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Sunday, October 17, 2010

reCap vs. Nashville Predators

"If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end, as to be worthy of remembrance!"

---King Theoden, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


And what an end it was.

For the first two periods of this game, I had wondered if I would even stay for the end.  The Capitals...well I can't come up with a better word to describe their play except...feh.  No I'm not misspelling Fehr, I'm saying feh. Still not sure what I mean?  Then go here. 

I use the word "flat" a lot but this game was different.  They were trying...sort of.  In fact they did get a few chances.  I was thinking for a brief minute there that I was in a train station because I heard a lot of CLANG!  CLANG! CLANG! of the pucks going off of goalposts.  Can't really think of a tired cliche to insert here to describe the Caps' tired play.  Maybe they were just.....tired?  No, impossible.  Whatever the problem was the Caps certainly did not look their best last night.  Not for most of the first two periods anyway.

For the record, the Predators' goals were by J. P. Dumont  and Jordin Tootoo.  Dumont is a former first round pick who has had a serviceable, but not explosive career.    He's got value for sure and has been an asset for the three teams he's played for, but for my money I expect more tangible production from a first-round forward, especially if he goes third overall and was constantly compared to Joe Sakic.  He was able to take advantage of the Caps' lackadaisical play in their own zone (see below) and fired a nice wrister over Neuvirth's stick side.  This of course after Neuvirth was screened by his own defenseman, John Erskine.

Tootoo, of course is the first player of Inuit descent in the NHL.  He also happens to be one of my favorites league-wide.  He may not put up big numbers, but you're guaranteed a big effort from him.  His goal came on a busted play.  He tried to toss a pass to Joel Ward after he gained the zone (as a result of a turnover, again see below) but it deflected into the net.  So it's two-zip and I'm thinking heeeeeeeeeeeeeere we go again!

Have to say that I saw more turnovers in last night's game than at a county fair.  And a good number of them by Alex Ovechkin.  Look, he may be our best player, but you've got to call them as you see them and...damn.  At least most of his were in the neutral zone. (although one of those led to the second goal) And he's certainly not the only player I'm going to take to task:

David Steckel--looked asleep on his skates out there, ended up -1.  What happened?  You're supposed to show that you WANT to be out there.

Brian Fahey--uhh, ok so it was your NHL debut and we can't all start out like Derek Stepan did, but poor positional play and a -2????  Never mind that your big boot gave the Predators their second goal.  We won't even discuss the first goal where he let Colin Wilson slip past him.  THIS is the best Hershey can send us?  GMGM may need to do a bit of wheeling and dealing.

Nicklas Backstrom--yes even the Swedish Treat was off his game...again.  Actually it was a Tale of Two Games:  Worst of games--looked terrible along the boards and in the offensive zone and couldn't hang onto the puck for beans.   Best of games--he managed 13 wins out of 19 faceoffs, four shots on goal, and two assists.  I hope he's not feeling any ill effects of Thursday's winning goal. 

Now, as badly as they played for the first 40+ minutes, you also have to give credit where credit is due.  Anders Lindback drew a tough assignment filling for Pekka Rinne against a notoriously high-powered offense.  Lindback finished the game with 31 saves on 34 shots.  Like I said, it wasn't as if the Caps weren't trying to score.  But damned if every time they had a scoring chance, Lindback would have the net covered.  Bang! shot and a leg would stick out.  BANG another shot and an arm would stick out.  Six feet six inches of him covering the net.  After a while, he was beginning to resemble one of these:

Comedian Andy Samberg performs a routine at the 2010 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, California July 14, 2010. Samberg was dressed as Paul the octopus, which lives at Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany and correctly predicted eight matches at the recent 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT IMAGES OF THE DAY)



So Lindback keeps on playing like a Swedish Ken Dryden and I'm thinking we're never going to score on him.  Meanwhile Neuvy's more than holding his own at his end, making save after save.  And those he didn't get to he was bailed out by his best friends the left and right goalposts.  Let me tell you something else, that team better start kissing his posterior because had it not been for Neuvirth's play in the past three games, the Caps' record might be something different.  So much for Washington's goaltending being a question.

Third period begins.  I of course have no way of knowing what the Bruce said to the team after the second intermission.  But whatever he did say, or do (me, I'd probably be throwing some furniture) Our Washington Capitals looked like a muuuuuuch better team in the third, finally taking the initiative.  Why it took two periods of mediocrity to wake this team up, I'll never know.  Four minutes in Cody Franson takes a holding the stick penalty.  Really, who's dumb enough to try holding the stick and get away with it anymore?  You almost never see that penalty called these days.  Capitals now have a chance to  It doesn't take long for Alex Semin to convert from a setup from John Carlson and Nick Backstrom.  Nice.

The Caps are flying now, storming the zone at every opportunity.  The shot counter says they got 12 shots off the whole period.  (remember folks, it is a shot counter, not a clock.  So anyone that calls it a clock, please introduce them to the nearest blunt object to smarten them up)  They made the absolute most of their chances and the resulting 12 shots.  They crashed the net.  They buzzed by Lindback's crease like Tom Cruise did to the tower in Top Gun.  In short, they did everything they were trying to do in the first 40 minutes only better.

