One of the most interesting off-ice days the Caps have had in recent memory ended in a somewhat uninteresting 3-2 victory for the team, and that's probably just fine with them - two points (in-Conference, on the road, at the end of February) are big any way you slice it.
There's not much more to say about this one up front, so let's dive right in.
Ten more notes on the game:
- After the egg they laid last night against the Rangers, you'd have thought the Caps would be sure to start strong tonight. You'd have been wrong. The Islanders registered the game's first 11 shots on goal before the Caps first tested Al Montoya at 11:51 of the first period, and scored the game's first two goals.
- In an effort to shake up his stagnant offense, Bruce Boudreau put Marcus Johansson between Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble on the top line, with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin flanking Brooks Laich to start the game. Result? More stagnation - none of the top-liners had a shot on goal through the game's first 30 minutes or so, and the top line was on the ice (along with the top defensive pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner) for both Isles goals. So the experiment was scrapped, with Boudreau reuniting Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin on the top line and the other three forming the second. Result? Two goals for the second line, then one for the first.
- Back to Laich, never has it been more clear than tonight that he's a wing and not a center. Sure, he's a decent enough face-off man, but the two goals he created - his own and Knuble's - were very strong power moves, the likes of which he hasn't shown nearly enough of this season, especially from the center position. Great night for Brooksie.
- Alex Semin's goal was a Good Sasha classic - a ridiculously powerful wrister from distance that picked a corner. Alex Semin's penalty two-and-a-half minutes later was a Bad Sasha classic - an offensive zone intereference three seconds into a power play. (Soft call? Perhaps. But giving the refs the opportunity to make an even-up call there is an inherently bad play.)
- In the span of one 60-minute game, Michal Neuvirth was very good, very lucky, and very unlucky. For the most part, he kept the Caps in the game when they trailed by two and made a couple of big saves thereafter, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. But he was also extremely lucky (think of Michael Grabner's failure to control the puck and get a good shot off at a wide open net) and equally unlucky (Travis Hamonic's knuckler that floated in over Neuvy's shoulder). Such is life in the bigs.
- So Matt Hendricks will fight (and get pounded by) Zenon Konopka to try to shift the momentum with the Caps down 2-0, but no Cap will do anything when Derek Stepan knocks their Norris Finalist out of the game with an upper-arm-to-the-melon a night earlier. Got it.
Scott Hannan was a beast on Saturday night, blocking six shots and snagging a plus-two rating. With all the anxiety over the Caps not making moves over the past week while Conference rivals have improved themselves, let's not forget the trade in late November that brought Hannan to D.C. Just think for a moment about where the Caps would be without him.
- As part of today's transactional mayhem, the Caps sent Mathieu Perreault down to Hershey. On the plus side, they know they've got a two-point game in Perreault waiting for them when they next recall him. Or maybe that should be if they recall him. It's been noted that Perreault isn't going to play for Hershey this weekend, which has to mean he's in play leading up to the trade deadline, no?
- Here's a pretty cool note - Caps' back-up netminder Todd Ford made his debut on an NHL roster tonight on the 79th anniversary of Johnny Cash's birth. Why is that cool? Check out Ford's mask (h/t @keghauling on the nugget).
- Only one Caps defenseman - Alzner - registered a shot on goal on the night. Second-line center might be the top priority leading up to the deadline, but getting another blueliner who knows what to do with the puck on his stick might not be far behind, especially if Mike Green is going to miss any significant amount of time. Of course, getting Tom Poti back from injury wouldn't hurt either in that regard.
So the Caps come back home for a Tuesday, post-trade-deadline match-up against these very Islanders. Of course, by then it might not be the same Islanders and it almost certainly won't be the same Caps - chances are pretty good that someone in white tonight played his last game for the Caps, at least for a little while. In less than 42 hours, we'll have a better idea of what the 2010-11 Caps, Playoffs Edition might look like. And then the anxiety really begins.