Remember yesterday when we noted that Alex Ovechkin's absence presented an opportunity for every Cap to raise his game a notch and that how individuals perform with the MVP out of the lineup would tell us a lot about those players? Well, Alex Semin told us what we already knew: he's really, really good.
The Caps tried - and failed - to simply hold on to a third period lead, but the "other" Alex willed his team to victory like his more celebrated countryman has done on so many nights. Last night, Alex Semin became a man. Last night was Alex Semin's hockey Bar Mitzvah.
A few thoughts on the game:
- A dozen minutes into the first period, Viktor Kozlov deposited some loose change in front following a classic Mike Green rush to give the Caps a 1-0 lead and a 16-2 edge in shots (they'd end the period with a 19-4 shot on goal advantage and a 33-6 shot at goal differential).
- Unfortunately, the Caps used that all-important "shift after a goal" to take a penalty, which the Preds then used to tie the game.
- Unfortunately, the Caps used that all-important "shift after a goal" to take a penalty (yes, again), but this time Semin's brilliant blueline-to-blueline tape-to-tape pass sprung David Steckel on a breakaway, which he converted (and since there's no video evidence of it, he can claim he deked and roofed a backhander past Dan Ellis... and who's going to correct him?). And I'll admit to wondering aloud whether giving Steckel a sweater over Eric Fehr was a good idea.
- It may have taken 526:21 of game time (give or take), but Nicklas Backstrom finally registered a primary assist - a beautiful feed on Semin's power play goal. Backstrom's quest for an even strength point and a goal continues, however.
- Shaone Morrisonn continued his rapid regression with some poor defense and a horrible interference penalty with under five minutes remaining in the game (and speaking of late penalties, or, more precisely, a lack thereof, the refs missed an obvious Nashville check from behind on Green).
- The ice, after a week of horses trotting around the VC, was quite choppy by the third period.
- As alluded to above, the Caps were throttled in the third period, and Nashville's goal came on their 14th shot of the frame (to two for the hosts at that point).
- You'd have hoped for more from a veteran like Michael Nylander, but he turned in a two-stick-penalty/1 SOG/36% faceoffs effort... before scoring the game-winning shootout goal (OffWing Photo has a great pic of it, btw).
- Nylander, Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Green killed it in Corsi Rating. Boyd Gordon continues to struggle.
- Things happen when J.P. Dumont is on the ice at even strength. We knew he was near the top in both GAON/60 and GFON/60, and last night we saw why - he had the game's worst Corsi Rating (minus-ten), but was on the ice for Nashville's two even strength goals.
- Jose Theodore was solid, both in his play and his demeanor.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
A nice closeup of JT60's mask over at SI.com.... Alex Semin is clutch.... Michael Farber adds his two cents to AO's slow start (quick summary: it's Backstrom's fault).... A double dose of Dan Sernoffsky, first on Daren Machesney being "the man," then on assorted Bears miscellany.... If Olie Kolzig hadn't found an opportunity in the Southeast Division, he might have retired. Wait - he didn't retire?
I don't know. The third-period goal that Nashville got was kind of stupid, and I was not real pleased with JT for that one (and I sit in 429, I got a real good view of it). The second period one was absolutely not his fault.
Dan Ellis was working miracles out there. The Predators would have been slaughtered without him.
Third period was not pretty. Agreed on Morrisson -- I was taking a wait-and-see on him, but that interference penalty was just plain dumb.
Hope Green's okay - he was limping off the ice on at least one occasion near the end of the 3rd. He was back out there in OT, but that check into the boards scared me, and I don't think he came away unscathed.
The shootout was beautiful. I understand why BB put Backstrom out there -- he had the room to do it with Semin's goal, and the kids needs a confidence bolster. I didn't think he did badly, either.
Defense was actually fairly solid through most of the game. Even Erskine didn't do anything egregious (wait, did Erskine and Mo switch places suddenly?)
Well, it's two points in the books, though it was closer than I was happy with. Now for Buffalo on Saturday, and the boys need the rest, because Buffalo is going to give them all they can handle.
