After a pair of games against the League's third-best and third-worst teams, the Caps find themselves four points richer in the standings as they prepare to do battle on Tuesday night with the team over whom the leapt into second place in the East with Sunday's win, the New Jersey Devils.
Here are a few notes on the weekend that was:
- Alex Ovechkin's five-goal weekend gives him a four-goal lead on Jeff Carter for tops in the NHL, and his Saturday game-winner was his seventh of the season, which is good for second in the League. To get back to sixty goals, AO will need to score 25 in the Caps' remaining 32 games, a pace which is just under last season's 65-in-82 rate and just over his November-through-January rate this season. Of course, if he keeps up his February pace, he'll finish the season with 129 goals.
- Mike Green was a beast as well, with a pair of goals, four assists a plus-two rating in a team-high 45:57 of ice time.
- You could see it coming a mile away, but splitting up Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom paid immediate dividends for the latter. I had noted that (prior to Saturday's game), Nick's shots on goal per game, by month, were 1.9, 2.5, 2.0 and 1.5 and that his points per game were 0.4, 1.1, 1.5 and 0.5, respectively - he's most effective when he's assertive and shooting the puck, and sometimes he gets away from that when playing with Ovi. Over the weekend, Nick was credited with eight shots on goal and five points. He also had three even strength points, which is just one less than he had in his first dozen games in January, and won 52.6% of his faceoffs. Hell, he even had three hits and four blocked shots in the two games.
- Jeff Schultz had a plus-six rating for the weekend, and Milan Jurcina was plus-two for the two games. Shaone Morrisonn was minus-two.
- The Caps blocked 45 shots in the two games, led by Tom Poti's seven.
- Jose Theodore completed a 6-3-1/2.18/.919 January with his win Saturday (Brent Johnson was 1-1-0/4.51/.855 in January).
- Michael Nylander was 5-for-21 in the faceoff dot (23.8%); Sergei Fedorov was 15-for-23 (65.2%).
- Speaking of Fedorov, he didn't get any shorthanded time this weekend (13 seconds), but did see his power-play time scaled way back to just 1:17 of the Caps' 8:13 total time man-up. His faceoff win did lead to the Ovechkin PP marker on Sunday, though.
- And speaking of the special teams, the Caps' PP was three-for-eight (37.5%) on the weekend - scoring goals six, three and four seconds into extra man opportunities - and the PK was 11-for-13 (84.6%). David Steckel was fantastic on the kill on Saturday (despite getting beaten up in the faceoff circle).
Eric Fehr had perhaps his best back-to-back games as an NHLer (it was only the second time in his career that he was on the scoresheet in consecutive games), with eight shots on goal and a great individual effort tally on Sunday in what seemed like the first time he was near the crease in weeks. It's also worth noting that his combined +6 Corsi rating was the best of any Cap this weekend (at the other end of the spectrum was Alex Semin at -23).
- Last season, Brooks Laich had a 17.2 shooting percentage. In January, he was 0-for-32.
So it's on to Jersey (against whom the Caps are 1-0-2 on the season) for another stiff test, but it's tests like this that the they've passed time and again with flying colors - the Caps are a combined 13-4-3 against the rest of the Eastern Conference's current playoff-positioned squads and have lost just one game in regulation to those teams since December 20. Second place is up for grabs - who wants it?