Friday, January 13, 2012

Subtle hockey qualities and Troy Brouwer

Plenty of hockey writers and bloggers use statistics to prove their point about this or that hockey player.  The problem with relying solely on statistics to evaluate a player is that it misses the subtle points of hockey that are just as, if not more, important to winning championships.  I'm talking about hitting, forechecking, parking your butt in front of the net and winning battles for the puck along the boards.  Things the Capitals have struggled with for years.

Troy Brouwer shows those qualities every time he's on the ice.  I started this post during the 1-0 win over Pittsburgh the other night when Brouwer had 11 hits!   Tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he's on fire.  Brouwer started by screening goalie Dwayne Roloson on Alex Ovechkin's power play goal.  Then, he scored his first goal.  On that one, he was to the side of the net and looked like he was going to pass.  Roloson thought so, too, as Brouwer five-holed him.  On his second goal, Brooks Laich snatched the puck out of the air from Mike Knuble's poke check behind the net and passed it to Brouwer who shot it into a wide open net.

And, he ended the game with an empty netter goal for his first official NHL hat trick.  Not so subtle tonight.  Congrats Troy!

The Caps need more gritty hockey players like Troy Brouwer.  Those type of players win the battles a team needs to survive the sixteen game slugfest that allows them to drink from a shiny silver chalice.  I'm enjoying watching Brouwer play.

Other Notes...

  • Can the Caps PLEASE stop getting stupid, ridiculous delay of game penalties late in the third period that cost them a damn goal?   Roman Hamrlik cost them a goal with that penalty tonight.  Arghhhhh......
  • I really don't want to watch Karl Alzner fight Steve Downie as I envision Alznar going out with a concussion.  But, I'm impressed by his passion and he got a couple of good shots on Downie.  Alzner continued jawing hard at Downie in the penalty box. 
  • Congrats to Ovie and Dennis Wideman for their selection to the All Star game.  Wideman seems to be pumped from his all star selection as he had two assists tonight and was visible all over the ice.
  • A friend of the Capsdreamer household recently witnessed Dale Hunter checking Jason Chimera into the boards at practice.  Have I mentioned that I love Dale?
So, the Caps managed to hang on for the win tonight, 4-3, but, I witnessed some ugly hockey during that third period. Caps have two more games against teams on the 2nd night of back-to-back games.  Four more must win points.

Carolina is next.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Encouraging signs

The Caps continued their mini four game winning streak with a 4-1 victory over the Calgery Flames tonight.  Under Coach Dale Hunter, the Caps have gone 7-3-1 in their last 11 games, after dropping their first 3 of 4 in the Hunter era. Dale said he was going to instill his system for this team from the blue line out and slowly, but, surely, his system is showing, ending with the offense finally coming alive.

Scoring production is rising fast for the offensive stars.  Alex Ovechkin looks like he's enjoying playing hockey again.  Watch out when Ovie has fun.  He's scored 8-5-13 in these past 11 games, with 5 of his goals coming in the last 3 games.  Alexander Semin's (out tonight, unfortunately with an injury) scored 5-5-10 in 10 games.  Nicklas Backstrom, the assist machine (3rd in NHL), has 10 assists and 2 goals in that same stretch.  When this trio does well, obviously, the Caps do well. The scoring started slowly in Toronto on December 9th, then really went into overdrive beginning against Nashville 11-days after the Toronto game.  In those last five games, Semin is 3-2-5 and Backstrom is 0-6-6 and Ovie is 6-2-8.  Nice...

Other notes:

  • Dmitry Orlov - the 20-year old blue liner, with all of 25 AHL games to his resume, continues to play impressive hockey for a young defender.  Tonight, as Tomas Vokoun fended off a volley of shots and drifted to the side of the net, Orlov laid down in the net and stopped a goal.  He impressed me by his willingness to leave Russia and play in Hershey at the end of last season so he could learn the North American game.  Orlov hustles every game and is a delight to watch.
  • John Carlson - is suffering a significant sophomore slump and I long to see the player from last year.  I've worn your jersey with pride since right before your World Junior gold medal game winner, Carlson, so, please get back to playing good defensive hockey.  It's my hope that his juniors coach, Dale Hunter, helps him to get his game back.
  • Tomas Vokoun - seems to be regaining his confidence in net and made some highlight reel saves against the Flames.    Dale seesawed between playing Michal Neuvirth and Vokoun because they both were letting in softies, but Vokoun has clawed his way back to #1, for now. I need to see more games to be convinced.
For the first time this season, I'm starting to feel some hope about this team.  Of course, that's usually when they stomp on my heart.  There's a lot of hockey left to be played.

Caps have a tough two game Western road swing coming up to San Jose and L.A.  They typically stink on these road trips, so it'll be a good test for the Hunter team. 

And, finally, welcome back Mike Green.  Here's to hoping you stay healthy.

Let's go Caps!

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