I often not-so-secretly envy the Buffalo Sabres and the way they've built their current team - speed, depth, work ethic, etc. - and hope that the Caps are following that playbook during their rebuild. On some nights, that development looks better than others. Last night, it looked nearly picture perfect when measured against the team that is setting the pace in the Eastern Conference. A few points:
- The Caps have chased the opponent's starting goalie in three-straight games now.
Ben Clymer's goal to regain the three-goal lead less than a minute after Buffalo had cut the lead to two late in the first was huge and kept the team's confidence high.
- The Caps won 60% of the faceoffs in the game - obviously that's very good.
- Secondary (and tertiary, etc.) scorers continue to step up (love me some Matt Pettinger) and the overall team depth was impressive. With Dainius Zubrus not dressing, Alex Ovechkin getting kicked out of the game early in the second period and losing Richard Zednik to injury during the second, it was great to see the team's depth hold up on and off the scoreboard.
- It's nice to win a game when Olie Kolzig isn't at his best.
- Ovechkin is not a dirty player and has no history of being a dirty player (despite "Ovechkin is a 'gutless piece of shit'" claims flying around the Internets).
- The hit was dirty and deserving of a five minute major and a game misconduct in my opinion (decide for yourself below). But Briere wasn't hurt (and indeed for some reason accepted some culpability for the situation, saying "at the same time, I've got to take part of the blame, too. You've got to protect yourself a little bit better than I did."), the Sabres scored on the PP (irrelevant, I know) and the Caps had to play the rest of the game without their best skater. To me, it sounds like a punishment that appropriately fit the crime.
Hart: Jeff Hamilton (3G, including game-tying goal with :34 left in the third and game-winner in OT, A, +3 in 4-3 win)
Ross: Jeff Hamilton (4 points)
Norris: Randy Jones (G, A, +1, 4 SOG, 2 blocked shots)
Vezina: Roberto Luongo (W, 40 saves on 41 shots against)
Richard: Jeff Hamilton (3G)
Calder: Fredrik Norrena* (21-save shutout win)
- Aiken: Johan Holmqvist (L, 3 goals allowed on 7 shots against in just 8:06 of work en route to being yanked for the second straight game)