Jason Chimera’s bank shot off Bryan Elliott merits celebration. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
The Washington Capitals came back to earn a crucial win over the Ottawa Senators on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. The worst first period team in hockey, the Caps did nothing to shake off that label today. But a late-game effort kicked off by the team’s morale leader woke them up to snatch two much-needed standings points.
Only 72 seconds into the bout, Mike Fisher scored Ottawa’s only goal while Jeff Schultz wandered aimlessly behind the net. Forty six minutes later, forechecking Brooks Laich snatched a turnover from the slot, tying the game and rousing his team in the process. Forty five seconds later and just two ticks into a power play, John Carlson bombed Bryan Elliott for the go-ahead goal. And then Jason Chimera banked one off the goalie’s back for some insurance. Caps beat Sens 3-1.
- This win was desperately needed. The Capitals have a scary schedule in the next month and a half. Entering this game with only a 5 point buffer between them and 9th place, the W was imperative.
- That said, the Capitals’ win came despite an agonizingly inert opening period. They had only five shots in the opening frame, and were way too eager to let an ugly goal against deflate them.
- Brooks Laich is not the team’s captain, but he is definitely the team’s leader. He speaks frankly, never dissembling, about problems with motivation and systems. Although not a typical goal scorer, he’s the team’s most reliable forward. His tying goal in this game was perfect. He did it on a vigorous forecheck per BBBB’s instructions, he positioned himself in front of the net, and he got his team pumped up to win. You don’t need a flashy video package to unleash the fury, you just need BL21. (Bonus: adorable.)
- John Carlson‘s GWG was the team’s only power play scoring chance on 2:02 of 5v4 time. The first period’s PP did demonstrate a few changes in the system however: Alex Ovechkin was off the point, dancing in the slot, while the Mike Green and Carlson helped put the puck on target. No results from the configuration yet, but if they can get zone entry sorted out, we could see a resurgence of the Capitals man-advantage team soon.
- Speaking of reconfigurations, Bruce is trying a brute-force attack on his line combinations. MJ90 centering the top line with Knuble at wing, MJ90 at wing with Backstrom at center, Backstrom demoted down to share time with A. Gordon on the third line, and Hershey’s Jay Beagle and Matty Perreault on the second. Total chaos, but at least he’s not stubbornly sticking to what doesn’t work.
- Nick Backstrom earned his demotion. He did win the face-off that led to Carlson’s PPGWG, but he also is goalless in twenty games and was on ice for only 4 scoring chances (3 while with Ovechkin and Johansson). Compare that to the other Swede, who saw 11 of the team’s 19 scoring chances. Sad to say it, but Backstrom has disappeared into the background.
- As far as I’m concerned, Michal Neuvirth got a shutout today.
- Alex Semin has apparently been placed on IR. Apropos for the team’s cipher, his injury remains undisclosed. With Matt Bradley and Eric Fehr also out (we’re awaiting a prognosis for his shoulder/collarbone injury), Hershey’s own Andrew Gordon took the trip down to D.C. for the game. But Andrew didn’t have a great game: 0 scoring chances for and 2 against over a team-low 8:42 TOI.
- Since the losing slump, Scott Hannan has asserted himself as the new reliable cornerstone of the Caps’ D-corps. He saw 6 scoring chances for and only one against.
- Milan Michalek crosschecked Karl Alzner headlong into the boards. It could have been a disastrous injury, but Karl returned to the ice not long after. Michalek should have received a major penalty for the infraction, but instead served only two seconds of the sentence. You see, the other half of Carlzner doesn’t take that nonsense lying down. Total vengeance goal. Alzner, unsinkable, got the secondary assist on Chimera’s tally.
This very easily could have been a loss. A shutout loss, on the heels of several bad beats and in advance of a daunting road trip, would have been bad news. We’re already in the process of attenuating our expectations– nay, aspirations– for this team’s post-season prospects. With the team’s best players still phoning it in, an inconsequential power play unit, and some bad injuries, the team has to go full bore from the opening puck drop. Today we only saw that full effort in the third period, once Brooks Laich (who, unless you forgot in the last minute, is not team captain) invoked it personally. Thanks to that, the Capitals are once again tied for #1 in the Southeast.
So yeah. A win is a win and all that, but there are still miles to go before the Caps can sleep. Philly on Tuesday!
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg, whom children adore.