Aww (Photo credit: our own Chris Gordon)
The quintessential 2010-2011 Washington Capitals game includes a worthless first period, so the opening frame of tonight’s date with the Montreal Canadiens was surprisingly invigorating. If only the rest of the game could have followed suit.
Mathieu Perreault capped off an extended shift in the offensive zone with a takeaway and five-hole goal on Carey Price. On the powerplay, Mike Knuble filed some paperwork in his office to give the Caps an early and pleasant 2-0 lead. In the second period, Brian Gionta launched a rocket on a 2-on-1 breakaway to put the Habs on the board. Then John Carlson’s failed drop pass led to another breakaway and another goal for Gionta. OT was exciting but scoreless, and we found our way to that old standby: the shootout.
Nick Backstrom led off, beating Carey Price but ringing iron. Brian Gionta, the bastard, scored top-shelf on Varlamov. Matt Hendricks pulled that same darn move again, but Price saw it coming. James Wisniewski’s attempt was covered by Varly. Alex Ovechkin, in a must-score situation, didn’t. Game over. Habs beat Caps 3-2 (SO).
- Semyon Varlamov does not deserve the team in front of him. Knocking down 36 of 38 pucks, Varly was nearly flawless (yeah, except that one empty net thing). If Bruce Boudreau can supplement his stellar goaltending with some offense, the Capitals might become a viable team again. Man, that sentence felt weird to write.
- Alex Ovechkin had three shots on goal. Two came in the final five minutes. That’s an awful showing, but at least we got to seem him square off with P.K. Subban a few times. In the third, Ovi stopped at center ice, letting Subban collide with him and submarining him high into the air. That’ll look good on a highlight reel.
- If you ignore one column on the stat sheet, Brooks Laich didn’t have a bad game. He was a rock on the perfect penalty kill and was one-third of perhaps the team’s best line. But his three penalties (a slash, a hook, a trip, BINGO!), robbed the team of valuable even-strength time that they would have squandered anyway. But let’s throw this out there: Brooks pulled more un-whistled penalties than any player on the ice. For a while there, he was Montreal’s cross-check dummy. I would have played him in the shootout, but that’s just me.
- How exactly did the Caps’ long-suffering power play finally score? Mike Knuble went to the goal mouth as Mike Green got haughtily creative in feeding him. The worst cliché in hockey is consistently true: go to the net; good things will happen.
- The null side of that hypothesis was expertly tested by John Carlson. Graceful as kleptomaniac seagull at center ice, he gulped up a loose puck and entered the Habs zone all by himself. Late in a period in which the Capitals would only shoot six pucks at Carey Price, Carlson opted out of shooting, instead dropping back to… no one in particular. That broken play led to Montreal’s tying goal, and it exemplified the offensive meh-titude that this team can’t seem to shake.
- But hey: perfect penalty kill ain’t bad. The Canadiens definitely made them earn it.
So I have a new rule. If the Caps can’t put 10 pucks on net in each period, we’re not allowed to make excuses for them. The Caps went 9, 6, and 9 tonight. No effort means no excuses.
These recaps are tedious. No one wants to relive an agonizing loss, and I don’t want to play the sanctimonious dilettante firing missives from his couch. It’s so much more fun to watch a win, to write about a win, and to read about a win. I know it’s gotta be the same for the players. If they were winning, they’d be having more fun, and if they were having fun they’d also be winning. Sounds stupid, right?
But here’s a radical idea: let’s put aside the bile for a week. You know that discussion about who’s letting you down and who’s got to go? Let’s put it on hold for a few days. It’s certainly our Gretzky-given right as fans to whine and moan about bad whistles and bad plays and bad players, but it’s not actually going to make anything better.
On my swim team in high school, we had this awful diver. He was just plain old no good. But he had the best attitude you could find in a kid. After an epic back flop and some low scores from the judges, he’d hop out of the pool with so much zest you’d think it was his birthday. And he’d do it again. So we would cheer for him like he was at the Olympics, even if it seemed a little inappropriate. Weird thing happened then: he got noticeably better over the season and ended up competing at counties, where the volume of our cheers suddenly seemed a little more appropriate.
Yeah, I’m bummed. I’m a bit angry. But February is a gauntlet laid out in front of these Caps, especially this next week: Tampa Bay on Friday, Pittsburgh on Super Bowl Sunday. So for the guys, let’s stow the bad vibes at least until it’s over. Just to see what happens.