Saturday, January 22, 2011

A TWO-point night -- Game 49: Caps 4 - Maple Leafs 1

When a club is having a good game, everyone contributes. The scorers score, the grinders grind, and goaltenders tend goal. And that was the case tonight as the Washington Capitals skated to a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Alex Ovechkin recorded his first hat trick of the season and his first in 349 days since potting three in a 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 7, 2010. Ovechkin was the most visible of the scorers for the Caps, but he was hardly alone. With Alexander Semin still out, the other “Young Guns” were heard from. Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists to go with a plus-3, and Mike Green added an assist in going plus-3 himself.

The prettiest goal, though, was scored by Matt Hendricks, who had Toronto goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere at his mercy on a breakaway. Hendricks offered up a leg kick, pulled Giguere out to the goalie’s left, yanked the puck back, then stuffed it past Giguere’s left pad with the goalie left with little to do by look back and see the puck sliding into the net.

At the other end, Braden Holtby was equal parts amazing and the lake of calm. He had 35 saves on 36 shots, which makes 59 saves on 61 shots in his last two games (.967 save percentage). If the Caps can keep him away from Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth so he doesn’t catch a case of groinfluenza, the Caps could weather this storm to their goaltending in better shape than one might have had a reason to expect.

Other stuff…

-- Holtby will get credit for 35 saves on 36 shots, but it might really have been 34 on 36. Why?  If you look closely, when he makes a glove save in the third period, it looked as if the webbing portion of his glove had crossed the goal line.  There was no review

-- The eight shots on goal by Ovechkin was the most for him against a non-Southeast team since getting eight in a 4-1 loss to Boston on October 21st. It was his third multi-goal game of the season, his first since getting two against Calgary on October 30th.

-- Backstrom recorded his second consecutive multi-point game (two assists), his fifth consecutive game with a point (1-6-7), and the tenth game he has at least one point in his last 13 contests (1-11-12).

-- It was an uneven game for Backstrom, who also took a pair of minors, lost ten of 13 draws, and had only two shot attempts (one on goal).

-- Twelve skaters recorded a total of 27 blocked shots. Five had at least three, including Ovechkin.

-- Choking off three Maple Leaf penalties makes the Caps 48-for-52 in killing penalties (92.3 percent) over their last 13 games, and three of the four power play goals allowed came in one game (4-3 overtime loss to Florida on January 11th). The Caps are now second in the league in penalty killing, trailing only Pittsburgh.

-- A comparison… Marcus Johansson skated six shifts in the third period for 4:31 in ice time. Mathieu Perreault skated two shifts for 1:19, none in the last 16:36.

-- Over on the other side, Mike Komisarek got three shifts in the second, three in the third and had almost ten fewer minutes than the next Toronto defenseman in ice time (Carl Gunnarsson). What’s up there?

-- Playing rope-a-dope is one thing, but allowing shots by period of 6-11-19 can playing with fire.

-- Braden Holtby is an active goalie who likes to get involved and play the puck, but it was J-S Giguere who had three giveaways to Holtby’s one.

-- And speaking of Holtby, he’s been like the little girl with the curl. When he’s good, he’s very good (in four wins he has a GAA of 1.26 and a save percentage of .956. When he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. In three losses (one in overtime) he has a GAA of 4.98 and a save percentage of .800.

-- Toronto is the mecca of hockey, or so it is said, but what’s up with the waffles and the keys hitting the ice after the Ovechkin hat trick? No pants lint? Pizza coupons? Pet chew toys?

-- The refs had an interesting game… six penalties (four minors and two coincidental fighting majors) called in the first period, one (and that for an obvious too-many-men penalty) in the last 40 minutes, and that came 79 seconds into the second period.

In the end, the Caps have followed up their sluggish start to 2011, capped off with a three-game losing streak that left them 2-2-2 in their first half dozen games in 2011, with a 3-0-1 mark in their last four, 2-0-1 on this three-game road trip. As long as the regular season lasts, the Caps are going to have questions attached to their ability to defend and stop pucks. But the Caps have now gone 17 games in which they allowed more than three goals in regulation once, a loss to Vancouver. They have allowed 35 goals in that span (2.06/game) and are 9-3-5 in the process, a 111-point pace over 82 games.

This was, if not a perfect game, as complete a game as the Caps have played lately, and it was good to see Ovechkin finally break out, even if this is but one game. You can’t score in two in a row before you score in one, though, and it will be interesting to see how he fares on Monday against the Rangers, now that he is 4-2-6, plus-5 in his last three games. With eight points separating the top seven teams in the East – the Rangers sitting in that seventh slot – it should be interesting indeed.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recap.

Justin said...

Spot on with Ovechkin being the player to watch and, boy, did he come to play. I'm hoping that the sleeping giant has been roused...