Now That’s Vanquishing a Hated Foe

Cup'pa JoeMusings from an unexpectedly madhouse rink in Chinatown:

  • A season-altering triumph? It sure had that feeling in the immediate aftermath of a cardiac comeback against the ‘Canes. The Caps were three minutes shy of starting off an important homestand with a frustrating loss to their fiercest and most hated Southeast foe. Then, in keeping with his storybook season, Alexander Semin took a struggling team on his back and willed them to triumph with his magic wrists.  
  • It was a World Championships reunion night at Verizon Center. Back in May, the Russian entry in the IIHF World Championships skated a top forward line comprised of Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov, and Alexander Semin. They acquitted themselves rather well in the sense that all three finished in the top 5 in tournament scoring: Semin with 13 points, Ovechkin and Fedorov with 12, in 9 games. All three skated in double-digit plus-minus for the tourney, and Ovechkin and Fedorov assisted on Ilya Kovalchuk’s gold medal winning overtime goal against Canada. Caps’ fans following the tourney on line understandably wondered: would the dominant line in one of hockey’s most prestigious events be reconstituted on the Caps in 2008-09? The answer on Thursday night at Verizon Center finally arrived — yes! And before Fedorov departed the game in the third period with a “lower body” injury, there was ample reason for Caps’ fans to wish that the line remain intact the remainder of the season. 
  • It really ought to be the best line in hockey. Alluding to the trio’s chemistry, Mike Green in the post-game locker room noted, “They’re best of buds.”  
  • In light of the way the Hurricanes’ ’07-’08 season ended last spring, with that stunning home ice loss to Florida opening the door for the Capitals to steal the Southeast title and the division’s lone postseason entry with their 82nd game, you could convincingly suggest that last night was Carolina’s biggest game of the young season. The visitors played a simple, largely disciplined game, and they got high-quality goaltending from elite talent Cam Ward. What the ‘Canes failed to do was win faceoffs (winning just 36 percent of the game’s draws), and they certainly failed to contain Alexander Semin when it counted. 
  • A confession: I arrived at the rink somewhat soured on this team’s long-term prospects, and Thursday night’s high drama late masks for another day still significant concerns. The Caps at times Thursday again got “too cute” with their offensive zone attacks, and the home crowd let them know it — particularly in the third period. The development of a reliable “lunchpale line,” a trio of strong and gritty willing to get dirty in front of the net and in corners shift after shift, would I think go a long way to reorienting this team’s identity and alleviating its startling inconsistency. Who would skate on such a line? Chris Clark for sure. Brooks Laich is another candidate. If he could somehow make a position switch, I’d like to see what Eric Fehr could do on such a line.
  • Remember Ovi’s monster night (4 goals) against front-running Montreal at Verizon Center way back in January? Don’t you get the feeling that his countryman Semin, in this ‘I’ve arrived’ autumn he’s authoring, is going to have one of those himself? Or maybe three of them?
  • Games like Thursday’s have meaning — even season-defining meaning ocassionally. Fully 30 minutes after the game I walked past ‘Canes’ coach Peter Laviolette in the hall outside the visitors’ room. His team was already on its bus. The coach moved slowly, his shoulders slumped, his expression one of thorough, lasting dejection. I’ve seen a lot of disappointed coaches in that hall the past couple of seasons, but none looking quite as agony-ridden as Laviolette. 
  • Washington is a town renowned for Redskin quarterback controversies. This autumn, the Capitals have a goaltending one.          
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This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Brent Johnson, Carolina Hurricanes, IIHF, Jose Theodore, Morning cup-a-joe, Sergei Fedorov, Southeast Division, Verizon Center, Washington Capitals, World Championships. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Now That’s Vanquishing a Hated Foe

  1. noah says:

    Have we thought about how we are going to pay for 2 star forwards? I know that Semin’s contract still has time in it but lets say he performs at 3/4 of what Ovie did last season (not withholding that right now he is performing top in the league); do you think that we will able to make enough room under the salary cap for another big star?
    Just interested in your opinions.

  2. pucksandbooks says:

    Noah,
    Alex II is signed through next season. Fedorov is not. Ovi of course is inked through much of this century. Semin’s next contract, should his elite play continue, will be a most interesting negotiation.

  3. Brian says:

    I made the trip down from south central PA for last night’s game. We were in 115 and had a real nice look at the Canes first goal. Once again, there was no D there. That seemed like a deflating moment. Then, when they tied it up in the second, there was hope. That proved to be short lived when Carolina tied it up again. There were times in the first and third where they cycled really well, only to get cute with it trying to get it out of the corner. There were also too many passes that went directly to the visiting team. Some in the Caps defensive zone. You just can’t do that.
    They got the win, but still have things to work on. I had a great time, got some nice pictures and hope to make the journey back soon.

  4. OrderedChaos says:

    Glad you made the trip, Brian! My friend from western MD joined me at the game for his first since the lockout.
    His reaction to much of the game was “Same old Caps”, his pessimism still firmly in place. He half-jokingly brought up the name Dmitri Mironov in the same sentence as Mike Green (I crossed myself, knocked wood, etc.). But he was as excited as the rest of the Phone Booth for Semin’s GWG, and will I’m sure be back soon — last night was not a game the old Caps would have won.

