Capitals 4, Hurricanes 1
You can't necessarily draw too many conclusions from one game but it certainly looked like one of the teams in last night's game deserved to be in the playoffs...and it wasn't the team that came in ahead in the standings. The Capitals flat out dominated this game - they outshot the Hurricanes 39-22, won 55% of the faceoffs, outhit their visitors 29-21 and controlled the play for the majority of each of the game's three periods.
Of course, the Capitals did get a little help from the Hurricanes and, frankly, from the officials. Not that every call went the Capitals way (after all, the Hurricanes only goal was scored because the officials missed Brooks Laich's stick being slashed out of his hands), but the Capitals had the benefit of the doubt from the men in stripes (and orange armbands) all night long.
The question is: was this a matter of luck, or is it somewhat telling of where Carolina now stands with the NHL's officials? After all, everyone knows that officials hate to be shown up and that word travels fast in the NHL these days. The Hurricanes are quickly gaining a reputation as a team of divers and regardless to what extent it's true the reality is that just as players like Sean Avery, Alex Burrows or Donald Brashear can be sent to the sin bin for "reputation penalties", a team can be victimized if they're thought to be particularly unfriendly to officials...and Peter Laviolette's uncalled for temper tantrum(s) (in which, by the way, he had the same 'I can't control myself and am about to cry' look as a four year old denied ice cream) certainly aren't going to help.
Speaking of which, just as Capitals fans can be encouraged by the way their team won I think it makes sense to be encouraged by the way the Hurricanes lost. Laviolette, as mentioned, blew a gasket not once, but twice at the referees and that's not something that's going to enamor him (or his team) to the league's officials. Brett Hedican, a 37-year-old veteran with nearly 1,000 NHL games under his belt took a frustration penalty after being hit by Alex Ovechkin. In an attempt to establish himself physically Jeff Hamilton fell backward and took a four minute high-sticking penalty. The Hurricanes bench took a penalty for abuse of officials immediately after a penalty was called on the Capitals. All while being thoroughly dominated by the Capitals in a game that Carolina had at least as much motivation to win. It could just have been one bad night. But if it's anything more than that, if the Hurricanes stumble even a little bit in their two remaining games, it might cost them a post season berth. We'll get to see tomorrow night when the 'Canes travel back to Carolina to host Tampa Bay.
DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Cristobal Huet - stopped 21 of 22 (.955%) shots sent his way
(2) Alex Semin - 1 goal, +1, 3 hits (including a big one early on to set the tone)
(3) Sergei Fedorov - 2 assists, +1, 67% on faceoffs
"The atmosphere was great. I have never seen a building like that. I have never seen the building like that."
- The three stars as chosen by the local media were the Capitals three trade deadline acquisitions.
- Apparently Semin can hit, so long as his energy is devoted there and not into slashing or roughing penalties.
- In addition to his goal, Matt Cooke had 6 hits.
- Jeff Schultz had 4 shot blocks.
- Is the key to getting Cam Ward off his game just to crash the net? If so, even if the Hurricanes make the playoffs, they're not going anywhere.