Thursday, January 21, 2010

Caps 3 - Red Wings 2 Late Post Game Recap/Report

Pardon this late game recap of a well covered topic, I just can't resist recaping the Caps-Red Wings game though, it was one of the more interesting games I've been to in a long time, especially for a regular season game. I know a lot of the posts have gone over how slow the Caps came out of the game based on the numbers and for sure the Caps didn't actually get a shot to the net that Chris Osgood had to stop until well past the middle of the first period. However, it didn't seem like the Caps weren't skating hard during the period, it's just that the Red Wings had the Caps offense totally off balance from where I was sitting. In the end of course the Caps pulled it out. They did that because two things that were well played and worked for the Caps all night - those two things being Jose Theodore and the Capitals Penalty Killing Unit. Both of those things are what kept the game close while the Caps were being otherwise totally stymied by the Red Wings for the entire first period. I have been a general contrarien and supporter of Jose Theodore since he arrived here in DC so I couldn't be happier that he had a fantastic night. I also echoed Bruce Boudreau's thoughts apparently - The Capitals Coach said of Theodore after the game. “I’m watching him thinking ‘this must be how he looked when he won the Vezina and the Hart Trophy in Montreal that year because without him, it very well could’ve been 6-0 at the end of the first period’.”

Also as I''ve indicated it didn't seem like the Caps lacked any enthusiasm or effort during the first period, the Red Wings just "had their number" again the Coach summed it up far better than my words could. “It was like men versus boys,” Bruce Boudreau said afterward. “I don’t think we touched the puck. They came out with a vengeance, and I’m sitting there thinking this is what Stanley Cup champions that are desperate do. ... And it’s a bar that we have to get to. We were just fortunate our goalie was great in the first period.”

You couldn't have watched Jose Theodore and not have been impressed by his play on Tuesday night. He was truly "on another plain" - or as Ted Leonsis was quoted after the game "lights out". He was truly so good that, and I shouldn't say it because I'm superstitious, that if he could play 16 games like that in the playoffs he could single-handily win Lord Stanley's Cup. Of course that's precisely why winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest championship to attain in professional sports, it would take 16 games (48 periods or 960 minutes) like that if the Capitals allowed themselves to be outflanked like they were in the first period on Tuesday. I could babble on but I'll just once again cite someone else who summed it up better than I usually can. As Peerless said in his recap: "Theodore stopped 44 of 46 shots – too many of them quality chances – and gave the Caps a chance to win late, which they did when David Steckel scored the game-winning goal with 5:59 to play." Clearly Tuesday night, the Caps cobbled together a win from great goaltending and a couple of opportunistic plays that took advantage of a goalie at the other end who wasn’t as sharp as their own. Tuesday Theodore stole a win for his teammates, stopping 44 of the 46 Detroit shots he faced (including all ten power play shots), keeping the Caps in the game long enough for the offense to show up, and then skate off with a 3-2 win. He also picked up an assist (his first since February 5 of last year), and was about as easy a first star selection as one could imagine. Theo's play of late has been stellar, in his last four appearances, he's 4-0-0 with a 1.68 goals against average and .951 save percentage.

Other notes and musings from the game:

- A lot of commentary about how Alexander Oveckin had no shots on goal for just the third time in his career. Tariq El Bashir explained it best in his post game blog. The Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski led Wings' defense did a good job of bottling up Ovie, that's the bad news; the good news doing so kept Lindstrom so busy he really did little else all night long.

- Say what you want about Tood Bertuzzi but he definitely knows how to "man up" and take responsibility for his actions good or bad. Bertuzzi's post game quote on his performance last night: "I can't give them that power play there. Stupid, stupid penalty by me. Just careless with my stick at the wrong time, then they come back and score right away. It was pretty deflating." Bertuzzi conceded. Along similar lines, Caps right wing Mike Knuble took two penalties tonight both in the offensive zone and one late in the game...

- I was hard on Caps defensemen Tom Poti while watching the game because his two mistakes were right in front of us Section 103'ers during the second period. However, after the game and looking at the statistics it's clear Mr. Poti played a solid game, in fact a very good one Tom. I doubt you heard my reaction when you inadvertently caused Theo to loose his stick during the second period but here's saying "Sorry man, chalk the emotion and passion up to the vowel at the end of my family name...I take it all back."

- Playoff hockey, actually both Sunday Afternoon, even though the Flyers are currently on the bubble in 9th, as are the Red Wings, both games sure seemed like playoff games in style, form and intensity. In games like that you've got to play a little different and the team noted it, “Obviously we are not going to hit the score sheet every night, and Detroit pretty much outplayed us for the entire game,” said David Steckel. “But, when you get in games like this your fourth line is vital whether it’s creating energy with a hit or scoring a timely goal, and we were fortunate enough to do both tonight. .... The third period was like a playoff game, it was tight and we need to know how to win games like this with everyone contributing not just our superstars, ... They're [Detroit] battling for a playoff spot right now. I thought we could have played better, but to their credit they prevented us from doing that.” In a playoff game it's often the play of the third and fourth line, as much or more, that drive the outcome. Tuesday night, that was the case and Steckel brought his A-Game, he scored a really nice goal from in the paint and plus two rating and six hits each were team highs. He's clearly working to show everyone he IS the Caps third-line center, and very capable of matching up with the NHL's other "name" pivots.

- You think Caps defenseman Mike Green wasn't up for the game and working to compare favorably to fellow 2008-2009 Norris Trophy Finalist Nicklas Lindstrom (a prior two time winner)? Green led the Caps in blocked shots with a whopping seven. He also extended his point streak to nine games and was on the ice for two goals for and only one against.

Other comments and notes worth mentioning relative to the Hockey Blogsphere yesterday:

+ I find the Blog "Alex Ovetjkin" is usually well worth the read and every once in a while it has a really poignant, great post. The recap and commentary on last night's game is one of those that I found really, really good and well worth the read, so rather than highlight it or otherwise quote it I figured I'd just post the link.

+ Perhaps the best bottom line for Tuesday Evening's game came from Detroit Red Wings Captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Referring to Jose Theodore: "I thought he saw a lot of the shots, but he made some great saves down there. He got two points for them tonight."

+ If you're wondering why there are so many Ovechkin Jersey's being worn around the DC Metro, or even by fans in other arenas just look at this statement by a true hockey guy and hockey hall of fame member. From Sunday's game with the Flyers where Sovetsky Sport interviewed former Flyer Captain and Hockey Hall of Fame Member Bobby Clarke:
SS: Would he have fit in with Philadelphia in the 70's? Clarke: "Easily! Ovechkin could have been the best player on any team at that time. SS: "Even better than you?" Clarke: "Much better! There's no way I could compare myself with him. Look how he skates, how he fights for the puck. Look at how much strength and drive he has. I'll say it again- he's a big bull. He just runs over people on the ice. It's really difficult to play against Ovechkin."

Well on Tuesday night when Backstrom scored I kiddingly chanted and joked to my seatmates "Our Swede is better than your Swedes, nah, nah, nah..." Tonight we Caps fans should be hoping and sending good vibes towards Pittsburgh so at the end of the night we'll be able to say: "Our young guns are better than your young guns, nah , nah, nah." So remember NO NEGATIVE WAVES MAN. ... And:


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