“I wouldn’t have wanted to pay money to see that hockey game tonight if I was a Caps fan. It just wasn’t good enough by anybody.” – Troy Brouwer
If you watched this game, you are most likely not reading the re-cap. Who wants to go through it twice? If you decide to proceed, there are a few post-game quotes to ponder.
The atmosphere before the 122nd consecutive sellout game at Verizon Center was electric. Washington Capitals hosted the Philadelphia Flyers and Caps fans let former Cap Jaromir Jagr know exactly how they felt about him. Jagr was booed very loudly when he was announced as a starter and booed even louder the first time he touched the puck.
There wasn’t too much more for the Caps fans to be excited about until the Caps’ only goal was scored by Jeff Halpern with 6:01 remaining in regulation. Wideman and Ward assisted on the goal. “We’re trying to build and we’re trying to climb up the standings,” said Halpern. “Regardless of what the last two games were, it’s an ugly game.”
The first few minutes of the first period gave the illusion that the game would be close and competitive. The Capitals were rested and were playing with confidence with a two game winning-streak. Passing between Ovechkin, Backstrom and Orlov was beautiful, Alex Semin had four hits in the first period (and ended up with a team leading five for the night) , Orlov fired a red-hot shot and Caps fans continued to boo Jagr.
However, once Tomas Vokoun gave up a “softie” at 16:16 to Scott Hartnell, the Caps seemed to deflate. Capitals head coach Dale Hunter explained, “It happens in the game. We’ve got to learn to rebound from it, learn from it and come back. We were playing a pretty good first and that’s how the game of hockey happens.”
The Caps went into the locker room down by one goal. The second period quickly unraveled when Flyers scored three goals within ten minutes. Vokoun seemed to be off of his game, but Hunter kept Vokoun in to finish the second. Michael Neuvirth replaced him for the third period. Neuvy stopped eleven of the twelve shots fired at him.
The Flyers shut down Alex Ovechkin, who was limited to only three shots on goal and two hits. “He’s a talented player,” said Flyers forward Braydon Coburn. “He’s got a bag full of moves and I got lucky.”
I’m an eternal optimist and look for the silver lining. There are a few worth mentioning.
One thing that improved was the number of Caps’ penalties. Capitals had only one penalty called all game which was a Troy Brouwer tripping call in the first period. Flyers had three minor penalties called, however, Caps were unable to score on the three power plays. Notice, no Semin penalty. Progress.
Dmitry Orlov play continues to improve. Dima was fifth in ice time with 19:03, had two shots on goal, two blocked shots and one hit. It is fun to watch a young player learn and improve, even during the worst of games.
Alexander Semin playing with heart. There have been many jokes about whether or not “Sasha Cares” and from his play early in the game, it was clear Sasha Cares. Not only did Semin lead the Caps with five hits, he exchanged words with Max Talbot. Those few seconds might have earned Semin more face time on this year’s 24/7 than last! Now Semin needs to start shooting more again. Caps could use a few of his infamous wrist shots.
Having said that, the Flyers clearly outplayed the Caps. Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette agreed, “I thought it was one of our better team games. Just complete start to finish – all lines, all defensemen, goaltender- everyone was going.” Dale Hunter added, “It’s one of those games where they deflected three in, just wrist shots from the point. They’re hard to defend and three were tipped. A couple I think we wish we had back.”
A few of the Capitals players offered comments after the game about the Caps play.
Alex Ovechkin: “They scored almost on the first shot of the game. I don’t think we had that kind of energy and emotion we had before. It was a pretty bad game for all of us. In the second period we [had] four shots on net. I think we lost the game in the second period. We didn’t have any opportunity to turn around the game. Only a couple of shifts at the end of the period were looking good.”
Jeff Halpern: “We did a terrible job making any attempt to make plays to get the puck out. Not sprinting back to spots, not getting open for our partners, not getting into position and not making plays when we did. They’re a good team. You can’t give them free chances. As soon as the team has the puck on the cycle, you’re going to spend some time in your own end. Momentum is going to shift and you are going to spend more energy playing defense.”
Tomas Vokoun: “It was terrible performance. Certainly not pleasant and it’s unfortunate in a game like that there’s not really much to say. It was a bad performance by me.”
Mike Knuble: “You want to move forward as a group and tonight was a half-step back. It shows we have a little bit of work to do. We’re all disappointed in the effort and we don’t offer up any excuses tonight for what happened.”
Troy Brouwer: “It’s unacceptable. We dug ourselves a hole and we couldn’t get out of it. They’re a good hockey team. That’s why they’re first in the conference right now. They worked hard and we got outworked all over tonight. We weren’t sustaining any forecheck. We weren’t sustaining any pressure. We just made it too easy on them to come out of their zone and create chances on us.”
Karl Alzner: “It wasn’t really a certain moment or anything, but obviously we were getting hemmed in our zone pretty bad. They were getting us pretty good on their cycle. We weren’t getting any bounces, I guess, going our way and couldn’t get the puck out, turnovers at the blue line and it hurt us. Some of us were out there for a minute and a half, two minutes at a time. It really, really kills you.”
- Matt Hendricks, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz were scratched.
- The Flyers were without the NHL’s offensive leader, Claude Giroux.
- HBO was filming 24/7 for Winter Classic 2012 and footage will most likely appear in the second episode. First episode airs on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
- Caps practice at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14.