There were three hopes for the Capitals coming into tonight's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets: stay healthy, crank up the dormant power play, and see if goaltender Michal Neuvirth could solidify his grasp on what appears to be his position to lose as the number one goalie. None of them happened.
The night wasn't that bad though, with Caps Nation exiting the Verizon Center with smiles on their faces after an entertaining win against a plucky Columbus team. Former Jacket Jason Chimera had the honors of tapping in the OT game-winner, a fitting result for a third-liner that played very well against his old team. The Caps now stretch their second-place lead over the Boston Bruins to five points and close the gap to one on the front-running Philadelphia Flyers.
However, the night may be remembered more for what it cost the Caps in terms of health than what it gained them in standings points.
Ten more notes on the game:
- On a night when it was reported that Dennis Wideman may be out indefinitely, and considering the Caps injury issues on defense, did John Erskine - a skater with a history of concussions - really need to drop the gloves in a meaningless game? He skated only one shift after his fight and, yet again, the Caps have another potential injury on defense to worry about.
- The power play only earned one power play and, to no one's surprise, didn't score. It would be nice if the Caps earned some penalties so they can get PP game experience without Dennis Wideman or Mike Green on the point, but it didn't happen tonight.
- Neuvirth didn't have a great game, stopping 20 of 23 shots. Not all of them were his fault - Jeff Schultz failed to tie up his man on the second Jackets goal - but Neuvy didn't appear entirely comfortable in net tonight. If Bruce was looking for a reason to give Semyon Varlamov a chance to claim the starting goalie spot, he now has it. And if Varly goes on a hot streak...DC gets what it so loves: a full-blown
- The effort tonight on both sides was limited in the first half of the game. Neither team played at full throttle as neither team had an incredible amount to play for, and it showed. Save until the teams combined for four goals in just over two minutes. The pace picked up from that point.
- Love John Carlson's goal, for three reasons: first, it was by a young defenseman who is becoming more comfortable jumping up in the play; second, it rewards Brooks Laich for making the "right" hockey play by throwing the puck on net; finally, it was a rebound goal, the type of goal that has eluded the Caps this season.
- Speaking of rebounds, the Caps actually scored THREE tonight as Mike Knuble had an easy second-period tap-in after Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom worked their magic to generate a scoring chance. And of course, Jason Chimera tapped in a Brooks Laich shot in OT. The most beautiful goals scored aren't necessarily the most artistic.
- RJ Umberger didn't make any friends in DC last year by calling
our child uglyout the Caps and saying they play wrong. With hindsight he was right. My bet is that he'll be more diplomatic in tonight's postgame interview.
- It was going to be interesting to see how Alexander Semin responded tonight after getting benched for OT of the Canes game on Tuesday. He came out and produced several shots on the first shift, and if not for Steve Mason's heroics, he would have scored. On the night he finished with eight shots (four SOG)...but was -8 in CORSI in 18:54 minutes of ice time. Message sent by Bruce. Message received by Alex?
- John Carlson was on the ice for 1:39 before Columbus scored their first goal. The worst thing about it was that he had an opportunity to get off the ice sooner. Let this be a learning moment.
- Jason Arnott is an impact player for the Caps. In a well-managed 16+ minutes of ice time, Arnott managed to score a goal, put three shots on goal and barely miss a potential game-winner late in the third. He didn't have a great day in the circle, going 5-for-17, but overall, his impact on the Caps is noticable, and maintaining his health for a deep playoff run is imperative. It would be nice if he scored his 400th career goal at Verizon Center Saturday night.
The good news is that the Caps won and tightened their grip on second place, a position that guarantees the team home ice for at least the first two rounds. But the injuries to Washington's blue line piled up, with Wideman's injury potentially being more serious than originally feared coupled with the ugly possibility that John Erskine may join him in the infirmiary. The Caps now limp into their last four games of the regular season looking not just for wins, but for good health to bless them. The team's playoff hopes depend on it.