Shave: check. Haircut: check. GWG: double check. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Last time the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers met, we were treated to a mortifying 3-0 shutout on home ice. Meeting for the first time in the new year, again at Verizon Center, the Caps had a chance to redeem themselves and start off the season’s second half right.
Coming off a successful penalty kill, Florida’s Mike Santorelli earned the first goal of the night, making the best of some bad defensive reads and a great pass from Dmitry Kulikov. Eric Fehr returned fire, placing the puck on the top shelf after a wraparound attempt from Mike Green. In the third and while on the power play, Mike Green used some creativity to create a backhand goal from the slot. Then Alex Ovechkin added another piece of film to his reel, a lovely semi-breakaway wrister while getting tripped. We thought Ovi’s was the insurance goal until Evgeny Dadonov turned a Varlamov rebound into the Panther’s second of the night. The away team had a primo chance to even it up in the final minute after Nick Backstrom’s crosscheck penalty, but it never happened. Caps beat Panthers 3-2.
Chuck Kobasew starts the scoring for the Wild (Photo Credit: Jim Mone)
For those of us wondering if the Caps can string together two good games in a row… no.
All the way up in exotic Minnesota, the Caps faced the almost-unknown Wild but left their A-game in Raleigh. The travelling Caps’ ennui was strong, but the Wild’s fans’ was stronger. This sleepy twaddle of a game was a waste of even Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin’s time, as the commentators spent a decent chunk of the night observing the finer points of referee trousers.
The Caps’ forwards were stingy on shots, mustering only four in the first period. They didn’t do too much better in the latter forty minutes either, totaling a meager 22. The Wild didn’t need a lot of shots to score (goals from Chuck Kobasew and Mikko Koiku), offering only 17. That, apparently, is enough. Despite a late goal from Alex Ovechkin and a case of too-little-way-too-late, Minnesota won the night. Wild beat Caps 2-1.
Jay Mohr, star of something, hosted the NHL Awards in Las Vegas tonight. We watched with bated breath as three beloved players vied for recognition from the league’s notables. Alex Ovechkin was up for the Lindsay (née Pearson) and the Hart, Mike Green for the Norris, and Jose Theodore for the Masterton. Beyond the winners and loser, there’s some mighty important breaking news announced tonight, and we’ll tackle it all past the jump.
Mike Green needs help (Rick Stewart/Getty Images).
This week, the Caps free agent picture became clearer as the organization announced they will not be renewing the contracts of defenseman Joe Corvo and forwards Brendan Morrison and Scott Walker, and Tarik El-Bashir reported that José Theodore‘s tenure with the Washington Capitals may be over.
All this leads to more speculation as to what the roster will look like next year. ESPN and the writers of Puck Prospectus have addressed the offseason needs for all 30 NHL teams and surprised no one by stating that the Caps need a shutdown guy on defense.
The Bruins signed defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a four-year contract extension, taking off a likely target unrestricted free agent acquisition during the offseason and leaving only a few top four shutdown defensemen left in the UFA pool.
The Caps need as close to a sure thing as you can get. They can’t afford to let age (Sergei Gonchar) or injuries (Paul Martin, Willie Mitchell, and Mark Eaton) detract from the production of their top four defensemen during next year’s inevitable Cup run.
With Tarik El-Bashir reporting “the team does not, in fact, plan to pursue the Ottawa blue liner [Volchenkov],” that leaves just two defensemen that can fill a Top 4 spot. And more specifically, the top pairing with Mike Green:
Semyon Varlamov takes over for Jose Theodore (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
In his last appearance in net, Jose Theodore allowed two goals on two shots and was subsequently given the hook. Russian boy wonder Semyon Varlamov stepped up and did an acceptable job (.863) in a game fraught with defensive missteps. But now that the Washington Capitals have traveled to the Canadiens’ home territory of Montreal, who should start in net?
The time for analysis is through. This was the wrong kind of game to open the post-season especially after last year’s bitter ending. Playoff hockey isn’t cherry-picking at the blue line, waiting for an opponent to break down. Playoff hockey isn’t going 1-on-3 when your last name isn’t Ovechkin or Backstrom. Playoff hockey isn’t getting fancy and putting the puck through a defenseman’s legs.
Playoff hockey is going hard to the net. Playoff hockey is making your own bounces. Playoff hockey is ugly goals. There was not near enough of that tonight. Period. The Caps deserved to lose 3-2 in overtime, and they now trail Montreal 1-0 in the series.
Thursday will mark the fifth time the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals face off this season. The Internets are awash with intelligent analyses and strong opinions, and we were feeling left out. So we got the RMNB team together and pounded a bunch of latte macchiatos with guarana infusions.
All we could come up with is five smart points that will characterize the series and then a handful of jokes. Pity us and read on.
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