The other day we hoped aloud that "perhaps the Caps will carry a little swagger with them into a road game and dictate play from the opening draw for a change." Ask and ye shall receive.
Before the game was two minutes old, the Caps were on the board with some beautiful passing and a finish by Brooks Laich on the power play, and seven minutes and change later Chris Bourque banged home the rebound of a David Steckel shot for his first NHL goal and Buffalo never got closer than two goals the rest of the evening.
Demons exorcised? For one night, at least.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Jose Theodore was fantastic again. He has stopped 95 of 101 shots (94.1%) over his last 11+ periods and has allowed just three even strength goals in that stretch. As for his confidence, when you've got a netminder putting the net back on its magnets with the puck in play little more than a Jeff Schultz wingspan away, he's feelin' it.
- The Bourque-Steckel-Eric Fehr line (the Calder Cup line?) was the best trio out there on the night, and their +32 Corsi Rating shows by just how much (no other line had even a single positive player, much less all three in double digits)... and in under eleven minutes for each of the three, no less.
- Speaking of Bourque, he's now just 409 goals behind his old man.
- Milan Jurcina looked lost without Karl Alzner. Juice had a pair of giveaways, a minor and the team's worst Corsi Rating. Losing Alzner is like losing two effective defensemen at this point.
- Nicklas Backstrom, who potted his 11th goal of the season, didn't reach that mark until March 5 last season (oddly enough, also a game winner in Buffalo).
- The Caps were outshot 26-19 at even strength and 33-31 overall. That first number is more troubling, but given the dynamic of the game, not too worrisome.
- Neither Alex Ovechkin nor Ryan Miller was at his best (Miller's rebound control was uncharacteristically atrocious, and kudos to Toni Lydman for his work on AO). Shows what I know.
- As a fan, which is more frustrating - when your team gets whistled for too many men or a puck over the glass delay of game?
- Mike Green fired seven shots on goal, tying his season-high (set against Atlanta on Opening Night and tied the last time the Caps were in Buffalo) and led the team with 24:10 of ice time. Both are encouraging stats with respect to his health.
- It's not often that an empty netter is noteworthy (unless you're trying to start a contoversy that simply doesn't exist), but Boyd Gordon's effort along the boards and 3/4-ice shot while getting high-sticked merits mention.
- The Caps faded a bit in the third (outshot 16-10), which is a subtle trend that has popped up now and again in recent weeks (and which is hardly surprising given the nightly roster shuffle).
- Matt Bradley led the Caps in hits with four (he was the only player on the team credited with more than one). Given that stat and a game that was getting a little chippy in the third, the team could have used Donald Brashear's presence in the lineup.
- Stay tuned as to Shaone Morrisonn's health. Sigh.
- 500+ comments in last night's Open Thread = teh awesome. Thanks, all.
The Caps have now won nine of their last ten games and have improved to 8-1-1 against the Northeast Division (and are 6-1-2 against the Atlantic). If only they could beat those pesky Southeast Division rivals against whom they're 4-3-0... and one of whom they'll get a shot at on New Year's Day, as they'll look to keep this momentum rolling into 2009 after finishing out 2008 on one hell of a hot streak.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Sami Lepisto is happy in Hershey. We're happy he's there. Everyone's happy!