A hockey team dressed in burgundy and
jaundiced yellow gold football jerseys trounced one from Washington. Go figure.
Hold all of those milestones waiting to be reached: Alex Ovechkin's 50th; Alex Semin's 30th; Nicklas Backstrom's 20th; the team's franchise record sixth-straight road win. Instead, the Caps allowed 5 goals, including rookie defenseman Anssi Salmela's first NHL goal, and fired 50 shots on Kari Lehtonen. Most of which were those perimeter shots, from the point or off drop passes outside of the slot, that we so know and loathe. And a team that really shouldn't be winning all of these games down the stretch now has an impressive six-game winning streak.
Just when we thought these Caps were invincible at home, they begin to stumble. And just when hitting to the road is trumpeted as the antidote, the team decides to play non-contact hockey for roughly half of the game.
- If you were watching the third period and had no idea of the score, you'd have probably imagined a close game. The skating was there, but the traffic and deflections were not. Until Keith Aucoin and Eric Fehr both hacked at a loose puck in front of Lehtonen, finally putting one by him, I counted exactly one attempted deflection from a point shot, late in the second, by Semin. Lehtonen saw most everything else coming.
- Seems like Lehtonen often puts on a big show against the Caps. Well, he's only 10-6-2 against Washington, after tonight.
- The old frustration of Semin reaching to hook an opponent who strips him of the puck returned for a game.
- Special teams? Well, a complete inability to clear the puck can result in a 1-for-4 night on the PK. And without Mike Green, the PP strategy essentially becomes a ceaseless feed of the puck to Ovechkin for one-timers from the left side. Like a pitching machine in a batting cage.
- Led by Brooks Laich, who took a team high 14 draws and was the only center to at least break even (7-14), the team was schooled at the dot and anywhere else a face-off was contested (21-60 total).
- In the last three games, all without The Legend Sergei Fedorov in the lineup, Caps pivots are 72-177 (40.6%) on draws. And even worse in the O-zone (20-52, 38.5%).
- Brian Pothier was predictably rusty early, a bit hesitant in the neutral zone in deciding whether to carry or pass. The 2-4 pair with John Erskine that might ultimately become a consistent third pair is clearly going to take some time to round into shape. Both committed hooks early (both of which penalties resulted in goals). A bit much for Potsy to skate almost 17 minutes and 20 shifts in his first NHL game this season, don't you think?
- One-fifth of those 50 shots were courtesy of Ovechkin (who missed another seven). But when he snapped and started plowing over opponents along the wall in the offensive zone (somehow he was only credited with three hits), the contest became interesting. Unfortunately, by then, his team was down 4-0, and individual attempts to skate and stick handle around opponents persisted, mercilessly for the viewer.
- Could Rich Peverley become this team's next Jon Sim to the Caps? No, not quite yet (1 G and 1 A in 2 games against D.C. as a Thrasher), but did he embarrass Shaone Morrisonn and Tom Poti, chugging unmolested through the neutral zone, zig-zagging through the slot, and heading right to the cooker.
- Poti was on the ice for every Thrashers goal.
- Another rookie on ATL's backline, Zach Bogosian, you might say shadowed Ovechkin fairly well; he was on ice against #8 more often than any other Thrasher D-man. But I was pretty disgusted to see him smash 5'9" Aucoin's head to the ice, after the latter was pushed into Lehtonen, and the goalie was way of the crease and harm's way. Shutout or no shutout bid.
- At least Aucoin had a nice little game, eh?
Scored a goalAssisted on Fehr's 11th goal of the season, won 4 of 6 O-zone draws, drew a penalty.
On this night, it was a game where several Thrashers, particularly young D-men, remain late-season eager to prove themselves worthy of a significant role in a developing system. That showed. Aside from Ovechkin's firestarting shift late in the second and consistent dispensation of punishment along the boards in the third, a determination by the Caps to demonstrate to themselves and the coaching staff a capability of making a lengthy playoff run didn't.