For the first twenty minutes of last night's 7-4 win over Tampa, the Caps were thoroughly engaged and, not surprisingly, thoroughly dominant, out-shooting their guests 15-8 and out-scoring them 3-0. Thereafter, however, the interest level dropped significantly and the overall skill and system differentials between the two teams allowed the Caps to hold on to an easy win. On most nights - especially the important ones - that won't be enough.
Some thoughts on the game:
- First and foremost, get well soon, Jamie Heward. You never like to see an opponent injured, especially one who is as good a guy as Heward is.
Matt Bradley was rewarded for a great game with the first star on the night. Brads had a goal, an assist, a plus-three rating and two hits. His goal eleven seconds after Ryan Malone cut the Caps' lead to 3-2 was a huge momentum shifter, and if Evgeny Artyukhin had dropped the gloves with him in the game's dying moments, he'd have had himself a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
- Bradley's linemate, Boyd Gordon, also had a nice night, with a goal (the game-winner), an assist, and 58% of his draws won. He was twice the beneficiary of Mike Smith misplays and converted on 'em (once on his own and once setting up the Bradley tally).
- Bad news for Bolts bench boss Rick Tocchet - he bet the under.
- David Steckel now has five goals in nine career games against Tampa and five goals in 106 games against the rest of the League. Of course, Peter Bondra once had five goals in a single game against the 'Ning.
- Brent Johnson wasn't great, though he did make a couple of big saves (and flashed some attitude as well). He also didn't look 100% healthy at times.
- Chris Clark had his best game of the year and potted his first goal since November of 2007, meaning he went through all of 2008 without a tally. Yes, he only played 24 games in '08, but still...
- Three points for Alex Ovechkin, two for Nicklas Backstrom, two for Mike Green (whose goal was a beauty)... like clockwork, these guys, but those three power plays absolutely stunk out loud.
- That was about as poorly officiated a game as you'll see. There were missed calls (a slash that snapped AO's stick in half), phantom calls (Green's "trip" that resulted in the penalty shot, Gordon's "hook"), missed goals (they really needed to go upstairs on the Recchi goal?) and poor judgement (Michael Nylander deserved a dive when he drew the Prospal hook). Crappy.
- Congrats to Sean Collins on his first NHL goal, joining Tyler Sloan, Karl Alzner and Chris Bourque as other Caps to get their firsts this season.
So the Caps open the new year with a win and two points, but they had best make a resolution to quit the bad habits they've developed when playing the League's weaker teams, or they'll find themselves in trouble when playing the stronger ones. With the Rangers coming to town on Saturday night, they'll be tested and should pass... if they can focus for sixty minutes.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Kevin Allen thinks AO hits the 60-goal mark again this season. Anyone disagree?... Happy 40th Birthday to today's Cap of the Day.... Braden Holtby notched his third shutout of the season last night.... Finally, on this day in Caps history back in 1982 Mike Gartner scored his 100th goal as a Cap, and in 1999 Brian Bellows had a goal and an assist to hit the 1,000 point mark.