F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 11/02/11 at 07:07 PM ET
As I still look to figure out what I want this blog to look like, I will be experimenting with some various formats for game write-ups. The material should be mostly the same, just may look a little different.
The Capitals remained 6-0 at home this season, thanks to a come-from-behind, OT victory over the Anaheim Ducks. This was one of those games where a team does not deserve to leave with points, and somehow leaves with 2. Even with the Caps resiliency, it was hard to see the Caps coming out of that game with any points. What will be remembered most about this game are the changes that were made on the day of the game.
After the Vancouver game, it was expected that the Caps would make some changes. Boudreau did not disappoint, as his changes sent some fans into “sky is falling” mode prior to puck drop. The biggest change was the dissolution of the pairing of Carlson and Alzner, generally thought of as the best pairing the Caps have to offer. Just like the Knuble demotion, this was simply a way to get the best out of all lines. With Green still out, Boudreau had to do something to get more out of the 3rd pairing, aka the Schultz pairing.
The defense certainly didn’t look any better through the 1st period. At that point the Ducks were up 2-0, having scored twice thanks to some defensive miscues by the Hamrlik-Wideman pairing. Needless to say, they were quickly separated, and the even strength defense looked much better. Carlson still has a ways to go this season, though. His positioning has been suspect this season, and that is not changing with a different partner.
The other large change was sitting Halpern, moving Knuble to the 4th line, and having the rookie Eakin play alongside Semin and Johansson. I don’t think Knuble had much effect on the 4th line, but Eakin was great on the 2nd. On his first shift, after receiving a pass from Semin, Eakin quickly rounded the net and nearly snuck it past Hiller. For the first 2 periods, this line was the lone bright spot for the Caps.
The final change of the game did not manifest itself until the end of regulation. With just over a minute to go in the game, and an offensive-zone draw coming, the Caps elected to pull Vokoun for the extra attacker. The change from the norm was that it the 3rd line of Chimera-Laich-Ward, not the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Brouwer line, that Bruce called upon to tie the game. More puzzling was that the extra attacker selected was Backstrom, not Ovechkin nor Semin. In fact, Ovechkin did not see a shift in the last 3 minutes of regulation. Of course, this turned out to be borderline prophetic as Backstrom would pot the game tying goal with 48 seconds remaining. This Ovechkin-less change continued into the overtime, where Ovechkin did not touch the ice until 2 minutes in, where he helped redirect Schultz pass to find Backstrom in front of Hiller.
Many people will make a lot of the “benching” of the Alexes, but it really shouldn’t. Bruce has always been one to play the hot-hand when the game is on the line. What people should be more concerned about is that the one with the hot-hand wasn’t Ovechkin. The Great 8 did not have a great game on Tuesday. He wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t creating many opportunities. He had some great shots off the rush, but aside from the end of the 2nd period, he never really helped his line have dominating shifts. The 3rd line, however, was near-dominant in the 3rd. It was Ward who scored the Caps’ 1st goal, and it was Laich who made the unselfish play to get the puck to Wideman on the 2nd goal. It is also worth noting that, while on the power play late in the game, Ovechkin made a stupidly selfish move. Ovechkin carried the puck down the right wing, starting a 3-on-2. Instead of dumping it in, or trying to work with the odd-man rush, Ovechkin attempted his now-ineffective deke to the inside. He ended up turning the puck over, and the Capitals would fail to convert the man-advantage. He cannot be doing that with the game on the line.
2 points are great, but the Caps should not leave this game with a sense of entitlement. While Anaheim’s players were able to use crisp passing and great off-puck movement to create 3 of their goals, the Caps got some fluky bounces. Yes, hockey does require some luck in getting those bounces but it should not be the only factor in winning. The only person on the Caps’ bench that should really be happy with that performance was Boudreau. It was his in-game coaching changes and line juggling that earned the Caps a chance to win. If he had stood pat after the 2 goals and resorted to his cookie-cutter game plan, the Caps would have left empty-handed, and probably a bit embarrassed. Bruce can coach.
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About F Street Faithful
Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.