Like you, when I saw the Caps were down 1-0 on an early power-play for the Rangers, I didn’t panic. After all, we’d just seen Boston go up 1-0 in the first period two days ago.
Seeing the Mike Knuble goal helped ease any fears I might have had; that was Harlem Globtrotter-esque. You could easily set that play to “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Ovechkin comes in on the net from the right; fakes a shot and swings around behind the net. Ranger’s goalie Hendrik Lundqvist slides over to the other side of the net, expecting the wrap around from Ovie and what does he see? Nicklas Backstrom coming in on him from the left front.
Lundqvist takes the post and commits to blocking the wrap-around from Ovechkin, dropping to his knees with his ankles out (they call that “the butterfly”). Ovechkin passes up to Backstrom, but Lundqvist sees that he still has a reasonable angle on Backstrom, so he recommits (decides not to get back to his feet and take a new position).
Backstrom takes the puck and backhands it between the legs of the defender that is immediately behind him and catches Mike Knuble coming in with speed from the right. The whole play couldn’t have taken more than two seconds, but you know it was going in slow motion for Lundqvist.
As soon as he saw the puck clear his defender and Mike Knuble closing in on it, he knew he was beat, and there wasn’t anything he could do but pray that the next sound he heard was either the “clang” of the cross bar or the “thunk” of the boards.
I do have to admit to being a little concerned when New York made it 5-3 and their power-play looked unstoppable. Personally, I’d rather the Caps be a few goals behind early than jump out to a big lead. My reasoning is that when the Caps’ jump out to a big lead, it’s too easy for the players to start to take their foot off the gas and let a team back into the game.
When the Caps are behind though, they focus on getting the puck into the net.
Ovechkin’s 500th career point is a great example of that. Ovechkin’s coming down the left side. It’s just him, the defender, and the goalie. Alex pushes the puck way right like he’s about to turn to the inside, or maybe try one of his classic shots where he uses the defender as a screen. The defender takes the inside position, but Ovechkin draws the puck back to himself and pushes it between the defender’s legs.
Ovechkin draws his stick in, and slides around the defender to the outside, and picks the puck back up on the other side of the hapless defender. Lundqvist again takes the near-side post but Ovechkin slides the puck towards the middle and flips it up over Lunqvist’s left shoulder for the score.
The Capitals currently lead the league in points, goals, and goals-per-game, yet no single player on the Caps roster has registered a hat-trick (three goals in one game) this season.
New York played a great game last night; their power-play was outrageous. They scored five goals and they still lost the game. There was a lot to be encouraged about for the New York fans, but I know how heartbreaking that kind of loss can be.
ESPN ranked the Capitals 2nd in their weekly power rankings this week. They recognized Washington’s (at the time) 11 game winning streak, but still placed them second behind San Jose. They even mentioned in the rankings about how tough it must be to be on an eleven-game winning streak and still be ranked number two. If I’m Boudreau, I’m showing that ranking to the players today.
“These people don’t respect you,” I’d say. “Even though you haven’t lost in nearly a month, nobody wants to give you any credit. You’re Washington; you play in a lousy division, you’re not from a ‘hockey-town.’ The only thing you’ve got going for you right now is this win streak. The best way you can get back at these guys is to keep on winning. The more you win, the more you make these guys look like fools.”
“We all know this winning streak must end, but you decide when,” I’d continue. “The only way we are going to silence our critics is to win the whole-friggin’-thing. Bring the Cup to Washington, and you’ll have earned their respect.”
Caps face Atlanta tonight. This has all the markings of a “trap-game.” Washington pasted Atlanta 8-1 last time, and Atlanta just lost their best player in a trade to Detroit. The Caps need to go into this game thinking that enough is not enough. They need to keep their feet moving and their sticks down. Don’t win it in the first period, win it in the third.
Yesterday I was wearing my “retro” white Ovie jersey (I still can’t get the hang of “sweater”) and today I’m wearing the “retro” black one. Let’s keep the ball rolling and go for the baker’s dozen!