Photo credit: Greg Fiume
The Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins have a storied history– especially on Superb Owl Sunday. Snowmageddon, anyone? This Sunday’s game belongs in history as well. But, like, next to the bombing of Guernica or childbirth before Ignaz Semmelweis.
Right after a faceoff, Chris Kunitz (may have) deflected a shot by Paul Martin into the Washington net. Mike Green responded by finishing off a great sequence and scoring a pretty one-timer goal– more on that one later. Deryk Engelland re-established the Penguins’ lead with a thoroughly screened blueline slapper, redirected by Matt Cooke. John Carlson tied it up with the Weirdest Goal of the Year: a center-ice dump-in off the boards that tricked Vokoun into leaving the net before the puck bounced in.
Then it got weird. Kris Letang took the lead back with a golden opportunity up close on Holtby. Chris Kunitz made it 4-2 shortly after that. A phantom trip call on Wojtek Wolski and Karl Alzner’s broken stick afforded Chris Kunitz either his second or third goal.
Mike Ribeiro gave life to the Caps with a powerplay goal made possible by some great hustle by Ovechkin, but despite some late-game heroics, that’s all they could muster. Chris Kunitz got either his hat-trick goal or his FOURTH of the day on a last minute power play goal. Yikes.
Penguins beat Caps 6-3.
- That first Caps goal was remarkable. Mike Green took a big shoulder hit and fell into the boards behind the net. The puck continued around the back, where Alex Ovechkin fought with two or three Pens before freeing the puck up for Mike Ribeiro. Ribs hit up Wolski near the circles, who had the awareness to find Mike Green, still smarting from that hit, in the sweet spot. It was stunning teamwork, and a great use of Ovechkin’s physicality. Pittsburgh was so busy double- or triple-teaming him, they left Green wide open. Next time someone says Green is soft, show ’em this.
- Ian and I think Mike Ribeiro is the Caps’ best player right now. Tell me you disagree. He seems connected to his teammates in all the ways the rest of the team is not. He’s all about position– putting his skinny frame in the fray and creating space out of nothing at all.
- Which is greater: NBC’s infatuation with Sidney Crosby or their disgust for Alex Ovechkin? I’m gonna say the former, but the latter is pungent as well. The first intermission was basically the two-minutes hate, emceed by a guy who beat a fan up with his own shoe. Besides: they’re wrong. NBC Sports folks say Ovi should become Crosby. We say Let Ovi Be Ovi.
- John Carlson’s has my vote for Goal of the Year. But as soon as it happened, the Penguins went on a roll. Even when we’re lucky, we’re unlucky. No use in complaining, particularly when the Caps managed just 3 shots at even strength that period.
- Lots of folks blame Braden Holtby for the Kris Letang goal. I’m not. A talented shooter shouldn’t be allowed to set up that close to the Caps net. It’s a high-percentage shot, and the Caps defense should have spoiled it. That’s not to absolve Holtby of guilt: he had a miserable day– and he’s played only one game this season up to his level.
- It seems as if the NHL is interested in having more power plays this year. They’re calling everything (except Erskine’s hit last game and Malkin’s delay of game today), including some bad ones. Wojtek Wolski‘s trip, for example, isn’t the sort that has been called before this year. It’s great that the NHL wants more offense, but it sucks that it all seems to come on the backs of the Caps.
- Who is this Chris Kunitz person?
I don’t like how John Carlson is playing. I don’t like how Marcus Johansson is playing. I don’t have an abundance of faith in this roster. I’m still not panicking (whatever that means), but I’m definitely worrying.
I still believe the Caps have suffered from bad luck and they’re due to bounce back, but the same fundamentals I was so enthused by have eroded this week. Puck possession is in the toilet. And not even a nice toilet.
A few years ago, the Capitals were the best team in the league. Because of offense. When the Caps’ shooting luck went belly-up in Montreal, the press turned on them. Their coach was kicked out of town, and their identity was warped into something meeker. Now, they’re neither an offensive juggernaut or a gritty, grind-em-out team. That amorphousness is laid at the feet of George McPhee, but we’ve gotta admit our own complicity as well.
We demanded that the Caps change (actually, we didn’t), and now we don’t like what they’ve become.
So what now? Blow it up? Make a drastic systems change? Wait for luck to turn and work on the basics in the meantime?
I got no idea. You tell me.
Ovechkin needs to crosby the crosby into the crosby
— Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) February 3, 2013