The Mess at MSG: Caps beat Rangers 5-3

Brooks Laich started and ended the Caps scoring tonight.

(Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)

MG52 unleashes the fury! (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)

Brooks Laich with the book-end goals. (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)

Well, that was an ugly one. The Washington Capitals’ first appointment with the New York Rangers, hosted in the majestically gloomy Madison Square Garden, had all of the poetry of an alleyway brawl. 28 penalty minutes were distributed in the first period alone. Mike Green dropped gloves for crying out loud!

The Rangers got up to an early lead when Brian Boyle beat Jeff Schultz at the circle. All night the Capitals defense was spotty, and it seemed the Superfriends could not make up for it. Every time the Caps tied the score, the Rangers pulled ahead again. But the Caps found strength where we faithful knew it would be: depth. Brooks Laich recorded a pair, Mike Knuble finished the funk, Matt Hendricks provided the GWG, and even lovable John Erskine got on the board. Henrik Lundqvist lay defeated. Caps beat Rangers 5-3.

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It's been that kind of year for Kanoobs.

Mike Knuble’s struggles are widely known in Caps circles (one goal in fourteen games), but sacrificing a goat, as he joked he might do on DC101, won’t do him any good.

Knuble had a career high shooting percentage of 19.2% last year – at age 37 – so we are seeing two mechanisms at work here: Production slowing down due to age and his shooting percentage regressing back to the mean. In English, he’s getting old and isn’t getting the same lucky bounces as he did last year.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Nov 7, 2010

Boyd Gordon (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
Boyd Gordon leads in scoring chance percentage. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Another week in the books, and I have three questions:

  1. Is there a hidden value to having Sloan on the ice?
  2. Will we see more Uno Seis in our face or on the bench?
  3. Who’s with me on a”Vote for Boyd” campaign?

Luckily, these questions are easily answered because I log scoring chances every game. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

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Game Over Strikes Again: Caps beat Flyers 3-2 (OT)

Game Over, Mike Green. Caps beat the Flyers in OT 3-2.

Braden Holtby, in his first career NHL start, makes one of his 23 saves on the night. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Braden Holtby, in his first career NHL start, makes one of his 23 saves on the night. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Game Over. (Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez)

Traditionally, Sunday games have been trouble for the Washington Capitals.  The crowd might be docile, the ice sloppy, the players hungover; doesn’t matter. Quoting Ovechkin: “It was a five o’clock game. Usually you take a nap at this time.”

Tonight’s bout with Eastern Conference-rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, was remarkable enough to wake the players from their expected slumber. The Flyers, riding a five-game winning streak and leading the league in penalties, brought the smash-mouth brand of  hockey that we expected and did not permit the Caps to play lazy.

Flyer Nikolay Zherdev beat the Caps’ new goalie, Braden Holtby, on a two-on-one to open up the game. Eric Fehr responded with a low-probability/high-awesomesauce snipe from a wide angle. Ville Leino (who it turns out is a person and not a cozy Italian hamlet) got improbably lucky off a deflection to put the Flyers up 2-1. Alex Semin tied the game up on a power-play sweep-in, and there the scored remained until the end of regulation. The specter of a Sean O’Donnell boarding penalty chased the Flyers into OT, which Mike Green turned into an OTGWG. It wasn’t the raucous glove-dropper we were expecting, but a W is a W: Caps beat Flyers 3-2 (OT).

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Caps (and Braden Holtby) beat Bruins (finally) 5-3

Alex Semin scoars, Tim Thomas stone-faced.

Flawless! Holtby's four saves and first NHL victory gets him the hardhat. (Photo by @cnichols14)

Flawless! Holtby's four saves and first NHL victory gets him the hardhat. (Photo by @cnichols14)

Tim Thomas: impenetrable (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

You’d think the Capitals, after suffering two consecutive beatdowns at the hands of the Boston Bruins, would have the good sense not to face them again. In spite of that, the NHL overlords decreed that they should meet again on this fifth of November.

