Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rain, Caps rain on Pens parade; Brodeur = done

Fehr helps Washington reach climax at moist Winter Classic
The NHL banked on a Washington-Pittsburgh Winter Classic to be high-powered and provide juicy ratings. Too bad for the league only one team showed up.

Eric Fehr capitalized on one of the biggest bone-headed plays in Marc-Andre Fleury's career plus a defensive breakdown to score a pair of goals and lead Washington over Pittsburgh, 3-1 at Heinz Field, despite gobs of rain pouring down in the third period.

I bet the television viewing was fabulous. Must be something about the Penguins playing in this game that leads to precipitation. Maybe the next game they're in will provide hail. Wouldn't THAT be fun?

Anyway, at one point, Fleury tried to play the puck behind the net and lost track of it - he had trouble finding the puck all night, I could tell that even from my seats in Kathmandu - and ended up gifting Fehr an empty net goal after Marcus Johansson found the puck and centered a pass. This was like, two seconds after Fleury botched another stickhandling attempt and should've gifted Jason Chimera a goal, but Chimera screwed up the play.

Later, Fehr received a nice pass from that same Chimera to score on a breakaway to double the Caps lead and end the game even though eight minutes were left. Semyon Varlamov, unlike Fleury, knew where the puck was at nearly all times, making 32 saves and allowing just Evgeni Malkin's breakaway goal. Honestly though, Malkin's goal should've counted for like, three goals. He's that bad on breakaways that Varlamov should feel a certain measure of shame over giving up that goal.

So, is it time?
At what point do we declare Martin Brodeur done as an NHL goalie? Are we there yet, or did we pass it a month ago?

Brodeur gave up three goals, on seven shots, in eight minutes, and was pulled yet again as Carolina routed the Devils, 6-3, behind a four-point game by Tuomo Ruutu. Brodeur was pulled for the sixth time this season.

I don't know how much of Brodeur's struggles are his team's doing - why are the Devils so bad? Did Paul Martin mean that much? Zach Parise? What gives? - or his own shortcomings, but damn is he having a nightmare season. It's amazing that his GAA is "only" 3.15. His save percentage, however, is .882. That ranks 50th out of 50 NHL goalies who qualify.

Sergei Samsonov and Jeff Skinner scored twice for the Hurricanes. Ruutu had one goal. Cam Ward made 25 saves.

They should've been in Heinz Field
You want goals? Oh, Boston-Buffalo gave you goals. Holy criminy.

The teams combined for seven first-period goals in what eventually, somehow, became a 7-6 Buffalo victory in a shootout. The best part was, even in the shootout no one could stop a puck. Five of the six shooters scored and the sixth and final shooter, Zdeno Chara, was officially credited with a "miss" not a save by Ryan Miller.

Drew Stafford had a hat trick and a shootout goal. His third goal of the game came with 28 seconds remaining and tied the score at 6-6. Jason Pominville had two goals and two assists and Thomas Vanek one of each. Miller finished with 34 saves.

Chara and Tyler Seguin each had a goal and assist to lead the Bruins' offense. Tuukka Rask was pulled after three first-period goals.

Eat it, jerks
So after an impressive victory over Pittsburgh that saw Brian Elliott make 45 saves, Ottawa has been torched in three straight games. Screw you, Ottawa people.

(That's not entirely true; the Senators erased a 3-0 deficit to earn a point in an overtime loss. But still.)

Tyler Bozak scored twice in the first period and Toronto routed its friendly rival by a 5-1 margin. Way to go, Elliott, who gave up three goals on seven shots in 16 minutes. Somebody named James Reimer made 32 saves for the Maple Leafs.

Wait, there were good goalies who played?
--Cedrick Desjardins earned his second win in his second career start when Nate Thompson scored 19 ticks into overtime to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 win over the Rangers. Thompson and Dana Tyrell each had a goal and assist.
--Antti Niemi made 29 saves and Devin Setoguchi scored the lone goal in San Jose's 1-0 win over Los Angeles.
--Miikka Kiprusoff needed to make just 16 saves to lead Calgary over Edmonton, 2-1. Tim Jackman and Olli Jokinen scored.

--Very funny that Desjardins is playing so well for TB now that they got Dwayne Roloson. So there's like four guys for the Lightning to throw out there, though I imagine Desjardins will be sent back down to get more seasoning.

--What should I say about the Winter Classic? Should I just make a separate post about it later? Here are the basics: It wasn't cold, it was rainy (though I was under cover so I stayed dry), the hockey was crap, and the seats were even more cramped than the Civic Arena. Overall, I'd grade it an F-minus-minus-MINUS.

--For the third time in four years, a team finished with just one goal in the Winter Classic. We can even say four times a team has scored just once, since the inaugural one was a shootout. This game had the worst conditions of any of them.

--My point is: There's a reason the games are played inside now. And I bitched about this before the Penguins lost in one of their uglier games of the season.

--Not sure how it looked on TV, but if you saw the things I was seeing from the Penguins, you'd be covering your eyes like I was. It was brutal. They couldn't catch a pass, they couldn't make a simple, short pass, they missed the net with wide-open looks. Oddly enough, the Capitals didn't seem to be affected by it nearly as much. Pittsburgh just sucks outside, I guess.

--By the way, if Washington and Pittsburgh meet in the playoffs, it'll be Caps in five if not four. The Penguins just do not match up well at all against Washington.

--I thought it was amusing how the Caps reacted after winning, including Alex Ovechkin hoisting his stick in the air. Guys, you didn't actually win a playoff series or anything that big. It was one game out of 82. Winning the Winter Classic isn't worth a magical three points or four or something like that.

--I bet Rask doesn't get another start for Boston for like three weeks.

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