You get the feeling, don’t you, that this Capitals’ club isn’t configured as it will be for springtime hockey. Last season the team had a trait of seeming to play up or down to the competition relative to an opponent’s position in the standings. This season there have been goaltending issues, injuries, important maturity by young bluelineers, and not so insignificantly, real improvement with cutting down on the volume of penalties. But of late the Caps have lost their first-period Mojo, and they’re playing a dangerous game in not skating with purpose and passion from puckdrop. They’re also transitioning to a new captain in-season. There seems still a missing ingredient or three from keeping the Caps from becoming a night-in, night-out force. They’re quite good, quite formidable, but not quite consistently scary good. And we know the team has the salary cap space to address this.
OFB’s undergraduates Andrew and Alex manned the gamewatch again last night.
- Despite the victory the Washington Capitals should not be happy with the way the team performed in the game — nor for much of this Southeast roadtrip. It was the second game in a row where the team fell behind by three goals, and it was the second time Michal Neuvirth was replaced by Jose Theodore. Sure a comeback feels great, but it did take third period heroics and a shootout to get it done against another Southeast club that again won’t see postseason action.
- It wasn’t his usual highlight reel caliber of tally, but Ovi’s initiating the third-period rally struck me as very much a captain’s kind of moment.
- I thought Brian Pothier had a strong outing overall, highlighted by his comeback-leading tally in the second period. Pothier played outstanding hockey in the autumn before succumbing to injury, I thought, and a healthy Brian Pothier I believe makes a difference for this underappreciated and undervalued blueline corps.
- Tomas Fleischmann this season has emerged not just as a reliably productive top six forward for the Caps but as a bona fide young gun around the league. He has been hot as of late and has been a key part of the Caps’ success this season. Flash is certainly flourishing as a player who has the ability to play on a top line, and his versatility as a forward could be a lead storyline this postseason.
- It has been a shaky season for netminder Jose Theodore to say the least, but a win like the one he earned in Florida can only help his fragile confidence. I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that Semyon Varlamov will carry the Caps post-Olympics and in the postseason as the team’s no. 1 guy in net but that neither Michal Neuvirth nor Jose Theodore will serve as his backup. I think the Caps are searching for a reliable, quality veteran netminder to do that. They’d be remarkably vulnerable without doing so.
- The Capitals are now 4-2 on the season in shootouts. Remember back not all that long ago when a shootout was a virtual death sentence for the club? I’m no fan of them, but there’s no denying their drama, nor the feel-real-good relief that accompanies triumphing in them. I also believe that the shootout’s biggest bellyachers have an affirmative obligation to propose a viable alternative. Bringing back ties ain’t gonna win a new contract with ESPN, either.
- Down 4-2 at the start of the third period, Alex Ovechkin’s openeing-minute strike off of a Panthers’ turnover brought the Caps to within one and changed the momentum for the rest of regulation. Ovechkin leads the league in goals per game (and points per game), scoring his 28th goal in only his 38th game last night.
- Bruce Boudreau has instilled a resolve in his team to come from behind — even when things looks really ugly as they have the past two nights. Andrew mentioned the first periods of recent games featuring the Caps coming out flat, and DC should have lost after another poor opening 20 on Wednesday, but boasting the best offense in the league, the Capitals have unique and lethal rallying ability. I attribute the comebacks more to Boudreau’s ability to change his team’s configuration on the fly. He knew when the best time to pull Neuvy was, he knew which players he wanted to shuffle around, and he knew to give PK guys Quintin Laing and David Steckel plenty of rest in the final minutes of regulation and OT just in case — and it all paid off in a 5-4 shootout win with the team down 4-2 after two.
- Jason Chimera’s ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’ was impressive to say the least. Remember just a week or so ago when we suggested that Caps’ fans be patient with Chimera in his transition from Columbus and Ken Hitchcock to Gabby’s get-up-and-go system, and to his new teammates? He sure looked comfortable in a Caps’ sweater last night. Last night I noticed not only his remarkable blazing speed but his solid balance on the puck. He’s not easy to knock off the puck. Chimera might have taken a giant leap forward last night in proving his value to Caps’ fans after just two weeks of transition time.
- The Hershey Bears lost to the Norfolk Admirals 4-3 last night, ending their franchise-best winning streak at 12 games. And it occurred in heartbreaking fashion: the team was just 7 seconds from overcoming a 3-1, third period deficit and forcing the game into OT. Despite the loss Hershey still has a team record 29 wins through 40 games. But what a schedule they’re confronting: last night’s was the team’s first of four games in a five-day timeframe. Our pucksandbooks will be in Giant Center this weekend for Saturday’s tilt with Wilkes Barre-Scranton and Sunday’s versus Syracuse.