Francois Lacasse

How Russians ice fish. (Photo: Francois Lacasse)

The Washington Capitals hadn’t won a game since January 10th, and that was against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are barely a hockey team. I don’t know why, but the Capitals thought, “hey, maybe we can end this seven-game losing streak against the Montreal Canadiens.” The Habs are the rogues of the PDO world, the Bael the Bard of hockey, most famous for felling the dominant 2010 Capitals and ruining our precious franchise for years. This shouldn’t have been the game where the Caps come back around again, but nothing makes sense in this stupid sport. The Capitals exploded for four goals in the second period and Braden Holtby earned a shutout to end an infinite long streak, recapture the team’s confidence, and make a whole bunch of attendant fathers happy.

Alex Ovechkin opened up scoring right after a second-period power play expired with one of the most lacrostic, greasy-yet-skillalicious goals Hogwarts has seen these many years. Then a puck that John Erskine didn’t even mean to shoot somehow found the twine to make it 2-0 Caps early in the middle frame. Jay Beagle got his first goal of the year, hitting a wide-open net thanks to Tom Wilson’s pass. On the delayed penalty, John Carlson lofted a lazy puck towards the net, improbably beating Carey Price thanks to a deflection.

Carey Price got pulled. Peter Budaj took the spot. Alex Ovechkin set up AHL stud Casey Wellman for his first goal of the year midway through the third.

Caps beat Habs 5-0! Braden Holtby gets the shutout! Losing streak over!

Oh snap. You know what’s coming next!

  • beagleWith Aaron Volpatti rocking a suit in the press box, Tom Wilson shared the ice instead with Eric Fehr and Casey Wellman. I’d have though he’d take the opportunity to prove himself a viable NHL scorer. Instead he dropped the gloves with Brandon Prust in his first shift. Some jackhole is going to say that fight set the precedent and gave the Caps the motivation they needed, but that jackhole is wrong. Wilson can score; we learned that when he set up Beagle (!!!) for a layup in the second period. That’s what I wanna see out of Wilson. I don’t want to see this video proved right.
  • Oh, Beagle.jpg. I’ve had you sitting on my desktop for too long. You’ve been left unloved for too long. Take your victory lap, beagle.jpg. You have ridden the crest of PDO regression into internet fame.
  • I thought the Capitals got whistled for a bad penalty at the end of first period. Actually I’m pretty sure they did until the refs slapped some sense into one another. Claude Rains was the only guy in a Caps jersey commiting a penalty there. Then, inexplicably, the Caps got a power play out of it. Montreal… atypical.
  • Alex Ovechkin returned to action after missing two games with a “micro-bruise.” His second-period goal blows my mind. Join us in watching the GIF, filled with awe.
  • Neither John Erskine nor John Carlson seemed to actually be trying when they scored in the second period. Erskine’s was a pass that got kicked the right way; Carlson’s was an innocent loft that got deflected. It’s like synecdoche for regression to the mean and PDO stats. After days and weeks of shooting like crazy for naught, the Caps were scoring on accident on Saturday. Goals are flimsy, untrustworthy things. Like rubber bands or prophylactics. Fancystats, take a bow.
  • The Habs didn’t get a shot in the second period until the 13 minute mark, at which point the Caps had already scored four times. As bad as we feel about our chosen team, things are even worse in Montreal. I’ll put the shot attempt chart from ExtraSkater in the comments if you wanna rubberneck the car crash. It got so bad that the Habs fans sarcastically cheered (le clap sarcastique) every shot on goal from the home team.
  • Ovi setting up Casey Wellman for a gimme goal in the third period was basically Benny the Jet telling Smalls to keep his glove up. I guess that’s the only way Alex is gonna rack up any even-strength assists this season. That was just his fourth. FOURTH.
  • Braden Holtby. Your boy needed this. Your boy earned this. Holtby night in Canada. Beautiful shutout.
Joe B suit of the night (thanks, @Margefro87!)

Joe B suit of the night (thanks, @Margefro87!)

