The Washington Capitals lost tonight on the ice and the Baltimore Ravens won but the football win was much more important as the Caps are still in good shape overall with a four point lead on the Carolina Hurricanes in the Southeast Division.
Since the Caps played first I’ll start with my thoughts on tonight’s 3-1 loss in Carolina.
The Caps controlled the puck and dominated this game outshooting the Hurricanes, 39-25, but they could not beat Carolina goalie Michael Leighton except for Nicklas Backstrom’s goal that came as a Washington five on three power play was expiring. Even Alexander Ovechkin could not work his magic tonight and he was stopped on a penalty shot by Leighton late in the second period (The Great #8 is now 0-5 on penalty shots in his career). This game was 1-1 with under five minutes to go but as has been the case alot this season, when Washington makes a mistake in its own end it is often ending up in the net, especially when Jose Theodore is in goal. Theodore’s recent problem has been with controlling rebounds. Sometimes it is because of his inability to see the shots but tonight he was struggling with some that he appeared to be seeing clearly. After his great game and shutout against Montreal last week I thought Jose was past these problems but they re-occurred this week. If Brent Johnson is healthy you will likely see alot of him in the upcoming weeks until Theodore gets his rebound problem under control.
Another problem for Washington was their horrible night on face-offs as they lost that battle handily, 34-20. Many of these losses were either at the start of power plays or after they iced the puck. In fact, one of Carolina’s goals came after a Caps face-off loss that was the result of a Washington icing.
The injury bug struck again with Eric Fehr not being able to play after suffering an upper body injury in Toronto on Saturday (Fehr is listed as day-to-day). As a result the Hershey highway was once again used as the Caps recalled forward Alexandre Giroux from the Bears. Giroux played 11:48 of ice time in Carolina. By the way, I complained about the officiating on Saturday in Toronto, and rightly so, but tonight I thought the calls went more the Caps way but again they could not take advantage of that or their mostly solid play. Give Leighton most of the credit for stopping the Caps on Sunday.
The big news of the night was the Ravens domination of the Washington Redskins on Sunday night football. Baltimore’s defense was outstanding and if not for two bad play calling and implementation issues on back to back Raven drives Washington would have been shutout. Why Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron decided to throw on 3rd and 13 into the wind late in the third quarter up 17-0 is beyond me? That should have been a run and punt. Then on the next series, instead of running Le’Ron McClain the team decided to give the ball to Willis McGahee, who proceeded to put it on the carpet. This gave the Skins a short field and they closed to 17-10 and had all of us a bit nervous.
Luckily, Cameron finally went back to what has worked all year with a lead in the late stages: a steady does of McClain and the big #33 once again delivered. Joe Flacco did not have a good game but he did make a couple of big throws to Derrick Mason, the first of which came on the Ravens opening TD drive and the last of which was to #85 for the game clinching TD.
I am running out of patience with McGahee and I have no clue why the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston wants to defend this guy who makes too much money and is injury prone.
The Ravens are 9-4 and kudos to the players and coaches for a great season so far but things get really tough next week when the Pittsburgh Steelers, who flat out stole a game from Dallas today, come to M&T Bank Stadium for a 415pm showdown. As usual we can expect a physical game and the winners of this contest will likely be the teams that face both Baltimore and Pittsburgh in week 16. The Ravens have beaten the Steelers in Baltimore five years in a row. Let’s hope that continues but the offense will need to be better next week as they are facing the #1 ranked defense in the league in Pittsburgh. Baltimore has the #2 ranked defense.