The Washington Capitals hosted the Carolina Hurricanes in a pleasant matinee of stick’n’puck and HOLY WOW I SAW THE CAPS WIN IN PERSON FOR THE FIRST TIME EVAR!!!
Marcus Johansson got it started early with a crease-borne knock-in set up by Eric Fehr. A 2-on-1 breakway by the Alexes led to a picturesque second tally (Minor scored, Major gets the assist). Erik Cole made the Caps pay for not clearing the zone and put the Canes on the board early in the second period. There the score sat until only 2.2 seconds remained in regulation. With Cam Ward on the bench and an extra attacker up in our face, Eric Staal tied the game, earned the Canes a well deserved point in the standings, and sent us all the way to the shootout. Where Ovi and Varly totally dominated. Caps beat Canes 3-2 (SO).
- Head coach Bruce Boudreau‘s continual shuffling of lines may prove to be the shrewdest work of his career. Opposing teams are unable to match the Capitals forward combinations, and that may become a precious advantage in the postseason. Plus it gives us something to talk about! (e.g. – I want to Ovechkin on the right wing more and less of Knuble and Laich’s redundancies on the same line.)
- Alex Ovechkin: Soviet-made, goal-scoring engine? Maybe not so much. But in his place is a playmaking, assist-taking team player that may actually be more exciting. Ovi was on the ice for 8 of the Caps’ 15 even-strength scoring chances tonight (33/52 in the last 3 games). Even if he’s not scoring the goals, he’s essential to the Caps offense. Let Stamkos and Crosby (and Semin!) fight it out for Richard, the stats of Ovechkin’s team are what really matters.
- Mike Green returned to action tonight, but that return ended when Joni Pitkanen‘s shot collided with his knee during overtime. The sound of the impact was sharp, clear, and gruesome. Green needed help leaving the ice, and did not return. Bruce Boudreau reports that Mike is “okay”, which is astonishing since I felt his pain all the way up in the 200 level.
- Eric Fehr continues to drift in the wrong direction. He was on ice for only two 5v5 chances-for in 10:28 of playing time. His “scoring chances per 15 minutes” stat trends down in the last four games: 7.8, 2.3, 1.7, 1.4.
- We all knew Marcus Johansson was going to get better, but we didn’t expect he’d do it this fast. He scored the game’s first goal, worked the cycle capably, protected the puck like a doting mother, and did good work on the PK. There are some among us who might prefer another forward play in MJ90’s stead, but I imagine those opinions are softening lately.
- Tuomo Ruutu went 0 for 10 on the faceoff. Bwahahahaha.
- If anyone has a photo of Ovechkin cuddling with Eric Staal in the crease, please send that over right quick. IT HAPPENED, I PROMISE. (UPDATE: Here’s the best picture we could find, thanks to Clydeorama!)
- The afternoon’s imagination was captured by… let’s just call them rumblings about an impending trade. Do we know anything substantive yet? Nope! Nonethless, let’s let loose with wild guesses. My money’s on D.J. King to the Devils for a sack of nickels and some mozzarella sticks.
I don’t think anyone can seriously argue that this team is operating at 100% capacity. It’s unlikely that Tom Poti or Semyon Varlamov has completely recovered from the #brittlegroin scourge. Alex Ovechkin might be emerging from his own head to play actualized hockey again, but the goals aren’t there yet. So the Caps won three in a row despite their shortfalls. What to take away from this? God help a team facing them at full strength.
The Caps emerge victorious in another southeast match-up, and everything is lovely. Well, the second-period slump still sucks the life out of the Caps, and also someone seems to have purchased the now-blackened souls of hockey officials. But surely those things won’t ever come back to haunt us!
On a personal note, I went to my first Capitals game over 15 years ago. It was against the Flyers at the Cap Centre, and the Capitals lost. I’ve been to maybe twenty games since then, and I’ve never seen the Capitals win. I saw ties when they were still around, I saw punishing overtime losses, and I saw mind-stabbing and season-ending blowouts. But until tonight, no wins. So thank you, Washington Capitals, for the visceral delight of watching you win in person for the very first time. I’m seriously considering becoming a fan.
Peter Hassett will have your gamer later tonight when he returns home from Verizon Center. Until then, feel free to chat about the Caps third straight victory in the comments below. The curse is over.