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The Caps Are On A Roll, But...

While playoff discussion has been banned from one very, very popular blog on www.washingtonpost.com, such talk will be encouraged on Capitals Insider until further notice.

Or until the ridiculous number of shots the Caps are yielding catches up with them.

AO is on fire and the Caps won for the fourth time in five games against the Panthers. That's 20 standings points in 17 games, which has them on pace (granted it's only November) to make the playoffs.

But (and you knew this was coming) the Caps are allowing a league-worst 36.9 shots per game. Let me repeat: Thirty-six-point-nine!

Players and coaches will point out that all shots aren't created equal, that shots taken from outside the imaginary triangle (it begins in the crease and goes out until just beyond the face off circles) aren't really scoring chances.

Okay, I see their point. Sort of.

But when the opposing team logs 42 and 45 shots - as the Rangers and Panthers did - that probably means the other team is spending way too much time in the Caps' zone, right? And we all can agree that good things can't continue to happen when the other team spends the majority of the game peppering goaltenders Olie Kolzig and Brent Johnson, right?

So until the Caps figure out how to stem the flood of shots, I'm going to keep my optimism in check. I suggest everyone else does the same.

On an unrelated note, Alexander Semin appears to be fine after absorbing a hard hit late in last night's game against the Panthers. He's on the ice right now. Kolzig and defenseman Brian Pothier, the Caps' hardest working players, were given the day off.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  November 14, 2006; 12:34 PM ET
 
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Comments

Yeah, what happened in that hit with Semin? Looked like he was in a lot of pain over on the bench... Still though, nice little win last night. The speed their showing these days is great, although, yeah, the number of shots allowed has got to come down...

Posted by: Dez | November 14, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Well, the Caps do seem to get the puck in their zone, but make a lot of weak clearing attempts. Also, the Caps don't sustain good pressure in the offensive zone. Too many shots from the blue line that miss completely and bounce out.

However, we can make the playoffs. We'll likely get stomped by the Buffaslugs, but we can get there.

Posted by: tallbear | November 14, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for pointing this out Tarek. Caps are winning more, but this shot differential annoys me too.

Defense is still relying too much on Kolzig.

Posted by: Mike | November 14, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

We may have stopped losing to Florida - but to replace that - i don't think we've beaten Atlanta yet this season - and they lead the division. More work to be done, but this is better than last year...

Posted by: John | November 14, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

They're playing much better than last year. Last year, they'd let up 6 goals on 45 shots. So I think there is SOMETHING to the whole "all shots are not equal" logic.

Let's just see if Green, Eminger, and Morrisonn can continue to improve. Especially Eminger; if he gets better, we can be pretty damn good.

Posted by: Rage | November 14, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Missed you in today's paper, Tark--it's not very impressive when a reporter can't even accurately describe how goals were scored (the press box *does* have access to replays) and the silly angle about "not breaking a sweat" to get Zubrus' goal wasn't very incisive.

Also--I know this is an old complaint--will it take another Stanley Cup trip to the finals to (temporarily) alter the Post Sports editors' active dislike of hockey and the Caps in particular? When might they honor you by letting you write an actual column or two, instead of just a blog? Or do you have to cover sports with more prestige, like high-school wrestline or pre-school tiddly-winks?

Posted by: Jim | November 14, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

ha, Jim -- did you miss the last WaPost sports survey of their readership? After the redskins, pre-school tiddly winks was the sport that readers demanded the most coverage of, therefore the readers demand it so the readers get it. I'm being facetious of course. The redskins coverage is death by overkill. Here is a winning team in the Caps and there is virtually no coverage on off days.

Posted by: kthhken | November 14, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Questions regarding practice... are they practicing in Ballston now? and if so: WHAT TIME? and is it open to the public?

Posted by: Go Skins Go | November 14, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Today's practice was at Verizon Center. The team has used Ballston once, for a morning skate. Ballston is not completely finished, so I would expect them to use Verizon whenever possible, at least until the locker rooms are completed.

Posted by: Tarik | November 14, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I heard you interviewed on Comcast, and you said they needed to spring for some better defensemen. It's not just the blueliners who are responsible for letting all those shots on net. The thing I've noticed is that they have started to take fewer penalties now, which also helps to make all those shots on a little more playable than when the goalie is peppered on multiple pentalty kill situations. Also, with the new rules, more shots are bound to go on by design.

