PHILADELPHIA PA - JANUARY 18: Kimmo Timonen #44 of the Philadelphia Flyers pushes Marcus Johansson #90 of the Washington Capitals off the puck at the Wells Fargo Center on January 18 2011 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
After the way the Caps played for the better part of fifty minutes tonight (and particularly the middle twenty), getting a single point almost feels like a win.
It doesn't gloss over anything, of course - if there's one thing this game showed, it's that the Caps as a team are not among the elite right now - but to erase a two-goal deficit in under a minute and force overtime against the East's best? Yeah, we'll take that bit of silver lining, minuscule as it may be.
Ten more notes on the game:
- You can put some blame on Matt Hendricks for missing the puck on the Flyers' first goal, but the reality is that Michal Neuvirth can't be giving that one up. He went down way too early and was never able to recover, allowing Jeff Carter to skate around and find a hole to put the Flyers on the board less than two minutes in.
- He wouldn't get much chance to redeem himself, though, as an injury sent Neuvirth to the bench in favor of Semyon Varlamov after the first. And it was Varly who held his team in this one, weathering the early storm and giving the Caps a chance to rally. He certainly deserved a better result for his performance tonight, which included a few ten bell saves (and one particularly good one on his own teammate, Mike Green).
- He also deserved more help than he got on Claude Giroux's goal that put the Flyers up 2-0 - but hey, at least Bruce Boudreau won't need to show them video of it tomorrow. The five guys in white who were just standing around had a pretty good view of it.
- Mike Knuble's goal was the direct result of great work by Marcus Johansson to force an offensive zone turnover - and it would have been MJ90's goal, if it weren't for those meddling post. Nice job by him to get it towards the net, though, and by Knuble to do what he does best in cleaning up the garbage.
- One of the more frustrating things about the Caps lately (read: all season long) is their continued inability to cycle the puck in the offensive zone - something that was brought into stark relief when compared to Philly's dominant forechecking ability. To watch the Flyers maintain possession in the Caps' zone, particularly in the second, was to have flashbacks of what this Washington team used to be capable of. There's no sustained pressure of any kind, just first or second shots and then a quick exit out of the zone.
- And that lack of sustained pressure is certainly not going to help in drawing penalties, that's for sure. When you come out of a game against the Flyers without having drawn a single power play...yeah, you're not working hard enough.
- Through two periods the Caps had just twelve shots on goal..and Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Mike Green and John Carlson combined for exactly two of those. Your best players need to be your best players, and part of that is putting shots on goal - they picked it up in the third period, but there were far too many passes and attempted passes rather than legitimate shots early on.
- Boudreau's line juggling has been a common theme this year, but putting someone like Jason Chimera alongside two all-world talents (albeit struggling ones) in Backstrom and Ovechkin is a move that almost smacks of desperation. Here's an idea - leave the lines together for more than a five minute stretch, even if it means sacrificing a game here and there, and let the players create some chemistry. What a concept.
- Thank goodness the Caps dressed DJ King tonight. How ever would they have survived without the fabricated fight and the dominant 4:24 of ice time by #17?
- And finally, congratulations to Nicklas Backstrom, who picked up his 300th career point with his assist on Ovechkin's game-tying goal. 300 points in 292 games, and that's with a slump through the first half of the season - yeah, he's not bad. He also now has five assists in his last six games...could we be seeing a return to the Backstrom of old? Here's hoping.
So a point's a point, and it's a big one considering the dogfight they're in for the Southeast Division lead . And a comeback's a comeback, particularly on the road against a tough opponent.
But the fact remains that there was so much wrong with this game, and the Caps' performance in it, that can't just be erased by forty seconds of effort. As was said many times during the broadcast, the Caps were playing good defense but too much of it - it's a sixty minute game, and the Caps only seemed interested in playing the last bit of it. That simply won't cut it.