The east coast seems to have all the NHL talent these days, so when two titans like the Caps and the Devils meet, we’re in for a good game. The two division champions have met three times already this season, and the Devils bested the Caps each time– dammit. When the puck dropped last night, the sold-out Verizon Center and dozens of fans across the Comcast SportsNet viewing area held their breath, wondering if we were to lose another to NJD …or if the real Capitals team would show up. Glancing up at the scoreboard in the waning minutes of the third period and seeing a 4-1, we can report with some certainty that it was the Stanley Cup contender Caps on the ice tonight.
Everybody gets a present tonight:
- If Brendan Morrison’s between-the-legs goal against the Sabres was the hockey play of the week, Matt “the bloody” Bradley‘s fluke flop-in was the opposite. Bradley’s wrister was sailing high over the net, but Marty Brodeur wanted a piece of it. The puck bounced off a defender’s stick and then Marty’s glove and then dropped in the net. During a second-intermission interview, Matt dedicated the goal to his newborn son Henry, who we hear also was an accident.
- Game after game, I’m astonished that Michael Neuvirth gets playing time. I can’t help but get the feeling that Bruce Boudreau knows something about hockey I don’t, because the kid is doing a great job. His one 5-hole failure tonight was soft and unnecessary, but he handled 8 power play minutes with the head of a seasoned pro. We’re beginning to think he might actually be one.
- Tonight Alexander Semin got a penalty, an assist, and 6 million dollars. Apologies to the rest of the Russian Machine staff, but you can eat it. Semin’s the man!
- The Capitals failed to convert another minute of 2-man advantage, but not for lack of trying. The tactic was clear: get the puck to the goal line and pass it laterally, looking for a chip in. That’s what the Caps did– three or four times. It was exciting to see Ovechkin crowd the crease, but the effort didn’t contibute to the score, and the Caps power play woes continue.
- Nicklas Backstrom gets his fifth goal in as many games, his 200th career point (and 201st and 202nd), and earns a spot on Team Sweden. Even despite his meh faceoff percentage (50%, 33% in the Devils’ zone), Nicky is consistently the best center on the ice.
- Alexander Ovechkin scores. If he weren’t eight or so games behind Gaborik, he’d definitely be the goal leader right now. In addition to grabbing his 25th season goal, he assisted two other Caps goals tonight. For any other player, this would be exemplary. For the great 8, this is standard.
- Mike Green and his stupid hat had everything perfectly lined up for him before his slapper goal in the third period. I often worry that Mikey is overworked and beaten up, but if he can keep his performance this good through the spring, we’ll be fine.
An overwhelming beatdown for the Devils? Merry Christmas, D.C. Next week we’ve got a home game with those damn Caniacs and then a trip down to exotic San Jose to play the Sharks… who tie the Caps for first place in points. I think we can beat ’em.