The Washington Capitals traveled to Philadelphia for a highly anticipated contest between the two hottest teams in the NHL. The two rivals came into the game with a combined 9-0-1 record and sporting the top two offenses in the league. Something had to give of course, and on this night it was the Flyers, who were handed their first non-gimmick loss of the season. The Caps put forth a workmanlike effort the first two periods before turning on the jets and leaving the Flyers behind with a three goal outburst early in the third period, which effectively ended the competitive portion of the contest.
The 5-2 victory moves the Caps to 6-1-2 in the City of Brotherly Love since Boudreau became head coach in November 2007. More importantly, they are a clean 6-0-0 on the season and are building a nice cushion on the rest of their Southeast division opponents.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Through five games we've waited not-so-patiently for Alex Ovechkin to break out. Well, tonight he broke out, scoring twice and having a third point nullified because of incidental contact with Ilya Bryzgalov. Welcome back Alex, stay for a while!
- We're only six games into an 82-game regular season, but the team MVP so far is Tomas Vokoun. He had another very solid performance, stopping 40 of 42 shots on the night. And despite the worthless last minute goal the Flyers scored, Voks save percentage still increased from .935 to .939. Rejoice Caps fans, this is elite goaltending!
- The third line has carried this team at times this year, and tonight they stitched together another solid performance. But it was the fourth line that wins "best line" of the game. The trio of Matt Hendricks, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Perreault were collectively +32 in CORSI, dominated play and generated two goals. And they did it all that with no one getting more than 12:47 in ice time.
- Scott Hartnell didn't earn himself much respect today with his cheap shot on Perreault after the Caps first goal. It's one thing for a veteran to give away the puck - up the middle no less! - leading to a Capitals goal. It's another thing to run the player who out-smarted you well after the play. (Brendan, are you watching?)
- Speaking of Perreault, his first goal was a thing of beauty to a hockey purist. As a center, he put himself in perfect position play the puck carrier (Hartnell) or take away any pass (which he did). But there's more...if a pass were to somehow skip by Perreault, his skates were pointed in the right direction that he could simply turn towards center ice and instantly be the first forward back, nullifying any odd-man rush. Kids, play center like that.
- Mike Green is due to really breakout soon. He fired 11 shots total - three SOG - and was creating plays all night. He didn't dent the scoresheet, but if he plays like he did today he'll routinely notch multiple-point games as the season progresses.
- Bad Sasha paid a visit tonight. In a very rough first period he took an unsportsmanlike call for diving (which had as much to do with his reputation as a diver) then followed it up a few minutes later with an awful giveaway which led to a Claude Giroux breakaway goal. He finished -2.
- Back to the positive, because this was indeed a joyful night! Dennis Wideman extended his point scoring streak to six games...
- ...and the Caps scored a power play goal for the fourth consecutive game, something they hadn't done in a while.
- Is there a team with a more detestable quartet of players to Caps fans than the Flyers with Jagr, Pronger, Briere and Talbot? Perhaps the Pens with Crosby, Cooke, Asham and Orpik? Either way, it's close.
Want the good news? This team is really, really talented. They're deep at all positions, they're experienced, they have a good mix of grit and finesse. Tonight's game was a testament to those facts. Want the better news? The Caps are still a work in progress that can improve in certain areas. For starters, they gave up too many shots tonight. Additionally, they have only recently started putting together the type of complete efforts required of teams with championship aspirations. As is the case with the other 29 teams in the NHL, there's room to grow. But from what we've seen so far from the 2011-12 Washington Capitals, one can argue that there is no team with a higher potential upside. The sky is the limit.