The Caps have shown that they have the ability to bounce back from a poor performance, particularly ones which everyone in the room agrees are probably best thrown in the garbage can. The tricky part for this team, as it always seems to be, is finding consistency - building one win into a streak, turning a strong performance into another strong performance and another one after that without needing the kick-in-the-pants, tear-your-hair-out loss as incentive.
And so with a solid road win in a tough building under their belts the Caps rolled into Carolina Friday night with a few simple goals: start strong, survive the first ten minutes, leave with two points and maybe even hit double-digits in shots.
...to be fair, they did get three of the four.
Ten more notes on the game:
- You'd be hard-pressed to find another Cap who has had a more active couple of weeks than Matt Hendricks, and tonight was no exception. Another fight, his second in as many games (and one that brings him up to four this month...aka four since this), and if you can believe it, more shots on goal tonight (3) than Alex Ovechkin.
- An otherwise decent if not scintillating first period was muddied by a few blatant turnovers, but none were more glaring (or costly) than the bobble/pokecheck that put the puck off of John Carlson's stick, onto Eric Staal's stick, onto Jussi Jokinen's stick and then into the net. In what seems like a season of plays that fail to meet expectations for #74, that was one of the more painful - and it makes one wonder just how far he needs to slump before he gets a seat in the pressbox.
- Speaking of those turnovers, ever wonder how they're tracked? Consider that after the first period, which saw back-to-back giveaways in their own zone by Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson as well as that Carlson flub, the Caps were credited with two: one to Ovechkin and one to Dmitri Orlov. Um...okay.
- Lots of goalies have mastered that fancy arm whip on a glove save to really sell it, to make it look special (paging Brent Johnson). For my money, though, you won't see many glove saves prettier than the one Vokoun made on Jeff Skinner early in the second period - close to the body, subtle yet sneaky and so good. Because let's face it, when you're Tomas Vokoun, you don't have to sell anything.
- Vokoun was easily the best player on the ice for almost the entire game, up to and even including his power move on Jiri Tlusty in the final minute that resulted in Carolina's third goal of the night. He made 29 saves, many of the spectacular/game-saving variety, and deserved a much better performance in front of him than he ultimately got.
- All other things aside, the Caps didn't have much luck tonight. Not the statistical "I don't know how to characterize this so I'll call it luck" luck, but actual "get me a four leaf clover and a rabbit's foot, stat!" luck - like when the Caps were facing empty nets at least twice and weren't able to corral the puck long enough to take advantage. Or when Cody Eakin's shot at an open net bounced harmlessly off the base of the post. Of course, when you leave it to luck, you get what you get.
- After a late-period goal to end the second, the Caps needed a strong start to the third to attempt to shift momentum back in their favor - and amazingly they did just that, throwing some offensive pressure in the face of Carolina's backcheck (if a backcheck had a face) and generating some scoring chances along the way.
- The Caps' power play was extremely successful tonight... not for the Caps, but the Hurricanes seemed to have a grand old time shorthanded, generating what were easily the better of the offensive chances and outscoring the Caps 1-0 while down a man. Which probably isn't how Hunter drew it up. We hope.
- Ovechkin had some bursts of speed and a few decent plays, but he was otherwise fairly invisible tonight, logging over 24 minutes of very quiet ice time and firing just two shots on - and three more near - the goal. A little troubling since this was a night when the team probably needed him to put them on his shoulders.
- Hockey is full of cliches and simple goals players talk about. One is getting out of the first period on the road either even or ahead... oops. Another is not giving up goals in the last minute or two of a per-... oops again. But hey, good news is they know what they're supposed to do! That counts, right?
So after not getting blanked at all this season the Caps have now been held scoreless in two of their last three. No way to sugarcoat this one, either, it was ugly - albeit not as ugly as the Islanders' game was - and a disappointing follow-up to what had been an impressive road game two nights earlier.
Now if you want that silver lining, we've seen how this Caps team responds to bad performances (and being shut out)...and we know what team they face next. Here's hoping they take out their frustration on a couple of Penguins Sunday afternoon.