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Recap: Sharks 5, Caps 2

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[AP Recap - GameCenter - Game Summary - Event Summary]

For the second time in two games, the Capitals were simply outplayed - and worse yet, outworked - by their opponent to such a degree that although the final score wasn't overly lopsided and the game wasn't a rout by the first intermission, it was pretty clear only a few minutes in that one team had come to play and one hadn't.

On the surface it might be easy to dismiss this game as a stellar performance by the Sharks, rather than a poor one by the Caps.  After all, the Sharks were effective at getting in front of Caps shots and effective in getting their sticks in passing lanes and disrupting Washington's offense, and it's awfully hard to put any pressure on the opposition when you can't shoot or pass, right?  Well, yes and no.

As an offense the goal is to attack the opposition in their own end by whatever means necessary.  The simplest, in a situation of absolute domination, would be to just skate by everyone on the other team and create one-on-one opportunities.  Failing that, the easiest route would be to carry the puck in to the other team's zone and pepper their net with shots; after that breaking down the opposition's defense with movements and passing plays.  Failing that, a team needs to adopt the most inelegant of all strategies: dumping the puck in, chasing it down, hitting players on the forecheck, and hoping to force mistakes.  It's no coincidence the first Caps goal came from a guy standing in the crease receiving a pass from a linemate behind the goal line in a corner.  But, for whatever reason, the Capitals as a team never got to that point, instead opting to vainly try and continue to make passing plays and take shots that weren't going to produce anything - and that's something that just doesn't make sense.

Ten additional thoughts on tonight's game:

  • Just how bad was the Capitals' first period in terms of generating offense?  Well, only one forward (Tomas Fleischmann) registered a shot on goal and the team as a whole had more than twice as many shots blocked as on net.
  • Shaone Morrisonn's decision to float over to the half wall on the play that led to the Sharks goal was not only bad - it was totally inexplicable.  Most of the time you can cite a physical error or a bad read, or a brain cramp at the very least, but seriously, what the hell was going on there?
  • While we're on the topic of "What the hell was that?" Nicklas Backstrom's second period interference penalty easily falls in to the category as well.  Interference doesn't get much more blatant than checking a guy who doesn't have in the puck in back.
  • Credit where credit's due: Douglas Murray was a beast in the way he played Alex Ovechkin physically.  Simply put, those are the kinds of matchups that make for amazing hockey and it's a shame the two aren't slated to meet again for the rest of the season.
  • As much as it's easy to be dazzled by quick hands, as much as we cheer for big hits, and as much as we like guys who are willing to muck it up in the corners and the front of the net, at it's core hockey is still a skating game, and skating is the sport's most important skill.  And anyone who disagrees with that should spend a night watching John Erskine play against any of the NHL's quicker teams.
  • For the life of me, I will never understand why some fans boo a player just for being good.  I mean, sure, Capitals fans booing Daniel Briere or Buffalo fans booing Alex Ovechkin I get, but what could a San Jose fan possibly have against Ovie?
  • Jason Chimera is very, very fast and get up to top speed very, very quickly.
  • I don't fault Dan Boyle, who's about 5'10'', 190 and not a fighter, in the slightest for not wanting to fight Alex Ovechkin, but his decision to hold on for dear life at first and then drop the gloves once the two had been separated was ridiculous.  C'mon Danny, you're not fooling anybody.
  • The Capitals had 46 hits in the game.  Or rather, the Capitals were credited with 46 hits in the game.
  • Brian Pothier can't get healthy soon enough.

And so 2009 ends on a dreary note for Caps fans, at least hockey wise, and while the boys are just entering the midst of the NHL grind, there's always the promise of new opportunity and improvement when the calender turns over. Hopefully the Caps can harness some of that Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Game highlights: