I’m not one to traffic much in the off-ice affairs of star athletes, at least not in published fashion, but with local media’s over-the-top coverage today of Alex’s overseas ingenue, there was for me a slight sense of light and welcome distraction from the day-in, day-out drain of the team’s postseason pursuit. Another positive spin on the matter: when was the last time you saw the Washington Post take inches worth of interest in the romantic runnings of a Caps’ player?
With a victory tonight the Caps will
equal exceed the total number of wins for 2006-07. They can also go three games over .500 for the first time since . . . the season’s opening three games.
With big rugged bodies Andy Sutton and Brendan Witt out of the Isles’ lineup tonight, it’s going to be interesting to see what manner of net-crashing Bruce Boudreau asks his players to undertake. The predatory nature of NHL teams is perhaps best illustrated in a situation such as tonight’s between the Caps and Isles. Earlier today the Caps returned two young and inexperienced players to Hershey, Eric Fehr and Sami Lepisto. With tonight’s being the team’s only game of the week before Saturday, Boudreau appears to want to exploit the Isles’ backline vulnerability with a more veteran lineup.
Thirty minutes before faceoff, the Isles’ blueline tonight apparently will consist of: Radek Martinek – Freddie Meyer; Marc-Andre Bergeron – Bryan Berard; and Aaron Johnson – Drew Fata (Rico relation, yes). Those very inexperienced final two may be partnered with more veteran blueliners, or Coach Ted Nolan may up to seriously limit their minutes and try and go with just two defense pairings as long as possible.
We’re within a week of the NHL trade deadline. To deal or not to deal, if you’re GMGM? It’s a question I’ll try and place before a few scribes up high during the intermissions.
Nolan’s opening D pairing: Martinek and Meyer.
2:17 in: Sniping Semin lights lamp on a breakaway, off a fine head-man feed from Matt Pettinger. 1-0 home team.
Milan Jurcina’s struggles this season — he’s been wildly inconsistent from week to week, offering physically dominating performances one night and inexplicably mistake-prone ones following — I think need to be corrected if the team is to do anything more than make a ceremonial postseason performance.
13:37: Brooks Laich it appears to earn a tip-in power play tally off a Mike Green point wrister. Olie is announced with a secondary assist! 2-0 Caps, and while the shots are 7-6 in favor of the Isles, in all other respects this appears to be a game that the caps ought to win comfortably. This blogger can’t remember the last game the Caps won comfortably.
2-0 Caps after one.
Way back in the preseason, when there seemed a number of difficult opening night roster decisions for Glen Hanlon and George McPhee to make, I was discussing Brooks Laich with Mike Vogel. Brooks, it didn’t appear to me, was having a particularly strong training camp. I told Mike that I thought Brooks might have a tough time of it amid all the young third line talent in camp. On the right side, the Caps had signed Viktor Kozlov, Chris Clark was coming off a 30-goal campaign, Matt Bradley was in his prime, and Tomas Fleischmann was having a great camp. In the middle, the Caps acquired Michael Nylander, Nicklas Backstrom was a roster given, and then you had fierce competiton among Boyd Gordon, Dave Steckel, and Laich. But Vogel possesses an uncanny eye for seeing the full value of a player’s toolbox, and seeing him slotted just where he ought to be when cut times come, and he wagered me an O’douls that Laich would emerge a roster spot winner and play an important role for the Caps this season.
It’s strange now to see the juxtaposition between Laich and Matt Pettinger this season as it’s unfolded. Pettinger had a first-period assist, but the season’s been an unmitigated disaster for the one-time 20-goal scorer (and on a weak Caps’ club), and his future here (beyond next Tuesday?) is difficult to imagine. Not so much with Laich.
Ted Nolan played his six defensemen rather equally in the first. Martinek and meyer were over seven minutes each, but Aaron Johnson was just a hair under six, and Fata was over six.
Kolzig made a superb stop on Bill Guerin, only to see the power winger make a nifty mid-air grab of the rebound and swiftly center it to Miro Satan for a discouraging lead-halving tally. 2-1 Caps.
An injury-riddled Isles outfit is in period two cycling the puck with little resistance in the Caps’ end. The Caps are flat in this middle frame. Ted Nolan with the decision over Bruce Boudreau in the inspiring effects of intermission oratory.
Predicted intermission text message from AO to sweetie: “We need to step it up, Coach BB yelling loudly.”
2-1 Caps after two.
It’s ’98 Cup run Reunion tonight in the press box. Joining Joe Reekie here are Peter Bondra and Chris Simon. I emailed Kevin Kaminski to tell him about the gathering of a few of his old buddies and he replied, “tell Bonzai I said hello and that I will still protect his *#@.” He also wanted me to ask Bondra about a Slovak on his Youngstown Steelhounds, a Milan Maslonka, who tips the scales at 6 ‘7, 245!
The Islanders have played, to quote the proverbial, the perfect road game. Undermanned, under appreciated, and for all the past two seasons, underrated. I watched them erase a 2-0, third period deficit against the Sharks on Monday afternoon. They’ve done it again tonight. Yes having DiPietro helps, but Ted Nolan also gets effort from all four of his lines. Tonight the Caps’ best line was their fourth. That’s generally not a prescription for success. I can’t confidently say that the Caps would have earned a point tonight without Quintin Laing in the lineup.
Remember that ‘it-oughta-be-an-easy W tonight’ I penned earlier? Promise I won’t utter those words again this season.
We’re three minutes away from shootout lineups being announced. Will Bruce Boudreau choose Viktor Kozlov — so effective in an Isles’ sweater in that exhibition last season — if it comes to it?
Ovechkin clanks another post, virtually willing his team to victory while carrying end-of-shift fatigue and an Islander on his hip.
I’m waiting on the announced shootout lineups.
The Caps will shoot first. Kozlov goes first.
And misses on the backhander.
Richard Park misfired for the Isles.
AO: thwarted by the goalpost — fitting, tonight.
Satan shoots next.
Another poster job!
Semin . . . snuffed!
Five shooters, five goose-eggs.
Comrie . . . goes 5-hole.
A costly point lost.