The Washington Capitals came out of the All-Star break to face two of the top teams in the league in the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Redwings. They also had a match-up against the Ottawa Senators who had beaten them in their two previous meetings.
The Caps returned to form as they went 2-0-1 last week, netting 5 out of a possible 6 points.
The Caps are still where we left them prior to the All-Star break ranked 1st in the Southeast division (now with a 13-point lead), ranked 2nd in the Eastern Conference (now with only a 1-point lead), and still ranked fourth overall in the league (also with only a 1-point lead).
The team nipping at their heels in the conference, and the league is the Caps next opponent; the New Jersey Devils. The Devils will be the Caps third opponent in four days.
Let’s get to some recapping.
1/27/09 – @ Boston – In a game that seemed like a chess match, these two heavyweights of the Eastern conference squared off for the second time in 11 days. The Caps had won their previous meeting at Verizon Center by a score of 2-1. This game started with the Caps leading 2-1 after the first period. The Bruins were able to tie the game up in the second period, and goaltending expedition by Jose Theodore and Tim Thomas in the third period carried the game into overtime with both teams tied at two. In the end, a costly penalty put the Capitals 23rd ranked penalty killers into a 4-on-3 situation and lead to the Bruins game winning goal.
Losing in the worst way – The Bruins game winner in overtime came when Shaone Morrison attempted to disrupt a pass in front of the net, and had the puck ricochet off his skate past Theodore. This is the second time I’ve seen this happen to Morrison this season. Morrison was in good position; it was just an unlucky bounce.
1/31/09 – vs. Detroit – The Washington Capitals have turned Verizon Center into the place that no one wants to play. Their sell-out crowds at Verizon have only seen four Capitals losses this season. Even the defending Stanley Cup Champion Redwings couldn’t overcome the Red-Out at Verizon as they fell 4-2 to their ungracious hosts.
Call ‘em out, Bruce – After watching the Redwings tie the game near the end of the second period, thanks to a bone-headed and unnecessary penalty by Alex Semin, Coach Boudreau had some choice words for his two superstars Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s response was immediate as he came out and scored two goals in the third period to give the Capitals the 4-2 win over Detroit.
How many Caps can you fit into one penalty box? – To show you how much the NHL loves their dramatic finishes, I’ll need to paint you a bit of a picture. The Caps are up by two goals. Detroit has pulled their goalie with two minutes left to get the extra attacker and are skating 6-on-5. Victor Kozlov is given a questionable hooking penalty giving the Redwings a 6-on-4 advantage.
The refs weren’t finished yet; 13 seconds later, Brooks Laich has the puck hit high on the glass and bounce over, but the refs call him for delay of game. Laich takes a seat next to Kozlov; Detroit replaces their goalie and now skate 5-on-3 with a minute-and-a-half left to go. The refs still weren’t done. Tom Poti, while clearing the puck, hit an attacker’s stick and the puck flew up over the glass. He was forced to stand in the box with Kozlov and Laich with a little less than a minute to go, knowing that the Redwings could be on the power-play for both the game tying, and game winning goals.
Detroit failed to score, but I gotta tell you, a game where your team is leading by two goals with less than two minutes to go, should not be so nerve racking!
2/1/09 – vs. Ottawa – It had been less than 24 hours since the Caps wrapped up their game versus the Bruins. During that time, the ice had been converted to a basketball court for the Wizards, and returned to an ice surface for the Capitals as they prepared to face Ottawa. This was the Caps fourth meeting with the Senators, and Ottawa had won the previous two matchups. Ottawa scored the game’s first goal, early in the first period, but it would be the last time they would lead in the game. Washington poured it on getting four straight goals before Ottawa was able to score their second. By the end of the second period, the Caps had a comfortable four-goal lead, and Alex Ovechkin had scored a hat trick. Ottawa was able to score two more goals in the third, but it was really too little, too late. The Caps went on to win 7-4.
Five Goals in 24-hours – Alex’s two goal performance in the third period versus Detroit, plus his hat trick in the first and second periods versus Ottawa gave him a grand total of 36 goals for the season. I would be willing to bet if you asked people who hadn’t seen the game versus Ottawa to guess who had the hat trick in that game, they would all guess Ovechkin first.
The Wrap up – Getting 5-out-of-6 points, considering the competition last week, is a great job by the Caps. They faced two of the top three teams last week and got three points for their efforts. A casual observer may see the Caps lose to some teams that they shouldn’t, but the more trained eye will notice that the Caps seem to play their best when they are facing the best.
Looking forward – The Caps start this week tomorrow night in New Jersey as they try and fend off the Devils. The Caps need a win over New Jersey to keep their position in the conference standings. After that they get to come back home to welcome the Kings, and the Panthers. The Caps are the healthiest they’ve been since November but need to be careful this week. As noted in the wrap-up, the Caps are notorious for losing to teams they should beat, and L.A and Florida certainly fit that description.