Friday, October 21, 2011

Caps/Flyers, 10/20/2011


Listen, I know that some other teams in the league are struggling, so it's not polite to bounce in circles around them, singing songs about being undefeated. That wouldn't be nice. So come over here. Come to this blog post, and I will give you all the irrational optimism and enthusiasm you've been trying to hold in. Seriously, come on in. There's gloating. 

Everyone here? Okay, here is a song for the Washington Capitals. Ready? 

Weeee aaare the championnnnns. Of Octoberrrr. 

Yeah, yeah, I know. Stanley Cups not won in October, Phil Kessel is definitely not going to put up Wayne Gretzky numbers, etc etc--but once again, if I'm not allowed to be excited about hockey, then why the hell am I watching? Undefeated is a word to get excited about--just as long as this is a crescendo and not a freak spike. 

But if this game was supposed to be a measuring stick, then we are sixty feet tall. Philly is a team on everyone's list right now, everyone's impressed, Holmgren is looking like a mad genius--and they have a pretty glittery record themselves to start the season. Scratch that--had

The game starts out extremely stupidly with an extremely stupid diving call on Semin by referee Tim Peel, who hates us personally. I suppose I can see how he thought it was an exaggerated reaction, but that was definitely a hook, and Briere was called for it, so. 


Angry four-on-four. 

Karma is on our side, and within a minute or so, Lilja gets called for holding, and we go to a four-on-three instead. In theory, this should be excellent, we should have no problem scoring here. And indeed, the power play is looking good. We're passing very well! Beautiful passing all around, in fact it's so beautiful that the boys get way too into it and forget to actually score. 

Back to five on five, score still tied at zero--both teams are trying to get something going, trying to get back into a rhythm, but the officials decide to maliciously prevent this. Ridiculous sprawling save from Vokoun and somewhere in the chaos Hamrlik is apparently holding someone in an illegal fashion. Fourth penalty in six minutes.

They've have gone mad with power, mad I tell you. 

But our defense is looking good, and even more excitingly, the people who you wouldn't necessarily expect great defense from are making some neat plays. Good work from MJ90, good work from Green--yes, you heard that right, Green. 

We make it back to five-on-five unscathed. Jagr tries to convince us that he's relevant, but is in fact still not--Roman Hamrlik with a great defensive play on his countryman, showing him what it's like to be a Czech who works hard. 

Bryz and Vokoun are good at goaltending. This is hardly breaking news. It does mean, however, that the teams on the ice between them are getting more and more frustrated--which in the Flyers' case, always means that they get nastier. 

(photo from here)

Brooks Laich gets high-sticked right in the face, causing legions of female Caps fans to cry out in distress. 

Seriously, anywhere but the face, please. That's a precious resource. Coburn gets a four-minute major for crimes against humanity, which the Philly stadium is somehow shocked by despite Laich bleeding everywhere. They express their disapproval. 

Boo, we don't know the rules of hockey, booooo. 

So speaking of Things We Have To Score On, a double major would be one of them--but nothing is quite so simple in a Flyers/Caps game, and our double major abruptly becomes four-on-four when Ovechkin destroys Talbot behind the net. 

Okay, fine, so that's Jagr, but this picture makes me happy. Sue me. 

I guess I can't disagree with the call--in fact, "interference" seems a little mild. Anyone get the number of the truck that hit Max Talbot? 

There are some moments when Semin's unnecessary curl and drags are pretty and endearing. 

This is not one of them. Simmonds knocks the puck from him, passes to Giroux, who is not the kind of guy you want on a breakaway all alone. 1-0. 

This is not ideal, but we are not entirely crushed, because we still have a minute and change of power play once the four-on-four is over. Once we start scrambling around looking a damn mess on the PP--now that's when to worry. We accomplish exactly nada.

But the hockey gods have not forgotten about Brooks Laich's face, and Braydon Coburn is just exactly right in the way to have the puck deflect off his stick from a Perrault shot--right into the net. 

Now what have we learned tonight about keeping our sticks to ourselves, Braydon? 

Who am I kidding, you're a Flyer. Probably nothing!

I am still yelling about this goal when the Caps do that thing where suddenly everything is way, way better than I expected--with twelve seconds to go, Alex Ovechkin's in the crease, and the puck slides right to his stick, with Bryzgalov already fully committed to the other side. Empty net. 

This is Alex Ovechkin we're talking about. 

Of course he scores. 

Somewhat unexpectedly, we go into the locker room up 2-1. This is excellent. 

The second period overall is much less excellent. There's some good physical play early on, nice checking from Schultz (!!!) but then the worst happens. 

