ROBO-BRADLEY DOES NOT COMPUTE POST-GOAL EMOTION. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Last week’s loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres inflicted more psychological damage than anything else. The Washington Capitals have been adjusting line combinations and trying chemistry experiments ever since. Like a gauntlet thrown down, tonight’s game challenged the Capitals to play a complete hour of hockey for the first time in a while. Not quite there yet, guys.
On a 5-on-3 power play, Alex Semin set up Nicky Backstrom for a backdoor knock-in. Matt Bradley followed that up by converting an excellent pass from Jason Chimera. That same line hooked up for the third goal, again facilitated by Chimera, but put in net by a well-timed shot from David Steckel. For a while it looked like Ryan Miller had been defeated, but the Sabres recovered with a two-goal burst in the second period sponsored by Derek Roy and Jordan Leopold. Goalie Michal Neuvirth reasserted himself in third period, turning away all ten attempts. With the Buffalo net abandoned, Alex Semin launched an ICBM from the Caps zone to punctuate it. Caps beat Sabres 4-2.
Your Wednesday night bullets:
- Matt Bradley was the Palm Restaurant Player of the Game, and you’re darn skippy he earned it. Bradley’s shifts were the most energetic of the night. He recorded five shots on goal, scored one goal, had one assist, and bled zero ounces of Bradley-brand blood.
- Jason Chimera has found a great way to fit in on this team: chase the puck into the boards like a maniac, then chip it out to a waiting scorer. Two points for Chimmer and the first star of the game.
- Alex Semin‘s empty net goal is a thing of wonder. I mean, his assist on Backstrom’s goal was pretty, but his empty netter was a painting. An impressionist masterpiece on the order of Manet. And like Manet, it looks even better from 142 feet away.
- The top line of Ovechkin-Johansson-Knuble was the worst on ice. They were the only Caps in the red for Corsi: Ovi (-10), Knuble (-10), MJ90 (-8). The favored D-pairing also struggled: Green (-7) and Schultz (-5). Yeesh.
- The one-minute long breakdown should not be used to impugn Michal Neuvirth‘s work in net. Left out to dry by a failed Brooks Laich clear and an oblivious Jeff Schultz, Neuvi didn’t have much of a chance in those two tallies. After shaking the cobwebs loose, Michal was superb in the final minutes. He’s never been a flashy guy, but those ultimate saves were awfully Varlamov-ian.
- The second period found the Sabres with 7 more scoring chances than the Capitals. Is there no lead they can’t almost blow?
One of my favorite virtues in the Caps is their ability to find strength in unlikely places. Alex Ovechkin essentially disappeared tonight; he was sort of a liability. Ovi’s troubles of late are like a clarion call to the grinders, inspiring them to step up. But I guess we can’t be too surprised when Matt Bradley kicks it up a notch. Matt Bradley is a rock, a fob watch, a homecooked meal from mom. Matt Bradley soars on the wings of griffins and plucks dragon teeth for sport. I am a Matt Bradley fan– and tonight– so are you.
The Capitals have points in nine straight games. They’ve won the last seven home games. It’s a good night, friends. Ian will have the reins on Friday; go easy on him.
Look! We went an entire recap without mentioning Ryan Miller’s hair. Ah. Dammit!
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.