Wednesday, December 28, 2011
22-9-4: Power-less Play
As disappointing a team as there is in the NHL this season, the Washington Capitals were led by as disappointing a talent as there is in the NHL this season on Wednesday night. Alex Semin struck for two goals to help the Caps beat the Rangers 4-1. But it was another massive disappointment that doomed the Rangers - their power play.
The man advantage proved to be no advantage at all, as the Ranger power play blew five opportunities. It is mired in a 1-21 slump that it shows no signs of stopping. The guys are being too cute, they are taking too much time with the puck, they are looking for the perfect play. You'd think Perry Pearn was still behind the bench. It is true that they did score once, but it was clearly kicked in by Captain Callahan and thus waved off - it was their best chance too. By comparison, they were shorthanded twice in this game and got two golden opportunities to score shorthanded. Shorthanded the team is forced to make quick decisions, to play the puck off the rush and go to the net before bugging out of the zone. The lesson we all were taught when younger would serve the Ranger power play well - KISS, Keep It Simple, Stupid.
*Tomas Vokoun hadn't started in six games and the Blueshirts let him off the hook. There were few guys crashing the net, few guys getting in his face, few guys getting to rebounds ... all things the Caps did to Biron.
*Hard to play against Alex Ovechkin and not miss Marc Staal but the Blueshirts were largely able to contain Alex the Great - partially because of their hard work, partially because Ovie is not the same superstar he once was. The tireless relentlessness that made him the best player in the NHL is now sporadic at best. It got his last coach fired and is clearly frustrating his current one.
*The Rangers top offensive talent were just as frustrating. Marian Gaborik allowed himself to be shoved out to the perimeter while Brad Richard$ had one of his worst games to date. Not only did he have the utterly egregious turnover that led to the first Semin goal but Richard$ saw 8:21 of power play time and was utterly ineffective.
*As I tweeted, Ryan Callahan is everything we hoped Chris Drury would be. A true warrior who goes not only to the wall but through it to get the job done. From blocking shot after shot (after shot after shot) to taking on DC's John Erskine, Captain Cally did it all. It was his selflessness that set up the Rangers' lone goal - a good block sent the puck up the ice and Dubi finished with a superb snipe. With four points in his last four games, things are finally getting better for Dubi.
*Neither Brandon Prust nor Mike Rupp made John Erskine pay for roughing up Callahan. However, they did both draw power plays only to watch the so-called skill guys piss them away.
*Always maintained that Arty Anisimov could be a great player if he could ever get his head together and gain some confidence. Much to my surprise, this season he definitely has started doing both. The best part is not his offense but his improvement away from the puck, which he showed several times tonight.
*On the other side of it is Del Zaster. On the first goal against he turned the puck over to Johansson, stepped away from Jeff Halpern to - in theory - stay with his man (Johansson) and then proceeded to stop and watch the puck, which allowed Johansson to skate deep and score on the rebound of Halpern's shot. It is fundamental mistakes like that I find unforgivable. Sure he is only 21 but this was the 162nd game of his NHL career. Almost two full seasons of experience and still he gives up on his coverage to watch the play, and that is why he is a pariah in these pages. He settled down after the goal but still missed several chances to clear the zone when the Rangers were in trouble and lost battles along the boards. DZ has it in him to be a Sergei Zubov but what made Zubi so valuable was as much his passing as his ability in his own end. Still wish we drafted John Carlson instead.
*The assist gave Halpern 20 points in 34 career games against the Rangers, a stat that I found quite surprising. Jeff Halpern? Really?
*Another blown coverage helped Washington score their second goal. Dan Girardi watched Troy Brouwer curl around the net, then McD turned and saw the Capital standing there. Neither one bothered to hit the guy, allowing him to screen Biron and tip John Carlson's shot in to break the 1-all tie. Guess the Rangers really missed Kurt Sauer - couldn't believe Eddie O made that mistake. But he was still far, far, far, far, far, far better than Joe Micheletti.
*While getting on the announcing, is it Step-an, Step-ahn, Step-in or what? Doc seemingly couldn't decide.
*There is no way that Jeff Woywitka could ever, ever beat Alex Semin in a race but it just wasn't happening when the guy is coming off of a bruised foot. His partner Stu Bickel (STUUUUU) had a bad turnover and no physical presence - he has to be better if he is going to keep his job in the big leagues. Anton Stralman looked pretty good though, blowing away all expectations.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Troy Brouwer - one goal and one assist.
2-Alex Ovechkin - two assists.
1-Alex Semin - two goals.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Brooks Laich - Handily kept the Rangers to the outside on the kill.
2-Semin - Amazing how good he can be once in a blue moon.
1-Brouwer - Like a young Mike Knuble out there ...