Saturday, November 24, 2007

Two in a Row

Nine goals (including four power play markers) and four standings points in two games...who is this team and what have they done with the Washington Capitals?

Tonight the Caps came out firing early and held on through several flurries by the Canes to win their second straight game, the first time they've won back to back games since that lovely three game streak to start the season. It's also the first time they've had more than two power play goals in a game, the second time they've beaten Carolina on home ice, and the third time they've scored five goals in one know, if you're keeping track at home.

The big story tonight was the power play, which struck three times on three consecutive stints with the man advantage and would prove to be enough firepower to win the game. Boudreau is looking like a genius having Green and Backstrom out consistently on the power play; between the two of them they have six power play points in the last two games. And to a man the power play has simply looked sharp - crisp passes, shots on net, offensive zone pressure...everything they weren't doing before.

Ovechkin continued to be a force, scoring two goals including one with under two minutes left that essentially put the game out of reach - but he didn't have to be the only one out there. In fact, the ice time for forwards was spread out pretty evenly tonight, with even Bradley and Brashear getting close to nine minutes apiece.

The fact that Boudreau can roll lines comfortably means everyone is getting in on the action and, more importantly, no one is getting worn out. And it showed in the performances. Nylander was great, picking up a goal and two assists for his efforts. Backstrom continued to thrive in all situations. Green added to his points total (and his PIMs, but that's another issue). Poti had some great plays. And on and on and on...

The difference in the Caps' play these last two games is the way they have handled adversity. They let up a little yesterday and consequently gave up a three goal lead, but they held on to win it in overtime and didn't get discouraged. Same thing tonight - you couldn't think that a team with as much firepower as Carolina was going to stay off the boards all night, especially not after being shutout to open the season series. Cole's goal in particular was the product of pure power and skill, muscling through two huge defenders in Erskine and Jurcina to close the gap to one.

But the Caps held on and even added to their goal total, with Ovechkin adding a fourth and then Gordon getting a hard-working shorthanded empty netter to make it 5-2. No one panicked. The Canes would maintain pressure but get very little on net - there were sticks and bodies in shooting lanes all over the place, something I can't remember happening in recent days. They racked up 14 blocked shots and 16 takeaways while turning over the puck only 8 times.

There were, as always, little things that need improvement. Jurcina continues to look shaky. Turnovers are still happening, albeit less frequently. Pettinger's pointless drought continues and he was a -2 on the night. And Olie needs to keep that five hole shut. But for once they are just little things. Another great, great job by the Caps to get a key two points in the standings.

If you were checking that out of town scoreboard, the other two Southeast division teams both lost tonight. That puts the Caps five points behind Tampa and Atlanta and six behind Florida (with two games in hand on the kitties). The gap is still wide, but suddenly it doesn't seem so daunting anymore. The Caps need to keep this up and they could start making some noise - they certainly look like they're starting to believe they can do it.

Next up, the evil Slugs pay a visit to Verizon on Monday, likely bringing with them their many hordes of blue and yellow clad supporters. Let's see if we can't shut up those "Let's Go Buff-a-lo!" chants...

All photos courtesy of AP


Chris & Sarah said...

What an awesome game. I was able to catch the first two periods at home, and the last 5 minutes of the 3rd when I arrived at my appointment. Even caught most of the intervening minutes on the radio while driving.

My only complaint was that we still need to work on the power play. We were only 3 for 5. And it averaged 26.66 seconds per successful power play to score. WE CAN DO BETTER. ;P

Seriously, Green's goal in 15 seconds, Ovie's first in 58 seconds, and Nylander's in just 4 seconds. Could we ask for anything more?


Chris & Sarah said...

One thing I heard during the drive was an interview with BB. It turns out that Backstrom's placement on the 3rd line was completely accidental. Bruce had the lines pretty well complete when he realized he had forgotten someone ... Oh yeah! Nick. Oopps.

He didn't bother changing it, as putting him between two big guys would offer some protection, and give him a chance to set up some opportunities. And it allows BB to spread out the playing time to all four lines, and keeps Backstrom's time down to a reasonable amount and still work the PP and the PK.

Crazy, but it seems to be working.

Victor said...

If anyone else was at the game...were they expecting the organist to speed up at the end of the national anthem like I was?

Anonymous said...

I think, anthem-wise, that I'm always going to want to yell "GO BEARS!" after "land of the free" after this season.

Man, I'm broken.