Washington looked as if it was going to play a complete game against Toronto last night, leading 3-1 heading into the final 20 minutes, despite being down early in the first period. The Maple Leafs however had other ideas, and in swift fashion scored three unanswered goals to take the lead late in the third. The third period collapse was particularly discouraging in light of the fact that Toronto had labored on Tuesday night in a loss to Ottawa while the Caps had had three full days off since last skating. The third period last night should have been theirs. Killer instinct. Remember that concern from last season?
Alexander Semin, however, answered late on the power play — and eventually added the shootout winner. The Caps are 4-0-0 on the season when he scores. More on him in a moment.
- Just a Coincidence? It is clear the power-play, Boyd Gordon, scoring more than three goals and playing beyond regulation have been good things for the Capitals this year. They are 5-0 when converting on the PP, 6-0 when Gordon steps onto the ice, 7-0 when they light the lamp at least three times and 4-0 in overtime. What all of that turns into is 16 points, an 8-4 record and first place in the Eastern Conference.
- The Silent Leader: Jason Chimera scored yet another goal and earned the hard hat for his effort last night. He sounded an awful lot like a leader in the locker room after the win. While head coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to give Toronto credit for their comeback, Chimera held the guys in the room to a higher standard, saying, “It was nothing they really did, we kind of gave them three goals.”
- Fuzzy Numbers: Offensive production can be deceiving. Mike Green has scored goals in the last two games, and four points in them, but he wouldn’t boast much about other aspects of his game. He skated a -3 last night. Some of it was not his fault, but there was one goal he directly contributed to by leaving his feet. Ed Frankovic of WNST believes the worst thing a defender can do is leave his feet, and Green did just that, resulting in a Toronto goal.
- Sarge had a third period to forget as well — he was on the ice for all three Toronto tallies. He was a -2 on the evening.
- Four for the Show: Washington renewed from last season a trend of winning despite surrendering four or more goals against the Leafs last night. Washington had eight wins last year despite giving up four goals in a game, and last night was this season’s first.
- Young and Impressionable: Rookie Michal Neuvirth has taken perhaps the biggest step in his play this season of any Capital. Not only has he played in 12 games, but he is also first in wins with eight and tenth in the league in goals against, posting a 2.31 average. Neuvy’s teammates have taken notice too. One guy in particular, Mike Green, feels particularly good about him between the pipes.”He’s incredible. I don’t want to pump him too much but he’s been outstanding for us. As a defenseman I feel so comfortable with him behind us,” Green said. “There’s already a mutual bond that we feel even though he’s only been here a short period of time.” Wednesday’s game was Neuvirth’s first shootout win at the NHL level. It might be worth noting: the last time you heard Caps’ defenders sing high praise for playing with supreme confidence because of the caliber of netminder backstopping them, that goalie’s name was Cristobal Huet. Huet’s acquisition was a bit of a magic charm in 2008. Big juicy rebounds left by Olie Kolzig suddenly disappeared. Caps’ defenders just seemed to know where the puck was going to be with Huet in net. The same quality appears to be taking hold with Neuvy.
- Wednesday night offered yet another “Semin Hat Trick”: Alexander Semin is an enigma that could stump Sherlock Holmes. After taking an offensive zone penalty in the game, authors a beautiful assist on the Caps’ first goal on the power play, later takes another offensive zone penalty, and finally scores, dramatically and late, to send the game into overtime. A goal, an assist, an offensive-zone penalty–from this we’ve coined the phrase “Semin Hat Trick,” but hardly an improvement on a Gordie Howe’s labor. Like it or loathe it, it’s become somewhat of a trademark of Semin’s play. Out of career totals for all players currently on the Washington Capitals’ roster, Semin leads in penalty minutes. He has even more than Alex Ovechkin or seasoned veteran Matt Bradley. Since (mercifully) Semin doesn’t fight and isn’t known for delivering life-altering hits that could be called for something, those high penalty numbers aren’t coming from rugged play that could perhaps be defended on some level but rather from mental errors and especially undisciplined stick-work, mistakes he’s clearly a talented enough player to avoid. There has been maturation in his game over the past season and a fraction, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Or maybe this just is Semin’s game, and you have to live with it.