Friday, February 5, 2010

Caps 6 - Rangers 5; That Makes Twelve (12) ...

Well the Caps and their dads had to have a lot to talk about on the plane ride home last night after the game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It was a two point night for the Caps and they extended their current club record winning streak. I doubt too much time was spent talking about the impending "Snowpocalypse II," though it may have come up if any of the Caps need bread, milk or toilet paper at their places.

You know as in say Mike Green to his dad: "Oh by the way Dad, you're not gonna believe this but, we're out of toilet paper back at the house and we're going to need to borrow some from the neighbors since, get this, in Washington, DC for some reason when it's going to snow the folks there feel the need to run out and buy every roll of toilet paper, every drop of milk and every loaf of bread in the supermarkets." ... "Yeah, I know it makes no sense, if we did that back home in Calgary every time snow was in the forecast, we'd have to build an extra room for all the TP, Milk and stale bread we'd have."

See, I'd guess the topic would quickly change to any one of the 11 goals scored by either team last night or the several amazing saves that Lundqvist, Theodore, or Ovechkin made. Wait a second --- save, Ovechkin? How's that work? you ask. Well, with the Caps up by one, eleven seconds left in the game, the Rangers with the goalie pulled for an extra skater, and Ovie on the ice in basically a checking role; the Capitals Captain made an awesome shot block in the crease that kept the Caps in front of the Blueshirts. It's probably, unfairly in some regards, the most memorable moment in a game that had many memorable moments. To me it's the most memorable because it was then and only then that I felt the Caps twelfth win in a row was going to "happen." Other key things the Caps likely talked with their fathers on trip home were, in no particular order:

- Nicklas Backstrom's five point night (1 goal, 4 assists) including a really awesome pass that set up Mike Knuble's goal.

- Tom Poti's great night. Poti led the Caps in ice time (26:36) and scored his 3rd goal of the season.

- Ovie's sick move on his even strength, second goal of the game at 19:51 of the second period to bring the Caps back within one and make the score Rangers 5 - Caps 4.

- The Caps inability to hold the Rangers' power play in check. The formerly anemic Ranger extra man unit went 4 for 6, moving the puck crisply and purposefully and basically scoring 4 tallies on which Jose Theodore had little to no chance to stop, no matter how many times someone gave him those four back.

- The fact that despite allowing the Ranger to score five goals during the first two periods, Theodore didn't have a horrible game. Even more notable was his play in the first period where the Rangers out shot the Caps 18 - 6 and if not for Theo the score could easily have been 4-1 Rangers at the end of that stanza. In the second period, the only goals Theodore allowed were three power play tallies. I've already mentioned, that for some reason changes to the Rangers' extra man unit, with the addition of Olli Jokinen, meant they were able to really move the puck around inside the Caps zone and set up excellent scoring chances, on which they capitalized with routine efficiency. In the third period, Theodore only did what he had to do - be perfect and stop all sixe of the shots the Rangers managed to put on goal. So while statistically last night's game won't help Jose's numbers - SV% 0.868, GAA 5.00, the one key stat that matters he got - the W to extend his own winning streak. He also won last night's goal tending duel with King Henrik. Lundqvists' numbers on the night: SV% 0.813, GAA 6.00, and he also didn't look nearly as poor as those numbers might lead you to think.

- The Caps scored three of their own power play goals during the nine (9) extra man chances the Rangers gave them. A power play effectiveness of 33.33% isn't too bad at all. It just didn't seem all that impressive because the opposing Rangers unit had an effectiveness of 66.66% on their six (6) extra man chances.

- Both David Steckel and Boyd Gordon were beasts in the face off circle. Steckel won 7 of 10 draws; while Gordon won an almost perfect 8 of 9.

- It was a physical game, the Caps registered 28 hits while the Rangers totaled 33 hits for the night.

- Ovie's 498th, 499th, and 500th NHL points.

Perhaps the biggest topic of conversation might have been how weird and different the game they played in/watched was from the picture the night's statistics would likely lead you to think. If you're a Rangers fan you have to be frustrated. It's not often the rangers score more than 3 goals in a game or have their power play unit execute with ruthless effectiveness, how both those things occur and your team looses is hard to imagine.

How did the Caps win last night? Well, Jose Theodore kept them in it during the first period so at the end of one stanza the score was only Rangers 2 - Caps 1. Next, during the second period, the teams kept pace with each other each scoring 3 goals so once again at the end of two periods the Rangers only led by one (Rangers 5 - Caps 4). Then in the third period, the Caps came out, settled down, taking only one penalty, and out played the Rangers, as well as out scoring them 2 goals to none so the final was Caps 6 - Blueshirts 5. Why did that happen, well first as undisciplined as the Caps were giving the Rangers 6 power plays, the Rangers were more so giving the Caps 9 power plays. Henrik Lundqvist was merely human last night and the Caps high octane offense was what it usually is - this season the Caps are averaging 3.93 GF/game through 59 games. That leads the league and is pretty good even compared to some of the most high scoring teams ever. But, through the last 12 games the Caps have scored 58 goals, an average of 4.83 GF/game. So far during the 12 game winning streak the Caps have scored five or more goals seven times, however this was only the second time they had to do so to gain the victory. The other two reasons the Caps won were a) they won the third period to close out the game, and b) they won the 5 on 5 game 3 - 1 - they did that simply because though the Rangers are a good team with lots of talent, right now the Caps are better, especially when Henrik Lundqvist decides to look human and Marian Gaborik also has a night which though solid was also just looking human. The Caps now lead the regular season series with the Rangers 2-1, and they don't see each other again until the Boys from Broadway travel to Verizon Center on March 6th for their final 2009-2010 regular season meeting.

Once again we find a lot of folks, this time my self included, saying this wasn't the Caps best effort but good teams find a way to stay in games and win. That's what happened last night. Tonight, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, the Caps face the Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon. Given the Thrashers now find themselves without their former Captain and number one scorer Ilya Kovalchuk who was traded to New Jersey last night, I'd say that probably evens out the fact the Caps are playing the second of two on back to back nights and the Thrashers will be coming into tonight's game fresh. Hopefully, the Caps will not get caught looking past the Bluebirds. It will be interesting to see if Braden Holtby gets the nod to mind the net as well. If the Caps keep their eye on the ball and do play it one game at a time, the Caps should win. However, for the superstitious, i need not reminding you, this is for lucky number 13.

Prediction: Caps 5 - Thrashers 2.

Lets Go Caps!!!

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