Saturday, February 23, 2008

Caps Come Up Empty in "Biggest Game of the Year"

It started out good as the Capitals dominated the first half of the opening period and took a 1-0 lead on the road. However, a couple of things happened that just told you despite their early success the Caps were in for a long night. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

First of all, they had multiple chances to score but failed to do so. Viktor Kozlov hit the post on a sneaky wrist shot that should have made it 2-0, and Tomas Fleischmann whiffed on a wide open net from about 16 inches away that should of then made it 3-0. And what have we learned about today's NHL? If you don't capitalize on your chances, it's going to come back and bite you. Well that's exactly what happened.

The momentum changed when defenseman Mike Green was called for a post whistle roughing penalty. Now I have a big problem with this particular penalty. I believe it was Erik Cole who had charged Kolzig and and swatted multiple times after Olie had the puck secure. In the "old" NHL, Greenie would never have been penalized for standing up for his goalie. But it seems that in the "new" NHL, the players are not allowed to police themselves anymore. This was a horrible call that swung the momentum in favor of the Hurricanes and quickly tied the scored at one. Later in the night, Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was penalized in the exact same scenario in a game against the Flyers. That power play resulted in a Daniel Briere goal and a 1-0 lead that Philly ended up squandering with three seconds remaining. Referees seriously need to be more lenient in these situations and allow the players the ability to police themselves.

Now that I got that rant off my chest, the referees were not to blame for the Capitals ineptitude on the penalty kill. The combination of poor defensive coverage and the inability of Kolzig to secure a loose puck led directly to the 'Canes four power play goals. Before the game Kolzig had described the matchup as the "biggest game of the year". Well in such an important game, godzilla failed to deliver and continued his run of inconsistency this season. Without a doubt the weakest position on the team this season has been goaltending. And with Kolzig set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, you have to believe that we will have a new #1 next year for the first time in a decade.

After this outcome, Sunday's game versus the Devils now becomes the most important game of the year. If the result is similar, the Capitals should reevaluate their position going into Tuesday's trade deadline. With the playoffs becoming less likely, they should look at moving a John Erskine or Steve Eminger, who could provide defensive depth for a playoff team, and forwards Matt Bradley or Matt Pettinger, who once again could be depth players in the right scenario. Of course these moves would not provide much in return except for draft picks, but they would allow players such as Sami Lepisto, Chris Bourque, and Andrew Gordon an opportunity to get some ice time heading into next season.

Also, expect some of our better prospects to join the Hershey Bears for their playoff run. Defenseman Karl Alzner, Joe Finley, and Josh Godfrey along with forwards Francois Bouchard, Mathieu Perreault, and Luke Lynes could all play key roles for the Bears this spring.

The future looks bright, but for now we have one more season of jumping on the Hershey bandwagon as they look for their third straight trip to the Calder Cup finals.


2 comments:

Dan, Jr. said...

Interesting that they called that penalty on Greenie. Especially when there was no call on the two 'canes riding Brashear to the end wall.

I hope they don't have to move Bradley. I wasn't crazy about him before this season. But, now he kind of reminds me of Brian Sutherby - on a good day.

dmg said...

First of all, they had multiple chances to score but failed to do so. Viktor Kozlov hit the post on a sneaky wrist shot that should have made it 2-0, and Tomas Fleischmann whiffed on a wide open net from about 16 inches away that should of then made it 3-0.

And there was the great save by Ward on Semin - if it weren't for Ward, the Caps could have had three or four goals in the first.

In Flesichmann's defense, the replay on the 'Canes broadcast showed a Carolina player getting his stick on Fleischmann's just was he was getting to the puck.

I agree in part with your comment about the call on Green - I think it was fine to call him, but I'm not sure why there weren't matching minors.