Friday, April 29, 2011

Rocking The Rust

Capitals 2, Lightning 4 (Tampa leads series 1-0)
Game Summary

Bruce Boudreau alluded to what the press would decide on the result of game one. If the Caps won they would be rested, if they lost it would be considered rust. The later would be true. The Tampa Bay Lightning fresh off their series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins would put the Caps behind in the series by a game winning 4-2.

"You can't play river hockey," Boudreau said of his team getting away from their style of play.

The Caps stressed the importance of getting the first goal in almost every game, but they did not in game one. The Bolts would take advantage to a break down in the defensive zone by the Caps. Sean Bergenheim would take advantage after cross checking Mike Green into his own net and scoring the first goal of the game.

Alex Semin would answer for the Caps scoring on a turnover created by Marco Sturm. The puck would end up on Semin's tape and his shot found a way to trickle past Dwayne Roloson to tie it all up at one.

The Caps looked like they jumped to the lead when Brooks Laich crashed the net and tried to kick the puck up to his stick but just kicked it in instead. The goal would not count. But it didn't seem to matter when just 1:51 into the second period off the faceoff, Jason Chimera chased down the puck and passed it back to an open Eric Fehr who buried it top shelf over Roloson's left shoulder. It would give the Caps the lead and a jump in the second period.

But a lucky bounce and a stupid roughing penalty, the second period would go to the Lightning with two quick goals. It took the Caps' crowd out of the game and the Lightning's one-three-one trap did the rest to kill off their division rival with Steven Stamkos' power play goal. Add an empty netter and game one belongs to the Bolts.

"They really know how to shut teams down," Fehr said of the Lightnings ability to stifle the Caps offense once they got the lead. "They have a pretty good trap going. That is the style of play that really frustrates teams and we can't get sucked into that."

The Capitals strayed away from their style of play and could hardly get pucks to the net. When they started to trade chance for chance, everyone in the locker room admits they were playing with fire. The Caps wanted to get back to getting pucks to the net and crash and grind it out.

The Capitals PK did their best against a very potent power play. They only allowed one in, but give Tampa too many chances and they will burn you when you can least afford to be burnt. The only power play goal would be the game winner for the Lightning.

While the PK did okay, the Capitals' power play was pathetic. Zero for five including two power plays in the third period trailing by a goal. It looked disjointed and lacked any energy nor effort by the Caps. They didn't even manage a shot on the final power play opportunity. The nightmare for this team is for the PP to return to it's cold ways, especially in a series where the power play could be such an invaluable weapon.

"We didn't have anything good going on tonight," Backstrom said about the struggling power play. "We have to get better on [the power play]. I mean we have to talk about it and watch some video on it and make sure we do something else that works." 

While the Lightning credit their stick-to-it-iveness to their glorious system, the Caps did do a bunch of damage to themselves in this game. The Cap just are not playing at the playoff level they were five days ago, while for the Lightning it has been one game at a time and it's worked for them. The Capitals need to be a more cohesive group and line chemistry will be key against the Bolts.

Nick Backstrom has done little to help the cause offensively. I don't usually like calling out one player, but he had two golden chances to help the Caps tie the game up. One a wide open net that he allowed a player behind him get in position to make the save, the other on a beautiful Ovechkin feed that he just shot wide along the ice. Backstrom has not tallied for the Capitals in the last thirteen games. Asked if he was squeezing the stick a bit to tight, Backstrom resigned, "That is what happens when you are struggling."

Michal Neuvirth looked solid. He robbed a few Bolts from close in and kept his team in it until the end (not much he could do on a empty net goal). He was calm in net and didn't look all that rattled. The Steve Downie goal could be considered soft, but it just looked like a bad bounce to me. 

Good thing for the Capitals it is not a one game series, but their work is cut out for them. With home ice advantage at stake, they will have to come out in game two with a better effort and at the very least split the back to back games in Tampa. It's time to shake off the rust.

Caps Notes:
  • A scary moment mid-way through the first period when Scott Hannan checked Bolt Simon Gagne hard into the boards and Gagne's head hit the ice following the hit. He would lay on the ice for a few frightful minutes as doctors made sure he was okay, even bringing out the stretcher which they did not need to use. Gagne skated off the ice under his own power and even got a stick tap from Hannan on the way back to his bench. 
  • Pavel Kubina would end up getting hurt as well as John Carlson. Both made attempts to return to the game but saw little or no ice time in the third period. Carlson was listed as day to day, Boudreau hopes to have him for Sunday's game. 
  • The power play goal the Lightning scored on was the result of a soft penalty call on Jason Chimera who was just finishing through with his check. The official saw different and called Chim for roughing at 18:00 in the second period. "I am not the referees," Chimera said on the call. "I'm just trying to finish off my check, I am not going to do anything different."

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