On the face of things, the Capitals record of 2-1-0 for the week seems pretty good. However, when you consider that the Caps one loss came at the hand of their weakest opponent for the week, it really makes for some head scratching.
Any other time you might see a line-up involving the Canadiens, Avalanche and Penguins as a tough stretch of opponents. Not only were they slumping, but they were playing the Caps in Chinatown, where the Caps have only lost four times this season.
Colorado was the only team the Caps faced this week that had lost more games than they’d won (28-31-1), yet Colorado looked like the team bound for the playoffs while the Caps skated around like they were still looking for the answer.
Caps fans had a right to be angry with the performance they witnessed Friday night at the Phone Booth, but all was forgiven Sunday when the Caps obliterated hated rival Pittsburgh in front of a national audience. Not only did they beat up Pittsburgh 5-2, but they also exposed a little more of what is not quite right with the Penguins.
Sid the Kid seems to have lost the respect of his teammates as not one would come to his aid as he seemed to be exchanging words with just about everyone in the Caps line-up. It was an official that had to skate over and pull Crosby away from Ovechkin late in the third period…this didn’t happen in the far corner, mind you; it was right in front of the benches, and not a Penguin was stirring.
That’s the sign of a beaten team, and I should know; I remember the Caps/Pens match-ups under Glen Hanlon.
Let’s get to some recapping!
Wednesday, Feb. 18th – Caps Shoot Down Canadiens – 2:28 into the game, the Caps had their first penalty. 2:33 seconds into the game, Montreal had their first goal. The Caps would take the lead later in the first period, but then allowed Montreal to tie it up with another PPG before the period ended. After a boring second period, the Canadiens would take the lead in the third, only to see David Steckel tie it up with less than three minutes to go.
The Caps carried the game all the way to the shoot-out where Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom put Montreal away in the first two rounds.
He’s Grrrrr-Eight! – Alex Ovechkin picked up the puck in the neutral zone, passed the puck off the boards to himself while doing a 360′ spin move around Roman Hamrlik. Ovie entered the zone from the left side and tried to move inside on Kyle Chipchura who knocked him down on the backcheck. Here comes Ovechkin, sliding on his side towards Canadien netminder Carey Price and just before he plows into Price, he lifts the puck over Price’s leg pads and into the net. Amazing!
Friday, Feb. 20th – Caps Buried by Avalanche – One of the best parts of my job here with THN, is that I get to interview the players and the coach after games. After this game, I didn’t even bother. The Caps lost 4-1 to the team ranked dead last in the Western Conference, and ranked 25th out of 30 in the league. What kind of insight was I going to gather? What pearls of wisdom was I going to get from a team that played that poorly? I was sure I’d hear things like “we didn’t play our best” and “we gave up too many chances without creating enough of our own,” and I knew I’d get my butt kicked because I don’t think I could have stifled the giant “DUH!” that would have come out of my mouth as a reflex.
Happy Birthday Glen! – February 20th was former Caps Coach Glen Hanlon’s 52nd birthday. To celebrate, the Caps went out and played like he was still coaching them.
Sunday, Feb. 22nd – Caps Pummel Penguins – If you are a Caps fan, this was a fun game to watch. The Caps took the lead early and never let up. The Caps had a 5-2 lead by the middle of the second period and then seemed to have fun at the Penguins expense. I honestly believe that if Boudreau were allowed out onto the ice, he would have hit somebody. Frustration showed from the Penguins bench, but the best example was the one I mentioned earlier with Sid the Kid vs. Alex the Great. It all started with Alex giving Sid a little shoulder bump as Sid was headed towards the bench. Sid took exception and shoved Alex from behind. Alex grabbed Crosby by the back of the neck and pulled him so they were face to face right in front of the benches (I’d love to know what Alex said to him). As the refs pulled Crosby away (since it was obvious none of Sid’s team-mates were going to do it) Alex gave him a playful “buh-bye” wave.
Make the whining stop! – Crosby whined about Ovechkin to reporters after the game referring to Alex taking a “cheap shot” on him. Ovie had this to say: “I play hard. If he wants to do something like hit me again, try to hit me again — and I’ll talk to you guys [about] who plays dirty. That’s my game. It’s not cheap shots, it’s a game moment. But he doesn’t like it, it’s his problem.”
The Wrap Up – The Caps have held onto all of their positional rankings. They are still 4th overall in the league, 2nd in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Southeast. With their win on Sunday the Caps now have a two-point lead on New Jersey who is nipping at their heels in both the league and conference standings. The Caps still have a 13-point lead in their division. The Caps are still on track for a franchise record season. Their current mark of 38-17-5 after 60 games is the best in franchise history, and even if they were to lose every other game for the rest of the season, they would still finish the season with 103 points.
The Week Ahead – The Caps continue their home stand, but it will be a considerably tougher week. They start off at home against the Flyers on Tuesday, then division rival Atlanta, and then they take their first trip away from DC in a while for a match-up with Boston. Call me crazy, but the game that scares me the most is the Thrashers. They are 29th out of 30 in the league and we know how well the Caps play against weaker opponents.
Otherwise, this is a great time for the Caps to gain some much needed ground against Boston who have a 7-point lead in the conference.