Nightcap/Recap

Back at stately Vogel mansion here in Baltimore after a satisfying win in Tampa. Here are a few things that stood out to me in the Caps’ first preseason win of the year:

The six Washington defensemen in Saturday’s game have a combined total of 487 games worth of regular season NHL experience. That’s more than 100 fewer than Tom Poti has all by himself. Yet the young blueliners helped limit Tampa Bay to just 19 shots on goal for the game. In the two seasons since the lockout, Washington has held the opposition to fewer than 20 shots on goal in a game exactly once in 164 games: on Oct. 26, 2005 against Buffalo in Rochester, N.Y.

Rookie Caps center Nicklas Backstrom continues to look more and more comfortable on the ice with each passing shift. He logged a team high 24:15 in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Lightning at Tampa Bay, and collected an assist on Alexander Semin’s game-winning goal. Backstrom played some center and also lined up on both wings at various times during the course of the evening.

For the third time in as many preseason games, the Capitals drew first blood and did so in the game’s first period. Washington never trailed in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Lightning.

The Capitals won 15 of 24 (62.5%) face-offs in the third period when the game was on the line. Dave Steckel won 10 of his 14 third period face-offs (71.4%). Steckel scored the game’s first goal on a nifty deflection and was a big part of Washington’s penalty killing success (8-for-8 on the night). A strong case can be made for Steckel as one of the game’s three stars.

Michael Nylander was 11-for-17 (65%) in the circle, The rest of the Caps’ draw men aside from Steckel and Nylander combined to win just a third (8-for-24) of their face-offs on the night.

Josef Boumedienne led all Caps defensemen with 23:04 in ice time, but John Erskine had the most shifts with 31. Erskine and Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with three blocked shots each.

Goaltender Brent Johnson turned in a second straight sharp performance. In five periods of preseason hockey, Johnson has stopped 30 of the 31 shots he has faced.

Third period ice time totals can be telling in a one-goal game. Here are some pertinent ice time figures from the final frame: Erskine, 9:49; Backstrom, 8:09; Milan Jurcina, 9:36; Steckel, 7:12; Schultz, 9:41; Michael Nylander, 7:21. Erskine led the defensemen and Backstrom the forwards in third period ice time.

Mike Green led all Capitals with 17:47 of ice time after two periods. He skated just one shift in the period (a 36-second twirl) after colliding with Tampa Bay’s Andre Roy along the wall late in the second period. Green felt a bit woozy in the third, but no lingering effects were detected from the collision.

With three shots on goal, Alexander Semin tied for the team lead on the night with Boumedienne and Nylander. Semin had four of his intended shots blocked – including two while the Caps enjoyed a two-man advantage – and he also missed the net with four of his attempts.

None of the media types we talked to in Tampa Bay is a fan of the NHL’s new scoresheets. How’s this for a headscratcher: Washington winger Joe Motzko was listed as having 12 shifts totaling 6:07 at the end of the second period. At game’s end, Motzko’s totals read 12 shifts and 5:59.

Despite spending four minutes in the penalty box on the night, Tampa Bay blueliner Dan Boyle logged 32:35 in ice time. He spent two minutes in the box during the third period, but still skated 12:13 in the final frame. Boyle’s partner Paul Ranger logged 30:53 in ice time.

On the other side of that ice time coin, rookie Tampa Bay blueliner Dan Jancevski skated just 5:20 on the night. He had a single shift in the third period434544 and it lasted all of 19 seconds.

After the game, Boyle suffered a freak injury when his skates fell off a hook and inflicted a cut on his left wrist, cutting a tendon in the process. Boyle will undergo surgery to repair the tendon later on Sunday, and he will be lost to the Lightning for several weeks. Boyle was the first Lightning defenseman ever to score 20 goals in a season; his 20 ranked second among NHL defensemen in 2006-07. The quarterback of Tampa Bay’s power play ranked fifth in the league in average ice time per game last season. I’m not sure that the Lightning can patch this hole with what they’ve got in house. A deal for a defenseman may be necessary.

Eleven different players took face-offs for the Lightning in Saturday night’s game. Five of those players took but a single draw, and Nick Tarnasky was the only player to win his lone draw for the Bolts.

Tampa Bay spent 9:52 of the game with the man advantage, including 1:14 during which it enjoyed a two-man advantage. The Lightning managed only three power play shots on goal during the game. The Bolts scored their lone goal while shorthanded, and managed five of their 19 shots on goal while they were shorthanded.

Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier left the game with an upper body injury in the second period and he did not return. He skated 9:22 on the night but his three hits tied for the team lead. Lecavalier’s injury is not serious; he is day-to-day.

The Hershey Bears got their preseason off to a strong start with a 4-1 road win over the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night. Brad Zancanaro, Scott Barney, Andrew Gordon and Grant Potulny (empty net) supplied the offense for Hershey and Jeff Pietrasiak was the winner in goal. Potulny also added an assist.

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6 Comments on “Nightcap/Recap”

  1. strungout Says:

    Vogs…what’s your opinion/take on Steckel making the team? Forgone conclusion at this point or does he still need to have a spot cleared up for him (by moving Clymer or Bradley)

  2. melvisdog Says:

    I was at the game in Tampa last night and I’ll share my thoughts: 1. the Caps bench was much deeper than Tampa’s. When the game was on the line, the Caps had better players out there to defend than Tampa could muster to attack. 2. Backstrom looked great. My only criticism is that he tried some cross-ice dandy’s that were easily snuffed and turned the other way. 3. Of the hopefuls on the ice, I thought Fleischmann, Polluck, and Steckel stood out. 4. Agreed that Johnson was sharp, getting better as the night went on. He started with some shaky rebounds but was brilliant later. 5. The Caps D that you would expect were not ceding an inch of the crease like Jurcina and Erskine. In the opening minutes behind the net. Jurcina put Vinny on his rear like he was a teenager. And Erskine has an expression that I’ll just call ‘mean face’ when he changes from backskating to an aggressive check (or poke) that is pretty scary. 6. Too many penalties were taken by both teams to get a real feel for 5 on 5.

  3. TJ Says:

    -melvisdog

    Thanks for the insight.

  4. me likey Says:

    Wy can’t Steckel ever stick? (say that 3 times fast). I thought I had heard that he played well during his call up last season but he was sent back anyway? Anyway, it would be nice if he did this time.

  5. shaggy Says:

    I posed this on the Caps’ boards – I wonder who will take faceoffs other than Nylander on the top 2 lines? Steckel wont stick, and will eventually get a shot, unless they trade Suts or Laich, which probably aint happening.

  6. dumpnchase Says:

    Strung,
    I think Steckel makes it, but then again I’m not the guy making these decisions.

    Melvis,
    Forget that he is a 19-year-old kid playing a new position in a new country on a new sized ice surface, Backstrom has been one of the best players in camp and one of the best players in each of the three preseason games to date. I don’t know how anyone can fail to see this. He’s a gem, and he’s only going to get better. You’re right that Jurcina and Erskine were very good, so was Schultz. And yeah, too many penalties. No flow after the first period, none whatsoever.

    Me likey,
    We’ll see, but I think Stecks sticks this time.

    Shaggy,
    Don’t be so sure. Four preseason games still to help determine who stays and who goes.


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