Pizzas Deny Opportinity

Political Dicks Ostracized

Plodding Dollops of Orangina

Plucky Dudes Organize

Peter Dropkicked that Orangutan

Production Driven by Oscillation

PDO is a statistic that combines a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage– two stats that fluctuate a lot. Pretty much all of the Caps’ seven-game losing streak was due to those stats, while the numbers that better predict success (shot attempt differential) pointed to a more successful team. The Caps finally shook off that streak because they kept playing responsible hockey, they eliminated costly mistakes, and they let PDO came back around.

This game was direly needed. They needed Alex Ovechkin to come back and score. They needed Braden Holtby to be perfect. They needed depth scoring from unlikely sources. They needed an incompetent opponent. They got all of the above.

The Caps are a good hockey team. They’re still not a Cup contender and they might not even be a playoff team, but they’re good. In the past two weeks, Adam Oates and George McPhee did not reap what they have sown– that’s still coming– but they withstood the passing storm. There’s still the small matter of Erat wanting to leave, Neuvirth wanting to leave, good players getting scratched, Erskine getting ice time, Ovi’s linemates not scoring, the lack of a third defensive pair, the weakness of the bottom line, ineffective forward deployments, a flagging penalty kill, insufficient puck possession, Wilson’s under-utilization, too many odd-man rushes against, an offense that is too reliant on Ovechkin, the lack of chemistry between Laich and Brouwer, the injury to Grabovski, and too much traffic in Chinatown.

There are still struggles ahead, but the Capitals are a stronger team than they were before this all started. If they can fix half of those problems, look out. Look the eff out. Have a good Saturday night, dudes!

  • TowsonTrumpetGuy .

    Craig Laughlin used the phrase “Danger Zone” tonight.
    I finally feel that this is appropriate to leave here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siwpn14IE7E

  • Chris Cerullo

    Would be nice to play like that from here on out. Also Tom Wilson off the 4th line and getting more than 7 minutes looked bueno.

  • Jack Conness

    About. Damn. Time.

  • Justin
  • Roman Z.

    Oh man all these feels all at once !!!

  • Heidi

    Finally!!! Peter, were you flipping between the game and the HP marathon on ABC Family while writing this recap? I know I was.

  • Marky Narc

    I had a ten hour train ride yesterday, followed by a ten
    hour shift at work today and got home pretty much burnt out just in time for
    the game. I was watching the RDS feed, where for about five minutes in the
    first, they had an incorrect score posted, giving the Caps a phantom 1-0 lead. (see below)

    Obviously the Caps felt that RDS was taunting them and they
    lit up the Habs big time. Ha ha ha, but seriously, it was great to see the team
    snap the losing streak and win one for the dads.

    I truly am exhausted, though. So I’m heading off to bed. Much
    love and bourbon go caps à la prochaine zzzzzzzz.

  • Vaughan

    The slump wasn’t Oates’ fault.

    We had one last year and we pulled out.

    We have a harder schedule the latter part of this season – the effort has to match the challenge. Chemistry has to be there at the right time.

  • jennrubenstein

    hahaha poop

  • pixiestix

    this recap totally won me over at poop

  • Rob W.

    . Great effort in a MUST win game. Are all their problems solved? No, but its a good start and a great confidence booster. Best part of the night was Wellman getting a goal on very very rare odd man rush conversion

  • Myan

    Holy shit this feels good!

  • JenniferH

    WHEEE!!! So much happy-time feels!!!!

  • Chris Cerullo

    My feelings exactly

  • Roman Z.

    RDS feed? Please tell me I’ve found another Caps fan from Montreal !?!

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQUeQOIlcDM HAHA GO CAPS!!! FINALLY!!!

  • Russell Kay

    Been waiting to post this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enSYlCEz5VI

  • nicoley-poley
  • Jack Conness

    You and I are always on the same page Chris.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Stella!

  • Pat Magee

    I’m more pissed at this win than I should be… WHERE THE HELL WERE THESE PEOPLE THE PAST MONTH!?!?!?

    Still feels amazing to see a dominating win though :)

  • Roman Z.

    Also can Oates not touch today’s lines for a couple of games until Grabo returns to see where this leads us?

