Postgame Notebook, 2-8-08
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Power Outage – Coming into Friday night’s game, the Capitals had not had more than three power play opportunities in any of their last six games. In its previous seven games Washington was 1-for-17 (5.9%) with the extra man.
Carolina entered Friday night’s game with the league’s worst penalty killing unit, and having lost one of its top penalty killers (Chad LaRose) to a broken leg in its last game. If Washington was to turn its power play fortunes around, Friday night seemed to offer some strong possibilities.
The Caps got their first two power play chances of the night in the first period, between Carolina’s two goals. Washington got three more extra-man chances in the second period – including the dreaded two-man advantage for 1:10 – and another two in the third. By the middle of the second period, the Caps had four power play chances, more than they’ve had in any of their last six games, dating back to Jan. 23 at Toronto.
On the night, the Caps had seven power play chances against the league’s most anemic penalty killing team, the most power play opportunities they’ve had in the last 22 games dating back to a Dec. 17 contest in Detroit. Having fallen into a 2-0 hole in the first period, Washington needed those power play chances to get back into the game.
The Capitals spent 11:10 on the power play, but managed just eight shots on goal. Few, if any, were memorable. Only one came during the 1:10 two-man advantage. By game’s end, the Caps’ drought had stretched to 1-for-24 (4.2%). Washington’s failure to convert cost it a chance to hold onto the lead in the Southeast Division.
“The power play defines how the game ended,” declared Caps’ bench boss Bruce Boudreau afterwards. “You have to make teams pay if they’re going to take that many penalties and we didn’t and it has been a recurring problem for the last few games. I have to have guys on [the power play] that are playing it the way we’re supposed to be playing it.
“It’s something we’ve tried to address many times. Sometimes you’ve got skilled players and they always think they can make the cute play because they’ve got so much skill. But in the end, if you look at the power plays that work, it’s meat and potatoes, getting the puck to the net, crashing the net and getting ugly goals. It’s something we have to either learn or change the guys up that are on there.”
Back-to-Back Blankings – By virtue of Alexander Semin’s brilliant third period goal that came on a great individual effort, the Capitals managed to avoid the ignominy of being blanked in back-to-back home games for the first time in nearly seven years.
The last time Washington suffered whitewashes in consecutive home games was when Anaheim’s J-S Giguere and Carolina’s Arturs Irbe deadened the Caps’ attack at MCI Center on Mar. 13 and 15, 2001, respectively. Those two games were the first contests after the trade deadline that year.
That was the third time the Caps been shutout in consecutive home games since moving downtown in the middle of the 1997-98 season. Philadelphia’s John Vanbiesbrouck and Montreal’s Jeff Hackett blanked Washington in consecutive home games on Jan. 13 and 15, 1999, respectively. Buffalo’s Dominik Hasek (Mar. 1, 1998) and Boston’s Robbie Tallas (Mar. 3, 1998) also turned the trick here in the District.
Back at the old barn in Landover, the Islanders’ Tommy Salo (Nov. 29, 1996) and Detroit’s Kevin Hodson (Dec. 4, 1996) shut down the Caps’ offense in successive games. The only other time in the team’s history that the Caps were held without a goal in consecutive home contests was all the way back in the first month of the team’s existence. After suffering a 5-0 loss to the Islanders’ Billy Smith on Oct. 20, 1974, the Caps were blanked 3-0 by Detroit’s Jim Rutherford at the Capital Centre two days later.
Rutherford was in the house here on Friday night; he is now Carolina’s general manager.
Kiss of Death – The Caps are the league’s best team in 4-on-4 situations. They’ve scored 11 times in such situations, and no other team in the league has more than six. But on the 5-on-3, the Caps are the league’s worst team.
Washington has but one goal with the two-man advantage this season, going 1-for-15 in such situations. The Caps have skated with two extra men for a total of 14:45 this season. Four other teams (Colorado, Nashville, Toronto and St. Louis) have only one 5-on-3 goal this season, but the Caps have also surrendered a 5-on-3 goal this season, so they’re even in such situations.
Schooled in the Circle – Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour – one of the best in the business on face-offs for many years – conducted a clinic in the face-off circle on Friday night. The veteran Carolina pivot won 18 of 23 draws. Brind’Amour won all three draws he took on the penalty kill on Friday, with all three coming in his own zone in the third period.
Down a D – Caps defenseman John Erskine did not play after this first period. He is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and will be evaluated again tomorrow. Erskine skated just 2:07 in two shifts on the night.
With five defensemen available for duty most of the night, Mike Green logged a single-game career high of 32:04 in ice time. Caps center Nicklas Backstrom also logged career high ice time, getting 23:30 in the night.
Leader of the Pack – Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin came into Friday night’s game leading the league in goals with 46 and scoring with 73. Those weren’t the only categories in which he led the league.
Ovechkin’s 18 third period goals are tied for the league lead. Ovechkin leads the league with eight game-winning goals, but he has also tallied four game-winners in the third period, tied for the league lead with Chicago’s Patrick Sharp and Dallas’ Niklas Hagman. Ovechkin has 27 “late-game pressure” points, tops in the NHL.
Other categories in which Ovechkin leads the league entering Friday night’s game with the Hurricanes: even-strength goals (30), even-strength points (50), power play goals (16), shots on goal (304), second-period goals (16) and multiple-goal games (eight, tied with two others).
Bad Boy – Carolina’s Ray Whitney entered Friday night’s game with a total of 12 penalty minutes in 53 minutes on the season. In five seasons of his NHL career Whitney has had fewer than 20 penalty minutes for the entire season.
Happy Birthday – To Hockey Hall of Famer Alex Connell, a goaltender who played on two Stanley Cup champions, born on this day in 1902. And to ex-Cap and (hopefully) future Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli, born on this day in 1960.
Down on the Farm – Both the AHL Hershey Bears and the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were idle on Friday. The Bears visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday and they host Worcester on Sunday. The Stingrays host Texas on Saturday and Wheeling in Sunday.