Michal Neuvirth robs Eric Staal. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)
The Washington Capitals began their transcontinental road trip in style. Undisputed #1 goalie, Michal Neuvirth, delivered a flawless hour in net to shut the Carolina Hurricanes out at their first home game of the year. While a bothersome number of Caps (Varlamov, Poti, Johansson, Gordon) missed the game, the remaining players sported great performances. Matt Hendricks converted a nasty supine pass from David Steckel to score the only goal the Caps needed. Nicklas Backstrom recovered a rebound from Mike Knuble to score the second goal, and deposited the third in an empty net.
But it’s Mikey Neuvirth’s first NHL shut-out that captures our imagination tonight. Neuvi stopped 29 shots, half of dozen or more in spectacular fashion. Despite noble efforts, Eric Staal and Joe Corvo simply could not best the Czech prodigy. Caps beat Canes 3-0.
- Before the game I typed out this note on my 1913 Corona typewriter: Wanna see Nuevy [sic] get his stats to match his talent– above .920 sv% and GAA around 2 — but that might be up to the rest of the Caps. Welp, go ahead and check that off the list. Michal was simply superb.
- Congrats to Matt Hendricks on his first goal as a Capital. With that hat trick in the pre-season and his eager grit, Hendricks might be George McPhee’s best roster change this year.
- Matt Hendricks’ goal was clouded by a possible goalie interference call. It seems David Steckel‘s arse colliding with Cam Ward‘s head might violate some deep corners of the rulebook. But no, Ward had left the painted sanctum, opening himself up to a Swiss Medallion. [UPDATE: here's a good analysis of the play from The Hosers.]
- Nicky Backstrom‘s sleepy season opening is now over. He picked up Cam Ward’s leavings on his first goal of the night and sniped his second against a vacant net. Watch out, Niklas Backstrom, Nicklas Backstrom is coming for you!
- Alex Ovechkin‘s charging penalty was a goof. If the “reckless” reputation from last year really does bug him, he really ought not get airtime when checking his foes into the boards.
- Mike Green is back! I’d give you his total ice time [Ed. note- 23:43 per Corey Masisak], but NHL.com’s database seems to have the fugue. You’ll have to settle for this:
- Greenie’s third period tripping penalty was either a blown call or a vicious slew foot, depending on your allegiances.
- Begrudgingly, Canes leader Eric Staal was worthy opponent. But seeing him lose his composure after repeated denials from our #30 was highly enjoyable. By the end there, Staal was overworked– looking like a frustrated badger tweaked out on nasal decongestants. That’s how the other team should always look!
- The members of the first line continue to surf slightly different frequencies of the wavelength. There were a few magic passes, but the precognition and timing that we expect are simply not present yet. Regardless, Nicky Backstrom got two goals, and Knuble got two apples. For a malfunctioning line, that’s pretty great.
- Neil reports that John Erskine and Tyler Sloan sported +21 and +18 CORSI ratings, respectively, before the NHL database committed seppuku. Damn. We kinda feel bad about that post from earlier now. Good work, boys! We’re happy to be proven wrong.
- Mathieu Perreault couldn’t match his heavenly performance from Saturday. He and Semin and Laich didn’t even have an offensive zone start through two periods. Nonetheless, he did supply Semin a few nasty chances. That probably balances out the pathetic giveaway and tough times in the defensive zone that followed. Luckily, Nuevi was there to save his French-Canadian bacon.
- Before Backstrom secured the game, the Canes kept the assault alive in the third. Boudreau relied upon… sigh… Carlzner to shutdown Carolina. 27-74 took 6 of 11 defensive zone starts.
Tonight’s battle didn’t come with the fireworks we might expect from the Capitals, instead it did showed something remarkable and novel: subtlety. The Capitals played a sober and restrained defensive game, leaning a bit on the chippy side at times. Forwards helped out in defensive scrums and shut down the Canes at every chance. The 3rd and 4th lines continued to nip a the heels of the top two. The Caps played a solid hour of hockey anchored by their champion: goofy-faced puck-bigot, Michal Neuvirth.
I doubt that tonight’s game has revealed a new kind of Capitals hockey. The desperate, hungry, goal-fixated aspect of the Caps personality will surely re-assert itself at some point. But while the team is wounded and wandering, I could get used to this.
Note: we might have more notes once the corpse of NHL.com reanimates. Check back if it befits you.