Summary & Wrap Up
Final Score: CAPS 6, PENS 5 F/SO - A "2 Point Night"
This was a very exciting game for the Versus National TV audiance and in the end both Caps and Pens fans should be happy, though us Caps Fans will be a little happier since our team walked away with two points to the Penguins one. Both team's lineups had some major key players out with injuries - the Caps played without the following 1st level players: Star Center Michael Nylander; Defenseman Brian Pothier; Right Wing & Team Captain Chris Clark; and Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. Pittsburgh, despite being 10-1-2 in its last 13 games, is so depleted by injuries that nearly one-third of its current roster began the season in the minors. Forwards Chris Minard and Jonathan Filewich made their NHL debuts Monday. The Penguins played without: Superstar Center Sidney Crosby, Goalie Marc Andre Fleury, Right Wing Colby Armstrong, Center Ryan Stone and Center Tyler Kennedy.
Much of the early hype centered on this game being a battle of the Russians focused on Alexander Ovechkin of the Caps vs. Evgini Malkin of the Pens. No one could of guessed how right that hype would be - not only did Malkin and Ovechkin put on a battle of "anything you can do, I can do better" on the ice while they often went head to head but Ovechkin's Russian teammates Alexander Semin and Vicktor Kozlov and Malkin's Russian teammate, elder statesman Sergei Gonchar all figured significantly in the play and outcome of the game; as did the play of Goalie Olie Kolzig, Defenseman Mike Green and Rookie phenom Center Nicklas Backstrom for the Caps and Goalie Ty Conklin, Left Wing Ryan Malone, Veteran Right Wing Peter Sykora and Centers Jordan Staal and Maxime Talbot for the Pens.
The game was fast paced and high flying; overall ten (10) goals were scored in regulation and none were "cheap goals". For all my griping the Caps didn't allow that many shots at all nor did they allow many in the low slot,though it seemed like Olie was screened more than he should have been, and the Penguins scored on three (3) of four (4) shots/tip ins they made in the low slot and one (1) of two shots from the high slot. For Olaf Kolzig, Dany Sabourin, and Ty Conklin it wasn't a fun night to be them but neither Olie or Conklin got rattled, and to be honest I don't think Sabourin was rattled though after Ovie's second goal Michel Therrien was. I'm sure dmg will find fault with some of Olie's efforts since his SV% was only 66% stopping "only" 10 of 15 shots, but I reallyfeel you should only attribute two of the Penguin goals either fully or partially to Olie. At the other end Dany Sanbourin stopped just 9 of 13 shots before being replaced by Ty Conklin early in the second period. Conklin stopped 16 of 17 shots he faced including several almost miraculous saves; if Conklin could bottle his "MOJO" right now, I think every oterh goalie in the NHL would sleep in line before the store that sold it opens tomarrow. Strangely, both goals I think Olie would like back are Evgini Malkin's two tallies. However, I only really, really feel he should have had Malkin's second one dead on. Malkin's first goal - the backhand, was just a great move and even though he wasn't screened it was an impossible move for Olie to anticpate and a hard stop for ANY goalie in the league.
Despite some heartstoppping momnets, including a two man advantage Penguin Power Play for 1:07 during Overtime, you had to like the game if you were a Caps fan. By the end of the game Ovechkin had the league goal scoring lead both in total goals and power play goals; Niklas Backstrom had done something no rookie has ever done - back to back games with 4 assists. The OT penalty killing and two blocked shots by Quntin Laing will surely make this week's highlight reels - and right on the heels of him being the # 6 best player most people have never heard of in the NHL .("If he from Kahzakstan, he would have medal" - Borat.) As far as the standings go at the begining of the evening the Caps were in 11th in the conference two points behind Atlanta and third in the Southeast Division 3 points back of Carolina and two back of Atlanta. At the end of the night they are 10th in the Conference tied in points with Atlanta at 49 but with two games in hand and still three (3) points back of Carolina who has 52 points after beating the NY Islanders, However, the Caps have three games in hand (48 games played) over the Hurricanes (51 games played). The Caps are also only three points back of the eigth place New York Islanders who have 52 points in 48 games.
