Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Third Line and the Maddening Caps

Joel Ward impressed me in the playoffs last year for Nashville because he had 13 points - 7 goals, 6 assist in his 12 playoff games and played +4 hockey.  In 80 games during the regular season, Ward garnered 29 points and played -1 hockey.  Clearly, this is a guy that picks up his intensity in the playoffs.  He's a hard working forward that battles for pucks along the boards and I was excited that GMGM picked him up this summer.

Now, he's joined with Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich as part of the Caps checking line and the chemistry is evident based on how well this line has performed while playing against the top lines of their opponents.  That line had 2 goals and 1 assist against Carolina and Chimera got the 3rd star.  Then, Chimera had 2 goals and that line had 4 points against Tampa Bay while keeping their top line of Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis to 1 point. Malone got the lone point for an assist without Stamkos and St. Louis. awarded Chimera the second star for his play and he was the first star for the game. 

I'm liking that line.  They weren't as impressive against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but I think that line is going to be key for the Caps if they can manage to do other things right, which remains to be seen.

So, why are the Caps maddening, part 1?  How about because their passing looks like the Mites on Ice and they look disorganized way too often.  In the Pittsburgh game, the Caps looked downright horrible in the first period, played better in the second, but trailed off in the third.  They managed a paltry 19 shots on net compared to the Crosby-less Penguins 41 shots.  They're not going to win too many playoff games playing that way.

Why are the Caps maddening, part 2? Yes, they're 3-0, but they've given away 3 standing points to 2 division rivals and 1 Eastern conference rival by not being capable of closing out a game in regulation.   That doesn't matter now, but it will in April.

Other notes...
  • Thankfully, Boudreau has paired Mike Green with Roman Hamrlik instead of Jeff Schultz.  Game over Green, with the overtime winner against Carolina, is starting to look like his old self again and Hamrlik seems to helping that.  I like Hamrlik's game, too.  He's faster than Scott Hannan, even at age 37, and still throws his body out there to block shots.
  • After a rocky start against Tampa Bay, Tomas Vokoun stood on his head in overtime and the shootout.  He looked strong against Pittsburgh, too, stopping 39 of those 41 shots.
  • Nicklas Backstrom is starting to look like his old self again, too, and that pass to Dennis Wideman for the game winning goal against Pittsburgh was sweet indeed.  Backstrom needs to be successful this season or the Caps won't make it very far in the second season.
The Ottawa Senators are in town for tonight's game.

Let's go Caps!

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