Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thursday Roundup/Caps 3, Sabres 1

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Box Score - Recap]

When the Caps get good goaltending, a Hart-worthy performance from their Hart candidate and a Calder-worthy performance from their Calder candidate, they're difficult to beat. Add to that the luck of catching a fairly passion-less, unfocused, banged-up and tired (but apparently squeaky clean) Sabres bunch, and it was a recipe for two points (and, thankfully, no points for the opposition). Some thoughts on the game:
  • Bad news up front: David Steckel broke his finger and is out for 2-3 weeks (Vogs on Stecks: Steckel entered Wednesday’s game with a face-off win pct. of 56.3, seventh best in the league among those centers with 600 or more draws taken on the season. The Caps will miss Steckel’s prowess in the circle, and also his knack for penalty killing. Steckel averages 3:46 per contest in shorthanded ice time, fourth among all NHL forwards.) Now would be a good time for Chris Clark to get healthy. Fast.
  • The Caps have outscored their opponents 24-9 in their last six games.
  • I know Sabres fans aren't going to complain about the no call on Alex Ovechkin that sent Steve Bernier to the ice after what they got away with the night before in Philadelphia, so let me just say this - it's an unfortunate reality of NHL officiating that when one team has had all three of the game's power plays to that point, the other team is given some leeway. It ain't right, but we all know that it is what it is.
  • Speaking of Ovechkin, we know the milestones he hit last night, but let's not lose focus on the big (individual) picture - Ovie now has 54 goals, 38 assists and a plus-17 rating. Yowza.
  • Is it me or did Alex Semin suddenly go shot-shy? He seemed to be force feeding Sergei Fedorov a bit much, and ended the game without a single shot on goal for the first time since January 24. The entire second line, for that matter, was fairly invisible.
  • Maxim Afinogenov repeatedly undressed Caps' blueliners, most notably (and repeatedly) Jeff Schultz and Milan Jurcina. Oh, and Schultz's breakaway? Not so good.
  • Olie Kolzig was stout, bailing out the defense time and time again for his 299th career win (don't you get the feeling that everything possible is coming together for Sunday's game?). Glad I suggested he start this game. On a sidenote, I don't get worked up over the "3 Stars," but denying Olie a spot amongst the three was silly.
  • The Caps absolutely dominated the dot, winning 65% of the game's faceoffs. Boyd Gordon led the way with 10 wins out of 12 draws.
  • Sticking with faceoffs, Fedorov has won 70.6% of his draws since being acquired.
  • Tom Poti is +13 with 11 points since January 13 (the day after he returned from a three-game absence).
  • Viktor Kozlov now has 14 goals, 32 helpers and a team-leading plus-21 rating. Anyone still think he's a bust?
That's all I've got. Frankly, I didn't think the Caps played terribly well, which says a lot about the state of the team - that they can have an off night in one of the tougher buildings in the League and still leave with two points.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Alex might catch Dennis Maruk, but someone else already has (caught up with him, that is).... One year ago today we previewed that night's Caps/Leafs game and two years ago today we previewed that night's Caps/Isles game and indulged in some uber-meta self-promotion.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Alexander Ovechkin (2G, +3, 4 SOG, 5 hits)
  • Ross: Eric Staal, Frantisek Kaberle (3 points each)
  • Norris: Frantisek Kaberle (3A, +3)
  • Vezina: Corey Crawford (19-save shutout win)
  • Richard: Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Staal, Pavel Dastyuk, Jason Spezza, Patrick Marleau (2G each)
  • Calder: Corey Crawford (19-save shutout win)
  • Aiken: Kari Lehtonen (L, 4 goals allowed on 22 shots against in 33:39 of work)


Abhinav said...

The officiating was wacky last night. The call on Schultz that led to the first Buffalo goal was seemingly very nit picky.

The Ovie non-call...well, I guess I haven't watched enough hockey to know if that was a penalty or not.

Schultz breakaway was hot. Put him in the shootout already.

JP said...

"If we're going to go back and whine about [how] the play changed the game, I can whine about the officiating. I can find something to whine about every night. ... I thought we outplayed them in the third period and deserved to win. Did we get a break? Yeah."

That's Lindy Ruff on Tuesday night's Buffalo/Philly game. It could easily have been Boudreau on last night's game.

As for the play that got reviewed, Ruff had this to say:

"It wasn’t a goal. I watched it and it was the right call. When the whistle went, the puck’s on the goal line. It’s really close but it was the right call."

Besides, I think a Sabre had his foot in the crease...

Abhinav said...

By the letter of the law, was what Ovy did a penalty? Or was it "incidental contact"?

Paul Nichols said...

Joe B. seemed to think Ovechkin got away with one - he called it a hook, but it looked clean to me because his stick wasn't involved.

Looked that way to me, anyway.

Maybe it's just me, but does it appear that Olie got a memo on rebound control? Seems to be fewer loose pucks rolling around lately.

JP said...

Everything's a judgment call, but it looked like a bit of a hold/hook/elbow/slewfoot to me.

NS said...

Just blew up the pic on the caps site of Ovie's first goal on Miller and taped it to a cow-worker's monitor (he is a Sabres fan).


Anonymous said...

Olie was OK last night. The Sabres missed an opportunity to pot a lot of rebounds into open nets while Olie was flopping around. The D cleared a lot of pucks and Olie made all the saves he was supposed to. The D deserves a lot credit, this wasn't even close to Olie's performance in the Wild game.

NS said...

so what was more excruciating to watch: Steckel's breakaway or Schultz's?

seemed like they were skating in slo-mo while everyone else had jets on their skates

JP said...

@ NS: Steckel was well-angled by the D and forced to his backhand, so I'll go with Schultz's breakaway as more painful by a mile. Of course, Alex's eased the pain a bit.

