It was probably just about inevitable that tonight's game would be somewhat anti-climactic. After all, any regular season NHL game was going to pale in comparison the Olympic gold medal game and very little chance of beating the drama and suspense of following the league's trade deadline. Not to mention the fact that deadline ended just four hours before the puck dropped meant that Caps fans weren't even to have a chance to see their team's new players in action.
In short, this game or less played out like expected. The players looked a little rusty at times, the atmosphere wasn't quite what you'd like it to be (Buffalo fans even seemed to generally forget about booing Alex Ovechkin), and the intensity level wasn't terribly high.
Oh, and the Capitals won.
Ten additional thoughts on tonight's game:
- If Ryan Miller's going to have any sort of post-Olympic hangover, he didn't show any signs of it tonight. It can be awfully hard to predict who gets hot during the postseason and winds up carrying their team in their back, but I'll say this: I don't want the Capitals to have to face Ryan Miller in late April. Or May.
- Jose Theodore looked not just sharp and well rested, but very focused. His positioning was solid all night long and he didn't the Sabres much of a chance to put away ugly goals, controlling the puck well and not giving up many juicy rebounds.
- Not to be a hater, but if the Caps' deadline moves make it so that John Erskine's no longer in a position where he's skating 18:03, I think you have to like them.
- Sometimes it's easy to forget just how good a team the Capitals are when it comes to skating ability, in part because just about everyone in Washington's lineup is so solid in the department, and in part because with all the emphasis on more specific skill sets, it's easy to forget how important it is. But the Caps have the advantage over just about anyone in the league in that department, and with Eric Belanger and Joe Corvo coming to town, they should only get better. It's not sexy and it doesn't make you sound like a genius to talk about it, but it is something that could make the difference in a playoff series. Especially a long one. Especially in late spring.
- Given his skill set and style of play, Mike Knuble doesn't get a ton of breakaways and as a result he's probably not all that comfortable on them. Or at least that's sure how it looked.
- A solid two assist night for Jeff Schultz. For those of you scoring at home, that's Double Nickel: 1, Nickel City: 0.
- Coming in to tonight's game Tom Poti had 15 hits in 53 games. And if you saw his failed neutral zone attempt at a big hit, you can probably guess why.
- Sometimes it really feels like a shame that Tomas Fleischmann's not a very good defensive player and hasn't picked up on faceoffs yet (though we note it hasn't been very long), because his offensive talents seem like they'd make him a heck of a center. Not only does he has the hands and shiftiness a playmaker needs to create chances for his linemates - he seems to be getting better and better at finding open teammates and, just as importantly, he always seems to be look for a way to draw the defense out of position and exploit the opening.
- Shots on goal for the Capitals: 40. Shots attempted by the Sabres: 43. Nice.
- Boyd Gordon is probably very good at pool. Call it a hunch.
Well, the first post-Olympic game is done; the first post-trade deadline game is done, and in a way it just feels good to get it out of the way and get the team ready to come home - and get their new guys in the lineup and see what they can do.