Somewhat ferocious and foul fall weather descended upon Washington late Monday evening. A propos given the dark clouds clinging to HockeyWashington these days. †
- It would have been easy — knee-jerkish, even — to absorb†a 3-0 first-period dark well dwelling and react with “Another flat effort from the Caps,” or “Olie stunk it up,” but that’s not quite what happened. The Caps blasted 18 shots at Cam Ward in the opening stanza, and a†reasonable number of them were of the quality variety. Well,† Ovechkin’s were anyway. As the game worn on, the Caps†had shots from all angles and proximity, and none came close to besting Ward. He was the Cam Ward of the ’05-’06 postseason: positionally solid at every turn, Cool Glove Hand Luke.
- 5-0 actually could and should have been 8-0 had not both Capitals’ goalies made OMFG stops in tight.
- So what did happen? The Canes’ forwards sliced and diced their way through a cement-in-their-skates looking blueline corps of Caps in period one. Often, it wasn’t instances of Caps’ defenders getting caught up ice out of position; Washington defenders often were perfectly positioned in front of Canes’ forwards only to be juked and darted around in silly fashion.†Kolzig was†hung out to get his goals-against battered. Again.
- The Hurricanes have a corps of forwards that for about three years now has ranked among the best collective set of passing forwards†in all of hockey, and it was on vivid display in tonight’s opening period. They aren’t blindingly fast, they do not play a†bruising game†of dump and dig†down low; instead,†they distribute the puck magnificently, in all areas of the ice, placing one another in consistently excellent scoring chance slots. It’s really rather magnificent to watch.
- The Comcast broadcast Monday night illustrated the balanced minutes Carolina’s blueline nightly achieves. This also highlights the absence of a true no. 1 blueliner there (he departed for Los Angeles last season in one of the worst trades in NHL history). Interesting that Carolina also lacked such a shutdown stud the year they won the Cup. This team is beginning to look an awful lot like that one.†The addition of Tom Poti certainly addressed the Caps’ meager offensive firepower on the blueline, but it did not address the absence of a legit no. 1 guy. The Carolina goals tonight were all scored in tight — the Caps’ greatest area of vulnerability in their own end.†I think the ‘Canes prove that a team can win a lot of games — and even a Cup — without a Pronger-like stud on the back end, but if it’s blueline defense by mid-sized committee, you need savvy vets to carry it off shift after shift. The Canes have those in spades. The Caps are trying to develop them. ††
- The second period kill of the Canes’ third power play of the game was the most impressive I’ve seen†from the Caps’ PKers this season. In fact, in generated better scoring chances than many of the team’s man-up chances this season. †
- Donald Brashear’s defenders have their work cut out for them this season. He played limited but accountable†minutes for the Caps last season. Not this one.†Last Friday night he took a needless and stupid penalty early in the third period that ultimately led to the Flyers’ winning goal.†Monday night,†with his team valiantly taking the play to Carolina in the first half of period two, he†earned a well-deserved boot for head-ramming, and the major penalty and resulting†Hurricanes’ goal ended any little remaining doubt as to the game’s outcome. Often in NHL hockey the difference between winning and losing hinges on the†slightest of mistakes at crucial times, and the Caps these days can’t afford the mental errors Brash has regularly made this season. †
Monday delivered a brief bit of good news: The Caps inked 2007 second-round pick Josh Godfrey. He of the Sault†Ste. Marie Greyhounds†of the Ontario Hockey League and a 99 mph slapper. Problem is, he won’t be bringing it from the point in our red, white, and blue soakers this season. †
The Ilya Kovalchuk slump is over (in resounding fashion). Tonight’s game in Atlanta isn’t televised. Sound like mercy to you?†