The Problem With Streaking…

Posted October 16, 2011

Last night, all three layers of the Capitals system saw their start-of-season streaks stagger to a halt.  We knew that all those Ws were too good to last, but it’s still worth taking a few moments to examine the various shakeups (even the good one).  Fair Warning: Because I’ll be following the minor leagues for Capitals Outsider this season, expect a bit more AHL and ECHL coverage than you’re used to in these parts.

Angry words fly during the Bears' season home opener at Giant Center (Photo Credit: M. Richter)

The Good: For the Capitals, the “end” was a positive one.  The Caps saw a win in regulation against Ottawa, finally breaking the wins-in-overtime run they’ve been riding since the season started.  Don’t get me wrong, 2 points are still 2 points, but compounded overtimes tend to lead to the grinding of teeth and the fraying of nerves.  In related news, the slow return of Neuvirth’s (relatively) good health meant that while Holtby was shuffled back down to Hershey in time for their first home game, Dany Sabourin took his place riding the pine behind Vokoun.

The Bad: The Stingrays only made it one game out of the gate on a winning streak (4-3 OT win over Reading) before falling 4-1 to the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins).  Garrett Mitchell got into the only fight of the game, late in the third period.  Looking back at this summer’s D-Camp, this is hardly a surprise.

The Ugly: The Hershey Bears lost their season home opener against the Norfolk Admirals (AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning) in overtime, with a final score of 6-5.  The Bears managed three regulation wins on the road prior to coming home (Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Norfolk), so the sting is all the sharper.

Now, these things happen.  Three fights in an AHL game?  Not worth breaking a sweat over, especially when it’s the second half of a two day home-and-home series and the score is close.  Yes, the second may have cost the Bears one of the goals that forced the OT, but we’ll give Zack Miskovic a pass because he’s a consistent member of that exclusive “Top D-Pair” club.  If it happens again, well, that’s another story.

Twenty penalties assessed is a bit more unusual, though not excessive by minor-league standards.  For a while there, Norfolk was engaged in one of those ever-so-classy conga-lines to the penalty box, though their goalie (Jaroslav Janus) held down the fort a little too admirably for Hershey’s liking.

Norfolk’s Pierre-Cedric Labrie taking a swipe or two at Braden Holtby (and getting a solid swat from the spunky netminder in return), well, that’s worth a line or two of text.  Especially when the initial announcement of penalties after the altercation sounded as if Holtby had earned both 2 minutes for roughing and 5 minutes for fighting (the latter quickly re-allocated to Andrew Carroll, who was involved in the actual exchange of fists with PCL).  It’s not Holtby’s first incident with improper stick-conduct, though in this case he appeared fully justified in his retaliation.  Last summer’s incident with Evgeny Kuznetsov was a bit more of a gray area, resulting in both receiving a swift, if understated, education in on-ice etiquette at the NHL level and public apology.

So what is the moral of last night’s game schedule?  Two points taste sweeter in regulation; skin of your teeth hockey will eventually backfire; and for heaven’s sake, don’t hit the goalie – they hit back!

See more photos of the Hershey Bears v. Norfolk Admirals on Saturday.