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Saturday Roundup/Flyers 3, Caps 2

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Super Stats - WashingtonCaps.com Postgame]

To me, the most amazing thing about last night's 3-2 loss to the Flyers is that as the last seconds ticked off the clock at the end of the third period, the Caps still somehow had a chance to tie up the game.

In many ways, last night was a tale of two games, one in which the home team dominated and one in which they were dominated. Vogs points to the Mike Richards/Brooks Laich scrap as the turning point between the two:
In the first 17:34 of Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals dominated the ice. They outshot Philly by a 14-3 count, and outplayed, outchanced and outskated the Flyers all over the ice....

Flyers alternate captain Mike Richards got his teammates started when he dropped the gloves with Washington’s Brooks Laich at that 17:34 mark. At that stage of the game, the Flyers had gone more than seven minutes without a shot on goal. Less than half a minute after that bout, the Flyers had a shot on goal and they had drawn a penalty.

From the 17:34 mark of the first period to the 13:24 mark of the third, Philadelphia dominated. The Flyers outscored the Caps 3-0 and outshot Washington by 24-7.
And yet, there the Caps were at the end with a chance to steal a point.

But this team is beyond the point where "close" counts for much, especially in a game in which they were thoroughly throttled everywhere but on the scoreboard for two periods. The game - the only home date in a seven game stretch - was a chance to get some confidence back against a good team's backup goalie and the Caps failed to, well, capitalize. Some thoughts on the game:
  • The team really misses Chris Clark.
  • The Caps were horribly undisciplined, and while the officiating didn't help them out, when you put yourself in a position that allows the refs to make questionable calls, you're asking for it. Matt Bradley's roughing penalty that negated a Caps power play was about as boneheaded as it gets.
  • Shulthierskine had an atrocious game with eight PIMs, seven giveaways and no takeaways.
  • Stop me if you've heard this one before - not enough of the shots attempted were getting on goal. Last night the Caps had 26 shots on goal and 25 that were blocked before getting to a very shaky Antero Niittymaki.
  • Call me crazy, but I prefer Mike Green rushing the puck end-to-end over Alex Ovechkin doing so. At one point, Green carried the puck from behind his own net, around the opposing goal, and when the puck was sent back down towards Olie Kolzig's end of the rink, chased it down at full speed to touch up the icing. It looked like he was competing at the All-Star Game's fastest skater competition.
  • Speaking of AO, it was another night of him carrying the puck too much. I'm convinced that's because he doesn't have a top-notch passer on his line. Why Glen Hanlon still refuses to break up the Swedish National Keep-Away Team is beyond me.
  • Michael Nylander won 12 of his 16 faceoffs and had two assists, but I didn't think he had a great game. How he was credited with only one giveaway is beyond me. Why Hanlon still refuses to give him the sniper he so desperately needs is beyond me.
  • David Steckel continues to prove he belongs (though both he and Boyd Gordon had a tough night in the dot, combining to go 14 for 36 on the night).
  • Shaone Morrisonn was repeatedly beaten along the boards when the Flyers were entering the zone on the power play. Mo is usually much more positionally sound than that.
  • Mike Richards is everything I wish Brian Sutherby was.
Don't look now, friends, but the Caps are tied for 26th in the League in points, and only Atlanta, with four wins, has fewer victories than the Caps. Welcome to Lotteryville, population: crap.

The injuries hurt (take Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden out of the Ottawa lineup for a stretch and see how they do), the coaching is becoming increasingly suspect, and the talent at certain positions isn't what the team may have hoped for at this point. But with all that said, the Caps are a team that's a couple of bounces away from .500 (or better). Unfortunately, the NHL schedule-makers have done them no favors as they leave town for another three-game road trip, and I don't think it's overstating things to say that how these next three games go could go a long way towards determining what the rest of the season looks like. And it all starts in Carolina on Monday, which is, perhaps, not a bad place to look to get back on track for the team with the best intra-divisional record in hockey.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Richard Zednik (2G, including the game-winner, +2, 4 SOG, 3 hits)
  • Ross: Michael Cammalleri, Shane Doan (3 points each)
  • Norris: Nick Boynton (2A, +1)
  • Vezina: Mikael Tellqvist (35-save shutout win)
  • Richard: Dustin Brown, Richard Zednik (2G each)
  • Calder: Matt Moulson (G, 3 SOG, 2 blocked shots in the Cornell alum's first NHL game)
  • Aiken: Mike Smith (L, 2 goals allowed on 9 shots against in 13:49 of work)