Saturday, December 29, 2007

Caps/Penguins Recap

Capitals 3, Penguins 4 (OT)

It's funny how the Capitals seem to manage to find a way to make fairly successful games feel like soul-crushing losses. It happened in Detroit, it happened on Long Island and it happened again last night as the Capitals picked up a point in the second game of a back-to-back set in different cities, in which their struggling goaltender had to come off the bench (and not even the Caps' bench, the special Visiting Backup Goalie bench) due to injury, without their best player for the last ten minutes and in front of a hostile sell out crowd. Picking up a point on the road almost always deserves to be called a success and the Capitals were able to do so last night, pulling out of sole possession of the Eastern Conference basement.

That's not to say the team should be completely happy with pick up only one point in a game where they could have picked up two but not being shut out on the road is, at the very least, acceptable.

I think it'd be hard to overstate how well Olaf Kolzig played or the importance of seeing him play as well as he did. Aside of making several impressive saves Kolzig looked sharp, positionally and technically sound and confident. For the first time in months he looked like he was ready to be the backbone of the team again. I've already seen some Caps fans who want to blame Kolzig for the Penguins overtime goal, but it wasn't his fault. Sidney Crosby was driving to slot with the puck and made a great pass to send the puck over to a wide open Sergei Gonchar, who in turn took a great shot. For Kolzig to have made that save would have been quite impressive and you can't fault him for letting it get past.

Kolzig was solid against the Lightning and very good against the Pens, especially when you consider he had played the previous night and had to come in cold, and again it'd be hard to overstate how encouraging his recent play is. Even at his best Kolzig isn't going to be a dominant keeper or steal a lot of games but if he can play like he did last night every night the Capitals aren't going to have to worry about their goaltending.

It's still hard not to be a bit disappointed with the way this night played out. Going into the game a win, combined with favorable results around the league, could have put the Capitals just four points out of the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot. At the moment the Caps are still six out, having neither gained nor lost any ground last night.

One final note: the Pens resurgence that allowed them to come from behind started when Shaone Morrisonn was called for roughing with less than five minutes left. I didn't see the whole play since the cameras focused on the play but it looked like he was called for going into the boards with Evgeni Malkin and if that's the case it was a bad call. Morrisonn was going to play another Penguins player who had the puck (I believe it was Crosby) and Malkin stepped in, essentially setting a moving pick. Regardless of whether Morrisonn gave him more than he should have and earned the two for roughing it sure looked like Malkin should have been called for interference.

Quick Hits

  • Ovechkin's goal was made possible by a nice play by Backstrom - his decision to not play the puck.
  • Quite a nice night for Brashear - a goal, a fight and four hits (all of which came in the first period).
  • European players are often accused of being soft, but both Alexander Semin and Malkin both play with reckless abandon, get knocked around, get up and don't complain, as evidence by last night's game.
  • The shot Brian Pothier scored was a bomb.
  • I miss Mark Tinordi.
  • Early indications are that Brent Johnson will have to miss 2-4 weeks with the injury he suffered last night. Word is that Ovechkin's injury was a cut, so he shouldn't miss any more time.

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