Photo credit: Carolyn Kaster
Sitting just one point behind the division-leading Florida Panthers, Sunday afternoon’s duel between the Washington Capitals and Toronto was a tremendous opportunity to climb the east.
Brooks Laich scored a shorthanded goal (just the team’s third and first by any player not named Chimera) to get on the board first. Mathieu Perreault caught a rebound off Alex Semin’s drive to make it 2-0. Caps beat Leafs.
Michal Neuvirth‘s 100th start was 100 kinds of awesome. He was a barbarian in the cage, especially with that exemplary pad save on Matt Frattin in the third. Great shutout for the kid, his third of the season. 23 saves.
- Brooks Laich‘s theft from Jake Gardiner to score that shorty was a thing of beauty, but don’t let the aesthetics distract you from the diabolical mastermind behind it. Speaking to Al Koken during intermission, Brooks said he “watched the [Leafs] game last night. Gardiner came up the ice and did the same thing.” This was a goal made possible by watching tape and using your brain.
- The Capitals looked strong in the first, but saw their possession advantage disappear in a second period plagued by bad breakouts and a neutral zone choked by Leafs. The way the Capitals play with a lead is not just boring, it’s dangerous.
- Late in the second period, Mike Knuble found himself paired with Alex Ovechkin on the top line. Kanoobs set up behind the net, in Gretzky’s office, and picked a moment to sneak around front. Sneak around he did, attempting a stuff, but was met once more with a goalie’s pads. That was a golden scoring chance nullified by sheer, crummy luck.
- Alex Semin‘s 10-game streak without a penalty ended tonight with a total soft whistle. No matter, as his strong puck control and quick shot made Matty Perreault’s goal possible. While the Ottawa Sun is saying– nay guessing— that Sasha will be headed to the KHL next year, we think seeing 28 in Caps red next season is pretty likely. The big question is: $$$?
- Although it did not convert, the Caps first period power play was pretty like a painting. Usually Ovechkin on point means stifling passes and few shots, but this was something else. Alex Semin worked below the goal line, Keith Aucoin camped out up front, and the Capitals fired 3 shots on net (with a few more missed and blocked). Given another chance, this PP unit will scoar.
- What happens when you don’t play Jeff Halpern against a roster with Dirty Dave Steckel, the Career-crushing Machine, on it? You get dominated on the faceoff. The Caps won just 35%, and Stecks himself won 8 of 9.
- Marcus Johansson had the goldenest of golden scoaring chances late in the third, but the puck rolled on him. That’s the kind of shot that haunts you when you’re kissing a pretty lady or baking bread or walking the dog. It’s flop sweat, increased heart rate, and instant panic on the order of a homecoming-dance erection.
- Nary a peep from Kessel or Phaneuf. Just how we like it.
Looks like the Florida Panthers are treating the Hurricanes to a beatdown, so the Caps gain no ground in the division race, but this is still a valuable win. Our boys are one point behind with one more game played.
Alright, that’s it. The Caps are done in D.C. for a while. Now, at this crucial juncture, they embark on the biggest road trip of the season– and their toughest. We’ve been eyeing this stretch— which includes Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia– since the schedule was announced back in the late 80s. It’s gonna be a gauntlet– and it will dictate this team’s future.
No more Verizon Center for a while. The boys are gonna have to do it without us.