Perreault and Beagle (Photo: Patrick McDermott)
I feel sorry for all the johnny-come-lately fans who never knew Bruce Boudreau’s Caps. You know who I’m talking about: all those fake fans who started following the Caps just because of the undeniable electricity of Hunter hockey. Those trendy, fairweather fans who only bought their first Caps shirsey because they saw Ovi pile on an inconceivable 38 goals back in 2011-2012. All they ever knew of the Caps was the unlimited delight of low puck possession and the benching of fan-hated Mike Knuble.
Okay, starting over.
If you were to make a list of things that turned this franchise around in the last decade, you’d see Bruce Boudreau’s name somewhere right underneath Alex Ovechkin and the return to the red uniforms. Now Boudreau is with the Ducks and positively killing it in the Western Conference. Boose brought his league-leading team to Verizon Center for his first game since getting fired more than two years ago. The crowd and the team seemed to appreciate the emotional dimension, and we fans got a decent, if uneven, game out of it.
Mikhail Grabovski got the Caps on the board first by tapping in a pass from Troy Brouwer (and helped along by Ben Lovejoy). Nicky Backstrom converted a power play four minutes later with a sneaky shot to Jonas Hiller’s shoulder. Andrew Cogliano got the Ducks into the game by sweeping up the shards of a broken Caps defense.
The second period was polluted by penalties, and Saiku Koivu tied it with a bang-bang in the waning seconds. Hampus Lindholm got a puck through a crowded shooting lane and well-screened Philipp Grubauer to put the Ducks up with five minutes left. Alex Ovechkin rang the post, and our hearts sank.
Ducks beat Caps 3-2.
- Please visit our Kickstarter page to raise funds for Mikhail Grabovski‘s contract extension. In the first period he had a lovely tap-in goal from Fehr and Brouwer, plus he drew the penalty that led to Nicky Backstom’s goal. He’s the best. Surprisingly, his line did not do so great when measuring the tilt of the ice.
- Troy Brouwer had a very nice assist on that Grabo goal. That makes six points in his last four games. Did you take him to the bank like we told you? Here’s his pass and Grabo’s goal:
- Watch as the Ice Cheetah drags water fowl back to his nest.
- Marcus Johansson didn’t score, but he did go for a stuff shot that I would’ve called uncharacteristic a few months ago. Between that and his unholy penalties-committed/penalties-drawn ratio, he’s my pick for Most Improved Capitals player. (I’d still put Fehr on the top line, but that’s just cause I’m a hopeless homer and Fehr fanboy.)
- Lots of bad defense by the top line and the Orlov/Green defensive pair on the Koivu goal. Orlov lost his man, Green marked up no one in particular, and Ovechkin might as well have got a cool pic of the goal for Instagram if he’s gonna skate so hard just to get a nice look at it.
- The Capitals hung with the Ducks in the first period, but that chippy second period didn’t play to their advantage. That tying goal by Saku Koivu (still in my top-10 list of Most Star Wars Extended Universe hockey player names) was kind of an inevitability looking at the shot attempt chart, which I’ll share in comments as usual. The Ducks took control of this one after the first intermission and never let go.
- Please make fun of this:
I'm definitely in the holiday spirit tonight pic.twitter.com/2xU7VkgnOc
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) December 24, 2013
- I was thoroughly entertained by the speed and determination Alex Ovechkin showed when getting the eff off the ice once the power play was over. I was thoroughly dispirited by his shot ringing the crossbar in the game’s final minutes.
- Brooks Laich returned to action for the first time since November 27 after a bout of #brittlegroin. Laich served mostly on the fourth line and the PK, which is like exactly where I said I wanted him ten days ago. STOP READING MY BLOG, COACH.
- Oates did switch it up in the third, putting Laich between Chimera and Ward just in time for the go-ahead goal for the Ducks. So much for line matching.
- In what I interpret as a sort of randomized controlled trial for playing the hot hand, Adam Oates gave Philipp Grubauer another start despite two healthy and proven goaltenders looking bored and playing Candy Crush somewhere in the building. Unwise.
Bruce Boudreau’s Ducks have won nine games in a row.
I really liked the Capitals team we saw in the first period. Great forecheck and work in neutral, threatening the net at even strength and drawing penalties, sloughing off the ceremonial man-on-man coverage Ovi gets during the power play.
I guess all those penalties in the second interrupted the momentum, as we didn’t see any of that good stuff in the latter forty. The Caps didn’t put many pucks on net– either overall or in proportion to the Ducks. That’s a serious problem that requires remedy, though I guess we did see some respectable back-and-forth action between the blue lines. But with Bruce Boudreau in the house, I had really hoped for something on the order of 80 shots overall.
I guess I’ll have to live with the disappointment. I can do that. I’ve been getting good at that ever since Boudreau’s dismissal back in the late 80s.
No worries. It’s only hockey.
If you’re celebrating a holiday this season, please have a happy one.
May your days be merry and bright.