Sunday, April 5, 2009

Caps 6 Thrashers 4

Someone needs to make a tape of the 3rd period of today's game and play it before every Caps game from here on in. Whoever shows that tape needs to tell the team, "THAT is what you guys can do if you consistently bring it."

The Thrashers had no answer for the Caps in the 3rd period, as the boys in red seemed to come in waves, one right after another. They made Atlanta's defense look foolish, forcing a myriad of bad turnovers. Of course, the next question is, "Why can't they do that for 60 minutes?"

Third period aside, it was yet another listless effort through two. If my old coach Marc Felizzi was coaching this team he would be freaking out behind the bench telling the players "NO BLIND PASSES UP THE MIDDLE!!!!" Sergei Fedorov did it against Buffalo on Friday and it cost the Caps an extra point. Alex Ovechkin did it today and it cost them a goal. Just inexcusable stuff. These guys have been taught since Mites not to throw blind passes up the middle and they've done it two games in a row. As much heat as Jose Theodore takes in the clueless mainstream media, without Theo in the first period, the Caps might have been on their way to another stinkbomb against Atlanta.

But, oh that 3rd period. It truly is a pleasure to watch this team when they play like that. When they work and forecheck the crap out of the opposition, they are impossible to stop. The team that skated the 3rd period could win the Stanley Cup. The team that skated the first 40 minutes could get swept in the first round. That's the freakin' tightrope this Caps team walks and until they figure out a way to bring that 3rd period for 60 minutes, it's going to be a turbulent ride through the playoffs.

The Hangar's observations:

- Keith Aucoin was the best player on the ice today. He had a goal and an assist and you could see coach Bruce Boudreau get more confidence in him as this game rolled along. If Aucoin isn't taking a regular shift in the playoffs, well, somebody's got to lay off the peyote. Along with Brooks Laich and Dave Steckel, Aucoin is just the sort of guy who the Caps are going to need.

- Finally, Tomas Fleischmann scored a goal, temporarily ending his own personal nightmare of a 2009.

- The goal Colby Armstrong scored, Atlanta's first, is all on Tom Poti. He's got to step up and meet Armstrong a lot higher than the top of the slot. By that point, you're at the mercy of the shooter at the NHL level.

- I don't like that Milan Jurcina-Jeff Schultz defense pairing. They would get murdered in a 7-game series, especially against a speedy team like Montreal or Carolina. I know Brian Pothier was scratched to make room for Juice, but I'd rather see Pothier, Mike Green and Poti as at least half the defense in the playoffs. then have some combination of Schultz, John Erskine, Jurcina and Shaone Morrisonn.

- How did the Caps not score on that first period power play when TWO Thrashers broke their sticks?

- Speaking of the PP, it wasn't the best of days for the NHL's 2nd ranked unit. They gave up a shorthanded goal in the 2nd after Ovie's turnover (Repeat: NO BLIND PASSES OVER THE MIDDLE!) Too much Danglefest 2009 for the first few chances. But things did turn around when Aucoin was put out there. He slammed home a great feed from Ovie for his PP marker and in the 3rd, the Caps put on a puck possession clinic, even though they didn't score.

- Since the Caps are playing the Thrash again on Tuesday night, here's a tip: Do NOT let Ilya Kovalchuk have room. If he gets any space, he's deadly.

- I liked the combination of Eric Fehr, Michael Nylander and Brooks Laich. Nylander played a strong game, and got that 3rd period barrage rolling with his knucklepuck that eluded ATL goaltender Johan Hedberg. Fehr put the Caps ahead for good by going relentless towards the net. Fehr needs to take a page from my old teammate Derek Russ and don't venture more than 5 feet from the goal. Good things happen for him there.

- The Thrashers defense was brutal on Fehr's goal but they were worse on the next goal, a brilliant piece of tic-tac-toe passing between Aucoin, Fleischmann and Alex Semin. That goal was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made real (bet you won't find a "Clockwork Orange" reference like that on any other blog.) The passing and puck handling was great but the Thrash just looked clueless out there defensively. To the Caps credit, they FORCED Atlanta into that with hard work, quick puck movement and heavy forechecking. If they do that all the time they're going places (are you sensing a theme with this wrapup?)

- The Caps scored 6 goals today, none of them by guys named Ovechkin, Green or Backstrom. They're going to need that secondary scoring in the playoffs. Let's hope this game was just the beginning of more balance in the Caps lineup.

- Ovie did get two points today, drawing him closer to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the league scoring title but this wasn't one of his better games. He had that bad giveaway on Jim Slater's shorthanded goal and seemed to give up a lot of good looks instead of trying to score goals. That's more like Nylander than Ovechkin.

- I praised Jose Theodore earlier this post, now I come to bury him. Jose- What the fuck were you thinking? He looked like he was trying to score a goal in Atlanta's empty net but whiffed and gave it right to Slava Kozlov. It was the best pass Kozlov's probably had all year.

Anyway, enough of my rambling, here's the highlights from

With this win, the Caps go back up two points on idle New Jersey for the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. As mentioned before, the team will make one more stop in Atlanta before closing out in Florida against Tampa Bay and the Panthers. So until then, let's call this one more...for the good guys.

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