Goes without saying that that was one hell of a game. It had everything, great goals, great skating, some mistakes, a comeback and an impromptu Don King promotion towards the end. I'm perusing the Yahoo boards and the idiots have begun already. I got in some shots but I really don't care as I think we saw the Caps play to their absolute fullest potential this night. Let the jealous fans of very little brain bring the spittle.
Have to say though that it didn't seem like it was going to go well at the beginning. The energy and enthusiasm were there much more so compared to the opener against Atlanta. Might just have been from the crowd being so amped but even so it looked to be way better. And then Jason Arnott slams in a goofy rebound after Neuvirth lost it. What's worse is that Marcus Johansson made the mistake that led to the goal. Ugh...well at least they managed to not let it get to them. It also helped that it didn't silence the crowd at all. They got rewarded when just over a half minute later John Carlson sent one home from (where else?) just over the blue line. He's got to patent that move--it's the same one he used to score in the playoffs last year.
Play continues and everything seems to have settled. They've got the energy level up..still. Always a good thing to see. If it's one thing the Bruce is good at, it's keeping things up-tempo on the bench. Not letting the team wallow in failure. We as fans have to remember that he got the job for a reason. In any case they're not out of this yet. Patience pays off in the form of a power play. Great---perfect way to get back in it. They get a few shots off initially and were forced to regroup in their own zone. Oops, wait, no don't start running around in your own zone...shot! block it HEY! Marcus, pick pick up your man!! NOOOO! NOT A SHORTHANDED GOAL?!!!
I'm grumbling now. I'm grumbling some more. That scoreboard ought to say Washington 1, Marcus Johannson 2.
I jest. Yes I know it was acutally Jason Arnott and Henrik Tallinder that scored the goals. But MJ might as well have served them up himself. Would Matthieu Perreault have done any worse? Possibly. To be sure, this is actually normal for rookies and we might as well get used to it for the time being. Just as long as one of these gaffes doesn't cost a crucial game--that's where we will see what this kid is made of. And, as it turns out, the rest of the game didn't go too badly for him. This despite being one of only three Caps that ended up one to the bad on the plus/minus column.
So the second period starts and I'm still grumbling but I'm also still optimistic. Because if this team can do one thing, it's score goals. They did just that two minutes in when Tomas Fleischmann slid one in for his first. Great! Unfortunately the game really got bogged down for a good while after that. There were scoring chances to be had, but very little in the way of actual shots on net. In fact the shots were all coming from the wrong team. Neuvirth ended up having to stop all of the 17 that came his way. The second was winding down with about six or so minutes left and not much looked to come of it.
And then...the fun REALLY began.
Alex Ovechkin got a feed started by a nice Mike Green breakout. Mike Knuble set up shop in front of Martin Brodeur. Next thing I see, OV is surrounded by four white jerseys. Well you know what he's going next--shoot it, naturally. This he did and the puck took a timely bounce and skipped past Brodeur and into the net! I'm not ashamed to admit that I leaped out of my chair and started screaming...loud. This was the turning point and 18 K at Verizon Center plus the rest of us following on cable, internet, and radio all knew it.
Two minutes later, a bit of bad news as Jason Chimera gets sent off for a hold. At this point I'm just hoping the PK (penalty killing unit) doesn't screw up and give back the momentum they just got by giving up a bad goal. The penalty killers did their job and so much more. For all those folks at Japers Rink who followed the online feed (and you know who you are) and loudly groaned at the idea of Tomas Fleischmann being on the PK, you may want to rethink your groaning. What happened next did quite a bit in my opinion to solidify the case for Fleischmann gaining respect.
Look, I'm not saying I'm a big fan of his--most days I can take him or I can leave him. What I'm saying is, he has arrived and we may as well make the most of what he can bring to the table. Now it may well be that he is the trade bait most of you reading this hope he will be come next February. Even if he is, between then and now his on-ice performance will have a hand in: 1. Where the team is in the standings at that point and 2. What the Caps might get for him in return in the event that he is traded. But until then, he will be a contributor, and after all aren't results all that matter?
Besides, and this may be knock-you-on-you-butt fact that makes you think, but I hope I'm not the only one who realizes that in eight penalty kills the Caps are....perfect. Fleischmann has at least something to do with that I would think. But back to the game--and in the moment in question he had the presence of mind to see that Chimera's penalty had expired and tossed a cross-ice pass to him just as he jumped out of the box. Chimera blazed down the wing and flung it past Brodeur to make it 4-2.
