Word is he will be re-evaluated today.
But as for the game, it was the Nick and Varly Show – Nicklas Backstrom providing the offense (two goals and an assist), and Semyon Varlamov stopping 37 of 38 shots for his fourth straight win and fourth straight game in which he allowed two or fewer goals. Varlamov is now 4-1-1, 1.72, .939, and one shutout in five appearances. In the goalie sweepstakes for the Caps, that is called announcing his presence with authority.
-- Lost in the haze of victory was one act in the dying seconds of the game. Alex Ovechkin was skating up the right side of the ice, and as he was heading through the neutral zone had a yawning empty net to shoot at. He also had Blues closing on him. One might have expected the league’s top goal scorer over the past five years to wrist the puck at the net and likely break his own seven game streak without a goal. Instead, he steered the puck to Nicklas Backstrom heading down the middle. Backstrom redirected the puck into the net for the final tally, and Ovechkin had his 23rd assist, tied for second in the league and tops among wingers. Selfish, indeed.
-- If John Erskine is giving up his regular spot in the lineup to Scott Hannan, he’s going out with a bang…literally. Erskine led the Caps with five hits last night, but more than that he had an assist, two blocked shots, and was plus-2 in more than 15 minutes of ice time. Erskine is one of the unheralded stories so far this season. He has been very steady in his role this season.
-- Brooks Laich got his wish. In the lead up to the game he indicated an indifference to the fact that Caps tormenter Jaroslav Halak was in goal for the Blues, but noted it would still be nice to score a goal on him. He did, getting the Caps off and running in the game’s ninth minute.
-- And if D.J. King couldn’t renew acquaintances with Cam Janssen (who did not dress for the Blues), he had the next best thing – an assist on Boyd Gordon’s first goal of the season, which turned out to be the game-winner.
-- Speaking of Gordon… a goal, a hit, a blocked shot, and 11 faceoff wins in 17 tries. A nice night for 14 minutes of work. And that makes 15 wins in 16 appearances in the lineup. As Boyd goes, so go the Caps.
-- Former Cap Stefan Della Rovere made his NHL debut last night with the Blues and recorded a pair of hits in 6:47 of ice time. He had only two shifts in the third, though, one of those mop-up duty in the last 35 seconds after Backstrom’s empty-net goal.
-- The Caps had a rather dismal night at both ends of the rink on faceoffs – 6-for-17 in the offensive end, and other than Boyd Gordon winning 7-of-11 in the defensive end were 7-for-16.
-- Again, the Caps were quite efficient on the power play (50 percent last night), but they had only two to work with, none after the first period. As for the penalty killers, 4-for-4 makes the Caps perfect in their last three games (12-for-12) and a solid 90.0 percent in their last seven games.
-- Maybe it’s a scoring thing, but only four Caps were not credited with a hit last night (Jeff Schultz, Tom Poti, Brooks Laich, and Alexander Semin).
-- The Caps were out-attempted 65-43 last night. St. Louis had more errant shots (27 misses and blocks) than the Caps had shots on goal (26). Only four Blues players did not record a shot on goal. Not sure what to make of that other than the Caps are a quite efficient offensive team.
-- The Caps had three points from defensemen last night, none of them named “Mike Green.” Tom Poti, John Erskine, and John Carlson had an assist each. Green, in fact, did not record a shot on goal and had only one shot attempt. Green not shooting or getting goals? Ovechkin passing up an open net? What is with these guys?? Are they… growing up?
In the end, the word coming to mind after last night’s game was “workmanlike.” It was not flashy, and the Caps didn’t get caught up in the whole “HALAK!” thing. It was the kind of win good teams grind out on a weeknight in the middle of the season.