As fantastically entertaining as Tuesday night’s game was, there was a fantastic story off the ice in Wachovia Center as well. Mr. Hockey was in the building, talking to NHL.com about the Gr8.
“If he got any better he’d be scary,” Mr. Hockey said.
” . . . Howe said the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner reminds him of how things were when he played the game.
“His strength, and he moves so well,” Howe said. “He doesn’t mind
taking a whack to get a shot. Sometimes there’s guys that don’t like
that, they just dump it in. He can absorb a pretty good check to get a
shot on net. Any guy that does that for a team is a pretty good man.”
- The reason the Tampa Bay Lightning are the Tampa Bay Lightning: they held on to Matt Carle’s services — he of the record-tying four assists in the second period last night — a grand total of 12 games last season. Then they traded him to Philly. For Steve Eminger. (And Steve Downie) Before you give the Flyers too much credit, recognize that Paul Holmgren had a woodie for Eminger not all that long ago and gave the Caps a pick for him which turned into John Carlson.
Really I can’t figure out Carle’s heavy travels early in his pro career. He came out of a Denver Pioneers sweater and went straight into a San Jose Sharks’ one and made an instant impact late in the 2005-06 season. In 2006-07 he tallied 11 goals and 31 assists in 77 games. He got hurt, and his production dropped, the following season, and the Sharks I guess soured on him. They shipped him to Tampa. But big-bodied, mobile, smart and skilled blueliners don’t exactly grow on trees. You saw his elite vision on the cross-ice power play feed to Mike Richards for the captain’s first tally. He tied an NHL record for assists in a period last night. You have to be good to do something like that, and you have to be good to skate in this Flyers’ team top four on the blueline.
- The Caps I thought played a real good, quasi-dominant first period on the road last night. But in period two, the game’s referees went Duke lacrosse on them. Seven minor penalties whistled in the second stanza, and six of them on the visitors? Perhaps the zebras thought the Caps were playing Pittsburgh in the postseason.
- It was, I’m sure, even in its abbreviation, a learning evening for Semyon Varlamov. I thought it was terrific for Bruce Boudreau to get him indoctrinated to one of the league’s toughest buildings, and better to have the harsh lesson occur in the first week of the season — when a poor performance can be more easily shrugged off — than say in March.
- Brendan Morrison, I think we all already agree, is no Andrew Cassels.
- Really there ought not to have been any controversy on Morrison’s third period goal — the byproduct of his savvy veteran instincts to go hard to the net. You might recall a goal Tomas Fleischmann had taken away in Nashville last season, under somewhat similar circumstances. But replays of that goal clearly showed Flash extending his leg out in a deflecting manner — what could reasonably be interpreted a “kicking motion” — whereas last night Morrison’s entire body was angled in an attempt to stop in front of Ray Emery’s cage when the puck deflected in off his leg. His legs were out in front as they needed to be to stop, and so a puck deflecting in then looks something less than innocent, when it necessarily is.
- In the second intermission the Versus studio crew added an impromptu discussion topic, based on Ovi’s second stanza outburst: Is he headed north of 65 goals this season? Majority opinion was that yes indeed he was. I liked best Brian Engblom’s reasoning (I think it was him): if Ovi is scoring in bunches against the Flyers’ very capable shutdown top four, you know the rest of the league is in trouble.
- Boyd Gordon’s holding penalty late in the third period was uncharacteristically undisciplined on his part, and obviously located in the worst part of the ice to take a minor, and you just sensed that it would end up costing the Caps.
- What was it, about a week ago, that I suggested that the Ovi-Backstrom-Semin line might easily top 250 points this season? Should I have said “easily top 350″?
- Three early season games against three “rough customer” adversaries, and I didn’t notice the Caps at a distinct physical disadvantage in any of them.
- Also on the Versus broadcast, our JoeB noted that last Thursday’s Caps-Bruins’ season opener was the highest rated regular season broadcast ever on Versus. The observation made me think of NBC’s decision over the summer to skip over the Caps and choose the Flyers to play Boston at Fenway Park on New Years Day. Well, the league will probably have a fine game that day, and maybe even strong ratings again for the Winter Classic, but they will not have the most exciting team in the league, nor the planet’s best hockey player, and if NBC could be afforded a do-over again this morning, it’d be interesting to see if they’d stick with the pick. It goes without saying: there’s no guarantee this same Capitals’ team will be in place for a 2011 Winter Classic.
- It’s important, I think, to reflect upon the intensity and passion with which both teams skated Tuesday night, something Versus’ Billy Jaffe particularly highlighted, and remember that those qualities — so rare in October hockey — can never be matched by any matchup with any Southeast division foe the Caps face. Ever.