Monday, March 17, 2008

Huet leads Caps to shootout win

Capitals 2, Bruins 1 (SO)

Don't look now Caps fans, but with their third consecutive win the boys in red, white and blue are just two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the eighth seed and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after a shootout victory over the Boston Bruins on Sunday.

While at this point the team (and its fans) will take a two point night just about any way they can get one, the Capitals showed cause for concern on two fronts. One was their inability to take over the game physically. The Capitals are one of the biggest teams in the NHL (despite that they seem to have a tendency to exaggerate their player's size), have a myriad of skilled players and were playing at home against a Bruins team that had played an overtime game less than 24 hours earlier. Simply put, the third period should have belonged to the Capitals, yet the Bruins got the better of the shot count, putting up 17 to the Capitals' nine.

The reasons were twofold. The Capitals were partly outshot and outchanced in the game's second half because they were too tentative, a fact noted by Bruce Boudreau, who said of his team's play, “It looked like we were afraid to make a mistake instead of, ‘Let’s go get them,’ and play the way we can.” In addition to being tentative the Capitals were also stymied by a relatively simple (and extremely boring conservative) Boston defensive strategy. The Capitals have too much speed, too much skill and too much size to allow themselves to be contained by a team just dropping players back into the neutral zone.

But why dwell on the negatives, especially when they don't exactly set off any alarms? The Capitals did play pretty well, Alexander Semin and Cristobal Huet both looked great and the team showed not just how good they are, but how mentally tough they are as well, picking up three wins in a row after last weekend's heartbreaking losses. The important of the confidence (and the points) the Caps picked up in their last three games cannot be overestimated.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Cristobal Huet - 39 saves on 40 shots (.975 save percentage); 2-for-2 in the shootout
(2) Sergei Fedorov - 1 goal, 12-20 (60%) on faceoffs
(3) Alexander Semin


"Like I always said, coaches hate the shootout when you lose, and it's okay when you win"

-Bruce Boudreau

Quick Hits

  • I'm starting to wonder if Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom switched brains - now it seems like Semin is passing up good shooting chances to try and dish to someone else and Backstrom is stickhandling a bit too much, especially crossing the blue line.

  • Not that I think it's going on, or even that it's really possible, but if you wanted to try and convince people there was a Juventus-style match fixing thing going on between the Bruins and the NHL officials, you'd probably be able to throw together a lot of evidence from the last two Washington/Boston games.

  • To their credit, the Caps did come out throwing the body around. The team was credit with 20 hits and seven players (Alex Ovechkin, Matt Bradley, Donald Brashear, Brooks Laich, Matt Cooke, Shaone Morrisonn and Sami Lepisto) had more than one. Morrisonn's four set the pace.

  • Because there were only two goals in the game and both were on the powerplay, every player in the game was an even +/-.

All photos AP/Getty by way of Yahoo!

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