Tuesday’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins meant that I had to miss one of my favorite television shows, Marvel’s Agent Carter. It’s a period piece set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America’s former best gal Peggy Carter battles spies and misogyny alike in post-war New York City to save… well, everything, I suppose.
It’s a good show with snappy writing and surprising emotional depth, and on Tuesday they sawed the leg off a guy named Ovechkin.
RMNB is only 10-percent actually Russian, but this is deeply unsettling to all of us. How “Nice Guy” Putin makes it through this sightread of the Russian anthem with a straight face, I will never know.
On February 17, 2015, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
The rivalry is back. After two games in which the Washington Capitals obliterated the Pittsburgh Penguins, we actually had a contest this time. The Caps and Pens were perfectly matched for forty minutes. Then they went bananas on each other.
Alex Ovechkin opened us up with a thrilling breakaway goal after a bad Pittsburgh line change. Things were looking great for the visitors until Steve Downie of all freaking people crashed the net to end Braden Holtby’s shutout streak over Pittsburgh after 143 minutes.
The third period went to hell as Ovechkin slashed Letang and the refs forgot how to do their jobs, but no one scored until the Penguins lost control. During five-on-three, Nick Backstrom sent a great pass to Joel Ward, eagerly waiting on the weak side. John Carlson sealed the deal with an empty-netter from like 170 feet away. Oh yes.
The Capitals have had the Penguins number so far this season, and that number is zero. In 120 minutes of hockey, Washington has outscored Pittsburgh seven goals to none.
But the Penguins of February 17 are healthier than previous versions, and Holtby has been averaging 3 goals against over the last 10 days. It’d be a nice trick to end the road trip with another blowout over a division rival, but the Caps are gonna have to bring the ruckus to get it done.
The lineup makes me think they might pull it off. Puck drop at 7 PM on CSN.
There’s a great Mark Twain quote about weather in New England, but it sort of applies to how the Caps organize their forwards. If you don’t like the lines, just wait a few minutes.
Barry Trotz’s forward lines, which I’ve been tracking all season, get announced once or twice a day– at practice or morning skate and during warmups before games. And each time they’re followed by a chorus of criticism from professional and amateur hockey watchers, including me.
There’s always something to rail against: the guy on Alex Ovechkin’s opposite wing, who’s getting stuck on the fourth line, which pairings don’t work, who deserves a scratch but isn’t getting one, and who deserves a sweater but isn’t getting one. It’s instant fodder for content, fresh grist for the anguish mill, and an easy conversation starter.
But it’s also sort of cheap. Because there is no optimal line combination for Barry Trotz. If twenty of us were to make up our ideal lines, I doubt any two would match. There is no magic Rubik’s cube of forwards that make everyone love him and shut up. It just doesn’t exist. The lines are a loser every time, and Trotz, a coaching veteran with three decades of experience, knows it.
Every day he’s got to set back a rookie or piss off a forward. He’s got to give a sweater to a player he’d rather see traded, and maybe he’s thinking about how great some other player on some other team might be in that same spot. Even MacLellan has limited control over his roster considering the market forces and freak injuries that determine it.
That doesn’t mean we should hush up about the lines. I think we’ve got an exceptionally informed and passionate community here. We all know what it means for Evgeny Kuznetsov’s development when he takes shifts with Jason Chimera, and we should talk about it. (Though I bet Barry Trotz probably already knows as well.)
While it’s good for us to discuss and debate it, I’m going to always try to acknowledge that the lines will never be totally perfect and they’ll never be totally broken.
In this week’s snapshot, we explore the great space between those two extremes.
On February 15, 2015, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Hands off Beagle! We’re the only ones who are allowed to give him a hard time!
Low-scoring games suck, and that’s why the hockey gods gave us Ducks vs Caps with two backup goalies. Alex Ovechkin played out of his beautiful Russian skull.
Andrew Cogliano scored first, snatching a– get this– rebound off Justin Peters. Ovechkin wasn’t having any of that, so he tied it up off a faceoff. The Ducks went up again after Corey Perry beat Peters, who was totally screened. Again, Ovi wasn’t having any of that, so he converted an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot.
That all happened in the first twenty minutes. Marcus “Joe Hanson” Johansson got a pretty goal early in the second to give the Caps their first lead of the night. Then the Caps put the Ducks in a two-goal hole as Alex Ovehkin set up Andre Burakovsky for another pretty goal.
In the third, Andrew Cogliano struck again, thanks to Jakob Silfverberg (who I adore), and we headed into the third period with a one-goal game. Yet again, Alex Oveckin wasn’t having any of it. He stole the puck in the defensive zone, carried all the way up the ice, and served it to Andre Burakovsky, giving the rookie his first multi-goal game and securing the win for Washingon.
On February 15, 2015, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo: Stephen Dunn
I really thought the Caps’ last game against the Kings was their best of the season. Their next meeting, on the road on the night of St. Valentine’s? Not so much.
Braden Holtby sent a bunch of Kings shooters packing until Dwight King pushed a rebound past him halfway into the second period. Marian Gaborik hit up Trevor Lewis, whose deke made it 2-0 for the Kings just 17 seconds into the third period.
Alex Ovechkin got a goal off an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot during some 4v4, but Jared Stoll found a miracle pass to put the Caps back in the two-goal hole. The Caps pulled Holtby with two minutes and change to go, but– like Gavin Rossdale before them– they just couldn’t come back.
The Caps father-accompanied road trip through California continues tonight in Los Angeles. We last saw the Kings on February 3, when the Caps gave the reigning champions a 4-0 drubbing. I called that the best game of the season. If you’re willing to stay up late tonight, maybe the Caps try to top it.
If your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/special friend of any kind is willing to stay up late with you to watch, you know you’ve got a good one.