OK… so a team gets taken to extra time three times in their first three tries against an opponent. You might think that the fourth time around the game would be played close, especially when played on the opponent’s ice, right?
What does it say when the Caps enter such a scenario and score four times on their first 12 shots on their way to a 7-2 win? And they do it without Alex Ovechkin registering as much as a single point.
The Caps made it seven in a row with the win over the New York Islanders, and in doing so now have outscored their opponents, 35-17 (5.0 – 2.4) over that span. If it was a Broadway play called, “Young Guns,” it was a night for the understudies. For example…
Tomas Fleischmann stood in for Nicklas Backstrom, getting a pair of primary assists.
Jason Chimera stood in for Alex Ovechkin, using the defenseman as a screen in ripping a shot past goalie Rick DiPietro and finishing 1-1-2, plus-3.
John Erskine stood in for Mike Green, pinching down on the weak side, taking a pass from Eric Fehr and snapping the puck into the back of the net for his first goal in 109 games.
OK, Alexander Semin took the stage playing himself in getting a pair of goals (12 points in his last six games).
-- The official score sheet says that Mike Knuble’s goal came from nine feet. Even Kanoobie knew it was from more like nine inches.
-- Six two-point nights: Erskine, Brendan Morrison, Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Chimera, and Semin. Can you say, “secondary scoring?”
-- The flip side of that… Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Mike Green had a combined total of one point (Backstrom, an assist).
-- Scoring by line… first line: 1-1-2… second line: 3-2-5… third line: 2-4-6.
-- One dark spot… Jose Theodore was described by Coach Bruce Boudreau as “day-to-day” with a “lower body injury.” Braden Holtby on the Route 15 express? If he is called up, we wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the start against Florida on Friday, given that an afternoon game on Sunday follows.
-- The Caps outscored the Islanders 6-1 at even strength. That’ll help the 5-on-5 ratio.
-- That second goal by Alexander Semin… there is no one in the league with better hands with the puck on his stick than Semin. No one.
-- Speaking of Semin, was he the focus of defensemen Mark Streit and Bruno Gervais when Brooks Laich stepped between both and roofed the puck past DiPietro for the last goal? It was as if both defensemen were standing there waiting for Laich to slide the puck back to Semin.
-- For the Caps, 15 players had takeaways, 15 players had giveaways… local scoring rules?
-- Ovechkin’s nine-game points streak is over, but it didn’t go quietly… ten shots, one of them striking defenseman Jack Hillen in the face. Hillen did go off under his own power, but was taken to a hospital for evaluation. Helluva way to get credit for a blocked shot.
-- The Caps scored two goals in 2:26 after the Hillen injury, both of them from “inside the paint” (Knuble, Semin).
-- The curse of Jon Sim is history. One goal in seven games as an Islander… no points tonight and a minus-4.
-- No Islander had more shots in total than defenseman Mark Streit had on the power play (five), so we know where the power play goes through on the Islanders.
-- The Caps have now scored at least four goals in ten of their last 11 games (56 goals in all in posting a 10-1-0 record).
The Islanders are not an elite team, but neither are they chumps. This is a team that played the Caps hard in three games, taking them to extra time in each, and they were 7-3-0 for January coming into this game. That the Caps could overwhelm them early (4-1 after one period) and keep the pedal to the floor in a 7-2 win speaks to just how well the club is playing right now. The Caps probably haven’t played this well for this sustained length of time since the playoff push to close the 2007-2008 regular season, and these last 11 games might be the best run of offense by a Caps team in memory (given the change in eras and state of the current game). They aren’t beating teams, they are pounding them (five wins of three or more games in their last ten wins).
They now head home to take on Anaheim, who lost to Atlanta tonight, 2-1. That will be another test for the Caps, given the Ducks’ physical style and their own 8-3-0 record in their last 11 games. Anaheim also brings in the factor of desperation as they are trying to close the gap between themselves and eighth-place Detroit in the West. It’s another test for the good guys… who said January was boring?