Saturday, January 8, 2011

Capitals 3 - Panthers 2, A Two Point Night at Verizon Center ... But Does Any Of It Matter?

Well tonight I didn't go to the game, I wasn't feeling all that great and then this afternoon that horrible event in Arizona just took what little bit of possible enthusiasm I might have been able to muster for the game and sapped it all from me. So before I blog about the hockey game I watched here from my comfortable family room in bucolic Bristow, VA, i'd just like to say my prayers and thoughts are with the families of all those killed and injured this afternoon in Tucson, Arizona. From the family of a young 10 year girl, to the family of a Federal Judge both of whom lost their lives today to the family of Rep Gabrielle Giffords, whose husband Mark Kelly is a 1986 graduate of my own Alma Mater. I won't pretend to understand any of it, I do not. I can only say I will pray for you all and I wish you the best thoughts I can in getting through these trying times.

So in the midst of all that real life stuff, the Capitals played another NHL regular season game at Verizon Center tonight and beat the Florida Panthers 3 - 2 in regulation. Overall it was neither the prettiest nor the ugliest Caps game this season. The Caps started slow allowing the Panthers to score first early at the 3:49 mark of the first period and that's how the first period ended Panthers 1 - Caps 0. The first period was some kid of boring hockey to watch, neither team played very well or with any real energy. The Panthers managed to out shoot the Caps in the first stanza by a margin of 6-5 and outscore them by a margin of 1-0. Fortunately for us Caps fans, our heroes came out to play the second period with visibly more energy than they played the first period with, and the hero of the Winter Classic - Eric Fehr - knotted the score one all at the 5:32 mark of the period. The Caps kept the pressure on the Panthers pretty much the entire period but Panthers backup goalie Scott Clemmensen kept his team in the game. The Caps out shot the Panthers in the second period 12-9 and outscored them 1-0; the second period ended with the game tied 1-1. The Caps came out in the third and I just had a feeling they were going to win, despite Clemmensen continuing to play well. My positive thinking and the Capitals continued good play were rewarded at the 13:07 mark of the third when Mike Green and Eric Fehr teamed up again, this time with Green getting his 8th goal of the season on the power play to put the Caps ahead for the first time in the evening. Then at the 16:05 mark, Alexander Ovechkin, broke through both figuratively and literally scoring an "Ovechkin-esque" goal to put the Capitals up by a score of 3-1. It turned out the Caps needed the insurance goal because at the Panthers' Evgeny Dadonov scored his third of the season to pull the panthers within one goal at the 18:23 mark. Then just to make things really interesting, Nicklas Backstrom was sent to the penalty box for a 2:00 minor for cross-checking just 32 seconds later at 18:55 and we got to watch a 6 - 4 power play by the Panthers when they pulled Clemmensen. The Caps held on and got their 24th win of the season and pocket the two points.

The Caps outstanding players tonight were, IMO: Mike Green - another great game, he was all over the ice , playing for 24:10 @GreenLife52 had a goal, an assist, was +1, and had 5 SOG, 3 hits and 2 blocked shots; @EricFehr16 who also had a goal and an assist, was +1 and 2 SOG in 13:29 TOI - of late Fehr has been on fire and now has 6 points in his last 6 games; Alexander Ovechkin - a goal, an assist, 20:39 TOI, 6 SOG, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot - simply put tonight "Ovie was Ovie"; and Semyon Varlamov who stopped 25 of 27 Panther SOG for a 0.926 save percentage and had another great outing to earn his 8th win of the season.

Alexander Semin left the game in the second period after a "hip on thigh" hit that caused an unspecified injury and did not play in the third period. No more details than that on Semin's condition at this time.

The Caps are now 6-1-3 in their last 10 games; that's 15 out of 20 possible points or 0.750 hockey. That's pretty solid especially considering they are coming off what was their worst streak/stretch since Bruce Boudreau took the helm. The Caps have now played 42 games this season and they have amassed 54 points. They are on track to break 100 points for the third straight regular season and defense isn't the problem of late, a little more offense from their star forwards would be nice though when they are getting the kind of goaltending they've been getting it's not too much of a problem. Right now Varlamov has a SV% of 0.928 and a GAA of 2.08 for the season 3rd and 2nd respectively in the league; and Michal Neuvirth has a SV% of 0.911 and a GAA of 2.56.

Next up ... deja vu' the Caps and Panthers meet again on Tuesday evening in Sunrise, FL. Hopefully by then all the surviving shooting victims out in Arizona will be in stable condition and on the mend.


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