Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Plans for the Evening - Dashed In An Instant - Drats! Blue Jackets 5 - Caps 4 (OT)

I had it all planned watch the Caps take on and "no doubt" return to their winning ways against the Blue Jackets at home and then come and write my blog about what a great October it was for the Caps and how despite having some things to work on they were starting November off right. Well, that was the plan so I wouldn't need to get all upset and worked up watching "my Phillies" take on the Yankees so I wouldn't get to sleep until late and then have to go pick up "Wingman" when his red-eye from Long Beach lands at 05:15 tomorrow morning. Well it's clear to me right now at 8:11PM that plan just really had no hope from the "get go" as they say. Starting with the obvious, the Caps didn't win, next of course the Caps at least as of right now have to be wondering what the status is of Alexander Ovechkin who didn't play the last ~33:30 of the game, and besides being worked up about that I'm having horrible thoughts about Referee Mike Leggo; as well as recurring bad "waking dreams" (kind of like Paul Atredes in Dune) where I keep seeing Tom Poti's two misplays that led first to the 4-4 tie goal and then his entire misplay of R.J. Umberger that led to the OT winner by Columbus.

Why Mike Leggo? you might ask. Well basically if you go back to about 15 - 30 seconds before the Raffi Torres' tying goal you'll see a bit of "tuss up" in the corner that should have, no I'll say it would have led to at least a clear of the puck, if not a break out and empty net goal, but alas Mike Leggo was in the way. Bottom line is that Jeff Schultz should have ignored Leggo's presence and driven Jakub Vorecek into both Leggo and the boards but that's probably too much to ask, even with the improved, more pohysical of late Schultz. Actually I hope when he watches the tape of that encounter that is indeed the lesson that Schultz, who I am actually starting to like (a lot more than I like Tom Poti tonight) takes away from the encounter. Leggo of course with one to two small steps in either direct could have easily stayed out of the play and still be in the right position to make whatever call was necessary. Further, I'm probably being unfair to Mike Leggo, I should be frustrated with the entire lot of NHL officials since it seems to me they all now do this. This being stay in the corner too long after it's obvious that they probably don't need to be there to call the goal line. Further, since whenever there's a close call on that they go to the replay in Toronto why be there at all? I know this rant will illicit a lot of discussion about the reasons to be there if you are an official, I've been thinking about and decided I probably don't agree, I think the referees and linesmen need to do a better job of staying out of the play. I mean tonight they blew at least 4 or 5 calls (not in a one sided manner) anyway and the game now moves so fast such results and statistics are more the norm then the exception anyway.

Now the other big reason my plan is totally flawed and was doomed is there's really nothing to write about tonight other than the thing to worry about/think about is what does it mean when you say Alex Ovechkin is "day to day" with an upper body injury? It means to me at best he has some really bruised ribs and at worst you're looking at something like what happened to Sidney Crosby early last season. So the good news he skated off the ice under his own power, there's enough time left and the Caps have enough other talent up front that he doesn't need to rush back, he should let the injury heal. The bad news is that's really not his style, but I hope he does take the time to let what it is heal.

So now even though my original plan is basically now probably pointless and "flumoxxed," I'm going to return to it. If nothing else it should be therapy for me. Also if you read this blog, you probably read other hockey and Caps blogs and they will have more then enough discussion, etc. on a) Ovie's injury (which until a couple days go by will be some semblance of the prior paragraph with a lot more angst and words, IMO); and b) "oh my what should Boudreau do without Ovechkin, is the season lost? I mean they ended October on a low note and now this!" (Pardon me for my sarcastic drama, it's just that since moving to the DC area in 1996 I've found the local sports fans and press quite melodramatic and reactionary - unlike, calm cool collected 'moi.)

