Photo credit: Mitchell Layton
The Washington Capitals finally met their playoff pals, the Montreal Canadiens, for the first time since that awful, awful night. Recently de-Halak‘d, the Habs remain a formidable team and one that the Caps had no trouble getting amped up to face.
Hershey import Jay Beagle got on the big board first with a stunning no-look, behind-the-back, knick-knack, paddywack shot over Carey Price’s shoulder. Mike Green took a freight train into a timing play to make it 2-0 off a Nicky Backstrom pass. The score was unchanged until Price abdicated his throne, which is like chumming the water to a shark like Alex Ovechkin. His empty netter finalized the score. Caps beat Habs 3-0.
- Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 pucks, including many nasty ones in the early minutes, to earn himself a dandy shutout. Varly looked sharp moving laterally, going to splits, getting his pads in front of pucks, and generally looking wall-ish. If BBBB’s win-one-play-one policy holds true, Varly should be your starter on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
- Did anyone enter tonight’s game expecting a performance like this out of Jay Beagle? Even if you set aside his picture-perfect goal, Jay blocked six, won 7 of 11 faceoffs, and seized upon loose pucks like a maniac. Hard hat? Hard hat.
- Two weeks ago, Eric Fehr was flirting with healthy scratches. Since then he’s come back hard. F16 had six shots, many of which from up in Carey Price’s grill, and a plus-2 rating over 13:50 of ice time.
- 60-minute game! That’s right. You didn’t see one crummy period all night. That alone is a reason to cheer.
- Early on, P.K. Subban leveled an impressive hit on Jason Chimera to establish a physical presence for the Canadien heel. Subban earned boos from the Verizon Center crowd all night, but Big John Erskine didn’t forget him either. John caught P.K. unawares with a monster hit behind the Caps goal early in the third. Yeah, it was an interference penalty, but it was also a matter of principle for the Capitals’ resident lumberjack.
- Babyface Dave Steckel scored, but the officials had lost sight of the puck and washed the goal out. Weak, refs. Real weak.
- Welcome back, Jeff Schultz. Only 13 minutes on ice, but it’s a start.
- Andrew Gordon has no stats of any kind to show for 8:22 of ice time, but he looked like a stud cycling the puck in the offensive zone and working the dump-and-chase routine like a veteran. We’ll have to wait for Neil’s input for some quantitative analysis, but I liked A-Gord’s play tonight.
- Stick penalty. Alex Semin. Sunrise. Sunset.
- Did I forget anything? Oh yeah. The embarrassingly entropic Capitals power play. 0 for 7. The Canadiens gave them no shortage of chances, and the Caps did move the puck around brilliantly, but they just couldn’t sink it. They gotta turn this around on Saturday. They just gotta.
Hey anyone else noticed that all the Caps’ best players tonight were current or former Hershey Bears? Fehr, Green, Beagle, Varly. Not only did these guys win the game, but they demonstrated for the rest of the team how to hustle to win games.
Alright, that’s it for 2010. Crazy year, right? The Capitals have three days off before the Winter Classic. I’ll be up in Pittsburgh to get soaked and freeze like everyone else, Ian will be covering the game from the heated comforts of home, and we’ll have a couple surprises for you, too. Crash the net, boys. You’re ready.