Friday, December 2, 2011

Cap - Pens Recap, 12/1/11

Been a minute since I wrote a recap, but I had to make sure to write one for this game. First time Crosby has led the Penguins against the Capitals in 11 months, and new head coach Dale Hunter has had a few days with the team to try and prepare them. Before I dive into my thoughts on the game, though, I just want to say congratulations to Bruce Boudreau on landing that coaching gig in Anaheim already. I was admittedly surprised he got the call so soon, and that he got the job the same night that the Ducks won a game, but I fully expected Anaheim to be his new home by the end of this year. As much as I ragged on him and called for him to be fired, I was still a little sad to see him go. After all, the team was its most successful in its history, let alone since my childhood, under his watch. Caps-Ducks games were my favorite ones to watch these past couple seasons, and I can only hope for a Stanley Cup matchup this year. I expect Gabby to be a great fit with the team and that they will have a lot of success together. Kudos to Bruce, good luck to him and his family as they adjust to a whole new part of the country, and hopefully we'll see him at Verizon Center before the start of the next season. Now, here are my five thoughts on tonight's game:

Soooo I go over there, skate left, then to the middle, and shoot?
  • As a certain Great One said: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." That was the story of the night for our boys in red, being held to a season-low 17 shots on goal, with only two of them in the third period. Hunter has his work cut out for him, because this kind of crap has been going on for far too long now with a team that features Alexes Ovechkin and Semin, Nick Backstrom, John Carlson, Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, and Marcus Johansson. We get it, you all miss Mike Green and he is a big part of getting the offense going. But he is not that big a part of the team that these guys can't even get shots on the net. Completely unacceptable, and I am sure that our new blue-suited coach will address it quite loudly in practice.
  • On the
    I know this photo is overused, but it is just so good...
    flip side of things, the Penguins were credited with 35 shots on goal, scoring on only two of them. Tonight, Vokoun looked like the goalie we all know him to be. Part of that was the all-around defensive play of the team, as the majority of those shots were low percentage chances from the outside. Crosby had 3 shots, Malkin had 7, neither had any points and Crosby even finished a -1. For about 90% of the night, I'd say stellar job limiting Pittsburgh's chances.
  • As has been the case with many a Washington team, the Capitals seem unable to catch a break, and seemingly must pay for every mistake made. Other teams have the occasional defensive breakdown or imperfect play and don't get scored on, but not our Caps. Both goals against came as a result of poor play by the guys in front of Vokoun. On goal #1, Vokes had no chance of making the save, because he played the puck and players perfectly. Schultz, on the other hand, has to stop that puck from getting across the crease, and Orlov has to be in tighter on his man under Dale Hunter's system. Schultz is cementing the idea that his +50 season was one of the all-time flukes in recent NHL memory, and is a prime candidate to ride the pine pony when Green returns. On the second goal, Eakin has to keep from turning over the puck, Johansson has to prevent Kennedy from keeping the puck and getting around him, and Erskine has to do better at being the last line of defense on what was essentially a 1-on-3. Carlson was not totally without blame, as he could have come in more, and Vokoun proooobably should have stopped that one, but it never should have progressed as far as it did in the first place.
  • Hits, hits, hits. Holy crap were there some hits. Hunter is making his influence known, as the Caps threw around their big bodies to the tune of 43 hits tonight. Ovechkin in particular was laying people out, looking a bit more like his old self in terms of physicality and speed. Washington has a lot of big players, and may be one of the biggest teams in the league. If they can keep this intimidating style of play up and rekindle their scoring touch, I will feel a lot better about this team.
  • I love
    Woooo! Who would have thought I'd be the go-to guy for goals?!
    being proven wrong about this team, mostly because I am such a pessimist when it comes to the Caps. Chimera, along with his linemates, has been an absolute joy to watch this season. A team-leading (!!??!?) 10 goals after tonight, the work of blazing speed and hard workalong the boards. This is the guy McPhee thought he was signing two years ago, and the work that Laich and Ward have done on what has to be the most expensive third line in the NHL is just great. All three are shutting down the opposition and adding crucial offense. This was the best thing that Boudreau left behind, and may be the only part of the forward lines that does not need to be touched. Congrats on reaching last year's goal total in just over 1/4 the time, Chimmer, and keep up the good work, Meat-n-Potatoes line.
  • BONUS THOUGHT! I love the youth and depth that Washington has, and the three guys I am keeping an eye on are Cody Eakin, Mathieu Perreault, and Dimitri Orlov. Orlov has looked incredible for a kid playing in his first handful of NHL games, absolutely embarrassing a few guys with his stick handling and hits. He has made some rookie mistakes, but overall I like his play a lot more than I like Schultz or Erskine's, or even Hamrlik's right now. I hope to see a few more games with him in the lineup, but as of right now I kind of hope he is here for good. Eakin, on the other hand, impressed early but has faltered as of late. He has gotten a much better shot at this lineup than Perreault has, despite starting the year off in Hershey. His ice time has gone up and he has played on the second line more often than not, but he looks as though he may just not be ready for the big time, even if he is on the cusp. A year with the Bears would do him a lot of good, and I think the organization would be better served by making that move sooner rather than later. Perreault has always been one of my favorite guys to watch, as he can be very speedy and tricky as the team's smallest player. Unfortunately, he just has not been given a consistent shot at staying in DC, all the while being attacked for his perceived "inconsistency." I have been saying this since he first got back-to-back healthy scratches, but how many other fourth liners set a 40-point pace? Halpern and Hendricks have suffered without him on their line, and the team as a whole has done a lot worse without him than with. If I am not mistaken (and correct me if I am), but he was the last player to be on ice for a goal against on the team. I hope he gets ice time and has the opportunity to show Hunter what he can do, but if not I hope he demands a trade as he absolutely should be playing in the NHL right now. 
Tonight marked the first time since before Dan Bylsma started coaching the Pens that Washington lost to Pittsburgh in regulation, but it had to come sometime. Two-thirds of the team's game seemed to be there, with very solid goaltending and a consistent and physical defensive effort. Nobody expected Hunter to turn this team around immediately, but back-to-back 2-1 losses show some early returns. Add in some offense, and the fans can breathe a little easier, not to mention McPhee. Looking forward to what you can do, Dale.

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