Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Well, not this time, not really.

Alex Ovechkin was serving the second of his two-game suspension. The weather was cold, snowy/rainy/generally icky, and the Flyers had just fired John Stevens and replaced him with former Hurricanes coach, Peter Laviolette.
it's half past noon, and the Camaro has a half-inch of snow on it

We had tickets through the Caps Road Crew, who were schedule to leave Greenbelt around 3:15 to arrive at Wachovia Center around 5:30, so with the weather looking bleak and a mildly ESP-prepped Camaro Z28 as the sole transportation available, we left at 12:30. The original plan to go to see BodyWorlds2 at the Franklin Institute or the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians got scrapped when I forgot to set an alarm to get up on Saturday. I didn't wake up until 11:30AM, as usual for me on a weekend without an autocross. So, we were going straight to check in at the hotel, chill there for a short period, then to the arena. We were also considering going to see Sloan after the game, as they were playing at Kung Fu Necktie that night.
The roads were fine. I tested the brakes on the way out to the main drag, and even though the Green Terror's on 3+ year old Kumho Ecsta 711 performance tires, there were no traction problems at all. The roads were wet, and fortunately, the people in Baltimore and north are not nearly as idiotic as DC area drivers are. We arrived at the hotel by 2:30, even after running errands before actually "leaving."

Pat was weirdly sleepy, so I let him nap for a while and I played on my still-pretty-new-to-me Nokia Surge, checking email, Twitter and Facebook. We headed over to the arena to arrive around 5:30, and were the first Capitals fans in the suite. Turns out the bus was running late.
view from the suite

We grabbed a bite to eat and a drink, then headed down to the glass for warmups. The bus arrived just before the warmups started, and the rest of the Caps Road Crew filtered in at the corner, while we were next to the tunnel. I started off taking some random pictures, but once the players came out, I took some cell phone pics to post to Facebook Mobile, while Pat took some camera photos. Most of them turned out pretty good.

We headed back up to the suite after warmups, and it was packed. Talking to only guy wearing a Laing jersey, I found out that the bus had a late departure, then an unexpected stop with delayed their arrival. At least they didn't have traffic issues.

The game started off with a quick goal from Tomas Fleischmann, less than a minute into the game. It was so unexpected, we all had a delayed reaction when it came to cheering. Things were relatively subdued after that -- a lot of back and forth, no clear domination -- until the Flyers fourth liners managed to get a rebound stuff on Jose Theodore. It was all tied up, and the Flyers faithful were getting geared up for a loud game.

Then Matt Bradley put a hit on Daniel Carcillo, who'd just had an assist on the goal. Carcillo took exception to the clean hit, and hit Bradley with a cross-check, followed by a shove, and inexplicably cold-cocked him. Brads went down in a heap and was so woozy, he needed help off the ice. As for Carcillo, like Mike Duco on Thursday night, the refs threw the book at him. Two minutes for cross-checking (the ref's arm was in the air for that when the rest happened), two minutes for instigating (the shove), five minutes for fighting, a ten minute misconduct and a game misconduct. All told, the Capitals would end up with a nine minute power play, even better than the seven minutes they had against the Panthers on Thursday night.

The major penalty is run first, so for the next five minutes the Caps would have an all-you-can-score opportunity. After a shaky two minutes, where Richards and Carter snaked into the Caps' zone on a short-handed attempt, the Caps settled down and got to business. Fleischmann tipped one by Ray Emery, and twenty-seconds afterwards, Mike Green slapped one through. The Flyers faithful went silent, and the period drew to a close.
Dan Carcillo was generous this holiday season

The second period starts off with a brief period of intensity on the part of the Flyers' penalty killers, but again, less than a minute into the period, the Capitals score. This time it's Brooks Laich, and it knocks the rest of the penalty kill down to a mere two minutes, as the major penalty had now expired.

After last December's game that Pat and I had attended, we had never dreamed that the score would be similar, but on the opposite end. Less than a minute into the second period, and it's 4-1. And the bleeding would continue.

Karl Alzner was called for a penalty for the second game in a row -- very uncharacteristic for him -- and the Caps PK unit went out and methodically killed off what would be the only Flyers power play on the night. Then the Flyers made the critical mistake of letting the puck slide up the boards by the penalty boxes, just as the penalty expired. Alzner erupted from the box, grabbed the puck and sent it over to a streaming Chris Clark, who stuff it past a reeling Ray Emery. Within seconds, Emery (12 saves on 17 shots) was replaced by Brian Boucher.

Boucher barely had time to be settled in the crease when the puck was dropped and he was tested. Before the end of the period, Boucher would let in two more goals, and the teams would retire to the locker room for the second intermission with the score 7-1.

The third period, the Capitals went for, as Mike Green put it during the intermission interview with Craig Laughlin, "keeping it simple." Basically, they tried to avoid the all-too-common third period meltdown, and while they weren't driving as hard to the net, they were also trying to avoid neutral zone turnovers and odd-man rushes. While Scott Hartnell did eek one past Jose Theodore to make it 7-2, he also took a poor slashing penalty (or was it his medusa-like hair that actually took the penalty?), leaving the Capitals the chance to help goal-deprived David Steckel get the elusive first marker of his season.

Yeah, so maybe with Backstrom and Green out there to help him, it was cheating a little bit. But why should Laich, Fleischmann and Fehr get all the fun on the power play unit? ;)

The scoring was over then, sadly. However, for the first time I can remember, an opposing team's players called as stars of the game actually came out to salute the crowd. Tomas Fleischmann -- with two goals and two assists -- was the third star, and he came out and waved at the meager crowd that was left (mostly Caps fans at this point, as a vast majority of Flyers fans had left before the second period was over). Mike Green was the second star, also with two goals and two assists, and he actually saluted towards our section. Nicklas Backstrom was the top star, and I'd like to think the only reason he didn't make it out was because he was being interviewed.
Mike Green waves at the Caps Road Crew when he's deemed second star of the game

The ride back to the hotel was uneventful -- fortunately -- as it was a quick jog to the car, and the parking lot was basically empty at that point.

The most pathetic parts of the game, besides the goaltending? Referee Stephane Auger took a puck to the ear during play in the second period, and fell to the ice. The classless Philly fans cheered his injury and booed as he skated, with help, to the locker rooms. :( He did return at the beginning of the third period, but I can imagine it was with a heavy dose of painkillers.

The other pathetic display was the fight in the stands, over near section 100. We heard someone say, "Fight!" but we didn't see anything happening on ice. The scuffle in the stands was actually between two Flyers fans! Both were escorted out by Wachovia Center security, needless to say.

So, in all, we're glad we went. While Matt Bradley was out for the majority of the game, it looks like he just needed ten or so stitches to patch his cheek up, and he'll be in the lineup for Monday night. Carcillo ended up with a four-game suspension for his trouble -- and a lot of criticism for his post-game lies and half-truths. So, after a seven-minute power play against the Panthers and a nine-minute power play against the Flyers, the question remains -- who on the Tampa Bay Lightning will go full retard and let the Capitals now-number-one-ranked power play have its way with their goaltenders?

And, no, we didn't go get to see Sloan at Kung Fu Necktie. By the time we got out of the Wachovia Center, Pat figured we would have missed most of the set. We did get to see them in Vienna, Virginia, on Tuesday night, so it was okay to miss them this time around.

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