First thing’s first: Captain Chris Clark, who took a brutal, undeflected Alexander Ovechkin slapshot directly to his head in the third period Friday night, is in reasonably good shape. According to the team, he suffered no broken bones, no concussion, and received stitches to his ear (don’t know how many). Don’t know his status for tomorrow night in St. Louis, but knowing this guy, he’ll find a way shake out the cobwebs, supress the pain, and lead his troops against the Blues.
- Never a good idea to stake one of the planet’s finest goaltenders to an early lead, especially when he has 9-0 MoJo against you going for him as it is. The Caps fell behind early, a couple of fluky bounces helped the ‘Nucks to their first two goals, and the Caps were playing catch-up all night.
- Not to pitch prunes against a wall, but the game footage from this one won’t be submitted to the league’s Office of Officiating and ID’d as “Boy did the boys in stripes call a stellar one here.” Faux penalties, too few instances of diving hockey players (on both sides) sanctioned for unsportsmanlike, and high sticks galore occasioned “Refs you s*ck” chants from the home faithful. Ovechkin in particular had his chicklets seemingly regularly loosened from Canuck stick blades wielded high.
- With about six minutes left in the second period, Olie Kolzig kept his team in the game with a pair of point-blank, fanny-raising-in-the-stands saves on Henrik Sedin.
- A little later in the second, Viktor Kozlov, the puck under control on his stick and little pressure on him high in his own end, missed seeing a wide-open-down-the-middle Alexander Semin for would would have been a sure clean breakaway. That would have been a treat to see, two of the game’s premiere talents in a one-on-one showdown.
- It was a slapshot shooting gallery for Alexander Semin, known far more for his world-class wrister; he blasted at least three at Roberto Luongo. His manning one point on the power play had something to do with that.
- Speaking of the power play, it went 2-for-5 tonight, with Coach Hanlon designing an all forwards unit of five (Alex O and Alex S, Clark, Nylander, and Kozlov) on the first unit. Will it stay intact in St. Louis? Hard to argue with a 40 percent success rate — and against Luongo, too — versus what preceded it.
- It’s becoming a bit of a broken record, but again Ovechkin hit everything opponent that moved, often thunderously. I’m not sure I saw Mark Messier in his prime take the body as consistently and as savagely — and legally — as AO is this season.
- I found the Caps’ blueline corp rather underwhelming in its general effectiveness in the game’s first half but markedly better in the second. Kolzig deserved better support than what he got from them in the first period.
- Vancouver’s checking line I thought did a real effective job against the Ovechkin line all night long. At even strength it generated minimal sustained pressure.
- ‘Nuck Kevin Bieska was a consistent force of obstruction against Caps’ forwards down low all night. Some of it was of the legal variety, some of it, away from the play, was not. But he was an effective nuissance.
I had a chance to chat with a Caps’ official who was present at both the Draft Combine in Toronto and the Entry Draft itself in Columbus. Young Pat Kane, the first pick of the draft by the Hawks, is acquitting himself rather well as an 18-year-old in Chicago’s top 6, racking up 13 points in just 10 games thus far. I wanted to know if at any point last spring the Caps’ brass had flirted with the idea of trading up from the no. 5 spot with an eye on grabbing Kane. The short answer is no. The Caps did interview Kane, and the team was extremely impressed by him. “He told us that he was positive that he was going to play in the NHL, this year, and make an impact,” the official told me. Right on both counts.
After tonight’s game in St. Louis, the team will fly into Toronto for Monday night’s game against the Leafs. The team won’t skate on Sunday and instead will attempt to gain a privileged tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame. A sort of VIP tour. Gotta think something like that would make quite an impression on somebody like Nicklas Backstrom. If the special visit takes place, look for Mike Vogel to chronicle it in vivid detail early next week.