The Capitals have notoriously played down to their lesser opponents, and they don't get much lower than the Carolina Hurricanes right now. It's the reason so many Caps fans were looking at tonight's game with a mixture of apprehension and fear, and there wasn't much in the opening few minutes to allay those fears. But the Caps eventually got it together enough to scrap out a gritty road win with a shortened bench and a cloud of potential injury hanging over them.
When all is said and done, when the dust clears and the sun rises, this will go into the books as just another win, just another two points. It was truly one of the more bizarre games the Caps have played so far this season, though, with everything from injuries to ejections to great individual efforts to funny bounces - and everything in between.
And in some ways that's fitting. Ten more notes on the game:
- Let's get this out of the way right now - the Alex Ovechkin hit. Was it intentional? Probably not. Was it dangerous? Absolutely. This is now the second time in three games that Ovechkin has been ejected from a game (despite leaving with an injury anyway) and of the two, this was probably the more worthy of discipline. We'll see what the League has to say...but for now our biggest concern is #8's health and well-being. Ovechkin writhing in pain on the ice is not a sight we're accustomed to seeing.
- The ongoing Ovechkin saga may get more media attention tomorrow, but it was the work of one man that deserves much more - and for only good reasons. Jose Theodore made his return to the net and put together what was simply an incredible individual effort. He turned aside 15 of 16 shots in the first period en route to a 37-save performance and kept the Caps in it early when they were reeling and late when the lead was at risk. Tremendous effort by Theo tonight.
- If you're looking for another individual standout, look no further than Nicklas Backstrom. He scored the opening goal, helped Ovechkin off the ice and then simply took over the game. By the end of the night he'd picked up two goals, a beautiful assist on Fehr's goal, played physical, run the power play and even finished above 50% in the faceoff circle.
- As Caps fans we have every right to complain about yet another injury - we've taken our fair share of bites from the injury bug in the first quarter of the season. But if the Caps have been bitten by the bug, the Hurricanes have been and continue to be absolutely throttled by it. Add the freak injury to Joe Corvo to the growing list of wounded in Carolina red.
- Watching the first five minutes of this one was unsettling to say the least; the Caps were running around in their own zone, had already given up a power play goal and were relying on their goaltender to bail them out far too often. Luckily the tying goal came fairly quickly and seemed to settle the team down.
- Alexandre Giroux has no place on the top line of the Caps. Or anywhere on the Caps. Or the NHL.
- It's not unusual to see stats inflated for the home team, especially when dealing with a subjective statistic like hits. This time, however, it's not hard to believe that the Hurricanes racked up 45 hits. Whether or not all of them were the cleanest of hits, of course, is another issue. But then I guess we don't have much of a leg to stand on there (no pun intended).
- Eric Fehr continues to have a nose for the net, picking up his 10th point in 11 games and showing no signs of stopping. His goal off of Backstrom's ridiculous pass on the 2-on-1 was a goal-scorers goal, all finish - and something that a certain #33 probably isn't capable of. Just sayin'.
- Both goalies had a few issues handling the puck. Theodore's came late in the game, and his D bailed him out as the slow-dribbling puck was swatted away from a wide-open net by Jeff Schultz. Michael Leighton...well, he had a little less help. Backstrom's second goal was a bit of a gift (although still a pretty sweet backhand shot).
- In just three games, Karl Alzner seems to have settled in nicely. He's making smart plays and has added more of a physical edge to his game. And while he still has the odd mistake or mental breakdown, he's better at recovering and has really been strong in his short time with the big boys this year. Can we keep him?