Photo: Patrick McDermott
It’s Super Bowl Sunday, which means the Washington Capitals once again played a matinee game to set the stage for a whole lot of couch-sitting by you all day. You’re gonna go through a lot of wings, chips, pretzels, assorted other fried things, and bad beer on your way to gridiron glory and hypertension. I shall join you, but not before we revisit the real big game: the Detroit Red Wings at Caps. With a national audience, two (or three) crucial standings points on the line, and a triad of Caps scratched to injury, this was a big one.
Jason Chimera got rewarded for some hard work in the opening minutes, recording the game’s first goal five minutes in. Joel Ward caught a great pass from Nick Backstrom to score a powerplay goal and make it 2-0. The momentum shifted as the Wings got the puck more, resulting in a powerplay goal by Gustav Nyquist, but the Caps struck back with another PP marker– this time from John Carlson.
Tomas Tatar got a sneaky shot under Neuvirth’s shoulder to make it 3-2, but Joel Ward struck back nineteen seconds later. A two-handed slash (a greatslash?) by Troy Brouwer gave the Wings a power play and Nyquist’s second goal of the game.
Nyquist got the hat trick early in the third, obliterating the Caps’ lead, but Troy Brouwer crashed the net and created a new lead following a Wings turnover. That one didn’t last either. Justin Abdelkader was all up in the paint to score after a faceoff in the Caps zone. Into overtime we went.
Or shall we say… OVI TIME!?!?!
Caps beat Wings 6-5 (OT).
- The Capitals started this game better than they have all season: extended shifts in the offensive zone, a flurry of shots, depriving Detroit of possession by owning the puck forever. That led to two goals and a heckuva lot of enthusiasm from Caps fans. Things changed, as they have a wont to do, after that. The Wings began cycling and drawing penalties (although Volpatti’s hold happened 189 feet from the Caps net). The possession advantage disintegrated. The Caps have been simply fantastic at blowing two-goal leads this season.
- Joel Ward and Jason Chimera have well-earned reputations for hard work and good attitudes. Both were absolutely crucial to this game– both with Chimera’s tough grinding and Joel Ward’s refusal to slink after the Tatar goal. That was Ward’s first multi-goal game since his hat trick on November 1st. Chimera had an assist on both Ward goals.
- Aaron Volpatti suffered an apparent shoulder injury and did not return to the ice after the start of the second period. No cheap shots here: hope it’s not serious.
- Michal Neuvirth didn’t see a lot of work in the first period, but made some exemplary saves early in the second. The team in front of him didn’t do a particularly sterling job of restricting quality shots once the Wings actually started shooting. With only four appearances last month (and none in December), this was a decent showing for Neuvy– badly needed. It’s hard to applaud for a five-goals-against game, but the Wings had enough nasty chances that an 9-goal drubbing was totally possible. Neuvy didn’t allow that.
- Alex Ovechkin had a fully open net waiting for him in the closing minute of the first period. Waiting in the Ovi spot (actually closer to the net than usual), Ovi released for a sure-thing goal– except this one time. Shank city. With his game-tying goal from Friday now credited to Joel Ward, that stunk. The goal would’ve helped a lot today, mostly for my blood pressure. Ovi showed up later though.
- Gord Miller is a great play-by-play guy, but his suit game sucked, and Joe B used to be awesome at national broadcasts on Versus.
- I didn’t even know the Caps were allowed to score right after the opponent does. Joel Ward‘s strike back following Tatar’s softie was huge– proving that the Caps don’t always have to collapse like a folding chair when their lead gets challenged.
- John Erskine was on the ice for Nyquist’s second and third goals– playing wretched defense for both. He’s just not cut out for this anymore, and I’ve exhausted my ability to be surprised by his ineptitude or the team’s willingness to suit him up.
- One of my things to watch in the weekly snapshot was Dmitry Orlov, who missed his partner Mike Green. Orlov was pretty awful– turning over the puck and not driving possession– but he did draw a pair of penalties. Mixed bag, but definitely in the red.
- Marty Erat didn’t get credit for it, but his work forechecking to force a turnover and set up Troy Brouwer’s go-ahead goal was splendid. We shouldn’t be surprised. Erat rules.
- Ovi got shadowed effectively by Detroit during the power pay. He has had a solution to this before, but he didn’t bust it out today. In the past, Ovi would skate low to high and high to low to shake his shadow– hoping for a pass while he skated in. Today he just sorta stood there. The 4-on-3 in overtime worked out somewhat better.
- With the game tied and the stakes high, the Capitals got totally outplayed by the Wings in the third period, erasing Washington’s possession advantage. It’s the sort of thing you’d call unacceptable, but here we are: accepting it.
What did you expect? Half of the Caps defensive corps is straight out of the AHL, and then there’s John Erskine. The Caps could be electric in the offensive zone– even without Grabo– but they’ve still got a find a way to bone up on D. Until that happens, no Caps lead is safe.
And even if George McPhee can fix the defensive roster, that’s still no guarantee. Adam Oates’ system seems to prefer safe play once his team takes the lead. Safe is still dead, and Oates’ Caps are both.
That’s why we should be eternally grateful for Alex Ovechkin, overtime stud and league leader in badassdom. Even when the team is struggling, he’ll keep being Ovi.
I’m glad the national audience loved this game, but I’m exhausted. This team has a lot of great ingredients– enough for a spicy stew– but they’re not quite there yet. I haven’t seen anything telling me the Caps are interested in solving it. In fact…
George McPhee vIa NBC: "The #Caps would have 10 more [standings] points with better goaltending." Uh, what?
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) February 2, 2014
That is worrying. Surely you can find some games that goaltending lost– especially in December and early January– but in October and November, the Capitals’ goaltending saved a desperately weak team from blowing the season before it even got started. Overall, I’d say it’s a wash. Then again, I’m a little dubious about this
quote hearsay overall.
The Caps need defense, and also some kind of magic rock that makes the team always play like they did for those first five minutes. Scoar moar goals isn’t just a slogan; it’s an affirmation of the only way to win this silly game.
Enjoy the superb owl, everybody! RIP PSH.
— RMNB (@russianmachine) February 2, 2014
(That was 30 seconds before the OTGWG)