Thursday, December 14, 2006

Goonies Never Say Die...Neither does Matt P.

- I had a comment from Victor earlier today about the recent increase in PIMs for the Caps since the Thrashers game and whether that would lead to the Caps being perceived as goons. I started to respond but it got really long, so I figured it was worthy of opening it up to discussion as a post.

This is actually something I was thinking about recently - the fact that there seems to be a fight per game since that Atlanta game is very strange if you look at the numbers from the first part of the season and then stats from recent games. Fighting majors have dramatically increased; when even Ovechkin has one (as trumped up as it was) you know something is different.

However, it’s hard to say that they’re going to be seen as goons just because of that. If you think about it, the Thrashers game is really a benchmark for the team chemistry that has been building up all season. Events like that, as many of the players commented afterwards, can only serve to bring a team closer together. As a result they’re quicker to jump to a teammate’s aid - I would say that a good portion of the fights since then have been caused by guys sticking up for one another. Let’s face it, you don’t get someone like Brooks Laich dropping the gloves just for the heck of it.

The problems are the fights that start for no apparent reason, and a buildup of those can lead to being perceived as the second coming of the Charlestown Chiefs.

Take, for example, the fights in the Anaheim game last week. There were two in the first period – that between two teams who really have no history, no bitterness (with the exception of the AHL playoffs last year, but considering the combatants I doubt that was a factor). But this was rare for the Caps – almost every other fight before and since was started in defense of a teammate, and I have to admire that.

And to me, the teams that I see as tending towards the ‘goonish’ are teams that not only fight for no reason, but also take a lot of cheap shot penalties – your boarding, charging, cross-checking, elbowing calls. These are usually common among bigger, slower teams that have no other way to catch up with or shut down the faster teams in the league other than to take someone's head off.

If you look at a breakdown of the Caps penalties, the majority of them are your garden variety penalties usually taken to prevent a scoring chance or as part of a scramble for the puck along the boards – hooking, holding, the occasional slash, etc. Mix in a couple of assorted favorites such as too many men or delay of game and you have the Caps penalty scorecard. Mild-mannered as they come...unless you take a run at one of their teammates, that is.

Hopefully the refs will remain objective and not pin a label on the Caps just yet – after all, in my opinion they’re simply taking care of what many times the officials did not. Thoughts?

- If you haven’t already read it, be sure to read the great Pettinger profile on You know, somehow I forgot that Petty’s only been up with the big boys for a short time, really just two full seasons. For some reason it feels like he’s been around a lot longer, which I think speaks volumes to his role on the team. Regardless, it’s no secret that I loved his performance last year and have been over the moon with what he’s done this year (minus that brief adjustment period after his injury). He’s a player I would love to see in a Caps uniform for years to come and I thought this was just a great look at a great player.

Ah, Mike Vogel strikes again...see, he has the resources (and, y'know, the talent) to do really interesting things when the schedule lags. All I can do is link to his work and wait for gameday...


FS said...

The reason it feels like Pettinger has been around so long is that the only Caps who's been around longer is Olie.

CapsChick said...

That's not really saying much, though, is it? Poor Olie...everyone he loves leaves him.

Victor said...

Nice little analysis. I suppose I should say I pretty much felt the same way you did, until the Anaheim game. Those two fights at the beginning, for no real reason IMO, had me thinking more and more about what my gf said, and still has me buying into it. Right now, I think the Caps are walking on a very fine edge, and they're in danger of falling down the wrong side. I'm going to miss about half the game tonight, but I'm sure I'll read about what happens, or doesn't happen, tomorrow.

CapsChick said...

It's true, that Anaheim game was bizarre...unless you look at the fact that Anaheim has the most fighting majors in the league. I think going into that game, the question wasn't whether someone would fight, it was who and when.

If the Caps can get out of tonight's game with little or no blood on their hands (unless provoked of course) their reputation should remain intact. It should be an interesting one, I hope.