So for the month of October, let's review the Capital's record: 8-2-3, 19 points. That's 0.731 hockey; it also means that 84.6% of the time they played the Capitals came away with at least 1 point. It's one of the best starts in franchise history, the Caps are also drawing fans like never before and they will continue to do so., as they are a lot of fun to watch. Folks will point to the way they are winning as unsatisfying and also point to the fact that 9 of their 13 games in October were one goal games and the Caps should be winning by more and putting more teams away and keeping them there through all three periods. That's hard to argue with, of course as a fan, coach or player that's what you'd like to see. However some of the other discussions about how for example they played two games against the "lowly" Islanders and only came away 1-0-1 I can and will argue with. First and foremost those "lowly" Islanders really aren't that lowly, in my opinion. The Islanders have played in 8 one goal games out of the 13 they've played. They also finished the second half of October 4-3-2 including three straight wins over the Rangers (3-1), the Caps (4-3 in OT), and the Sabres (5-0). Of course there was that worrisome game against the Thrashers who the Capitals beat by only one goal (4-3) in Atlanta last Thursday. Those same Thrashers who with Ilya Kovalchuk still out downed the Ottawa Senators last night 3-1 in a game that wasn't really as close as the score might lead some to believe. Of course no one seemed to have a problem with the 4-2 win over the Flyers so we need not talk about that, though to be fair the Flyers only have 13 points (the same number as the Islanders and just two more than the Thrashers). My bottom line is similar to the central theme from "Any Given Sunday" - in today's NHL thanks to the parity the salary cap encourages, on any given night, any of the thirty teams can beat any of the others.

Sure, some NHL Teams have more talent and the advantage, but you need to fight for every standings point, there really are no "gimmes" in today's NHL. So yes there's plenty to work on and the Capitals now have to make up for either a star who is out or somewhat slowed for at least a few games but wouldn't you rather have those now counting tonight's OT loss to Columbus 8 one point games that resulted in 1 or 2 standings points then the alternative? I know my answer. I also know this team is good and can still win, even with AO out for a game or even five or six to properly heal Tonight with Ovechkin not even on the bench they scored three goals on Steve Mason and the Blue Jackets - a team and a goaltender that it's not that easy to solve. Sure we all want Ovie back as soon as it makes sense but I've been saying for some time the Caps have the players on the team who can and will score if Ovie isn't there. Tonight Brooks Laich potted two and the energy line in the form of Quintin Laing got one. Assuming Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brendan Morrisson, Mike Green and Mike Knuble also rise to the occasion, even though the Caps have three games each this week and the next three, they'll survive and may even keep up this amazing start. Look at tonight, if not for two "flukey" goals the Caps would have won in regulation. You had to feel for Jose Theodore on those two goals they were "real buzzkillers" eh? Also, for what it's worth when was the last time you saw two of those in a single game? Ugh.

In conclusion I still keep having this waking dream/vision of Tom Poti on the OT goal though. So here's my thought, why did he go down to the ice so fast in the first place? Second, when that didn't work why didn't he get back up quicker and get into position? Finally, why is he finding himself on the inside of shooters so many times this year? Watch the replay of the OT goal, remember it's a 4-3, first Poti tries to move Umberger from the front of the net, how? by cross checking him four times in rapid succession, risking another penalty. Then he tries to draw him out by going outside of him, where he should have been in the first place "in the new NHL". When he does that Umberger takes even more separation and while Poti is moving he leave a passing lane, that's why he went down to the ice - I don't have the talent to play at the NHL level but at $3.5M/season, the reason Poti gets that kind of coin to play hockey is he has the talent and the reach to use his stick to cut off that pass and shot while he is getting back into position. Why he didn't do it tonight, that's the source of this bad "waking dream." I'm also betting from his "post-goal reaction that when he watches the film/tape on the last 30 seconds or so of the game that my reaction and Tom Poti and Bob Woods reaction are about the same. With 26:33 of ice time an assist, a blocked shot and one takeaway, it's tough for me to be too down on Tom Poti but I am a little bit because of those last two goals he was on the ice for, given he's a professional athlete I'll figure he's more down on himself and move on fo now.

Well hey, it was a one point night, that's one point of the 20 the Caps have as they start the month of November as the #4 team in the league and the #2 team in the Eastern Conference. Next up the New Jersey Devils at "the Rock" in Newark on Wednesday evening. Here's hoping for continued good fortunes and great play from Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich, as well as great games from all the other Caps in the lineup this month. Also here's to continue 0.600+ hockey...


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