When Shaone Morrisonn got whistled for a boarding major half-way through a penalty kill with a one-goal lead and a tick over five minutes left on the clock, one or two things ran through the minds of fans across Caps Nation: first and foremost, "Doom is imminent;" second, and slightly more nuanced, "At least Shaone Morrisonn isn't going to be around to not kill these penalties."
Luckily, the Caps did have David Steckel, and David Steckel was a god for the better part of five minutes, including blocking a shot on the 5-on-3 (Florida didn't get a single shot on goal during the 1:05 they were up two men) and another on the 5-on-4, and pressuring the puck at the point like we haven't seen a Caps forward do in quite some time. Steckel's effort late - along with those of Boyd Gordon, Tom Poti, Karl Alzner and, of course, Jose Theodore - sealed the deal for the Caps.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Finally, a game without a power-play goal against, and there wasn't even the slightest trace of the even strength defensive lapses that plagued the team on Thursday night.
- Steckel was having a great game even before his shorthanded heroics, assisting on the Eric Fehr goal just 33 seconds into the game (update: that assist has been taken away and credited to Mike Green). On the night, Stecks had a plus-two rating, won seven of his eleven draws (64%) and led the team with 6:15 of shorthanded ice time. His line (with Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann) had the only even strength goal the Caps scored on the night, and generally had good puck possession.
- If I was to tell you that one of the Caps was scoreless but had two blocked shots and won 53% of his faceoffs on the night, how many guys would you guess that stat line belonged to before you named Nicklas Backstrom?
- Back to Morrisonn, the fact that he took a penalty while killing one shouldn't be a huge surprise - he's third in the League among all defensemen who have played 30 or more games and actually play the PK in penalties taken per sixty minutes of four-on-five ice time. By the way, Bill McCreary? Not on Mo's Christmas card list.
- Karl Alzner is so steady and calming, I think I want to watch tapes of him playing next time I have to get some work done at the dentist.
- I hear it was "t-shirt warm" at the VC last night. Poti had some thoughts on what that (and/or other factors) meant for the ice.
- Oh yeah... Mike Green. I noted it in the Open Thread, but I think 95% of Green’s goals have been on shots taken from within about a Jeff Schultz wingspan of each other (and that may or may not include his insurance shorty... Sarge got reach). He now has the Caps record for most consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman.
- Staffan Kronwall gets Mo's sweater on Wednesday night in Manhattan, no?
- The Caps only committed one minor penalty in each of the first two periods (one of which was while on a four-minute penalty and didn't result in a short-handed situation), and only four minors on the game. That raw total is good, but at least three of the penalties - Fehr's interference and Sergei Fedorov's hold, both in the offensive zone, and the trip Green was forced to take while on the PP - are the kind that drive a coach (and fans) insane.
- Nathan Horton would be one of the most over-rated players in hockey if he played in a town where their guys are actually "rated."
- Jose Theodore was the game's first star (personally, I'd have given it to Steckel, if you couldn't have guessed), and had the kind of game you'd like to see from him every night - economical, quiet and confident.
- Gotta love Brooks Laich gutting it out last night, but he was clearly notat 100% - a minus-one rating, no shot attempts (much less any on goal) and 0-for-2 in the dot. He did have three hits, though.
- Alex Ovechkin had a dozen shots on goal, but couldn't get one past Tomas Vokoun. Interestingly, he's only lit the lamp in two of the five games in which he's had twelve or more shots on goal this season.
- The Caps have now beaten every team in the Eastern Conference at least once this season.
The Caps will now embark on a three-game road trip that will take them to New York City and both stops in Florida (expect Michal Neuvirth's first NHL start to come in one of those games) with a big lead in the Division, the League's leading goal scoring forward and defenseman, and a team that, for the most part, seems to be back on track after Thursday night's derailment. Of note, they'll likely leave D.C. with eight defensemen on the roster... will they return with as many? Stay tuned.