Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cream Starts To Rise

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2 OT/SO (1-0)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The goals would have to be flukes for the Carolina Hurricanes, because the Caps made it pretty clear in the first 8 minutes that they were there to get two points. The Capitals outshot the 'Canes near 10-1 in the first minutes of the game. The Caps were on a mission to get a win and keep the pressure on Boston and Philadelphia. Mission accomplished.

Alex Ovechkin scores his 61st goal of the season, surpassing Dennis Maruk for most goals by a Capital in a single season. Add a powerplay tally from Alex Semin off a pretty pass from Sergei Fedorov and a shoot out winner by Viktor Kozlov and the Caps get their two points the desperately needed.

The game had a playoff feel to it from the drop of the puck. Ovie was involved in 4 big time hits just in his first shift. Nick Backstrom may not have scored, but he played the best hockey I have seen him play this year. Backs assisted on both goals and seemed to find an open Ovechkin (which was hard to do with the 'Canes draped all over him) in almost every shift.

Cris Huet played spectacular, when the Capitals' defense faltered he was there. Viktor Kozlov also played well, and did his shootout skills ever help the Caps out here. Usually you see a shootout particapant work his speed up as he closes on the goaltender, but Kozlov's style is so matter of factly that the anticipation was palpable and the finish was explosive. In, what could be considered the biggest shootout for the Capitals this year, Kozzie should made his shot count.

The Carolina goals were what I call "lucky." A 40 ft. deflection late in the first and a goal to which I have still not seen any video proof of going in. If Toronto and the upstairs booth had another shot and could show conclusively that the puck was in the net then okay, I am fine with that. But they sure didn't share any of those highlight video shots to Comcast or the NHL Network because I never saw the puck over the line and in the net. That goal was waved off and there has to be conclusive evidence that the contrary happened. I don't think that there was.

This was a game the Caps desperately needed, and they sure played like it. The Caps did have plenty of momentum and opportunity to ice the game but the powerplay was stagnant in the later half of the game. They were just 1 for 6 including a overtime powerplay that the 'Canes played just about the perfect 3 on 4 you will ever see.

There shouldn't be any shame at the Caps inability to get the win in regulation, instead it's two points they needed to get. Remember the Caps are still in the middle of a six game road trip, they still have Tampa Bay and Florida on the horizon before finishing the season at home. The Caps have pocketed 6 standings points out of 8. That is a huge accomplishment. Sure the surrendered a point to Carolina, but there playoff hopes are still intact.

Of course for there to be a chance for that to happen, Boston and Philly have to start struggling. So far that's not happening. Boston got a big road win against Toronto and the Flyers slip past the Rangers. However, the teams below the Caps seemed to have broken off. Both the Sabres and Panthers fell last night give the Caps some cushion, not that they should rely on that.

I am a bit concerned about the Caps failure to capitalize on their opportunities. They had 3 key powerplays down the stretch of the game that could have taken the lead for good. You had a feeling that after each powerplay, it was going to be near impossible for either team to score at even strength. The Capitals must be able to take advantage of their chances as there is little room for any mistakes.

Just 5 games left. If you haven't been biting your nails now, where have you been for the past month?

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