Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Caps-Bolts Game 3/Goal 4 Recap

The Caps managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory yet again, this time in Tampa. They scored the first goal, except that Semin was an eager beaver and the team was called for too many men on the ice, nullifying the goal. Then Tampa turned around to score the first real goal and took the lead into the second period despite being badly outshot, again. Someone lit a fire in the locker room, because Washington stormed out and tied the game early in the second, and then someone put the fire out as the quickly allowed the tying goal. With a fortuitous 5-on-3, the good guys finally capitalized on the power play, with who else but Ovechkin knotting the go-ahead goal late in the third, and the team was able to take their own lead into the third period. A little more than five minutes in, Stamkos put in another tying goal. Then, only 24 seconds later, Ryan Malone "scored" what would be the game-winner. Here is what it looked like:

The goal was under review to determine if there was a distinct kicking motion. I am of the mind that it never should have gotten that far, because of NHL Rule 69: Interference of the Goalkeeper. This is a rule that has to be blown on the play, and is not reviewable. Once the goal was called, the point became moot. Rule 69 states that an attacking player who initiates contact from outside the crease has to make a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. Malone skated straight into the net. "For purposes of this rule, “contact,” whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body." Malone has his skate on Neuvirth's leg, as you can see above. "If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed." You can see Malone's shoulder and arm are firmly planted in Carlson's side. Carlson, a victim of the laws of physics, would continue on into Neuvirth, knocking him away from the puck as it slid past his leg and into the net. Malone made no attempt to avoid Neuvirth, came into contact with him, and caused Carlson to collide with his goalie, and it all resulted in a goal. Under the language of Rule 69, it should have been blown dead on the ice.

The Caps screwed themselves with the first goal of the game, but got bent over on this one. This should have been a win for Washington, but between team and coaching idiocy (Keith Jones of Versus said after the first period that Boudreau had a brain cramp when he decided to sit Ovechkin for a 4-on-4, despite Ovi leading the league in 4-on-4 goals) and the pivotal no-call in the third, the Lightning got the win. They deserve it for doing things right and their play certainly earned the win, but that doesn't mean that the Capitals should have lost, either. To make matters worse, both Mike Green and Eric Fehr were injured in the game, and it would be a surprise to see either of them in the game tomorrow night. Five thoughts:
  1. Leading into this game, so many analysts were saying Ovechkin needed to do more aside from leading the team in points. How does scoring a go-ahead goal, adding an assist, and dishing out four hits to accompany his five shots sound?
  2. Piggybacking on that, the rest of the team needs to get their S together. Eleven separate players on Tampa had one point each, and only two were -1 players. The Caps had seven players with a point, including both of Ovi's, and only two were +1 players. This tells us that the whole team on Tampa is chipping in offensively and doing their parts on defense, while only about a third of the Caps are doing their part at either end of the ice.

  3. Say what you will, but when a goalie allows three or more goals in three straight playoff games, a lot of it is on him. This is a team sport, and team play does dictate a lot of what does and does not go into the net. But forgive me for looking to the goalie after three straight games with less than a .900 sv% and more 3+ goals each time. I have made my allegiance no secret, and I went into this in detail early on... so I will say I told you so: Neuvirth is a marginally better version of Theodore, and Varlamov should have been in net this whole time. This is precisely the play I predicted. He played very well against the Rangers, but that was him playing above his ability.

  4. Johansson started on the second line tonight, and as we saw all throughout the regular season, the Laich-MJ90-Semin line does not click: they all ended -2 and combined for two assists: Semin got the primary assist on Ovi's goal and Johansson got a secondary helper on Carlson's. Johansson ended the night on the Luis Mendoza line with Chimera and Sturm, which is where he belongs and has seen the most success. I don't think we will have to wonder what is going through Boudreau's mind when he makes these lines much longer, though.

  5. The Lightning are a team that, traditionally, the Capitals have had no problem dispatching, especially under Boudreau. They are missing one of their top offensive players and one of their top defensemen. Yet they are up 3-0 against the top seed in the conference and the winner of their division. My final thought for the game? Kudos to Guy Boucher for doing a hell of a job coaching these guys, and to their players for playing the Caps' weaknesses and strengths like a familiar song. Even though Washington should win the series based on skill and depth, it's the intelligence of the coaching staff and strong play of the Bolts that got them here, and they deserve the credit.
Of course, we're all starting to get used to these kinds of calls and almost expect them at crucial moments. I'm sure many Caps fans remember this from last year's playoffs, a pivotal no-goal in Game 7:

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