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