Saturday, December 22, 2007

Caps/Isles Recap: Caps Downed 3-2 in OT

Capitals 2, Islanders 3 (OT)

The Capitals would have been a bit fortunate to have come out of last night's game against the Islanders with two points. The teams were fairly evenly matched, but the Capitals were outshot (allegedly 31-16) and would have needed a little more luck than they had to pick up the two. But they deserved better than what they got: losing on a soft goal, in overtime, while their most dynamic defensemen lay behind the net with blood gushing out of a gash in his ear.

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In this morning's Washington Post Olaf Kolzig was quoted as saying "Over the last two weeks, going back to the Devils game in Jersey, I've probably given up a goal [each game] that I could be better on, that I can stop". At the risk of beating a dead horse, that was the case tonight. You can't fault Kolzig on either of the Islanders' first two goals. The first was in equal parts the fault of John Erskine, Jeff Schultz and Miroslav Satan. The second was bad luck more than anything else - you can't cover everywhere in the offensive zone and below the circles, fifteen feet from the net is a spot that has to be considered a low priority. Very nice play by Bill Guerin to put that one in.

But Park's goal in overtime was completely Olie's fault. It wasn't from a good angle, it wasn't with men in front of the net, it wasn't off a nice pass and it wasn't a rebound. It was a weak shot that, like so many this season, simply found its way through Kolzig's legs and into the net, and it wound up costing the Capitals an opportunity at an extra point.

This Capitals are currently seven points behind Florida for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In the ten days alone Kolzig has cost the Capitals at least two points (from the Buffalo game) and legitimate chances at two more (against the Isles and Red Wings). With solid goaltending the Capitals could be in the Panthers' rearview mirror by this point. With good goaltending they could be knocking on the door, three points (or less) out of a playoff spot. Instead they're still seven out, with a huge hill in front of them.

I've been hard on Kolzig in recent days, I know. I'm not trying to be unfair - Kolzig is as classy as a professional athlete as there is and has done more for the Washington Capitals that any other play in terms of on-ice performance and off-ice activities. I'm hoping he turns it around, because he deserves success for his dedication, professionalism and loyalty to the Capitals. The good news is that Kolzig's problem is that he is allowing too many soft goals, not that he's regularly getting beat because his skills have clearly diminished. At this point Kolzig can still be a decent NHL goalie if he can stop letting so many soft goals in , but probably nothing more. Here's hoping he pulls it together and helps the Capitals pick up a lot of points in a hurry.

It sure would have seemed weird to say at the beginning of the season, but if the Capitals make the playoffs it might be in spite of Kolzig's play, not because of it.

Since Kolzig's debacle against the Sabres on the 13th, Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed five goals in 184 minutes of play and stopped 96 of 101 shots (95.05%), and won three games in a row.


That, my friends, was a clinic.
-Islanders television commentator after Alexander Semin's second period goal

Quick Hits
  • Maybe this is silly to say coming from a Caps fan, but the ice looked pretty bad on The Island last night.
  • The Islanders television commentators also noted Ovechkin's contract running up and then mentioned that Ovechkin liked the team, like the city and that the Capitals had a lot of young talent to play with him. Funny how guys who aren't blinded by an original six/big market sense of entitlement see things so much differently, huh?
  • Lots of Caps fans were scratching their heads over the Erskine/Schultz pairing before the game due to the duo's lack of puckhandling skill and foot speed/agility. It appears the concerns were somewhat founded because these two factors lead directly to the Islanders' first goal.
  • The Islanders certainly helped the Caps out tonight, more than once taking themselves off the powerplay with penalties and more than once taking unnecessary penalties in the offensive zone.
  • The official stats say the Capitals had 16 shots on goal. I'd have to question that number. They definitely seemed to be getting ones on net that weren't being counted on the shot total (and for what it's worth the Islander television commentators agreed with me).

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