The Capitals started off this past week welcoming back longtime goaltender Olie Kolzig, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Monday night at Verizon Center. The match-up featured Kolzig versus his former back-up Brent Johnson. The strangest part for me was hearing Caps announcer Joe Beninati say things like “great save by Kolzig” and having to remind myself that it wasn’t a good thing anymore.
Goaltenders typically work very closely with their defensemen, so it should be little surprise if those defensemen know where a goalie is weakest. To prove that point the Capitals first two goals came from Kolzig’s former blue-liners Tom Poti and Mike Green.
The Caps also saw the end of a nine-game scoring drought for Alex Ovechkin, the longest of his career.
The Caps polished off the Lightning 4-2.
The Caps next game came Wednesday on the road versus division rival Carolina. Both teams were tied for the division lead at 18-points. The winner would claim sole possession of the Southeast division.
This was the second meeting between these two clubs within the past seven days. The Caps had won that previous meeting by a final score of 3-2, now they were facing Carolina, in Carolina. This time the Caps left no question as to who was in charge, winning 5-1.
The Caps saw goals from all of their “young guns” as all five goals were scored by Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green (1, 2, 1, and 1 respectively). Alex Semin had a hand in all five goals.
Brent Johnson’s night ended early after a hip injury sent him to the locker room late in the first period and brought out Jose Theodore for the second. Theodore went on to stop 13 shots over the next two periods and finally began to look like the starter the Capitals had picked him to be.
Johnson, who had gone 3-0-1 in his four starts, was given credit for the win versus Carolina where he had stopped 14 shots in the first period alone.
The Caps final two games of the week came Friday and Saturday night in a home and home series versus New Jersey. The Capitals started the series at home where they have not lost in regulation this season. The Caps had gone 6-0-1 at home when the Devils came to town, and improved that record to 7-0-1 by the end of the night.
Brent Johnson, listed as day-to-day with the hip injury, watched from the bench as Jose Theodore put on a performance that may have cemented him back into the starting position as he stopped 32 of 33 shots to help the Capitals to a 3-1 victory.
Alex Semin left the game in the second period after taking an uncalled high stick to the face, and Alex Ovechkin scored his third goal in three games on a last second empty netter.
The Caps certainly looked to be the more dominant team Friday night, and were given the morning off before Saturday night’s rematch in New Jersey.
Even with the break, the Caps looked tired Saturday night. Alex Semin did not play, and the Caps seemed to miss his playmaking ability on the stick-handle. The Caps did not fore-check very well and seemed to struggle getting into the attacking zone.
Things didn’t seem much better in their own zone as the Caps seemed to have trouble clearing allowing the Devils to set up several shooting galleries versus Theodore, who had a better night than his six-goals-against would seem to imply.
Things really began to look scary for the Caps when Theodore was slow to get up after taking a hit from Jamie Langenbrunner early in the second period. Brent Johnson, who was not listed on the injury report for Saturday’s game, did not exactly look anxious to head out to the ice in relief of Theodore. After a few minutes, Theodore seemed to shake-it-off and managed to finish the game.
Even with the Devils seeming to dominate the game, the Caps managed to tie the game on a last second (literally at 19:59) wrist shot by Alex Ovechkin from point-blank range which carried the game into overtime.
The Capitals went on to lose in the shoot-out giving them a 3-0-1 record for the week. The Caps increased their points standing from 16 to 23 last week and now have a three point lead over second-place Carolina in the Southeast Division.
The Caps have now gone 5-0-2 in their last seven games and have not lost in regulation since they fell to the Sabres in a 0-5 shutout on November 1st. The Caps have now won 10 games this season, with five wins apiece for both of their goaltenders.
The Capitals have looked real strong this past week, with the exception of Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have both seemed to have finally found their games. Ovie has now scored a goal in each of the Caps last four games and has 5 goals and 5 assists in that same time-frame. Nicklas Backstrom has tallied 2 goals and 9 assists in the last four games after getting no goals and 5 assists for the first 13 games.
The Caps spend this week on the west coast with all three games starting after 10pm here on the east coast. The Capitals tour of the Western Conference pits them against two division leaders in the San Jose Sharks (currently leading the Pacific Division 15-3-1) and Minnesota Wild (currently leading the Northwest Division 10-4-1)