Poking the bear

Last night's Bruins game was another one that had no real meaning for the Caps.  They were still locked into third seed no matter what, but they still wanted to do well to keep the juices flowing for the start of the playoffs.  And the game was far from meaningless for the Bruins, as they looked to maintain their hold on second place in the conference.

Well, the Caps came out swinging pretty hard, and looked really good.  In fact, there were long stretches of the first period where Holtby was probably getting bored, because so much of the play was down at the other end of the ice.

But he was definitely regretting one faceoff in the Caps end, where Krejci won it back to Lucic, who wristed it well wide of the goal.  Unfortunately, Alzner wasn't able to get his skate out of the way (he was trying), and it caromed off his toe and into the corner of the net.  Very weird all the way around.

So despite having, by far, the better of the play, the Caps went into the first intermission down a goal.  Shots on net were 12-8 in Washington's favor, with Boston having eight blocked shots and Washington none.

The second period didn't feel quite as lopsided as the first (in the opposite direction), although the shots were pretty similar (15-9, although I don't have the breakdown on blocked shots).  And the Bruins were up two at that point, because Lucic made a nice play that set up a really good screen of Holtby on the rush so he couldn't see the shot coming in (the screen was Lucic and both defenders).

In the third period, the refs were a lot more noticeable, and called a bunch of penalties.  Thankfully, the Caps had far the better of that with three straight power plays.  That pitted the top power play (41 goals heading into the night) against the top PK (18 goals allowed, heading in) in a battle royale.

Mike Green decided he had been too quiet, apparently, as he managed to net two shots from the point, one on each of the first two power plays.  That left things all tied up, and despite a bit of 4-on-4 and a chunk of 4-on-3, that carried all the way through the third period.

And the penalty that caused the 4-on-3 actually carried over into the overtime (ie: went back to 4-on-3), but the Caps did manage to kill it off (I should also point out, here, that this was a matchup of the worst power play (17 goals for) against the second worst PK (35 goals for).  Not exactly a world-beating mark) this time.

And they got a bit of help a minute later when Chara got thrown off by Ribeiro's shifting speed, and got called for hooking.  This brought the 4-on-3 back the other way.  The power play was a little sloppy as everyone seemed to want to help Greenie get the hat trick.

They kept trying to feed him (and they even put him in OV's spot at the end), but Rask was able to save them.  But his ninth shot (overall, not just on that power play) bounced into the slot, where Fehr dove on it, knocking it up and over Rask for the win.

The win might not have meant much in terms of standings (although Boston was surely disappointed), but it was an awesome way to cap off an improbably up and down season.

Some ups: Green's two goals gave him the scoring title for defensemen.  And OV, despite not adding another goal on the night (though still getting two points) is going to get his third Rocket Richard trophy.  And he'll certainly be in the conversation for the Hart, although I can't say as I expect him to win.  And the team, despite spending time at the bottom of the standings (and second to last impressively late in the season), took the final Southeast Division title and third seed with it (eighth in the league, for those scoring at home).  Holtby, despite a pretty miserable beginning of the season, still showed that his performance over the last two seasons might not have been a fluke (I'm inclined to think it wasn't, but he still hasn't played enough games to be sure).  He certainly appears to be an above-average starter.  The power play went from wretched back to the top of the league (almost 27%).

But there were certainly some downs as well.  The PK went from solid to miserable, ending at 78% (27th place).  The team lost their second best prospect (which, when you've basically got three prospects, is a big deal).  Laich went from team ironman to missing most of the season with injuries.  Ward played very well, but finished the season on IR.  Ribeiro has been a decent center (and certainly deserves a fair amoutn of credit for that power play), but pretty miserable at even strength (his possession numbers are atrocious).  And the Caps need to do better in close games.  Their Fenwick close% has remained below average, and was generally so even when they were winning.  That's actually a discouraging factor, going forward.

But, despite the weird path to get there, it's hard to be upset with where they ended up.  Let's just hope that the playoffs go more similarly to the end of the season than the beginning.

No comments:

Post a Comment