On the scoreboard, the Washington Capitals are still mired in an ugly losing streak. On the ice, however, they looked better than they have for at least a half dozen games, and if they'd had slightly better luck, they could very well have won this one handily (that may sound like an excuse, but it's true). Nonetheless, the Caps were playing smarter, getting to the net more consistently, and forechecking with purpose and, for now, any fears that Bruce Boudreau had lost the room should be assuaged.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It was interesting to see Bruce Boudreau decide to match David Steckel, Brooks Laich, and Matt Bradley against the Ducks' top line, especially given the fact that's not exactly a group of defensive world-beaters for the Caps. Most likely it was just a combination of the fact the Ducks are essentially a one line team, especially with Teemu Selanne out, and the fact Alexander Semin's absence meant the Capitals would be less able to dictate the course of play, but when a coach changes something that's pretty fundamental to his coaching strategy, you have wonder if he's feeling a bit of heat.
- Although the Caps' new checking line looked pretty solid, David Steckel had a few very low percentage wristers from the blue line on the forecheck. Keeping the puck deep in the other guys' zone is one of the ways a checking line can be most effective, and throwing those kinds of shots at the goalie, well, it doesn't really work towards that end.
- Also of note? The Capitals decidedly conservative approach to tonight's game, especially at the game's outset. The team didn't always look completely comfortable with the new approach, but for a team like the Caps, who are going to be in the postseason barring an epic collapse, now is the time to make the adjustments that make you uncomfortable. Major credit to the team and coaching staff to go out and try something different in the midst of their struggles.
- The Capitals' powerplay did two things that we haven't seen nearly enough of recently - they kept the puck in their opponent's zone, and they kept their feet moving and looked to create scoring opportunities. They may not have picked up a goal, but it once again feels like it's only going to be a matter of change.
- There's a world of difference between a healthy Nicklas Backstrom and a flu-ridden Nicklas Backstrom, huh?
- I understand that Mike Knuble was just trying to go after the puck and put on pressure on the forecheck, but, man, taking a penalty for tripping Sheldon Brookbank at the Ducks' goal line was awfully hard to take. And those always seem to be the shorthanded situations you team fails to kill off, don't they?
- Mathieu Perreault was just 1-for-10 on the faceoff dot, and didn't win a draw until the third period. It doesn't matter how slick or energetic you are, if you're going to play center at the NHL level, you simply need to be better.
- Not a historically great night by any means for Semyon Varlamov, but he bounced back after a truly horrific outing in New York on Sunday. Especially impressive was his ability to avoid the urge to do too much and instead just play his game.
- Obviously the Capitals are far from full strength up front, but pairing up Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr just doesn't work. Each player can be very effective in a complimentary role, but when they're playing together on a depth line, there's no one there to be the line's driving force, neither guy can do what makes him most valuable to the team.
- A couple quick notes on shift length: For the team, the median average shift length was 44 seconds, no forward was over 50 seconds, and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both averaged 44 seconds. Just one more thing to feel positive about.
One solid effort doesn't break a losing streak any more than one mediocre effort means the end of a got streak - but it's a start.