Friday, October 19, 2007

What is Bill Guerin, like 70 now?

Talk about a bitter taste in the mouth. The Caps played a fairly good game last night, but were undone by stupid penalties and even worse special teams play. The Caps power play is, in a word, awful. In the words of Rick Pitino, "it sucks, and it stinks, and it sucks." Wasted opportunities like this at the beginning of the season are going to haunt this team when the playoff chase comes around.

While plenty of blame goes to the Caps putrid power play, there were other issues that certainly didn't help the Caps cause. A rare poor outing by Kolzig allowed the roughly 340 year old Bill Guerin to record his first hat trick since the league expanded from 6 teams in 1967. Kolzig did a particularly poor job of sealing off the 5 hole, allowing goals that literally slid underneath his pads.

The bright spots for the Caps occured within 5 minutes of one another. After apparently not realizing he was playing with the most dangerous winger in the league for most of the game, Joe "don't call me dead meat" Motzko finally fed a pass across the slot to Alex Ovechkin two minutes into the third period. Ovechkin did what he does best, one timing the puck into the twine before Rick DiPietro had a chance to react.

Less than five minutes later, Nicklas Backstrom showed the world why he is considered one of the top prospects in the game. Backstrom charged up the left wing boards, fought off two defenders, then made an amazing feed from behind the net to Tomas Fleischmann, who banged the puck home to knot the game at two.

Now I'm not one to say I told you so, but Flash looked a whole heck of a lot better playing with Backstrom and Nylander than he did on the top line. Flash and Backstrom looked like they had been playing together for years, and for stretches of the third period looked like the most dangerous line in the arena. Their uptempo style and aggressive play in the offensive zone had the Isles on their heels, and it looked like only a matter of time before the Caps would take the lead...

... and then, faster than you can say "they just need to avoid taking a stupid penalty here" Captain Clark upended an Islanders defenseman in the offensive zone, giving the Isles the man advantage. Clark has not looked like himself since the beginning of the season. While some of that can be attributed to his move off Ovechkin's line, he just looks like he's forcing the issue right now instead of allowing the game to come to him. Clark's intensity and his willingness to put everything he has into every shift he takes is what makes him Captain material, but he needs to dial it down a notch and just play his game right now.

Bryan "Just because I wear an eye patch it doesn't make me a pirate" Berard promptly beat Olie Kolzig on the ensuing power play, and the momentum pendulum swung fully the other directions. The Caps continued to take bad penalties, and Guerin put the game out of reach with two late goals to complete the hat trick.

So what can we take away from this game? Well, I certainly wouldn't bet on Olie Kolzig having another bad game any time soon, so that's not an issue. The power play continues to let the Caps down, primarily because they continue to go against conventional wisdom and spread the puck around instead of force feeding it to Ovechkin at every available opportunity. If Joe Motzko has the puck on his stick for more of the power play than the Russian Machine, there's a fundamental problem with the power play strategy. We said it last year, but it bears repeating; It's time for the Caps to go find a power play coach/consultant. There has been no improvement on the power play in the time Hanlon has coached here, and while he's done a good job overall, it's clear that nobody's buying what he's selling with the man advantage.

The Caps also need to cut down on the penalties in the attacking zone. There's no excuse for that. Ever. And without Boyd Gordon in the lineup, the penalty kill looks average instead of unbeatable. Hopefully Boyd's back spasms will settle down and he'll return to the lineup sooner rather than later.

And finally, everyone's burial of Flash might have been a bit premature.

Next game is this Saturday against the Flightless Devilbirds. If you are in the area and consider yourself even a passing fan of the Caps, there's no excuse for not buying a ticket to this game. Seriously. Go do it. Right now. We'll still be here when you get back. Remember, if you're sick and tired of other fans coming in and taking over our building, you can absolutely do something about it. Buy a ticket. Get your friends to buy tickets (as long as they're not from Pittsburgh). Don't let some idiot Pens fan in your section even start that pansy little "let's go pens" chant in your section. Drown their voice out with your own. Do not, however, attempt to drown them in the literal sense. I know they're annoying, but attempted murder is not the answer. Yet.


the deuce said...

I would add that Hanlon continues to try to do what he tried to do at the beginning of last season, with even less personnel and similar results (or lack thereof) -- Have two good power play units rather than one great one. Reference his quotes from the beginning of the season about "the best teams having two strong power play units." well Glen, I'd settle for one decent power play unit right now. How about, at least until Semin comes back, we load up with Ovechkin, Nylander, Clark, Poti, and Backstrom/Green. How about we try something different and put OV on the point, where teams would be forced to respect his shot and not cheat down low, thus opening space for Nylander and Backstom to play tic-tac-toe? How about ANYTHING except just keeping Lines one and two together for the PP...anyone? anyone?

Roger Padre said...

I'm sorry but I am too shaken by the Caps incredibly inept special teams to make many comments. Something has to change. Hanlon has got to recognize that he has the wrong combinations or strategy given what he has to work with. Apparently we have no bangers on defense and no bangers to put in front of the net on power plays. That hurts! As we hear over and over again, in the new NHL, special teams are everything!

DMG said...

I think it'd be best to keep Ovechkin on the sidewall so they can wheel to him for a one timer, like they've had success doing the last couple years. But I agree they should load up the offensive talent on one powerplay, especially once Semin gets back.