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'It's not a ballet:' How Ovechkin's hit to Drouin cost the Caps

'It's not a ballet:' How Ovechkin's hit to Drouin cost the Caps

WASHINGTON -- A sleepy game between the Capitals and Montreal Canadiens changed in the second period with a massive hit Alex Ovechkin delivered to Jonathan Drouin in what would turn into a 5-2 loss for the Capitals.

Check out the game recap here.

Observations from the loss

The Ovechkin hit looked clean

Montreal was displeased when Ovechkin nailed Drouin with a crushing hit that sent him to the ice and to the locker room for the remainder of the second period. They seemed to think it was dirty. Ovechkin disagreed. Here's what I saw.

Drouin had just dropped the puck back so he was certainly eligible to be hit. Ovechkin enters the defensive zone and is gliding in a straight line directly towards the goal.  He only turns at about the slot and knocks Drouin at the faceoff dot. Rule 42.1 of the NHL Rulebook states "charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner."

The rule does not necessarily exonerate a player for gliding, which one person on Twitter was sure to tell me, but I think that goes towards intent. If you start speeding up going into a hit, it is hard to argue that you didn't mean to hit him that hard. Ovechkin instead glided into the offensive zone, turned, then glided into Drouin. It is impossible to argue Ovechkin was looking for the hit the whole way. He did leave his feet on the hit, but I believe that was more from his own momentum than him trying to launch himself. It did not appear as if he launched himself into Drouin.

Since Ovechkin turned late to go to Drouin, the distance traveled is only from the slot to the faceoff dot. That, to me, is not enough to fit the criteria of "distance traveled" necessary for a charge.

The second thing to look for is whether Ovechkin hit Drouin's head. Rule 48.1 states that an illegal check to the head is one in which "the head was the main point of contact." Ovechkin does appear to make contact with Drouin's head, but it is not the principal point of contact. Ovechkin is hitting through Drouin's body and makes incidental contact.

Even Montreal head coach Claude Julien said Ovechkin did not hit Drouin in the head. He only took issue with Ovechkin leaving his feet.

"I think when people look at it, [Drouin] didn’t get hit in the head," Julien said. "It was just one of those hits where I thought it looked like Ovi might have left his feet there a little bit before the hit."

Regardless of how you feel about the hit, it is not believed any further supplemental discipline will be coming and that is all that really matters in the end.

Bad habits

Bad habits tend to creep into a team's play during a long win/points streak. With things going so well, players can have trouble focusing on fixing those issues in practice. Overconfidence can lead to bad plays.

For the Caps, one issue in particular really began to plague the team as a whole: puck management.

Much like Monday's loss to Arizona, this game was marked by bad turnovers by Washington. Perhaps out of frustration, the Caps were also caught moving up too quickly out of the defensive zone on the breakout. A quick turnover soon caught everyone out of position. This led directly to Montreal's first goal as both John Carlson and Michal Kempny pushed up thinking T.J. Oshie would take the puck out of the zone. Instead, it was a turnover and Phillip Danualt was suddenly behind the defense all by himself in front of Ilya Samsonov.

Those issues must be addressed quickly.

Turning point

A big hit can spark your team, but it can also go the other way and breathe life into an opponent. The latter happened on Friday as Ovechkin's big hit on Drouin seemed to awaken the Canadiens who scored less than two minutes after the hit and scored four goals in an 8:20 stretch in the second.

Play of the game

Watch how Evgeny Kuznetsov receives this puck. He knows the pass is coming and has already begun his breakout while keeping an eye on the puck by skating backward. He is then able to seamlessly turn with the puck to move from backward to forward in a fluid motion.

That is beautiful skating

Good skating is about so much more than being fast. What Kuznetsov is able to do on skates and how he transitions to going to whatever direction he wants, seemingly all at the same speed is art, pure and simple.

Stat of the game

John Carlson notched an assist on Ovechkin's goal for his 31st point of the season. While he may not be doing it with as much fanfare as he had in October, Carlson is still racking up points at a pretty remarkable rate.

Quote of the game

Ovechkin on his hit to Drouin:

"It's hockey. It's not a ballet."

Fan predictions

I know this was meant as more of a joke, but you would have been hard-pressed to pick a game in which you could have been more wrong with this prediction.

It wasn't Dmitry Orlov, but Tyler Lewington who got a few looks at forward.

Lewington played 8:24 which is more than I thought he would. I thought for sure he would be under eight minutes.

Nailed it. Washington had only one power play and Ovechkin scored on it.

Stephenson didn't turn to stone, just his hands. He had no shots on goal and only one shot attempt.

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have swept all three California teams on the road. The final win came on Friday in a 3-2 narrow defeat of the Anaheim Ducks. The game was full of shenanigans, some of which were cheeky and fun, but others were cruel and tragic.

Check out the game recap here.

Observations from the win

Just let them fight

We all remember what happened the last time these two teams played between Garnet Hathaway and Erik Gudbranson. It was no surprise to see those two lock horns in the second period, but the moment Gudbranson dropped his gloves, the refs were pulling the two apart preventing the fight.

The game devolved from there. In total, there was 66 PIM distributed in this game and I can't help but think most of it could have been avoided had the refs just let Hathaway and Gudbranson fight it out initially.

Why were they so quick to step in? I'm guessing that was the line in the sand drawn by the refs in an attempt by to keep control of the game and both players were told this is what would happen if they tried to fight. Rather than calm the game down, however, that seemed to make things worse.

Hathway and Gudbrandson ended up fighting in the third period anyway so what was the point of stopping them?

That sure sounds like they just needed to get that initial fight out of the way. That would have been better for both teams. Gudbranson's took an extra two minutes on the original fight attempt and the Caps scored on the resulting power play. Washington, meanwhile, sure seemed to get distracted by all the fisticuffs and scrums as the game went along, quickly losing control of a game it led 2-0.

Offside reviews stink and the NHL should get rid of them

Anaheim had a goal disallowed after a coach's challenge showed that Cam Fowler lifted up his back toe just before the puck crossed over the blue line. Once again, the game was slowed down so the refs could review a play and break down the video pixel by pixel to see if a player was just a hair offside. It saved the Caps a goal, but it was another example of the ridiculous standard linesmen now must stick to when judging if a play was offside or not.

The Ducks did not gain an advantage by the fact that Fowler's toe barely came off the ice right before the puck crossed. That's not the spirit in which the rule was intended.

Just please get rid of the offside review.

Context

The Caps swept a four-game road trip for just the second time in franchise history and they did it without Nicklas Backstrom and with Alex Ovechkin scoring in only one of those four games. They could actually be even better than what we saw  Friday.

Turning point

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

Everything changed with one bad turnover.

Play of the game

Ovechkin is the team's most dangerous weapon on the power play. Getting the puck to him is priority one. Having said that, the Caps have a lot of weapons on the power play and they don't always utilize them. 

Washington's power play system is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is distributed, but rarely do they ever shoot from that position. They should because it would force defenses to account for it, but they don't and so you can understand why this shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov from the half-wall seemed to catch goalie Ryan Miller by complete surprise.

Stat of the game

The win completes a four-game sweep of the road trip. Does it seem like the Caps are really good on the road this season? That's because they are.

Quote of the game


Fan predictions

This is impressive. You nailed it and you got pretty specific too. There were only three misconducts, but still I'm very impressed.

A bit off on the score, but you got to see a Caps win.

Ha.

There was plenty of this. A total of 66 PIM were issued in this game.

Well, it was nuts but it didn't get that nuts.

Just about everything that could happen to Radko Gudas did in this game...but he still didn't score.

I did, but barely. I am going to guess we lost a few people along the way.

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

The Capitals survived a physical affair in Anaheim on Friday to earn a narrow 3-2 win over the Ducks and complete the sweep of its four-game road trip. The bad blood from the previous matchup between these two teams boiled over as the game went on. There were two fights, multiple misconducts and plenty of scrums, but ultimately Washington was able to overcome all the extracurriculars to earn the win.

Here's how the Caps did it.

No angle

Travis Boyd opened up the scoring with a Houdini-like goal in that it came at a severe angle. How severe? The shot actually came slightly behind the goal line.

OK, how is that even possible?

Carl Hagelin made the pass behind the net and Boyd made the one-time shot from just past the goal line. When you look at the replay, the puck actually banked in off of goalie Ryan Miller.

The shot may not have defied the laws of physics as it originally appeared, but it was still a pretty darn good shot to put the Caps up 1-0.

Kuznetsov surprises Miller

When the Caps went to the power play, we all knew who was going to shoot, including Miller and that was the problem.

Washington's power play is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is typically distributed to John Carlson to setup Alex Ovechkin or down low to setup T.J. Oshie waiting in the slot. Typically Nicklas Backstrom plays the half-wall. He is one of the elite playmakers in the league but does not shoot nearly enough on the power play and as a result, no one seems to account for a half-wall shot as a possibility.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was playing the half-wall role on Friday. As he skated casually along the wall, Miller shrunk back into his net and planted against the post. That's not what a goalie does when he is expecting a shot. It looked like Miller was placing himself in anticipation of Kuznetsov passing the puck low behind the goal line. Instead, Kuznetsov called his own number and fired the puck on net which Miller was not expecting or ready for at all and the puck snuck through him for the goal.

A successful offside challenge

Sam Steele thought he had put Anaheim on the board in the second period, but for the first time all season, Todd Reirden challenged the goal as offside. The play was reviewed and showed that Cam Fowler had lifted his back toe off the ice just before Brendan Guhle brought the puck over the blue line. As ridiculous as the video review has made offsides, by the letter of the law the play was in fact offside and the goal was disallowed.

Ryan Getzlaf would score soon after for real this time so the review ultimately did not cost the Ducks, but the point wasn't so much that it cost Anaheim, but that it didn't cost Washington.

Had Reirden lost the challenge, not only would the goal stand as called, but the Caps would have been assessed a delay of game penalty. Instead, the goal was taken off the board and Washington maintained its two-goal lead...briefly.

A bad turnover

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

And everything changed with one bad turnover.

Less than a minute after Adam Henrique pulled the game even Miller went behind the net and left the puck for Guhle. Guhle took it and put it right to the stick of Vrana. His initial shot was stopped, but he picked up the rebound and stickhandled it past the netminder for the go-ahead goal

Anaheim had all of the momentum and had finally pulled even and then handed the lead right back to Washington.

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