Sunday, March 15, 2015

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 70: Capitals 2 - Bruins 0

The Washington Capitals salvaged the last game of their five-game home stand in fine fashion, shutting out the Boston Bruins, 2-0, on Sunday night.  It was the second shutout in as many games against the Bruins this season for the Caps.

At the offensive end it was a record-setting night.  It was fitting in one respect, odd in another.  Mid-way through the first period, Brad Marchand took a roughing penalty when he retaliated against Tom Wilson for Wilson’s hit on Ryan Spooner in open ice.  With the Bruins down a man, the Caps worked the puck around to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer.  It went wide on the short side, but Troy Brouwer recovered it behind the Boston net.  Brouwer reset the play, sending the puck around to Nicklas Backstrom, who fed John Carlson at the top of the offensive zone.  Carlson one-timed the puck through a maze of bodies and past goaie Tuukka Rask to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. 

The assist by Backstrom was his 419th as a Capital, passing Michal Pivonka for the franchise record in assists.  The fitting part of it was Backstrom earning the assist on a power play; the odd part of it was that it was not Ovechkin finishing the play.

There would be no more scoring in the first period, but there would be some in the second, courtesy once more of a defenseman.  Nate Schmidt recorded his first goal of the season for the Caps when he capitalized on a fortuitous bounce.  Backstrom sent the puck around the end boards and along the right wing wall where Tom Wilson ran it down.  Wilson threw the puck at the net, but the shot was blocked by Zdeno Chara.  The puck caromed off Chara’s shin pad directly to Schmidt just inside the Bruins’ blue line.  Schmidt teed it up and let fly with a slap shot that deflected off the Bruins’ Gregory Campbell and past Rask to make it 2-0.

After that it was up to the Capitals to button things up in their own end and Braden Holtby to stand tall in goal.  Both he and the Caps did just that, and the Bruins were blanked by the Caps for the second time this season, 2-0.

Other stuff…

-- Nicklas Backstrom finished the game with two assists, giving him 420 for his career (tops in Caps history), 53 for the season (tops in the league), and his 16th game with two or more assists (tops in the league).

-- Tom Wilson had an effective game from the right wing of the first line.  He had an assist, was plus-1, had two shots on goal (three attempts), six hits, and drew a penalty that resulted in a power play goal.

-- Holtby’s shutout was his eighth, breaking a tie for second place he shared with Montreal’s Carey Price.  He is one behind Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

-- Holtby’s win was his 33rd of the season, lifting him into a tie with Olaf Kolzig (twice – in 1997-1998 and in 2002-2003) for the fourth-most wins in a season for a Capitals goaltender.  Next on the ladder with the third-most wins in Caps history for a goaltender is Jim Carey’s 35 wins in 1995-1996.

-- More Holtby… The shutout reduced his season goals against average to 2.17.  If it holds up for the remainder of the season, it would be a franchise record for lowest GAA.  Olaf Kolzig holds the record with a 2.20 goals against average in 1997-1998.

-- No Capital taking more than one faceoff won more than 50 percent of the draws he took. Brooks Laich was the only one to reach 50 percent (6-for-12).

-- Heavy teams play heavy games.  Both teams were credited with more than 30 hits, the Caps winning that duel, 33-31.  Twelve Cap skaters and 13 Bruin skaters were credited with at least one hit.  What might have been the best “hit,” though, was not credited.  As Milan Lucic was trying to track down a loose puck beneath the Caps’ goal line, Braden Holtby beat him to it, and for good measure hip checked Lucic into the end boards as he was sending the puck around the wall.

-- The 38 shots on goal was quite a change from the first time the teams met in Game 2 of the season back in October.  In that one, the Caps managed only 21 shots but scored four goals.  Low shot or high shot totals, the Caps have been Boston goalie Tuukka Rask’s personal nightmare.  The loss left his career regular season record against the Caps at 1-5-3, 3.00, .893.

-- There was one power play chance for the Capitals in this one, making it three times in their last eight games in which they were held to a single power play opportunity.  It was the 11th time this season that the Caps have been held to one or no power play chances, and their record in such games is 6-5-0.

-- Chris Conner had an interesting game, and perhaps not in the best of ways.  In his debut as a Washington Capital, he skated just 7:32 and took two minor penalties, but he did have an excellent scoring chance that required a superb glove save by Rask to keep from hitting the back of the net.

In the end…

It was not flashy, but that’s what playoff hockey looks like, and this looked like playoff hockey.  These two teams do not play against one another very often, but it seems there is no love lost between them nevertheless. 

Braden Holtby remarked after the game in an interview on national television that his father instilled in him the idea that it is alright to have a bad game, just don’t have two in a row.  Holtby struggled against Dallas in his last start, the first time he had been pulled in a game he started since Game 3 of the season.  He did not allow it to become two off nights in a row, as he was sharp throughout. 

At the other end, Nicklas Backstrom had quite a night…or is that a “quiet” night?  How often does a player set a franchise record and do it was quietly and efficiently as Backstrom did on this night?  Backstrom appears poised to break the 60-assist barrier for the fourth time in his eight year career.  If he does, he would be just the third player in the league to do so four times in that eight year span (Henrik Sedin and Joe Thornton are the others) and just the 16th player to do it four times in any eight year period in the history of the league (although Sidney Crosby could beat him to that 16th to do it spot).

They were two fine performance from two players who do not get as much attention, perhaps, as they should.  But they are players who will be absolutely essential to any success the Caps have as the rest of the season unfolds.

No comments: