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Thoughts from in person: Caps v. Pens

Heck of a game to be at in person, as always the Caps fans got their Sidney Crosby hate on and Sid let them taste the Hater-ade right back witha one goal, one assist, shootout winning goal and #1 star of the game.  Here's some things I thought and noticed from bring at the game:

  • First of all, props to my buddy Seth from Empty Neters at the Post-Gazette for giving me some information about the Pens practice on Saturday, by way of beat writer Dave Molinari.  The folks at the PG are all pro and the best in town, in my opinion.  Hat-tip to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post (who edits the Capital Insider blog that ought to be the envy of the league for how much timely info he privides) for responding to an email I sent him too.  All class right there.
  • Brooks Laich--no slouch himself with one goal and an assist--gave an interesting quote: "we controlled their top guys".  Crosby 1g, 1 a, Bill Guerin 1g, 2a, Sergei Gonchar 1 goal...Maybe he was talking about league leading scorer Evgeni Malkin's zero point game (though Geno did have seven attempted shots) but other than that I fail to see Laich's logic....It wasn't guys like Tyler Kennedy or Hal Gill that put points on the board, it WAS the Pens top guys that beat you, Brooks.
  • A two assist night for Kris Letang, but you could tell it was a frustrating go for him.  Letang reminded us all that 21 year old defensemen will occasionally make mistakes when he gift wrapped the Caps first goal. So you have to take the good with the bad and to Letang's credit he shrugged the mistake off and went on to play his game.
  • The aforementioned Guerin was again a force.  Obviously the veteran still has to be on an adrenaline burst from being rescued out of the quagmire known as the New York Islanders; so it'll be interesting to see how much gas he's really got in the tank once he settles in.  Guerin's physcial prescene and hands, along with other first line winger Chris Kunitz (1 assist, game high 7 hits) has been a real boon to the club.  One can still tell both new guys are feeling their way into a rhythm with Crosby and the Pens, but so far so good.
  • My seats were behind the goal in the upper deck, and that's a really interesting vantage point to watch a game.  You can see the plays develop and watch tendencies.  I couldn't help but notice Caps players would peel off when they dumped a puck into the corner when Brooks Orpik was in front of them; while if the defensemen on patrol was Letang or Mark Eaton they'd be a lot more aggressive in chasing it out.  Interesting to watch things like that.
  • Speaking of, the Pens blocked 21 shots, led by Eaton's 5.  I've been tough on Mark Eaton but he is rounding into form nicely in his normal defensive defensemen role.  Props to him for that.
  • Another trend I noticed: the Penguins would put Maxime Talbot out occasionally on Malkin's line strictly to take the faceoff and after the draw Talbot would get to the bench, Pascal Dupuis would hop on the ice and Malkin would slide over to his regular position.  The Caps are generally a good faceoff team, so the Pens were definitely trying not to expose Malkin's weakness in the circle.
  • Did Malkin's overall lack of production have to do with Petr Sykora being out?  Maybe not entirely, but it couldn't have helped.  Malkin can still make great things happen without #17 but he certainly seems more comfortable with Petr Gunn out there. 
  • Whatever the Caps said in the lockeroom after the second period worked; they came out flying got some traffic in the net and popped two quick goals in.  Despite that, I thought Marc-Andre Fleury played a solid game.  He established his positioning, didn't drop down too soon--which is huge for him as a butterfly goalie when marksmen like Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin like to pick off top corners.  MAF trusted his instincts and positioning and got the job done, he was the better goalie on the ice today.
  • It was a very physical game, as the combined 10 roughing penalties suggested.  Definitely played like a playoff-type game, but I thought the refs called it a little too tightly.  Though the game was physical, it didn't seem excessively so to me, but the zebras policed it heavily.  They were largely consistent the whole way through, which is really all you can ask as a fan or player.
  • The game was decided in a shootout, might as well flip a coin to pick the winner but it was still nice to see the Penguins skill players (namely Crosby and Fleury) thwart Jose Theodore, Ovechkin and Semin.
  • A 5-0 roadie, who would have thought it?  Dan Bylsma has the boys playing good and he has them believing.  Before the road trip started I said this thing could make or break the whole season.  A bold statement to be sure, and it seems it could have broken the backs and spirits of the team if they only got 5 or 6 points but they went out and got all 10.  Won't mean too much if they don't capitalize on the upcoming long stretch of home games, but it's definitely a better feeling to be rolling in the groove than stuck in a rut.