Aw. Someone give Crombeen a hug. (Photo: Mike Carlson)
Brr. It’s cold in here. I said there must be some unwise line combinations in the atmosphere. Since the Caps’ last game, the entire continent froze. If you’re reading this in the tri-state, there’s a 37.3% chance (also Aaron Volpatti’s Corsi %) that the pipes in your house are about to burst. But the thaw has finally begun, and the Caps shook off this painfully extended metaphor with their first victory in thirteen days, a tightly wound win over the Bolts sans Stamkos.
Youngling Tyler Johnson scored on a breakaway early in the first, but the Caps struck back thricewise. First, Alex Ovechkin set up Eric Fehr for a sneaky one to beat Anders Lindback on the Caps’ second shot of the game. Then, Mikhail Grabovski tipped in Mike Green’s slot shot during the PP. And, before the period was out, Marcus Johansson stuffed a second powerplay goal.
In the second period B.J. Crombeen scored his first of the season to make it a one-goal game around the halfway mark.
The Bolts took control of the ice in the third, tying it up with a tricky deflection off the stick of Ondrej Palat. Eric Fehr did the hero thing with some English up front in the final minute of regulation.
Caps beat Bolts 4-3!
- Eric Fehr was a healthy scratch earlier this season. Now he’s on the top line, winning games. Read that any way you want as long as part of it includes this: Eric Fehr is effing awesome.
- Marcus Johansson has been working on this one powerplay move all season. He gets the puck wide of the crease, strides laterally, and tries to stuff it in. He’s tried it a bunch but it hasn’t worked until now. Because I looked it up, here are Marcus’s five other powerplay goals this season. They’re all up close, but none of them were this particular set play. There was scoring on the rush, the “backdoor scoar,” a deflection, a fight for a rebound, and a gift of a rebound. This was his first successful stuff of the year. And it was awesome. Mojo’s turning into a different player, but now he’s gotta make it count during evens.
- Alex Ovechkin got his second 5v5 assist of the season in the 43rd game of the year. It was actually just the third 5v5 Caps goal he was on ice for at all that he himself did not author. Great move by Eric Fehr to use the puckish Martin St Louis as a screen. The Ovi-Grabo-Fehr line is working (naturally), which is noteworthy because Adam Oates had 2/3rds of those players toiling in the bottom six and/or scratched for a while this season.
- Mike Green: “Sweet, dude. 100 NHL goals for me!”
Joel Ward: “No, man. That was all mine. #Ravens #Ravens #Ravens”
Mikhail Grabovski: “Nyet!”
Double deflection on that powerplay goal. Green had to settle for his 200th assist instead of his 100th goal. I bet he’s okay with that.
- Here’s Troy Brouwer‘s heel-turn assist on Tyler Johnson‘s goal. I wonder if Oates will scratch him next game as punishment.
- When Shiftchart.com has the report for this game, you’ll find a moment in the first period where the players on the ice were Philipp Grubauer, John Erskine, Connor Carrick, Aaron Volpatti, Jay Beagle, Tom Wilson, and the rookie-laden Tampa Bay Lightning. Professional hockey.
- All kinds of defensive malaise on the B.J. Crombeen goal. John Erskine was wayyyyy behind the play and not remotely fast enough to rejoin it, Grubauer was on his heels, and Connor Carrick is like 15 years old. Alex Ovechkin got a minus on that play, so, ya know, the world is unfair.
- Ondrej Palat put it in the net on an odd-man break (not exactly a rare PokeMon in these parts lately), but it was waved off. Apparently, you’re not allowed to hackysack the puck anymore. I’m torn, man. I didn’t wanna see the Bolts tie the game, but that was so nifty it should be allowed.
- Who’d have thought they’d have crummy ice in Tampa Bay, Florida? The sheet was so rough following this week’s carnival, The Great Council (GMs and coaches and vassal lords and such) met on-ice before the game to determine that the teams would switch sides halfway through each period. I’m a simple man. I don’t like your push-button automobiles or your newfangled flavored vodkas and your Spock played by the guy from So NoTORIous. I can’t deal with all this switching around. Nor could the denizens of Tampa Bay Times Forum, who booed the abstract concept of fairness because Florida.
- Philipp Grubauer, son. If your team is gonna give up a quintillion odd-man rushes (fact check: does 1-on-0 count as an odd-man rush?), it’s good to have a freak like Grubi in the net to swat (almost) all of them away. It’s unreasonable to expect a goalie to deal with those every night, so the Caps really need to tamp down.
Were the Caps the better team tonight? I don’t know. They certainly didn’t dominate the puck possession fight (it was pretty close). For all their shot attempts, precious few (20) got through to Anders Lindback. Alex Ovechkin had more fans than a nope that joke is too easy. And for all that mildness, the Caps still exploded for a three-spot in the first period.
That was almost enough. With not nearly enough offensive pressure in the final frame, the Caps gave the Bolts a full twenty minutes to crack Grubauer. Without the infinite awesomeness of Eric Fehr, this would’ve been a sad story.
Adam Oates’ inanely reorganized lines are a fiasco, sending the bottom six into possession hell while only the Ovi line really benefited. Nick Backstrom proved his merit though, hauling Laich and Brouwer into a strong shot-attempt ratio despite the previously established Nobility of their chemistry. The fourth line is still outmatched, even moreso now that Oates has declared Aaron Volpatti better suited for a sweater than Martin Erat. Without Erat or Grabo between them, Chimera and Ward got obliterated– seeing barely a third of shot attempts go in the Caps’ favor.
The battle’s done and we kinda won so we sound our victory cheer. But where do we go from here? To a Friday night home game against the Maple Leafs and hopefully some new lines for the boys in red.
— RMNB (@russianmachine) January 10, 2014