Pens beat Caps 2-1, John Erskine vs Arron Asham

Rob Carr

Hit em for Beagle: John Erskine vs Arron Asham (Photo credit: Rob Carr)

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ first appointment in D.C. might also mark the beginning of drastic reformulation for the Washington Capitals. This was also the first meeting between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in 335 days and Crosby’s first date in D.C. since his concussion. Lots of hype, very little offense. Here’s how it went down:

Arron Asham hooked up Craig Adams for a lay up made even easier by some bad D from Orlov and Schultz. Chimera tied it up in the second with a blind backhand. Chris Kunitz beat everyone to give the Pens the go-ahead goal. The Caps just didn’t shoot. Pens beat Caps 2-1.

  • Offense, baby. The Capitals were without a shot on goal for half of the first period. There was no offense whatsoever until Coach Dale Hunter combined Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Knuble for the first time in a long time (the first under his regime). That shift fired three shots, but the line disintegrated in the second before returning briefly in the third.
  • We are witnessing a sea change in Caps’ systems, but we’ve got no perspective yet; we’re just too close and it’s too darn slow. More forechecking– yeah, that’s obvious. As is some increased defensive involvement by forwards and an inching towards man-t0-man defense. But it’s super duper early in the Hunter regime, and these things will be revealed in time. It’s fascinating to watch. Also painful.
  • HITS. It’s an awful stat, tallied by feckless trolls in darkened corners, full of lies and whispers. But whatever. Final tally was Caps 43, Pens 28– making this game only slightly less violent than Robocop 2.
  • Alex Ovechkin set up Nick Backstrom for a monster shot that was either the save of Marc Andre-Fleury‘s career or a flukey deflection off the shaft of his stick. Yeah, it’s the latter. [UPDATE: MAF confirmed the puck went off the post, not his stick.]
  • What kinda cereal will you find in Jason Chimera‘s breakfast nook? I need to know. The Capitals leading scorer (jeezus, still???) recorded another tonight– using his patented blind/backhand/how-the-hell-did-that-work shot to the far side. If you check Chimmer’s hockey reference page (which I recommend just for the ad…), that gives Chimmer 10 goals after 24 games– tied with last year’s total and putting him 7 off his career best.
  • We called this one: John Erskine challenged Arron Asham to a fight, and Asham accepted. It was a monster brawl with Big John emerging the winner by a margin. Props to Asham for stepping up, more props to Erskine for defending his boy Jay Beagle, who is still nursing a not-concussion concussion. Let’s consider this matter settled. Watch the fight:

  • Giveawayapalooza. As the Capitals struggle to reassemble their puck-possession, it’s a feeding frenzy for the other team. The Caps coughed up the puck 13 times, most of them in the first period alone. Let’s keep an eye on this stat and turnovers in general, as they might be a proxy for growing pains in coming weeks.
  • Alex Ovechkin: 1 shot, 10 hits. Would that we could reverse those stats.
  • Nick Backstrom was a faceoff machine (never breaks). He won 15 of 17 faceoffs.

Mitchell Layton

Ugg. Buddy, you’re killing me. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Joe B suit of the night

If you need this game boiled down, here it is: shots were 35-17, the lowest count of the Caps’ season. No matter what exciting systems changes or boosts to morale Coach Hunter brings, this team is an offensive non-entity for now. The power play offered a grand total of 1 shot on 2 opportunities. Only five players fired more than one shot, and two of them were Mike Knuble.

But there are bright spots we cannot ignore. Roman Hamrlik damaged the team not at all from his seat in the press box. Alex Semin didn’t commit a penalty. These are the little victories.

The Caps didn’t get blown out by the Pens, so that’s something. No, really. The Capitals are slowly emerging from interregnum, with all of the civil unrest that comes with it. Meanwhile, the Penguins are the best in the East– firing on all cylinders– with a star player in ascent.  This game was white-knuckle tense, and that’s a testament to … well, something. We’ll let you know in May.

Winter has come.

