We've made the point a number of times that, for this incarnation of the Washington Capitals, the regular season only means so much. A big part of that is recognizing that, for right now, how the Capitals play is more important on a game-to-game basis than the result. Ergo, just as the wins against Ottawa and Nashville may have left the Caps' faithful feeling less than fulfilled, tonight's win should provide more confidence and optimism than the final score would suggest. The Caps may not have been perfect - there were a couple of avoidable scoring chances in their end, a couple of chances they could have buried in the Bruins', and the team looked a little flat in the first - but it was nice to see the boys getting to the net, stepping up to match Boston's physical play, and generally getting better as the game went on.
It wasn't a win - but it should be something to build on.
Ten more notes on the game:
- I loved the Capitals' first goal, not just because it was Marcus Johansson's first NHL marker (congrats, kid), but also because it was a play that took all three forwards, and was the product of hard work along the boards coupled with a teammate going to the net.
- Jeff Schultz has to do something more to make life difficult to Milan Lucic in front of the net, rather than letting him poke in that first period goal. That doesn't mean putting him on his butt and taking a bad penalty (the lure of the apocryphal "crease clearing defenseman" meme is still that - a meme) or trying to intimidate him (not gonna happen), but it does mean that he has to get his stick on Lucic's and deny the big winger some space.
- On the plus side, it was a pleasant surprise to see Schultz doing more on the breakout, both by making good passes and being willing to start skating the puck out of the Caps' zone when he had time. Presumably Sarge doesn't get the chance to do that much when he's playing with Green, which is how it should be, but it's nice to see that he looks like he has improved in what have been some of his weaker areas.
- I know that the Capitals still have reason to be upset with Gregory Campbell, and that he and Matt Hendricks have a history. I get it. But I also know that tonight was Campbell's 367th NHL game and he now has 29 career goals (13 of which came in what looks like it'll be a fluke 2008-09 campaign) and 28 career fights. So...who really benefited from that bout?
- The report is Michal Neuvirth left tonight's game because he has been battling the flu. Now, I'm sure Neuvy seemed fine earlier in the day and professed to the team's coaching and training staffs that he was just fine, but that really seems like a good opportunity to get Semyon Varlamov his first start of the season, doesn't it?
- Alexander Semin had an all-around solid night; one that I could see coming about five minutes in to the game. Why? Early in the first Semin hit Milan Lucic deep in the Washington zone hard enough to knock the 220-pound Bruins winger down. When Sasha's willing to make plays like that, look for a solid night out of him.
- A couple of quick notes on ice time: Alex Ovechkin skated 23:26; Alexander Semin skated 22:28, both high numbers for this point in the season. At the other end of the spectrum was D.J. King, who saw only seven shifts and was on the ice for just over four minutes. One the one hand, King has a very specialized role, but on the other hand, what's the value in a guy who only goes out a couple times a period? How Bruce Boudreau uses King as the season progresses might be something to keep an eye on.
- Obviously the Capitals' penalty kill has been great through the early part of this season, but they haven't had many - if any - moments finer than the kill of their 53 second 5-on-3. Great work by Brooks Laich and David Steckel to put pressure on the perimeter and goad the Bruins in to overpassing, and by Schultz to make himself as big as possible down low and take up space.
- John Erskine had six hits coming in to tonight's game and picked up an additional seven, including six in the first period which might have something to do with the fact "Erskine was steamed the day after a game here last week that he wasn't getting credit for enough hits," according to Corey Masisak. Well played, Ersky.
- The Caps are now 4-0-0 with Boyd Gordon in the lineup, and 0-2-0 with him out of the lineup. I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin'.
The key for the Caps, of course, will be whether or not tonight's effort can carry over to future games. Fortunately, we're going to have the chance to make an interesting comparison on Thursday, since the Caps will be meeting the Bruins again. Hopefully this time we'll see the same kind of effort - and see the team have the good fortune to be rewarded with two points.