After a quiet first period, marked only by a  Tyler Sloan goal (whaaaa?), the Caps provided an explosive second period– quickly becoming the team’s signature period– to lead 3-0. The Bruins then excused superlative goalie Tim Thomas in favor of Tuukka Rask and scored three unanswered goals themselves, earning Michal Neuvirth the hook. Enter Braden Holtby and cue John Carlson, provider of the GWG– a perfect slapshot immediately after the faceoff. With the Boston net vacated, Alex Ovechkin tasted blood in the water and sealed the deal. Caps beat Bruins, thankfully, 5-3.

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Crosby Talks to Maxim About Ovechkin and Nothing Else

Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin is the overriding narrative for the Winter Classic. You just know Doc, J.R., Milbury, and weird old Pierre are going to beat this horse to death. You know HBO is going to dedicate an entire reel of film to it. You know Mike Wise is going to write something as provocative as it is empirically wrong about it. Even Maxim magazine is getting in on the action.

October’s issue — the one with [generic Hollywood ingenue wearing lingerie] on the cover–  contains a Q&A with Pittsburgh’s superstar. Guess what they talk about:

Hm. Maxim describes Sidney Crosby as a 'Terminator like prodigy' and Ovi as a 'Flashy Showboat.' (via Wes Johnson)

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The Many Faces of Alex Semin: Caps beat Leafs 5-4 (SO)

Alex Semin's game-winning shootout goal

CAPTION GOES HERE

After the GTG, 21 busts out the classic "flying hug" move. (Photo credit: Susan Walsh)

Bad stick penalties, better goals. Vintage Sasha. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

The upshot: The Caps squeak by an uneven bout with the trouble Toronto team to win in the shootout. But man, there’s a lot more than that. The Red Army has yet to play solid games back to back. The defensive end had lots of trouble, especially in the third, but the oh-fense was spectacular. The first period was sleepy, the second period electric, the third period a near disaster.

If that last paragraph reads disjointed, it’s only because the game was too (that and I’m not using conjunctions).

For the nth game this season, the Capitals were polite enough to let the other team score first. Nikolai Kulemin takes the puck, gets John Erskine to dive, and lures Michal Neuvirth a bit wide before shooting. MG52 answered with a PPG (now that’s what we’ve been missing!). Jason Chimera showed determination in the slot, accepting a deft pass from Boyd Gordon in the corner and then repeatedly swatting the puck until it snuck under Jonas Gustavsson‘s loins for the go-ahead. Either John Carlson (slapper) or Tomas Fleischmann (tip-in) scored the third goal, and the jury may be out on that one for a long time.

The third period was a bloodbath, filled with a troika of Leafs goals from Kaberle, Versteeg, and Bovak. Toronto claimed the lead, and it seemed the Caps were headed for a loss. And then Alex Semin, whom Boudreau almost scratched due to illness, converted an unlikely power play chance. Overtime came and went. The shootout found Ovechkin and Semin scoring wizardly goals and Michal Neuvirth stopping two attempts. Even though the Canadian bastards escaped with a point, at least we can say Caps beat Leafs 5-4 (Shootout).

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CSN’s intro videos have always been well done, but this one takes the cake. Going high concept, Joe Beninati and a dedicated graphics team introduce us to the Young Guns the Super Friends.

Nicklas Backstrom is Mr. Cool.
Alex Semin is Blade.
Mike Green is Falcon.
Alex Ovechkin is Laser.

Thanks to Neil Greenberg for his unrivaled DVR skills.

Prospect Watch: Anderson Saves, Russians Come Back

RMNB Prospect Watch

Ed. note – Right on schedule, our own Fedor Fedin and Roman Piontkovsky of GlobalCapsFans swoop in to the Russian Machine roost to provide the bi-weekly skinny on players somewhere beyond the Caps system (CHL, USHL, NCAA, KHL, KMFDM).  Hide your kids, hide your wife, here comes Prospect Watch!

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