caps fortunate to escape philly victorious

(photo by Paul Bereswill)

It’s never wise to overreact to the results of one regular game, but fans of the Washington Capitals should definitely think twice before getting overly excited after the team’s 5-4 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

For starters, the Capitals got outplayed for most of the evening. The Flyers dictated play and were much more physical throughout the contest, but were done in by porous goaltending.

Philadelphia’s rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looked overwhelmed for the get-go – letting in a softie by Caps center Nicklas Backstrom and then failing to get set as Mike Knuble crashed the net.

Bobrovsky gave up a powerplay goal to defender Dennis Wideman in the second minute of the second period and Philly had seen enough. He was given a seat and backup Brian Boucher was inserted into the game.

Had “Bob” played an even remotely average game, only one of those three goals would have found the net and the Flyers likely go on to win in convincing fashion.

Fortunately, the Flyers got below average goaltending while Michal Neuvirth was able to make several key stops for Washington and that was the difference.

But had this been an actual playoff game, there is no shootout. The game simply goes to overtime until one team prevails.

Anyone who watched from the second period on knows the Flyers were the more aggressive team on the ice. Even when they trailing early, Philadelphia had the momentum and there’s little reason to believe that would have suddenly changed had the game not ended in favor of a glorified skills competition.

The Caps, for whatever reason, were content to sit back on their heels as players simply hopes they were able to weather the storm. I kept waiting for Matt Bradley or Matt Hendricks to drop the gloves in hopes of waking up their sluggish teammates, but even those two sparkplugs failed to deliver.

Another reason why Caps fans should be just as worried as Flyers fans about this contest is that too many players were no-shows.

Sure, Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott, Mike Green and Tom Poti were all sidelined due to various injuries and ailments, but players like Alexander Semin, Marco Sturm and Brooks Laich were all content to be passengers on this evening.

Revisionist history will suggest that Semin scored the game-clinching goal in the shootout and therefore had a good game. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

With much of the Washington firepower out of the lineup, the Caps needed Semin to show up. But because Philadelphia loves playing an extremely physical brand of hockey, the enigma known as Sasha was a nonfactor.

Let me be clear on this – Semin got hit a few times early and vanished.

This wasn’t even a playoff game (which history shows he fails to show up for), but it was too physical for Semin. So basically he collected a game check to skate a few laps during regulation and then showed back up for the shootout (when no one could hit him).

If you want to take something from this game, then please remember it as a perfect example of why Semin is not the solution for a team looking to finally accomplish something in the postseason.

He’s soft. He hates to be hit. He refuses to crash the net because someone might put a body on him. In the few instances when he gets close to an opposing player, he’s only there long enough to take a selfish stick penalty (in this case, a double minor for high sticking Claude Giroux in the first period).

All of this is why I’d trade him tomorrow if I could. The negatives outweigh the positives for me. Yes, I know he’s capable of single-handedly winning games when his head is in the game.

But he’s the most inconsistent and maddening player in the entire D.C. sports scene. He’s the Albert Haynesworth of hockey – without the knocking up strippers and road rage.

If you’re foolish enough to think that’s the type of player you can build a foundation with, then you can’t be stunned when your team fails to produce in the playoffs.

And on the subject of disappointing, this game showed the first cracks in defenseman Dennis Wideman’s game.

He’s been a blessing since the day he was acquiring from Florida – especially with Green and Poti out of action. But Wideman was awful against Philadelphia.

The Flyers’ first and fourth goals actually deflected off of him. On another play, he failed to pick up the Philly forward who had slipped around to the backside of the net.

So while it was nice to see him pick up his first goal in a Capitals sweater, he should by no means be satisfied with his performance either. Everyone’s allowed to have an off-night, but this should be a game that Wideman studies the film of for at least the next two weeks.

And finally, this is my not-so-subtle plea for the Capitals to sit forward Eric Fehr down for the rest of the regular season.

The shoulder is clearly not 100 percent and while it’s noble of him to keep trying to get back out there and help his teammates, he’s someone who possesses a skill set that this team needs come playoff time.

If you can sit Ovechkin down, then you can sacrifice Fehr for a few more games too. Let the guy heal up and then unleash him on your first round opponent.

That sounds much better than watching him miss the third period of games because he’s too banged up to stay in the lineup.


