Matt Hendricks beats up Steve Downie blindfolded. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
The Washington Capitals hoped the Winter Classic buzz wouldn’t interfere with their hometown appointment with Southeast rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. With both teams sitting atop the division, the stakes were high, even if the game lacked the theatrics of Saturday’s Hustle at Heinz.
Unfortunately, the Caps couldn’t set off any offensive fireworks. After a sleepy first period, the red team started mounting a real effort, but they never beat 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson, just acquired from the Islanders. In overtime, it was another vet, Martin St. Louis, who finally put a puck past Semyon Varlamov, a tasty rebound off Vincent Lacavalier. At least we got one standings point. Bolts beat Caps 1-0 (OT).
- Props to Semyon Varlamov, he of 37 saves and steely groin, for the almost-shutout effort. After a shaky first half of the season, the kid is making real strides towards consistency. Tonight was a wonderfully varlicious performance.
- 6 shots, 0 goals, 2 PIMs, 2 giveaways, countless minor gaffes. #BadSasha indeed for Alex Semin. After dropping two hat tricks on the Bolts earlier, I was expecting a lot more from the guy. But expectations are like raindrops rolling smoothly off the freshly waxed hood of the sports car that is Sasha Minor.
- On the bright side, the 26-39-83 line was competent in shutting down Steven Stamkos and his peeps. They allowed only two even strength chances against all night.
- RMNB is a big fan of the scrappy Laich-Perreault-Semin combination, but we’re not immune to those persistent pleas for a solid second line center. Still, I’d argue that it’s just a matter of time until Marcus Johansson, with 5 scoring chances for and only 1 against, becomes the player we need him to be. Heck, he was 4 of 8 (50%) on faceoffs tonight.
- Three more powerplay attempts without a goal and only 2 scoring chances. They even gave up a chance against. The drills aren’t working; it’s time to reformulate. Let’s try putting D.J. King on the point.
- The game’s highlight, without a doubt, was Matt Hendricks‘ bout with NHL Miss Congeniality Steve Downie. After a fracas in the corner, the two dropped gloves. Downie pulled Hendy’s sweater over his head, but did not realize that Matt fights primarily using his sense of smell. Hendricks looked fine after the rumble, but Downie had to nuzzle up to an ice pack.
- At 41 years, Dwayne Roloson is not a spring chicken by NHL standards. And though we can’t honestly say the Caps sufficiently crashed the net tonight, Roloson’s victory was still well earned. Let’s look forward to facing the old man next week, and then bury him in pucks and the crease-crowding rear ends of numbers 21 and 22.
- Alex Ovechkin took 8 shots, had 3 blocked, and missed another 5. His line accounted for half (11 of 20) of the Caps’ even-strength scoring chances. But no goals. So what will it take to score? I recommend Mike Knuble drop him off at the goat farm with a serrated knife and some of his Zoroastrian sacrifice totems.
The Caps are now second in the division.
With a low-output performance like tonight, the Capitals should be delighted with the single point they took away. The Tampa Bay Lightning are clearly a formidable team and one the Caps will be dueling with until April. And that’s probably a good thing. Pressure from within the division will render impossible the sabotaging insouciance we saw last spring right before the playoffs.
We’ll see Tampa Bay next week. And by then, the Caps will know full well how to win: crash the dern net.
Catch you on Saturday night for a dance with the Panthers.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.