AGAIN. Basically the Flyers are jealous that they will never be as handsome as Handsome Brooks Laich, and are trying to break his face. Little do they know that dashing scars will only increase his appeal. 

Power play for us, and as much as we'd like to avenge the blood that Laich is bleeding, we are generally bad at revenge things. After the PP ends it's basically all Flyers hockey for a few minutes, but Vokoun is making the saves, even the ones that I am not sure science can justify him making. 

Jedi Vokoun. 

$51 mil vs. $1.5 mil. Hmm. I am not sure who got the better deal here. 

We briefly lose all concept of defensive hockey, and the boys are handling the puck like it's a grenade. Nothing good is happening, and if this were last year's team, there would have been a goal coming and soon. Not this year--the Flyers are outplaying us, but Vokoun is outplaying them. 

In the last few minutes of the period, Caps are suddenly playing well again, and I'm thinking it may be a bit late for that. 


Or not goal. 

There's some goalie contact from Ovechkin after he gets barreled into from behind, and Peel, eighty feet away from the net, decides to call it no goal after the ref BEHIND the net has already called it good. This is not at all sketchy. 

Neil Greenberg's twitter feed informs me that post-lockout, Tim Peel has called 8.3 penalties per game on the Caps, 5.4 vs. rest of the league. With the way the reffing has been going so far, I find this unsurprising. 

Well. It's still 2-1. 

In the intermission, Matt Bradley bleeds all over the place for the Panthers. 

Some things never change. 

We go into the third period very evenly matched, if not a little outplayed. The third period is different. 

It doesn't take long--just about long enough for me to get annoyed with Roman Hamrlik for leaving the Flyers too much space and not finishing his checks, he changes my mind. 

I will tell you this flat-out, there is nothing I won't forgive for a goal. Hamrlik could have punched me in the face and then turned around and scored a goal, and I would have been thrilled with him. 

Plus, I got to say "Hammer Time". 

3-1 feels a lot better than 2-1, we've got some room to breathe now, but we're not content with that. Neither is Chris Pronger, who takes this moment to remind us why he's a terrible person and trips Johansson like a schoolyard bully.

Sure, Pronger, we'll take the power play.  Don't mind if we do!

Our power play has been slowly becoming not terrible after all, so this is something to sit on the edge of your seat about. Everyone likes goals--and do you know what they like most of all?

Ovechkin goals.

Lest anyone has ceased to be afraid of our glorious captain, let me take this opportunity to remind you--you should be afraid. The beast is awakening. All stories written on Ovechkin in the last week or so become much less relevant, but I'm sure that those who wrote them are just as happy as anyone to see a breakout game. 

4-1. Guess how much I like this game? 

Once again, scoring goals seems to be infectious--we decide to see just how amok we can run in two minutes of play, and the Flyers can't even keep up.

Joel Ward shows that he too is a valuable member of Team Capitals and scores us our third goal in two and a half minutes. Welcome to the score sheet, sir. There's room for everyone.

Wells Fargo Stadium is pretty quiet all of the sudden, with the exception of some mock-cheers for Bryzgalov. Oh lord. He's getting beat from deflections and tons of traffic, not to mention the Flyers defense--he's a good goalie, and I hope he doesn't get eaten.

But I am incapable of compassion for opponents when we're in-game, so we are moving on. Caps are not sitting back waiting for the Flyers to get into the game, they're still pressuring, taking away opportunities, keeping the Flyers in their zone.

And when they can't, Vokoun is taking away the opportunities anyway. At one point there is a RIDICULOUS pileup in front of the Caps net, leading to the call "there are literally seven--count 'em, seven guys on top of the goaltender." Vokoun makes the save, of course. No big deal.

We get one more power play because Scott Hartnell is a dick. Flyers stadium is a ghost town, and the team looks like they'd like to leave early as well, but they are trapped in this game with us. Bummer.

Being a rookie, Sean Couturier has not learned yet to roll over and die, and scores one more super pointless pity goal in the last fourteen seconds. Damn, says Vokoun's save percentage. Damn. But seriously, who cares.


All we do is win.

SO WAS THAT EXCELLENT OR WHAT? First game I was really concerned about, and we blow it out. How's that for showing the league who's boss? Great showing from Vokoun, huge point spread once again--all of our defensemen have now gotten at least a point, which is ridiculous--and two goals from Ovechkin, which just makes me happy. Now I know the Red Wings aren't exactly slouches, but can't we just win them all? 82-0 season. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Everything is wonderful. Today you get to walk with a little extra bounce in your step, because you have picked the right team to root for. Good job, you.

Let's go Caps. 

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