Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thoughts on Caps - Pens collapse

Lets see.. everyone has already covered the "Caps let lead slip away against Penguins... again" angle and the "Caps need to start burying Pittsburgh or else they're going to develop a complex" angle, so I'm going to take a different route (admittedly stolen from my older brother, Grumpy Caps Fan #2, who will be posting from time to time).

Glen Hanlon lost this game for the Caps. I say this not to call for his head (I happen to think he's just the coach the Caps need in this early phase of their development), but simply to point out the obvious fact everyone seems to be missing. The Capitals top checking line simply could not keep up with the Pens' top line, but Hanlon refused to fight fire with fire by playing Ovechkin and Co. against them, forcing the Pens into a more defensive posture. So when the flightless devilbirds top line was being double shifted, it had the effect of 1) keeping our best players on the bench and 2) forcing our "shutdown" line to bear the responsibility of handling 2 of the fastest and most talented young players in the league to secure the victory.

I like the chemistry of our defensive line, but, as my brother put it best, "There are no Selke winners on this roster." Every shift Secondary Sid and Watch-for-the-Elbow Malkin took looked the same. Evil flightless birds control puck, make effective passes, get solid scoring chance. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was just too much to ask of the checking line that lacked the speed to put any real pressure on elite level forwards.

Also, it seemed that Ovechkin was played sparingly until the last few minutes of the game and overtime. I don't have TOI stats from the game handy, but it sure seemed like it to me.

Giving away this game made for a -3 point swing for the Caps against a team we're likely to be fighting for a playoff spot in a couple months. Here's to hoping we don't make the same mistake again.

Ah, well. Time to get the knuckles taped up for Fight Night in Atlanta Friday.

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