Based on the top level statistics, the Caps outplayed the Pens outshooting them 30-15 and won 40 of 68 faceoffs, though the Pens had 2 fewer penalties, 3 fewer giveaways and 3 more takeaways then the Caps; the Caps gave up three (3) power play goals and the Pens yield two (2) power play goals. In the battle of the Russians, the Caps won but only by a slim margin and it didn't hur that in Alexander Semin we had one more (3) Russian Aces to the Penguin's two (Malkin & Sergie Gonchar) I think after watching the game there can be no doubt that Malkin is as formidible a force as both Kovalchuk and Ovie - all three have wild moves. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we have Ovie; with the fire in his belly I think if you can only have one of the three on your team you want number 8. But how great would it be to be the coach of the Russian National team and have Ovechkin, Victor Kozlov, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Gonchar and Ilya Bryzlagov on your team? As Napolean Dynamite would say - "SWEET".
The three stars of the game are dead nuts on and a tribute to the youth movements in both Pittsdburgh and Washington: 1) Ovechkin, 2) Malkin, and 3) Backstrom.
Runing Commentary and tidbits fromt the game:
I hate it when I'm right about certain things - don't you? Okay, so at 4:39 into the game Green and Poti let Maxime Talbot walk up to the doorstep and slam a puck though Olie's 5 hole and appear surprised that 1) he did it and 2) that Nicklas Backstrom didn't figure a way to catch up with him.
Now less than a minute later the Caps look like they're asleep so Semin has to take a hooking penalty to prevent another waltz - this time by Evgini Malkin. Maybe the penalty kill will make the boys in Red, White and Blue wake up.
Well the Caps got through that penalty kill okay but the Pens are doing a great job clogging the passing lanes - it's 10 minutes into the first period and I'm not sure the Caps have put together two consecutive good passes yet. I do know I really HATE the current banal commentary from these VS announcers.
Fleischman just did a great second effort to tie it at one and now the Caps are awake - the game tied and things are starting to look up. Yet the very inane banter from the VS color analysts continues. I guess why talk about the game in process when you can talk about senseless, irrelavant stuff is the Versus motto or maybe it's just Joe Bennanti's way of auditioning to get out of DC and into some "hockey worthy place" like Toronto .
I missed the next two goals as the announcing so annoyed me I watched some of the Democratic Candidate Presidential debate from South Carolina on CNN - it wasn't any better than the Versus announcers. Now "blabbermouth" aka: Christine Simpson is interviewing Mike Green at the intermission. Though the two interview questions are kind of silly, personnaly if I were them after the way the first period ended I'd focus the story line on the competative nature of Malkin and Ovechkin, two off ice friends who almost got into a hockey fight at the end of the period.
The second period is wild! At the first real break where I can type instead of watching and it's 4-4. Ovie has scored two goals one on the first shift of the period on the power play and the second with an even strength snapshot at 7:29. The Pens have two power play goals - both on power plays from pretty weak calls (IMHO) - Malkin got his second with a good play, but the Sykora goal was textbook even without Sid the Kid in the lineup. The pace of this game has been awesome and the hitting is intese - this is just a sweet game to watch.
Now there's a break in the action while they do a repair to the "glass". After the Ovie's second goal, a 29 foot snapshot, the Pens pulled Sabourin and put in Ty Conklin - personally I don't know why they didn't have Conklin as the starter after the way he stoned so many Caps during the last game. At the end of two it's 4-4.
At the end of the second, Donald Brashear tried to lay a big hit on Jordsan Staal but Staal turned the tables and Brash ended up on his butt. The color guys are now talking about how good the young Caps are and how Nicklas Backstrom's back to back 3+ assist games are the first time a rookie has done that in 25 years.
Peter Sykora is the interview; and for over 30 minutes of hockey I haven't heard Crosby's name mentioned more than one or two times, maybe I can stand these guys after all. Or maybe it's just a really intensely good game so I stopped caring - if we're taking a poll I'd cote for the stopped caring answer.
