Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Capitals/Blackhawks Report with Extras

While Montreal had a well-earned rest after back-to-back games, there was no rest for the Blackhawks, who were coming off a biting 4-1 loss to Nashville that was sealed in the last 2:03 of the game and the Capitals were set to face the Flyers, with new coach Jack Laviolette, but were without the services of suspended superstar Alex Ovechkin.


I missed the game, I was busy watching the Chicago-Pittsburgh game, but I have to say, the Capitals once again, missing the prescence of outstanding star player Alex Ovechkin found a way to exploit a disoriented Flyers squad, from what I managed to pick up later on...

1st Period:Tomas Fleischmann collected his 9th goal of the season off a Brendan Morrison centering pass 57 seconds into the game, Fleischmann despite missing training camp, pre-season and the team's first eleven games has taken off quite impressively thus far this season 1-o Capitals.

Mika Pyorola brought it even for the Flyers just over eleven minutes later and it was entirely possible a see-saw battle between these two teams would erupt, as they often have for the rival squads, 1-1 score.

Daniel Carcillo doomed his Flyers team however when he would sucker-punch Washington's Matt Bradley, collecting a cross-checking, instigator and five-minute fighting major adding up to 9 minutes of power-play time for Washington, with a Game misconduct attached.

Mike Richards would set up a 2-on-1 with Jeff Carter during the long Flyers penalty kill, but netminder Theodore stopped Carter's shot off of Richards feed, denying the Flyers a lead and any momentum from an extremely dangerous penalty kill unit that was renowned for shorthanded goals last season.

Washington would score 20 seconds apart after 4:36 of PP time had passed, another goal by Fleischmann than a quick wrist shot by Blue-line sniper Mike Green off of a Nicklas Backstrom feed gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead to end the first period, outshooting the Flyers 14-13 during the stretch.

2nd Period:

There was still 1:06 of PP time left for Washington to start the frame and they scored even faster than the first period with only 36 seconds to go, Brooks Laich tapped in his 10th of the season, thanks to the playmaking work of Mike Green and Backstrom, 4-1 Capitals.

The offensive pressure would relent, with Capitals call-up D-man Karl Alzner taking a penalty giving the Flyers their first power play of the match, but would result in nothing as Theodore kept the Flyers without a goal during the Washington penalty.

Alzner would jump out of the penalty box to take the puck for a quick pass to Chris Clark, Captain of the Capitals team, he would loose a wrister to deliver the 5th goal of the game for Washington, chasing Ray Emery from the net, after 5 goals on 17 shots.

Nicklas Backstrom would work off of a Jurcina slapshot rebound to bring it to 6-1 Capitals, spoiling any hopes of Flyers backup goalie Brian Boucher closing the door on a relentless Capitals offence.

Backstrom would set up Mike Green once more for his 2nd goal of the game off another one of his sharp wristers, Green has had a rather slow start goal-scoring wise, with only 5 goals in his first 28 games compared to the 31 he scored last season, he still leads all defencemen in points, up to 30 thanks to his 4-point night. The Flyers were outshot 25-21 over 2 periods, but the real story was the scoreboard on that count.

3rd Period: The Flyers would try to storm back offensively, with a 15-5 shot advantage for the period, but would produce a single goal by Scott Hartnell, whose own slashing penalty later on neutralized the slight dig into the Capitals lead by allowing for another Capitals goal.

Scott Hartnell would feed off a behind-the-net pass to beat Theodore in a late effort for some minor personal glory and something for the Flyers to take off the night as they shrunk the lead to 7-2 for the Capitals. Hartnell's glory would be short-lived as he would later be caught for a slashing penalty.

David Steckel, who finally produced his first goal of the season would restore the 6-goal lead on tne ensuing Power play, he would feed off a well-placed Mike Green pass to make the final score 8-2. The Flyers would end up with the shooting advantage of 36-30, but Theodore would make 34 stops, the Flyers two netminders a mere 22.

Strutting their stuff: Nicklas Backstrom would have a goal and 4 assists on the night, Mike Green would have 2 goals, 2 assists, the premiere playmaker Backstrom and star defencemen Green would both score their 25th assist of the season together on the Steckel goal. Tomas Fleischmann would have a 2 goal night, the team is 2-0 for Alex Ovechin's 2-game suspension in an offensive flurry that saw 14 goals over two games.


'Wow' would be the most accurate way of describing the match, The youngest team and most talent-laden team in the Western Conference engaged the most talented team in the Eastern Conference. Sidney Crosby was out of the match with a groin injury, but thanks to the Penguins glut of top centres, Jordan Staal took the 2nd line duties while Malkin took over the top line and neither and scarcely missed a beat, the Penguins depth down the middle has got to make you hate them at times.

