You'd think that after having been taken to overtime six of the last eight times they'd played the Islanders, the Capitals would have figured out that despite the gulf in talent level between the two teams it was going to be important to out work New York in order to win - even if the Caps took the lead eight seconds in. The way the team rallied from behind was impressive and the team effort was eventually there, but the reality is that the Caps shouldn't have had to dig themselves out of that hole in the first place and shouldn't have had to rely on strong individual efforts from Alexander Semin (11 shots, two goals) and Semyon Varlamov (25 saves on 26 shots in relief of Jose Theodore) to get the job done. The biggest problem a hockey team can have is its players thinking - and playing like - they don't need a full effort to win every night. It's almost tempting to excuse against a team as weak as the Islanders (record notwithstanding) but the reality is that it's such a dangerous habit to develop that trending in that direction shouldn't ever be shrugged off.
Ten additional notes on the game:
- Varlamov is now 2-0-0/0.96/.957 in three career relief appearances. There might just be something to this "he's at his best when he's thrown in to a situation unexpectedly" school of thought.
- The Capitals were a bit more chippy that we usually see them, especially the defense corps. That's definitely something we'd like to see more of. Even better would be to start seeing the Capitals instigate it on a regular basis.
- A lot of the blame for the Islanders' first goal goes to Theo for putting that rebound back in the slot, but why wasn't anyone covering Matt Moulson?
- If you play a 65 minute game against a team with both Andy Sutton and Brendan Witt and neither takes a penalty, you're probably not working hard enough.
- A lot of it has to do with the fact that he plays so many minutes and is so actively involved in the game, but it's hard not to wonder if part of the reason Mike Green seems to get targeted night in and night out is because there's no one in the Capitals lineup willing to do anything about it.
- There's perhaps no unwritten rule I hate more than when referees do everything in their power to avoid putting a team on a 5-on-3. A penalty is a penalty is a penalty. Period.
- I'd take Trent Hunter on the Capitals in a heartbeat.
Milan Jurcina's boarding penalty in the third period was as bad any anything Alex Semin's done this season. Just a dumb, dumb unnecessary foul to commit, and at a crucial point in the game. Add that to his minus-2 rating, his three shot attempts into opposing players, and a giveaway and you've got a night to forget.
- New plan for Eric Fehr: send him to the net, get him the puck, watch him create chances.
- I totally understand why people want to celebrate the "hat trick" that comes as a result of a shootout goal but it really is ridiculous. It's not a goal and it's not a hat trick, and, frankly, it provides ammunition for the critics who say D.C. isn't a hockey town and the Capitals are only drawing fairweather fans.
After playing them three times in three weeks, the Capitals now get to wait until January 26th before they see the Islander again. Good - I need a break from these games.