Aesthetically, it wasn’t pretty last night, and Atlanta played a playoff-style road game — meaning, they were more than content to keep it choppy and ugly — but the Capitals remained patient, received solid if unspectacular netminding from Semyon Varlamov, and eventually wore the Thrashers down enough to get them to succumb. It seemed perfectly scripted that Matt Bradley would provide the game-winner in such a slogging. But for us, there was one standout moment from last night, and it was uglier than the hockey itself:
If that isn’t targeting the head, what is?
“I just came in on the forecheck,” the assailant said afterward. “I thought I had a pretty good angle. I haven’t seen him play, but he’s a skilled good lateral movement player. If anything, I just tried to reach out and get a piece of him.”
Oh, Armstrong reached out and got a piece of him alright.
“I was going to go right through him. I think he kind of bailed on the hit a little bit. I didn’t mean to get my arms up into his neck or anything like that. [I just did] I saw the replay and I just tried to get a piece of him as he came by me. It’s just one of those plays.”
Yea, just one of those plays . . . that keeps on plaguing our game.
“I didn’t mean to do that.”
Armstrong should be suspended — most especially by the criteria which has been applied to suspensions of Capitals’ players this season for hits up high.
- Mathieu Perreault recovered from Armstrong’s attack and, while he didn’t register a point, he played a third consecutive effective and reliable game of his most recent stint last night. More and more he is offering Bruce Boudreau reliable and disciplined shifts, and more and more he’s staking a case to be, perhaps, just perhaps, yet another addition to the postseason roster. Not only did he look more comfortable on the ice last night, he appeared to have some chemistry with Alexander Semin. After the game he said it was hard to get into the flow of the game because of the whistles, but he did say he believed that Semin and he had something brewing.
- Of the blow to the head he suffered from Assailant Armstrong: “I was trying to make a play and I saw him at the last second, he had his elbow pretty high, I think,” the young center said. “[At the] last second, I tried to turn but he kinda got me in the head, I got a bit of a headache.” He told us that he thought it should have been a penalty and that he thought it was an elbow. Not only did he take the cheap shot high from Armstrong, but he said he got cut with a high stick on the very next shift. The fact he came back for the third period with five more shifts and another four minutes of ice time shows he is one tough little bugger and has a lot of heart and grit. Small wonder he’s become a conspicuous fan favorite.
- Gabby had no comment on the officiating, but we’re sure he’ll be waiting to see where the NHL Wheel of Justice will come down on this one.
- Last night’s effort from Semyon Varlamov doesn’t make things any easier for Boudreau. If this is the real Varly, the one we saw last spring, then Boudreau would be foolish not to start him and see what else he has. For Boudreau, Varly laying an egg last night would have forced him to stick with Jose Theodore down the stretch, since he has had the better second half. Instead, he now has to give Varly another shot. If he does well in his next start, then Gabby has a real pickle on his hands, you have to think. Whoever earns the start against the Penguins come Tuesday night, you would think, will offer us a strong clue as to whom the ehad coach is leaning toward with the postseason in mind.
- Teams that win Stanley Cups usually have strong and vocal veterans. Mike Knuble qualifies. He is extremely thoughtful and knowledgeable about hockey and what it takes for a good team to succeed in the postseason. Last night he again offered us interesting observations about leading questions of the day. We asked him about Varly. While many guys would be happy to have one great goalie, Knuble noted, “You can’t have one guy with all of the confidence and the other guy with none.” A good and interesting point.
- Alexander Semin certainly appears locked in and ready for the playoffs. Despite not earning a point last night, he made some fantastic plays, moved fast and effectively all over the ice, and made presence known. His puck control was exceptional again, and last night was the first time in five games he didn’t record a point. Despite not scoring he still ended up +1. While the other Alex is struggling a bit, Semin’s offense and renewed energy, or interest, is certainly a boost for the team.