Last night's game was another character win for the team that started out as 25 minutes of questionable play. This of course is not exactly breaking news for we who have followed this team for a while now. We can't expect every game to be a masterpiece or a dominant effort. But once again, it's the bad habits that have me shaking my head (and smiling). So yes, this is another one of those "Yeah we got the win, but....." games.
The first period and a half was pure torture to watch. Nothing good happened, not if you were a Caps fan anyway. Somehow I could hear Doug Stolhand of the Puck Podcast snickering as his Ducks built a lead of 3-0. The Caps were giving a decent effort, but were getting caught flat-footed and making passing and positional mistakes. I heard Locker say something about the first game back from a road trip always being the toughest. Maybe that was it. In any case the spirit looked willing, but the flesh was weak.
As awful it it was to watch the Caps failing, it sure didn't look like the on-ice officials were interested in calling penalties. I can't remember who said it before as I heard it said on one of the podcasts I listen to, but I'm certainly not the only one who feels that Don van Massenhoven is one of the worst, if not the worst referee in the league. He was ten feet away when Cody Eakin did an involuntary face plant into the glass by the half boards. Welcome to the NHL, Cody. Twenty seconds later Alex Semin was tripped up. STILL no call. The crowd objected loudly in a collective howl I hadn't heard since I walked by that adult bookstore. That must have woken the refs up because they finally called something when Matthieu Perreault was tripped by Corey Perry a half minute later.
I know Gary Bettman keeps on saying that the refs are constantly evaluated and only the best get to work the playoffs, etc. I guess there's a "best-of" in anything, even if it's piles of garbage. Kinda like how even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while. OK rant over
Let's talk face value for a moment.....
Hot in the dot--Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, and Marcus Johansson.
Not so hot--Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich who were a combined 8 for 24. El Yucko.
Funny though these two sure did come through when needed most. Laich had a stellar night finishing with a +3 rating and three assists to match. And of course Nick Backstrom pretty much carried the team in the dying minutes of the game, something he's starting to become known for (think first game of the dreaded Montreal series in OT).
Johansson by contrast wasn't so great aside from the the faceoff circle. But let me tell you something--I'm really starting to love this kid's hustle and willingness to get down and dirty in the circle, along the boards or wherever. His last faceoff he won by sheer guts and determination.
Is anyone else as unimpressed with Roman Hamrlik as I am? Really, what has the guy contributed and why exactly did we get him? Wasn't he supposed to be an older and wiser Mike Green? Do we really need to forget that he is the one that caused this reaction from an angry fan not too long ago? Piss poor play is excusable in the regular season, but never in the playoffs. Who better to remind us than a Montreal fan clearly preparing himself for a coronary episode?
There are those out there boo-hooing the development caused by the stir that was the Bruce's decision to move Mike Knuble to the fourth line and bench Ovi for the final shift of regulation. I've got three words for those people--get over it. If going with the hot hand equals winning the so be it. If a guy is unproductive, he will sit. Sound simple enough, Mr. Bradley? I hope so, now shut your hole. That goes double for all the other jackasses who don't know what they're talking about.
Speaking of non-productive it was another Bad night for Sasha. Minus one rating and practically invisible for the run of the game save for three hits and three shots. He might be next for the Boudreau Benchwarmer batch. Wonder how well that would go over? I bet he would learn a whole lot of new English words then, none of which could be printable.
So long Sean Collins....welcome back, John Erskine! Damn we missed you! Speaking of the blueliner corps, perhaps Nick Backstrom earned the hard hat, but he would not have gotten there without an excellent keep-in play by Jeff Schultz followed by an alert pass that led to the OT goal. Nice job, Sarge.
And let's finish with the last line of defense, Tomas Vokoun. This time around the Caps' D-corps did a lot better job of keeping the shots away, yet four goals were surrendered on fifteen shots. The third one had to be the absolute worst. The whole damn team pulled an ole routine and Vokoun looked like he never saw it. I have to agree with the Japers' Rink recap--Vokoun looks worn and it's about time for the Bruce to give him a break. Take a look at the schedule--there's several weekends worth of back-to-back games. It's a classic breeding ground for injuries.
So ten games in, a healthy record of 8 wins and two losses. The cracks are already beginning to show, but then so is a hell of a lot of character. It takes a strong foundation to build something great and that just might be what the Caps have here. So long as they don't take a wrecking ball to it accidentally.