Photo credit: John Woods
The Washington Capitals looked like a troubled team before Saturday’s game at the Winnipeg Jets. With a grinder on their top line, a goal-scorer in Wojtek Wolski scratched in favor of a tough guy, and more injured players than you can shake a groin at, expectations were low for the early afternoon rumble in Manitoba. For twenty minutes, those expectations were met, and then the Capitals took control of their destiny and looked like a damn fine hockey club.
And oh yeah: Braden Holtby.
Caps beat Jets 3-0.
- First period possession was a mess for the Caps. After twenty minutes, the Jets led the Caps in shots 14-4 at even strength. The Caps turned it around mightily in the second though, eventually claiming the even-strength shot lead before the second intermission.
- Top-line forward Matt Hendricks (?) opened up scoring by tapping in a Mike Ribeiro pass. I love greasy goals too, but seeing plays that looked as deliberate at this one are probably better for this team right now.
- A John Erskine slapshot injured Blake Wheeler right before the Hendricks goal. In the first period, Anthony Peluso got injured somehow while beating up Aaron Volpatti. That left the Thrashers short two forwards for a long stretch of the game. Wheeler returned in the third.
- Here’s that Aaron Volpatti fight. Back in ancient Rome, the oligarchs would give away free bread and throw elaborate circuses to distract the population from realizing how bad the society was organized. Don’t know why that popped into my head just now.
- There are children who will fail geography tests because Winnipeg is in the Southeast Division. There are hikers who will die of exposure because they went northwest instead of southeast because the NHL is organized by crazy people.
- I predicted that spurned shooter Jason Chimera would finally score in the second period. I was wrong. With a wide open net, Chimera’s puck somehow found Pavelec’s glove. I know it’s seductive to blame shooters for dry spells, but the best thing to do with guys like Chimera is to encourage them to shoot even more. They’ll break through given the opportunity, and it’ll be worth it.
- The Caps played a pretty buttoned up game in the first 39 minutes– until Mathieu Perreault shoved a Jet into the Pavelec’s net. Yes, I also jinxed that. My bad, guys.
- Troy Brouwer leads the Caps in goals. He grew that lead in the dirty ‘Peg with a nasty wristshot that took some weird bounces before beating Pavelec.
- Mike Ribeiro, whom Hendricks called one of the best he’s ever played with, cleaned up an Ovechkin rebound in the third to make it a blowout.
- Zach Bogosian roughed up Matthieu Perreault in the third, making two consecutive games where Washington’s diminutive French-Canadian forward got into scary trouble late in the game. New rule: No Perry in the game’s last 10 minutes.
I love how the Caps came back from a really bad first period. Lucky to be scoreless after a sad opening twenty minutes, the Caps recommitted themselves to offense in the back 40 (is “back 40” a thing in hockey? If not, can it become a thing?). Last game I took issue with the apparent habit of the Caps to get all jammed up. That definitely didn’t happen in Manitoba today.
That’s a sign of good leadership, which is something you’re really not gonna hear from the hockey media, who are more interested in increasing their public profile than actually enlightening their audiences. Alex Ovechkin (4 shots, 1 assist) was great today, and that’s what really matters. You can say he’s not “a real man” if you’re a chauvinistic ass, but I saw Alex grin like a schoolboy when he suckered Mark Stuart into a double-minor. Hashtag leadership.
And, oh yeah, one last thing: Braden Holtby is still incredible. When the Caps were seeing a fusillade in the first, I said Holtby was only thing that would stop this from becoming a blowout. Holtby did his job perfectly and inspired the skaters ahead of him to do theirs too. Nine straight starts, most of them sterling. No player has turned around his season more dramatically than Holtby, who looks more like a true NHL star with every passing day.
ANGRY HENDRICKS. And Karl’s parody of Hendricks’ face. twitter.com/callyourbluff/…
— Katie Brown (@callyourbluff) March 2, 2013