Saturday, November 18, 2006

OT Zone Eludes Caps

I’ll admit it – for all my optimism and rose-colored analysis, I was a little worried.

I saw the lineup. I saw the injuries. I saw the Bruins take a quick 1-0 lead. And all I could think was, this is going to be messy.

But for the first time in a very long time, the Caps came out and played a hard-fought, physical game and earned a point in the process.

Obviously I would have preferred that they get a win after such a thorough performance and they came close several times. But the combination of bad penalties in the last 25 minutes, solid goaltending by Tim Thomas, and of course the gwg by Glen Murray prevented the Caps from earning their 9th win on the season.

Still, I was very impressed with how the Caps came out tonight, particularly considering that they were playing the second of back-to-back games and were without some of their key players. Despite giving up the early lead, the Caps bounced back and continued to work for almost the entire game. Everyone was taking the body and rushing the net, putting shots on Thomas to get him scurrying around in the crease. I especially liked the feistiness and the way they stuck up for each other all night – late hits and cheap shots were quickly answered The only problem was the lack of offensive support for Johnson, who put together yet another great game in net.

I could point out various lines that worked tonight, but it’s nearly impossible to name one that sticks out…or that remained intact for the entire game. Hanlon obviously was using the openings created by injuries to give some of the younger guys more chances, rotating players onto a line with Ovechkin or putting them out on special teams. And for the most part, they performed well – the top line of Ovie, Klepis and Clymer was a really interesting line that generated some chances early, and later on a line with Zednik, Klepis connected for his first goal of the season to tie the game on a beautiful breakaway.

Overall this was the mirror image of the last game between Washington and Boston. It was an exciting, well played game by both teams - compare that with the snoozefest on Wednesday and its like night and day. Unfortunately it didn’t end up the Caps’ way again, but they do earn yet another point on the road for 12 overall. To put that into perspective, it took them until mid-January of last year to get that many points on the road.

So the rebuilding process continues and the Caps will no doubt take away more lessons from tonight’s game. Younger guys were given the chance to step up in the absence of veterans and performed very well, while the veterans still standing had good games in their own right.

No good/bad tonight – they played well all around and I don’t want to pick that apart too much even with the loss. The Caps return to DC tonight or tomorrow and will have 3 days off before returning to action on Wednesday against the Thrashers. They’ll need the rest, as Atlanta continues to be hot (although they were dropped by my Habs tonight, 3-1 – go Habs go!)

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