Just another ho-hum night for Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 assists. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s best and worst teams, Bruce Boudreau opted to scratch three of his regulars — Jason Arnott, Scott Hannan and Alexander Semin — in the Capitals final home game of the regular season. After seeing his team play a tough 65 minutes in Toronto, Boudreau saw no compelling reason to field his best roster, especially considering the Capitals had already clinched their fourth straight Southeast division title.
Despite there being some signs pointing to Mike Green returning to the line-up tonight, Boudreau opted to sit the two-time Norris Trophy finalist as well. Boudreau told the Washington Post’s Greg Schimmel after today’s morning skate that, “No [Green won’t play tonight], but you know what, he’s ready to play and, I mean, he’s been symptom-free for three weeks plus. It’s just we’re trying to be as cautious as we can with things, just as other people are with guys that they have as concussions and could probably play, but they want to make 100 percent sure. We feel he’ll be good to go on Saturday.”
The Capitals “B” team, however, didn’t miss a beat. Before the game was a minute old, Marcus Johansson — he of the ever-burgeoning confidence — inside outted Mike Weaver with an extra-crispy move. Helpless and out of position, Weaver took a tripping penalty, sending the Capitals power play immediately onto the ice. Mike Knuble, the beneficiary of a Brooks Laich power move to the net, scored 23 seconds into the man-advantage. Jason Chimera, brilliantly set-up by Nicklas Backstrom, then scored via a tap-in on Washington’s second powerplay of the night to close the opening stanza.
The Capitals would never look back. Sean Collins would score his second career NHL goal on a rarely-seen four-on-two odd man break during the second period, Matt Hendricks would pot a goal in front of the net after some hard forechecking in the corners and Alex Ovechkin would add an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season. Caps maul Panthers, 5-2.
- Please immediately go over to Knuble’s Knights’ blog and thank them for creating the good vibes surrounding the game’s first goal. Great work, guys!
- If there’s one person on earth who definitely doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, it’d be Scott Clemmensen. Despite being a veteran of over 120 NHL games and previously apprenticing under future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, Clemmensen has somehow still not mastered how to defend plays behind the net, which I thought was a pretty basic thing. On Chimera’s power play goal, the thirty three-year old back-up goaltender guessed wrong on what Nick Backstrom was doing, and on Hendricks tally, he did not hold the post strong and watched another gimme go into the net. Sure, Florida’s defense has more holes in it than a gourmet slice of Swiss cheese, but Clemmensen did little to help give the rebuilding club a chance to win tonight.
- That reminds me. Time seriously flies. How has it been over a decade since I watched Panthers fans happily throw plastic rats onto the ice in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals? For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read up on the hilarious story here on Wikipedia. The Panthers organization has pretty much been stuck in disarray since then and I really feel sorry for the team’s hardcore fans. As a person who has rooted for the Orioles all my life and have suffered through their 13 consecutive losing seasons, it takes an emotional toll. I honestly hope the Panthers get it together. Though when the team gives away one of their best assets like Dennis Wideman — who still has another year left on his contract — for a third round pick and Jake Hauswirth, it’s really hard to see how their current regime could return the organization to greatness.
- The best news of the night: no one got injured. ::High Five::
- Washington has won four straight games and can drop out of first place only if it loses in regulation to Florida on Saturday and if the Philadelphia Flyers win their last two games. Sweet.
- During the game, Andrew Gordon announced on Twitter that he received his long-coveted “Magic Bullet” in the mail. God, I love this team.
- Per the Caps Media, Mike Knuble now has 13 points (9 goals, 4 assists) in his last 13 games. Brooks Laich has six points (all assists) during his current five-game point streak.
- In the first period, Scott Clemmensen faced six shots and let in two. On the opposite end of the ice, Semyon Varlamov stopped all 18 shots Florida threw at him. You can’t say this often, but tonight’s tilt was won in the first period. Varly, who made 31 saves, definitely deserved to be the game’s first star of the night.
- I personally was very happy to see Sean Collins net the game’s third goal. After talking to him in Hershey last year, the guy has really craved playing in the NHL since his 15-game stint in 2008-09. There was probably no one more enthused about tonight’s victory than him. Major props are also extended to Laich for collecting the puck that he scored the goal with and giving it to the training staff for Collins to keep forever.
- All this crashing of the net is getting me excited. It seems like every goal the Capitals have scored lately has been preceded by a power move towards the opponent’s crease.
For the second straight year, every Capitals home game was sold out, a streak now extending to 101 consecutive games. This IS a hockeytown.
- A few other nuggets: Marcus Johansson was two for nine in the faceoff dot. Matt Bradley had five hits in 12 minutes of ice time. Brooks Laich won nine of 12 draws. The Capitals are 39-0-3 when scoring three or more goals.
We’ll see you Saturday for the Capitals final tilt of the year in Sunrise. Then time for the PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!@!@!@!!!!!