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Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Roloson Robs Caps

Semyon Varlamov makes on of his 37 saves Tuesday. (AP)
The Washington Capitals fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a crucial division matchup tonight by a final tally of 1-0.  With the loss, the Caps fall further behind the Lightning for the Southeast Division lead, standing one point behind them, but having also played one more game.  Dwayne Roloson, making his Tampa debut, stole the show for the visitors with a 34 save shutout in nets.  Semyon Varlamov was equally excellent, stopping 37 of 38 for the Caps.

In the first period, the Capitals looked flat and allowed the Lightning to take the play to them early, effectively wiping out any momentum that the Caps tried to carry over from the Winter Classic.  The Caps defense was on their heels and had alot of trouble with the speedy Tampa forwards in their zone coverage.  The Bolts tested Varlamov early as well, but the Russian was up to the task and made several good saves to keep the tie intact.  When the Capitals finally did manage to get some zone time on a power play, they failed to get any real scoring chances because they didn't shoot the puck at the net, instead trying to be fancy, and period 1 ended 0-0.  The second period was a different story for the Caps offensively, as they got pucks to the net with regularity and were buzzing the Lightning end constantly.  But Roloson stood on his head, making several spectacular denials on the Caps, especially in front.  The Caps were not helping things with their net presence, however, whiffing on several attempts in close both on the PP and at even strength, and could have easily scored 2 or 3 in the 2nd.  The Lightning also applied good pressure on Varlamov, but the Caps D found their legs and Varly continued to play very well to keep the Bolts off the board.  In the third, it was the same song, just a different verse for both teams.  The Caps were able to get pressure to the net, but simply could not cash on any of the multiple rebounds or passes that sat in front of the Tampa net.  Varlamov saved the bacon on multiple occasions as well, as the Caps became frustrated and began to loosen their defensive coverage.  With the score still tied at 0 after 60 minutes, the game went to overtime.  The Caps again were denied by Roloson in close before the Lightning broke in on Varlamov just inside the two minute mark.  Vinny Lecavalier shot low on Varly, who made the initial save, but Martin St. Louis scored the winner when the rebound went right to his stick in front.

Observations:

A discouraging game.  The Caps had a golden opportunity to build on the momentum that they got in Pittsburgh against a serious threat in the division and could not capitalize.  This was a huge game, especially with the Lightning having a game in hand. The Bolts play 87 and the Penguins tomorrow, I daresay I will be rooting for the Penguins in that one for the first time in my life.

Semyon Varlamov was great again.  Varly saved the defenses' behinds on multiple occasions and was the reason the Caps even got the point they did, matching Roloson save for save.  He seems to have laid claim to the number one job for now.

The power play is a mess.  Another 0-fer makes that three in the last four games.  The Caps are playing like individuals and thinking they can do it by themselves (read: Alexander Semin).  The Caps live and die with the power play, especially now that they have abandoned their run-and-gun style at even strength.  If that does not get rolling, it's going to be hard to win hockey games.

The Caps have tomorrow off before returning to practice on Thursday at 10:30 A.M.  Then the Panthers come to town on Saturday night in a game the Caps really have to win, both for their psyche and the division standings.  Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7 P.M.

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