Ever wonder what life would be like if the Caps hadn't won the 2004 Draft Lottery? Me too. Almost every day. It's a mildly interesting thought exercise that inevitably ends in blessings being counted, lucky stars being thanked and so on.
But if you ever wanted to get a glimpse of what it might actually look like on the ice, imagine last night's Caps with Cam Barker on the blueline (perhaps in lieu of Mike Green - the Caps wouldn't have taken three blueliners in the first round in '04, would they have? I digress...). It's a downright mortifying thought, isn't it?
But here's the thing - while the Caps played without Alexander Ovechkin, so did the Maple Leafs, and yet they managed to score goals (plural). For 59 minutes and 39 seconds, the Caps couldn't score on a goalie who hadn't won an NHL game in calendar year 2009 and who was backstopping (for the first time, mind you) a team that has allowed the most goals in hockey. And that was that.
Some thoughts on the game:
- We're big Jeff Schultz fans (bordering on apologists) around here, but Sarge has hit the skids of late (not nearly to the point where this jackassery is clever or warranted, however). He was minus-two on the night and is now minus-four in his last eight games (in four of which he has been minus-one or worse), which is notable in that he hadn't been a minus player in any of his previous fourteen games (and was plus-15 in that span). There may not be another defenseman on the roster who would have benefited more from a top-four blueline acquisition at the deadline, but alas...
- Alex Semin is a phenomenal talent and just about the only skill player who stepped up in AO's absence. Even before his goal, Semin had ten shots on goal or otherwise attempted and three takeaways against nary a giveaway. But he couldn't do it alone.
- I'm not sure I've ever seen Bruce Boudreau yell as much as he did on the bench during the third period.
- Matt Bradley was good at what Matt Bradley is good at - five hits in under eleven minutes, a decent fight in the first and even a plus-one - but terrible at what he's terrible at, namely converting chances.
- Brads wasn't alone, of course, and Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr failed to finish several quality opportunities.
- With Tom Poti out of the lineup (more or less - his night made Michal Neuvirth's look tough), Mike Green played a whopping 31:03 and had just one giveaway (Milan Jurcina had five times as many in less than half the ice time). Sergei Fedorov also gave the team everything they asked of him, putting in more than 22 minutes on the blueline.
- Michael Nylander: still floatin'.
- I'm not sure why there was no penalty called when Jason Blake ran through Jose Theodore on Toronto's washed out goal, and I'm not sure why there was no wash out when Blake ran through Theodore on Toronto's second goal.
- Speaking of Theodore, he was both good and lucky at times, but both traits were absent on the Leafs' first goal.
- Nicklas Backstrom had a strong night in the faceoff circle, winning ten of 16 (63%), but that's about all the praise he'll get for that game.
- Despite having only 17 skaters, Donald Brashear played just 5:15. Eight shifts. But hey, no one ran Jose! Well, except Blake.
The Caps won't practice today. Perhaps they'll have one of those closed door, players only meetings. Then again, maybe this sort of thing just happens this time of year - here are three choice quotes from last night's post-game:
"It's evident now that we are not winning hockey games becuase we are not playing the full 60 minutes. Most goals scored at this time of the year are scored by going to the net and chipping away, and we've got to do more of that."
"It's frustrating. We have to figure out what's going on, bare down and start winning battles. We lost it at the end of the first period. It wasn't any good in the second. The third was better, we started to win more battles, but..."
"No reason in the world we can't score more than one goal,'' said a frustrated [head coach], his forwards lacking not only in finish, but in net presence, the critical element of being able to stake out territory in prime scoring areas. ''Right now we are inbetween everything."
Yep, those are quotes coming in the wake of last night's loss, but they're from Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and Claude Julien, respectively, and they're talking about the Bruins' 2-1 home loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Sound familiar?
Expressing a similar sentiment, Flyer bench boss John Stevens said of his team's home loss to Calgary, "It sure looked like we didn't have any energy there tonight. I don't have an answer for you at this point. It was just an awful effort by our hockey team, right through our lineup."
Yes, these are indeed the dog days. But the barking had best end real soon, otherwise the playoffs will be a real, well, female dog.