Saturday is Senators night in D.C. See you then!

  • JessHughes

    Totally agree on wishing we could reverse Ovi’s stat line.  It’s OK to have a high energy, physical guy on the 3rd line, but we’d pay him $2M year, not $9 M.

  • Peter

    Well said

  • I feel like their game has gotten a lot better and a little more sound if that makes since.  The physical presence and effort was there obviously but they weren’t able to combine it with that thing that actually scores the goals… pucks on net.

  • Ovis_Missing_Tooth

    This one hurt. You know we have reached a low point when we find solace in not getting blown out by the Pens…at home. At this point, I am baffled on how Schultz still has roster spot and how Eakin is getting a jersey over MP85. Where did MoJo go? Alan May tweeted that he looked pretty bad out there. I dont know guys but we are digging quite a hole here. 

  • jjll0rky

    My High School team could muster more than 17 shots against the pens…

  • Bobby Gee

    I agree, very well said.  Ovie continues to confound.  He’s playing like a 3rd line physical guy which is NOT what we want or expect from someone making his mega millions.  When oh when will he–and the Caps offense in general–awaken from the doldrums?

    And no, losing 2 games by 2-1 scores instead of being blown out 7-1 or 5-1 does not constitute a moral victory.

    As Ovie said in his CCM ad (remember?): MORE PRACTICE FOR YOU!

  • Can we start an internet petition to get Schultz off the team? 

  • If they don’t play MP85 soon under Hunter I’ll really be confused.  He was doing pretty well during our streak and barely even got any time since then. 

  • Pattyo

    Not worried yet. Flyers lost like 11 of 12 games after lavvy got hired, and they made it pretty far since then.

    BTW, doesn’t Bruce look REALLY weird in ducks gear?

  • Fratboy21ct

    Agree completely on Shultz and Eakin. Im not sold on MP85 either. His skating style (if you can call it that) is a cross between drunken looking and wind buffeted. I know alot fans admire his gusto, but he inspires little to no confidence in me (yet).

    Can do without Hamrlik and Ward as well. Can’t think of the last time I was this down on so much of the roster.

  • Jim

    You are either drunk are retarded.  Crosby would take your high school team in his van with his pedostache.

  • Jim

    “The Caps didn’t get blown out by the Pens, so that’s something. No, really.”

    This.  Anybody that expected different, I don’t know what to say to you.  The Pens are firing on all cylinders, and what we saw tonight was the best we’ve seen from the Caps in ages.  I don’t think we should take this as Hunter’s systems coming into play or anything like that.  It’s the guys stepping up for a rival. 

    There’s still a rough road ahead.  It’s a new coach.  Everybody relax and let’s see what we look like as the plants start to bloom a bit.

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  • Ovis_Missing_Tooth

    Disagree. How did they step up for a rival when they produced their lowest shot output of the year. Sure, they played with more intensity but the Pens missed alot of chances and the score could have easily been 5-1.

  • Ovis_Missing_Tooth

    Also, I don’t buy into the “its a new system so it takes time”. Bullshit. This team has been playing together for years and regardless or whatever system they are in there is no excuse for such sloppy passing, lazy defesne and non hustling. Unless, we are just not that good.

  • serpent

    If Ovi put the energy he expends on his new honey into his team, we’d see mega results.And  how many times did Bruce say that if you don’t shoot the puck, you can’t score?

  • J.P.

    You could, but the folks over at Japer’s Rink would bring out the pitchforks and torches and burn your little internet petition right to the ground. They just love, love, love themselves some Jeff Schultz over there. Seriously, check out the recap and comments from last night’s game – the recap somehow mostly blames Orlov for the first goal (even though Schultz took nothing away from either side of the net) and the comments are positive on his play generally because he’s “invisible”. I shit you not. Then you get a bunch of photoshops bitching about people who bitch about Schultz.
    It’s quite baffling.

  • Anonymous

    I think Ovi needs to start shooting the puck more. He isn’t even in the top 10 in shots this year so far.