Caps on Fire

I haven't wanted to talk about the Caps too much, of late.

I watched the Sens game in a near-total state of disgust; following my normal pattern, I turned it off at 4-0 (although I thought about doing so at 2-0, and wish I had). It wasn't quite as wretched a performance as the one against the Canes, and it certainly helped that they showed a bit more life after I turned it off. But they still laid an egg in a game they should have been desperate to win. More to the point, they didn't even show any energy. My only regret was that I would have liked to have seen Perreault scoring with his tongue.

The Montreal game, on the other hand, was great. I didn't talk about that one right away because I only watched the first period that night; I was too tired to stay awake after putting the kids to bed.

Things were already going quite well at that point, with Perreault having scored (thanks to some terrible defending and goaltending, but we'll take it), but they blew the game open nine minutes after I turned it on yesterday morning. Chimmer and OV scored sixteen seconds apart to remove any doubt of the outcome.

Bourque did get a shorty early in the third to make it a little more interesting, but the competitive part of the game was still over.

I was really happy to see Ward get the empty netter with half a minute left. For one, it was good for him; for another, this team has done a terrible job of taking advantage of empty cages under Hunter.

Without getting too bogged down in the details, it was a very well-played game from start to finish. Neuvy had a great game. The Caps were getting offensive pressure, and shots, until the third period. The power play did decently, until the terrible play that led to the shorty (I would have said they did great, if it hadn't been for that). The PK only allowed two shots on four man advantages. As I said, a very good game.

And despite my feelings that the Caps should unload talent at the deadline this year (the Canadiens game did nothing to change that), and despite being the second game of a back-to-back, the Caps really came out firing last night against the Maple Leafs.

MarJo got things started only 32 seconds in with a wraparound (ok, that was more a matter of bad goaltending than anything great MarJo did, but at least he took advantage) score that demoralized the Leafs faithful. And Semin kept the hits coming three minutes later with a great takeaway in the faceoff circle (set up by Perreault forcing the man to stop right when Semin was coming up from behind), and turning to fire it into the bottom corner before Reimer knew it was coming.

The Caps kept regular, though not constant pressure up, and got goals from Halpern and Aucoin in the second period, ending any possible suspense. The Coiner goal was a particularly pretty passing play, with OV coming down the left wing, passing all the way across to MarJo, who dumped it immediately to Aucoin charging the net. He played it off a skate to his stick, and into the net, probably before Reimer knew he was there.

Up to that point, Neuvy had had a fantastic game, even stopping several odd-man rushes and breakaways, but he did give up two in the third. We won't really hold either against him, though; one would have been a really amazing save, and the other was just impossible.

Aucoin was named player of the game, although I think that was mostly because he's pretty much a career AHL'er. He had a good game (1G, 1A, E, 3S), although I didn't think he was the best player on the ice for the Caps (I'm not sure who I'd pick between Semin, OV, and MarJo).

In any event, it was a really great game for the Caps. Possibly their best since Hunter took over (certainly the best to take place outside of the phone booth), with fantastic offensive pressure. They had several shifts where they spent almost the entire shift in the O-zone, and some scoring generated off the forecheck (Halpern's).

I think I'm still in favor of selling this year, although I must admit that it doesn't look as necessary as it did two days ago. But I think they can get enough for TVo and Wideman (plus, I don't think they'll miss Wideman nearly as much as what his return would be worth) to make deals worthwhile. And I don't think they'll miss Hamr at all. I didn't think that to begin with, but his benching the last two games did nothing to dissuade me of that.

Plus, the big thing about selling now would be that it would give a much better feel for the mental toughness of everyone left, which would be very valuable going forward. Especially with as fragile, mentally, as this team has very regularly seemed.

We'll see. Next game is against the Islanders on Tuesday, which is the day after the trade deadline. So we will definitely know by the time the puck drops for that game.

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