A lead storyline for the Capitals the past couple of days has been the bounce-back performance of Jose Theodore. After injecting a scare of his old inconsistent self last week, Theo was rock solid in Columbus Saturday night and he followed that vintage performance with another outstanding effort last night: 28 saves and a second star on the evening designation. He may never have been more impressive in a Capitals’ sweater than with his highway robbery of Michael Ryder in the first period last night, his pads stacked strong while laying prone on the ice, a stoning that earned him a standing ovation from the Verizon Center throng.
“They came charging the net and I was able just to pretty much react,” he said. “I didn’t really know what happened, but when you’re in your game you make those desperation saves and I got lucky to be able to react on both saves.”
My intern last night noted that JT seemed to be seeing the puck exceptionally well through the maze of legs in his slot, and to be comfortable with loose pucks and general mayhem in tight, in marked contrast to his conspicuous unsteadiness all about the puck down low a week ago.
- Another encouraging sign: The Capitals are perfect in their last three games on the penalty kill (9-for-9) and improved to 29-2-3 on the season when their opponent fails to score on the power play.
- Monday night was the Caps’ 29th home victory of the season, one shy of the club record of 30 triumphs at home, and they get two more cracks at matching or beating that record this week.
- No Greener, no Carlson, no problem. You know when the Caps recalled Carlson at the beginning of March I was one who believed it was durable and with playoff duty in mind, and that the team would use him in all situations over the final 20 games to get him comfortable with a partner and the quick decisionmaking required in the National League. But it became clear quite early that he wouldn’t need half of those games to establish himself as a prime contributor on the back end. The Caps are now being extra cautious with Carlson’s nicks and dings — and make no mistake, he’d be playing if it were the playoffs — because he is so polished, so ready for prime time.
- Boudreau is using this week to manage a conspicuous moderation of minutes for his big guns. Ovi skated just a hair over 18 minutes last night. That’s like scratching the Gr8. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Nicky seated for Friday night.
- Forty five minutes into the first period Backstrom goal review, what were replay officials looking at? ‘The Pacific’ on Demand? Duke-Butler hadn’t tipped off yet. There was no replay angle that was going to definitively determine the yea or nay of that scoring sequence. Tiger Woods’ presser Monday didn’t last as long.
- The Capitals didn’t make Tuuka Rask’s evening particularly trying, but credit the Bs for well cramming the interior of the ice and not allowing much in the way of second and third scoring opportunities. That’s the game they play. Did anyone else sense that the Bs were perhaps playing for the point in the final frame? They were tied up with the best team in hockey on the road while missing key guys throughout the lineup, and in the postgame Bs players and coaches alike were quick to point out the value of the point earned.
- Dennis Wideman’s high sticking in overtime was so unnecessary, so undisciplined. It could end up costing the Bs a playoff berth.
- It probably helped that this is a serious Duke-hating region, but it was a seriously full house for a meaning-challenged hockey game last night while the NCAA contested its hoops championship. There is far more to Washington’s hockey culture than red fashion clogging Metro cars and platforms on game nights. The Final Four of course tipped off on Saturday, and at the Olney Ale House in Olney, Maryland, then the lone flatscreen TV behind the bar was broadcasting the first period of the Caps-Bluejackets right as Butler and Michigan State were coming down the stretch in the second half. Four or five red-clad Caps’ fans were seated at the small bar and following the game intently, as was the bartender, occasioning no small consternation from hoops junkies who arrived to catch the waning moments of the big game. A real spirited dispute ensued. Feelings got hurt. A few of the hoops junkies abandoned the bar in a huff. Eventually the barkeep switched over for the final three minutes of action on the hardwood, but such a scene would have been unimaginable here just three years ago. The Caps were playing what was tantamount to an exhibition game Saturday night, in the something short of hockey mecca Columbus, but for no small swath of suburban bar patronage, the Final Four had no claim on their puck passion. And I didn’t much notice folks in Verizon Center last night in a tight game between the Caps and Bs preoccupied with handhelds trying to keep up with hoops. Wow.
- Tonight of course offers hockey on a grand stage: Caps and mullets, in a potential season sweep of the champs, and an Ovi-Sid scoring showdown. Greatest TV ratings for hockey in Washington’s hockey history?