Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wild One in Ottawa: Caps Beat Sens 8-6

Capitals 8, Senators 6

On one hand the Capitals scored eight times against the best team in the Eastern Conference, held the Senators to just two shots (!) in the first period and dominated the play for much of the game. On the other hand they also let the Senators get a number of good scoring chances, gave up two short-handed goals and nearly squandered the three-goal lead they have going into the third. Incidentally, the officiating was terrible.

Offensively the Capitals eight goal output speaks for itself, but the question as to why this offensive outburst is relevant and I think it's because of the way the top two lines are put together; that right now the Ovechkin/Backstrom/Kozlov and Fleischmann/Nylander/Semin combinations are ideal.

Obviously first line discussion begins with Ovechkin. Backstrom looks like a better center for him because he plays the type of game Ovechkin does (fast moving, looking to jump on opponent's mistakes) better than Nylander, who is more inclined to play a puck-control game and wait for something to open up. Viktor Kozlov seems to play a better game and have more energy and confidence when he plays with Ovechkin and since Fleischmann and Semin don't seem to be able to click with the Great Eight the Caps aren't missing much by having those guys on line two. Plus, Semin and Nylander seem to work pretty well together as Nylander is content to hold the puck and wait for Semin to find a seam in the opposition's defense. And once Semin gets the puck with a little time and space in the slot, look out.

Defensively the Capitals were all over the place, oftentimes dominant but also unsettlingly easy to break. That's not to take anything away from the Senators - the plays by Fisher and Alfredsson to get shorthanded breakaways were great plays, as were Fischer's deflections and Spezza's slapshot (though Kolzig should have that one). It might be tempting for Caps fans to do some hand-wringing over it but I, for one, am not too concerned because these goals aren't going to happen all that often. Kolzig has looked pretty solid the last few games and I think he's done allowing really soft goals on a regular basis, Tom Poti's not going to put one in his own net off his hand very often, the opposition isn't generally going to get two goals off great deflections and the Caps have generally been solid enough defensively they won't allow as many odd-man rushes as they did last night. The Caps had an off-night defensively against a very good offensive team. It happens to every team and until it happens at least in consecutive games I won't worry about it.

Speaking of off-nights, the referees didn't have their best night either (to say the least). They missed at least one too-many-men call for each team, missed Brashear getting Gerber behind the Sens net, called Fleischmann for hooking a Senators player but not a Senators player for hooking Fleischmann only a second earlier (which caused the turnover and led to the hook by Flash), got Morrisonn for interference but not the Senators playing for holding onto Morrisonn's jersey on the way down (see picture) and let Kozlov get run into the boards, from behind, without the puck, after the whistle by Chris Phillips. The only consolation is that it didn't seem to affect the outcome of the game - the Capitals were the better team and won.

The Caps picked up one point relative to the last playoff spot in the East and are now only five out.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Alex Ovechkin
- 4 goals, 1 assist, +2...who else could it be?
(2) Alex Semin - 1 goal, 2 assists
(3) Nicklas Backstrom - 1 goal, 2 assists, +1

Quick Hits

  • Poti's play to control the puck with his skates and make a quick pass to Ovechkin for Ovechkin's second goal could easily became the overlooked play of the game.
  • I mocked Chris Neil after his fight with Brashear but I have to hand it to the guy - apparently getting the crap kicked out of you is great way to fire up your team.
  • The only Capitals player who wasn't either positive or even in +/- was David Steckel.
  • I've really been wanting to have Ovechkin have a big game so I could say that the fire eye'd boy gave 'em all the slip. So...there's my ultra-smooth way to include indie music in my writeup.
All photos AP

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