My Caps recap articles will resume this Monday, but with the way the Caps played last week, I really felt I needed to acknowledge a few things.
1) The NHL needs to reconsider it’s stance on Ovechkin – Due to mounting pressure from the 29 other teams in the league looking for a way to “restrain him” the league has painted crosshairs on Alex Ovechkin. Any little thing he does is going to be subject to penalization and suspension. The knee-on-knee hit was not a “dirty play” as much as some would like to say it is. Alex went in for the hit up high, the defender swung inside on Alex who had planted himself to make the hit, and their knees collided; Ovechkin got the worst of it. The Game-Misconduct was unnecessary as there was no way he was coming back into the game anyway, and it triggered an automatic “two-game” suspension.
Ovechkin isn’t just a local favorite, he is a superstar. Even people who aren’t fans of the Capitals are sometimes fans of Ovechkin. They love to see him play. He scores goals, he makes hits and he celebrates after each goal as if it were his first. He plays with a passion seldom seen in the NHL.
Penalizing Ovechkin, and suspending him from games isn’t going to “level the playing field” for other teams. As a matter of fact, the Caps scored 14 goals in two games all without the services of one Alex Ovechkin.
Like it or not, the two-time reigning MVP is the current face of the NHL, and their overly harsh treatment of him is only the league trying to cut it’s nose off to spite their face. The league should not want to give their best player a bad reputation by making him seem like a “trouble-maker.” I’m not saying they should give him carte-blanche to do whatever he pleases, but they should think very carefully about how they have instructed the refs to look at him. Last night Ovechkin was penalized for “Unsportsmanlike Conduct-Diving” when it was clear to anybody who saw it that Ovechkin wasn’t “throwing himself to the ice” in an attempt to draw a penalty, he had his skate kicked out from under-him.
They penalized the other player for tripping, so how can they also penalize Ovechkin for “diving” if they saw that he was tripped?
This is a classic example of the league’s “show of force” so that the coaches from the other 29 teams around the league can’t accuse the league of giving him “special treatment.” Sure, it may quell some of the angry letters submitted by the “sour-grapes” coaches, but at the same time the league is painting their best player as a villain for the general public.
The league should find a way to reconcile this, and lay off Ovechkin. If he is getting the “superstar treatment” it would be hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it.
2) How about that Semyon Varlamov, huh? – There is something special about this kid, and I think the Caps are starting to see that they have their lockdown net-minder in their midst. Varlamov has posted two shutouts in his last four games and, dating back to the playoffs, has four shutouts in his last 28 games. He is 7-0-2 with a 1.53 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage in his last nine appearances and has been one of the three stars in four of his last six games. The 21-year old has won 10 of his 14 starts this season and is now 12-1-2 on the year with a 2.21 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Varlamov’s 12-1-2 record gives him the best points-percentage in the NHL and makes him 16-1-3 in his career. Not bad for a kid only in his second year!
3) Living Out of a Suitcase – Did you realize that the Caps have played eight of their last twelve games on the road? They aren’t done yet; by the time they wrap up their game against Montreal on December 19th, they will have played 12 out of their 17 games (dating back to November 14th) on the road, and played 17 games in 36 days. That is basically a game every other day for over a month, with 70% of them being on the road.
4) A Quick Recap – Now you know I couldn’t resist this, and while it is not my traditional recap of each of the Capitals opponents for last week, I feel it necessary to see where we are in the standings. Even after last night’s blanking at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.
The Caps are:
19-6-6 with 44 points
1st in the Southeast Division – 11 points ahead of Atlanta (15-10-3)
1st in the Eastern Conference – 1 point ahead of New Jersey (21-7-1)
1st overall in the League – One game up and tied with San Jose (19-7-6)
1st in Goals Per Game – Averaging 3.48 goals scored per game.
1st in Power-Play Percentage – Scoring on 24.2% of time when they have the man-advantage.
1st in Win Percentage when trailing After the 1st Period – They bounce back and win 62.5% of the time.
Undefeated in the Southeast Division
The Caps have two more games this week; at home versus Carolina tomorrow, and then the turn around and head out to Toronto for a rematch versus the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Washington was just in Carolina November 30th and came away with a 3-2 win in a game that wasn’t as close as the score implies. Carolina scored their first goal in the first five minutes of the game, and scored their last goal with around 0:16 seconds left in regulation. Between those two times the game was all Washington.
When Washington last visited Toronto, they lost 2-1 in a game that required a shootout. Similarly, the Caps played a game at home the night before their last game versus Toronto. In that two game series the Caps lost on both Friday (to Montreal 3-2 in regulation) and Saturday so Caps fans are hoping history doesn’t repeat itself here.
I’ll be back Monday with more, but in the meantime…