  • Ash
  • Chris Cerullo

    Lose 7 a row and still have a solid shot at the playoffs with one win #MetroDivisionProbz

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I love that everyone posted “eff yeah” videos in comments

  • scrubversive

    Good job Caps. I don’t know how I feel about our team right now, but you played well tonight. Keep playing like it means something and I’ll keep watching. No matter how unfortunate the roster situation.

  • Myan

    “Hiring you three based on your performance in the potato sack race is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Good shit from Erat too, that’s the guy I knew from Nashville.

  • Em

    “Ovi setting up Casey Wellman for a gimme goal in the third period was basically Benny the Jet telling Smalls to keep his glove up.” Marry me, Peter Hassett. Best recap EVER.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I would never! ;)

  • Chris Cerullo

    Agreed. He’s been a ton better after the disaster in New York.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Sandlot references FTW

  • Matt

    FAIRE LE FÊTE!!!

  • Justin

    Was getting sick of wallowing in the vitriol and snark. Feels goooooooooooooooooooood.

  • Chris Cerullo

    This fenwick chart makes me happy. I haven’t been able to say that much this year.

  • Daniel Walker

    Casey Wellman is clearly the piece of the puzzle we have been missing all these years.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Old shaggy Ovie sighting

  • Dominic Kreiner

    Your optimism is infectious….

  • Hockey mom

    Yea for Jay!

  • Hockey mom

    Beagle pic!

  • Bugs Fire

    Refs should have tossed Gionta after the second ugly boarding he committed. Clear intent to injure, we are lucky nobody got hurt.

  • Simonezero

    I think Peter had dual viewing tonight with ABC Family.

  • Bugs Fire

    This is the second time this season Ovie sets up a rookie for his first NHL goal instead of trying to add one more in his own column (Wilson and now Wellman). It’s a shame his playmaking ability is underutilized. Backstrom/Johansson are good players, but it takes Fehr/Grabovski to give Ovie a chance to get some assists. Because, you know, they actually try to get open for a pass when Ovie has the puck.

  • prut

    rmnb http 404 page party at 4.25 AM local time
    I’m glad I stayed up for this one!

  • Bugs Fire

    I’ll say it again – Mike Green is playing much better. Much more solid on defence, and take a look how he started the sequence that resulted in Beagle scoring.

    I just feel for all the hate he got early in the season he now deserves positive comments. Let’s hope he is back for good.

  • Juliana

    Somebody better bring that yoga ball to all our games because clearly that thing was magic. #YOGABALL

  • TowsonTrumpetGuy .

    Seeing Matty P again almost brings a tear to my eye. :(

  • Diller M

    So now I have to take my post loss walk before the game every night? I hate it when I start a new ritual….

  • pixiestix

    and hendy, knubs, matt bradley. miss all those guys

  • harjot singh

    i was called a jackwhole i repeat a jack whole

  • Eric Schulz

    Wellman’s was the 5th, you forgot the 3rd (Beagle, although you remembered Wilson assisting it).

  • Eric Schulz

    You are not half of a jack, you’re the whole thing.

  • Jimmie

    “Synecdoche”? I don’t even know this blog anymore.

  • OVECHKING

    5 Turnovers tonight. He actually played a worse game tonight than he had the last 4. But I guess if you want to ignore the defensive aspect of a defensman’s game, then sure, he played great. That’s what uneducated caps fans do and justify their statements that Green is a great player. Then they will also pull corsi numbers to back up their stats. Won’t ever talk about actual turnovers that result in additional zone time for the other team.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Chris Gordon

    What’s wrong with the traffic by Verizon Center?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No idea, but I needed to wrap up that thought somehow.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    aw shucks

  • Katie Brown

    There’s traffic by the Verizon Center?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Turnovers != legit stat

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    This is the video that doomed the team. They should never have changed their game to win this one.

  • dylan wheatley

    right here

  • OVECHKING

    I didn’t actually go on NHL.com and look at the boxscore –>turnover / giveaways column (which read 2 for green) like you are insinuating with your comment. No, I actually watched the game and noted on my computer how many times Green turned the puck over that resulted in an extended possession time for the Habs (min 5 seconds). I counted 5 occurrences of this tonight.

