Well since my last post on Monday the Capitals have played two games of their current six game road trip. On Tuesday they played in Montreal and delivered a solid game and win against the Canadiens: 4-2 in regulation. Then last night they took on the Red Wings at "The Joe" in Detroit, a place they haven't been able to win a game at for a long time. Unfortunately, once again, despite playing a decent hockey game, and getting pretty good goaltending from Michal Neuvirth (in the net for the first time since leaving the game against Tampa Bay on 3/7 with some metal in his eye after the first period), the Capitals were unable to leave Detroit with two points, or even a single point, loosing to the Wings 3-2 in regulation.
To some degree the two games were polar opposites as far as the play, tenor and tone of the two opposing teams the Caps faced in them. In Tuesday night's game the Canadiens seemed to have a way of making the Cps look even better than the lopsided scoresheet - lopsided in favor of the Capitals in almost every measure - makes the game appear in retrospect. In Montreal, every one on the Capitals team looked very good, and in fact, IMO played a very good game. Notables: Boyd Gordon - 12 of 16 (75%) in the faceoff circle; Marcus Johansson - 2 goals and buzzing around the ice like "nobody's business the entire game; John Carlson and Karl Alzner - each of them +2 and each of them with an assist; Alexander Ovechkin - basically playing like Alexander Ovechkin always seems to play in Montreal: 1 point (an assist) +1 and led the team with 4 hits; Brooks Laich with a goal off a move that demonstrated to all just "What A Boss" he can be - just ask Hal Gill; Braden Holtby - a slightly off night at least at the start but gets an Assist and his fifth straight W; and the list could go on. On the other side of the ice, as I mentioned Laich undressed Gill and for all his "chirping" Tuesday evening P.K. Suban, who will be a star in the NHL someday, was definitely not looking like one in that game. In fact were it not for Cary Price's excellent goaltending, the game could have been even more lopsided.
Last night, while Neuvy kept the Capitals close, and no one on the Capitals team had an exceptionally bad game, as has often been said, the Detroit Red Wings have a system and way about them that just can "suck the life" out of an opposing team and smother them. That's what they did last night. When you look at tthis stat sheet you can and do see it in every aspect of the game. The first thing you notice about it when you look is just how much of a "puck control" game the Red Wings play and just how well they execute it: a) Faceoffs 35-21 in favor of the Red Wings; b) SOG 35-28 in favor of the Red Wings; c) shots attempted 64 - 42 in favor of the Red Wings. Don't get me wrong elsewhere in the stats the Capitals didn't do badly and as I say other than one goal that Neuvy let in that is in the "you just have to stop those" category, the Capitals stayed in the game all night long. They even had two chances to tie the game late in the third, but alas "the hockey gods" deigned not to smile on the Capitals last evening. All that said, throughout the game, they generally looked worse than the scoresheet might lead you to believe. Also, unlike Monday in Montreal, the Capitals special teams were not their brightest light; the PK unit let Detroit score on one of their two (2) power plays; and the power play units failed to score in any of their four (4) power play chances against the Wings. Best Caps on the ice last night (IMO): Dennis Wideman, Alexander Ovechkin, and Michal Neuvirth. Alexander Semin was about 1 1/2 inches and 40 seconds away from being a hero with a game tying goal in the last minute, but alas he hit the post and ends up with a very unremarkable line on the score sheet instead. Best Red Wing on the ice last night: Henrik Zetterberg - "Z" had quite a night 2 goals, 7 SOG, 2 takeaways and was 7 for 11 (64%) in the faceoff circle. Notably, the Capitals were able to keep Pavel Datsyuk somewhat in check last evening - it seemed to me to be the one thing that Alexander Semin absolutely was determined to do when they were out on the ice together and when that matchup was there Semin won it last night. However, the following other Red Wings all also played very well and made sure their team won the game: the ageless Nicklas Lidstrom (24:10 TOI, +1); Brian Rafelski (3 assists, +2, 1 BS); Kris Draper (6 for 6 in faceoffs); Justin Abdelkader (often in Ovechkin's grill) and the list is probably missing someone. BTW speaking of Abdelkader often being in Ovechkin's grill in the first period when it looked like those two might actually do more than just push and shove each other I had two notable thoughts: a) wow that's a trade I'd love if I was Babcock Abdelkader in the box for 5:00 to put Ovechkin in the box for 5:00 but Ovechkin showed he understands the score and isn't an inexperienced kid if he ever was one; and b) that's called smart line matching when you have the last change, wonder if the Capitals coaching staff should be taking notes. Well like I said, the Caps didn't play horribly, they just succumbed to the smothering play of the Red Wings in Detroit once again. With any luck, we'll all get a chance to see them try and figure out how to overcome that situation twice more this Hockey season (think about it if you don't understand what I'm saying). Now it's on to Newark, NJ for a game against the resurgent and well playing New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at "The Rock."
LETS GO CAPS!!!