Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal -- Game 1: Capitals 4 - Panthers 2

The Washington Capitals met the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of their opening round series and made a statement, grinding out a 3-2 win in come-from-behind fashion against a team whose stock in trade has been offense.  It was a solid effort in every phase of the game of the sort the Caps will need to replicate as the series develops.

First Period…

The Capitals caught an early break, Tom Wilson drawing a high-sticking penalty by Radko Gudas at the 49-second mark of the period, and then going up two men when MacKenzie Weegar was sent off for delay of game 59 seconds later.  Florida skated off the Gudas penalty, but Tom Wilson converted on the ensuing 5-on-4.  Justin Schultz fed Anthony Mantha for a one-timer that was stopped by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but he left a long rebound, and Wilson swatted it home from between the hashmarks to make it 1-0, 3:48 into the game.

Conor Sheary drew an interference penalty from Ben Chiarot 11:42 into the period to put the Caps on their third power play of the game. Washington was unable to convert, and they maintained their one-goal lead.

Florida tied the game late in the period. Sam Bennett took the puck end to end, gaining the offensive zone curling to the middle to improve his shooting lane between two Caps defenders, and snapping a shot past the blocker of goalie Vitek Vanecek, off the post, and in to make it 1-1, 17:55 into the period.  That would do it for the scoring in period one.

-- The Panthers were credited with 28 hits in the period.  That is more than they had in 53 games in the regular season.

-- Washington outshot Florida, 16-9, in the period and out-attempted them, 27-19

-- Anthony Mantha led the Caps with four shots on goal; Alex Ovechkin had seven attempts.

-- The Caps had an 11-7 edge in faceoffs; only Mantha was under 50 percent (0-for-1).

Second Period…

Florida scored to take the lead in the first minute of play.  Vanecek fought off a shot from Brandon Montour that hit him in the right shoulder, but Claude Giroux converted the rebound to make it 2-1, 43 seconds into the period.

The Panthers went up a man when Martin Fehervary was sent to the box for holding at the 8:03 mark of the period.  Florida failed to convert, and the teams continued with Florida up, 2-1, until they went to 4-on-4 13:26 into the period when Mantha and Mason Marchment were sent off for coincidental penalties, Mantha for slashing, Marchment for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Florida would then go up a man when Johan Larsson was called for slashing at the 15:51 mark.  The Caps killed the penalty to stay within striking distance.  And that is how the period ended, the Panthers up, 2-1.

-- Washington outshot the Panthers, 14-11, in the period and out-attempted them, 20-17.

-- Four Caps had no shot attempts through 40 minutes – Justin Schultz, Nick Jensen, Martin Fehervary, and Garnet Hathaway.

-- Lars Eller was 9-for-12 on faceoffs through 40 minutes.

-- Washington was charged with only three giveaways through two periods, while the Panthers had 11.

Third Period…

Washington tied the game in the ninth minute of the period when Alex Ovechkin poked the puck off the stick of MacKenzie Weegar, just outside the Panther blue line, and Evgeny Kuznetsov gobbled it up to head in alone on Bobrovsky.  He snapped a shot over the right pad of the goalie, and it was 2-2, 8:14 into the period.

The Caps grabbed the lead on a vintage Nicklas Backstrom play. From inside the offensive blue line along the left wing wall, Backstrom threaded a pass between the legs of Weegar (who seems to be in the middle of a lot of stuff on this evening) and onto the stick blade of T.J. Oshie for a lay-up to make it 3-2, Caps, at the 10:37 mark.

Florida emptied their net with two minutes left in regulation, to no avail.  Lars Eller fired a shot from distance into the empty net at the 19:11 mark to give the Caps a 4-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- Washington outshot Florida, 38-32, and out-attempted them, 61-59.

-- Anthony Mantha led the Caps with five shots on goal; Alex Ovechkin had nine attempts.  Only Justin Schultz and Martin Fehervary were held without a shot (neither had a shot attempt).

-- Florida was credited with 56 hits. That is more than they had in any regular season game this season and was tied for the third highest hit total of any team in any game this season (Pittsburgh had 56 hits in a 4-3 loss to Los Angeles on January 30th, and Tampa Bay had 56 in Game 1 of their series against Toronto on Monday).  The teams combined for 99 hits in this game.

-- Mantha had ten of the 43 hits the Caps recorded.  That is a career high, regular or postseason.

-- Ovechkin had only 17:36 in ice time; only once in his previous 17 playoff games did he have less (17:07 in a 4-3 Game 2 loss to Boston in the first round of the 2021 playoffs).

-- Florida was 39-0-1 when leading after two periods in the regular season.  Only Ottawa had more wins when leading after two periods without having suffered a loss in regulation since the 2004-2005 lockout (43-0-2 in 2005-2006).  The Caps left the Panthers 0-1-0 when leading after two periods in this series.

-- Tom Wilson’s evening was cut short with an injury; he finished 1-0-1 in three shifts and 1:31 in ice time.

-- Lars Eller finished 10-for-15 on faceoffs; Nicklas Backstrom was 2-for-12.

-- This was the ninth time Sergei Bobrovsky faced 38 or more shots in a playoff game.  He is now 2-7 in those games.

-- Vitek Vanecek was 30-for-32 in saves/shots in his second career playoff game and first on the road.

In the end…

Great win from the goalie out and behind the bench.  This was a case of a veteran team bending the pace of the game to its liking and frustrating the opponent.  The Caps might not be as skilled as the Panthers, but making the Panthers work for time and space and slowing their game down in doing so is a repeatable strategy.  The question for Florida is how they respond – specifically how their coaching staff responds, this being head coach Andrew Brunette’s first NHL postseason rodeo.  The Caps demonstrated they have a path to winning this series.  Can the Panthers demonstrate that they can close it off?  That becomes the big question, even at this early stage of the series.


Washington Capitals -- Ten HUT!!!

An oldie, but a goodie...

Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a hockey game by taking a hit for his team. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard take a hit for his team. Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about the Caps not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the contest, is a lot of horse dung. Caps traditionally love to fight. All real Caps love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball player, the toughest boxer. Caps fans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Caps play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost...and laughed. That’s why this spring Caps have never lost and will never lose a playoff series.  Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Capitals.

Now... a hockey club is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, checks as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for NHL Network don’t know anything more about real hockey games than they do about fornicating.

We have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit and the best men in the world. You know, by God I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. By God, I do. We’re not just going to check the bastards, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to tape the blades of our sticks. We’re going to hit those lousy Panther bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken out under fire. Don't worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Panthers are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Check them into the boards. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face...you'll know what to do.

Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let Florida do that. We are advancing constantly, and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose, and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we're gonna go through him like crap through a goose.

There’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks you, "what did you do in the great National Hockey League," you won’t have to say, "Well, I shoveled shit in DC."

Alright now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel. Oh...and I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle – anytime, anywhere.