Sens Beat Caps, 3-2
It doesn’t matter how much talent you have in the NHL because if you don’t come to play you will lose and tonight the Washington Capitals only showed up for 20 minutes and gave up three Senator power play goals to lose, 3-2, in Ottawa. On paper this looked like a mismatch with Washington coming in 26 points ahead of the Senators in the standings, but on the ice on Tuesday night it was anything but that.
Ottawa came out flying in the first period and received three power plays as a result of their efforts and Dany Heatley, who I warned about in yesterday’s blog, potted two goals to stake the Sens to a 2-0 first period lead. Ottawa would out shoot the listless Caps, 13-7, in the opening period.
In the second period, the Caps looked like the team that has beaten some of the best squads in the NHL recently, except in one critical area, the power play. Washington was all over Ottawa in the middle period out shooting the Sens, 19-3, and earning four power plays, including a five on three power play for 25 seconds, at one point. Unfortunately the Caps primarily stood around and passed the puck on the perimeter as they have been prone to do at times this year and failed to score with the advantage. Forwards Sergei Fedorov and Dave Steckel, however, did manage to score even strength goals and this game was tied heading into the third and final period before the All Star break.
The Caps should have just headed on vacation then because the way they played from their on sure looked like their minds were elsewhere in the third period as Craig Hartsburg’s squad dominated Washington and out shot them, 18-5. If not for goalie Jose Theodore this game would have been over earlier in the third period but miraculously the Caps were tied with just over three minutes to go when it all really fell apart. Alexander Semin, who has incredible skill but can drive a coach and fans crazy because he gets too cute on the ice in critical times, tried to make a boneheaded cross ice pass in the offensive zone when he should have been shooting and then right after the giveaway he compounded the miscue by blatantly tripping Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson in the neutral zone. With another opportunity on the power play Ottawa closed the deal, although it took a lucky bounce of off a Washington player blocking a shot, and Brandon Bell hit a seemingly open net with Theodore reacting to the original shot to deposit the game winner with 1:22 remaining.
The statistics of the game were the special team numbers with Ottawa going 3 of 6 on the power play while the Caps went a pitiful 0 for 5. This was one frustrating game to watch for Caps fans and probably for Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, who if he had his druthers might want to make the team fly back to DC tonight and practice at Kettler Ice Plex tomorrow because they sure didn’t show up for most of the game on Tuesday night.
After 48 games the Caps are 30-15-3 but if they have one major weakness on some nights it is a lack of intensity and an ability to stick to the hard working style that makes them successful. That primarily occurs when they play a team at the bottom of the standings. The Caps are now off until next Tuesday, January 27th as the NHL heads to the All-Star break after tomorrow’s games. As many of you who read this blog know, I am not a fan of the NHL All Star game and likely won’t be watching because it isn’t real hockey (there is no defense played and no hitting) but the NHL likes to use this game for marketing purposes (Memo to Gary Bettman: the Winter Classic is a much better stage to promote this great game so let’s dump this meaningless weekend for more outdoor hockey).
Notes: Eric Fehr and Michael Nylander were healthy scratches and according to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post, both Nylander and Boudreau are not happy with each other. You can read Nylander’s quotes from today here (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalsinsider/2009/01/morning_skate_update_17.html#more). If Nylander weren’t making $5.5M this year and next plus $3.5M in 2010-11 he could likely be traded, but at his salary it will be tough to move him. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Defensemen Tom Poti should be back after the All Star break meaning a roster move is probably needed for the team to stay under the salary cap. The team needs Poti back in the lineup because he is a steadying influence and a good puck mover. It looks like either defensemen Karl Alzner goes back to Hershey or someone gets traded unless another player who makes more money than Alzner goes on long term injury.
Interview with Donald Brahsear
I had a chance to talk with Caps forward Donald Brashear after the team’s 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins this past Saturday night. Here is the full text of the interview:
WNST: Tell me about that game tonight – that was kind of a playoff type game, lots of hitting, lots of action, and intensity.
Brashear: Yeah, that is what it is when you play the best teams and you want to win those games cause in playoff games teams are at their best and if you are not you are not gonna win. You have to win on a regular basis and to do that you have to beat some better teams and some top teams and we are trying to get to the top right now.
WNST: Was it as intense on the ice as it looked from up above?
Brashear: It was intense but at the same time it was both teams playing good systems and waiting for the other team to make a mistake and capitalize. So I think we were the better team doing that.
WNST: The team seems to be able to play a 6-5 game and a 2-1 game.
Brashear: Well what we actually are trying to do is get it down to where we are always trying to play a 2-1 game that will turn into 3-1, 4-1, if we keep playing the way we are supposed to for three periods.
WNST: How are you feeling out there on your line? You, Dave Steckel, and Matt Bradley seem to form a nice trio.
Brashear: I feel great, they are two good defensive players and I can learn a lot from them. They are also good on the forecheck so we seem to complete each other pretty good and are getting some scoring chances here and there.
WNST: So how do you feel about the team so far where it stands?
Brashear: I felt great from the beginning and this is my third year here now and obviously early we were rebuilding and stuff like that but I think we added good pieces to the puzzle and right now we are rolling the way we want.
WNST: What is it like playing here [Verizon Center] with the crowd? Almost every game is a sellout and it is loud.
Brashear: It is a lot different from my first year when there was nobody. We definitely like it and we definitely love the fans getting into it. They are behind us and that is what we need so we appreciate that and it makes us feel a lot better out there.
WNST: Do you all feed off of their energy?
Brashear: All of the time, every team does with their home crowd. Once the crowd gets loud and people start screaming you get little goose bumps and you get a little noise in your ears and it makes you want to get up and cheer a little bit and it gets you going and it doesn’t take much sometimes, just a little spark.
WNST: You played in Philadelphia where the crowd was right on you and were loud. Just in the last year with this changeover here how would say it compares to that crowd?
Brashear: I’d have to say it is pretty close right now. It is fans that want their team to win and you can tell they don’t accept us having mediocre performances. They get quiet when we are not playing well and that is not what we want so we know when they are quiet then we have to get something going.