Monday, November 13, 2006

Home Cooking Not Enough

Now that that's out of my system, let's talk about the Caps and their glorious win over the Swamp Cats earlier tonight...

Once again the Caps managed to grab two points on the road - I wouldn't say they stole them only because I thought they played a halfway decent game tonight. But let's be honest - this was, for the second straight game, the Olie Kolzig show.

44 saves on 45 shots? Are you kidding me?

He's just a beast, plain and simple.

It's something that has been lacking in this organization over the past few years - a very strong goaltending duo supported by some offense to finally put some games in the win column. That's not to say that both goalies didn't play well last year, especially at the end of the season. The Caps were just never able to find the offense to back it up.

Both Olie and Johnny have kicked off this season with above-average play, and when one may be a little off the other is able to step up. Case in point - last week's game against the Senators. Olie has a rare rough start and in comes Johnny to save the day, backstopping the Caps to a come from behind overtime win. Johnson got beat up a little last Thursday, and the very next game Olie puts together a spectacular 40+ save performance that comes so close to a shutout that it physically hurt me when the Rangers finally beat him.

Anyways, tonight may not have been one of the best Caps games played, but it was a fairly solid road game for our boys. There were some great passes, some good hits and just the one goal allowed on the power play, which I guess is bound to happen against such a highly ranked Panther power play unit. I was very impressed with the transition game, something the Caps have clearly been working on over the past few weeks. When it was clicking, the defensemen were able to quickly get the puck out of the zone and up to the forwards, who were able to move in on goal and get a scoring chance or at least a shot. 2 of the 3 goals (3 of 4 if you count the empty-netter) were created out of solid defense to offense transitions.

This game seemed like a string of rather dull moments punctuated by little bursts of exciting play, which I guess is what you want as the visiting team. I seem to remember a similarly lull-inducing game in Edmonton, albeit with a different result. Of course, tonight's game might have been boring because BankAtlantic Center was so empty. As my dad would say, lots of people disguised as empty seats tonight. How's that division rivalry strategy working out in the Southeast so far, NHL? Let's compare, shall we? Saturday's game against the Rangers, 16,000+ fans in the seats; tonight's game...well, I don't know the attendance numbers, but it was empty even for a Monday night game. I swear I could hear the equipment guys asking players if they wanted a water bottle on the bench.

- Olie...I don't think I really need to elaborate there.
- Team Defense - Joe B. and Locker touched on this in between periods; the defensive coverage was much better than usual. Sure there were a lot of shots by Florida, but the majority of them were on the outside and screens were cleared out so Olie could see the shots. I only counted one real odd-man rush, which was quickly put down, and the turnovers weren't too out of control.
- Pettinger - he seems to be hitting his stride again, getting his 3rd goal of the season and powering to the net for a handful of scoring chances.

- I didn't really think there was anything overtly bad about tonight - maybe a few too many penalties, but it was really just some little mistakes that can be cleaned up as the season goes on. Florida really came out flying and didn't let up all night, but the Caps were able to hang on to a one-goal lead for most of the night and eventually put together some offense to come out with the win.

With tonight's win, the Caps leapfrog over third place Tampa Bay and pull within one point of Carolina, who incidentally were creamed by Buffalo tonight 7-4. They now sit 7 points behind division leader Atlanta with 3 games in hand, and they'll have a chance to close that gap a little more when they visit the Thrashers next Saturday.

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