Also got to meet SombreroGuy last night, in a wild happenstance. :)
@wittcap: Enh. The first and third goals were softies, IMHO. The second-period one was D's fault. JT didn't really have a chance on that one, and I don't hold that against him. He did well in the shootout.
@ TSFR: I've got to disagree on that 3rd period goal being soft - it was a pretty crazy deflection.
And by "the second-period one was D's fault," you mostly mean Mo.
I thought Jose was much better than his stat line.
Speaking of Olie, that SI goalie mask photo shoot has him in an oft too familiar pose...looking over his shoulder.
For anyone who was there, how did JT60 play? Another 3 goal game and sub-.900 SV%? The Caps really are going to HAVE to score 4 goals a game to win at this rate.
And when does Bruce bench Shaone? He's been absolutely horrible so far. You might as well send him to Hershey and call up King Karl if he's gonna be this bad. It's about the same cap hit, right? Early prediction...Shaone Morrisson is not-tendered this offseason.
LOL, I deleted my old comment and screwed the order of everything up...sorry guys.
Ellis played well in NSH late last year as well.
So there's no video of the game at all? I knew it wasn't televised but jeez, can't we get video highlights?
I agree with JP, Theodore was better than his stat line. The 3rd goal was a fluke defelction and the second goal is yet anothe rexample of Mo's ongoing efforts to make the Erskine signing look brilliant.
As a noted Semin hater, I must admit he is showing me a lot of developement this year. I still want to see some more of the season before I jump ont he bandwagon, though.
Nylander bailed himself out with that shootout goal.
Ellis is a stud.
At this point, would you taken Sloan over Erskine (once Poti is back)?
The ice, eh? A continuing embarrassment to the Capitals organization and to the managers of the building. Therefore, I'd amend your bullet point to read: The ice, after a week of horses trotting around the VC and years of ignorance and disinterest by Caps and VC officials, was quite choppy by the third period.
I may be in the minority here, but I didn't think there was anything JT60 could have done about the first goal either. Holy cow was that a shot.
For the second goal the puck took a bounce over everyone in the middle and found the guy on the right who shot it before JT60 could recover. Could he have had it? Maybe.
Couldn't really see the third goal from 403.
And aside from the breakdowns noted, there were several other defensive "issues" where the Caps got lucky. I'm not happy if I'm BB.
The big takeaway from last night (other than Semin's play), I think, is JT60's ever-growing confidence. This, from Corey's article:
"In the third, I just kind of said, 'It's a one-period game; it's a 2-2 game.' And I think in the third, I felt really good. They needed a really fluky goal to get one past me."
That's a goalie who's getting comfortable and locked in.
On the third goal, JT60 was in perfect position and so was 55, complete with having his man's stick tied up. It just deflected off a skate or something fluky. It happens.
Incidentally, 55 has been a beast of late. He's been the Caps' best defender since Poti went down. And Juice has stepped up too.
Last night is a good example of how the Caps' game suffered as/when the ice did. The Caps probably rely on skill, speed and long passes more than any team in the East. When the ice takes that away, it helped enable NSH's stormin'-back third period.
Stop telling the fans that the ice is OK. We don't buy it.
A frustrated STH who pays for quality hockey, not rugby-on-slush.
The only goal that was JT's fault was the first one. He wasn't screened, he just didn't react fast enough. Having said that, he played well last night I thought.
The ice SUCKED last night. How many players lost the puck while on a breakaway? Luckily, one of the was Ellis on the shorty.
I'm not sure that a Pred didn't clip JT60 a bit on that first goal - he was a little late and unsteady getting over for that shot (and, btw, Flash should have been in the passing lane that set up that one-timer).
Of course, no television limited the replays, so I guess we'll never know.
Backstrom's best play last night was when he backchecked the Nashville player who was about to score into an empty net late in the second. If the Preds score there, it could have been game over. Nick will be fine, he just came into camp out of shape and then ge got hurt early. But every game, he's getting better and better. I wish I had the same optimistic outlook for Clark. He was nearly invisible out there last night. I think losing last season to injuries has really hurt him. He just doesn't seem to have a feel for the game right now.
@jp: I dunno about that, but if it's the one I'm thinking of, it was an around, not an over. I thought he almost had it then let it slip. We can agree to disagree on that one.
