On a night where two of the top defensemen are out with injury and the blue line is littered with rookies, first-time NHLers and Tyler Sloan, you'd expect two things: for the team to buckle down and play tighter defensively and for the goalie to come up big when needed.
Well, at least one of those happened. The shrine to Neuvirth goes up tomorrow.
But while it didn't start out pretty, the Caps were somehow able to channel the talent we know is there for long enough to steal two points from Nashville. They took a sluggish, lazy-looking performance, used a huge performance by their goaltender as a boost and turned this into one of those riveting, come-from-behind, scoring in bunches thrillers that never fails to get the heart racing.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Talking about anything else before mentioning Michal Neuvirth's performance would be majorly disrespectful to the work the young netminder did in this one. With a weakened defense and seemingly disinterested forwards in front of him (more on that in a minute), Neuvirth was called upon time and time again to bail out his team - and he did. And it's his performance that allowed the team to pull it together long enough to tie and eventually win the game. Another great performance from #30...who is now 7-1-0 with a 1.92 GAA and a save percentage of .942 in his last 10 NHL appearances. Not bad.
- So yeah, about those forwards. It's fairly normal (unfortunately) to see some guys on this team take the defensive aspect of their game a little more lightly than they should. What's not normal is seeing guys who usually take pride in their defense, guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera, slack off in that department. They weren't invested and left a weak defense out to dry on more than one occasion, failing to get the puck out of the zone. Completely unacceptable. They're lucky it "only" resulted in two goals against - and that Neuvirth's play and the team's ability to generate offense out of thin air eventually bailed them out.
- Your goaltender often has to be your best penalty-killer, and that was certainly the case tonight. The rest of the PK unit deserves some credit, however. Like the rest of the game it wasn't the prettiest to watch, but they got the job done and remain perfect in this young season, killing off 21 of 21 infractions and counting.
- The second goal Neuvirth let in was a deflection (after Backstrom failed to clear the zone), but the first one was a direct result of John Erskine parking his butt right in front of the net. The frustration of Neuvirth after that one was palpable.
- So there were these moments when the Caps had five skaters and Nashville had four...and the puck went into the net behind the Predators' goalie. I feel like there's some sort of name for that, but I can't remember...
- Alex Ovechkin had...well, let's call it an uneven performance. Turnovers and sloppy play abounded, but there were flashes of good among the less-than-good, including a big hit on Suter about midway through the second that seemed to - temporarily, at least - wake up his line and his team. Leadership, baby...even when it comes in spurts.
- Faceoffs continue to be an issue for this team, as they went 26-for-56 (45%) in the faceoff dot. A tale of two Swedes: Backstrom finished 13-for-19, while Marcus Johansson was 1-for-6. Ouch.
- And speaking of Backstrom, that uneven moniker we assigned to Ovechkin could also apply to him as he combined some pretty passes with uncharacteristically lazy play along the boards and an equally uncharacteristic boarding call late in the second. 'Sup, Nick?
- The second line was partly invisible, partly facepalm-worthy and partly the entire offense for the night, with Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann bringing the team even after being outplayed most of the game. Flash's goal was particularly nice, both because it tied the game and came while surrounded by three Nashville defenders. Of course, that begs the question...of all the guys on the ice, why were there three Nashville defenders on Flash?
- Brooks Laich goes to the net, loaves of bread are baked and money is withdrawn. Oh, yeah, and he gets the overtime game-winner, too.