Your post-game analysis that barely scrapes the surface:

During the second intermission, Smokin’ Al interviewed Boyd Gordon on Comcast SportsNet, who said, to paraphrase, that whoever makes the first mistake (in a scoreless game to that point) would win the game.  Uh-huh.

While the team may have performed well enough to keep it scoreless through that point, they fell apart after Lee Stempniak’s fortitious negative angle shot deflected off of José Théodore’s heel and bounced over the goal line.  Pavel Kubina was left alone to rip it behind a helpless, screened (and arguably interfered-with) JT not 4 minutes later, and there was your ball game.

More on goaltender interference later.

Ready excuses present themselves for losing a third consecutive game, all on home ice:

Against Florida, it was the excuse of the second of back-to-backs, after a playoff-style matinée in Boston, facing a team desperate for a win to put them back into playoff positioning.

Against Carolina, it was “pre-trade deadline” jitters, and a suddenly flu-bitten Théodore, forcing an unprepared rookie in Michal Neuvirth between the pipes.

Against T.O., it was the sudden scratch of Alex Ovechkin and injury loss of Tom Poti, and having to play with 11 forwards.

What will be the excuse against Pittsburgh on Sunday?

True, shifting Sergei Fedorov to defense and not having #8 on the top line dealt twin blows to the offense on the top two lines.  And confusion reigned on the power play without Alex.

But I thought that was all largely about Bruce Boudreau’s “system.”  Said Feds:

“Don’t you think it’s too late in the season to think that way?  We had some injuries and we did have some guys out of the lineup, but I think we had so many chances, simply as that. If we score at least three or four it’d be a different story. …We’ve played 60 some games. Everybody’s pretty used to each other, should be anyway. I think we missing a very powerful forward with a powerful shot, but like I said we generate enough offense and scoring chances to score and puck did not go in for us.”

At least it was all about “system” during the months of November and December, when seemingly anyone from Hershey could fill in for a felled Capital and perform admirably.



Well, Ovechkin’s role excepted.

I saw Ovi’s absence last night as a silver lining.  A chance for the team to get back to wearing, collectively, their hard hats, and grind out a win against a plucky opponent (who was missing a top defenseman in Tomas Kaberle themselves, mind you).  What we saw reminded us of the “good old days” of being a Caps fan.  Back in the early- to mid-90’s.  Or more recently, during the Hanlon days, before Ovechkin.

When the team would often seem to make a journeyman goaltender — last night an off-of-the-scrap-heap waiver claim in Martin Gerber, who hadn’t won since December 30 — look both ruthlessly efficient and breathtakingly athletic.  When the team was squeezing sticks and missing passes and shots wide, finishing with a bit of an offensive flurry to make the loss ever more frustrating for fans.  Too little, too late.

How many times have we heard a Capital player, coach, broadcaster, say this about the team over the years?  A team without a superstar in the lineup:

[Eric Fehr said:]  “I think our team is deep enough that we’re able to contribute. We have guys that can step up. A couple of shots go a few inches the other way and it’s a big win for us.”

Right, the game of inches line.

What’s most troubling to me is the re-aggravation of Tom Poti’s groin injury.  Can he be counted on in the playoffs?  Now it’s really worrisome to me that McPhee was not able to acquire any serviceable, NHL veteran D-man with some wheels left at the deadline.

But if there be positive, speaking of goaltending earlier, Théodore played quite well coming off of that flu bout.

Anyway, teams are going to slump, and that time is ours.  I fear that we’ve not seen the last of it, and that facing a hot Pittsburgh team on Sunday, with the way our heroes are performing, is going to be ugly.  But whether we’re looking at a four, five, or more game losing skid, I’m still confident that a 40 win team with 16 left to play, coached by a Jack Adams winner,  is going to iron out the wrinkles with enough time to get in a groove before the playoffs begin.

*    *    *

Now, a bit about this “incidental contact” rule that came into play with the wash out of the Toronto goal in the first period.  As a good attorney would, let’s go right to the rule first.  The entire goaltender interference rule (Rule 69) is here, but let’s focus on the relevant portion, Rule 69.3:

69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease – If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

Let’s focus on that word “incidental.”  The rule distinguishes between incidental contact and “intentional or deliberate” contact, the latter of which results in a penalty for goaltender interference.  This distinction is made exclusively pursuant to the on-ice judgment of the referee(s), and not subject to video review.  Further:

In exercising his judgment, the Referee should give more significant consideration to the degree and nature of the contact with the goalkeeper than to the exact location of the goalkeeper at the time of the contact.

So the goal last night was disallowed because Jason Blake, in powering to the net from JT’s left, pushed the goalie while the latter was in the crease.  But no interference call was warranted because Blake was the puck carrier.  In short, making a hockey move to the net, as did Blake, was within the realm of “incidental” contact, thus no penalty.

Now, Caps fans:  Remember the Flyers’ second goal, game 7, last April?  Of course you do.

Sami Kapanen scores on an empty net, after Patrick Thoresen dishes the puck away, and then shoves Shaone Morrisonn (when neither player has the puck mind you), into Huet and taking him completely out of the play.  Huet was, as you can see from the video, still in the crease at the moment of impact with Mo.

Rule 69.1 provides:

If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

Ah, but it says nothing about a defending player being pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player.  Instead, the interference should have been assessed to Thoresen as against Morrisonn, not as against Huet.

Such a call closes the apparent loophole in the goaltender interference rule which seems to allow attacking players without the puck to push defenders into goalies, eliminating the latter from exercising his “ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player,” which is “the overriding rationale of this rule.”