“I thought [Theodore] was great, by far our best player,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game.
“Anytime they were putting pressure on us he would get [the puck,] he would stop it and he would not let it rebound. That’s the key to his game. He’s brimming with confidence. We hope he can keep it, and it gives us a lot of options in goal.”
The options in goal come at a good time since Semyon Varlamov has allowed 10 goals in his two starts since returning from his injury. Six or those goals were against the Senators back in February and four were against an inferior Atlanta team on Thursday.
The Saturday night game at the Verizon Center closed out the series against the Rangers and was the final Saturday night game of the season. The Rangers are one of only three teams to defeat the Caps in regulation in 30 games at the Verizon Center, but that was not the case tonight.
Eric Fehr started things off for the Caps 10 minutes into the game on a five-on-three power-play goal off the pass from Tomas Fleischmann that he buried in the back of the net to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.
This is the second game in a row that Fehr has found the net and the second since the trade deadline. Newcomer Joe Corvo had the second assist on the goal, demonstrating that the new guys are helping to add an impressive offensive depth to the team and giving more lines a chance to score.
Another Washington newcomer, Eric Belanger, got his first goal as a Cap 13 minutes into the second on a wristshot in front of the net. That is the third goal in two games to come from a new Caps player acquired during the trade deadline this past Wednesday. Scott Walker scored two for Washington in the win over the Lightning on Thursday.
“It’s great to be around guys that win like that,” Belanger said. “To get [a goal] out of the way in your second game, that’s a lot of pressure off my shoulders. I can just play.”
The recently added players are bringing some depth to the bench for the second stretch of the season and have made some key contributions, like Walker’s game winner on Thursday. With the Caps NHL-leading scorer Alex Ovechkin in a cold streak, (he has not scored since the Olympic break) it is the perfect time for the new guys, and guys from other lines, to step up and score to earn their spots.
“We’ve got a lot of players here and people want to keep playing,” Boudreau said. “It’s a really difficult decision for coaches when you’re consistently winning with different lineups, but everybody is a real competitive player and so they want to play and when that happens, you usually find a new way to play a little better.”
The Caps entered tonight with an 86 percent success rate on the penalty kill at home, something the Caps continued to dominate killing off both Ranger power plays, in large part thanks to some particularly impressive saves form Theodore and some strong pressure defense.
“Our goaltending and our defense was outstanding,” Corvo said. “That’s playoff hockey right there. You can’t outscore every opponent.”
Defense is exactly the mindset the Capitals will have to take into the playoffs. Counting on the offense to score six goals a game will not be successful in pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Washington will have to rely more on a lockdown defense and some strong goaltending, much like they did tonight.
“Right now, the last month and a half – I feel good,” Theodore said. “You just want to have that good stretch when it counts.”
Hopefully that good stretch will count toward bringing a Stanley Cup to Washington.