Marian Hossa was facing his 2008 team, who he lost the Stanley Cup with in the 2008 Finals, lost it to them when he switched to the Red Wings for the 2009 Cup Finals and finally decided to stick with a team in the Chicago Blackhawks for the next 12 years in his massive new contract. The crowd was quite vocal in booing the high-scoring forward they felt had abandoned them and gone shopping for a Cup. Antti Niemi recieved the start in nets, the 26-year old is 5-1-1 this season, which begs the question of besides Christobal Huet's salary, why doesn't the Journeymen goalie start more often? Marc-Andre Fleury, a likely candidate for the Canadian Olympic Team took to goal crease for Pittsburgh, he's become quite the thief when it comes to scoring on him in the last two years after having a rough start following his 1st overall selection in the impossibly talent-laden 2003 Entry Draft.

The First Period: The only goal to be scored in this stretch would come from a 4-on-4 section of the game when after Pens D-Man Brooks Orpik was holding, then Duncan Keith was cited less than 30 seconds later for intereference. The period would spawn a disagreement that would last the match between Pens forward Matt Cooke and Hawks defencemen Duncan Keith, as Keith's blindside hit on Cooke that spawned the interference penalty came from Cooke running him in his own end, which did not draw a penalty but Keith felt a need to push back against the hard-checking forward.

Patrick Kane would steal the puck along the boards and take off with the blinding speed that has defined the young forward's career and his justification to be drafted first overall in 2007, he would bring it in the Penguins zone and hold it until he could feed it to teammate Brian Campbell, who would rip a shot off of Fleury that produced a big rebound, just in time for the slick reflexes of Hossa to catch the flying puck, bring it down to the ice and slip it by Fleury, 1-0 Blackhawks.

A tustle between Penguins grinder Mike Rupp and Hawks grinder Ben Eager would cost the Penguins, as Rupp was assessed a double-minor for roughing while Eager served a single, but no score on either side during the match thanks to impressive goaltending and strong defence. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook never seemed to come off the ice, keeping both the Malkin and Staal lines in check as often as they could. The Hawks would take an 11-9 shots advantage over the period.

The Second Period:

Scoreless, but not for lack of trying. The Penguins wanted to tie the game up and take the lead, but solid goaltending from Niemi and a very coordinated, mobile defence by Chicago kept the rebounds away from Niemi or blocked shots and disrupted the top Penguins lines.

Pittsburgh would outshoot the Blackhawks 17-6 over the period, but the Blackhawks few scoring chances required the sharp wits of goaltender Fleury, speed kills in the NHL and the Blackhawks are known for punishing any team that can't keep their forwards contained. The shots were now 26-17 Pittsburgh, but Chicago still held the lone marker. Duncan Keith would play over 20 minutes by the end of the period, his partner Brent Seabrook was less than thirty seconds short of putting in 20 minutes himself. This is all after playing the night before as well, these two young men should be Olympic starters, without question for Team Canada.

The Third Period:

The Blackhawks wanted to seal the deal and get an insurance goal but it never came, tight saves by Marc-Andre Fleury and good defensive work to keep the Blackhawks shooters from setting up in the offensive zone kept Chicago from cashing in on any rebounds or golden chances.

The Pittsburgh Penguins came close to solving Niemi several more times, but it took Fleury sitting on the bench with the sixth man with 1:32 left in the game for a goal to finally get by the Finnish netminder. A faceoff win by Malkin, a pick-up by Gonchar, a feed to Malkin who would rip off a slapshot from the point, the shot was blocked only to have the rebound float right to an open Jordan Staal, whose quick reflexes would put the puck past a sprawling Niemi to tie the game. Chicago would outshoot Pittsburgh 11-6 over the period, the Penguins would still lead with a 32-28 total shot advantage.

Duncan Keith would have played just about 30 minutes of game time to this point, after playing just over 26 minutes the night before, talk about earning your new contract!

Overtime: Chicago would lock down Pittsburgh in the extra frame, using their strong defensive corps to keep them contained until a breakout play by Kris Versteeg would end things.

Kris Versteeg, thanks to the lockdown efforts of the Chicago Defence would take the puck into the Penguins zone and feed a pass to Brian Campbell, who would shoot twice, his first effort blocked and then a weak second puck would hit Fleury, Versteeg would crash into the crease and push the puck into the goal, delivering the game-winning goal, ending the Penguins 6-0 Overtime winning streak, handing Pittsburgh their first overtime loss of the season at home.

Key Players:

Pittsburgh: Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin would be in place for many offensive chances and would set up the game-tying goal that allowed Pittsburgh to leave with an overtime point. Brooks Orpik, Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Mark Eaton would work very hard to contain a very quick Chicago offence.

Chicago: Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook would play a combined total of 59 minutes, 39 seconds over 62 minutes and 38 seconds of game time, a fantastic performance by two elite defencemen that seem at this point, destined to form a pairing on the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team. Marian Hossa would be the only Blackhawk to score on the Penguins during regulation time on a slick rebound goal and would continue to harry his old team all night long alongside linemates Joanathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. Patrick Kane would make the offensive zone moves that made the Hossa goal possible, while Versteeg's improving play of late made the OT winner possible, Brian Campbell would assist on both Blackhawks goals.

