Sunday, February 17, 2008

Caps top Lightning, 3-2

Capitals 3, Lightning 2

After losing in Florida and falling to Atlanta in a shootout, the Capitals were desperate to pull out a win in Tampa Bay to finish their swing through the Southeast and they were able to do so behind a resilient team effort and a rock-solid Olie Kolzig. Since there are a number of important issues to touch on from this game, so I've given each its own mini-section.

Olaf Kolzig. Clearly the game's best player (and the difference between a win and a loss) with 39 saves on 41 shots (.951 save %), Kolzig played like he did when he was an all-star and a Vezina Trophy winner. Since going to the more-or-less 60/split in playing time with Brent Johnson, Kolzig's play has vastly improved. It's nice as a Caps fan to see that Olie still has some very good minutes left in him....even if there aren't quite as many as we may have hoped.

Sami Lepisto's NHL debut. He didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first NHL game, but the 23-year-old Finn registered a shot, a hit, a blocked shot and some powerplay time. What struck me the most about Lepisto were his poise and calmness with the puck and his skating ability - attributes the Capitals are in dire need of along the blue line right now. Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Milan Jurcina are all big bodies but they're also all mediocre skaters and both Erskine and Jurcina are butchers with the puck. The Capitals defense is more balanced, and probably better overall, with Lepisto or Eminger in the lineup every night until Brian Pothier and/or Tom Poti return. Which brings me to...

John Erskine. Okay, I don't have any objective analysis to prove anything but it seems to me that there is a very high correlation between the Capitals opponents' getting quality scoring chances and Erskine being on the ice, which seemed to especially be true during last night's game. I like Erskine's attitude and style of play, but he is such a poor skater and is so bad with the puck that he is a liability against most NHL caliber forwards. While I think he's an okay depth guy, I don't think Erskine should be getting playing time ahead of any of the Capitals other current defensemen.

Secondary scoring. The Capitals scored three goals, which isn't an offensive explosion by any means. But the fact that they potted three from players not named Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Viktor Kozlov or Mike Green was nice. It's even better that Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann each seem to be finding a groove offensively.

Horrible television announcers. I think that fans of teams in Southern locales are too often unfairly dismissed as ignorant about the game of hockey, but if there is any truth to this stereotype I'm pretty sure it's a result of the guys doing the games on TV in these markets. In the past I've detailed the follies of the Atlanta Thrashers' announcers and in the Capitals game on the other night against Florida the Panthers commentators were not too impressive either. But I think Bobby "The Chief" Taylor takes the cake with his comment during last night's game. With about two minutes left their was a brief scrum that start in front of the Capitals net. Taylor blamed this on David Steckel, saying "What is that? I never understood that. If you're going to fight, then fight, but if you're not then just turn around and skate away. What is that? That's a bunch of crap!" There are a lot of thing wrong with that assessment including (1) if you don't know why that happens, you really probably don't know much about hockey and (2) Steckel gave a pretty innocent little push on a Tampa player's arm and the Tampa player then cross-checked him. But really that's irrelevant. What really matters is that Taylor demonstrated a complete lack of maturity and professionalism and if the person who is supposed to provide insightful commentary on hockey is pouting like a twelve-year-old fan of the team, it's no wonder that Southern hockey fans are schooled in the game's finer points.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Olaf Kolzig - 39 saves on 41 shots (95.1 save %) and clearly the best player on either team
(2) Alexander Semin - 1 goal (game winner), 1 assists, +1, 6 shots,
(3) Tomas Fleischmann - 1 goal


"He didn't seemed fazed at all. He was making great plays and he played within himself."

-Bruce Boudreau on Sami Lepisto

"Kolzig gets credit the whole game. He's the difference."

-Lightning coach John Tortorella

Quick Hits

  • Another rough night on the faceoff dot for Viktor Kozlov - he won just two of nine draws.

  • Someone should just tell Dave Steckel to imagine Lightning uniforms on every opponent. Steckel now has five NHL goals, four of which have come against Tampa Bay.

  • On the official scoresheet the Capitals were outhit 27-19

  • How nice was it to see how excited Semin was after his goal?

Around the (Inter)net
A New York Times intensive version today: the seven best trades the NYT could come up with and why the Southeast's big time scorers aren't on winning that he's been fired, everyone cares what John Ferguson Jr. thinks of the Leafs...Celebrating the Top 10 U.S.-Born Fighters

All photos AP/Getty by way of Yahoo!

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