First rule of hockey writing: if there’s a photo of a guy hit in the junk, USE IT. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

The Florida Panthers were still coming down off blowing out Tampa 7-4 when they showed up for their game with the Washington Capitals. That big win must have taken a lot out of them, ’cause they just didn’t show up to play on Tuesday.

Three penalty killers gravitated to Alex Ovechkin, leaving Marcus Johansson enough space to score his third of the season. Early in the third period, Alex Semin effortlessly ripped the puck far side to make it 2-0. With an empty net, Alex Semin fed goal-scoring leader Jason Chimera, who lobbed it in for the coup de graceCaps beat Cats 3-0.

  • 5-0-0 to start the season. That hasn’t happened since ever.
  • Marcus Johansson’s first period goal was made possible by the triple coverage  Alex Ovechkin received in the high slot. We’ve long made the argument that Alex would serve better in the thick of things than on point, and the way Florida’s PK covered him up the middle seems to justify that. Putting Alex way up front may be the key to a new goal boom. And if Ovi heeds Neil Greenberg’s observation about shot volume, we may yet see a renaissance from the Great Eight himself.
  • Sean Bergenheim was a late scratch, depriving us of more Spencer Pratt jokes and depriving the Cats of a badly needed skater. Instead, Brian Campbell played over 28 minutes, contributing to the team’s fatigue.
  • When he was the Panthers’ goalie, Tomas Vokoun faced oodles of pucks every night. Last season he played 34 games with at least 30 shots against, 8 at or above 40. Tonight he faced a grand total of 20 shots. QED: Shut out, the 45th in his career.
  • We are five games in, and it’s time to talk about Roman Hamrlik. He has been on the ice for 7 of the 11 goals the Caps have given up this year and doesn’t yet look entirely comfortable with his defensive assignments so far. He had no striking defensive lapses tonight, but he did create two sad penalties. It’s not like any defenseman can look particularly bad against the Panthers. Still, of the new Caps players he’s the remaining rogue puzzle piece in your 400-piece TMNT: Coming Out of Their Shells jigsaw puzzle.
  • The meat’n’taters line of Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, and Jason Chimera continues to eat up ice time in the offensive zone and cycle the puck behind the opponent’s net. If you’re on any other team, you’re hating these guys right now. No huge numbers, but huge impact. T-shirt ideas, anyone? Anthropomorphic pot roast?
  • Who’s got points in five straight games and some gorey pictures of a compartment syndrome-y leg? Dennis Wideman, that’s who.
  • Alex Semin made his third period goal look easy, which is probably not ideal for a guy trying to convince everyone how much he cares. Next time: submarine a dude into the benches, pull one of those European moves where you use the nose of the stick, bank if off the glass, then the back of the goalie’s helmet, and in. Nothing but net.
  • Tough break for anyone looking for some ex-Caps drama. All we got was a minus-1 for Matt Bradley (Alex Semin’s goal, natch) and 21+ minutes of ice time for Tomas Fleischmann.

Joe B's suit of the night, pumpkin-flavored

Be glad this team is in the Southeast. The Panthers are ostensibly new: their chemistry is still congealing and their systems are taking form. Until that happens, the Capitals have five more opportunities for eerily game-like practices that count for real standings points. Le’ts hope the PP looks solid and the PK looks stolid every time the Cats and Caps meet.

Tomorrow we start talking about Jaromir Jagr, so be careful what you eat before bed. Serious vomit possibilities are imminent.

UPDATE: Adam Vingan– of Kings of Leonsis and like 75 other websites– reports witnessing Matt Bradley personally apologizing to Alex Semin after the game. Vingan tweets that Bradley said, “I love you, man”, which is just priceless. And with that, this story is officially OVER.

And this is traditionally the part of the post where we credit Neil Greenberg for his statistics and analysis. But Mr. Greenberg has finally graduated from RMNBU. We’ll keep reading Neil on WaPo’s Capitals Insider, ESPN Insider, and his whip-smart Twitter feed. We urge you to do the same. Thanks for making us look smart, Neil.

  • http://twitter.com/ngreenberg Neil, RMNB

    Thanks for the kind words. 

    Let me just say thanks to all the readers on RMNB. Your support and feedback was much appreciated. I won’t be going far, so stay with me and let me know if the RMNB boys get out of line.

  • Stephen

    T-shirt ideas for Ward-Laich-Chimera? The Buffet Line.

  • Pattyo

    Chimera will send you to a mental Ward Laich a BOSS!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryantpthomas Bryant Thomas

    You’re a bad mother f*cker, Mr. Greenberg, and I mean that in a good way.

  • http://twitter.com/thelastgoodnite greta arnold

    i believe tater tots should have something to do with this third line t-shirt idea. because tater tots are awesome.

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