Failure to Ward off troubles

The Caps/Sens game the other night was another pretty good one for the Caps. But what really struck me about it was that I watched it just after watching the Premiership Liverpool/Chelsea game. In that one, Liverpool took the ball right down the field, and scored (helped by a weird bounce) at the end of the third minute. Chelsea took that as a wakeup, and dominated the rest of the way, scoring in the 17th and 34th minutes.

Well, the Caps started out with some heavy pressure, scoring in the third minute (lucky shot by Ward in the slot that bounced off Anderson's stick) and preventing any shot attempts for the first six minutes or so. Well, Ottawa didn't dominate the rest of the way, but they did have the edge and scored in the fourteenth and twenty-fourth minutes. The parallel breaks down a little bit, as Ottawa managed to add an empty-netter in the final minute, but it was striking, watching them back-to-back.

Overall, though, the Caps played pretty well; not quite as well as in Buffalo, perhaps, but well. They had thirty-five shots and 57% Fenwick 5-on-5 close. The main flaw was on allowing too many breakaways and two-on-ones. The first goal was the latter (and Green tried to play the shot, I thought), while the second was the former (Turris with a very nice finish while getting hooked from behind (by Green)).

Gru was in goal again (Neuvy has now gotten sufficiently frustrated that his agent has asked for a trade). While it worked out well in this game, I'm not a fan of "riding the hot hand", because it always ends with letting someone playing subpar hockey get too many starts. Not to take anything away from Gru's (excellent) performance, but he's still only faced 307 shots; that's not enough to draw any conclusions about his ability. If Neuvy can't be traded, send Gru back down, with the expectation that he'll get a lot of games next year.

Anyway, getting back to the Senators game, the power play looked pretty good with some very good chances, and forced some great saves by Anderson. The PK looked ok, but still allowed too many shots (six in four opportunities); they're not going to continue to save all those shots. One minor thing that's happened several times this season came up in this game also. The PK (Fehr, I believe) got a decent scoring chance, and got the puck back. I'd like to see them pass back into their own zone when that happens, instead of just trying to trap the puck against the boards. It just feels like it doesn't kill any more time, and tires people out more (plus gives more chances for a player to get caught too far up ice).

Be that as it may, I did think it was a good overall game by the Caps. They played hard, threatened a lot, and could have won if Anderson didn't make some great saves. Games like that, they'll win, more often than not.

One thing about both of the last two games; it didn't feel like their breakout was constantly (or even regularly) getting stymied. If they've figured that one thing out (and maybe they have; there seemed to be more of defenders carrying out of the zone), then their possession numbers will improve dramatically, and they'll win quite a bit more. We'll see.

Next up, Carolina comes to visit, tonight. So far this season, special teams have dominated the decisions.  Go Caps!

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