Lightning Edge

[note: I wrote this several nights ago, but am just getting around to posting it.]

I wasn't able to watch last night's Caps game until a fair bit after it started (I probably just barely beat the end of the game out when I hit play).

I knew, in advance, that the lines had been shaken up the last couple of days, with a "top" line of Laich, Backstrom, and Brouwer; a second of Fehr, Grabovski, and Ovechkin; and a third line of Chimmer, MarJo, and Ward. What I hadn't been previously aware of was that Erat was getting scratched (reported as healthy, but I hope not. Volpatti is not, by any stretch of the imagination, close to as good as Erat. If Oates thinks he is, I have to wonder about his sanity).

Things started out very weird, as there was a big conference at the benches, between the officials, both coaches, and both GMs. I was definitely confused. It turns out that the ice by one goal (occupied by Gru at the time) was really terrible, and they were trying to figure out how to handle it. They decided to change ends of the ice halfway through each period (with certainly limitations), and got started a few minutes late (although I still don't understand why the GMs were involved in the discussion).

The start of the actual game wasn't great; Tampa was slightly ahead on play. The Backstrom line then dumped the puck in, Brouwer retrieved it and pulled it out to the point, then started across the ice. Then he decided to pass away, and passed it directly to Tampa's other point defender, then watched himself get beaten up-ice by his defender (Tyler Johnson) for an early goal.

Washington continued to get outplayed for a bit, until OV's line came on again, and got a goal from Fehr on a 3-on-2 (OV had the assist while Grabo drove to keep St Louis from stepping up on Fehr). From there, it was pretty even play until Washington got a power play.

It wasn't a very pretty power play, as Tampa was able to clear a number of times, but it did have a nice result 1:43 in, when Ward and Grabo both managed to deflect Green's shot from the point (the first shot of the power play, incidentally) to give the Caps the lead.

The rest of the period had quite a few offensive chances, then the Caps got a power play with a minute-ten left. That led to an impressive barrage, culminating in a goal with twelve seconds left. MarJo had gotten the puck at his normal position to the side of the net, and took advantage of everyone overloading to cover OV, so he could walk in front of the net and put it 5-hole on Lindback.

The rest of the game was pretty back-and-forth, with Tampa attempting to keep pressure on Washington, and Washington attempting to strike back. There wasn't a whole lot of scoring, but that's a testament to both goalies playing well, and a little luck. Tampa scored a pair before Washington closed the scoring with one more in the final minute.

So the Caps got the two points, moving them back to third (after the Flyers and Rangers had passed the Caps during the days off) in the division.

How did the various players do? Well, the "top" line did not do well. In their defense, they were mostly fighting off the St Louis line, but they need to do better. OV's line (which I would consider the top one) was dominant. They had two goals (the last goal was also by Fehr), killed it in Fenwick, and had a number of chances (one of which was spoiled by an uncalled hooking; another went off the inside edge of the post). They also had only one bad shift.

MarJo's line was pretty good (MarJo himself looked fabulous; some incredible skating in there, especially), although I would have liked to have seen a little more possession (there was one third period shift where they were absolutely killed).

The fourth line had one or two very good shifts, but was pretty poor, overall. Wilson doesn't seem to be improving; his numbers just keep getting worse.

The power play was pretty good. It's definitely hard to argue with two goals in three chances. And they did get five shots (four more attempted, but not on net) on those chances, which isn't bad, but they also gave up two short-handed chances (one of which was only saved by an incredible play by Gru).

There really isn't a lot to judge on the PK. They were only out once, and didn't give up a goal, but did give up four shot attempts.

Overall, it wasn't a bad game. The Caps did have a small edge in Fenwick close (54%), and did have an edge in penalties. Gru was pretty good (no bad goals, and a couple of very good saves). Getting the two points was good, and overall numbers look pretty decent for the team.

I'm definitely not understanding the new lines (especially Erat being scratched), but they weren't as bad as I expected.

Anyway, next game is tonight, at home, against Toronto. Go Caps!

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