That is how you do it! The Washington Capitals have done the unthinkable: playing two smart games back to back.
Who better to get us started that Andrew Gordon? His goal-crashing shot off a speedy Marcus Johansson pass was the night’s first goal and the first of Andrew’s NHL career. (We knew you could do it!) The Devils responded with a Patrik Elias whizzer from above the circles, expertly screened by former Cap Danius Zubrus. Hershey’s own Jay Beagle returned fire with a chip-in up close. On a breakaway. Jason Chimera brushed off a hook and converted. Alex Ovechkin pulled an honest-to-goodness statue-of-liberty play with John Carlson, who launched a neutrino puck into Marty Brodeur’s net. Finally, Mike Knuble gingerly diverted a Tom Poti shot for the free wings. Caps beat Devils 5-1.
- Andrew Gordon, did you have fun today?
- Seriously, Gordo had a blast out there, and that’s exactly what the team needed. Crashing an omega-level goalie like Martin Brodeur is a great way to get started in the NHL. And the kid knows how to celebrate:
- Alex Ovechkin put one shot on net. Yeah. That’s not going to bust him out of the slump. Between his malaise and Alex Semin‘s manic-depressive play, it’s a good thing that the Hershey guys are playing like they actually care.
- The Capitals powerplay was a bummer. Nick Backstrom and Mike Green stood statuesque as the Devils counted the seconds. Alex Ovechkin shifted from the point the crease, where he was welcomed by the Devils PKers with some pops to the head. No goals and precious few chances, despite five Devils penalties and 1:18 of two-man advantage.
- Per Mike Vogel, Bradley will miss 2-4 weeks with a broken finger. I am devastated. Matt Bradley put Anton Volchenkov on the ice with a monster check in the first period. Not sure what happened in the second, but #10 did not return to the ice for the third. 6:44 TOI. UPDATE:
- John Carlson: plus-4 rating, one screaming goal, 24 minutes of great hockey.
- RockTheRed.net observed this morning: “Chimera looks about ready to break out of his slump, roofing shootout moves.” His penalty-drawing, top-shelf breakaway goal proves that practice pays off.
- Michal Neuvirth‘s numbers were sterling: 35 saves on 36 shots. Don’t let the offensive resurgence be the only story you take from this game; Neuvy was a star. Hope he’s ready for Thursday, cause he’s going to get the nod.
- The Devils actually led the Caps in shots 36 to 28. After so many 30+ shot losses, here’s more proof that it’s the quality of the shot that matters more. And if you can measure the shot distance in inches (Beagle, Knuble, Gordon), that’s even better.
Here comes either the smartest or dumbest analysis ever. Sure, the Capitals win when they play better, but they also play better when they win. The boys were surging, having fun, connecting on passes, and dominating zone time. And it all started when the Hershey Bears contingent got ’em started. The attitude was infectious. Even when Ovechkin would flub a shot, his goofy grin stuck around. The goals that felt infuriatingly out of reach came easy tonight, even with a titan in the other net. That’s Caps hockey: high-octane, high-scoring, fun.
If they keep that energy up, it’s gonna be a good winter.
Pittsburgh on Thursday. I’ll be at a bachelor party in D.C., so Ian will be covering the game. It was nice knowing you all. Go Caps. CRASH THE NET.