As a break to another hectic day in a hectic week, we simple Bristow, VA residents settled down to watch the Washington Capitals vs the Chicago Blackhawks on Comcast+, turning on the TV a little early, I was rewarded with the beginning of "The Core" on F/X and once again realized it's on so much because it's a FUN movie. It's an even better movie when you're getting ready to watch some the Caps try and make it two in a row on the road. The great movie line of the night before the game was: "Okay, IF I agree to do this, I'm gonna need an unlimited supply of Xena tapes and Hot Pockets." At least for me it was the perfect mood setting line before watching a Caps Game. LETS GO CAPS! Time to "Unleash The Fury".
It was Tony Esposito night and a sellout in Chicago and the Blackhawks came out flying. Before four minutes had 8 shots on Olie Kolzig and two goals - an even strength goal at 1:27 by Jason Williams and a power play score by Johnathan Toews at 3:19 while Sami Lepisto was in the penalty box for an Interference call. It wasn't so much that the Caps came out flat, it was indeed just that the Hawks' intensity was mind-boggling. Perhaps Chicago watched a tape of last night's game in Nashville and wanted to make sure the Caps didn't catch them on the backs of their heels. Just as the Caps seemed to be picking up the pace the Caps got caught up ice. The Blackhawks got a 3 on 2 breakaway the Yannick Perreault put a rocket wrist shot through a partial screen over the left shoulder (glove side) into the top corner of the net behind Kolzig, making it 3-0 at 9:14. At 10:00 the Caps got their first power play of the night on tripping call on Dustin Byfuglien, but they didn't get a shot on net due to the Blackhawks' awesome PK unit. At 17:56 Patrick Sharp made it 4-0 after they looked like they had a shooting drill going on Olie Kolzig - not one of the Caps on the ice looked good on that one. The Blackhawks had Kolzig "surrounded" and for some reason none of the Caps could clear the low slot or the corners of the crease; and for some reason Olie couldn't smoother any of the first three shots he stopped before Sharp scored his 35th goal of the year. At 18:27 the Caps got their second power play of the night and applied pretty good pressure before the end of the period. However, Nickolai Khabiboulan made two really nice stops and the period ended with the Caps trailing 4-0. First period summary for the Caps - lots of Hot Pockets; unleashed fury? not so much.
The second started with the Capitals on the power play for a little under the first half minute. Alexander Ovechkin came out "banging" making two solid hits in his first shift of the period. The Caps worked hard at the start of the period to change the games momentum. However, after keeping things pretty even for 10:19 the Rene Bourque a 1-0 breakaway on a nice outlet pass from Williams, and Bourque put it through Kolzigs "five hole" to make it 5-0 Blackhawks with just over a half game played. Following Bourgue's goal, the game see-sawed though the Caps could never get anything going because Khabiboulan was super when he needed to be.
During the third period the Caps played their best hockey of the night but again came up short. For the period the score ended 0-0 after Khabiboulan robbed Alexander Semin with a diving save to preserve his shutout with 2:58 left in the game. Even during the third period the Caps were outshot by the Blackhawks 11-13. Overall on the night the Caps were outshot 42 - 12, and veteran goalie Olie Kolzig must have felt "naked" at times. Despite being on the loosing end of a 5-0 shutout, Kolzig's save percentage was 88.095 for the game; his NHL career average was is 90.6% and he is on track to finish this season with an 89.3% save percentage, so he pretty much played what for him has become an average game. While Kolzig's performance wasn't up to the same level he had been playing the past three games, he has been gone 3-0-0 and had a SV% of 94.2% in his last four games played, tonight's loss isn't on his shoulders, allowing 43 shots on goal, including multiple breakaways, the Caps clearly weren't the team they have proven they can be. A disappointing loss, in front of over 20,000 Chicago fans, tonight's game is even harder for Caps fans to stomach since Carolina won and is once again 5 points ahead of the Caps for, in the race for the Southeast Division title. Now, despite having their last seven games against Southeast Division opponents including two against the Hurricanes, the Caps best hopes for a playoff berth is clearly to overtake the Eastern Conference 8th place Philadelphia Flyers who they remain two points behind.
Next up, the Thrashers (who lost to Carolina tonight and are now 2-6-2 in their last 10 games) in Atlanta. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!