Tonight's battle with the Rangers was nothing short of being just that, in every sense of the word. It was a battle on the scoreboard, along the walls, through the neutral zone, with and without gloves. It was a night that felt almost like the old days when the Patrick Division rivalry burned bright...but slightly askew and a little bizarre, as stars became fighters and fighters became stars.
And when all was said and done, the Caps emerge from the battle battered and bloodied but victorious.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Occasionally you see unlikely guys get on the scoreboard. It happens, everyone has a stick and touches the puck and even fires shots toward the goalie - and it's usually an isolated incident, an interesting, quirky note in an otherwise mundane game. Well, mundane is overrated, because this game featured goals from such snipers as John Erskine, Matt Hendricks, Brian Boyle and Derek Boogaard...yeah, those guys probably aren't going to challenge for the Richard Trophy anytime soon.
- Of course, you don't generally see guys like that get goals in the first place unless someone majorly messes up, and the Caps' defensemen had a trio of mistakes - one from each pair - that ended up in the back of the net. Pick your favorite: Jeff Schultz and Mike Green losing sight of an 8-foot-tall forward? Karl Alzner whiffing on a clearing attempt right in front of the net? Tyler Sloan's costly overskate? So many delightful options.
- Michal Neuvirth has had some stunningly good performances this year. This...was not one of them. Ignore the fact that he gave up a goal to a guy who had exactly two in his career (and none in over 200 games), his rebound control was atrocious and he looked uncomfortable in net all night long. Luckily for him, he plays on a team where an occasional night like that can be overlooked and overcome.
- A big round of applause and a fuzzy new pair of slippers for Mike Knuble, who finally snaps his slump and gets on the board (sparing the lives of goats everywhere) doing exactly what he's become known for - cleaning up the garbage. It even drew an extra big smile of relief from the normally stoic Knuble. First of many, perhaps?
- Quite the interesting evening for Mike Green, who was all over the scoresheet - for better and for worse. He picked up two assists and was a plus-one on the night, but was partially responsible for losing track of Brian Boyle on the Rangers' first goal. He had over twenty-five minutes of ice time, including over four minutes on the power play and penalty kill, but also spent seven minutes in the box that included a major for fighting...his second (and decidedly more successful) attempt at fisticuffs already this year.
- Physicality was the name of the game in general in this one, with big hits and chippiness prevalent throughout. You'd have to think the hometown scoring led to the heavy-handed 33 hits awarded to the Rangers, but even the Caps racked up 22 in their own right. Of course with chippiness comes penalties, and there was a parade to the box throughout the night, with some calls better than others.
- How about Brooks Laich? Despite battling an upper-body injury, he had a hit (and absorbed a painful-looking hit into the boards that drew a penalty), got himself to the front of the net to open the scoring for Washington and put the game away with a simple empty-net goal.
- Aside from the incredibly visible mistakes it wasn't a horrendous night overall for the defense. At least it wasn't horrendous for the defensemen not named John Carlson and Karl Alzner, who after a series of consistently good performances had quite the stinker tonight. The fact that each finished a plus-one is nothing short of a miracle.
- Strangest shot progression of the season for the Caps: fourteen in the first period, five in each period after.
- Of course some of that could be due to the Rangers and their prolific shot-blocking ability, which was once again on full display tonight. The team that is among the League-leaders in that category threw themselves in front of twenty Caps' shots - seven of them off the stick of Alex Ovechkin.