Friday night in Chinatown feels like a magical place. The air around Verizon Center was practically electric with expectation this evening. After the year the Caps had last year, and their improbable last second playoff berth, the Caps organization has seen 4,000 new year-long season ticket holders, and have seen merchandise sales double.
The Capitals coming back home after a 2-1 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday didn’t really need to bounce back tonight (it is pre-season after all), but they did. Our story begins with a young Russian man; maybe you’ve heard of him, he’s called “Ovechkin.”
Now, I don’t speak any Russian, but I am quite certain that if you trace the name Ovechkin back to it’s roots you’ll find that it means “finds the back of the net.”
True to his (unofficial) namesake, Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net on the penalty kill to score the games first tally. He did it short-handed, exactly 15 minutes into the first period.
As a matter of fact, the first three goals of the game were scored by the usual suspects; Alex Ovechkin, Chris Clark and Nicklas Backstrom. My guess is that Ovechkin is actually Kaiser Soze as he was also credited with an assist on both Clark and Backstrom’s goals.
Clark’s goal in the second period (3:50 on the PP) was that of a pool-hall hustler, or one of those old Larry Bird/Michael Jordan commercials as he went off the back glass, (as he circled around behind the net picking up his own rebound) off the back of the goalie (Jean-Sabastien Aubin), and nothing but net.
Nearly five minutes later (8:45) Brooks Laich helped Nick Backstrom find the backdoor to Aubin’s net as he passed the puck to Backstrom who was waiting just behind the crease.
Meanwhile at the other end of the ice, Jose Theodore was the “purveyor of the pristine ice” as the Caps had outshot the Flyers 15-4 at the 30-minute mark. The Flyers only managed 4 shots even though they had been on the power-play five times during that time.
Early in the second period, Riley Cote decided that life just wasn’t worth living and chose Donald Brashear as his manner of suicide. Cote picked the fight that not only put him on the receiving end of several of “The Donald’s” gourmet knuckle-sandwiches (and a relatively quick trip to the ice), but also got him an additional roughing major to add insult to the injury.
The Flyers had had enough of the Capitals scoring by the end of the second period, and replaced Aubin (who had stopped 14 of 17 in two periods) with Martin Biron.
Biron would not fair much better as he would go on to stop only 10 of 12 shots giving up goals to Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr.
Theodore may not have had to do much this game, as he really only faced 18 total shots, but his most spectacular came midway through the third period when he faced down a 3-0 break-away and managed a nifty glove-save. The lone goal given up by Theodore was to Danny Briere while Chris Clark was sitting in the penalty box on a questionable interference penalty.
— Cote could not leave Brashear alone and ultimately got himself and Brashear matching unsportsmanlike and game misconduct penalties later in the third period.
— The crowd at Verizon may not have been a sell-out, but you wouldn’t know it to hear them. The Caps faithful let their team know how much they loved them all night long and “rocked the red” proudly.
—Jay Beagle continues to impress and was named one of the stars of the game tonight without having as much as a goal or an assist. Beagle was paired up with Boyd Gordon and Donald Brashear tonight and showed that he wasn’t afraid to give or take a hit. He found himself in the middle of quite a few scrums but no major fights. “He’s pretty good actually,” said Coach Boudreau who seemed to light up when asked about Beagle, “I like that guy. He plays with a lot of energy, and he’s already becoming a bit of a fan favorite.”
—Alex Ovechkin is seeing a lot of time on the penalty kill in the pre-season and so far has two shorthanded goals to show for it. It would appear he will be a regular to that job as well as his usual power play shifts. “I want to play at every station” said Ovechkin after the game, “I want try and play simple, and when I have a chance to shoot the puck, I shoot the puck.”
—The crowd rained down the boo’s every time Steve Eminger touched the puck. I can only imagine the warm reception that awaits Olie Kolzig. Eminger was traded to the Flyers last year for a first round draft pick.
—Sergei Federov played defenseman this evening and Coach Boudreau has been tight-lipped about whether that move signals that he is looking for an opening for center Jay Beagle. Of course, there aren’t a lot of spots open for defenseman either and fan-favorite Karl Alzner is still trying to find a spot. Bruce Boudreau has some tough decisions ahead, but admits it’s a good problem to have.
—The regular season for the Capitals starts next Friday versus Atlanta and their home opener is Saturday versus Chicago. The Caps are currently 5-1 in the preseason with one game left and are off to their best pre-season start since 1999 when they went 5-2-0. The Caps are currently at the top of the Southeast division.