The term "statement game" was thrown around a lot before and during this afternoon's match-up with the Blackhawks in Chicago, and it will no doubt get some use in the wake of the Caps' 4-3 come-from-behind victory. But if a statement was indeed made by the Caps, it was one they've made often this season: we're a damn good hockey team... when we care to be.
For forty minutes, the visitors weren't terribly engaged - blame it on Daylight Saving Time, the time zone, losing their best player, playing a day game, etc. But once they started going to the net to create chances and draw penalties, the tide shifted in their favor and proved to be too much for a Chicago team that had given up a trio of third period tallies to the Flyers in a loss just a day earlier.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Let's get this out of the way up top: everyone is going to see what they want to in Alex Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell. Me? I saw a two-minute boarding minor that the on-ice officials were too scared to call when Campbell stayed down. There's no automatic suspension coming, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the game misconduct rescinded. But, like I said, people are going to see what they want to see in controversial hits like this.
- On to the good, and it starts with Nicklas Backstrom, who scored twice in the game's last 16 minutes, including potting the game-winner on an end-to-end rush that started with a superb backcheck to clean up his own mistake and ended by slicing through two of Canada's finest (Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith) before depositing the puck past Antti Niemi. Three of Backstrom's last eight shifts of the game resulted in Caps goals, with him assisting - and drawing a penalty - on the one he didn't score. Mercy.
- For all of the talk about the Caps' defensive woes, they deserve praise for the shutdown job they did on the Hawks, allowing just 23 shots on goal for the game (and just one in the third period), blocking 19 shots, outhitting Chicago 43-32, killing off all 5:56 of 4-on-5 power-play time they faced and allowing just a single goal at five-aside. But yeah, they play no defense.
- As to the goals they did allow, the first was the result of just awful communication between Joe Corvo and David Steckel, the second came after Alexander Semin turned a short-handed breakaway chance to tie the game into a goaltender interference call that put the Hawks up two men and the third came on a well-placed deflection by John Madden. Tough to fault Jose Theodore on any of the three.
- Back to Steckel for a moment, he certainly didn't distinguish himself on that first Chicago marker, but made up for it by beating out an icing and setting up Eric Fehr for the game-tying tally that capped the Caps' three-goals-in-2:16 run. He also had a game-high seven hits and a team-high three blocked shots.
- As for Fehr, he scored on his only shot of the game and skated just 12 shifts all afternoon (only Ovechkin skated fewer). The mind continues to boggle.
- Rough afternoon for Tom Poti, who was on the ice for all three Blackhawks goals (at least, according to NHL.com).
- And rough afternoon for the Caps in the dot, winning only 39% of the game's face-offs. Take out Eric Belanger's 10-for-17 and the Caps' other pivots combined to go 9-for-32 (28%), including Tomas Fleischmann's 1-for-6 effort (Flash was also the only forward not to register a single shot on goal).
Mike Green had two assists a plus-two rating and was on the ice for three goals for and none against on the day in 30:23 of ice time. Very solid game from him.
- Give Mike Knuble that many chances around the net in a game again, and I guarantee he scores at least one and probably more. He also played with a bit more snarl than usual, perhaps a sign that he knows it's getting close to "go" time.
Today's win - in a tough building against an outstanding team and without the League's best player - was nice, but leaves Caps fans wondering when the team will start putting together "statement games" of another sort, the kind that say, "We can dominate a full sixty minutes of hockey."