Thoughts: We could do a whole hell of a lot worse than to have a 7-game Stanley Cup Final occur between these incredible teams, as much as I may dislike them for their failures delivering them their drafting success, you can't argue with how well they play on the ice. This is a preview of the Stanley Cup Final, you heard it here first.

Granted of course, the Canadiens don't go on another 1993-esque Miracle Run with Carey Price channeling Plante, Dryden and Roy the whole time ;)
Ex-Habs Recognition:

- Bruin Steve Begin would drop Jamal Mayers in a fight during a losing battle for the Maple Leafs in a 7-2 drubbing by the Beantown boys.
- Maple Leaf Mike Komisarek would attempt to put out Zdeno Chara's right eye with a dangerous high-sticking that went unnoticed by a very oblivious ref, a four-minute double minor towards Toronto during that point in the game might have seen the score jump even further. Komisarek just isn't the same since he had his ass handed to him by Milan Lucic last season in Montreal.
- Ranger Chris Higgins would score his 3rd goal of the season off a Gaborik feed, which is pretty sad considering he registered 3 20+ goal seasons for his first three years with Montreal.
- Lightning member Alex Tanguay would assist on Rookie defencemen Victor Hedman's first NHL goal.
- Senator Alex Kovalev would assist on a Jesse Winchester goal with 46 seconds left in regulation time to bring the score up 2-3 against the Phoenix Coyotes, but the team failed to tie the game in the remaining time.

Junior Habs Recognition:

- Tougher night for the Hamilton Bulldogs, a 6-5 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies (Baby Leafs), P.K. Subban would collect one assist in the game. as would Mathieu Carle, two of Montreal's better defensive prospects. Dimunitive centre David Desharnis would score a goal and assist, but given his 5'6" stature and Montreal's lack of size in the forward corps, he'll likely be a career AHLer or moved to another team in a trade deal rather than serve as a Canadien over the next several years.
- Swediesh Centre Andreas Engqvist, who was signed to a contract with Montreal after recieving a development camp invite over the summer and impressing the Habs scouting department is getting back to scoring, with 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 matches in the Swedish Elite League after several prolonged dry spells.
- Mac Bennett has scored goals in 2 consecutive games with his USHL Cedar Rapids Roughriders now, after a slow start when returning from participating in the World Junior A Championship with Team USA.
- Finnish centre Joonas Nattinen, a 6'2" member of the very impressive 2009 Draft class Montreal selected has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 Finnish Junior League matches. He has served a lot of time in the higher Finnish Elite League this season with only 3 assists in 16 games this season, but he has his 9 points in his 7 Junior League games. At 18 and a 3rd-round pick, it would seem harsh to expect him to play at the highest level of hockey in his country at such a young age, he is a long-term prospect and would probably be better off playing in the Junior team he has been moved up and down to this season. Interesting note, he likes to pattern himself after one of the last great Habs to play for Montreal in the last decade, Saku Koivu.

The "Go to Hell you Leprachaun" Note:

Apparently the League is talking about changing the names of notable player trophies to that of NHL greats and away from the historic names like the Art Ross, Hart, Calder and Norris trophies. This has the stink of Gary Bettman all over it, he's thinking of new ways to corrupt the game to sell it to a bunch of Southern US markets who only actually get out of their seats during a game when a fight breaks out. Phoenix can't even fill the arena out unless tickets are 25$ each, most of the Southern US market has to to give out free food and beer coupons with their tickets to get people to come to the games.

The talk about changing the names to honour the players is stupid. The players are honoured with personal trophies when they win a coveted trophy like the Art Ross, or have their names forever inscribed on the Conn Smythe Playoff Trophy when it is collected. The people whose names are on the trophies have the trophies named after them because they helped found the game, grow the game and decided to institute the trophies to recognize the greatness of the athletes they fostered that founded the greatest sport in history.

The greatest players are inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, do they really need more honours than they already recieve? If the league needs to correct anything, it's to change names of the Divisions to something a little more interesting than "Northeast, Southeast, Northwest" and so on.

Here's an easy way to do it if you want to make this about recognizing the past greats in the NHL.

Atlantic Divison - Lemieux Division.
Northeast Division - Beliveau Division
Southeast Division - Orr Division
Northwest Division - Gretzky Division
Pacific Division - Hull Division
Central Division - Howe Division

Eastern Conference - Wales Conference, as in the Prince of Wales Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the Eastern Conference Final in the Playoffs.
Western Conference - Campbell Conference, as in the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy which like the Prince of Wales Trophy, is awarded to the Western Conference Finals winner in playoffs.

Sounds a hell of a lot better for sure.

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