Friday, December 16, 2011

A TWO-point night -- Game 30: Capitals 1 - Jets 0

It was getting to where you wondered if anyone would find the back of the net, even if it took the trick shot competition to do it.

For 58 minutes and change, the Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets dueled back and forth in a surprisingly up-and-down, mad rush game for one with no goals scored. Michal Neuvirth kept the Caps in it early (14 saves in the first period), and Ondrej Pavelec kept the Jets in it later (12 shots stopped in the second period and the first eight shots he saw in the third). The goalies were the stars of this game.

That is, until Winnipeg made a mistake at their own blue line. Andrew Ladd was at the left wing boards at his own blue line when he tried to feed the puck forward to Kyle Wellwood. But Nicklas Backstrom got in the way, intercepting the puck and feeding it back to Marcus Johansson turning back toward the Jets’ end. Johansson carried the puck in, and as he was about to cut to the middle from right to left, he dropped the puck for Alex Ovechkin. The left winger reached back into his bag of shots and found an old reliable – a wrister that beat Pavelec through the pads for the only goal of the contest with 74 seconds remaining in regulation time.

It was the last shot on goal of the game.

Other stuff…

-- Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. But all in all, it is better to be lucky and good. Michal Neuvirth was both. He kept the Caps in the game early on with 14 saves in the first period as the Caps were trying to get their legs under them. But it was not as if Neuvirth looked especially sharp in those first few minutes. He made the first save on shots – often in spectacular form – but it seemed that had the Jets had a bit more follow up, there would have been opportunities. But Neuvirth sure did settle down as the game wore on. He became the goalie Caps fans have come to know, trusting his technique and being very quiet and efficient in goal. He deserved that number one star of the game.

-- Don’t poke the bear. And if you do, don’t keep poking it. Jets fans serenaded Alex Ovechkin all game long with boos whenever he touched the puck and chanted his nickname – "O-vi O-vi" – at every opportunity. How did that work, Jets fans?

-- Your shots on goal leaders for this game for the Caps… Karl Alzner and Jason Chimera. Huh?

-- It truly is Bizarro World when Jeff Halpern gets 13:02 in even strength ice time, and Alex Ovechkin gets 13:20. And we don’t know what to make of Mike Knuble’s 8:23 in ES ice time. Only Cody Eakin had less (7:12).

-- We have a hard time thinking that Dmitry Orlov is going anywhere near Hershey any time soon. Leaving out the fact that Jeff Schultz seems to be enrolled at remedial defenseman school for the time being, Orlov does not seem out of place here. Almost 20 minutes in ice time last night, six shot attempts, two shots on goal, a hit, a blocked shot, and an inconsequential giveaway. He led all Caps players in even strength ice time (18:50).

-- More Bizarro World…Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault go a combined 7-for-11 on draws, both winning the majority of faceoffs they took. Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich went a combined 10-for-17, each losing the majority of draws they took.

-- Of the 65 shot attempts on the part of the Caps, 25 of them came from defensemen. Not bad, especially when you consider John Erskine played only nine minutes, and Roman Hamrlik took a short spell on the bench after blocking a shot with his instep.

-- Give credit to the defense all around for holding Evander Kane to one shot on goal and only three attempts in more than 22 minutes of ice time.

-- Subtle ways of rewarding players…or not. The Caps had four minutes of power play time last night on two power plays. Alex Ovechkin skated 3:18 of that. You would expect that. Nicklas Backstrom skated 3:11. OK. Even Mike Knuble got 1:44. Alexander Semin? 41 seconds. Heck, even Orlov got 42 seconds.

-- Eric Fehr celebrated his first game against his old team with a team-high four shots on goal. However, none of them found the back of the net, and he was on the ice for the game’s only goal.

-- If I told you defenseman Zach Bogosian had 11 shot attempts for Winnipeg, would you believe me? Yeah, well…he did. Six of them were blocked, almost half the total number of Jets’ shots blocked by the Caps (14).

In the end, it was a good win. Not a great win, a good one. Keep in mind, Winnipeg went into the game as one of only three teams in the East with at least ten wins on home ice – Boston and Washington being the others. And it is a good win because the Caps vaulted all the way from 12th place in the East to seventh. They are now five points behind Southeast Division-leading Florida, and the Caps hold a game in hand. They won this one with equal parts patience and perseverance, as opposed to the equal parts lackadaisical and scatter-brained approach they took to the game against the Flyers on Tuesday.

The Caps still have work to do – their six road wins are 11th-most in the East at the moment, and they head to Colorado to try to add to the total. And they might get to see another former teammate, one that could set up an intriguing battle of the former prospects in goal – Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.

Ooh…the drama.

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