Caps Rising, Top Blue Jackets

For the first time this season, the Capitals goaltending, power play, five-on-five, second line and fighting all clicked. The Capitals ended their five-game home stand with a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals now have a 3-5 record on the season.

Here are the “snapshots” I would have taken if I were rink side with the photographers (instead of in the press box):

Snapshot 1: The first snapshot clearly goes to Martin Erat. Erat had previously been playing with Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle on the fourth line. He averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time per game. No goals, no assists, no points.

Last night, he was moved to the second line with Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer. He played over 17 minutes. And Erat took advantage of the opportunity. Three assists. He was named second star of the game.

Coach Adam Oates said “[Erat] has great vision, skates well, handles the puck well, [and] makes good reads. He’s an all-around good hockey player.”

Snapshot 2: And if the first snapshot goes to Erat, the second must go to Mikhail Grabovski, who was demoted from the second line to third line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. The Blue Jackets lone goal – Artem Anisimov with 5 minutes left in the game – looked like it was the result of Grabovski not picking up Anisimov when the Blue Jackets skated down ice. Grabovski finished with 2 shots and a -1 in 12:40 of ice time. Grabovski also failed to score on a breakaway mid-way thru the second period.

Snapshot 3: Steve Oleksy’s assist half way thru to first period. Erat left the puck in space for Oleksy. Instead of shooting right way, Oleksy stick drags the puck past the defender first and then shoots. Brooks Laich scores on the rebound.
“I knew he was expecting me to shoot right away when I pulled it off the wall. So I kind of waited for him to make the first move.”
Oleksy finished with two shots, two hits and two blocks.

Snapshot 4: Oleksy’s fight halfway thru the third period with Brandon Dubinsky. The Capitals were on the penalty kill as a result of Nate Schmidt’s hooking penalty. Oleksy and Dubinsky were battling in front of the Capitals’ net when, as Oleksy explained, “he two handed me, and it escalated from there.” The fight lasted over 40 seconds.

Snapshot 5: Marcus Johansson seemed like a different player last night. He entered the game with 3 shots and 6 assists. This sharply contrasted with his line mates Alex Ovechkin (50 shots) and Nicklas Backstrom (13 shots). Last night, Johansson took the first shot of the game (3 shots in the first period). He finished with 4 shots and an assist.

Snapshot 6: Braden Holtby entered the game with a 1 and 4 record, 3.26 goals against average (bottom 10% of NHL’s 50 goaltenders) and a .899 save percentage (bottom 30% of NHL’s 50 goaltenders). Last night, Holtby made 37 saves, all of which seemed spectacular.

NOTES

I previously posted that the Verizon Center seemed quiet at home games despite the venue’s frequent encouraging of the fans of “Make Some Noise” and “Get Loud”. The crowd was noticeably louder last night from the drop of the puck. According to the Capitals’ own decibel meter, the crowd noise peaked at around 100 last night. Previous games had only been in the mid- 90s.

The Capitals scored on two of their four power plays (Ovechkin and Ward). The Capitals power play percentage is now a league leading 33.3%. The Penguins are second with 28%.

Ovechkin scored his 4th power play goal of the season. Seven of Ovechkin’s 10 points have been on the power play. On the flip side, Ovechkin is a -5 on even strength.

Late in the first period, Wilson knocked down three Blue Jackets at one time. Wilson and Ovechkin tied for team lead with 4 hits.

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