Friday, September 28, 2007

Little Briere No Match for Big Ovechkin

There was a point tonight where the game definitely felt like a preseason game. There was a point when it seemed the Caps had reverted back to old habits and the game would be over before the third period began.

But then Alex Ovechkin took matters into his own hands.

He decided that tonight was not going to end that way, in a disappointing loss with little struggle. He wasn't about to let Daniel Briere and the Flyers run over the Caps without a little bit of a fight. And he was going to take the rest of the team with him.

There was a good sized crowd on hand, complete with a smattering of orange and black, to witness one of the more amazing third period comebacks in recent days. The Caps limped into the final frame down 4-2 and looking like they were sleep walking. At even strength they controlled the play but not with the enthusiasm and spark you need. Throw in a pretty decent performance by Niitymaki, two power play goals allowed and a shorthanded heartbreaker and you might as well call it a night. No way could they win this thing.

Strangely enough it was a Flyers goal that seemed to spark the comeback, though. Simon Gagne made it 5-2 early in the third period and it was suddenly as though every player on the Caps bench, led by #8, decideed to wake up.

First came Pettinger's goal to close the gap to two again, a pretty play that saw him driving the net and just finessing the puck past the goalie. The crowd started buzzing.

Then it was all Alex and Viktor Kozlov, who had a very strong game in his own right even before the comeback. Less than 30 seconds after Pettinger's goal Ovie set up shop behind the net and dished the puck with one hand out to a waiting Kozlov, who buried it. 5-4.

Now we've got ourselves a game. We start thinking maybe they'll force overtime. Overtime after being down by three would be fantastic, even if they ended up falling in the extra frame. It looked like it was heading that way, as with less than three minutes left in the game Ovechkin scores...he certainly has a flair for the dramatic, doesn't he? Assists to Kozlov and Nylander, 5-5.
But no one wanted to go to overtime, or (god forbid) the dreaded shootout. This was going to end now, and a minute later as the in-house announcer was still announcing the tying goal, Fleischmann got the puck in the slot (from, yes, Ovie and Kozlov) and absolutely rifled it past Niitymaki. A crowd of just over 10,000 people has never sounded so loud.

Throw in an empty-netter by Steckel thanks to a clean faceoff win by Boyd Gordon and that was it. Game, set, match, 7-5.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves - there were certainly problems tonight. Falling behind 5-2 is never good. Sludging through two periods of work is never good. Giving up two power play goals on only four chances is never good.

Oh, and letting bitty Briere run around without a leash will not be tolerated come October. Two goals and an assist? I don't think so. Not okay.

But the fact that they fell behind in such a way and then not only clawed their way back into the game but finished it off in regulation is a sign that things are starting to change. Before the Caps would fall behind and make a valiant effort through plain scrappy, feisty work to stay in until the final buzzer but would usually fall just short. You add skill, though, and it's amazing what happens. I think my jaw was on the floor from about the halfway mark of the third period on.

Great performances by Ovechkin and Kozlov, and pretty decent showings from Gordon, Pettinger and Steckel who is making it harder and harder for us to send him back to Hershey. I also thought Olie had a really good game and shouldn't be blamed for much, although there was maybe one goal he would want back when all is said and done. He kept them in the game when it was 5-2 and gave them a chance, making a series of great saves and showing off that Zilla form that frankly has been missing from this preseason.

Defense...was bad. On both sides. Green looked good, Pothier continues to surprise me, but overall when you allow 12 goals total there's no one on the blue line that doesn't share the blame.

Oddly enough what I found most heartening about this game wasn't the come from behind victory or Ovechkin reminding us that he is Ovechkin, superstar, superman, etc. It was the fans that showed up.

It wasn't a sellout or anywhere near it, but there were a lot of people in the seats (eventually) cheering their hearts out. Flyers fans didn't outnumber the Caps fans; there was significantly more red white and blue than the hated orange and black, and when Philly scored the roof didn't feel like it was going to burst off. A small change, subtle really, but to this veteran of many a Flyers game it was nice to see.

Caps now improve to 0-0-0 on the season. One more preseason game to go Sunday and then we're off!


Anonymous said...

Interesting that according to the STATS posted on, Eric Fehr had a goal and an assist tonight. Moreover,he was in the face-off circle for both teams.

And he did it all in a shirt and tie from where he was sitting in a box with his other teammates who were not playing tonight.

CapsChick said...

Actually it gets even better - it was Eric Fehr wearing Chris Bourque's #56 jersey.

Somehow I think that sweater would be a little bit small on him. :)

Of course the madness doesn't end there...the new scoreboard is still being broken in, too. At one point the Flyers were getting shots on goal without even having the puck.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your analysis of the game, I got there late after the first period and I was like what the heck is going on. I almost considered leaving early. I completely felt we were back to last seasons play but come the third period, Ovie was on fire. I personally haven't see him play like that since early last winter. I was completelt speechless. Not only did they tie it up but they crushed the flyers within 1/2 a period!!! and within regulation....I was excited about the season but after seeing the third period last night I am beside myself for next Friday night!!!!