Okay, pardon the rudeness of the headline but I gotta say it. Come on, how can you mess up a hockey game up so badly and still be an NHL official? Greg Kimmerly and Marc Joannette called the most one sided game in regulation today - it was simply pathetic. Three times at critical junctures they simply made totally bad, erroneous calls. Observers can only conclude one of either two things about these two "unbiased officials" - a) they either were rooting for the Bruins or b) they are totally incompetent. The offensive issues/blown calls in case you missed today's game were as follow. 1) At the tail end of the second period while trying to get from the penalty box to the bench after serving a 2:00 minute minor for hooking, Milan Jurcina had a collision with a streaking Bruin, had an incidental high stick and was called for a DOUBLE minor. In this case Jurcina should have been called for only a single minor but instead was whistled off for 4:00. 2) Then during the ensuing power play, Caps penalty killer Boyd Gordon was clearly interfered with when trying to get back on the play that led to the Bruins goal, but no call was made when it clearly should have been. 3) In the third period after he was clearly tripped while going full speed by Bruin Mark Stuart, Alexander Ovechkin was called for Unsportsmanlike Conduct (Diving). There was no way Ovie dove, and no way from any angle you could confuse what happened - him being clearly tripped - with a dive. So instead of a 5-4 man advantage the Caps and Bruins played 4-4 for two minutes. All three of these critical calls went against the Caps, rarely does that happen in an NHL game - usually the officiating missed and/or blown calls are pretty evenly distributed. Not this afternoon, regulation ends tied 1-1 both Huet in net for the Caps and Auld for the Bruins played superbly. Fortunately, the Caps won the shootout and took two points as they leave Verizon Center for a six game road trip. Even the offsides calls seemed one sided but that's probably just "homerism" on my part.
Clearly the first star of today's game for the Caps was Christobel Huet who stopped 39 of the 40 shots he faced. On the other side of the ice, Alexander Auld played very well as well and many of the 32 stops he had on the 33 shots he faced in regulation and overtime just robbed the likes of excellent offensive players like Ovechkin and Mike Green and he deserved the second star of the game. The third star of the game was awarded to Alexander Semin, the "other Alex" logged 19:15 of ice time on 20 shifts, he had 4 shots, 1 attempt blocked, 4 missed shots, 1 give away, and 2 take aways in the first three periods and overtime. Semin didn't log any points and was +/- 0 for the game but it seemed like he was everywhere and flying to get there. He also scored the first shootout goal for the Caps. Despite the downer of giving the Bruins a point, the two points were sourly needed by the Caps and the energy level of the team was very evident.
Trade deadline deals and "rental players" are oft scrutinized and in hindsight often not worth the effort. The Capitals General Manager, George McPhee, however has to be happy with the results of the pickups he made at the trade deadline, especially while watching today's game. By way of review, at the deadline the Caps picked up 1) veteran center Sergei Federov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for 19 year old prospect defenseman Ted Ruth; 2) goaltender Christobel Huet from the Montreal Canadiens for a second round draft pick in the 2009 draft; and 3) forward Matt Cooke from the Vancouver Canucks for forward Matt Pettinger. Federov has centered a rejuvenated second line between Alexander Semin and Cooke; been part of an energized power play unit and along with Cooke been a solid penalty killer. Today, Federov got his first goal as a Capital. Huet has been very solid between the pipes including today's performance where he had a save percentage of 0.975. Prior to today's game, Matt Cooke was +3 with 2 goals (including a short handed goal last game) and 3 assists for 5 points in 7 games since joining the Capitals. (Interestingly, Matt Pettinger, who was traded to the Canucks for Cooke, has also been showing much more of his "old self" since joining Vancouver - Petty has 2 goals, 2 assists, and is +1 in 10 games played.)
From a push to the playoffs perspective giving the Bruins a point they didn't deserve was unfortunate. The 10th place Caps could have used making up two, vice one point on the 7th place Bruins. Even worse, in the race for the Southeast Division Championship the Caps got no help in the standings from the Ottawa Senators who fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 in Carolina today. On the positive side, the once again "Crosby-less Penguins" denied the skidding 8th place Philadelphia Flyers any points, embarrassing them with a 7-1 defeat at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. For the day, the Caps made up two points on the Flyers and are now just one point behind the 9th place Buffalo Sabres and two points behind the 8th place Flyers; all three teams have played 73 games thus far in the season. The Caps have 9 games left in the season to make up either two points on the Flyers, five points on the 7th palce Bruins and the 6th place New York Rangers, or five points on the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes. The 9 remaining games include 6 road games before the Caps finish the season out with a 3 game home stand. Of the 9 remaining games, 7 are against Southeast Division rivals including two against the Hurricanes. The Capitals' playoff prospects aren't dead yet, and they sure are fun to watch these days. LETS GO CAPS!!!