Thursday, December 1, 2011

Penguins 2 - Caps 1; Another No Point Night But ...

Okay let's get this out of the way early, the Caps and the Penguins met tonight at Verizon Center and the Penguins beat the Capitals 2-1. The Caps are now 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. That's not good and not what the Caps organization or we Caps fans want or expect from them this season. There's no ifs ands or buts about it things need to get fixed and the sooner the better.

Okay that out of the way, lets admit even though the Caps got outshot 35-17 and out attempted 69 - 42, the game could just as easily, and some (self included) would argue, should have finished regulation in a 3-3 tie. The Caps basically "missed" two wide open nets and penguins missed one. Had those plays been "properly" finished when the third period ends the score is 3-3 instead of 2-1. That said it's hockey, you know that game of inches stuff, and instead you have a no point night for Washington. Also on the bright side, the Caps have found their defense again and in the last two games Tomas Vokoun has delivered a SV% that we expect from a top tier number one goaltender in the NHL. Tonight his SV% was 0.943 - he stopped everything he should have and a few that might have gotten by a lesser goaltender, so you can't blame the Caps goalie for this lack of points. The two missed open nets, well Aex Ovechkin might have only had one SOG tonight but he was part of setting those two plays up. With 19:22 TOI, Ovechkin also led all Caps forwards in TOI and did so with an average shift length of 00:55 but didn't have any really long shifts except for one in third period that I saw. Ovie also led the Caps in hits with 10, all but one of which were good, solid hits that were appropriately timed and without putting him out of position, on one hit Evgeni Malkin got the better of the exchange, but let's all understand that that battle/competition has been going on for at least half of Ovie and Geno's lives.

The defense looked pretty solid, except for the second Pittsburgh goal, Chris Kunitz's game winner, where John Erskine tripped and fell and that sort of stuff can happen. Brooks Laich was a beast in the faceoff circle tonight with a win % against 67% (14 wins 7 losses) many of which came against Sidney Crosby. Laich has had some good games so far this season, but this might have been his best yet. Alexander Semin drew one penalty and got none. His feet were moving all night from what I saw and he was working hard. Had he not missed on a wide open net (one of two by the Caps) he'd have a goal to go with his 1 takeaway and 2 blocked shots.

Of the blue liners I felt Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Dmitri Orlov and Karl Alzner all had solid outings. John Erskine, everyone trips now and then and even though it resulted in a goal, I'll gladly overlook that misstep to have a guy in the lineup who within the traditions of the game, holds Arron Asham accountable for his "go to sleep" celebration from the last time these two teams met when he knocked out Jay Beagle. Jeff Schultz what can I say, 21 shifts, 16:14 TOI, -1, 1 attempt blocked, 1 miss shot, 1 takeaways, 1 blocked shot, 2 takeaways saw them all including the one of the two takeaways that might have saved a goal. The two hits Schultz is credited with, I truly didn't see them and if I did they didn't seem like hits to me and certainly are not memorable. Let's give credit where credit is due, Schultz is one of the most positionally sound defensemen I've seen play ove rthe past three seasons in the NHL and he has a heckuva "active stick". Further, I know any guy who is at the NHL level, is 6'6" 230#, played his major junior hockey in the Western Hockey League for a team named "The Calgary Hitmen" and who represented his nation in the World juniors has to know how to execute a killer body check and "blow somebody up." he just has to. However in Schultz's five NHL seasons I don't know of one time during his 340 NHL games played that he's done it. Finally it seems to me that he's not being properly respected and he's certainly not in any way feared by opposing forwards these days. Maybe just maybe just a couple of times, he ought to risk not being exactly in position and "blow somebody up", not so we Caps fans know he can do it, but just so the guys who matter in his world - forwards on opposing teams - think twice before tring to skate through him. Now of course if somebody out there can show me a youtube clip of "Sarge" doing that i guess I'll be the one eating some crow around here.

Forwards, the forecheck was going, the Caps won 69% of the faceoffs Laich 67% and pretty solid as the guy required to shutdown Crosby; Backstrom won 88% of his faceoffs; even Marcus Johanson won 4 of the 9 draws he took. The problem pretty straightforward, the Caps only attempted 42 shots on goal and only 17 got through. Against a solid, actually very good, goaltender like Marc-Andre Fleury, unless he's having an anomalously bad night he's stopping 0.900+ of the shots he sees and unless your team's goaltender pitches a shutout, your probably not going to win. The story tonight is pretty much just that.

So it looks like Tomas Vokoun has found his goaltending Mojo again and has his groove back. It seems to me like the Caps re-found their "team defense" allowing just 2 goals in each of the last two games. Now they just need to get their offensive mojo back, a task clearly easier said then done, and we all will likely be happier with the results of the hockey games.

Next up the Ottawa Senators here at Verizon Center.


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