Caps beats Ducks 5-4 (OT), Nick Backstrom is Crazy Good

by Mitchell Layton

Pot roast. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

The Washington Capitals had only one date with the Anaheim Ducks on the calendar this year, so they played it like two totally different teams. The Caps of the first half hour were disorganized and besieged. The Caps of the second half hour were focused and buzzing. A hole was dug by the former and filled in by the latter.

Saku Koivu siezed on bad communication between Wideman and Hamrlik to score the game’s first goal. Teemu Selanne took a pass from Koivu for a lay up goal to make it 2-0. Selanne notched another one in the second period, thanks for some more bad defense and a weak-side pass. Joel Ward got the Caps on board with a close wrister that went five-hole. Dennis Wideman capitalized (puns!) on a scrambling Hiller, slapping home a goal making it 3-2. Corey Perry took a couple swats at a loose puck in the paint to make it 4-2. Troy Brouwer’s shot gave Hiller trouble and kept the game interesting.  With six attackers and less than a minute remaining, Nick Backstrom made the net quiver. Tie game. 4-on-4 overtime, where Backstrom struck again by slapping a bouncing puck into a gaping net. Game over! Caps beat Ducks 5-4 (OT).

Teemu Selanne, photo by Kyle Mace, who rules.

Teemu Selanne is intense. (Photo credit: Kyle Mace)

  • Nicky GD Backstrom. Maybe it was facing the European pros on the Ducks, maybe it’s just Movember. But something certainly got stirred inside the team’s dominant Swede. Two goals– the tying and winning tallies, his third and fourth of the season. Backstrom is your team’s points leader with 14.
  • Welcome to the National Hockey League, Cody Eakin. You are 20 years old, already a world famous snowboarder and skateboarder, a prop comic, and a Gryffindor stalwart. Now you are a Capital of Washington. 13:19 ice time, 3 shots, and a dandy chance at the game-tying goal. He’ll get it next time.
  • Welcome back to the line-up, John Erskine. Your shoulder healed, your face shorn, your tree-trunk legs pumping furiously to move your mass. We missed you, ya big lug.
  • The Caps are allowing an alarming number of shots against this season, a bunch of which can be laid at the feet of the struggling D-Corps. The new pairing of Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik were on ice for the first two Ducks goals, looking bewildered and out of sync. A missed reverse-pass led to one goal; inability to read the offense’s passes led to the second. The duo was broken up for the second period. And there was much rejoicing.
  • Roman Hamrlik was on ice for every Ducks goal. Every. One.
  • What is the deal with Teemu Selanne? We don’t see the 41-year-old flash a lot over here in the East, but dayumn. Ain’t nobody covering that guy. Whether that’s our team’s fault or a testament to his speed is matter of debate. Either way, on a team with the depth problems that Anaheim has, Selanne is Finnish gold.
  • How bad is Anaheim’s depth? Nick Bonino’s and Brandon McMillan’s lines gave up too many shots against and were not trusted with many shifts in the game’s back half– recording 8 and 5 fewer minutes than the Ducks’ top line.
  • RMNB grad Neil Greenberg wrote a solid piece for WaPo today addressing the output problems with the meat’n’taters line of Ward-Laich-Chimera and celebrating its dissolution. Surely, the trio read the piece together and resolved to prove Neil wrong. The Caps’ two goals in the middle frame were thanks to their effort. Them and…
  • Dennis Wideman, whose 10 points in 10 games is tied with Ovechkin for second best on the team. Backstrom has 12, obvs.
  • #41 Andrew Gordon, now an Anaheim Duck, had 14:11 of ice time, 2:11 of it shorthanded. No offense to speak of. He’ll need to distinguish himself in the next 10 games lest he fall back on his blogging career.
  • The Capitals were without a penalty (if you ignore Matt Hendricks’ fight, which we do) until Tomas Vokoun tripped Corey Perry. Perry scored on the ensuing power play. The Capitals PK still sucks.

Joe B suit of the night

The last offensive-zone possession of the Capitals’ last power play ended with Alex Ovechkin trying to move the puck between a defender’s legs. Once upon a time, this move worked. It does not any more. Now it is an infuriatingly selfish play that deprives the team of any chance at scoring. The puck-handling whiz version of Alex Ovechkin needs to retire. It’s time for Alex Ovechkin v2.0– a positionally savvy, cherry-picking deviant– to reign.

Fitting then, that Bruce Boudreau didn’t give Ovechkin a tap on the shoulder for that extra-man shift at the end of regulation. This is the Age of Accountability after all, and not even the Great Eight is beyond reproach.

