Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Happened? – Sometimes I Hate It When I’m Right

Bottom Line: Carolina 6 – Washington 3; a “No Points” Night for the Capitals

Why do the Caps keep coming up short in these important Southeast Division games as the season drives to a close? Generalities are rarely useful from an analytical standpoint without solid data to back things up and need to be left until another time as they don’t need to be applied to figure the reasons for this loss. Last evening the Caps just didn’t execute on the things they needed to do. On the other hand the Carolina Hurricane’s though they had some lapses executed on what they needed to do and “played their game”. Oe thing for sure is no cliches apply, look at the scorecard on things and match-ups to watch as compared to the results, and the reasons for this loss become clear. Both teams showed up and played to win, Carolina just did it all a little better last night, and it ended up making a huge difference.

Offensive Keys:
- The Caps needed to stay out of the penalty box or have their PK unit (18th in the league) play well as 28% of the Hurricanes’ goals are from the power play. Key result: The Caps put the Hurricanes on the power-play 7 times (counting Kozlov’s double minor) and the Hurricanes scored 4 of their 6 goals on the man advantage. Caps failed to execute in two ways – they gave far too many power play chances to Carolina and their PK unit went 42.8% (versus their season average of 80.5%)
- Erik Cole was indeed stoked for the game and had the intensity factor up notching a powerplay goal and an assist. For the game he logged 22:25 TOI, led the Canes in Hits with 5 an even though he went -1 for the game he was a major factor in the offense as he was on the ice for the four Carolina power play goals.
- For the Canes they got continued solid “secondary scoring” from Williams, Samsonov, Walker and Cullen. Cullen scored two, and Ladd scored one in fact “secondary scoring accounted for 60% of the goals scored by Hurricane’s forwards; and Samsonov with two assists was involved in both the Hurricanes’ even strength tallies.
- Alexander Semin: While it’s hard to be complimentary of individual performances when the team looses, Number 28 showed up for the game and had a reasonably good night. He logged 18:25 TOI, scored a goal, took 4 shots had a takeaway and no giveaways and played disciplined hockey staying out of the penalty box. In fact, Semin’s mature play when he was “mugged” by Andrew Ladd in the second period and kept his cool led to a power play that Brooks Laich capitalized on. “The other Alex” played to win and wasn’t the on the ice for either of the Hurricane’s even strength goals – take that James Mirtle; oh yeah except the Capitals lost so we can’t be too happy, nor probably is Semin.
- Alexander Ovechkin: Logged 23:03; had 3 assists “kinda” broke out of his slump and also brought his game even though he failed to score in any of his 8 shots, 6 blocked attempts and one missed shot – clearly Cam Ward enjoys stopping the league’s “big guns” on other Southeast Division rosters. Notably Ovechkin led the Caps in hits with 5, was directly involved in all three of the Caps goals, was even in +/- and logged 1:08 of successful PK time during which he and Backstrom were able to stymie an otherwise awesome night for the Hurricane’s power play. Unfortunately in what may have been one of the two most important match ups of the night – Ward vs. Ovechkin – Ward won, and though Ovie made up some ground on his buddy Malkin in the race for points leadership and personally had a pretty good night , he’s probably not too happy either.
- Backstrom and Fleischmann: Backstrom vs. Whitney and Fleischmann vs. Cole. Neither Backstrom or Flash had horrible nights, but they didn’t have great ones either. Whitney and Cole combined for 4 points, were impact players in the game and ended up the evening on a team with a 6 point lead in the standings.

Defensive Keys:
- Joe Corvo and Bret Hedican’s play: Corvo - TOI: 20:56, 2 Assists, 1 Goal, +/- even, 3 takeaways, 2 blocked shots, no giveaways; Hedican – TOI 20:57, 1 hit, 2 takeaway, 2 blocked shots, -1 on the night. Basically, a very solid night for both leading Hurricane D-Men.
- Frantisek Kaberle and Niclas Wallin’s play: Kaberle – TOI 16:44 (1:55 of PK), +/- +1, 4 shots, 1 blocked shot; Wallin – TOI 17:19 (2:30 of PK), +/- +1, 1 shot, 1 takeaway. A solid night for Kaberle and Wallin and a key to the Hurricane’s win.
- The Mike Green – Joe Corvo match up: Green – TOI: 25:25, +/- +1, 1 assist, 1 goal, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot, 2 shots, 2 blocked attempts, 1 missed shot, no giveaways or takeaways; Green had a solid outing but Corvo’s 3 takeaways and 2 assists give a slight edge to the veteran in this match-up. However last year this time and before the Caps coaching change this comparison wouldn’t have even been in the realm of reality, Green really needs to be the next Cap that Management locks up a contract extension with.

The Goaltending Matchup:
- Cam Ward stopped 31 of 34 for a save % of 91.18%, Olie Kolzig stopped 36 of 42 for a save % of 85.71%. While Kolzig had a reasonable outing, the Caps needed him to have a super night. At the other end of the ice Ward had a solid night and stoned the league’s leading goal scorer on his eight shots. But you can’t put this game all on Olie Kolzig, giving the Hurricanes 7 power plays is what enabled them to get 42 shots on goal. Even if Ovechkin had scored a goal for the Caps to have won the game 4-3, they would have needed Kolzig to have had a save % of 92.86% to limit the Hurricanes to three goals last night. On his better nights Olie Kolzig is still capable of a save percentage of 93% but it’s certainly a hard way to win. To top it off in addition to the 42 shots the Caps blocked an additional 14 attempts by the Hurricanes.

Overall the game was actually closer than the score would indicate but the Caps didn’t execute on all cylinders and the Hurricanes did. Both teams gave up too many other power play opportunities to the other but the Caps only scored on 2 of 4 opportunities while the Canes scored on 4 of 7. The Hurricane’s offense hit on all points with a shooting % of 14.29 while the Caps were a solid but unspectacular 8.82%. Putting this in perspective if the Caps had scored that fourth goal their shooting percentage would have been a much more respectable 11.76%; and if they had matched the Hurricanes’ performance they would have scored 4 or 5 goals. Despite pundits thoughts to the contrary, recent results indicate the Southeast division isn’t a cake walk or filled with “lightweights” so the Caps need to kick it up a notch and get back to the form they had in January.

Finally, Mark’s Musing Prognostication Grade: F - Leave this sort of stuff to Peerless.
- Kolzig, Backstrom and Ward made me wrong. I predicted: Caps win 4-2 on one of Olie Kolzig's best nights this season; goals scored by Semin (1); Green (1) and Ovechkin (2). Backstrom has 3 assists and both Green and Semin have great +/- nights. That said I didn’t forsee the Caps being outshot 42 – 34, nor did I forsee Ovechkin getting three assists and no goals either.

This evening another hot team and hot goalie – the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur at Verizon Center – LETS GO CAPS!!!!!

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