Kolzig Wins 300th Game
The Caps got back on the winning track as Olie Kolzig won the 300th game of his career for Washington in impressive fashion in a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at the Verizon Center Wednesday night. Kolzig was outstanding all night, but particularly so in the first period when the Flames threw 17 shots at Olie and threatened to run the Caps out of the building, if not for Kolzig. The only two goals #37 gave up all night were on five-on-three power plays for Calgary.
After a first period dominated by Calgary, the Caps snapped out of their recent funk and just poured shot after shot on Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff. The Great #8, Alexander Ovechkin, scored two goals including the game winner with just under two minutes to play in a power play situation. Ovechkin continues to lead the NHL in goals with 56.
Kiprusoff prevented what could have been a blowout after the first period as the Caps dominated play and looked more like the team that is desperate to make the playoffs. The Flames, on the other hand, who are first place in the Northwest Division but have three other teams within two points of them (Minnesota, Colorado, and Vancouver) were listless after the first period and looked nothing like a team trying to win its division. Calgary is only four points ahead of Nashville who currently reside in ninth place in the Western Conference. I’m sure Mike Keenan is pulling out what is left of his hair coaching this very inconsistent hockey team.
Here are some hockey related observations on the Caps from tonight’s game and overall:
Sergei Federov has only two points in seven games with the Caps and looks old and slow most of the time. He needs to step up his game if Washington is going to win at least nine of eleven games to even have a chance to get into the playoffs. I will give Federov credit for going to the net on the power play tonight because his screens of Kiprusoff led to both of Ovechkin’s goals. They were very good shots by the Great #8 but the Flames netminder never saw either of them because of #91.
Viktor Kozlov did go to the net and get his 15th goal of the season early on but he continues to bring the first line down with his erratic play. He struggles in the neutral zone and he needs to go the net more because he just doesn’t skate very well.
Shaone Morrisonn has not looked the same since he returned from an injury he suffered in January. His plus minus is only “even” over that time period. He seems to have lost a step and continues to take some untimely penalties.
Nicklas Backstrom is going to be a star in this league. If the Caps could ever find the third guy for the first line it would be the best in the league. Kozlov has got to go.
Milan Jurcina and John Erskine are not every day NHL defensemen. The Caps must address their weaknesses on defense in the off-season since the trade deadline is long gone. They need a #1 and #5 defensemen. Mike Green is a #2, Tom Poti and Morrisonn are #’s 3 and 4, and Jeff Schulz is a good #6 defensemen. The other two guys should be in the minors or would be stop gap solutions in the case of an injury. George McPhee’s biggest weakness in his 10 years as GM has been his lack of ability to identify quality defensemen. I have heard from an NHL scout that Karl Alzner, who was taken fifth overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Caps, was the best defensemen in that draft but it remains to be seen how quickly he can make it to the big club and develop into a top defensemen.
The Caps are only 9-7-3 since February 1st. As good a coach as Bruce Boudreau has been, he cannot work total magic with this team. Eventually you end up playing to your talent level and this team is an average one at best the way it is configured right now (more on what is needed at the end of this blog). Ovechkin can only carry the team so far.
In addition to hockey observations, I also attended tonight’s game as a fan and have the following game experience observations:
Alexander Ovechkin is worth the price of admission. Every time he is on the ice you just wonder what he is going to do next whether it is delivering a big hit, making a great pass, skating through or around the defense, or getting off one of his amazingly quick shots.
The new video screens at the Verizon Center are incredible. I have never seen a better picture in an arena.
Ted Leonsis and his marketing staff do a very good job of entertaining the fans between periods and whistles with good music and great video clips on the big screens. The post game interviews with players (tonight it was Kolzig) is a great idea. It is definitely a fun environment.
The fans at tonight’s game were outstanding and were really into the game. They didn’t hesitate to let the officials know about some calls they did not like and I think it influenced the referees later in the game. There was definitely some home ice advantage in the 3rd period.
The ice surface at Verizon Center is just horrible. The puck routinely bounces all over the place and that takes away from the skill of the home team and the game overall. I would venture to say that the Caps have gone from a below average ice surface at the Capital Centre to a really poor one down in DC. With so many events in the building I am not sure that it can ever improve but it is tough watching the puck routinely bounce over the sticks of players during power plays and it definitely detracts from the game.
The out of town scoreboard was pretty lame all night as there were too many basketball scores and not enough hockey scores. This was disappointing given that we are in the late stages of the NHL playoff race and it would be nice to be able to see the Flyers, Sabres, and Hurricanes scores at any given time. Most hockey fans don’t really care about the NBA, especially the out of town teams.
If Washington can improve this team in the off-season and they need two top forwards to go along with two more NHL caliber defensemen to do that, then the Verizon Center could be routinely sold out because of Ovechkin. He is that good and that much fun to watch.