Photo credit: Scott Audette
Happy Valentine’s Day, hockey lovers! I hate this stupid day, but I found a good way to pass the time. The Washington Capitals served the Tampa Bay Lightning to some offense-go-boom and peppered it with all the careless defense that makes Caps hockey both fun and infuriating.
Troy Brouwer executed a lovely passing sequence on the game’s opening power play, but Martin St. Louis evened the score with a series of swats at Holtby’s pads. Eric Fehr scored his second goal in as many games by going straight to the net, and then made it three with a rocket from outside in the third period. Jay Beagle reintroduced himself with the dirtiest goal ever scored by a half-human/half-hound. Teddy Purcell got one back with a zero-angle shot that probably went off a Caps skater’s boot, and Nate Thompson made it darn close with a breakaway that Holtby misread. The Caps survived a late-minute panic and earned the win.
Caps beat Lightning 4-3.
- Eric Fehr is possessed. After notching his first goal last game, Fehr followed up with two tonight: one crash-the-net tally, one sniper shot, plus some PK duty to even it out. I think Fehr should get some time with the top-6 forwards, perhaps winging for Backstrom and Ovechkin. The guy has the same instincts that led Knuble to moar goal success a couple years ago, and that’d be a good complement for 19 and 8, who seem averse to going to the crease lately. Wouldn’t hurt for GMGM to sign him for another year or ten as well.
- Big three-point night for Mathieu Perreault and now I eat crow since I was critical of him earlier this season. Fantastic work on the point of the power play, and he was instrumental in setting up both Fehr goals. He’s got his French Canadian mojo working. Unlike the Swedish Mojo, who is very much not working right now.
- The Caps have D problems. Holtby shouldn’t have to stop untrafficked wristers from the slot or deal with sustained volleys while the skaters amble around figuring out how to mark a man. I’m not sure I have a clear understanding yet of the forward’s assignments in their own zone and I’m generally unhappy with a couple of Caps defenders. I made the case last week that the Caps are gonna improve dramatically when the team defense starts clicking. They ain’t there yet.
- Braden Holtby was so much better than his defenders tonight. He stopped point-blank shots by Stamkos and Purcell and kept the defense alive when the rest of the guys looked necrotic. Going out to attack Thompson’s breakaway was the wrong play (and will attract more annoying Hextall comparisons), but it was a good game overall.
- The Caps offense looks terrific. They outshot the Bolts at 5-on-5 through two periods and utterly dominated the game’s first ten minutes. The team is still missing some connections (Wolsi, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Ribeiro each had golden chances snuffed). With some more chemistry and a little bit of luck, this team’s offense can stay productive even once their shooting percentage drops below one-in-five.
- The Capitals power play is just insane-o right now. 8 for the last 15. If Troy Brouwer didn’t sweep that shot in, the tweeple woulda been saying “too cute” and “too much passing”– maybe we’re just impatient.
- The Caps did not commit a penalty in the second period. That’s actually bullet worthy.
- The Lightning are currently in 29th place in puck possession when the score is close. They didn’t even attempt a shot until about 7 minutes into this game, and that’s a big reason why they’re struggling. After starting out the season with some hot shooting, they’re going through a serious cool down, and that’s great news for a Caps team trying to climb the division standings.
- Since 2011, Martin St. Louis has become a Caps killer. I positively hate him, but he is an amazing player — great along the walls, resilient despite his size, and smart enough to know when to go to the net. MSL was knocking at Braden’s back door all night. #hockeyporn
- Seriously, I’ve been waiting to use beagle.jpg since January 6th.
Best game yet? Best game yet.
Despite some defensive wobbliness, these Caps look so terrifically familiar. Shot total near 40? Hell yeah. The teams that win most are also the teams that win big. Thursday’s Caps were the latter, and they’re on their way to becoming the former.
Great goaltending, perfect special teams, impassioned offense. Even when the Caps went up a couple goals, they kept pressing a la boudreau. And here I was worrying that I’d have to make some sad Valentine’s Day metaphor where I’d quote my favorite song by Drive-By Truckers.
Yeah, Bruce Boudreau is blossoming all over in California, but the Capitals are not withering on the vine. This is a team in ascent. Three wins over division teams– scoring more than three goals in each. They’re no longer relying on sheer luck, instead they’re burying the other guy in pucks — because that’s what wins games. Committing fewer penalties and looking in control when they’re killing em off– all good news.
Now imagine what happens when they get their D together.
The Caps have taken six point from their last three games– all off of Southeast division teams. But now the training wheels are off. It’s Rangers and Devils next week. No goofing around.
Have a great weekend, everybody! Way to survive Valentine’s Day. Proud of ya.