Photo credit: Francois Lacasse
The Washington Capitals have had it too good for too long. After filling their greedy maws at the trough of the Southeast for so long, they traipsed up to French Canadia to lay a beating upon the beast of the Northeast, the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs, sporting one of the best power plays and possession numbers in the league, were a worthy foe, but the Caps had Ovi. And that’s all you really need these days. Just a big plate of Ovi and wash it down with some Backstrom. Put some greasy Fehr in there if you want, but Ovi is the main dish.
Caps beat Habs 3-2.
- Despite a dominant opening five minutes by the Caps, the Canadiens grabbed an early lead. From behind the net, Prust sent a sneaky pass to late-man Lars Eller, who– and stop me if you’ve heard this one before– was eminently open in the Caps’ slot. Neuvirth didn’t have a chance– unless you expected him to abandon the net and mark a man.
- Alex Ovechkin was shotless nearly halfway through the game, but he scored on his first shot– a weird knucklepuck that Jim Palmer might describe as a “spoonball” between extended stories about himself. Ovi’s move before the shot was the lateral version of every between-the-legs move you’ve ever seen him do. It was gorgeous. Alex Ovechkin is your NHL goal-scoring leader. Alex Ovechkin is the captain of your hockey team. Alex Ovechkin is f#@(&ing awesome. UPDATE: Stamkos scored. We’re back in a tie.
- If Ovechkin gets a trophy– any trophy– be it Hart or Richard or Lindsay, shouldn’t Adam Oates get the Jack Adams? It was Oates who put him at right wing, paired him with Nicky Backstrom (after a too-long failed experiment with Ribeiro), and implemented a 1-3-1 system for the power play. These are Ovi’s goals, but Oates has his smudgy fingerprints on ’em too.
- Two much quieter plays by Ovechkin I want to highlight: his diving block in the third period (btw Caps were block-crazy tonight– it was like 2010 playoffs in reverse) and his eagerness to deal away the puck in the offensive zone. Ovi did it twice– once in the second period to Johansson and once in the third to Backstrom. Ovechkin seems to have internalized the lesson that he need not touch the puck all the time; he need only touch it last.
- Jack Hillen sent a puck into Carey Price’s blocker pads. The shot went skyward and when it fell, the Caps had the lead. Eric Fehr got credit for the goal, which I didn’t necessarily see, but Fehr certainly deserves it, seeing as he was tilting the ice in the Caps’ favor while the rest of the team was getting mired in their own zone.
- Jack Hillen lost credit for that Fehr goal, but he finally recorded his first Capitals goal in the third period– an outside slapper screened by Alex Ovechkin, who is also awesome. Hillen has 4 points in the last 2 games. He’s been shutting down the opposition (he was basically white on Tavares’ rice last week) and driving play since his return. Some RMNBers were giving me grief about my praise of Hillen earlier, but I think I’ll just pre-emptively take their groveling apologies to le banque.
- Here’s my impersonation of Habs fans: le boooo, le boooo, le pepe le pew was really messed up if you think about it, le boo. If Verizon Center can do that: a) it’d be really annoying, and b) maybe the Caps could get some more friendly whistles. Whattaya guys say? Should we all become cranky canucks?
- Michal Neuvirth put forth the performance that he needed– and we all knew he had in him. Neuvy was pressured heavily in the back half of the first period and most of the second, but he was stout in net. He made a couple insane-o saves, and certainly justified Oates’ decision to play him in back-to-backs. I’m so glad to see the struggling netminder come into his own. Well done, Neuvy.
- Some Canadian guy scored a deflected goal past Neuvy with 3 minutes to go. Whatever.
The Caps continue winning– somewhat improbably– dicey road games. Once again, they do it on the strength of Alex Ovechkin. But this time they do it against a truly elite team, a playoff team, a poutine-eating, wine-swilling, French-kissing team. This time they did it with decent possession (although they had to block a truckload of shots in the effort) and secondary scoring.
I’ve been one of the Caps’ biggest doubters, but I… think… the Washington Capitals might be legit. I’m not plotting any parade routes or anything, but I am genuinely excited to see what they do next. That’s a great feeling for a fan, and it’s one I’m so grateful to feel again.
Crash the net.