Paul said...

With Steckel going down, Gordon presumably moves up to the checking line center. That leaves Laich as the only other centerman, assuming you don't want to pull Kozlov off Ovie's line. So who gets to move up to Fedorov's wing? Probably either Flash or Fehr. I'd like to see Flash get one more chance there, with a fourth line of Brashear-Laich-Fehr.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, I looked at that non-call on Ovechkin several times and I still don't see a penalty. There definitely wasn't a stick involved and I didn't see any slew foot. If anything,I think that As Ovechkin went to cut him off, the Sabre player tried to curl back and lost his footing. It wasn't offside because even though the puck came outside the blue line, he brought it back in on his own. Looked like a good play to me and the fact that Ruff didn't complain tells me it probably was.

NS said...

Paul - no way in hell that first line will be broken up. i assume they will just reactivate Laing and throw on the checking line.

i'd like to see Laich stay on a scoring line...

WFY said...

"Just blew up the pic on the caps site of Ovie's first goal on Miller and taped it to a cow-worker's monitor (he is a Sabres fan)."

The desk of my co-worker from Western NY had 2 Caps jerseys and 2 Caps hats on it this morning. I'll post it on my site this evening.


Unknown said...

I thought the forwards were good last night and that the D didn't play terribly well (except for 3 and 52).

Schultz's job is not to score breakaway goals. Anything like that from him is gravy. He obviously didn't know what he was doing: He got wayyyy too deep before getting off a shot.

Unknown said...

Nik Backstrom: +9 in his last four games.

Anonymous said...

Another possible One-Timer from the Post article: "It's very interesting when you play for something," Ovechkin said.

No kiddin', kiddo!

And a Big Bravo to Nikki! He is beginning to take advantage of his own slivers of daylight, while Ovie is being triple-teamed by defenders. And why the heck not? Run it up, boys! Run it UP!!!

Unknown said...

Um, I don't know how Ovechkin's play on Backstrom's goal could have been a penalty. All he did was muscle Bernier off the puck - exactly what a power forward should be doing. No illegal anything. I was watching the game without sound, so didn't hear Joe B., but all I was saying after that goal was "Wow, what a play by Ovechkin!" (And that obviously proves it wasn't a penalty...)

Anonymous said...

AO muscled Bernier right off the puck. He got his left forearm and body in there, leaned in and just bodied him off the puck. Pure luck that Bernier's stick sent the puck back in.

What a COOL GOAL for #19. He's sooooo smoooooth when he scores like that. He looks like he's not putting any effort into it. Little move, little tuck, 5-hole.

Unknown said...

AO held him enough to swing him around. It was a near-textbook penalty.

Whiter Mage said...

My opinion that Refs have made call after call against us (Particularly Sasha Semin for "Diving" or "Hooking") makes me very happy that the refs finally gave us a damn break. You should be too. You take breaks. Breaks win hockey games.

Unknown said...

to hold him, OV would have had to put his hands on Bernier, but they were busy holding his stick... no way that was a penalty, he just put his shoulder into him...


1) Recently read where a team can now (after the trade deadline) bring up a player from the AHL without much chance of losing him.
2) Per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News: "The process involving re-entry waivers changes after the trade deadline, as a team can claim a player for half price and place him on their NHL roster, BUT they cannot play him in the regular season or in playoff games for the remainder of the season. That allows teams to make call-ups like without much risk of losing a player."
3) Might not be pertinent for the Caps at the moment, but another injury or two like last night's to Steckel, and it could. Is Ben Clymer playing/healthy down in Hershey?

NS said...

not sure how fans are saying the Caps have caught their playoff stride just in time...

IMO its ~10 games too late. they are in a position now to have to play nearly flawlessly to make the playoffs.

yes, its going to be a hell of a rush, and i can't wait for every single game, but too much has to happen, that is out of our hands, for us to make the playoffs.

*crosses fingers*

@JP - i was one of the Kozlov naysayers at the beginning of the season, for good reason, but am now completely convinced of his value. he has stepped it up, post-Nylander-breakage, and become a very important piece of the playoff-push puzzle.

i'm lovin the Cooke addition more and more.

Anonymous said...

What pissed me off the most was the Penalty against Buffalo with 12 seconds left. I didn't want that bull call - I wanted to say we won without a single Power Play and that we killed all but 1 of Buffalo's.

Paul said...

I watched Kozlov and Poti all last year (I'm stranded on Long Island), and at the beginning of the season I posted about how much Caps fans were going to like them. I felt a little foolish for a while, but we're now seeing what I saw out of them last year. They are both versatile, steady, underrated players.

Unknown said...

Yes Scott, that penalty really mattered.

B8ovin said...

jed said Ovie had both hands on the stick and could therefore not be called for holding. I've visited every blog I read daily and have found no truer statement. There was no holding. Neither feet slewd. Perhaps his elbow was 1/4 of an inch higher than it could have been, but it would have been a cheap call on that. No penalty was called because none occurred.

Anybody else notice Alex's gesture toward the stands with his right hand after the second goal? A sort of "come on, bring it" wave? Hand to the ear redux?

There are many stories out there declaring that Alex is pulling the Caps into the playoffs singlehandedly. Backstrum, Kozlov, Laich aren't performing as well as they have all year? Surely, Alex is a catalyst but the team is playing some good hockey behind him.

Dan, Jr. said...

Ovechkin grabbed the puck away from Steve Bernier at the edge of the offensive zone. You could almost hear (the splash) as Bernier (dove into) went down to the ice. Ovie sent the puck back to Viktor Kozlov. Kozzy shuttled it to Nick Backstrom, who put the puck past Miller for his 11th goal of the season. Nickie now leads all NHL rookies with in points with 58, as well as assists with 47.