For an inter-Conference match-up, last night's Caps/Preds game had an awful lot of fireworks, but none quite as brilliant as the grand finale authored by a trio of Russians momentararily masquerading as pyrotechnicians.
From the opening draw - or, more accurately, 51 seconds thereafter - the game was an unlikely pitcher's duel between two netminders each of whom entered the night with a save percentage under .900, and a surprisingly chippy affair that featured three fights in the game's first 25 minutes.
Most importantly, of course, the Caps halted their four-game slide and re-established a double digit lead over second-place Florida in the standings.
Some thoughts on the game:
- The Caps did a lot of things well last night, but for all the talk of how the team needs to go to the net more to start scoring some ugly goals, it didn't happen - Dan Ellis may have made 42 saves on the night, but he had a pretty unobstructed view of nearly all of them, and the Caps had very few second chance opportunities.
- Speaking of Ellis, while he's had a rough 2008-09, let's not forget that he led the League in save percentage a season ago. Marty Gerber he ain't.
- And while we're talking goalies, Jose Theodore had a quietly brilliant night, and avoided what would have been potentially been an odd stat, had he shutout out the Preds for 60+ consecutive minutes and lost.
- The entire blueline was good, but stepping up in big ways were John Erskine (especially holding his own with Wade Belak) and Shaone Morrisonn (breaking up a 2-on-1 and breaking Jason Arnott). The entire D-corps combined to have just one giveaway.
- Alex Semin was great, especially early, and had four takeaways, nary a giveaway, and took a hit along the boards to start the play on the game-winner...
- However, he and Alex Ovechkin combined to have 14 shots blocked and another nine miss the net entirely. AO has been settling for too many 30-footers lately, which makes you wonder how that heel's feeling.
- As mentioned yesterday morning, Nashville was 27-6-2 when scoring first and a League-best 15-0-1 when leading after one period. Add an OTL to each of those marks.
- Great coaching: having Sergei Fedorov out on defense in the overtime. His joining the play was game over.
- Not-so-great coaching: having Nicklas Backstrom out for an offensive zone draw in the last minute of regulation. Backstrom was 9-for-24 (38%) on the night, while the rest of the team was 30-for-45 (67%). Fedorov was 16-for-23 (70%). Brooks Laich was 4-for-4 (100%). Seriously, Bruce, it's almost playoff time. Every single offensive and defensive zone faceoff is starting to matter.
- Speaking of Laich, another strong game for him.
- Viktor Kozlov's two helpers were both beauties, and the patience each of the finishers showed on their goals was fantastic.
- If Matt Bradley was a Run-D.M.C. record, he'd be Tougher Than Leather, but only because they never released one called I Got Away With A Hit From Behind.
- Well over 1,000 comments on the game thread? Awesome. (Oh, and if you haven't heard, "rec'd" is the new "+1".)
Next up? Philly. It's beginning to look a lot like April...