Capitals Turn It Up a Notch: Caps Secure Win 3-2
(Photo via Patrick McDermott)
On any given night, in ice rinks all across North America, you will find a group of guys suiting up and playing a game of shinny hockey. They don’t skate too hard or take the game too seriously and they definitely don’t care about the score. The guys are just happy to be out there playing the game they love. And that’s fine because they are probably paid to be accountants, or I.T. professionals. One or two may be college kids home on a break. They are not professional hockey players.
Tonight, at a sold out Verizon Center, in front of fans who have been starved for professional hockey for so long due to the latest labor dispute lockout, the Washington Capitals came out and played no better than so many of those late-night pick-up players. The skill was, of course, much better but that’s where the differences ended.
New head coach Adam Oates brought with him a winning system that he has tried to implement for this team. They have learned it, and execute it to perfection for about the first 15 minutes of every game. After going full out for that first ¾ of a period fatigue begins to set in and the players simply give up on the team system concept and revert to their basic hockey skills and just try to do it all on their own. That may work in an all-star game, but no amount of talent will ever match up over three full periods against a lesser-talented team playing as a team. Five guys beat one every single time.
The choppy, lazy play caused the Caps to go down 0 – 1 midway through the second period after gutting it out in a scoreless stalemate for over 30 minutes. Much like you see during pick-up games there were several turn overs that led to breakaways. One of these turnover’s found it’s way on to center Nicklas Backstrom’s stick and after a few well time dekes he threw a backhand shot top-shelf just over Philly goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s catching glove. The score at the end of the second was tied 1 – 1.
The Flyers started the third period on a 3 on 5 penalty kill. This is usually a daunting task for any team, but as the Caps are in a huge special teams slump Philly had nothing to worry about and killed the penalty with ease. Over the past few games a set-back like failing to score with a two man advantage would have sent the Caps into a self-destructive spiral out of control, but not tonight. At just about halfway through the third period veteran forward Troy Brouwer got a pass from behind the opposing net and threw up a low-percentage shot from a bad angle that somehow squeaked through giving Washington the 2 -1 lead.
Before Bryz could even collect his thoughts after giving up the Brouwer goal the Caps won a faceoff in the neutral zone and rookie Wojtek Wolski grabbed the puck, turned on the jets, and buried it in the back of the net. Caps up 3 – 1 with the 2-goal insurance policy. The Flyers would cut the lead in half a few minutes later when a shot ricocheted off of the post and bounced directly in front of a wide open net and was easily tapped in by Bruno Gervais for the score. That wouldn’t matter however as the Caps would hold on to win 3 – 2.
Wolski on the team's performance tonight: “We did really well in the neutral zone. I think the last couple of games in the third period we seemed to break down and get away from what we want to be doing in the neutral zone. I think tonight we really stuck together and reminded each other to stay wide. We did that really well, we got a lot of turnovers and pucks going the other way.”
It sure wasn’t pretty but a win is a win and with the season the Capitals are having they’ll take it. Let’s hope that they decide to start playing more as a team soon. The Pittsburgh Penguins are coming to town on Sunday, and they aren’t just coming to watch the Superbowl. They are planning to roll over the Caps easily, and if nothing changes from tonight’s performance they just may do that.
The Game in GIFS (Capitals goals)
Images via Diamagus vis Japers Rink
Caps are down 1-0 when Backstrom is all aloneSCOOARRRRR
Caps are tied 1-1 when Brouwer thinks for a second thenSCOOARRRRR
Caps are up 2-1 when Wolski poke checks the puck out and gets the puckSCOOARRRRR