I can’t define what it is that unsettles me about this Capitals offense, but I know it when I see it.
Every year, EA’s NHL game has some kind of buggy little hole in its AI programming where as long as you can replicate the way you shoot the puck every time, you can pile up goals at a pace that would make Wayne Gretzky circa 1982 cry like a little baby girl. You remember. Carry it down the wing, cut across the slot at the faceoff circles, backhander. Goal City. Beat your friends 27-1 on five-minute periods. No problem.
Well I don’t know if the rest of the league has figured it out yet, but the Caps have found the way to do it in the actual NHL ‘10.
It’s not that the Capitals shouldn’t be a good team or anything. They should be just about as good as they are from a won-lost perspective. But the way they’re winning these games is just starting to become absurd.
Tonight they beat the Ducks 5-1 like it was no big deal. Sure, they’re the best team in the East (the East is a bit crap, and they probably wouldn’t do anywhere near as well in the West) and the Ducks are one of the worst teams in the West (which would make them solidly middle-of-the-pack out East), but this was, from its infancy to adolesence, a fairly close game.
It was only 1-1 through two periods, and shots weren’t hilariously lopsided (35-25 being merely “rather lopsided”) but then the Caps must have put in some kinda Game Genie code because holy crap that third period was ridiculous.
They outshot the Ducks 14-6, and outscored them 4-0 behind two goals from Alex Semin and one each from Mike Knuble and Shaone Morrisonn. And the scary part was that this was all grotesquely effortless. “Okay,” they said. “We will win now.” And then they simply did, with a breezy bravado that was best symbolized in those two Semin strikes.
The first was a simple breakout where the Capitals had somehow drawn four Ducks to the left side of the ice. Brooks Laich just hoofed it up in the air to the opposite side neutral zone and hit Semin in stride as he blew past the last defender for an no-sweat breakaway to make it 4-1. The second Semin goal came on a 5-on-3 power play, which is, given the Caps’ man-advantage runs closer to 30 percent than should be humanly possible, no shock. But it was the ho-hum little soft saucer pass from Nick Backstrom, who now has more assists than the leading point-getters from five NHL teams have total points, that gave way to this ruinous, Jupiterian thunderbolt of a shot that went into the upper 90 so fast it may as well have been there all along.
This five-goal effort made the Caps jump to 11-1-0 since Alex Ovechkin took over the captaincy. And more to the point, they’ve not only done it with this scorched-earth offense that’s totaled.. well okay, I have to tell you something first. What you’re about to see may shock you. You may not be able to comprehend it. But I’m going to tell you anyway. For your own good. Are you ready? Make sure. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit when your brain liquefies and oozes out your headholes.
Okay, here it is: This offense has totaled 61 goals in those 12 games. That’s right. Over five a night. No, I can’t believe it either.
But anyway, the scariest part is it’s not just the offense. Their defense has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of these last 12 games. When your offense can do what this one does, a 2.48 team GAA over the last 12 (and that’s inflated hugely by that bizarre Tampa game in which they allowed seven goals) is going to win you what leading theoretical scientists believe to be several metric craploads of games.
This team man, I dunno. How is anyone supposed to compete with that kind of offense?
Buffalo 2, New Jersey 1 (SO)
Boy doesn’t this just scream “exciting game” to you? Ryan Miller stopped 39 shots though. And then both of the shootout attempts he faced. I guess he’s pretty good.
Carolina 5, New York Rangers 1
It’s funny how Carolina has rumbled over Boston and New York, two teams that believe they should be buyers at the deadline, by the same score in the same week. Sends some kind of a message, I’m sure.
Tampa Bay 3, Montreal 0
Maybe Andrei Markov should pull the whole team aside and tell it to stay home. At least then results like this would be a little more understandable.
Minnesota 5, Detroit 2
The more I see of Detroit this year the more I think they’d miss the playoffs if many of the other teams with which it is clustered near the line of playoff demarcation were slightly less incompetent. That is to say, they’re still in the playoff picture only through others’ lack of achievement.
Dallas 4, Calgary 3 (OT)
Why, here come two of those incompetent teams now. Calgary has lost eight straight. Dallas has won 13-2-2 in its last 17 home games, a streak which began on Nov. 19, and is still below .500 since then thanks to a road record of 2-11-3. How is it physically possible that either of the previous two sentences are true?
Vancouver 3, St. Louis 2
No Sedin points tonight and Vancouver still wins. That’s the Canucks’ 13th win in their last 17 games. But that’s also the end of their home schedule until after the Olympics. Next 14 are on the road. That’s when the Sedins’ mettle will truly be tested.