The Caps started out their four-game road trip in Tampa last night, and in a game that saw each team dominate and look lost for separate stretches at a time, the Caps were unable to beat Bolts goaltender Johan Holmqvist in the third period and left 5-4 losers. Some thoughts on the game:
- Seven third period shots isn't going to get it done when you trail by one on the road.
- Dan Boyle is so good. Jamie Heward is not.
- Obviously this wasn't one of Olie Kolzig's better games. In fact, it was one of his worst, as he let in three goals that I'm sure he'd like to have back (as he put it, "The team played terrific, but the goalie let them down tonight"). Still, I'll take Kolzig over Holmqvist heading into the third period of a tied game any day. That said, I think Saturday night in Miami might be a good time to give Brent Johnson a start.
- The Caps seemed confused every time the Bolts were able to set up behind the net. It didn't help matters that Ben Clymer (or perhaps it was Brooks Laich) threw the puck back there rather than clearing it up the boards on what shortly thereafter became Marty St. Louis' game-winning tally.
- Alex Semin had another two beautiful goals, but it's the same old story for him - he scores on the power play or as the result of a spectacular individual effort. He needs better linemates than Kris Beech and a clearly-less-than-100% Matt Pettinger.
- Which brings me to my final point, and that is the difference between these two teams - $14 million. Without question, the $14m difference in payroll between the squads was the difference tonight. A defenseman (or two), a second-line center or winger - it wouldn't have taken much for this to have been a Caps win rather than a loss. Now that's two straight one-goal losses to Tampa. Three one-goal losses to Atlanta. Eleven one-goal losses on the year. These points get harder and harder to give up knowing that the Caps are simultaneously so close and yet so far away.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
- If you're in Peoria, IL on March 24 for Maui Jim Sunglasses Night at the AHL game between the host Rivermen and visiting Chicago Wolves, be sure to stay afterwards for the post-game Christian concert (offer apparently not valid for Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Schneider, Michael Cammelleri or J.P.).
- Vogs has a cool post on a late (and I mean late) scoring change. Interesting stuff.
- 3 Grumpy Caps fans doesn't (don't?) like E.J. Hradek much at all.
- Hart: Tomas Holmstrom (3G, including the game-winner, A, +2, 7 SOG)
- Ross: Pavel Datsyuk (5 points)
- Norris: Zdeno Chara (G, A, +2, 5 SOG, 4 hits, 29:43 of ice time)
- Vezina: David Aebischer (W, 34 saves on 36 shots against)
- Richard: Tomas Holmstrom (3G)
- Calder: Anze Kopitar (G, A, +2, 2 SOG in 5-2 loss)
- Aiken: Peter Budaj (L, 5 goals allowed on 17 shots against in 32:01 of work)
Matt Pettinger looks worse every game. There was one point last night where he was behind the TB net and tried to turn and accelerate. His whole body kind of deflated and he went nowhere. Obviously hurting.
It is amazing how many scoring opportunities there would have been for Yannic P./insert-name-here on our second line. Kris Beech is painful to watch. Heck, why not try Boyd Gordon there?
Olie, 36, ninth straight game? Bad idea. Said so to my girlfriend at start of game, even.
Heward and Nycholat really struggle against fast teams.
And boy oh boy: Is there any team better with a third period lead than TB? A frustrating joy to watch.
The matter of the salary differences I think is and important one to pointout and one that will get some traction in the days/weeks to come (Tarik El-Bashir took up the cause a couple of weeks ago; Ted responded in his "owner's Corner" column).
I had a fairly lengthy post on Tarik's article (and OFB took him to task for what they felt were some questionable journalistic tactics). But here we are two weeks later and honestly I don't think that money is the issue. If second-line centers and mobile defensemen were waiting in Aisle 8 at Target, I'm sure the Caps would fill up the shopping cart.
But they're apparently out of stock at Target. And Sam's Club. I checked. Turns out that the few that may be (or become) available will cost, big time. If a Yannic Perrault were available today for $1m, I'd hope the Caps would scoop him up. If he cost the team Tomas Fleischmann or Jakub Klepis (who, btw, needs to be sent to Hershey)? No thanks. I'd rather not mortgage even a small part of the future for a chance to get waxed by the Sabres in the first round.
To clarify, I wasn't saying that the team needs to go out and make a move. I was just saying that it's hard to lose some of these games knowing how close the Caps are - both literally and figuratively - to winning them.
The Caps should have scooped him up when it was obvious that they needed a second-line center. We all knew it from day one. GMGM had to know it at about Game Five.
And trading Klepis is fine with me. He ain't the future.
Alright, so let's move this discussion along - who's available and what would you want to give up for him?
Jason Allison's a free agent, but who knows what kind of shape he's in? Should the Caps have claimed Nedved or made an attempt to land Comrie (it's obviously too late now on both of those)? Would a guy like Jozef Stumpel be a good fit?
It's easy to say they should go out and acquire a center (or should have alread), harder to name names and harder still to make actual deals.
I'm not necessarily saying they should, I'm saying they should have.
We didn't have what PHX wanted for Comrie. We have young forward prospect depth. Which isn't the ideal thing to have when you need a veteran C, alas.
Good game, tough loss. I was just thinking, nice, Brash is not fighting, because when he does, Caps losing. Very next moment they show him dropping the gloves.
I think because Brash is the top fighter no one expects their goon to beat up Brash. Every time someone gets even with him or lands a single punch, the opposing team gets a huge boost.
I bet some of our Qs will be answered when Tarik WP.com chats today.
How about Bryan Smolinski?
Smoke has one more year at $1.5+ million left on his contract, if I'm not mistaken, and he's 35 now. If he's a UFA at year's end, though, he'd be worth looking into.
On of the problems we have with respect to trades is that there are still so many clubs in the playoff hunt. 25 of the 30 teams are either in the top-eight or within five points. There aren't many clubs out there that are truly "sellers" at this point.
Isn't the extra $14 million in Lightning payroll the result of RE-signing players, not acquiring free agents? And TB had a modest payroll when it won the Cup, and now have to re-up those guys to stay competitive. (see also, Sabres, Buffalo).
BTW, Perrault is earning $700K this year, exactly that, interestingly, as Beech. Doesn't seem like he would be dealt though, because the Coyotes are improving.
Perreault's pro-rated salary came out to about $600K even, I bleev.
Smolinski is on a team going nowhere.
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