After the Capitals blew a two-goal lead in the third period earlier in the week against a Maple Leafs team that was playing the second of a back-to-back on the road, the Capitals had every reason to be out to prove a point Friday night.
It was an opportunity for them to show what they’re capable of against the team with the best goal differential and fewest regulation losses in the league in the Bruins, a team who had already beaten Washing twice.
Through two periods the Caps played the best hockey they possibly could and it showed on the scoreboard. They headed to the intermission with a 3-0 lead having out shot the visitors by a 25-9 margin and chased Tim Thomas who had previously saved 215 of 220 shot attempts.
Suddenly, less than 10 minutes into the third the lead had vanished, Michal Neuvirth was pulled, the crowd was in disbelief and the score was 3-3.
But just like the game against Toronto this one ended well for the Caps thanks to another heroic game winning goal by John Carlson and an empty netter by Alex Ovechkin for the icing on the cake. Another game, another two points for the Caps who managed to hang on to first place in the Eastern Conference, and it’s still fair to say that they have played all of one complete game this season.
That said, while fans want to see the Capitals put forth a more consistent effort within each game sometimes it’s just nice to get the points. Tonight the Capitals credit more so than criticism for beating a team that has been playing lights out hockey.
Odds and Ends:
– How do you beat a goalie who’s playing historically well? Get traffic in front of the net and shoot away. That’s exactly how the Caps broke through the brick wall that is Thomas, with unlikely goal-getter Tyler Sloan firing through screens set by Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble. Ironically, the two most maligned Capitals on the roster were largely responsible for the goal with Tomas Fleischmann winning the draw back to Sloan to put the Capitals ahead 1-0.
– The widely-held belief that Alex Ovechkin is the team’s best player is being challenged by Mike Green with each successive game. Not knock on the Great 8, but the move Green made to open up some space before ripping a wrister over the Thomas’s shoulder to make it 2-0 was spectacular. His impact on D seems doomed to forever go unappreciated by most, but the team’s breakouts and momentum through neutral ice seem to be exponentially better whenever he’s in the lineup.
– Is the Caps’ penalty kill regressing to the mean? For those counting, that’s eight power play goals allowed in their last seven games after giving up none in their first six contests. In fact, the Bruins have accounted for five of the eight power play goals allowed by the Caps. It’s still markedly better than last year thanks to the newly-implemented aggressive system, but it may just be middle-of-the-pack good as opposed to elite. Given the poor PK of the last two plus seasons under Bruce Boudreau, Caps fans will still gladly take it.
– Boudreau admitted that Michal Neuvirth had a rare off-night which earned him the hook in favor of rookie Braden Holtby who earned his first NHL win. Maybe it’s time to give Neuvirth a rest here or there even at the expense of a win or two if that’s what it takes. There’s no reason to burn out a kid playing his first full NHL season when a playoff berth is a foregone conclusion.