Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blue Jackets 3, Capitals 0 - Is Turnabout Really Fair Play?

Last night was a "No Point" night for the Capitals. The just looked flat as they came into Columbus, OH, home of David Steckel's Alma Mater. Unfortunately for the Caps, while the Hershey call-ups played a fair game, they didn't play a great game, and apparently Karl Alzner injured his arm in the second period. If your counting that's an entire baseball team of folks the Caps now have that are injured, as my son used to say when he was a toddler - yuk, double. What can you say, a tired, flat team ran into a team that definitely "wanted it more" and a hot goaltender. Instead of the Caps snapping a three game road loosing streak, Columbus snapped a three game home loosing streak. Not too many Caps players had good games and nobody in a Capitals sweater had a great game. Statistically the only bright spot was David Steckel winning 12 of 17 (71%) faceoffs. Brent Johnson's 28 saves on 31 shots (0.904) was respectable, though it's probably a good bet he'd like another chance at both of Rick Nash's goals. That said, Rick Nash is one of the best in the NHL and he along with several other Blue Jackets, not the least of which were R.J. Umberger and Steve Mason, clearly brought their "A" games last night and outplayed the Capitals for the vast majority of the game.

If there is any good news about last night, it's that November has come and gone and overall, the Capitals somehow managed to string together a winning record for the month. Overall in November the Caps went 8-5-2, during what was arguably, the toughest month of their schedule. Put those 18 points on top of the Caps respectable 5-3-1 October record and the Caps finished November in first place in the Southeast Division 3 points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes with 29 points. When we were looking ahead at November a short 30 days ago the idea of an 18 point month and the Caps playing 0.600 through a month with so many tough teams on the schedule and 9 games on the road was something, we'd have thought would make us elated. It only shows how far the Caps have come since just 12 short months ago that the very same result leaves many of us Caps fans wondering what could have been. For instance, we wonder what kind of month would it have been had the Caps found ways to win the two overtime games - one against New Jersey and one against Ottawa, and how about if they had beaten the two teams we, now emboldened Caps fans, feel they should have won on the road - Los Angeles and Columbus; finally add to that the possibility of snatching a victory from the Minnesota Wild where the rally come back feel just short and the possibility of at least a 25 point month all of the sudden seems very real. Well let's all just forget the "shoulda, woulda, couldas" - the Caps are playing 0.604 hockey since the beginning of the season - that's on track for a 99/100 point season. There are definitely some things the Caps need to work on, "fer sure."

The Caps road record is a very disturbing 4-8-2 on the season. The good news - the Caps two West Coast road trips are "under their belt". The bad news - the Caps finish their season on the road with a 3 game road trip against Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida between April 7th and 11th; the Caps also have one more 5 game road trip between now and the end of the season - March 16th - 24th, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Toronto. While the Caps need to get things turned around when it comes to figuring out how to be road warriors, arguably they have been the toughest team in the league in their own building so far this season with a 9-0-1 record through November 30th. Another piece of good news between now and the end of the season the Caps have 4 more home games then road games.

Over the past two months the Caps haven't done well on the second night of back to back games. Their record on the second night of back to back games so far this season is: 1-2-1. That's the bad news. The good news? The Caps only have 7 more games this season that are second games of back to back games. Of those 7 games, while 6 are away games, all are against Eastern Conference opponents; so far this season the Caps are 8-2-3 against Eastern Conference opponents. The Caps haven't fared as well against Western Conference foes where so far this season they have a 5-6-0 record. Of course so far this season 8 of those 11 games against Western Conference opponents have been on the road; also three of the 11 games were on the second night of games on back to back nights and yielded results of 1-2-0.

Looking ahead, the Caps have 13 games in December. Of those 13 games 12 are against Eastern Conference opponents; 7 are away games and 6 are home games. Only 4 of the 13 games are played on back to back nights; Toronto & Carolina both away on the 5th and 6th, and Ottawa at home on the 12th followed by Montreal away on the 13th. Once the Caps complete the game in Montreal on the 13th, they don't have another back to back game until January 9th and 10th. Also from this point forward, the Caps don't have another extended road trip until that previously mentioned five game road swing in March. That's good news.

The only really bad news in the near term schedule for the Capitals comes because of their injury situation. The Caps don't have any extended rests (longer than 3 days) from now until the third and fourth week of January. That's not great news with five injured defensemen and a total of nine top notch players down. Because of the injury situation, it might be way too early to start looking at and defining make or break moments when looking back to the first two months. The current situations with Mike Green, Tom Poti, Alexander Semin and Sergei Federov could cause Caps fans to have to bite their nails all the way until their January 27th game at Boston. Of course that is so far off in the future, the Caps players, organization and fans will all just have to take it all, one day and one game at a time. Next up will be the first game of December - Tuesday Night, we'll all be "Rockin' the Red", at the Verizon Center, when the Caps take on the Florida Panthers. The game is the Versus game of the week, so it's blacked out and there is no reason for the game NOT to be a sell out.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Pasifik said...

Are you a big fan of them?

Toddler Games

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

Pasifik: Not sure why you'd get that idea - I assume it's because of the pic - it's just an image I picked up to illustrate the difference between the two prior Capitals Games.