Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Controversy Heard Round the Rink Follows Up A Terrible Trip Out West

I couldn't bring myself to write about the the terrible trip to Canada until now. The loss to Edmonton was frustrating. They're a young team about a year or two away from taking the next step but Nikolai Khabibulin and some stupid ass play by the Caps cost them this game. After "The Bulin Wall" allowed a shot by Karl Alzner to get past him he just shut down the Caps, then again the Caps also shut down the Caps. Giving Edmonton a ton of power play chances, they scored on two of them, and not staying out of the box the first two periods allowed the Oilers to take the lead and the Caps were never able to get a consistent flow from their guys. In the third the Caps dominated in shots and came hard but couldn't put anything in the net. Add a terribly frustrating interference call against Alex Ovechkin late in the period when the team was really putting the pressure on and you have yourself a pretty tough 2-1 loss and the last unbeaten team in the NHL is no more. I must say I was not happy with Ovie's decision there when it happened. In some fairness to the team though the refs did a terrible job in officiating and called some iffy penalties against Washington while letting some slide for Edmonton.

Next game the Caps got behind the again thanks to two power play goals for Vancouver and held a 3-1 lead after 1. The Caps lucked out on their first goal as it hit Roberto Luongo up high, went over his head, off his back and into the net. After some shaky play, one of which was the decision to play the puck as it exited the trapezoid and having it shot off his skate and in and one rocket on the PP with 4 seconds left in the period, the normally reliable Tomas Vokun was pulled in favor of Michal Neuvirth who was getting his first action since the first game of the season due to a foot injury. Whether the move was made to punish Vokun or to inspire the team a message seemed to be sent. The Caps started the 2nd with a PPG from Alex Ovechkin, his second of the game, and a penalty shot goal by Mike Knuble which hit Luongo in the glove, trickled over, and ended up in the back of the net, it was that kind of game (season) for Luongo. The tie was short lived as Edler scored his second of the game, the Nucks had 3 players score 2 goals in the game...CRAZY! Mojo tied it up for the Caps with just over 2 minutes to go in the 2nd. Unfortunately for the Caps they used up all their mojo in the 2nd period as the Nucks scored two quick goals just over 6 minutes in and added a third later to end the game. 7-3 stick taps in this game...TERRIBLE performance all around

After two days off to work on their problems the Caps hosted the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, sans Emilio Estevez. Vokun was given the start again and again the Caps struggled early on.  The first period consisted of a fight with Matt Hendricks (is this seriously the teams second fight on the season?) and two goals by the Ducks left the Caps down 2-0. The first goal was a terrible miscommunication between Wideman and Hamrlik as The Hammer cut in front of the next while Wideman passed it behind and right to a Duck for a score. In the 2nd the Ducks added a goal by Teemu Selanne, his second of the game and third for four points on the evening to go up 3-0. On a side note did anyone else thing Selanne was washed up a few years ago? He's playing like he's in his prime again and not 41. Anyways after Joelle was able to put one home I honestly felt it breathed some life into the Caps. With around 5 minutes to go in the period there was a ton of shots blasted and players getting hit hard. After the Ducks took their chances in the Caps zone the puck was played down the ice but no Ducks were back. Jonas Hiller went to play the puck as it exited the trapezoid, oh that blasted thing, but he didn't want to take a penalty, and the Caps took advantage as Brooks Laich got the puck, shot it, had it blocked, got it back and kicked it to Wideman who put it behind Hiller as he scrambled to get back into position. In the third things got crazy. The Ducks got a power play when Corey Perry was tripped up by Vokun (he dove to sell it) and then netted the team's 4th goal.

The Caps had quite a few chances in the third to tie it at three but failed and on many a rush by Ovie he lost the puck as he tried to drag it past a defender. As has been the case since the Montreal series two years ago, it seems teams have figured out what Ovie is going to do...shit the fans know what Ovie is going to do...and he loses the puck, fires it wide or has it blocked. Late in the third the Caps cut the deficit to one when Troy Brouwer netted his first as a Cap . Brouwer ended up sitting for the final 2+ minutes of regulation after being driven into the boards and suffering what seemed to be a shoulder injury. In the final minute the Caps called a time out, pulled Vokun, and sent out 6 guys to try to tie it up. Normally at this time you'd see the Caps top 2 defensemen, and 4 forwards (Semin, Ovie, Backstrom and a grinder). Coach Boudreau decided to go with Chimmer, Laich and Joelle since they were playing the best on the night and his fourth forward was...Backstrom? Yup apparently Gabby had a guy feeling that Ovie didn't have it going on that game and benched him, which didn't sit well with Alex. With 42 seconds left though Backstrom netted the tying goal and sent the Caps to overtime. Ovie sat for about the first two minutes of overtime before getting on the ice. Sarge went down to the corner, threw the puck weakly towards the net, it ricocheted off of Ovie to Backstrom who netted the game winner. The games stick tap goes to Backy for a hell of a job leading the team to a comeback victory while Laich's line gets one too for getting the team back into the game.

After the game though all the talk has been about the benching of Ovie. I'll start off saying not only do I support Boudreau's decision to do it I also say its about damn time. I love Ovie but he's been a bit out of control at times and the team has allowed him and some of the other stars to get away with things but this year the coaches said things would be different. It didn't matter what your name was or how much money you made you had a chance to be punished. Last night was Ovie's night and hopefully it sent a message to him and the rest of the team. As I said Ovie was hot and he seemed to call coach a "fat fuck." So be it, chalk it up to frustration, or passion. I'd prefer Ovie get pissed and say something he may not mean or something he'll regret over just sitting their and taking it like it was no big deal. Last night Boudreau did something he should have done two years ago and that's discipline the team's biggest name because he wasn't playing well. Ovie needs to lead by example and there is little doubt in my mind the play from Vancouver had something to do with this decision too. Last night I believe Boudreau grew as a coach. Last night I believe the Caps grew as a team. I'm hoping last night Ovechkin also grew as a leader.

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