“Tremendous intensity to this game, right from the start,” Versus’ Joe Micheletti informed viewers. I remind: once upon a time this was a Patrick division rivalry game. And the intensity was not unlike what we saw twice earlier on Versus this season, in games against Philly, another Patrick division alum. The weekend before last, during a home-and-home with Florida, during either broadcast did you hear an announcer comment on the intensity of the proceedings?
- It’s an astounding statistic: the Caps have led in every single one of the 21 games they’ve played this season.
- For the wrong reason there’s a can’t-avert-your-eyes quality to Matt Bradley’s fights, as he so often engages true heavyweights and thereby comes out on the worst end of so many of them, and this again happened in last night’s first period at Madison Square Garden. You watch Bradley’s battles and hold your breath that he doesn’t get hurt too badly. Bradley’s a middleweight, and he backs down from no battle, and I’d be one to suggest that his extraordinary sacrifice midway through the first period carried a significant bearing on the Caps’ play the remainder of the period and throughout the second frame. He departed the ice looking like a Halloween night massacre at the hands of Aaron Voros, and then of course came back and had strong shift after strong shift, capped by his brilliant play along the boards — directing the puck through the legs of Wade Redden, New York’s $8 million dollar man — before water bottling a beauty behind King Henrik. Officially Matt Bradley was identified as the game’s third star, but he was hands down no. 1 on my blog.
- Beast (Bradley) and the Beauty: I was introduced to Charissa Thompson in high definition on last night’s broadcast. Youth movements well serve hockey teams, and apparently they do so as well for hockey television broadcast teams. No wonder Ovi wanted to get back in the lineup for this game — he was interviewed by her twice last night. It’s going to be a warmer winter than I imagined.
- I call it Mike Green’s lateral ballet coiling action at the point, when the puck comes back to him with time and space and he begins his effortless, ever so agile hot-steppin toward a shooting lane, five defenders more or less helpless at that point. Sergei Gonchar was lethal on the pinch and especially on the weakside one-timer goalies never saw, but he could never butterfly across the blueline like Greener does.
Once again I liked what I saw from Mathieu Perreault, particularly in the faceoff circle. Did you notice how MP created a terrific scoring chance in period two while carrying the puck down the right wall, with two Rangers’ defenders perfectly positioned, with a simple saucer flick of his wrists that bounced the puck dangerously across Lundqvist’s crease and among his linemates? He can make something out of nothing, which premiere playmakers tend to do. Terrific feature on MP that ran on NHL.com yesterday.
At the end of his engagement Bradley appeared to ask a linesman if he was bleeding! A Toro Voros lawnmower had ridden over his face. If you are newly conscripted in the Red Army and not quite fluent with the role that violence plays in our sport, I’d be one to suggest that the Caps may well not have prevailed last night absent Bradley’s aggregate sacrifices. Hockey requires warrior effort and sacrifice, particularly in a game between two evenly matched clubs, and last night the Caps got just that from Brads.
- Cheapshot punk Sean Avery sucker-punched Semyon Varlomov in the head in plain view of the Zebra 20 feet away, John Erskine responded as he should have, and our guy was banished to the box. A Brian Pothier penalty followed not long after, the Caps couldn’t kill both, and the game was unjustly tied. Which made Matt Bradley’s late-game heroics all the sweeter.
- The scoresheet shows Ovi with just a single shot on goal (a successful one at that), but you’d have to label it a fantastic return performance. He had 7 hits that seemed like 70 ferocious ones against skaters in blue shirts. In fact, when the Rags were seriously pressing in the Caps’ end midway through the final frame Ovi went up the ice at last with the puck and made like the proverbial bull in a china shop, stalking Lundqvist with his powerful drive wide strides, swirling back again dangerously behind the cage, and then going on a one-man missile mission of hitting Rangers who’d taken the puck away from him. They were like bowling pins falling down. The shift reversed the game’s momentum.
- A great road game by the Caps? You betcha. They weathered an early Ranger storm, seemed bolstered by Bradley’s bravado, carried the play for pretty much the game’s middle 30 minutes, overcame some third-frame zebra malfeasance, and perservered against a quality club.
- Bruce Boudreau became the fastest coach to 100 wins in Capitals history, and the 4th fastest in NHL history. I hope he got interviewed afterward by Charissa.