Tuesday, October 12, 2010
D.C. DEALS WITH THE SENATORS
First off, I need to offer up some apologies. I had to run some unavoidable errands and caught bits and pieces of the game via radio. Such is life when you've got a family and responsibilities. I did, however catch the third period and OT, but the recap is going to be sketchy at best. Suffice to say that, as is my theme a lot of the time, the result is all that matters. And this game exemplified that.
I finally get to the van to catch Mr. Kolbe and Mr. Sabourin speak. It was moments after Semin's first of the year. Yay for the other Alex. Now he's on the board. Even through the radio I could tell that there was a steady ebb and flow with the pace of the game, almost like a runner sprinting a few hundred yards, then jogging to catch their breath, then sprinting again and so on. Either team could have taken control of the game and ran with it, but it didn't happen. In between hopping out to take care of business and back in for the ride home I hear that at least two more penalties got killed off by the Caps. More on this later.
Jump ahead to the start of the third...and I'm home. The Good guys are up 2-1 thanks to Eric Fehr, but all Ottawa needs is one to get back in it. Seven minutes in, that's exactly what happens when Ryan Shannon scored on a loose biscuit that wandered into the slot. (That's hawkee tawk for "somebody failed to clear the puck") Given what happened last year between these two teams where the Sens stole two in OT, I'm suddenly not liking the odds. The rest of the third is spent in quiet tension with more of that back and forth play with nothing but fruitless scoring chances to show for it.
The folks at Comcast flash the Ovechkam. We see #8 banging bodies and getting maybe a few shots away but nothing...nothing. So at the end of it they show his numbers for the game to reveal something even more disturbing---he's a minus one. There are a lot of stats in the sport of hockey, some meaningful, others not so much. To me, none are as telling as plus-minus. Sure a good part of it is being in the right place at the right time, but you know what? That's how plays are made. So I wasn't feeling too good after seeing that. The Great Eight was having a crappy game and the look on his face said it all--he knew it.
The Power Play got another chance, it's fifth and last, but again there was nothing. Not too impressive at all. I will say I was impressed with the grit that was on display. Matt Hendricks and Jason Chimera in particular doing the dirty work and getting the job done...along the boards, in the corners, wherever. In the end, it made a difference because it looked as if the Senators might have been a bit worn in the extra session.
And John Carlson. Mrs. Blueliner likes to say I've changed my tune about him. And she's right, but then wives often are. When I first saw him last season, I didn't much care for what he was doing out there, but you look at him now. Smooth skating through the neutral zone. Effortless puck handling in all three zones. The man was running circles around everybody. Only problem is he ended up a minus one by game's end. The only black mark on an otherwise super effort.
Neuvirth made more than a few key stops to keep the score tied. I like how he looks calm and collected in net. He doesn't look like you would rattle him if you clobbered him with a sheet of plywood--he'd just keep going. The number one job is all but his, barring injury or disaster.
Long story short, we go to OT. And it's more of the same, I'm afraid. Until Ovechkin takes the puck down his wing, dekes around the d-man and flicked it It goes five-hole (between the legs) and then in! This with 30 seconds left to the dreaded shootout. And like I said earlier, this looked to be his worst game in a long time. But like with all great players, all he needed was one moment to make his mark.
This is what some would call a "character win." I would agree. I don't know what it is, but I used to be nervous when the Caps had a one-goal lead late in a game. Not anymore. The mentality used to be to pour it on then back up. Now it's go, go, go regardless of consequence. They've got the guys to be able to do it, now it's just a matter of being more responsible in your own end and with the puck. Not sure if its was the crowd that spurred them on or what but this team had more grit than a case of Metamucil. Only much more refreshing. They're showing me something and I'm liking what I'm seeing. Especially guys like Neuvirth, Carlson, and Hendricks.
And if this team can win when its captain and best player has an awful game for 64 minutes but comes up big in the 65th and last minute, that's a sign of good things to come.
A brief word about the penalty killing--perfect. Need I say more? No, but I will anyway. Twelve for twelve through 3 games. There was talk in the preseason that the Bruce wanted to implement a more "active" style of penalty killing. As opposed to everybody standing around and letting the action come to them. Whatever they're trying, it is most definitely working. Can you imagine if they can keep this up and, more importantly, play like this come playoff time? I've said before that good penalty killing can help get you far in the playoffs...put two and three together and see what you come up with.
So the Senators may have managed a filibuster, but they got vetoed. Sorry...it was late and I couldn't resist. Apologies to the folks at On Frozen Blog.
Next up are the Islanders, yet another team not doing so well as of late but just as dangerous, probably more so. (Even without John Tavares)
Yea verily I say unto you, until next time, Rock the Red.