Saturday, February 24, 2007

Demons Exorcised All Over the Damn Place

It's games like this that make me so frustrated with this team I can't even explain it.

Maybe the Devils were a little tired. Maybe they had some injuries. Maybe Marty didn't look as scary as usual. But the Caps took advantage of all those things, coming out and playing just an amazing road game for the win.


I'm ecstatic with the two points, don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that they were able to break down the man who may be the greatest goalie of our time. I'm over the moon that Johnson finally gets his first win since taking over for Olie.

But this just shows they can do it, they can put together a 60 minute game, score goals, kill penalties, position themselves well where the hell has that been lately? To break this kind of performance out after dropping 5 straight, 6 straight to the Devils, is just head-shakingly odd.

Enough whining, though. Let's take this win for what it was - just a well-executed game from start to finish, and surprisingly considering the opponent a pretty exciting game. The Caps were able to fight through that infamous neutral zone trap and snapped the Devils 17 game streak of allowing 3 goals or less. And let's face it, anytime you can dent the twine four times against Marty Brodeur it's a good day. The Devils were off their game from the net all the way out, and the Caps were able to capitalize on the mistakes while minimizing their own - that in itself, if you ask me, is amazing.

Lots of stuff to talk about with this one...
- Tomas Fleischmann - I'll admit it, I've been less than thrilled with Flash's performance up to this point. He's one of those players who generates a great play but seems consistently unable to finish it, and I've never really understood why everyone was so high on him. Even after today I'm still not convinced he has what it takes to play in the NHL - but it's certainly a start. This had to be one of his best games as a Cap hands down, a performance that was capped off with (finally) his first career NHL goal. It may not have been a thing of beauty, but it was a nice finishing touch to a hard-working day for Tomas. Congrats, Flash!

- Cam Janssen - I just had that feeling. I knew it. The second Joe B. and Locker started discussing Janssen's record-breaking streak of the most games played to start a career without a point, I knew somehow he would end it today. Thus is the magic of our colorful commentators, as Janssen ripped a slapshot past Johnson for his first career NHL goal. Just in case there was any question about his real role on the team, though, he later tangled with Erskine in a somewhat comical maration fight. Since we won today, I can honestly say congratulations to Cam on his first marker and wish him all the best over the next few years as he searches for big #2...

- Brent Johnson - Johnny has certainly had his share of ups and downs this season, following up a sparkling stretch to start the season with a run that saw both mediocre and sometimes painful performances. But since Olie went down with an injury, Johnny has really stepped it up and kept the Caps in every game. The fact that they can't seem to win one for him is another story, but I have been so impressed with his play over the last 5 games. His work today was no exception, as he went toe to toe against Brodeur and really outplayed him all afternoon. As someone who watched as he sat hopelessly in his crease following the Shark's tying goal Wednesday night, I'm ecstatic that he finally got the win he so deserved.

- Alex Ovechkin - SIGH. Oh, Ovie. This was a strange game for him, as he seemed to be showing some signs of life, but that flash and dash to his game is still missing. That could have just been due to the suffocating NJ defense, which has really kept him quiet all 7 times they've met, but Ovie may have slipped too far into his head - it's going to take a big spark to pull him out. On a side note, I really liked the way Zednik and Brashear both stepped up their game as they were swapped in and out of Clarkie's spot, each of them having what I thought were great games.

- Jurcina/Morrisonn/Erskine - These three blueliners matched Jersey's vaunted defense all day long, doing a good job of keeping the Devils off the board for a large part of the game and doing the big and little things the Caps needed them to do. Jurcina and Mo really have found their groove, each helping the other elevate his game. Morrisonn with Pothier was good, but he's found a new level to his game with Jurcina and the mistakes are fewer and farther between. As for Erskine, a diving poke check (a la the scratched Eminger) and the aforementioned fight with Janssen rounded out a good day for the rugged blueliner.

- Martin Brodeur - Amid the sparkling, jaw-dropping saves we've come to expect from Marty, there was also a hint of shakiness to his game today, as for the first time in a very long time he looked, dare I say it - human. The Caps have long been Marty's personal chew toy, futilely hurling pucks at him while he knocked them away, yawning. But today he seemed a little off and the Caps took advantage. Two pretty goals and two ugly goals equal one happy of Caps fan.

- Matt Pettinger – If Brian Sutherby’s garbage goal the other night was an example of the type of goal he needed to score, Pettinger’s shortie today was an example of what he needs to do. Just a beautiful backhander over Marty, which proved to be the game winner, reminded us of that pure goal-scoring ability he has exhibited in flashes this season. It’s the first goal of this type that he’s gotten in a long while – I’d like to see him take this goal and use it to pick up his game.

- Kris Beech – after being a healthy scratch for the past few weeks, Beech returned Wednesday night and put in a decent but not great performance. But you could see a difference in his game today as not only did he have good foot speed and good positioning but he factored in to the offense. It’s very easy to say someone who scores had a good game, but I think we all know that’s not always true (see Semin, A. – today would fall in that category for him). Beech really did look good out there. It may be too little, too late as far as his future with the Caps is concerned, but it was still nice to see.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start getting all moony-eyed, waxing poetic about how the Caps are still in the playoff race. I know it's pretty well out of reach. At this point I'm just happy to take a win every once in a while so I can justify my bizarre love of this team for a little while longer.

It would be easy to just feed off the euphoria of this one for a few days...unfortunately the Devils follow the Caps home tomorrow and I’d bet they’ll be looking for revenge. Still, the Caps have the confidence that they can beat this team and they need to remember that feeling as they stare down at #30 tomorrow. He’s beatable. The whole team is beatable.

And who knows, there may even be people at the Phone Booth tomorrow (besides me) to watch it happen again...

1 comment:

Capital Fanatic said...

Let's hope we can at least play another complete game tomorrow, no matter what the result.