The second was - was that Mo down there? I did not have a good view of that one.
I'm not a JT hater, and I thought he ended up with a better than 90% SP? I do agree that he isn't as horrible as some people think he is, and certainly he acquitted himself damned well in the shootout. I just thought that third goal could have been stopped.
Mostly, though, the issue was us taking the third period off. That sucked and needs to not continue, especially on Saturday. Buffalo is on a tear right now, and if we don't bring our A game for a full sixty minutes, we /will/ get slaughtered.
@this space for rent-sorry, but I'm with jp on this one. That third goal was absolutely not JT's fault. The shot changed direction three times. It was first headed to Theodore's right, then it hit a defenseman's skate and ricocheted to the left then it hit Arnott's skate and slid back to the right behind JT. The only way he stops that is by sheer luck. As much as Ellis kept Nashville in the game in the first, JT did the same in the third.
A nice closeup of JT60's mask over at SI.com
You mean the one where he slapped a Capitals logo over the Avalanche big foot on his chin guard?
As for the two OWO pics, it looks as if they took a lifesize mannequin of Dan Ellis and propped him in the crease with precisely the same pose, save for a slightly different stick position.
I don't think Schultz had a strong game. He absolutely flubbed a wide open chance to win the game in third/OT, but the worst part is that he continues to turn the puck over in our zone when pressured, it happened once when we were down a man and he made a lazy play around our net that went right to a Preds player and created a great scoring chance. Jurcina was guilty of this as well, but Schultz turned the puck over on at least 4 occasions under pressure, my Brother who is new to the Caps made the observation that #55 seemed to play scared when pressured and turned the puck over. I think Schultz overall has passed Mo as our #1 Defensive Dman this year, but this was not one of his best games in my opinion.
If you wanna see highlights (for those of us unable to attend the game), you have to go to Canada. Well, TSN anyway.
SO, you could see the game in Canada. Yeah -- that makes sense.
Highlights are also up on Tarik's blog;
"Last night was Alex Semin's hockey Bar Mitzvah" -- oh, that's a classic! But it was really true. That pass to Steckel was unbelieveable, and if Tarik is right that his shoot out goal knocked the water bottle off the goalie net, well, that's some power. On the PP, he did a good job of stealing the puck in a quiet, strategic manner that shows amazing maturity - quite a contrast to last year.
Theo got better and better as the game wore on and he was solid in the 3rd - that goal in the 3rd deflected and was a fluke.
What's the deal with not being able to hold 3rd period leads? Every coach plays shutdown mode with a lead but the shot disparity in the 3rd was ridiculous.
Here's hoping for a blowout up in Buffalo ;) - by the way, I think JT starts Saturday.
I love Semin's reaction to his own goal - he shot it so fast he wasn't sure it went it... took him a few seconds.
2 goals allowed on the first 7 SOG?
You really think that's solid? Sure he recovered but that's not solid in my book.
52 had a lot of giveaways, too. He needs to remedy that soon.
By rule, checking from behind is a five minute major and a game misconduct. Do you really think that the check on Green warranted a major penalty and game misconduct? I don't. The defender didn't use his stick (therefore no cross check); he didn't skate, jump or charge violently into Green (hence no charge); and Green was never checked into the boards (hence no boarding). It was a dangerous play because it occurred so close to the boards, but I don't think that is was grounds for a major penalty and game misconduct.
Wilbur, the issue at hand is that Malkin was given two minutes for checking Semin from behind, and, while that is the technical definition, and what Malkin should have gotten, if Refs can take liberties and decide it's only a 2 minute infraction, then do it. Lack of uniformity is the big problem.
That's incorrect...Malkin was given two minutes for boarding, not checking from behind. On the check in question, the defender never used his stick, didn't charge, and Green never hit the boards. Folks at VC (and apparently JP) were calling for the ref's head after Green was checked. So what is the penalty? Again, it's either a five minute major and a game misconduct for checking form behind or no penalty at all; a two minute minor is not an option. The refs can't make up the rules and call penalties that don't exist in the rulebook. In this case, I agree witht he refs that the aforementioned check didn't warrant a major penalty.
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