Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sharks Sink Caps 7 - 2; Penn State to Rose Bowl...

Wow...that hurt, watching the Caps - Sharks game that was. That obvious statement out of the way, one has to ask why? Not a wailing "why? ... why? ... why?" but a simple, detached unemotional why?

For recaps of the game please wander over and take a look at "A View From The Cheap Seats", "Tarik's recaps and notes both in the online edition of the post and his blog "Capitals Insider" (note Tarik and I both get "D's" for unoriginal titles to our posts), Peerless has a nice view of the night's events, and to some extent last and least, the online edition of the Times . Since Corey Masesik, the usual Caps beat writer, didn't make the road trip, it's an AP syndicated article that includes the delicately turned line "Marc-Edourad Vlasic and Devin Setoguchi also added a goal and an assist as the Sharks found their legs in plenty of time to finish the Capitals, who haven't beaten San Jose this century". While none paint a great picture of the game if your a Washington Capital player, coach, management or fan, the AP Syndicated Article by Greg Beacham, an AP sportswriter who routinely covers the Sharks as part of his beat in the SF Bay Area, is very good, even though it really hurts to read if you're a Caps fan. That said, the Washington Times gets a D- for their coverage of the road trip so far, great to know they are looking to increase their subscription base by trying to leverage the DC area's increased interest in the Capitals and hockey. Ask yourself when was the last time the Times didn't send a sportswriter to a Redskins away game to cover it firsthand, let alone four in a row, to save money. Isn't the Times the conservative newspaper in DC, management must have forgotten that Sarah Palin is a "hockey mom". [ed note: Sorry for that rant, but with since I didn't think the Caps need me to get down on them after the last two games - enough of that going around - I figured I'd vent about something that has been bugging me that I truly do not understand.]

The last two games have not seen the Caps outshine their opponents in many, if any category. There have been a few occasional glimpses of what could have been and despite giving up 12 goals in the last two games, most agree, the primary issue has not been goaltending. Certainly as Caps Chick noted "It seemed like every Caps defensemen put the puck in their own net tonight, starting with Morrisonn’s own-goal and continuing on down the line with deflections galore." So what really has happened these past two games, well as Coach Boudreau said after last night's loss, as was reported by Tarik: "The biggest thing you need when you are down a few players," he said. "You need your best players to be your best players. And I didn't think our best players were our best players tonight." While last night that seemed to be focused on the top 3 or 4 forwards, another point is that the Caps only had one of their top three defenseman, Tom Poti, in the lineup last night and it showed. As the current league standings show, the Caps are a top 10 team. However, when they take on other members of the NHL's top echelon, they really need at least two of their top three defensemen: Mike Green, Tom Poti, and Brian Pothier (remember him) in the line-up. Also, as much is being made in the blogsphere about the coming of the savior that will be Karl Alzner, this writer doesn't share the view that he is the answer, at this time. There are not that many Drew Doughty caliber guys out there, guys who can step into the NHL and log 20 minutes or so as a 19 or 20 year old defenseman. Right now, Caps fans and management should take the "gift" that has been Tyler Sloan, a 27 year old salary cap friendly rookie who has been playing solid hockey and not looking "out of his league" in anyway, and be happy. As one might expect in last night's game, Tom Poti was the only Caps player to finish with a positive +/- rating at +1. The Sharks' on the other hand had only two players on the minus side, defensemen Douglas Murray and Christian Erhoff, at -1. In the 4:54 and 6 shifts he played before leaving the game with a recurrence of his ankle injury, Sergei Fedrov won 4 of the 5 faceoffs he contested. Brooks Laich also had a solid night in the faceoff circle winning 6 of 10. Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich led the Caps in hits, per the official stats, OV with 10 and Laich with 7. Though if Ovechkin had 10 actual hits, many could see them all, and several were ill timed.

What needs to be different? Coach Boudreau aid it during last night's pregame comments. The Caps need to tighten things up and play "Caps Hockey." To do that, when the puck is in their own end, they need the Defense to step up and push the play to the sideboards and keep the front of the net clear in a way that is legal in "the new NHL." Also, the forwards to step up and take control of the play in the neutral and/or opponents zone. Forechecking relentlessly, like they have when they've won this season and like they did at the end of last season. Finally, even though several of the 6 first shot goals have not been the Goaltenders "faults", they need Theodore and Johnson, to find a way, no matter what to stop the first 3-5 shots they face, every night. To do those things when they face the current other top 10 teams in the league, they need two top defensemen and with Pothier out on LTIR, that means between Poti, Green and ... wait for it ... Federov, the Caps need two of them in the game time roster and on their games.

