What's ugliest? The turkey entrails that adorned your kitchen last night, splayed out on the island like an anthropomantic ritual; the mustaches squatting on the upper lips of your favorite hockey players; or the four game skid the Washington Capitals carried with them through Thanksgiving and into Black Friday (and with Martin Erat and Dmitry Orlov both requesting to be traded from the club this week, personnel brass from the rest of the league probably are perusing the Caps' tradeables like electronic swindlers at your local megastore.)
Ten more notes on the game:
- After one of his ugliest outings of the year on Wednesday, Braden Holtby was slated to take the night off— a fact that probably has more to do with the back-to-back schedule than with his performance. A lower-body injury sustained by Michal Neuvirth during warmups found Holtby back between the pipes with a quick shot at absolution. All in all it was a nice outing for Holtby, who faced more than 30 shots yet again. It's the 43rd time Holtby's seen so many shots since last season, slotting him at second in the league behind only Ryan Miller. Holts gave his team a chance to win, and then literally won it for them. Can you really ask for more?
- Speaking of goaltenders, can't imagine that Peter Budaj was too upset to find himself back in a Verizon Center net. Not after the performance he put on one week ago. Budaj wasn't nearly as great as he was last Friday, but he did make a handful of solid stops, and played well enough to earn his squad a point. But tucking 3 of 4 past Budaj in the shootout is some nice payback for the Caps sharpshooters.
- Due to Martin Erat's situation and Brooks Laich's injury, the Capitals boasted a quartet of skaters with similar skill sets in Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti, Tom Wilson, and Michael Latta, with the latter three comprising the Caps' fourth line. These guys laid a couple of booming hits, botched some odd man rushes, and racked up a pretty ugly possession tab. Dunno about you, but dressing all four of these guys seems to me a bit like starting a band with all bass players. Then again, what other options does the team really have?
- When Danny Briere camped out in front of the net and whacked, whacked, whacked at Braden Holtby's pads until the puck slipped into the net, it was Alexander Urbom and Tyson Strachan loping non-chalantly towards him. Pretty terrible defense in front of the net from two guys that most Caps' fans had never heard of before September. Are these guys good enough to warrant Steve Oleksy's seat amongst the popcorn munchers? To warrant the constant vacillation of Dmitry Orlov? Color me skeptical.
- Seems like Adam Oates was plenty tuned into the inefficiency of both Urbom and Strachan. Alex Urbom skated only three shifts in the game, and Craig Laughlin noted that the benchboss opted to roll with two pairing for most of the game, occasionally working Strachan in for spot duty. It'll be interesting to see what the lineup card looks like tomorrow...
- The second period started with the second line reeling off a monster shift. The first line followed up with another one, earning a power play. The man advantage amounted to nothing, but shortly after Mikhail Grabovski ripped Budaj off behind the net, and set up Eric Fehr for a tap in. Nice to see Fehrsie light the lamp in consecutive games, and how 'bout that Grabovski guy? He continues to make whoever's on the ice with him look good. But Fehr and Grabovski weren't done, with Fehr returning the favor to the tie the game up late in the third. Great game from these two, who will hopefully keep rewarding for Oates' bending his winger-handedness rule with Fehr.
- Speaking of Grabovski, think his old linemates Jason Chimera and Joel Ward miss him? At one point (at least half way through the second period), the third line of Chimera/Beagle/Ward were out-attempted 0-9, for the unflattering distinction of 0% CF. Eventually Adam Oates grew fed up, and swapped Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera in the lineup. If ever the difference between a Grabovski and a Beagle has been illustrated, it was tonight, and on this line.
- But the tie wouldn't last long. The Caps went for leftovers to celebrate their goal, as they so often do. Montreal, however, was still playing hockey. Brian Gionta put the Habs back on top only 67 seconds later. That is the 736th time (okay, fine, it's the 14th) the Capitals have yielded a goal 120 seconds or less after scoring one this season, and the 3rd time in the last two games.
- On Wednesday, Nick Backstrom went 4-18 in the dot. It goes without saying that that's not what you want to see from the top line. Backstrom struggled again tonight, but not enough to keep his line down. Ovechkin and the big guns looked for stretches like the best skaters on either side tonight, with a possession percentage of around 66%, and accounting for almost half of Washington's shot attempts. Always nice to see that from the heavy artillery.
Mired in a losing streak, with ongoing personnel tumult behind the scenes, and the injuries piling up, any point is in important one— especially in a division poised to reward mediocrity.The second point snapped the Caps skid, and gave them a big lift heading into tomorrow's tilt with the New York Islanders.