The Caps two game road trip concluded tonight in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have a new General Manager, earlier this week they replaced John Ferguson with Cliff Fletcher - a "new" old face. Fletcher is 72 years old and in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the founders category. A former President, COO & GM of the Leafs, Toronto signed Fletcher to a 19 month contract while they sort out what they want to do with their hockey operations management.
The last time these two teams played was October 29th in Toronto and the Caps beat the Leafs 7-1 during a period when the Glen Hanlon era team was not doing well. Tonight's game was nothing like that, for whatever reason the energy level of both teams seemed muted. In a relatively slow paced game the Caps never led, Toronto scored early Chad Kilger had a tip in from the low slot at 7:12 of the first and the Caps didn't answer until AO scored on on a nice 26 foot wrister at 2:27 into the second period. The Maple Leafs returned the favor at 18:44 of the second shortly after Antropov steamrolled the Caps Defense and Olie Kolzig. I'm still not sure how there was no goaltender interference call but I'd rather the game be called like it was tonight rather than how the last (Caps-Pens) game was called. At the end of 2 periods it was 2-1 Maple Leafs. The Leafs played hard throughout the third period and definitely worked for the win, however at 13:07 Alexander Semin scored off a pretty sweet feed from Dave Steckel and it looked like the Caps might pull this one out. As the rest of the period proceeded it was clear the Leafs were pressing (double shifting Mats Sundin, etc.) but for the most part it seemed like it was going to be the Caps night. Then at 19:30 Alexander Steen made a break and took a nice shot that Olie Kolzig stopped with a kick save that sent the rebound out to Mats Sundin who netted the game winner. Olie made some very good stops tonight but the Leafs worked hard to clog the low slot and succeeded pretty well. All three goals came from shots on the left side of the low slot. For the most part even though I was disappointed that Olie didn't smother the rebound on the last goal, the Caps weren't playing for overtime at that point, they were still playing for the win in regulation and to a large degree the bounce to Sundin was as much luck as a goal scorer knowing where to be. The game did have some highlights, John Erskine had a great game and made the highlight reels with one of the sweetest open ice checks this year - by anyone. Steve Eminger had a solid game as Jeff Schultz was a healthy scratch and got some rest. The Caps outshot the Leafs 32-24 and did a pretty good job of clogging the low slot too but couldn't get the goals. Opposing teams have definately been watching films and are clearly no longer even thinking about letting either Mike Green or Nicklas Backstrom skate around any freer than they let Ovechkin or Semin skate. The Caps have to figure out a way to make that work for them, in the Penguins game, Victor Kozlov did so but tonight nobody seemed able to do that. Ovechkin was the strongest player on the ice for the Caps and Sundin was clearly the backbone of the Leafs. There was some talk of a trade for Sundin, something I can't understand, he's the backbone of the Leafs and has a no trade clause.
Tomorrow's game at the Verizon Center is the back end of this home and home series and hopefully both teams will have higher energy levels in the Caps last game before the All Star break and we'll see a return to some more secondary scoring. The loss tonight stopped the Caps win streak at four (4) games; tomorrow night the Caps will be working to start a new winning streak. Let's Go Caps!!!!