When the Caps get good goaltending, a Hart-worthy performance from their Hart candidate and a Calder-worthy performance from their Calder candidate, they're difficult to beat. Add to that the luck of catching a fairly passion-less, unfocused, banged-up and tired (but apparently squeaky clean) Sabres bunch, and it was a recipe for two points (and, thankfully, no points for the opposition). Some thoughts on the game:
- Bad news up front: David Steckel broke his finger and is out for 2-3 weeks (Vogs on Stecks: Steckel entered Wednesday’s game with a face-off win pct. of 56.3, seventh best in the league among those centers with 600 or more draws taken on the season. The Caps will miss Steckel’s prowess in the circle, and also his knack for penalty killing. Steckel averages 3:46 per contest in shorthanded ice time, fourth among all NHL forwards.) Now would be a good time for Chris Clark to get healthy. Fast.
- The Caps have outscored their opponents 24-9 in their last six games.
- I know Sabres fans aren't going to complain about the no call on Alex Ovechkin that sent Steve Bernier to the ice after what they got away with the night before in Philadelphia, so let me just say this - it's an unfortunate reality of NHL officiating that when one team has had all three of the game's power plays to that point, the other team is given some leeway. It ain't right, but we all know that it is what it is.
- Speaking of Ovechkin, we know the milestones he hit last night, but let's not lose focus on the big (individual) picture - Ovie now has 54 goals, 38 assists and a plus-17 rating. Yowza.
- Is it me or did Alex Semin suddenly go shot-shy? He seemed to be force feeding Sergei Fedorov a bit much, and ended the game without a single shot on goal for the first time since January 24. The entire second line, for that matter, was fairly invisible.
Maxim Afinogenov repeatedly undressed Caps' blueliners, most notably (and repeatedly) Jeff Schultz and Milan Jurcina. Oh, and Schultz's breakaway? Not so good.
Olie Kolzig was stout, bailing out the defense time and time again for his 299th career win (don't you get the feeling that everything possible is coming together for Sunday's game?). Glad I suggested he start this game. On a sidenote, I don't get worked up over the "3 Stars," but denying Olie a spot amongst the three was silly.
- The Caps absolutely dominated the dot, winning 65% of the game's faceoffs. Boyd Gordon led the way with 10 wins out of 12 draws.
- Sticking with faceoffs, Fedorov has won 70.6% of his draws since being acquired.
Tom Poti is +13 with 11 points since January 13 (the day after he returned from a three-game absence).
Viktor Kozlov now has 14 goals, 32 helpers and a team-leading plus-21 rating. Anyone still think he's a bust?
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Alex might catch Dennis Maruk, but someone else already has (caught up with him, that is).... One year ago today we previewed that night's Caps/Leafs game and two years ago today we previewed that night's Caps/Isles game and indulged in some uber-meta self-promotion.
Hart: Alexander Ovechkin (2G, +3, 4 SOG, 5 hits)
Ross: Eric Staal, Frantisek Kaberle (3 points each)
Norris: Frantisek Kaberle (3A, +3)
Vezina: Corey Crawford (19-save shutout win)
Richard: Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Staal, Pavel Dastyuk, Jason Spezza, Patrick Marleau (2G each)
- Calder: Corey Crawford (19-save shutout win)
Aiken: Kari Lehtonen (L, 4 goals allowed on 22 shots against in 33:39 of work)