But a win is a win. And for all the pathos of that first period, we look at the bright spots: Dennis Wideman is soaring and Nick Backstrom knows when to strike. The Capitals played a disciplined game, except for that one lapse by their goalie. It’s progress.

We’ll talk about the defensive goofs and the reconfigured line-ups, but for now– the Caps are still perfect at Verizon Center.

See you on Friday, when the Capitals will drive you crazy for a little while before turning into a totally different team.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s tired of Ovi goofing around every single time he brings the puck down the ice.  It seems like the second and third lines are carrying this team early in the year.

  • EvilPrairieDog

    I think the lower lines really are carrying the team.  I love Ovi–he’s my favorite player–but I think Bruce made the right call tonight.  Ovi’s not changing his moves and everyone knows them.   Maybe this will finally be the match to light a fire under him and make him realize that he needs to work at reinventing himself a bit.  He’s lost a lot of his unpredictability.  I have to think it was a huge message that was sent tonight.   I didn’t think Bruce would ever have the guts to do it.

  • Stardragon66

    I hope Eakin hangs around a while. Impressive! Ovi bashing is rampant today-re:Alex ovetjkin blog. Hope it doesn’t get him more down than he already is. Maybe Bruce’s line switching is confusing the heck out of our guys. They get the chemistry going with a linemate and Wham! there’s somebody else’s face across the ice and you’re not too sure where he’ll be or what he’ll do. Not good.Put Knuble back where he’s supposed to be!

  • Ovi “bashing???”  C’mon?  The guy has become nothing more than a well above average left winger.  He seems to give 100%, he hits HARD, but at the end of the day, I challenge anyone to say with a straight face that he’s as awesome as he was.  He whiffs, trips over his own feet, still has a low shooting percentage, and his moves just don’t work like they used to.  If that is bashing, then sorry.  I think it just looks at things as they are.

  • I don’t think Ovi calling Bruce a Fat F-word helps either…

  • I don’t think Ovi calling Bruce a Fat F-word helps either…

  • WAS buddy.  They need awesome now, not three or four years ago.  The team deserves a captain that plays hard every single night, not some nights.  

  • I do think he gives the effort.  The problem, as I see it, is that his efforts are misguided.  He’s trying to be what he WAS not as he is.

  • Pingback: Catching Up With Former Capital Andrew Gordon()

  • Peter

    If I were BB, I’d bench his insubordinate ass for a week.

  • Hokaheyhockey

    Folks, I think we’re suffering from an intense case of media hype regarding Ovie’s performance.  No pun intended, but I can think of 8 reasons why: 1. Media looking for a story to sell;2. Ovie has been off his game – both in the immediate sense and the past season;3. The rest of the Caps is doing so spectacularly well, so Ovie’s general lackluster performance and recent bad moves on the ice is quite a contrast not only to his own standard, but the rest of the team’s;4. It does take nerve to bench the captain; that’s far, far rarer than pulling a goalie;5. Our winning 7 games in a row was a real humdinger, not just for the Caps but any team, so everyone’s mood and expectations are much more elevated and aroused than usual;6. Let’s face it, what other sport can you see on TV where the F word and fights are legal and legit?  (Props to Boudreau, the Grand Master of the F Word if there ever was one, for not taking seriously Ovie’s very human reaction to his decision);7. Sociologically, seeing a guy cuss out the boss in public is a real big no-no among men (How often have you seen it at your office?  Better question:  How many times did you wish you someone had chewed out your boss, but didn’t?); and,8. Without Crosby on the ice, who else is soooo very interesting to talk about?

  • Hokaheyhockey

    And one more thing….None of these 8 factors contributing to all the media is significant by itself (although I do think number 4 is the ringer), but when you combine them all together, you’ve got story — but story worthy only of the National Enquirer!

  • It’s difficult to watch the fans and sometimes the non-involved bloggers miss the big picture. (RMNB not included) They can’t ever seem to see past Alex Ovechkin. I get it…he’s the star…..

    I don’t think that Ovie has suddenly become a terrible frumpy hockey player as much as I believe that the team around him has become A LOT better. The depth built in the last year alone is why I don’t expect Ovechkin to be the glaring star he was 3 season ago. With guys like Backstrom, Ward, Chimera, Johansson & Green (this list could include nearly the entire roster minus Jeff Schultz….yes I said it! It HAS to be said!) the Great 8 is going to have to find a way to update his game. The entire NHL is on to his curl & drag. There are entire defensive lines built around shutting him down.

    I think this is ultimately this is the depth GMGM has been working towards. Now they need to stay as consistant in the first 40 minutes of the game as the last 20. We can’t call it a success yet but I think we’re well on our way.

  • Peter

    Wow. This is a measured and thoughtful analysis. It is polite and even-keeled. You’re clearly on the wrong website.