    For transparency, if none of those turnovers resulted in a shot on net for the Habs because they either got blocked, missed the net, or a cap stole the puck away, looking at Green’s corsi, one might suggest that he had one of his better games this year. Clearly, if anyone watched the game, that is not the case.

    Corsi != god stat, contrary to popular belief around here.

  • Martin Feng

    + another

  • Dave

    Wilson deserves a ton of credit for Beagle’s goal. First he steals the puck before it leaves the zone, and then gets the primary assist. Very nicely done.

  • Roman Z.

    And here I was thinking I was all alone …

  • JenniferH

    I remembered it, but couldn’t get stupid Disqus to open it to let me edit it. I’m sorry Beagle!!!! Thanks, though.

  • Marky Narc

    No, sorry, not from Montreal – I just like picking up the French-language feed when we play the Habs.

  • CG

    “It’s like synecdoche for regression to the mean and PDO stats”

    Wow Peter. Tres intellectual.

  • ErskSMASH

    nice preemptive insult to hockey fans who like fights (savages!!)… or do u think locker is said ‘jackhole’ ? just glad you resisted the urge to trash on erskine, kudos

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Naw because he doesn’t lionize fighting.

  • ErskSMASH

    locker on the fight: “I love it, that’s the type of thing they need to spark this hockey team”

  • Bugs Fire

    Peter said Chinatown. In my experience, It is not that hard to get into Verizon for a game. Getting out is another story.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Chris Gordon

    “and Virginia still has no ethics laws” would be my vote.

  • Bugs Fire

    Nice to see you again, my friend.

    On the substance, my comparison is exclusively to the early in the season. What was characteristic of Green’s play at the time was that opposition could just toss the puck into the zone and then chase him down for a takeaway. He looked lost every time this happened and would usually turn the puck over. How much of this was due to Nate Schmidt being out of place is unclear, but it is no longer happening.

    There was a shorthanded breakaway at some point where two guys defending were Green and Ovechkin. Normally, my heart would sink, but they handled it perfectly. Granted, Habs are a struggling team right now, but earlier in the season Green would mishandle the situation 9 times out of 10.

    And I think it may be agreeable that Green’s lack of shutdown defence ability is tolerable when he does what he and other offensive-minded blueliners do best – contribute to team’s scoring. I also think we cannot possibly expect him to turn into Zdeno Chara or Andrew Ference. What made the situation so bad early in the season was that his offensive play was missing (maybe he was jinxed by Grabovski stealing two goals in the season opener). My observation is that he is doing much better in that regard.

    It seems you want him to be a two-way blueliner, some kind of Bergeron who got stuck playing as D-man. That is not going to happen, sadly (although perhaps an experiment of turning Green into a forward is an interesting one).

    I am not trying to say he is now a Norris trophy contender. But while he may still turn the puck over more often than we wish, he clearly left the very dark place where he was earlier in the season.

  • Bugs Fire

    I usually don’t pay attention to this, but who voted this down? This is just raw data, is it disagreeable on some level? Peter posts this every game.

  • Myan

    Well said, sir!

  • Myan

    BOO, facts!

  • Owen Johnson

    Don’t forget DJ King!

  • Pingback: Week 17 Snapshot: The Beagle and the Damage Done

  • R.O’B.

    first of all how can such an amazing song be on the soundtrack for such a wretched movie
    second i take credit for this win because i mentioned Jen Rubenstein and the chicken beheading pre game, obviously that was the deciding factor and not the actual hockey played

  • RT23

    I’m guessing this is tongue in cheek but he has looked very good in the 2 games he’s played. He’s far better than Volpatti and I even think has shown more knack around the puck than Wilson, or Beagle (or Laich and Brouwer). I hope Grabbo’s injury heals quickly but the silver lining could getting a few games look at Wellman.

  • Bryan Gleason

    Thank god 2-8 of the METRO division is incompetent as well. I like being in 7th, but only 5 points out of 2nd.