In front of a sell-out crowd of 18,506, a crowd which included ‘80s hip hop star MC Hammer, the Washington Capitals beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-3, winning the Southeast Division and securing a playoff berth. All in all, a Capitals team led by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom – the same Ovechkin and Backstrom that led the Capitals to the President’s Trophy only three years ago – proved that they were “2 Legit 2 Quit.”
Here are the “snapshots” I would have taken if I were rink side with the photographers (instead of in the press box):
Snapshots 1 and 2
Capitals defensemen John Erskine was named third star of the game, but in my opinion, he was clearly the first star of the game. Less than five minutes into the game, with the Caps leading 1 to nothing, goalie Braden Holtby is out of the play when Jets Bryan Little has an open net to tie the game. Erskine dives and slides from outside the trapezoid on the far side over 12 feet to block the shot. Even though coach Adam Oates said after the game that “[Erskine] may have played the play wrong before [the block],” a recovery that spectacular deserves the “first snapshot of the game.”
With six minutes left in the first period, again with the Caps leading 1 to nothing, a shot hits Holtby’s chest, goes over his shoulder and dribbles towards the goal line. Erskine reached over Holtby and blindly swatted the puck away from the net. The review from Toronto concluded that the puck was only seven eighths of the way across the goal line, and hence, no goal.
John Erskine finished the game a +3, with 4 hits and 7 block shots.
Snapshots 3 thru 6
Each of the Capitals four lines (Ovechkin – Backstrom – Marcus Johannson, Troy Brouwer – Mike Ribeiro – Martin Erat, Matthieu Perreault – Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr and Matt Hendricks – Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle) dominated their first shift on the ice, culminating in Matt Hendricks scoring three minutes into the game. The Capitals seemed like the team that wanted the game more than the Jets.
Snapshots 7 and 8
Ovechkin, or should I say, MVP Alex Ovechkin, led the team with four hits. But that is not surprising; Ovechkin leads the Capitals in hits for the season (113). What was nice to see last night was how his hits lead to Capitals chances. Halfway thru the first period, Ovechkin knocks down Jets Grant Clitsome which leads to a shot by John Carlson. Then, less than a minute left in the second period, Ovechkin decks Evander Kane, which, with Kane going off the ice for repairs, leads to a Backstrom quality shot.
Since we are already talking about Ovechkin, or should I say, MVP Alex Ovechkin, Ovi had a great assist that lead to a 3 to 2 Caps lead with five minutes left in the second. Ovi dekes Grant Clitsome and shot towards the net. The puck deflected off of Backstrom’s skate in the crease for the goal.
As of last night’s game, Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (31) followed by Steven Stamkos (27) and John Tavares (27). All three of them (Ovechkin (2004), Stamkos (2008) and Tavares (2009) were first overall draft picks in their respective drafts.
The Capitals’ success has followed Ovechkin’s success. The Caps won one game in January, six in February, nine in March and ten (and counting) in April. Ovechkin scored two goals in January, six in February, eight in March and 13 in April. I was planning on running a statistical hypothesis test to measure the significance between these two samples, but I have no idea how to do that.