The season keeps on winding down and, tonight at least, the Capitals looked like they were interested in doing more than just waiting things out. It may not have been the finest hour of Washington's 2009-10 season, and it may not have been a game against an elite opponent, but to hold another NHL team to 20 shots and to keep consistent pressure on them in their own zone takes both focus and a willingness to do the unglamorous and even unpleasant aspects of a hockey player's job. The Caps didn't need to do that tonight - after all, a win doesn't mean anything at this point unless the team makes it to the Stanley Cup finals, and likely wouldn't mean anything even then - but they still did. The result was a victory that may not have been breathtaking, enthralling, or even all that exciting, but can leave Caps fans feel pretty contented.
Ten additional thoughts on tonight's game:
- Very solid game out of Semyon Varlamov, who looked calm, poised, and in control of the game. Of course, what's even more encouraging from a Caps fan's perspective is that the team didn't Varlamov to be stellar to win, even in a game where the offense mustered just two goals.
- I think most hockey fans would agree there aren't a whole lot of guys out there like Nik Antropov. That combination of skill and skill is pretty rare, especially at the center position. But for the first time I'm ready to call Nik Antroprov unique, simply because I can't think of another player who got better after signing a big-money contract with the Thrashers.
- One thought on John Erskine's first period roughing penalty: WTF, John? Nonetheless, Erskine was actually very solid on the night, logging 17:27 of ice time, recording a +1 rating, and landing four hits on Atlanta players. I still wouldn't want him in the lineup every night, but it is nice to be reminded that he can fill in quite well against the opponent.
- Speaking of gratuitous head-shots, Shaone Morrisonn's response to Colby Armstrong's head shot on Mathieu Perreault was almost as weak as the call on the play. And that was a terribly weak call.
- And speaking of terrible Shaone Morrisonn plays, what exactly was 26 doing out there on the Thrashers' second period goal?
- In January I never would have guessed than the post-Ilya Kovalchuk Thrashers were going to look this similar to the team that sported the Russian sniper. That said, John Anderson and his players sure could used Kovy's instant offense and wealth of offensive talent tonight.
- Zach Bogosian played 23:26. Huh, how about that?
- Excellent game for the Capitals fourth line of David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Jason Chimera. Bradley's goal was great to see, but the impact of consistent, aggressive, effective forechecking shouldn't be underestimated. Especially since having a fourth line that excels in the forechecking department could easily be the difference between two evenly matched teams in a seven-game series.
- I don't particularly like to generalize just based on one game, but if that's the best effort Atlanta could put forth in game that was this important to them, it's hard to see them as a legitimate playoff team. As much as I'd like to see the Thrashers in the postseason this year, it's going to be the sorry state of the Eastern Conference that gets them in more than anything else.
- Ah, spring. The time of the year when flowers begin to bloom, the days get longer, the last remnants of winter melt away, and many of the best hockey players in the world become suddenly incapable of executing basic skating and stickhandling maneuvers on Verizon Center ice.