Friday, March 04, 2011

Upbeat hockey and a win

The Caps brought a spirited game tonight to the St. Louis Blues and won 3-2.  In fact, it was one of the most energetic games I've seen this team play in a long while except when they're playing the Pittsburgh Penguins.  All four lines played well, too, and the power play buzzed, which are both unusual this season.  Hmmm, do I think Jason Arnott is already making a difference?  It's obviously too early to tell, but the signs are encouraging.   Scott Hannan is getting more vocal, too, so the Caps finally have several veterans in the locker room, including Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman, which is all good. Who knows if it'll translate to playoff success, but the pieces are there.  It's up to the coaches (still a huge worry) and the players to execute.

I like the Laich-Arnott-Semin line.  Alexander Semin woke up for the game last night and seems to be benefiting from all that talking I see Arnott doing with him on the bench.  Brooks Laich has also picked up his game.  Arnott and this line clinched the game in the 3rd period with his goal off a beautiful pass by Semin.

Alex Ovechkin, two assists and 2nd star of the game behind Arnott, appears to be the Ovie that Caps fans love again.  Caps need him to be on top of his game now and into the playoffs.  His line mate, Nicklas "Bat-strom" as called the video of his swinging at the puck in mid-air for a goal, is finally playing much better hockey, too, even with a hurt thumb.  He's been more disappointing than Ovie this year and the Caps also need him to be on top of his game in the playoffs.

Other players that were fun to watch last night:
-Matt Bradley hitting hard, flying around taking the puck and winning his second fight in a row without bleeding.
-Dennis Wideman, 5 hits, 2 blocked shots and 1 takeaway in his 22+ minutes of work.  The guy plays effectively in every situation, PP, PK and ES.

The game wasn't all good last night.  The Caps didn't score in the first period again, the other team scored first again and some players like John Carlson and John Erskine struggled.  Carlson's been struggling a lot lately and is probably hitting his rookie wall and needs his minutes cut so he's ready to go in the playoffs.  Erskine's flub led to the second Blue goal.  He's a player that benefits when he doesn't play every game so it'd be nice to see him sit out a game or two.  

Finally, congratulations to Michal Neuvirth for his 21st win of the season, the most by a Caps rookie net minder in franchise history.  Neuvirth looked a little shaky on rebound control last night, but he hung in there and made some key saves.

Non-game topics:
-Apparently, there's still animosity in the Pittsburgh Penguin locker room towards David Steckel for his unintentional collision (not hit, collision, the word choice matters), on Sydney Crosby during the Winter Classic game on January 1st because Crosby is still out.  When are the Pittsburgh Penguins going to take responsibility for playing Crosby in their next game against Tampa Bay where he got hit in the head again?  No way should he have been playing in that game if the Steckel collision left him feeling woozy.

-The booing from Tuesday night in which I took part.  Some fans and, at least, one blog writer referenced in Ted's Take , think it's classless when fans boo. You're entitled to your opinion as I'm entitled to boo a team that's not putting any effort for 59 minutes into a game they're paid millions to play.  My boos were not directed at Michal Neuvirth or the new guys.  They were intended only to show my displeasure with the lack of effort from the rest of the players because lack of effort has been a problem far too often this season.  There is no excuse for it and it won't get this team very far in the playoffs.

Next up...another back-to-back set against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, starting with Florida on Sunday.

Let's go Caps!  

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