It’s not easy to outshine a player such as Alex Ovechkin; but for this past weekend, Mike Green managed to do just that. Even though Green’s scoring run ended with eight games, he set a new league record for consecutive games with a goal scored by a defenseman. His eight game goal scoring streak was the longest such consecutive streak since the ’98-’99 season when Miroslav Satan and Teemu Selanne both had eight game runs.
Ovechkin may be knocking off records held by previous Caps left and right, but Green’s achievement is one that even the Great-Eight doesn’t have yet. Green’s eight game goal scoring streak is the longest by a Capital since ’86-’87 when Mike Gartner went on a nine-game goal-scoring run.
The Caps as a team did pretty well this week also, going 2-0-1 versus their three opponents. Unfortunately, thanks to their overtime loss versus New York, they have allowed the New Jersey Devils to catch up with them. They are now tied for 4th in the league, tied for second in the Eastern Conference, but still hold a 13-point lead in the Southeast division.
Let’s get to the recap.
Wednesday, Feb. 11th – Rangers Slip Past Caps in Shootout – The Caps returned to Madison Square Garden where they had beaten the Rangers 5-4 back on December 23rd. The Rangers looked to beat up on the Caps as there were two fights before the game was even three minutes old. After two periods, both teams were dead-locked at four goals apiece. In the third period, the officials put the Caps penalty-killers to the test as they doled out 10-minutes worth of minor penalties to the visitors from Washington. The game would finally be decided by combination of a lucky bounce and a favorable interpretation of the rules.
Um, excuse me, Miss? – Ryan Callahan’s game-winning shot in overtime missed the net completely. It ricocheted off the back wall, hit Theodore from behind and slid into the net. The goal was initially waved off as a missed shot, but as soon as it slid across the line, the officials ruled it a goal. Ordinarily, this would be acceptable during regular game-play, but the shootout has different rules. For example, the shooter cannot go below the goal line (like to attempt a wrap-around) so if the puck misses the net, it should be the end of the play. Apparently, the officials in New York didn’t see it that way.
Saturday, Feb. 14th – Caps Blitz Bolts 5-1 – This was a very special game for the Caps as many of their fathers were in attendance. It saw Mike Green break the NHL record for most consecutive games with a goals scored by a defenseman, but it was also the first NHL start for Michal Neuvirth. The Caps were never in any danger of losing this game as they gave their rookie net-minder a three-goal lead to protect in the first period. Tampa actually out-shot Washington for the first two periods but Neuvirth put together a solid performance even robbing Vincent Lacavalier on a late first period breakaway.
Show the Rookie some love – The Caps have now seen two of their rookie net-minders this season in Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth; the two are a combined 3-0. Neuvirth had a 0.979 save percentage versus Tampa stopping 31 of 32 shots he faced. Neuvirth faced down Vincent Lacavalier, Marty St. Louis, and Mark Recchi as if he’d been doing it for years and kept all three out of the net. Recchi has made a great career of scoring against the Capitals as he has the second most points by a single player versus the Washington Franchise with 108. To put that in perspective, Gretzky had 105 and Lemieux had 101 in their careers versus the Caps.
Sunday, Feb. 15th – Caps Tame Panthers 4-2 – The Panthers may have ended Mike Green’s record setting streak, but were beaten by Washington’s top goal scorer. Alex Ovechkin got the scoring started when he sailed the puck past Florida Goalie Thomas Vokoun near the end of the first period. Florida began their comeback midway through the second period and had tied the game at two apiece early in the third. Ovechkin would go on to record a hat trick when he got the game winning and the coffin-nail goals in the game’s final three minutes.
Overshadowed stat – Alex Semin registered an assist on Ovechkin’s first goal of the night. This gives Semin his 50th point of the season. Why is that such a big deal? Semin now joins Ovechkin (74 points), Backstrom (60 points), and Green (50 points) in the 50-point club. Washington is now the only team with four 50-point producers on the year.
The Wrap Up – Washington saw some significant improvement from their penalty killers this week allowing only one PPG on 16 power-play chances. I suppose you could say they have had plenty of practice as they averaged 5 penalties per game. The next thing they need to figure out is how to stay out of the penalty box. It’s no secret that I have no love for the on-ice officiating and feel the refs give the other teams the benefit of the doubt far more frequently than they do the Caps, Even so, home cooking can only account for so many penalties and there were plenty of examples of bone-headedness to be had from the Caps.
Considering the Caps played all three games on the road and came away with five points, I’d say they did pretty well.
Coming up – The Caps play three games this week, all in front of their home fans. Each of their opponents is floundering and have each lost more than they’ve won in their past 10 games as of this article. The Caps start their week off Wednesday with Montreal who is 3-7-0 in their last 10, but are still second in their division. Then they bring in the Avalanche with the same recent record as the Habs, and they finish their week with the Penguins on Sunday.
Washington lost their last meeting with Montreal, and are notorious for losing to mediocre Western Conference teams (see L.A.). Even though the Penguins are struggling this year, I wouldn’t count them out either. This is a clear example of a week that looks easier on paper than it will be on ice.
Home Cooking – The Caps will be seeing a lot of red here in the next few weeks as they play nine of their next ten games at Verizon Center. Washington is currently 22-4-1 when “Rocking the Red.”