Photo: Rob Carr
We’re not particularly happy with the Capitals this season, but compared to Maple Leafs fans we’re the freaking Huxtables. The richest team in the league spends its bullion on goons (plural) and grinders, they proclaim that they alone have cracked the secret of scoring without shooting, and their coach chased Mikhail Grabovski out of town for no discernible reason. If the Caps are ugly, the Leafs are Eric Stoltz in Mask.
And that means almost nothing on a per-game basis. The Leafs had the puck more than the Caps for most of Friday night, which is just silly. Anyway, here’s how scoring went.
Alex Ovechkin streaked onto the ice to score his 32nd of the year, nicely set up by Grabo almost halfway into the game. JVR returned fire by deflecting Phil Kessel’s shot on a power play around the halfway point.
Early in the third, Phil Kessel beat Neuvirth thanks to Karl Alzner’s deflection, but Nicklas Backstrom tied it right back up with trick shot off Jay McClement’s skate. Totally deliberate. Joel Ward occupied the slot to beat Bernier and win the game.
Caps beat Leafs 3-2!
- Named this one “weekend at Bernier’s” on a dare. I don’t even know what it means. But weekend game and I like Jonathan Silverman. I guess. Do I? Has that guy done anything in the last 15 years?
- Mid-shift, Alex Ovechkin replaced a retreating Troy Brouwer on the ice in the first period. As Brouwer stepped off, Ovi stormed into the offensive zone just in time for former Leaf Mikhail Grabovski to chip him the puck. Ovi had pulled that move on the power play before– going high to low to ditch his coverage, but it’s just as welcome during evens. A strong 32nd goal to start Friday’s scoring.
- John Erskine (more him later, natch) and Dion Phaneuf got testy with one another four minutes into the second period. Separated by a lineman, Phaneuf and Ersk exchanged gloved fists to the face (Erskine popped the ref once as well). Erskine got pegged with a double minor for roughing, while Dion only sat for the deuce. Big John decking the ref may have been a factor in that one. Don’t pity him. He got his fight later on.
- Tom Wilson and his bloody knuckles may have just barely, ever-so-slightly got the edge on Carter Ashton, but that was just the undercard to what came next.
- Colton Orr, heavy, and John Erskine, heavy, unleashed their mutual fury in the second frame. I don’t have a delicate way to put it, so here’s this: John Erskine wrecked Orr. Toronto puts a big premium on toughness, which is dumb for so many reasons, but first among those reasons tonight is that Erskine is the toughest S.O.B. on the planet.
- Jay McClement played bumper to Nick Backstrom‘s pinball paddle. That was one of the dumbest, great, wtf-iest hockey goals I’ve seen in a while. The standard celebration protocol goes like this: jesus pose, bang the glass, hug a dude. All Brooks Laich could muster was a “Really?!”
- Mikhail Grabovski got away with a slash that appeared to hurt Phil Kessel. In the moment I was relieved, but one month from now Kessel is my boy in Sochi. His wrists better be pristine by then or else I’ll be grumpy at Grabo.
- Who is this Michal Neuvirth person? This was Mikey’s first start since November 22nd. Since then, Braden Holtby got ice cold and Philipp Grubauer heated up and Michal read the entire Wheel of Time series.
That’s a W, so I’ll take it. I really hoped the Caps would be like, “hey, this is the Leafs. We can beat these guys,” and put a five spot on ‘em. That didn’t happen, and this was actually a pretty tight game, particularly in the first half. I didn’t expect that from two teams with propensities to explode and self-destruct. Toronto’s decline into fiasco seems inevitable and I was just hoping the Caps could pile on before that happens. I guess I’ll settle for the two standings points and a precious regulation win, but I hope the boys don’t play down to their competition again on Sunday.
It was a slobberknocker, and Joel Ward got back on the horse, but that’s probably not how we want the Caps to play every night, right?
Here’s the part where I’d muse about goalie usage and Adam Oates, but I’ll let you guys do that this time. Michal Neuvirth wasn’t exactly under fire in his net, but he certainly did well. Whether that changes his trade value or intention to leave, I have no idea. I’m just glad he’s working again.
Two wins in a row! Have a great Friday, y’all, and we’ll see you back here on Sunday afternoon.
— RMNB (@russianmachine) January 11, 2014