Maybe this article could/should be called "Yet another reason/voice to trade Michael Nylander." Nylander has played better these past two games and after solid defense the next thing a team needs most for a deep playoff run is depth at center, but his current salary and style of play v. the Bruce Boudreau system make him the best option for trading for another solid defenseman and possibly freeing up some cap space. Nylander's recent play makes the thought of "dealing him" harder to fathom, especially when you consider his No Movement Clause, age and the other implication he has to whoever might pick him up under the current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Also what moving Nylander this year means for the Capitals next season if Federov decides not to play another season, or the Caps decide they don't want him back because of something unforeseeable at this time is hard to forecast. However, assuming the Capitals keep wanting to play their current system, and why wouldn't they even with these two recent losses they are off to their best season start in a long, long time, if not ever, a strong center who plays more "North-South" than Nyls (read more like Federov) is what the Caps will probably really want. Oh well, let the trade rumours continue.

Here's this blogger's top 10 reasons the Caps and Caps fans should just shake these past two games off and look forward to tomorrow night's game on Versus between the Wild and the Caps.

10) Caps and Wild fans will get to hear how great Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are and highlights of their last five or six games from the Gary Bettman "We Love the Penguins PR Machine" at NHL Headquarters and the Versus Network, at least 10 times in the course of the game. Something we all love since we don't have any elite offensive players on our own favorite teams - NOT.

9) There will be 18,568 reasons why the Caps Players will want to win Xcel Energy Center tomorrow night. But hey, the "real" Minnesota NHL team plays in ... Dallas ... go figure.

8) The Wild are coming off a 2-1 home loss to the Saint Louis Blues last night and hey, if a team named "The Blues" can do it why can't "The Capitals". In other words at least unlike at LA or San Jose the Caps are NOT facing a team with four (4) days rest.

7) The Wild have a really "dweeby" a) Team Name and b) Team Logo; even weirder than the Capitals name or any of their logos, ever. So the Caps can win, and look and sound good doing it.

6) As noted by one of the Wild fan's blogs Minnesota Team Owner Craig Leopold and "Family Guy" Peter Griffen were indeed separated at birth. Since Cap's majority owner Ted Leonsis wasn't separated by birth from anything and the Wild are actually owned by a cartoon character, this game shouldn't be a problem for the Caps at all. Okay, maybe not true but hey this is a Caps centric blog.

5) Russia always beats Finland and Eastern Europe at the World Chess Championship, so too in Hockey. Or more succinctly for/from Caps fans, "Our Europeans are better than your Europeans, Wild... so just give up okay?"

4) Alexander Semin is projected as 50/50 to play the game, assuming he returns and the top line responds to the coach's exhortations after the last two games, against those teams who shall not be named any further in this post, respond the Caps should score at three and probably four goals, a total the Wild have seldom exceeded this season.

3) Mike Green is projected as a 60/40 to play the game, assuming he returns to the lineup, that's two of the Caps top three defenseman in the lineup.

2) After today's Hurricanes - Predators game, the Caps could be playing to regain first place in the Southeast Division - how's that for motivation.

1) Even after the past two road losses in Los Angeles and San Jose, if the Capitals win, they will have captured 5 of 10 possible standings points (0.500 hockey) during what could easily be viewed as their toughest road trip of the year. They will also still be 7-3-2 for November going into a 3 game Thanksgiving Holiday "extended weekend." As Coach Boudreau said, let's just get back to playing capitals hockey.

Well that about sums it all up for the Caps. I guess it was too much to ask for - a great win over Michigan State by Penn State to go to the Rose Bowl AND a Caps win against the Sharks in San Jose on the same day. For the Caps that was two bad games, and no good anniversary gift for Coach Bruce Boudreau last night. Lots of lessons learned, or reinforced, like good things happen to those who go to the net and shot the puck, even when it's the other team. Time to move on.

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

No comments: