Grabo the Returned: Leafs beat Caps 2-1 (SO)

Ovi and Phaneuf - Abelimages

Captains (Photo: Abelimages)

What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? That was my question before Saturday’s game between the low-shooting Leafs and please-shoot-moar-pucks-at-our-goalie Capitals.

Well. Now we know. The Capitals dominated possession at evens, and kept the Leafs to minimal offense. David Clarkson tipped in a long bomb on a second-period power play. The Caps couldn’t beat Reimer until Alex Ovechkin got a mean-ass one-timer in the third.

Overtime couldn’t settle it, so let’s do the shootout bullets!

  • Clarkson had speed but no accuracy
  • FEHR SCOAR! YAYYYYYY WE LOVE HIM
  • JVR snuck one past Holtby
  • Ovi got stopped trying the five-hole
  • Mason Raymond lost the puck like a noob
  • B-day boy Backstrom got denied
  • Joffrey Lupul repaid his debts
  • Troy Brouwer missed, d’oh

Leafs beat Caps 2-1 (Shootout).

  • Thank goodness the Caps broke up Reimer’s shutout. It would have been two in three, despite the team more than doubling their shot count from the Pittsburgh game.
  • Adam Oates did some line-fiddlin’ before this one. Brooks Laich was sent to what everyone thinks his natural position: third-line center. I like it. You?
  • The new Chimera-Laich-Ward line was responsible for most of the Caps’ offense in the first half.
  • The Caps top line survived the the line shake-up unscathed. Surprisinly, the Johansson-Backstrom-Ovechkin line were shut down effectively; they had nary a shot attempt through 20 minutes. Alex Ovechkin didn’t get one on net until 5 minutes into the second, but he ended up back on pace. Credit for slowing him down early goes to Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson, who were all over Ovi. Phaneuf was a somewhat less all up on when Ovi secured that one-timer goal late in the third.
  • The Capitals seem to have trouble breaking up their opponents’ zone time. The Leafs had a few extended stay visits in the Caps zone that required bad passes by the home team to end. How gracious of them to give the Caps some room to breathe.
  • David Clarkson‘s high deflection to score reminded me of the DeSharnais goal on Friday. Those are pretty much impossible to stop. That was Clarkson’s second goal of the season (he missed 10 games due to suspension) and just the second shot by the Leafs in the second period. If you’re a “teams can reliably control shot quality” person, stuff the back half of this bullet in your portfolio.

  • Mikhail Grabovski took a scary, scary, scary skate to the face at the end of the second period. He could have lost an eye. We’ve got the media; watch at your discretion. Grabo got a ton of stitches and returned to the game because it’s hockey. Now he looks like he got bit in the face by a werevambie.
  • The Leafs defense was all up on Alex Ovechkin during the power play. To counteract that, Ovi became the middle man in the third, surrendering the Ovi spot to Troy Brouwer. Brouwer had one chance for a Brouwer shot from the Ovi spot. He whiffed.
  • But Troy was boss at evens. Having Mikhail Grabovski and Eric Fehr on your line can do that.
  • Can someone explain to me what Dion Phaneuf‘s grudge towards Marcus Johansson was about? The Toronto captain was picking on Marcus all night. I don’t get it. What did Marcus ever do to anyone?
  • Reimer’s good.
  • I made it through the bullets without comparing the extracurricular activities of Toronto’s and Washington’s mayors. Yay me. If Laich got an assist tonight, I was gonna say “The Brooks set me up!” and you guys were gonna laaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh.
  • The Caps’ 50 shots on goal is a franchise record for a road game. Plus, the Caps kept the Leafs under 30 shots, so everything is hunky dory.
  • No Grabo in the shootout? Weird. At least, Fehr made his statement.
Joe B suit of the night: desperately hoping no to call a loss

Joe B suit of the night: the intensity on Locker’s face

Tough way to lose, but that’s how the Leafs do things I guess. We’ll see them again on their long journey to the bottom of the conference.

Hey, it’s getting old talking about how good Ovi is.

Ohhhh, he leads the league in goals! Ooooh, his level of production is entirely sustainable and not driven by unstable percentages! La dee da, he’s scoring in new and different ways that reveal the depth of his creativity! *Whistles* This is an unprecedented and entirely unexpected renaissance for our favorite player! Wah wah wah, he may be the best scorer the league has seen in two decades!

Ugh. Booooooooring.

Whatever else is going on with the team, let’s always keep in mind how lucky we are to see Alex Ovechkin work. Let Ovi Be Ovi at last.

I don’t like having Martin Erat out of the lineup, but I very much enjoyed how Oates organized his forwards tonight. For the record, here are those lines again:

Johansson – Backstrom – Ovechkin
Fehr – Grabovski – Brouwer
Chimera – Laich – Ward
Volpatti – Latta – Wilson

The second line has two players who drive play and one who can crash the net. The third line is a rock with two sturdy two-way players and one ice cheetah made of industrial-grade sandpaper.

So when Erat comes back (and he must), where do you fit him in?

Whatever. Despite the loss, that was a good way to spend a Saturday night. The Caps proved they could own the puck against a weaker team, and they kept on challenging a good goalie until he cracked. The losing streak goes to three games, but this was a respectable effort.

P.S. Thanks to Toronto Maple Leafs Hot Stove Hangout for having me on tonight.

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  • dylan wheatley

    oates and brouwer sitting in a tree

  • Freedoooom

    Laichs best game of the year by far.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Using Brouwer instead of Grabo in the shootout against his old team was like rubbing your sweaty man parts all over his fresh stitches.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    I guess it has been Brouwer all along. The guy has the puck then gets nudged and it is a turnover.

  • Denis Carmo

    We can win the shootout? Put Brouwer in…

  • Bob

    if you are surprised troy missed in the SO, take a lap. Completely lucky goal by ovi does not make me feel good about this offense yet again. We really didn’t deserve that point tonight but ill take it considering the pens lost. Cant wait to see the highly questionable line adjustments made for the next game

  • JenniferH

    Good game, tough loss. Holtby played a great game.

  • dcfdofficer

    Why on earth is Brouwer not a scratch?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    I’m glad you pointed this out. You absolutely get an up vote. He played with confidence, he forechecked well. He got shots on net. That was the Healthy, Old Brooks on the ice tonight.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    During 5v5, Brouwer was on ice for 23 shot attempts for, 7 against. Best differential on the team.

  • Graham Dumas

    Maybe Grabo knew something we all don’t, ie that Reimer knows all his moves? You really think Oates just shanked him like that for no reason?

  • WisconsinCapsFan

    Yayy moral victories! Green needs to be point man on the pp. Speaking of the pp, laich and brower reunited and it feels sooo exactly the same…no results. Fehr cannot be scratched again. 16-84-10 has me dreaming of goals being scoared from somone else besides Ov. And Ov, well dont have to say anything about him. How many hole-in -nes does crosby have? Thats what i thought

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    From http://www.extraskater.com/game/2013-11-23-capitals-maple-leafs

    I wouldn’t read too much into this. The Leafs are 29th out of 30 teams in 5v5 shot attempts in close games.

  • William

    We Love you Grabo. Oh, and we hate you Clarkson.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Hopefully the lines for Wednesday will be:
    90 – 19 – 8
    10 – 84 -16
    25 – 21 – 42
    24 – 46 – 43

    But, probably won’t be.

  • WisconsinCapsFan

    Do you think erat’s numbers would be worse playing with Fehr and grabo?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Something I missed: the Caps shortened the bench like whoa. Wilson got under 5 minutes– during which he and the 4th line got smoked in possession.

    Curious.

  • Justin

    Powerplay is becoming comically predictable. No one on our team wants to be that pest in front of the net, screening the goalie. Laich tried, but was easily boxed out. Both Carlson and Green have heavy shots from the point, but it’s absolutely useless if the goalie has a clear view. Clarkson and Desharnais showed us how it’s done, and yet we still can’t generate any traffic in front of their netminder. So frustrating to watch.

  • JessHughes

    I know it’s not Old Time Hockey, but after seeing Grabo’s face tonight, I wonder yet again why the guys lose the full face cages after wearing them in Junior and/or NCAA hockey? But nice effort by the boys. Wish we could have a better net presence – seemed like a lot of those shots were from outside or beyond the face off dots (i.e., not high percentage shots). Be nice to cash in on some rebounds.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No, they’d almost certainly be better.

  • Matt

    The Toronto Maple Leafs have made a deal with the devil, cant wait until their horrid possession catches up to them.

  • Matt

    The Maple Leafs don’t count when comes to #fancystats.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Being paid lots of money to play at the top of their game. Those cages limit vision a lot and guys can’t see hits coming as well.

    Its better at the lower levels because the players aren’t as good at skating and controlling their sticks, plus they don’t have the same vision and won’t see a hit regardless or be able to avoid it as easily as NHL players can.

    Not wearing a visor though, I don’t understand not using one of those.

  • Dark Stranger

    So now Ovi has been the only Cap to score in the last 3 games. Ovi being the Alpha and the Omega of Caps offense.

    We could say that Reimer halaked the Caps tonight.

  • Dark Stranger

    Having hot goalies can cover a lot of offensive sins. But Reimer’s current Save Percentage is better than typical elite stats. (Regression due.)

  • Freedoooom

    http://i.minus.com/jfnSmLK74AsAr.JPG

    Oh God, what am I supposed to do until Wednesday? 5 games in 14 days, with 2 3 game breaks and 1 2 game break….

  • Marky Narc

    #freebeagle (I work at an animal shelter.)

  • Chris

    Is it just me, but does it seem like the Caps dont win when massively outshooting their opponents, let alone score all that much.

  • Matt

    Latta had 7:48, but I clearly remember him taking some shifts with Chimmer and Ward in the 2nd period. Was someone hurt (before Grabo)?

  • Shaun Phillips

    I think it’s more a combination of the guys he’s with. Wardo and Chimer are more high-energy/up-tempo than Brouwer is. I see Brouwer and Laich as the same style of guy (relatively slow, decent shot, can hold the puck). You split them up and they’re great; just can’t put them together.

  • Matt

    Fancy stats are a lie!!!

  • Shaun Phillips

    I put Erat back with Ovi and Nicky. That line has to be more than just Backstrom pass to Ovi. We saw Backstrom have an offensive burst when he was with Erat. Move Mojo to 2 and Brouwer or Fehr to Volpatti’s spot to give the 4th line a bit more O. Hate to do that to a top 6 forward, but there’s just too many guys for not enough spots right now.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I don’t think so.

  • Red

    Very confused by the decision to have Carlson take multiple consecutive shots from the point on PP on an unscreened goalie. Ok, they had 1on1 coverage of Ovi; so put him in front of Reimer. This was lazy and uncreative waste of 6 minutes. Hard to believe that our PP would become this ineffectual so early in the season.

    Also that 50 SOG is deceptive. Majority of those shots were of poor quality. Unscreened and from afar. Holtby faced half of that, yet had to make far more great saves. Just wish we had more Fehrs in our lineup. Love the way that man crashes the crease.

    We were lucky to escape with any points.

  • Christoffer Salo Salomonsson

    why the **** does Brouwer get to take a penaltyshot.. why oh the F why..

  • cmdonohue

    Grabbo and Fehr making Brouwer look better doesn’t make Brouwer better. Sit him down. Also, why give that guy a shootout attempt? It’s fitting that his shot didn’t even hit the net.

  • Jesse Morgan

    Mayor for Life could teach Mayor Ford a few things!

  • Myan

    I don’t understand why we don’t change up the PP just a little bit. When you have the top PP in the league for as long as we’ve had, you have to expect that every team is watching the tape and doing their research before facing us. It doesn’t matter that Carlson/Green can get 5-6 BOMBS from the point on every PP if the goalie can see it the whole way. It’s even more frustrating that BROUWER of all players gets that spot on the PP. I can’t even remember the last time he’s scored. He’s had the opportunity to have clean shots on net almost every game and he’s whiffed on about 90% of them. Give Wilson that spot on the PP. Let him get in that dirty area in front of net, screen the goalie, and let Carlson/Green take those shots. Let’s just make a damn change. It is madness to keep doing the same things and expecting a different result.

  • hcg

    Who was that kid behind the bench? He was standing next to / near Oates the whole game.

  • Jack Conness

    We would all finally be happy. Trade Brouwer.

  • Jack Conness

    Scratch Brouwer. Play Erat. Then, we are all happy.

  • Owen Johnson

    Brouwer is not a top 6 guy right now. But I would like to see him on the 4th line. Maybe he can regain some confidence playing against weaker competition.

  • Owen Johnson

    Is it just me, or has the PP and PK cooled off DRAMATICALLY? PK was 1st in the league not long ago. Now we’re good for at least 1 PPG against a game.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    I don’t know, but I re-watched the game, and here’s a photo of him.

  • Rhino40

    IMO, Bäckis’ strength on the puck and Ovi-from-the-Ovi-Spot are the only
    reasons why the Caps power play is one of the League’s best most productive thus far.

    The solution to this problem has two very simple components:

    1) Caps need to consistently get a big body in front of the opposing ‘keep.

    2) The Caps’ power play is easier to defeat when they go into that quasi static umbrella in the opponents zone. Ergo, EVERYONE needs to move their feet more. This would have the following benefits:

    • Opposition PK gets more tired when they have to keep physically adjusting their positions,
    • Ditto the opposing ‘keep.
    • Combining more skating with the quick puck movement creates more (and more confusing) looks for the opposing PK.

  • Jayleigh

    Have to agree that there was more behind that decision than any of us nobodies who were not sitting on the bench know about. Speculation on reasons is just that… speculation.

  • CapsCast

    If I took a skate to the face I’d come back to the ice with a cage. I’d leave it on after the game, too. I’d wear it around the house and to bed. I wouldn’t take any chances.

  • Owen Johnson

    Budaj halaked the Caps too. Fleury… could have picked his nose the whole game and still gotten a shutout. Seriously, I think that Pens game gave me PTSD.

  • Dan

    Maybe Ovi should stop taking penalty shots? I know it’s sacrilege, but he’s been pretty ineffective there this season, and I would have preferred to see Grabbo shoot one last night.

  • Matt McNeely

    Of all the things to nit pick! Other than Ovi being awesome, the PP is this team’s most consistent strong suit. I think they’re actually doing the same things and expecting the SAME results, which seems reasonable and would not fall under Einstein’s definition of insanity.

  • Matt McNeely

    I just don’t understand why you would put a severely slumping player out there in the clutch. Brouwer lacks the confidence to score on a soccer net right now.

  • Myan

    I could agree with you that we’re expecting the same results except that those “results” have been dwindling in the past few games. I’m not saying that our PP is bad, it’s just very predictable. When a woman who has never played hockey in her life knows that the puck is going to go from Backstrom to Carlson, back to Backstrom, to Mojo who will try to get it across the crease to Ovi for a one-timer, you bet that every team in the league knows the same. Every goalie knows that as long as one of his men takes away Ovi, Carlson/Green is going to be the trigger man. They’re expecting that shot. When Backstrom hangs onto the puck for more than 3 seconds, the goalie knows and SEES that he’s lining up a shot. It’s predictable and easy to stop. Goalies have been one step ahead of us on the PP. We need to be able to score scrappy goals off the PP.

  • Myan

    I thought maybe Grabo said something about not being able to see properly out of his eye because of the stitches?

  • Myan

    you just like…read my mind.

  • Matt McNeely

    Ah, give it a couple of games. The PP will get back on a roll I bet. I’m more worried about literally everything else… except Ovi.