Coming off of two straight ugly losses, the Washington Capitals looked to get back in the win column against another team that has had a rough start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers. The energy and the style of the game looked like most of the other Caps/Flyers games, with lots of entertainment for the fans. Unlike past years, however, this was not a battle of contenders. Both teams thought they were going to be competing for the division this season, but tonight was more of a battle to remain relevant. Amid the great chances and back and forth hockey (in fact, largely causing the chances...) there was a lot of sloppy play. When the dust settled the Caps skated away with a 3-2 victory, and a game to build off of.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Tonight Alex Ovechkin got to play with Mike Ribeiro, something we'd suggested from the start. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of chemistry, but their line did have some good opportunities (though a lot of that was due to Wojtek Wolski). Though it'd be nice to see the puck on the passer's stick a little bit more often, if Ovechkin can get as many shots, and quality chances, as he had tonight, the points will come. Hopefully Adam Oates gives that line a little bit of time to develop some chemistry.
- Coming in to the game you
couldshould have expected a bunch of penalties, and the teams didn't disappoint. From virtually the opening shift there were guys in and out of the box, with a total of 46 penalty minutes tonight. Sure, two thirds of that was for the Matt Hendricks and Zac Rinaldo dust up, but the power plays for both teams still got plenty of work.
- And the power plays should have been a story tonight with the opportunities out there. The Capitals had the advantage, being given a lengthy 5-on-3 power play to start the third period of a tied game, which they mostly squandered. The Flyers did have their fair share of chances, though they probably deserved one more. Hard to complain about your shoulda-been-a-power-plays when you do so little with the ones you do get, though.
- I'm not generally a guy who gets worked up over faceoffs. I think most of the other facets of the game are more important so if you can keep anywhere near 50% you'll be fine. But Claude Giroux is difficult enough to defend when you don't let him steal your lunch money every time you meet at the dot. His 20-11 performance meant that his line got a lot of shifts starting with puck possession (and that includes a 17% showing on the PK). It didn't cost the Caps tonight, but that's not tenable.
- Forget being a threat to score 20 goals, I'd be happy if Mike Green would become a threat to shoot on the PP once in a while. We all know the Caps want to get Ovechkin going, but when the whole arena knows that Mike Green is going to pass it detracts from the threat of Ovechkin. Ovechkin's goal in Buffalo only happened because Ryan Miller was playing Green to shoot. Unless Green actually shoots sometimes, goalies will stop doing that.
- If Troy Brouwer wants to get smashed face first into the glass and then get up and snipe a top corner goal every game for the rest of his Caps career, I'd be cool with it.
- Wolski has a sneaky pokecheck and he got the Flyers with it a couple times. The first time he sprung Ovechkin for a partial breakaway. The next time, after perfectly predicting where a Mike Ribeiro faceoff was going to go, he jumped on Luke Schenn and poked the puck through his legs, sneaking the puck through Ilya Bryzgalov to give the Caps some breathing room.
- And the Caps would need that insurance goal, because just after a Flyers power play due to a delay of game by Tomas Kundratek, Brayden Schnn finished a bullet of a shot off two pipes from Matt Read. It was the closest thing anyone got to a power play goal all game.
- Hendricks and Rinaldo had short nights because they couldn't wait for the puck to drop before swinging. Of course, if the linesman wasn't busy trying to throw guys out of a neutral zone faceoff then they wouldn't have been late. And they were only fighting because John Erskine elbowed Wayne Simmonds in the face. And didn't get a penalty. But Rinaldo and Hendricks, who fought over Erskine's elbow, got thrown out because... of a false start. Well, ok then, NHL.
- Nicklas Backstrom had a solid night. Obviously, the breakaway goal stands out, but he had some nice work on the PK and was one of the effective Caps at navigating the crowded neutral zone. His season has been up and down so far, but he's showing more glimpses of what Caps fans know he has.
It's only one win, and it doesn't change the picture a whole lot. The Caps need to continue to accumulate points; they can't follow up tonight's win like they did their last win. One step forward, two steps back won't get the team where they want to be. But, as an old Patrick Division fan, it's always a good time when you beat the Flyers, and this particular win pulls the Caps out of the Eastern Conference basement, leaving the Flyers one half-win behind the Caps in this 2013 half-season.