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!
- With 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.
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!