Thirteenth minute in and the second line is on the ice.  Not much to show so far except Semin's PP goal, but they're buzzing.  Tomas Fleischmann had just lost his umpteenth faceoff against Cal O'Reilly.  Somehow Brooks Laich got the puck back and sent it to Fleischmann who was in the high slot area.   Fleischmann glided in and potted a neat wrister from 12 feet!  If you look at the replay you'll notice that three Predators have surrounded him as he took the shot, making it all the more amazing. 

A word to my fellow Caps fans here.  I read the recap over at Japers and of course they had to get in another dig at Fleischmann even after scoring this goal.  The writer was asking why in the world the Preds would ever have three guys on Fleischmann.  I get the power of sarcasm and all that, but, in the words of Joe B, Geez Louise!

The third ends and we go four-on-four for overtime.  Nearly a minute in and Ovechkin grabs it from the right corner boards in the offensive zone.  Ryan Suter is all over him and finally drags him down.  The ref's arm flies up and the boo birds come out, but they have nothing to complain about.  More on this below.  power play time once again--for the win I'm hoping.  After a fruitless first 30 seconds Nashville clears the zone.  The Great Eight collects it and breaks out, dishing to Backstrom who was waiting on the right side boards.  Backstrom carries in and circles back, sliding to Ovechkin at the point.  Ovechkin lets a one-timer go and it's in!  I DON'T BELIEVE IT!  but it's another great comeback.  Smokin' Al Koken, subbing for Joe B, later confirmed that the goal would be credited to Brooks Laich as he got a piece of it, but no matter.  Lindback after a great effort deserved better, but had no chance on that one.

I'm happy for the win but is anyone else concerned that it took two periods for this team to get going? 

I am also happy that the special teams basically saved the day--two power play goals including the game winner and the penalty kill is, hmm what's the word?  PERFECT.  Blackjack shellac they are 21 for 21.

Have to mention it once more since it was such a bone of contention among hockey pundits, but I think Michal Neuvirth has pretty well proven himself as NHL-worthy.  This game sealed it and I defy anyone to say otherwise.  Anyone else outside of Capitals' fandom noticed that he has yet to give up more than two goals since the loss on Opening Night?

We are continuing to get consistent good results from Jeff Schultz (24 minutes and +1). Fortunately, rookies Karl Alzner (23 minutes, +1) and John Carlson (24 minutes, 1 assist, and Even) aren't too far behind.  Unfortunately for the defense corps as far as the bright side, that is all.  I like my pizza crust thin, not my team's defense lineup.


Thoughts from the La-Z-Boy....(stuff I noticed about the TV coverage):

I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing that Alex Ovechkin CCM Crazy Lites skate commercial.

Kind of appropriate that they played in a building called the Bridgestone Arena with all the rubber flying around--39 shots by Nashville, 34 by Washington.

Just what the heck was that the Nashville fans were cheering after they scored?  Whatever it was, they were saying something else after Brooks Laich's OT goal.  Something about the referees performing a certain act I believe.  Look, I get that you guys feel screwed cheated after last year's playoffs with that non-call against Marian Hossa.  Not to mention the Backstrom boarding call. (sorry but it could have easily been 4 minutes or a misconduct) But come on...one of your guys hauls down Ovechkin in overtime and what do you think is going to happen?

Hilarious how BOTH the Caps TV guys on Comcast AND the Predators announcers said that Neuvirth's save on Kevin Klein's wicked slap shot from the point in overtime was "one of self-preservation."

The Preds TV guys, Pete Weber and Terry Crisp...I don't know what game they were looking at but it may not have been the one we were watching.  After the first goal Crisp said something like, "finally they solve Neuvirth."  Huh?  'Finally?'  After all of what, 17 minutes in?  I can understand saying that if the first goal comes near the end of the game after 30-odd shots, but that early?  Pete Weber tossed in another gem when he said that Lindback "couldn't handle that rebound" on Semin's first goal.  What rebound?  Semin's shot went in on its own.  Lindback may have juggled it a bit, but there certainly was no rebound.  And Crisp must like his hockey like his hair care products because he used the phrase "Curly Q" an awful lot.

Speaking of Smokin' Al, I thought he did a fairly good job last night.  Mrs. Blueliner thinks Joe B is pretty much the best there is in terms of NHL play by play and I tend to agree.  But I don't think a beat is missed whenever Joe B slides over to Versus.  Smokin' Al is just as willing to take the team to task, if not more so when their play is subpar like it was last night.  Besides, I want to know where he's found the Fountain of Youth.  I've watched him cover the Caps for well over 20 years and the man doesn't look as if he's aged a day!    Stuff that in your pipe and blow another $120 million on your crappy organization, Daniel Snyder!!!

And with that I'll close...next up is the home-and-home against the Bruins, truly the Caps' toughest test yet.  Two or three points would be nice, but of course they're capable of a sweep. 

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