Sunday Roundup - Caps 2, Leafs 1 - Gamenight: Caps @ 'Canes

[AP Recap - Game Summary - Event Summary - WashingtonCaps.com Postgame - AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]

Last night, Sean Collins became the 12th player the Caps have dressed as a defenseman this season, with numbers nine through twelve all making their debuts within the past half-dozen games.

Put another way, when the Caps' and Hurricanes' top minor League affiliates squared off in Albany a month ago today, four current Caps blueliners were in uniform for the Bears.

Put yet another way, including last night's game, the six defensemen the Caps skated last night have a combined 699 games of NHL experience, nine fewer than Leafs' rearguard Tomas Kaberle.

You get the point - they're mighty green, when they should be Mikey Green.

And yet the Caps had their second straight dominating performance at even strength, outshooting the Leafs 26-10, allowing the fewest even strength shots in a game since the third game of the season against Vancouver.

A couple of quick thoughts on the game:

  • Finally, a good road effort and, more importantly, result.
  • The low Leafs shot total was, in part, due to great shot blocking by the Caps, including five blocks from Bryan Helmer, four from Milan Jurcina, three from Karl Alzner and another four from forwards (including a memorable Quintin Laing impression by Boyd Gordon).
  • On the shots that did get through, Brent Johnson was magnificent, yielding only one goal, which came on the power play while the Caps netminder was still slowed with some (presumably temporary) hip discomfort after making nice kick save.
  • Back to Karl Alzner - in just his sixth NHL game he had a goal, an assist, a plus-two rating, those three blocks, and led the D in ice time and the team in shifts. Since his bad game against Florida, he's been awesome.
  • Speaking of awesome, the duo that two years ago looked like a future top-pairing - Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina - were just that, with Morrisonn playing big in the defensive zone (and having the team's best CR for the game) and Juice's mighty slapper finding the twine behind Vesa Toskala for the game winner.
  • Nicklas Backstrom had another good night in the faceoff circle, going 10-for-16 and raising his winning percentage to 54% over his last ten games. Surprising, no?
  • Somehow, Alex Ovechkin was named the game's first star. That's silly - I'm not sure he would have made my top five.

No rest for the weary, of course, as the Caps head down to Raleigh to take on a struggling 'Canes team that eked out a point last night at home against Philly.

Since the Caps last saw Carolina, Washington has gone 6-5-1, but the 'Canes haven't managed to take advantage of the Division leader's injury woes and mediocre record, going 4-6-1 (and have replacing their head coach along the way). They now trail the Caps by a half dozen points, making this four-point Divisional game enormous for them.

Carolina has been good (3-1-0) in the second game of back-to-backs, while the Caps have struggled (1-2-1), though with Cam Ward on the shelf, Michael Leighton having played in last night's overtime loss and backup Justin Peters having never played a minute in the NHL, their goaltending situation is somewhat precarious. Having to fly 546 miles to play a game less less than 19 hours after your previous one ended is no picnic for the Caps, so it will be a major gut check for both teams. Judging from what I've seen of Carolina's guts in the past, I'd give the edge to the Caps in that category.

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