It wasn't quite the exorcism of recent home-ice demons the Capitals and their fans were looking for, but it was a win against a hungry division opponent fighting for their playoff life in a building where wins have been hard to come by of late. Strong special teams and another superhuman effort from Alexander Semin were enough to hold the Hurricanes to a tie in the hockey game and to let the Capitals walk away with the extra point.
While it's great that the Capitals have not one, but two, Alexes capable of single-handedly carrying the team to victory, there's no way last night's effort doesn't arouse at least some concern over secondary scoring. It's true that the Capitals have enough secondary scoring to carry them deep into the playoffs but there's also no reason Tomas Fleischmann, Michael Nylander, Eric Fehr, Viktor Kozlov, and Brooks Laich should tally just seven shots on goal in a game where the "Young Guns" had a combined four goals and nineteen shots.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Seven non-coincidental minors in the first two periods, none in the third and one in overtime? Looks like the refs are getting ready for the playoffs too.
- Keith Aucoin wasn't all that noticeable, which all but tells you he had a better game last night than Alexandre Giroux did on Thursday.
- Since Donald Brashear's fight with Wade Belak on Tuesday the Capitals have outscored their opponents 8-5, outshot them 92-86, have been on the recieving end of one physical foul (a cross check against Carolina Jussi Jokinen), and have managed to go nearly three full games without anyone taking a run at one of their stars or at Jose Theodore. Those facts aren't enough to build a convincing argument that Brashear's presence isn't needed to police the Capitals' games, but they're a pretty good starting point.
- Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom took a combined 70 shifts, 31 of which were over a minute in length. 12 of Ovechkin's 23 shifts were longer than a minute and that's just too long, even if you are playing the point on the powerplay.
- The Caps did a great job of getting in the shooting lanes last night; 25 of Carolina's 71 shot attempts were blocked, 19 on which were by defensemen. Jeff Schultz, John Erskine, Shaone Morrisonn, and Mike Green had four blocks each. For the sake of comparison, no Hurricanes player had more than two.
- There's no doubt that the Capitals have a lot of depth on the wings, but it's still hard to rationalize Eric Fehr having less ice time than any of the team's other players.
- Once the NHL figures out what it's doing with fights and head shots they ought to take a look at stricter enforcement of slew-footing. And that includes trying to bring a player down by locking your legs around his ankles like Eric Staal did to Ovechkin last night.
- Speaking of potential rule changes, the league ought to look at unsportsmanlike minors for players who go after guys who have laid clean hits on the them. The Capitals shouldn't have to do without the night's shutdown defensive pairing just because Ray Whitney can't handle being hit.
- Schultz's takeaway on Eric Staal curl-and-drag attempt in overtime deserves mention. So there it is. Mentioned.
- If Michael Nylander skates and moves the puck like he did last night, we'll be more than comfortable will him playing regularly next year. Even if he plays like he gets docked pay whenever he takes a shot.
- Cam Ward's third period save on Boyd Gordon was not only the save of the night, it was downright unfair for a guy who works as hard as Gordo.
At the end of the night, despite the lack of much offense outside of the Young Guns, the botched five-on-one, and, yes, a shootout, the Capitals are one point closer to clinching the Southeast Division for the second straight season.