Photo: Patrick Smith
It’s been too long. The last Caps game– back when healthcare.gov wasn’t working and the Spaghetti Os social media guy still had a job– was a pretty tough loss to the Hurricanes. Four days later, the Capitals hosted Matt Hendricks and the Nashville Predators to a Saturday night thing, putting up a ton of goals in the first frame and fending off their foes for the next forty minutes. Here’s how it went down.
Troy Brouwer cracked an 11-game scoreless streak early in the first with one of the softest softies ever, a slow backhand that dribbled past Nashville goalie/The Doors organist Marek Mazanec. Alex Ovechkin was Alex Ovechkin on the power play, and then Karl Alzner threaded the needle from way-out to officially make it a scoar-moar-goals kind of night. Roman Josi put a nasty wristshot to Braden Holtby’s far side to get the Perds on the board, but that was quite a strong first frame for the Caps. 3-1.
The second period was scoreless, but it did find the Predators closing the gap in the possession game.
Martin Erat set up Nate Schmidt for his first NHL goal in the third, but Eric Nystrom scored on the very next shift because this is the Capitals and they do just do stuff like that sometimes. Mikhail Grabovski, who is awesome, helped Eric Fehr, who is awesome, get free wings for the fans. Bam. Win.
Caps beat Preds 5-2.
You can take Troy Brouwer to #thebank.
— Peter Hassett (@peterhassett) December 7, 2013
I’ll just leave this here.
- I’ll have more on this on Sunday and Monday, but Troy Brouwer has been reinvigorated. A lot of it has to do with his teammates: Grabo is a possession pro and Eric Fehr loves lugging the mail into the O-zone. I think Brouwer is a great complement to his new linemates, and he was certainly hungry to score tonight. His goal– a casual backhander that had no business going in– just shows you how fickle this sport is sometimes. That’s not to say Brouwer’s been unlucky lately. His nascent turnaround is the result of hard work and great teammates.
- The game clock said it was 3 seconds from Rich Clune‘s interference penalty to Alex Ovechkin’s powerplay goal. Seemed faster to me. That was goal number 22 for Alex, the best in the league. I love this guy so much it’s like I’m circling back to hating him just a little bit. Here’s your boy John Walton calling it:
- Patrick Wey played his first NHL game, racking up a healthy 13+ minutes on ice, including a spot on the PK, and tilting the ice towards the Nashville net. Very solid.
- Back in the week 7 snapshot I observed that Karl Alzner had been shooting more and was on track to shatter his single-season record of two goals. He’s halfway to tying it already, thanks to a first-period snapshot. That was Alzner’s first goal at home– ever.
- I’m super happy for Alzner, but on a defensive pairing with Mike Green, he fared poorly. Roman Josi‘s goal was just one of many shot attempts they saw from the ice. Near the other guy’s net: precious few. 27-52 got smoked in the possession game against a generally weak possession team. And it didn’t appear they were matched against any particular line– they saw Legwand and Underwood pretty much equally.
- RMNB on the jumbotron. No big.
- Congrats to Nate Schmidt on his first big-league goal, a beauty set up by Martin Erat, but…
- The Caps continue to bleed goals after they score. Eric Nystrom sunk it just 23 seconds after Schmidt’s. This is an awful pattern. I’ve got nothing clever to say about it.
- I don’t want to get into out-of-town business too much, but it looks like James Neal (knee to the head) and Shawn Thornton (basically, assault and battery) could– and should– get Dale Hunter-sized suspensions. The NHL’s punishment system is a joke right now, but I hope books get thrown at the two of them.
- As the game got out of hand for the Perds, they started giving the Caps a bunch of rush attacks. Jason Chimera got denied by that Manzarek guy, but a bit later Grabo set up Eric Fehr for the 5-spot goal. The Fehr-Grabo-Brouwer line… I’m telling you guys. It’s the new Chimera-Grabo-Ward line.
The Caps won this one by taking control of the puck early. By the time they went up two goals, the Caps had put more than 60% of the unblocked shot attempts towards Nashville’s net. Between that and their impressive start to the Canes game (I forget how that one ended), the Caps seem to be doing much better at starts– and their overall possession stats will reflect that in tomorrow’s snapshot.
I dunno, man. I like a lot of what I see here. If the Caps can maintain their even-strength progress and fix what ails them on special teams, they’ll be a truly good team. If they can do all that and upgrade their defense, they’ll be a great team.
Stop by RMNB on Sunday. We’ll have stats, Olympic stuff, and a game against your favorite squadron, the Ny Rangers. Let’s hope Oates is smart enough to give Holtby the night off– back-to-back starts are for the birds.
The story of this game is: the Capitals won.