Three things Capitals fans should take away from Thursday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning:
- Apparently, Dale Hunter knows how to get the room to respond. This is important, since it was what players had stopped doing for Bruce Boudreau and ultimately one of the reasons Boudreau was let go. Alex Ovechkin told Al Koken in the Verizon Center on-ice interview after the game that Hunter voiced his displeasure with the team in between the second and third periods—after they had given up a 1-0 lead to fall behind 2-1 and mustered only three shots on goal in that period (against a rookie goalie!).
“Start playing the way you need to be playing,” Troy Brouwer said of Hunter’s message, adding Hunter’s only gone off like that a few times. “He’s a pretty composed guy, but he just wants the best out of us, and sometimes babying guys and being their friend doesn’t work. You’ve got to raise your voice a little.”
Karl Alzner said the coach’s approach was necessary; he remembered Hunter yelling one other time, earlier in his tenure as Capitals coach, but Alzner added this time around was more intense.
“It wasn’t like he came in yelling, screaming, kicking stuff over, but he’s stern,” Alzner said. “And what he was saying, he really, really meant.”
- Marcus Johansson ended up coming up big for the Capitals in the third period with the game-tying goal, a beauty which also required him to thread his way through some traffic. But at the end of the second period, he was virtually invisible, as Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and I noted: no shots on goal, no attempts blocked, no missed shots, no takeaways, no hits, no blocked shots. The only stats he did have were two giveaways and one faceoff, which he lost. All that unproductivity, and he had the third most ice time of any forward at that point besides Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. He passed neither the eye test nor the stats sheet test. Now, in the third, he suddenly turned his game around: three shots on goal, an attempt blocked, at least one faceoff won, and at least one takeaway to balance out the three giveaways. But there’s no reason he had to wait to the third period to exert that kind of influence. In other words, you need that kind of effort in all three periods, not just the final frame. Everyone on the roster should be focused on that.Everyone should be bringing that A game for a full 60 minutes.
- Bless the Capitals who did go to the net Thursday night; Brooks Laich had to put up with a very physical Mike Commodore who made it his life goal on one shift to plague the sweat out of Laich trying to get traffic to the net. I just wish we’d see more of that chip on the shoulder from the Capitals when they’re in their own end; they often leave guys virtually unguarded in the crease, and no one seems to make it difficult, as Commodore did for Laich, for the opposing team to stand there. Check out both of Tampa’s goals; on the first, Ryan Malone is practically uncontested for the few seconds before the goal is scored. On the second, Stamkos and Malone position themselves behind the Capitals defenders with no trouble whatsoever for a few seconds. Yes, the goals are scored on the power play, and the Capitals penalty kill has pros and cons about where to put your four bodies against the five; but the Capitals could probably make people pay more around the net.
The Capitals’ win masked no power play goals and a penalty kill that got wounded twice; and Mike Green’s hit on Brett Connolly was in poor taste that could land him sitting out a few more games for disciplinary reasons.
But overall, a win should make Caps fans optimistic. Remember the St. Louis Cardinals run last fall!
Onward to Boston.