Saturday, September 30, 2006

Crunch Time

Sorry for the delay on what is I'm sure a highly anticipated breakdown of last night's game - it won't happen again!

I'll start by saying that while I was pleased with the overall outcome last night, there were many elements that will need improving before I can safely predict a playoff run for the home team. For some reason the Caps came out buzzing early but tapered off by the end of the first period and seemed unsure who their teammates were at times. (Is it really that hard? Black jersey...white and ugly orange, they look the same to me too.)

Individually, there were some good performances to speak of - Kris Beech was all over the place, hitting people and getting some good shots on goal, capping it off with the game-winner late in the third period. Ovechkin and Semin, although held pointless on the night, both had some moves out there that made the crowd gasp in unison. The penalty killing was, surprisingly, sharp and effective, at one point killing off a 2 minute 5-on-3 at the end of the second period. Brent Johnson stood on his head to get a well-deserved shutout.

I have to admit I was hoping to see Olie in net, so when I heard Johnny was starting I was a little unsure, especially given his 4-goal performance against the Pens just last weekend. That was a different game of course - earlier in the preseason, weaker penalty-killing and defense overall, and basically a sloppy game for both teams. Still, I wasn't sure which Johnson would show up - the one who went winless in his first string of starts last year, or the one who finished out the year turning aside shot totals numbering in the 40s. Turns out it was the latter, and he even threw in some dazzling saves to wow the spectators. My only criticism - he really needs to not wander around the net to get the puck because it scares the bejeezus out of me.

And so kids, it's good news/bad news time:

Good News
As mentioned above, there were many individually good performances last night. I'll give an honorable mention to Alexandre Giroux, who put together a strong performance in his own right. I'm officially completely clueless as to who should make the team at this point.
Bad News
The team game went AWOL after the first period. Also, with Pettinger, Bradley and Zubrus all sitting out Saturday's matinee with "minor injuries", we all get to remain in suspense for a little bit longer. I'm just glad I don't have to make the decisions...

Good News

Penalty killing over the last two games has been operating at a highly efficient rate, allowing only 1 goal on 19 chances. Of course, it's hard to tell whether this is due to effective work by the PKers or just a crappy Flyers power play. I guess we'll know one way or the other on Saturday.
Bad News
Why is it when one set of special teams is clicking, the other one pretty much bites it? The Caps had 3 power play goals against the Pens last Friday but also allowed 2...last night they killed off all 9 but were scoreless in 8 chances of their own with the extra man and seemed unable to even get into the offensive zone. A little consistency, that's all I ask - if you're going to suck, be committed to your suckiness across the board!

Good News
The defense along with Johnson held the Flyers to 26 shots and kept them scoreless.
Bad News
The Caps had 33 shots and registered only one goal in the waning minutes of the third period.

Good News
Ovechkin did not get into a fight.
Bad News
No one got into a fight.

Good News
The organization's goal to spread out scoring throughout the team has been achieved so far in the preseason, with 18 players registering at least a point through 5 games and four players with 3 or more points in that same time period.
Bad News
My boy Zednik continues to be virtually invisible both on the scoresheet and the ice, and Ovechkin has yet to register a single point (he does have a 5-minute sit in the sin bin, though).

Good News
Attendance at preseason games continues to be higher than usual, with close to 11,000 hockey fans watching the Caps on a Friday night.
Bad News
As usual, too many of those 11,000 fans were Flyers fans - there were several in my section, including this group of bratty kids sitting a few rows behind us. I know what you're thinking...obnoxious Flyers fans?? Inconceivable! But I kid you not. By the end of the first period we had a new mantra courtesy of my roommate - "It's wrong to beat up small children. It's wrong to beat up small children."

And with that, I leave you with an assortment of Caps' goodies, news and notes:

Our first good review!
Defensive Profile-O-Rama #1
Defensive Profile-O-Rama #2
Capitals Buying Time

A sad, semi-Caps related note - former Capitals' captain Steve Konowalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL due to a heart condition. Kono was always one of my favorite players during his tenure in DC and I rooted for him as he continued on to Colorado. He is a classy guy and an all-around great hockey player - I wish him good luck in all his future endeavors, whether in the NHL or in the real world. We miss you, Kono!!

A nice farewell to Kono care of Mike Vogel and (check out Vogel's blog for another nice tribute). The fact that he retired as a member of another team yet is featured on the home page shows just how much he meant to the Capitals organization.

I wonder what the response will be when Bondra finally hangs up his skates... :)

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