Monday, March 3, 2008

Maddening inconsistency

First off, we'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who dropped by Clydes of Gallery Place and supported Wilson High School's hockey team. The event raised over $2000 for the team, which is a testament to the generosity of the hockey loving public here in DC. And thanks to the folks over at OFB for putting on the event. We now return you to your regularly scheduled grousing.

Ok, as of this moment we're no longer using the term must win in accordance with any Capitals game because at this point every game is a must win game. More of this win one, lose one crap just won't cut it. So lets take a moment to examine this weekend's games, then we'll move on to tonight's tilt against the red, er, yellow-hot Bruins.

This weekend had the potential to catapult the Caps back into contention for the Southeast Division title. And after the game against New Jersey on Friday night, it looked like that might just happen. The Caps played a very solid all around game against New Jersey, limiting the Devils to only 18 shots and thoroughly dominating the action. New aqcuisitions Sergei Fedorov and Cristobel Huet both made an impact, with Fedorov notching a pretty second assist on the power play and Huet stoning Zach Parise one on one to keep the Caps lead intact. The Caps also finally showed a killer instinct, piling on a couple late goals to preserve a well earned win.

Unfortunately, all that good was undone by a less than stellar effort against Toronto the next day. Olie Kolzig was solid in goal, but was beaten high to the short side by Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who snuck the shot in from near the upper part of the faceoff circle. It was a good goal, to be sure, but one can't help but wonder if Huet wouldn't have snagged it. The rest of the Capitals also looked lethargic and generally disorganized after dominating the first period. Alex Ovechkin broke out of his scoring slump, rifling a shot low to the left side past the helpless Leafs goaltender. Unfortunately, that was about all the offense the Caps produced, despite several power play opportunites.

In regards to the power play, I think it's time the Caps abandoned the whole Ovechkin at the point idea. It was cute when the Caps didn't have enough puck moving defensemen, but that's no longer the place with Green and Poti (and even new arrival Fedorov) more than capable of handling power play time at the point. And Ovechkin's one timer from the high slot is as unstoppable a shot as there is in the game, so it makes no sense to remove that weapon from the Caps arsenal. The Caps have suffered from overthinking and overpassing lately, and if there's one thing we know about the Russian Machine, it's that he's more than willing to take it upon himself to shoot the puck. Which is exactly what the power play needs right now.

The Caps badly need to win tonight's game (and the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that) if they are going to make the playoffs. In order to do that, they're going to have to do a couple things they aren't very good at. First, they're going to have to get past Zdeno Chara, who has been one of the few defensemen in the NHL capable of shutting down the Russian Machine. Second, they're going to have to get pucks past Tim Thomas, who has been a wall (albeit an unorthodox mess of a wall) against the Caps, posting a 8-0-1 record all time while recording a .940 save percentage. Luckily, the Caps have Chris Huet to throw at the Bs. His stats are equally impressive, with a 8-2-0 record and a .940 save percentage against Boston.

With all that said, I don't see a 1-0 game happening tonight. If the Caps have taught us anything this year, it's to expect the unexpected. I see the Caps pulling tonight's game out 4-2 (with an empty netter) if only to actually kill Original 6 by causing a heart attack at the game.

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