For all the talk about how tough an opponent the Flyers are for the Capitals, Washington took four points out of the four-game season series and now, thanks to a 2-1 win last night, have won two of the last three games in Philadelphia, including last April's win-or-go-home Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and are 4-3 in the Wachovia Center since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Caps' bench. Suddenly, that team and that building's aren't so intimidating, are they?
For all the talk of how mediocre the Caps have been on the road this season, they're now 8-2-2 away from home since January 1 (good thing you listened when we told you not to worry), and Jose Theodore is 5-0-1 in his last six road starts (including wins in Philly, Boston and Jersey). Suddenly, it doesn't matter much whether the fans in the arena are rocking red or black and orange/gold/red, does it?
Playing without their two elder statesmen - the faceoff wizard and the enforcer - the Caps went into Philadelphia and took two points. Simple as that.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Jose Theodore stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced, but didn't have to make too many sensational stops because his positioning was rock solid all night. Since Bill Guerin's goal on Sunday, Jose has a 0.77 goals against average and .973 save percentage in just over 156 minutes of work.
- Alex Ovechkin had another one of those "MVP" nights, setting up Brooks Laich with a gorgeous pass on the Caps' first goal, scoring the game-winner late in the second on a beautiful one-time on a nice Alex Semin feed from behind the net, chasing down Simon Gagne and making a brilliant defensive play after a ghastly Mike Green turnover while on the power play, firing eight shots on goal and registering three hits. All of this, mind you, after a pretty slow start to the night. That's it... keep booing him, Flyer fans.
- Speaking of Green, he wasn't very good at all, and has looked a bit burnt out for a little while now (then again, he saw an awful lot of both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and neither did anything while Green was on the ice). It's crucial in this last month before the playoffs to reduce his minutes so he can be as fresh as possible when the games really matter.
- Think the Caps missed Sergei Fedorov? The team went just 16-for-48 in the faceoff circle, low-lighted by Michael Nylander's 1-for-11 night. Boyd Gordon and Laich were also notably bad in the dot, and the team went a combined 1-for-11 in special teams draws. Horrible.
- While we're harping on negatives, here's one - when you can only draw two minor penalties out of a team that came into the night averaging 5.5 minors per game, you aren't working nearly hard enough.
- Back to the positives, for the Caps' mediocre-at-best penalty kill to go a perfect 4-for-4 against the best home power play in hockey (entering the night, at least) was obviously a difference-maker, and while the team has an obvious "Big Four" Young Guns, they've also got a Big Four PKers - Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz, David Steckel and Gordon - who deserve some love.
- If I never see Alexandre Giroux in a Caps' sweater again, it'll be too soon (though he has as many points in the last six Caps games - zero - as Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr do).
- Caps fans will complain about the washout of a Caps goal; Flyer fans will complain about the washout of a Flyers goal. In essence... it's a wash.
- John Erskine was quite good yet again (including a game-high five hits), and his 19 minutes were the most he's played in a game since January 19.
- Milan Jurcina may have been beaten on the Flyer goal, but he killed everyone in Corsi Rating on the night. Really, it was a solid effort from all six blueliners, and though 36 shots against is a high total, an awful lot of them were from outside and unobstructed.
And so the Caps will return home (not-so-)sweet home for Saturday night's date with the Hurricanes with a chance to bump their Division lead up to 14 points with a dozen games left, and with the renewed knowledge that they can beat anyone. Anywhere. Any time.