Screengrab by: @recordsandradio
If I had told you in October that a late-February game against the Islanders would be one of the most important games of the season, you would have laughed yourself sick. This one was big, though. All of them will be from now on. The Caps hung in there, didn’t stop fighting, tied up the game in the most completely improbable fashion possible — and then they won. You might not have seen that one coming.
Josh Bailey glided right through a defensive breakdown and scored the first goal. Matt Moulson deflected a long shot in front of Neuvirth to make it 2-0. Brouwer scored one Knuble-style in front of the net with the clock winding down. Brouwer then officially became a certified hero by tipping in a second goal with seconds left to go and took us to overtime. Alex Ovechkin ended it with a five-hole beauty, and you know what? We might believe. Just a little bit. Caps win, 3-2.
- Let’s be honest. We would probably rather face absolutely any other Islanders goaltender, of the 567 possibilities they have available, because Evgeni Nabokov is the real deal. Tonight the Caps ended a 100-plus-minute streak in which Nabokov has shut them out in the Verizon Center, and hopefully no new streaks like that will be starting anytime soon.
- Dmitry Orlov uncaged! This was his first game free of the stylish college hockey look, ending a becage’d stretch in which he had a goal, 3 assists, and was +5 overall. For those of you who are superstitious, though, Orlov had a fantastic game, ending with +18 Corsi and a crushing hit on John Tavares in the middle of the third.
- The team had four “power plays” where they tried to “shoot” the puck at the net and score “power play goals”. This was executed with all the grace of water buffalos on ice. Caps have scored only once in their last 20 PP chances, and only twice in their last 32. We got trouble.
- As frustrating as it is to have a $3 million man on the fourth line, Ward-Halpern-Beagle have been gold for the Caps the last few games. They had a shift late in the first period where they were running over Islanders and destroying everything that sparked some of the Caps’ best offensive pressure of the night. They didn’t end up with anything to show for it, but man, they were trying. Perhaps we can borrow Nicklas Backstrom’s hands for one of them while he is on LTIR. Don’t worry, we’ll give them back.
- In fact, Jay Beagle was great all game, he had The Fire tonight. He ended with a team-high, career-high five shots on goal and was generally everywhere you looked at any given moment. There was also a season high number of dog-related twitter jokes. Aren’t we glad we didn’t trade him?
- Michal Neuvirth kept us in it, there were so many points at which the game could have become a February Leafs game and didn’t. He is always there for us, except for a few times earlier in the year which don’t count.
- Seriously, how do you stop this?
- Jeff Schultz, on the other hand, will be receiving no awards tonight, or at least not any flattering ones. His play has improved quite a bit since that extended scratch period, but tonight was just not Sarge’s night. The first goal can be directly pinned on him, and there were a few other instances of him giving away the puck away to Islanders or giving up ice. This should be considered treason and he should be court martialed.
- The Caps got a little loosey-goosey after the first, to paraphrase Joe B. The eyes were open, the feet were skating, but the brains had been left behind in the locker room. Someone get on convincing the league that the team with the most turnovers wins the Stanley Cup.
- Troy Brouwer is the man of the night, Beagle’s beagling regardless. He gave the team a sudden surge of life with a goal late in the third, and then knocked in the game-tying goal so late that the people who had already left to miss the traffic probably missed it. Just think: according to yesterday’s deadline market, Troy Brouwer = Paul Gaustad.
- Did you get a sense of deja vu on the Caps climbing back and Ovechkin’s OT winner? That’s because almost exactly one year ago, 3/1/2011, Ovechkin ended a game against the Islanders in overtime almost the exact same way. Re-watch that goal below and remember that this was when the hot run to the playoffs started. Credit: Fedor Fedin
Trade deadline did not go the way that many of us expected it to. There was no overhaul. There’s been a sense over the past few months that the Caps would be changing drastically come February, there was a lot of armchair GMing to be done and a lot of clear and reasonable excuses for the Caps’ performance. That’s over now. The trade freeze is on, these are your Washington Capitals.
We’ll see whether that ultimately turns out to be a good thing or a bad thing. There are certainly flaws in this roster, but there are flaws in every team around us in the standings, and the Southeast Division is a joke. The team that can manage to be the least awful will be in. The team is perhaps not as good as it appeared to be coming into October, but then sometimes for moments or for whole games they are fantastic, and there are players that we are so, so glad that we didn’t have to give up. All up to them now. Deadline’s past, no point dwelling. Tonight, they showed us that they just might be worth GMGM’s trust.