Posted by: Rubes | November 14, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

as a hockey player, and a defenseman, when you give up that many shots per game not only does it tire out your defense and goalie, but over the course of an 82-game season it will have a cumulative effect. The fact remains that the Capitals defense is terrible, any way you look at it. They don't attack opposing forwards. Instead, they let them setup shop in their defensive zone and have all-day picnics. Until the Caps get a Pronger, Chelios, Calle Johansson type blue-liner, they won't make playoffs. Thank god for Olie because with some average goalie the Caps would have about 3 wins instead of 8

Posted by: Caps fan | November 14, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I hope the fact that you didn't cover the game last night is just temporary. It was clear from this morning's story that Amy Shipley's knowledge of hockey is limited at best. Please point out to her that lucky bounces are a way of life in the NHL and that virtually every game has a "fluke" goal. The biggest problem I see with the Caps is there is just too much space between forwards and defensemen. If we can get the forwards into a more agressive backcheck that will give the defensemen more time to get to the puck in their end and make a decent clear. Still, this team is lightyears ahead of last season and with steady improvement, the playoffs are a real possibility.

Posted by: Ed | November 14, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The Caps post the practice schedule (time and location) on their website; for this week, all practices in town are at Verizon and are closed to the public.

I couldn't agree more with Caps fan. You just can't let this much rubber get to the goalies and expect them to be a wall game in and game out, whatever the quality of the shots may be. Both goalies have overall been excellent, but I really wish we had another big defenseman. Add a Pronger or a McCabe, and I think the playoffs suddenly are within reach.

Posted by: Fred | November 14, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Ed--

Monday was a scheduled trip off for me. I'm back in action tomorrow.

Posted by: Tarik | November 14, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

We'll, they look better than last year, don't they? Shots are shots. Goals are goals. Better to have more of the latter, which is what they seem to be figuring out early this season.

Don't forget that they haven't won an OT shootout in 4 chances either. They'll start winning those soon as well. They've got enough talent to score 3 shootout goals every time.

This team has potential-if they stay confident.

Posted by: DK 08 | November 14, 2006 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Caps fan - I couldn't agree more. The defense is improving, but let's not kid ourselves. Half the defensive core aren't top team material. Not that they are great guys, but.... Time for a solid blueliner. Also, like to see a "fireplug" or "nat" on the Caps. A player who specializes in trash goals, or a pesk like Bugsy Watson.

Posted by: Scoutie Bug | November 14, 2006 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I second Ed's opinion of Shipley's game summary -- her observations ranged from cynical to uninformed. Simply regurgitating shot counts and making everything seem like luck is poor journalism. Olie was on fire, teams that work hard get good breaks in hockey, and stats never tell the whole story. Unfortunately the Post isn't exactly flush with extra hockey-savvy writers on staff to fill in when needed.

I do agree with you that the high shot count will likely burn them if it continues. Even "easy" shots in such quantities take their toll on a goaltender in the long run. And yes, the Caps need a stud d-man. Our young guys are good, and Erskine has been a pleasant surprise so far, but we have no true #1 D-man (some would say we don't even have a #2 guy yet).

But nobody expects a long playoff run this year; just competing for a spot, or perhaps making the playoffs, is a huge step in the right direction.

Posted by: OC | November 15, 2006 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Ed, consider yourself thirded. The article featured nary a description of the pass from Semin to OV, and described Zuby's goal as lucky. From what I saw, it was an excellent goal featuring great passing and a great one timer.

Also, Zuby's final goal was hardly "poked" in. That was shot from the freaking blue line! That's like calling a punch from Brash a "poke"; i.e. completely incorrect!

Regardless, I think what we're all clamoring for is for more Tarik and more Caps coverage.

Posted by: Rage | November 15, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Bugsy Watson?!! Man, Scoutie, you're old school! Don't get me wrong: I like it. What the Caps need to do is lure Scott Stevens out of retirement - let him end his career where it began. Now that's a stud D-man. We could even let him wear his old #3 and give him the "C" while we're at it.

Posted by: tokyo fan | November 15, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

One of the first things you learn when playing D, is the importance of clearing the zone(chipping the puck over the blue line).The Caps D don't do this enough,imo, especially when the forwards are shaky on backchecking.
-am looking forward to seeing practice @Ballston!

Posted by: Tnek | November 15, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

This is the new NHL guys. Buggsy, Scottie on this team would set the record for penalties. Langway would cluth and grab with best of them. Final say, Witt gone penalties down.

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 15, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

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