It was another good week to be a Caps fan last week as the Caps went 2-1-0 in their three games. The Caps managed to cling to their positions in both the League and Eastern Conference standings when they fended off New Jersey.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 200th career goal making him only the fifth player in NHL history to score 200 goals in his first four years. Mike Green broke a franchise record for consecutive games with a goal scored by a defenseman as he is currently on a six-game goal scoring streak.
The Caps did lose the services of Net-Minder Brent Johnson as he went in for surgery on a hip flexor that has plagued him all year. He is expected to be out for the next eight weeks, but may be back in time for the play-offs.
After starting the week off with a convincing win over New Jersey, the Caps had an equally convincing loss to Los Angles. The horrific play versus L.A. resulted in the return of fan favorite Karl Alzner from Hershey. The Caps defense improved dramatically as they bounced back to beat division-rival Florida in a low scoring affair Saturday night at Verizon Center.
Let’s get to some recapping.
Tuesday, Feb. 3rd – @ New Jersey – In a game that meant the difference between 2nd and 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals staved off the Devils in a 5-2 victory. They did this by jumping out to a 3-0 lead and going three for four on the power-play. New Jersey, who was fresh off comeback overtime wins over Boston and Pittsburg looked like they might do the same versus the Caps as the scored to end the second and begin the third periods bringing the score to 3-2, but it was Michael Nylander’s power-play goal, and Eric Fehr’s empty netter that finally tamed the Devils.
Perfect Timing – Michael Nylander hadn’t scored twice in a game since December 29, 2007. Nylander scored only his 6th and 7th goals of the season versus New Jersey and it’s appropriate that one of his two goals would be the game-winner. “He doesn’t like to shoot,” Washington’s Coach Boudreau said after the game. “We have a few of those guys, and then we have one guy who shoots every chance he gets. He makes up for those guys.”
Wow, that was fast – Brooks Laich scored the Capital’s second goal, just four seconds into the team’s second power-play opportunity.
Thursday, Feb. 5th – versus Los Angles – The sellout crowd at Verizon Center had barely had time to find their seats before Alex Semin had scored the team’s first goal; just 0:15 seconds into the first period. Unfortunately, the Caps faithful had been in their seats for a while (and had watched the Kings score three straight goals) before Mike Green would score the second. By the end of the second period, L.A. had a comfortable 4-2 lead. The Caps would attempt to stage a late rally, but it was too little, too late as they would fall to L.A. 5-4.
We’ve secretly replaced the Capital’s defense with Foldger’s Crystals – The Capitals looked sloppy and disjointed versus the Kings. Bad passing and worse turnovers seemed to be the name of the game. “The first two periods were as bad as we’ve played all year,” lamented Caps coach Bruce Boudreau afterwards. “They’ve got good speed, and they were coming up the middle well. Our guys were all over the place. We weren’t playing anywhere near what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s the frustrating part of the game.”
Bittersweet – Alex Ovechkin scored his 200th goal in his 296th game. It’s a huge milestone as he is now only the fifth to do so in league history. It’s a shame it had to come in a losing effort.
Saturday, Feb. 7th – versus Florida – Florida may be a distant speck in the rear-view mirror as far as the Southeast point standings go, but that was no reason for the Caps to take them lightly. Following the pattern of the L.A. game, the Caps scored first, just 0:33 seconds into the game. The teams were deadlocked 1-1 after the first and second periods. It was Mike Green’s early third period, PPG that broke the tie. Florida was granted a golden opportunity late in the third as they were give the two-man advantage with Sergei Federov and Shaone Morrison called for penalties less than a minute apart. Morrison’s 5-minute major meant the Panthers would be on the power-play for the rest of the game.
The Caps had been on a 13-game streak where they had given up at least one power-play goal, but on this night the streak would be broken as it would be Mike Green scoring short-handed on the empty net to finally put the Panthers to bed.
Green Light – Mike Green is one game away from tying the league record for consecutive games with a goal scored by a defenseman. That record was established by Boston’s Mike O’Connell who tallied in seven straight games for the Bruins in January of 1984. O’Connell netted a career-high 18 goals that season. Green has now scored seven goals in his past six games, and currently has 19 goals on the season.
The Wrap Up – The Caps played well versus their Eastern Conference rivals, but not so much against a mediocre Western Conference Opponent. Nine of the Caps’ 16 losses have come at the hands of Western Conference opponents to whom they are 7-9-0. The Caps seem to play great against the top teams in the East, and look like they may be playing late into the play-offs, but they will need to figure out a way to put away the West if they want to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Coming Up – The Caps are going to be busy as they wrap up the month of February. They play three games this week; all on the road. They start off in New York this Wednesday versus the Rangers, and spend this weekend in Florida with back-to-back game versus the Lightning and Panthers. They return to Verizon next week where they start a five-game home stand and play six games in 11 days to wrap up the month.
The Caps are still 4th in the league, 2nd in the Eastern Conference and 1st in their division, and are in no danger of losing their position to any of their next three opponents, but with New Jersey nipping at their heels, they will need to win versus all three.
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