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Despite being without their top defenseman and forward, the first-place Flyers' visit to the Verizon Center on Tuesday night presented Dale Hunter's Caps with a chance to see how they measure up to one of the Eastern Conference's big dogs. Unfortunately for the boys in red, the answer was a resounding "unfavorably," as they were embarrassed on home ice by their longtime rival by a 5-1 count.
Ten more notes on the game:
Shades of the 2008 playoffs early in the first period when James van Riemsdyk crosschecked Dennis Wideman, whose momentum then took the Caps defender and the puck into the net. Thankfully, the zebras got the call right this time... though we'd all happily trade a miss here for having gotten it right then.
- Ultimately (and it's a bit of an over-simplification), the difference between a decent goalie and a good one is nothing more than the frequency with which they give up bad goals. And with another couple of questionable goals allowed against the Flyers (Philly's first, which looked to be deflected a bit by Wideman's stick... but still, and their fourth), Tomas Vokoun has looked much more like a decent goalie than a good one so far this season. He doesn't have to stand on his head to give the Caps a chance to win on most nights, but he's gotta make the saves he's gotta make - those softies are killers. Vokoun only lasted 40 minutes, and you'd imagine he'll get a baseball cap on Thursday.
- Can someone please remind Hunter that, despite his Ontario Hockey League coaching foundation, he is allowed to beat teams from outside that province? With Tuesday night's loss, Hunter is now 3-0-0 against Ontario's two teams in his young NHL coaching career and 0-4-0 against teams from elsewhere.
- Kids, when you're playing something that closely resembles man-to-man defense, it's pretty important not to get beaten to the front of the net by your man when one of his teammates has the puck at the point and, if you are beaten, be sure to tie up his stick so he can't deflect a shot past your netminder. Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson were both victimized on the "what not to do" part of that quick lesson (though Perreault seemed to have actually been the deflector on his misplay), and the two mistakes less than seven minutes apart left the Caps in a 3-0 hole.
- If the Caps aren't going to score at even strength, they're not going to win many games. Friday night was an obvious exception to that (with the four power-play tallies providing all of the Caps' scoring in the win over Toronto), but the team now has scored just once at evens in the last two games,
- Things happen when Wideman is on the ice. Obviously there were the four power-play goals-for on Friday night (and one of the goals-against). Then there were three goals-against and one for on Tuesday night. That's 76 goals on the season (37 for, 39 against) for which Wideman's been on the ice.
Jeff Halpern broke Ilya Bryzgalov's shutout with 6:01 left in the third period and ended the night with a plus-one rating (as did Joel Ward). It's almost as if he's chosen or something.
Alex Ovechkin followed up his impressive "resurgent Ovi" back-to-backs with an uninspired effort against a team that usually gets his best. Three shots on goal, another two that went wide, and only two hits. Hopefully just an off night and in no way attributable to the collision he had with Alexander Semin (who actually led the game with five hits... huh?).
- Good job by Karl Alzner and John Carlson on the Flyer's top line, as the Caps duo held Jaromir Jagr, Scott Hartnell and Sean Couturier to just three shots on goal (none by Jagr) and two points (which came with Alzner on the bench).
Roman Hamrlik has now played 25 games this season and has yet to notch an assist. How is it even possible that the one-time 49-assist man has fewer helpers on the campaign than Vokoun?
At best, Tuesday night's loss is a reminder that the Caps are far from out of the proverbial woods and have plenty of work to do. At worst, it's a sign that perhaps they don't have the right map to get them out and/or the right players to do the work it will take. The reality, as it usually does, lies somewhere in between.