Hunter Thinks Goalies Are Hot

Posted March 5, 2012

“Sasha, what is benching?” Photo by Taylor Lewis.

Ladies (and men, of course), watch out! Visiting goalies may cause severe burn injuries! DO NOT look at them directly, or you will go blind!

It started with the Islanders when Evgeni Nabokov shut the Caps out for 56 minutes. Things got ugly when not being able to finish on Johan Hedberg while allowing five goals happened. Then Philadelphia comes in, and after months of famously struggling in goalie hell, Ilya Bryzgalov lights up like the blue eyes of a hot Husky.

For three games, Washington has faced what appears to be some of the hottest goalies in the league, and only once have they been able to handle the challenge. According to Dale Hunter, that is the Capitals’ major problem.

“You stop getting chances, then you’re in a lot of trouble,” said the coach of the 1-0 loss, “But we’re getting our chances and you gotta give the goalie credit.”

Sure, the Caps outshot the Flyers 34-23, but when your captain sits for all but one shift in the final 12 minutes of a period, something isn’t going right. Despite the numbers, both Hunter and Alex Ovechkin claimed the winger wasn’t benched after Philadelphia scored. “He [Hunter] said, ‘You can’t do that.’ I try to make a play, I don’t want to give them chance to score, but it is what it is,” said Ovechkin.

It was easy to sense a close game was coming up as the Caps and Flyers got started Sunday evening. Neither team took off after the opening faceoff, and for most of the period, each shot advantage was matched seconds later.

As the crowd got amped on “Let’s go Flyers!”-“Flyers Suck!” battles, the energy on the ice intensified. Erik Gustafsson was inches away from landing in the Caps bench when the door swung open as Troy Brouwer gave him a hard check. Not long after, Scott Hartnell sought retribution in a fight that landed him on his back, much to the crowd’s enjoyment.

Jay Beagle, again, broke out, but only got only a pad on a two-on-one and almost forced two turnovers while killing the game’s only minor penalty. “I really pull for that guy. His work ethic is phenomenal and he shows up to the rink everyday, always working hard,” said fellow grinder Matt Hendricks.

As the Caps seemed to be getting the edge, the intensity from both teams didn’t subside, with Jason Chimera getting rocked by Wayne Simmonds as he tried to enter the zone. In the last minutes of the second period, by now down 1-0 after Eric Wellwood‘s goal, Mike Green made a desperation play, laying out to get the puck to the middle while under pressure in the offensive zone.

But Philadelphia refused to back down and Washington couldn’t get through. For all the shots that managed to get on Bryzgalov, few were secondary chances, and even fewer were a challenge for the Russian to anticipate.

“We got a lot of guys who can score off the rush and score with big shots, but the majority of goals that are scored nowadays and especially in the playoffs are in front of the net,” said Brouwer, after being questioned about the lack of consistent offensive pressure.

Washington (69) had a chance to get back into the playoffs tonight, as they sit just one point behind eighth-place Winnipeg (70). On their heels, Tampa Bay and Toronto lag just one point (68) behind the Caps, and Buffalo (67) just two. Meanwhile, Florida distanced the race for the Southeast Division title with a 4-2 win over Ottawa.