Here's a tip for whomever draws the Caps in the first round: force 'em to dump the puck in and win the series when they refuse to do so.
Yesterday, we noted that "[m]ore important than the final score on this night might be the power play opportunities for and against, because ... those tend to be leading indicators of motivation and discipline, respectively, which have been the Caps' two primary trouble areas for weeks." So how'd the Caps do? They only committed (or at least were called for) three minor penalties. Discipline? Check. But they also drew only one penalty through regulation. Effort? Not there. Take a look at ESPN.com's Gamecast at the number of shots the Caps took on the night from between and below the offensive zone faceoff dots. And this against a team that has given up the most goals in the NHL on a night when the Caps had a chance to pass New Jersey for second place in the Conference.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- If you want to take a closer look at the Abuse of Officials rules, check out Rule 40 - Abuse of Officials (for which a minor penalty is an option) and Rule 41 - Physical Abuse of Officials (for which there is no minor penalty option). Obviously, the Caps would have preferred a minor on Martin Gerber in that last minute of play rather than an ejection and subsequent entry into the game of Curtis Joseph circa 1999.
- Jose Theodore was very solid in net, but perhaps could have been better on the goals he allowed. Of the 19 players on the ice last night, though, he might be the closest to what you'd want to see as "playoff form."
- Mike Green also had a good night, bombing 10 shots on goal, blocking four shots and throwing three hits.
Alex Semin? Not so much. Gotta be the flu, right?
- Brooks Laich went to the net and scored a goal. Crazy.
- Another worthless night out of Tomas Fleischmann, with just one shot attempt on the evening and a minus-one rating.
- Seven hits out of Big John Erskine certainly helps his cause in the battle for that sixth sweater on the blueline.
- Nicklas Backstrom won ten of 17 draws (59%), had a nice wrap around attempt and several nice touch passes, including the set-up on Alex Ovechkin's 51st goal of the season, and I suppose that's why he was rewarded with a shootout attempt. But more importantly, back to that faceoff number - he now has won 53.6% of the 168 faceoffs he's taken in the last 11 games. That's a huge positive for the team amid a few bad weeks.
- Chris Bourque got seven shifts and 5:35 of total ice time. He did have one terrible turnover, but is that enough to have sat him? Maybe so.
Before we all "don't stop believin'," we're going to have to start believin' again.
Seven games left to figure it out.