  5. todd says:

    It’s exciting, isn’t it? But the suspicion shown here valid – and I totally agree. The defense across the board is horrible and every player back there needs to step it up and work together, particularly with two new goalies. Every time the opposition crosses the blue line it’s an adventure. As with all the home games this season, last night showed that the only defense the Caps have is a full-on attack to keep the puck in the zone and hope against any odd-man breaks. I hope Bruce gets this sorted out very quickly.
    With that said, there was a seven or eight minute run in the third where both teams were end-to-end and it was truly exciting. When that burst finally finished and the Caps were still down 2-1 I thought it was over – then came the Alexanders. I’d love to see that line together all season but unless we can sort out a second and third line (Backstrom? Hello?) it can’t happen for long.

  6. Victor says:

    I’m glad you’re not letting anybody forget about the Caps seeming preference for a cute pretty goal, rather than just shooting the puck and pouncing on the rebound (if it doesn’t go in). Twelve games in and you’d think they’d figure taking one more pass is giving the other team one more chance to break up the play.
    On a different note, does anyone know what the record is for allowing first-shot goals? They’ve allowed at least three, and I think four, in their twelve games. Yeah, it’s certainly bad luck, but it’s starting to get freaky.

  7. pucksandbooks says:

    Todd,
    I’m glad you mentioned that firewagon hockey of the final frame. It was riveting, new-NHL hockey at its best. The hope here is that the game will continue to evolve so that the likes of Chris Bourque and Mathieu Perreault can carry it further.

  8. OrderedChaos says:

    It’s 4 for the Caps so far Vic, and while I have no idea what the record might be (I doubt it’s tracked, but who knows) it’s certainly an unsettling trend.
    Or we can take the glass-half-full approach and hope the law of averages kicks in soon and the first-shot-first-goal tally at the end of the season is 5 or 6, and they’re just getting it out of the way early. 🙂

  9. Flying Cloud says:

    The cry for more shots reminds me of how exercised we used to get in reaction to Joey Juneau, for the same reason. Shoot it! Shoot it! Easy for us to say, but Coach says it too, which would seem to validate the feelings of ~18000 fans. These days, I can barely see when a lane is open, but I wouldn’t sneer at an ugly bounce if it winds up in the net. I hope the boys thrive on this narrow victory and are up for the Rangers on Saturday.

  10. Victor says:

    The development of a reliable “lunchpale line,” a trio of strong and gritty willing to get dirty in front of the net and in corners shift after shift, would I think go a long way to reorienting this team’s identity and alleviating its startling inconsistency. Who would skate on such a line? Chris Clark for sure. Brooks Laich is another candidate.
    Howzabout Flash? Yes, he’s had his problems in the past, but he put forth a good effort last night (all season, in fact) and is tied in second with Greeny & Fedorov for goals. (OTOH, he’s dead last in +/- at -4.)

  11. Eric says:

    Just wanted to agree with the first point about “A season-altering triumph?”
    I got the feeling that the comeback last night was one of those season defining moments. To me it felt like that win should set the tone for the next few weeks.

  12. b.orr4 says:

    @p&b: I wish I could figure out what is wrong with Chris Clark. When you state that he would be the first player on your “lunchpail” line, I would say that if you could bring back the Chris Clark of two seasons ago, I’d agree. But he’s currently just a mere shadow of that player. For my money, it’s Dave Steckel. If you look back to last season’s playoff run, he was the glue that made that fourth line so dangerous. I’m a little mystified as to why he’s sitting so much lately. But then again, I’m also scratching my head about what’s happening to Eric Fehr.

  13. MulletMan says:

    please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought feds signed a 3 year deal.

  14. b.orr4 says:

    Feds only has a one-year deal.

  15. MulletMan says:

    Thank you…I need to stop drinking soo much in the off-season.
    You are correct. http://www.reuters.com/article/sportsNews/idUSN1432809420080714

  16. Flying Cloud says:

    Regarding Mr. Fedorov, is it not true that were he to sign for next season only $1M of his salary would count toward the cap, due to his age? That being the case, could there be a better bargain in the NHL? If our ice is cleaned up by then, maybe he’ll consider it!

  17. Grooven says:

    It’s easy for fans to yell SHOOT, but really, what would the point be when there are five skaters between the shooter and the goalie? The puck gets blocked and an odd-man breakout going the wrong way ensues. Try actually looking at the play instead of just yelling out of frustration.
    The Carolina defense collapses so deep, especially on the penalty kill, that shooting lanes were hard to come by. When they move the puck well and with intent, the defenders came out of position and the Caps got some good chances.
    The Capitals are stagnant on the powerplay. The lack of motion; the lack of someone camped out in front of the net; too many players behind the net; poor overloads; iffy decision making; most notably, poor puck control.
    It was frustrating to watch be cause when they play as we know they can, they’re one of the best in the league. We’ve seen them do it, this year even.
    But too many games in recent days, they seem a step slow.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I think though that we all wanted Backstrom to shoot when he was alone in front of Ward, but instead he passed to the side of the net, and there was a Canes defender in the passing lane. And when goalies are playing well, as Ward was, you need to screen him and maybe get deflections and rebounds and such. As long as when you shoot, you have two guys back and a third that could get back, you’re fine.

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