In the nine games that the Caps have played this season without the two-time reigning League Most Valuable Player, they're now 7-2-0 after a 7-3 win Tuesday night in Sunrise. Impressive.
Every bit as impressive is how they've played in those games, piling up the goals in the absence of the League's best goal-scorer to the tune of 4.78 per game (three times scoring at least seven goals in a game) and a scorching 41.7% efficiency on the power play. They've also allowed just 2.67 goals per game in those nine and have killed off 81.5% of their shorthanded opportunities. Just a reminder to the rest of the NHL: this is not a one-man team.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps set the tone early with a couple of big hits, one by Shaone Morrisonn just seven seconds in and another by Tyler Sloan (who made a nice defensive play early and added an assist later) a couple of minutes later. Somehow the Panthers were credited with twice as many hits as the Caps on the night, but one could reasonably have expected a little more physicality from the more desperate club (especially given what happened the last time these teams met). And don't take my word for it - their own coach called 'em soft.
- Back to Morrisonn for a moment, his two assists are as many as he had since January 23rd. He was also on the ice for all three Florida goals and took one of three Caps penalties, so all was not rainbows and puppy dogs for him.
- Sticking with the "Mo" theme, think Brendan Morrison might be pulling for Florida to sneak into that eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot? B-Mo had four goals and six assists in the season series against the Kitties. His line - with Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera - combined for three goals (including Fehr's eventual game-winner) and two assists in limited ice time (Fehr played just 12:39 on the night). The line looked, for one night at least, very much like you want a playoff third line to look.
Jose Theodore probably deserved better stats than he ended up with (though a .919 save percentage on 37 shots against is nothing to sneeze at), but he got the win and that's what matters, of course. He's now 15-0-2 since January 13, and, in case you didn't notice in today's coverage of other events, it was his second-consecutive start, the first time Bruce Boudreau has trotted the same goalie out there in back-to-back games since the Olympic break. The rotation, it would seem, is over.
- With a two-goal, one-assist effort, Brooks Laich has set new career highs in goals and points for the third consecutive season, and both of his goals were classic "go to the bakery" goals (so was his assist, for that matter). Laich also fired eight shots on goal, his fifth-straight game with at least five. Stud.
- Laich's linemates - Alexander Semin and Eric Belanger - each chipped in as well, with Semin banging home a rebound on the power play, Belanger winning 69% of his 16 draws on the night, and each adding an assist on Laich's second goal.
- The top line was the "quiet" line of the top three, with only Nicklas Backstrom's goal and assist and Mike Knuble's assist to show for their efforts. Slackers. (Though I would note Backstrom's increased willingness to shoot the puck in his normal left-winger's absence is certainly enjoyable to watch.)
- We talked about discipline earlier today and the Caps were nothing if not well-mannered, taking just three non-coincidental minors, one of which came two seconds into a Florida power play. That works. So does killing off the three penalties.
- John Carlson - who had a game-high four blocked shots - now has assists in three-straight games and with a plus tonight is now plus-10 on the season, and in 14 NHL games has only been a minus once (and that was minus-one in his second game).
- The one concern from tonight's game - and it's not insignificant - was the absence of Boyd Gordon who skated just two shifts on the night and didn't return after being tripped by the Panthers' Shawn Matthias. Since the play was penalized and an injury apparently resulted, expect Matthias to be suspended for a couple of games. Kidding. Sorta.
And so it's on to Carolina, where the Caps will look to improve on their 16-3-0 Southeast Division mark and keep on winning... regardless of who's in the lineup.