It’s not like the Washington Capitals have a hard time getting pumped up for a intra-division game. Facing the Atlanta Thrashers at home tonight, the Caps put a season-high 46 pucks on net (with another 20 attempted). But Ondrej Pavelec stood like a giant in the Atlanta net, turning away all but one of those pucks. At least it wasn’t a shutout.
Rich Peverly deflected a monster shot from Byfuglien to create the first goal of the night. Penalty engine Alex Burmistrov recorded the second goal, a brilliant chip shot from no angle. At the end of a long shift in Atlanta territory, Alex Ovechkin ended his nine-game goal drought with a one-timer assisted by the other Alex. After David Steckel took a controversial kneeing penalty, Andrew Ladd took only eight seconds to score the game’s final goal. Bummer. Thrashers beat Caps 3-1.
If Ondrej Pavelec were a car, he’d be firing on all cylinders. Last time we saw a goalie this hot, we had to invent a word for it: Halak’d.
- That said, the 46 shots stat might be misleading. The Caps took a lot of their shots from outside and were not helped by friendly traffic in front of the net. It was way too easy for that nigh-invulnerable goalie to swat away pucks without imminent rebounds. The PP unit can cycle the puck in their sleep, but they falter when it comes to shifting into the slot.
- Alex Ovechkin scoars, thank goodness. I know we were all “he’s a playmaking, Russian assist machine now; who cares if he doesn’t score!”, but c’mon. He needed this. We needed this. In an interview with CSN’s Al Koken during the second intermission, Alex said it best: “My job is to scoar goals.” Then Do Work, Son. Crosby’s got a hefty lead on you.
- This bullet is dedicated to all the ludicrous saves Pavelec made. That desperate swat of the glove to turn away Mike Green should be criminal.
- Personnel notes: John Erskine missed tonight’s game after a bad bump sustained on Thursday. In his place was Tyler Sloan, who mostly paired with winless Scott Hannan. It should not go unsaid that this pair was on ice for Atlanta’s game winner.
- The faceoff dot was unkind to the Caps. Of the players who were not dismissed from the circle entirely, pucks seemed to go the wrong away too often. Most at fault here is Nick Backstrom, who had an uncharacteristic 5-for-17 faceoff record.
- David Steckel collided knee-on-knee with Tobias Enstrom. After the ensuing fight with Jim Slater, the referees retroactively imposed a penalty on Stecks for the original contact, but did not penalize Slater for the instigator. What’s the point of the instigator penalty if it’s never used?
- I hate piling up on the zebras, but there’s more. Either the Capitals’ faces spontaneously generated some attraction for hockey sticks, or the Thrashers knew they weren’t gonna get called for it. Mike Green can testify to that. So can John Carlson. Jason Chimera could tell us about that three or four times, and the nasty gash on his lip would be exhibit A.
But let’s put the whining aside. Just like last game, poor officiating is not the reason the Caps lost tonight. The refs are not to blame for the paltry offense we’ve seen lately. You can define lately as either “this week” or “since April”. There’s a killer instinct, a Bodhi-like hunger for adventure that is missing from the D.C. forwards. Until the Capitals get back in that zone, feeding free wings to the fans at every chance, they’ll continue to lose marginal games like this one.
Catch you guys on Monday, when the Caps will undoubtedly put the hurting on the wallowing Toronto Make-Believes.