let's just leave it at that. A questionable tripping call (that the refs allowed the crowd to make) on Kris Beech later led to a third Avs goal, setting up a tension-filled final two-plus minutes... until Matt Bradley found the empty net to seal the deal. Exhale... until the camera zooms in on AO lying in a heap at the Avs' blueline with 2 seconds left (why was he even on the ice at that point anyway?). I won't speculate, but he could barely make it off the ice and was putting no pressure at all on that right leg. Very, very not good. Or it's a charley horse. I was prepared to say "what a great way to start a tough trip," but that will have to wait, as this could potentially be a horrible way to start a tough trip - we should know more today.
Back in 2004, on their march through the Stanley Cup Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a team mantra - "safe is death." This year's Caps, if they're to have any success, must live by a similar mantra - "stupid is death." If this team can limit the turnovers and bad penalties (and for the love of Peeeete, keep the shots against way below 48), there's no reason they can't contend for a playoff spot. Well, there was no reason before AO went down.
UPDATE: According to ESPN.com, "no need to worry. Ovechkin was walking around just fine after the game." Exhale again. Big time.
- Hart: Todd White (G, 2A, +2, 4 SOG)
- Ross: Todd White, P.-M. Bouchard, Mary-Kate Sedin, Ashley Sedin, Andrew Brunette, Chris Pronger, Marek Svatos (3 points each)
- Norris: Chris Pronger (3A, +3 in win over former team)
- Vezina: Roberto Luongo (32-save shutout win)
- Richard: Brian Rolston, Jozef Stumpel, Mary-Kate Sedin, Ryan Getzlaf, Travis Moen, Jarret Stoll (2G each)
- Calder: Anze Kopitar (A, +1, 4 SOG, 2 takeaways, 0 giveaways, 1 blocked shot, 56% faceoffs won in 3-1 loss)
- Aiken: Marcel Hossa (-3 in 10:59 of ice time, on ice for all three even strength Florida goals in 4-2 home loss)
I think it's time for Hanlon to use the healthy scratch as a punishment for penalty-taking. First up: Kris Beech for taking that idiotic tripping penalty late in the third period last night.
Good call. That penalty was inexcusable, even if the call itself was marginal - you can't even give refs the opportunity to make a bad call.
But if bad penalties = benchings, who will center the top line while Zubie sits?
But at least Zubie is taking aggressive penalties most of the time -- probably the kind that Hanlon can live with. It's ironic that after the Brashear signing it's probably Zubie's physicality that's keeping bodies from bounding into AO.
And Klepis' penalties still bother me. The Caps' weakness and lack of size up the middle could be what costs them a No. 8 seed.
I'm not sure how much size up the middle (hey now) matters - look at Buffalo. But Klepis' defensive game certainly isn't up to NHL standards yet. For a guy to have five minor penalties when he's only averaging 14.4 shifts/game and 9:22 of ice time/game is a bit troubling. Both he and Beech need to move their feet more - lazy, dumb penalties by guys struggling for roster spots and ice time are inexcusable.
I agree on Klepis. It's a real problem. And it's Hanlon's job to fix it or lose it.
It all makes me wonder if defensive C Boyd Gordon is *really* a 'healthy' scratch....
Well, Gordon offers zippy offense, but he and Brooks Laich each has more hockey smarts (at least defensively) in their skate laces than Klepis and Beech have in their entire bodies.
I really think that Klepis is auditioning on this road trip and when the team returns home, he'll either be up for good or back in Chocolatetown. I think Beech stays because of his one-way contract and Gordon/Laich/Beech take turns watching the games from the press box.
1) Your questioning of why was AO on the ice for 'garbage time' in the last 30 seconds is right on. Had he actually been seriously injured Hanlon should have lost his job on the spot
2) The Green goal was a thing of beauty! Bobby Orr-like. Hopefully it doesn't go to the kids head and think he's Paul Coffey. We like the kids future!
To clarify, I'm not saying you don't play 100% until the final whistle. What I am saying is that when you're protecting a lead late, your top checkers (Sutherby and co.) should be on the ice, not your top scorers.
And I had a Bobby Orr-gasm when Green scored his goal. What a beaut!
I caught Green's goal on NHL.com this morning. Wow, that was a thing of beauty. Reminded me of Malkin's from a night ago.
That was my immediate reaction as well. I resisted the urge to say that here, though, for fear of being flamed for blatant homerism, but now that another (presumably) blatant homer has said it first... I agree!
Good road win last night!
That was a funny link to Peeters....did anyone ever see that one hockey card of Pete when he played for the Caps? It was hilarious - it must have been taken during warmups - there was about 100 pucks in the net behind him...my brothers (both Pens fans) would always give me crap about that one.
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