They talked for a couple of seconds about Ovie's contract and nobody made a stupid comment that made no sense - I guess nobody on this team has a side job working for the Toronto or Ottawa Sun or New York Post. Clearly the switch to Ty Conklin was NOT a bad move by Therrien as so far he's played excellently. His aggrssive play during the Penguin's power plays has definately compicated the Capitals penaly killing assignments and efforts.
Here we go with Christine Simpson's interview. Peter Sykora's interview was pretty good, heavily accented but better than the inane questions that she ended the Green interview with.
The Caps are outshooting the Pens 19-11 after two period so I expect the Pens to come out for the thrid period flying. The Caps definately had the momentum at the end of the second. The Caps first line has been very productive so far this game with three of the four goals. It seems about time for the second line to get their second goal, Semin has been hustling and so has Fleischman and Gordon but they only have 5 of the 19 shots between the three of them so far. Here we go...
So now we have two really hot teams, who are playing an intensely, pretty excellent game so far coming out and taking measure of each other.
The Caps have a goal disallowed because of what from the TV vantage point looks like a horrible (as in erroneous) penalty call on Matt Bradley. Then Gonnchar takes a good wrist shot through two screening Caps, one of whom, Malone deflects it in to the net. So on the penalty kill the Caps made two mistakes - nobody challenged Gonchar - why should they? He only beat them with an OT goal that looked erily similar last game; and they let two Pens camp in the low slot including the goal scorer Ryan Malone. I hate it when I'm right.
Now with 14:30 left the Caps are flying. Of course the Pens fans are stupidly chanting "Olie" like any of these goals were on him except for Malkin's second one.
Now the Caps have a power play - they were swarming and the Pens got nervous and had to take the penalty. Hopefully Conklin's "MOJO" won't hold. The penalty is on Malkin - he and Ovechkin are really mixing it up. Oh well, even through this penalty that was quickly followed by a Delay of Game on Conklin himself - Conklin's "MOJO" is indeed holding.
Olie Kolzig has been pretty cool to watch as well - he robbed Malkin on a 1-0 breakaway earlier.
Finally after killing off 2 penalties, Conklin and the Pens slip ever so slightly but it took a nother textbook setup by Backstrom and a solid shot through a small crack in Conklin's armor by Kozlov (his second goal and fourth in two games) at 15:29, and the game is tied again at 5-5. This game is starting to feel like the one in the hockey song.
Since we're in the world of Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell where they are working to ruin the game of hockey two basically sound plays by Tom Poti and John Erskine result in penalties to the Caps and give the Pens a 5-3 advantage. Erskine's hooking penalty was the seventh hooking call tonight and only two of those seven panalties were no doubt hooks that would have been called before the recent Betman era. Of course, I'm starting to feel like this is all just a "vast conspiracey" to make sure that the NHL gets Sidney into the playoffs. However now thanks to great shot blocking by Quintin Laing and two excellent saves by Kolzig the Caps and the Pens finish OT in a 5-5 tie and we go to the shootout.
LETS GO CAPS!!!! and I'd like to start a campaign to get physical play once again allowed in the NHL - the call on Poti was lame - the call on Erskine was even lamer. Frankly, the "tight officiating" (14 penalties through 65 minutes of hockey tonight) and this unsubstantiated belief that higher scoring games are found more enjoyable to watch is just bogus in my opinion. I don't care about the score a fast paced game is great and so is a lot of hitting, the thing that got this game going for fans on both sides was the attempted check by Ovechkin on Malkin at the end of the first period, not any of the ten (10) goals. The way games are being called these days really is getting excessively negative on physical play.
The Caps win the shootout 2-1 on good goals on good backhand moves by Ovecin and Semin, so the Caps stop the Penguin's streak over them at 6 and leave the Igloo with two points.
Truth be told other then the officiating which is just reflective of the stupidity of Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell the game was a great one to watch. As wierd as it sounds there was some awesome goaltending by both Olie Kolzig and Ty Conklin though their numbers won't properly reflect that level of play.