  1. Karen Kraus
    March 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I think the other thing that frustrates me about Semin is that he’d apparently rather not score than to have a goal that isn’t “pretty.” He even said as much in an interview with I think it was Dmitri Chesnokov a while back. This goes along with his reluctance to crash the net, because a Knuble-like goal isn’t “pretty” even if it shows up the same on the score sheet.

  2. Ex KiwiKrol
    March 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Jumbo titties! The Flyers looked good when they were on.
    They dictated how the game was to be played and the Caps defense looked like last years corp.

  3. VaMedic
    March 23, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Come over here… away from the ledge …and let’s chat.

    We played poorly last night, and stole 2 points we shouldn’t have. Semin wasn’t very good. All valid and true.

    If any positive (besides the points), the guys seemed to acknowledge it post game, and are not okay with it.

    Hang on, a couple more losses are coming. I consider us still on the winning streak, and view DET as an anomaly. In that light, this is the win at the end of the streak a team ‘shouldn’t’ have. And it usually forebears a couple of losses post-streak.

    It’s okay. We have to go through that to get back to success…and that should be around the last week of the season.

    We weren’t as bad as the 8 losses, we may not be as good as the 11 wins in last 12 or whatever…but we are as good as second in the East. And the trend is up when it counts.

    I’m on my last pack of razors for a while.

  4. Matt
    March 23, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Wow, if I want to read negative nonsense like this, I can just read the comments section on Capitals Insider. This is the first post I’ve read here, and probably will be the last.

  5. nazarcruce
    March 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    That was a very football-style analysis of a hockey game, right down to the comparison of a hockey player to a football player. One game in 80, even one game in the last nine of 80, is a drop in the bucket. Whereas a football game holds more value on the season. It’s possible that our play better resembles this game going forward, but unlikely. We’ve won 10 of 11 by playing mostly responsible hockey. Sometimes we won by playing well enough. Last night is hardly indicative of the make-up of this team. Also, there can be no such thing as winning a game that wasn’t deserved — winning is winning. No one really believes that teams lose games they should have won other than their own fans.

  6. Milhouse44
    March 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    BIG Jumbo titties!

    @Matt, Go elsewhere to smell roses and talk about what a great win this was…keep drinking the Kool-aid if you like but that was playoff hockey last night and (Injuries aside) The Caps showed they are not ready. Semin showed his true colors and a OT goal in the shoot-out does not save him from the pathetic (soft)game he had.

    @nazarcruce, This game was indicative of the make-up of Semin.

  7. J.P.
    March 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Eh, you’re way off base on Wideman. One shot deflects off his skate and on the other occasion he’s slightly out of position. Looking at the overall team defensive effort put forth last night, that’s hardly even worth mentioning. Considering the goal that Schultz gave up was as egregious as it gets, ragging on Wideman seems petty in retrospect. Yep, he gives up a few loose ones here and there, so he’s basically playing the role of Mike Green in absentia for all intents and purposes… And despite the stats, Carlson and Alzner weren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their play either. Prevent defenses don’t work in the NFL and they don’t work in the NHL, either
    The most troubling aspect of last night’s win was the lack of energy and hitting – you could palpably feel the absence of Ovi last night. As y’all noted above, neither Hendricks nor Bradley (or anybody in road whites for that matter) stepped up and tried to change the dynamics of the game with a physical presence, which was almost as big of a factor as the lack of aggressive defense. Big ups to MoJo and Matty Hendricks for coming through in crunch time.
    Hurry back Jason Arnott, Sasha needs your guidance…

  8. Over_head
    March 23, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Semin does not disappear in the playoffs. .09 points per game regular season, .85 playoffs. His reputation for being a no-show in the playoffs was earned in one series in which he failed to score. The entire team failed to score. Anyone that watched those seven games should know he was firing the puck at the net, it was just not going in…just like the rest of the team. He took a penalty last night, normally I am on him for this, but the high stick was a legit attempt to lift a stick while back checking. He missed and hit the guys chin, it happens. It was not the usual neutral zone or offensive zone silly stuff we tend to see. He has been much better about that this year.

    IMO he did not vanish at all. Don’t listen to those Versus guys, they often say silly things. Like claiming the fact the Flyers were chirping and the Caps not plays some role in deciding the winner or who is playing better in a game.

    I do not think the Caps are trying to build anything around Semin. He is a very skilled player and when he is motivated, which IMO he has been most of the year, he is one of the best in the world. For his offensive production I would say 6 mil a year is a bargain.

    Not my style, but since you used it in your story I will as well. Comparing Semin to Haynesworth is foolish.

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