Less than a minute later and #8 is tearing towards the net again. He's wearing Colin White like Superman's cape and finally ends up on his knees, sliding to the end boards, but not before getting a weak shot off. Then I see the ref and he's pointing towards center ice. Oh great, a penalty shot. No, I'm not being sarcastic, but anybody who knows anything about hockey knows that penalty shots in hockey do not favor the shooter. And Martin Brodeur is no average goalie, though this night he looked below average.
Soccer, this ain't.
But hey, it's an exciting moment regardless. Breaking down the shot itself, OV lines it up and goes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to the left side, almost to the end boards, then cuts to the middle and into the slot area. Brodeur does the butterfly, so there's nowhere to go downstairs. So #8 does the one thing he can do--lift it top shelf. Brodeur seems to have the top right corner covered but, nooooo the puck flies into the net! The great goal scorers have the best timing and Ovechkin is no different. Hard to believe the Caps were the 18th best draw on the road last year or something stupid like that. That's the kind of talent people should be coming out to see.
Five-two at the end of two and I couldn't be happier. But as the ad goes, there were still questions needing answers. Would they somehow blow it or let the Devils get to close? Could they put the nail in the coffin and close the deal, something they have been accused of failing to do so many times before? Well one thing was for certain, Martin Brodeur's night was over as they decided to bench him in favor of Johan (the Moose) Hedberg.
The Moose soon made a mess of things after the Devils got a power play. Hedberg came out about 20 feet from the net to play a loose puck. He mishandled it allowing a lone Brooks ('Books' if you work for Versus) Laich to scoop it up and dump it into an empty net. Wow. When you're having a bad night.....
But it was about to get worse. And in more ways than just on the scoreboard. There was one more goal to be had and it was an Eric Fehr roofer done on the power play. Even though it was a meaningless goal, I was glad to see the power play finally break through. We need to see about 30 more like that from Fehr, hopefully a good number of those after April.
Not too long after that was when the ridiculousness began. Before anyone starts I'm not one of these people who wants to get rid of fighting in hockey. Far from it. Fighting has been a part of the game and always will be. Argument over. But isn't it silly to be seeing guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Mike Green go at it? It might have been entertaining for about five seconds, but then it just look like two old bats slapping at each other. I got the feeling Kovalchuk just wanted his share of the limelight since Pavel Datysuk got into it the other night.
For those of you who haven't seen it, here, get it out of your system.
Again, nothing wrong as long as it's two guys blowing off steam, but then the game just got out of hand after that fight. Four seconds later it was Rod Pelley and Matt Hendricks. Another two seconds later it was Matt Bradley and David Clarkson, who had been running his mouth the entire game trying to get someone to go. I figured all right, Jersey's ticked and they made their point.
An idiot knuckle dragger by the name of Pierre-Luc Letourneau LeBlond for the Devils decided to prove his manhood by going after the one guy on the ice who wasn't interested in fighting--Marcus Johansson. This is bush league Baloney Sauce, nothing more. By all accounts, Johannson was challenged verbally not once but twice and declined. So the jerk chases after him and just starts pounding on him. Yeah, you're a man alright.
I can tell you he has been dealt with, being given an automatic one-game suspension. And rightly so.
Not only that but his coach, John MacLean, owes the league $10,000 in a big fat fine. Again, rightly so. And just what sir, were you thinking leaving a guy like that on the ice in that situation (not a pun)? Your team made its point in starting back-to-back-to-back fights. Why wasn't that enough? You have done little more than embarrass yourself and a semi-proud franchise. If your boss, Lou Lamoriello, has any respect left for the game (and I seriously doubt he does after all the crap he's pulled) the next time you pull that garbage your sorry behind should be on a train to the ECHL.
|Ok. Rant over. The game has ended and we're all happy. Well, most of us anyway. They announce OV as the number one star of the game, and yes he is the obvious and popular choice. But I happen to think it should have gone to John Carlson. And I'm not just saying that because he's on my fantasy team. (Shame on my fellow league members for not even drafting the guy, but thank you!) He did, after all, get the Gordie Howe hat-trick (goal, assist, fight), the fight coming at the end when he came to fellow rookie Johansson's rescue. If he can keep up this kind of effort from now all through next Spring, there may be more than just rain flowing if you know what I mean.|
So have the Capitals answered my initial question? Well the true answer is that it's still too freaking early to tell. But I will say this--what we saw last night looked a lot closer to what this team can do when everything clicks. Did they pound the nail in the coffin when they needed to? You bet they did. Did they answer the challenge when the opposition wanted to make it rough? They did that too. In fact they gave as good as they got. Yes it's early, but it's never too early to make a statement, and the statement was loud and clear--we will play our game and play it for 60 minutes, no matter who doesn't like it.
I don't always like blowouts, but when I do...I prefer games like this.
Stay angry, my Capitals.