On paper, the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't be more different. They're built around different philosophies, with different strengths and weaknesses...and with dramatically different expectations for the season. Yet somehow when these two teams get together none of that matters, and the result has been some pretty exciting games over the years.
Tonight's was perhaps a little too exciting for most of us, as the tight defensive play and stellar goaltending that has become a trademark for the Caps broke down a little - and did so against a team that had been struggling to score lately. There was plenty of good to go with the bad, though, and when all is said and done, it still counts as a win.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Amazing that just about every goal the Caps scored tonight was a direct result of someone going to the front of the net, no? It's almost as if that's something they should do all the time. Weird.
- Hopefully everyone who caught this game got plenty of rest beforehand, because watching Alexander Semin was an exhausting experience. It was at once both a beautifully executed offensive game, with a gorgeous assist, a slick-handed game-tying goal and a bullet of a shootout winner, and a frustrating display of everything that makes Semin a pain in the rear - right down to the offensive-zone stick penalty.
- The Caps' power play from a week or two ago looks nothing like the power play we're being treated to lately. They're moving, they're being creative and they're beginning to show signs of being the powerhouse with the extra man that they once were. And with two more power play goals, they inch ever closer to that 20% mark...
- How is it that in a high-scoring, back-and-forth game like this, Alex Ovechkin doesn't have a shot on goal until the third period and finishes with only three on the night? Chalk it up to a lot of passing by the captain, a few shanked shots and some decent defensive work by the Leafs. And hey, at least he registered a shot in the shootout - and made it count.
- The Caps are known for scoring in bunches; the Leafs, not so much. Still, both teams took their turn at lighting the lamp in short succession, with the Caps jumping out to a 3-1 lead over the course of five and a half minutes in the second and the Leafs adding three of their own in just over three minutes of the third. Hope no one blinked.
- It was an interesting night for the usually steady Jeff Schultz - Mike Green pairing tonight, with really good plays interspersed with major mental gaffes by both 55 and 52. And of course it figures that, on the day he gets major press in Canada for his defensive work, Green would be on the ice for all four Toronto goals.
- On the flip side, John Carlson put together a fairly nice evening for himself, firing the shot that was tipped by Tomas Fleischmann to give the Caps a two-goal lead and finishing with a plus-two rating - and three blocked shots.
- It wasn't a horrible outing by Michal Neuvirth tonight, but it wasn't quite up to the standard we've grown accustomed to. He probably wants a do-over on the first Toronto goal, for sure, and the four goals he allowed were the most he's surrendered since opening night...man, are we spoiled.
- It's no secret that Boyd Gordon has his fair share of fans around these parts, but even those who tend to overlook his contributions would have a hard time overlooking his impressive seeing eye pass that found the front of the net (and a waiting Jason Chimera) midway through the second period.
Nicklas Backstrom was 4-for-17 on faceoffs tonight. What's Swedish for "ouch"?
So the first shootout of the season (...woo) goes in the books as a win for the Caps, and perhaps, hopefully, they're a little humbled after this one. Give Toronto credit, they didn't give up and made this one way more interesting than it was projecting to be coming in...but the Caps need to be better than they were tonight and the result was a nail-biter right to the finish. Two points is two points, but another slow start and some shaky play throughout give these two points a slightly bittersweet taste.