Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Carolina 5 Caps 2

Boy oh boy. Scarlett, I think I need your help again before I write this recap.

Hmm, not sure that's going to take some of the stink off this match. Marisa, little help here...

Ok, I think I can give it a shot. Ten days ago, the Caps were flying high. They had just destroyed the archrival Penguins on national TV. It looked like, with three Southeast Division foes coming to the Phone Booth, the Caps could polish off the division. A week and a half later, the Caps have been outscored 11-4 in two games against Carolina and Florida and look like a team that has plateaued. They look like a team that needs to shake things up at tomorrow's trade deadline. This club has looked lifeless for two straight games. Teams have figured out how to play the Caps: get a lead, clog up the neutral zone and stand them up at the blue line. This works because the minute they fall behind a couple of goals, the Caps go into Danglefest 2009 mode and try to skate through everybody and hit home run bomb passes. Something needs to be done to wake this team up and I don't think Bruce Boudreau shaking up the lines or skating the guys hard in practice is going to do it this time.

Other notes:

- Before I start picking the Caps apart I must give credit where it's due, Cam Ward and the Carolina D were outstanding tonight. The Caps put a ton of shots on Ward but the 'Canes D kept the quality shots down and when the Caps did get good chances, Ward came up with the saves. Carolina earned this one. They outclassed the Caps in every way.

- Two games in a row the Caps have given up a penalty shot. Jose Theodore stopped Florida's David Booth on Sunday but Eric Staal scored on Michal Neuvirth tonight. Penalty shots in back-to-back games is inexcusable and is a function of the defense (and the backchecking forwards) locked in on the puck and not having their heads in the game.

-Two shorthanded goals in one period is also inexcusable. Boudreau needs to get Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green off the point on the power play. Keep Green back there, put Sergei Fedorov on the point and have Ovie down low. Greener and Ovie play the power play with the same mentality: offense, offense, offense. Teams are now exploiting their aggressiveness and creating odd-man rushes because Greener and Ovie are halfway inside the zone all the time.

- Danglefest 2009. It needs to stop. Someone has to get it through these guys heads that dumping the puck in and chasing is the only way you are getting through the neutral zone trap-style defenses teams are setting up for them. Plus, too often tonight they were dangling with the puck instead of shooting it. Dangling looks good in a pick-up game and it will get you on Sportscenter if they don't have enough basketball highlights. But in the pros, 95 percent of the goals are scored "ugly." Tipped shots, rebounds, deflections. Yes, the Caps may score prettier goals than any other team in the league. But this ain't no beauty contest and teams that rely on pretty goals usually find themselves on the 12th green in May.

-That being said, Alex Semin's goal from his knees tonight was pretty damn sweet. A glimmer of fun on an otherwise miserable night.

- The Team Formerly Known As The Mighty Whale scouted Neuvirth well. They picked on his glove hand mercilessly tonight. Three of the TFKATMW's goals were either scored (Staal & Patrick Eaves' first of two) or set up (Ray Whitney hit the post and Chad LaRose scored on the rebound) by shots at Neuvirth's glove.

It's situations like this that have Caps fans clamoring for McPhee to acquire a veteran backup goalie. You hate to see a kid with as much talent as Neuvirth lose confidence if he were to get shelled like that again. Like closers in baseball or quarterbacks in football, playing goalie is all about confidence. When a goalie doesn't believe in himself, the rest of the team knows and plays with a little bit less of an edge. They play with the fear that every time they get beat its going to turn into a goal. Believe me, I speak from experience, having played in front of my share of shaky goaltenders.

- Look, I love Alex Ovechkin's "I must break you" mindset when challenged. I love how he's thinking goal every time he touches the puck. But when the Caps start losing (like they have the last 2 games) he's trying to hard to force plays and make something happen. Jesus, I'm trying to tell Ovechkin how to score goals?!?

-Finally, here's this game in a nutshell: Sergei Fedorov scores a goal with 1:46 left in the 3rd period to cut the 'Canes lead to 5-2. Almost all five guys on the ice, celebrating with Fedorov, fall down. They couldn't even celebrate a goal properly!

So that's it for this game. Trade deadline is tomorrow. Let's hope a veteran forward, a veteran back-up goaltender and physical defenceman are coming aboard. Next game is Thursday night at 7 pm against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Phone Booth. Until then, say good night to da bad guys...

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