A season ago, the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks were regular season champions of their respective Conferences. Fast forward to early 2009-10 and the two teams have something else in common - 4-1 losers to the Caps in perhaps the only two games in which the boys in red, white and blue competed for a full sixty minutes. For a team that has struggled to finish games as well as they started them thus far, this game was just what the doctor ordered.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Alexander Semin was focused and fantastic from his first shift of the game, drawing three first period power plays and firing five shots on goal (scoring once) before the game was nine minutes old. And here's something you won't see often - he had more shorthanded ice time on the night than David Steckel did (Nicklas Backstrom led all forwards in time on the kill).
- Speaking of Steckel, he continues to be red-hot in the faceoff circle, going 12-for-16 on the night, including 7-for-9 against Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
- Back to the scorers, Alex Ovechkin had never scored against San Jose before scoring on a rush in the second period. How'd he celebrate breaking that ten-plus period goal-less stretch? By scoring another just 28 seconds later, setting a mark for the fastest two goals of his career. The Caps are now 24-0-2 in the AO's last 26 multi-goal outings.
- Ovechkin and his new linemates Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison clicked, eh? Not that they need a nickname yet, but I'll throw "The Red Dawn Line" out there anyway, since they're a Russian and two Wolverines.
- The Caps played 8:52 of the first period on the power play (including 56 seconds at 5-on-3), but managed just eight shots on goal and the one Semin tally with the two-man advantage. Part of the problem? They were just 3-for-11 (27%) in the faceoff circle on the power play. Another part of the problem? Not enough movement. To come out of that period tied (1-1) had to be somewhat disappointing - good on Boudreau and the team for keeping at it in the second.
- The first period saw brilliant goaltending at both ends of the ice, as Evgeni Nabokov and Jose Theodore combined to stop 28 of 30 shots on goal. Unfortunately for Theodore, he was unable to continue after the intermission, having had Ryane Clowe fall awkwardly on him in a goal-mouth scrum (official word is "back spasms"). Unfortunately for Nabokov, he wasn't nearly as good in the final two periods as he was in the first.
- Semyon Varlamov (remember him?) was perfect in relief of Theodore... on the stat sheet, at least. He made all 15 saves he was asked to make, but his rebound control left a bit to be desired, and his inability to catch a puck after Marleau blew by Brian Pothier on a rush could have been costly (but obviously was not). We'll chalk it up to rust and hope that this effort against a high-powered offense starts to bring back the confidence we all saw last spring.
- For all the grief we sometimes give the men in the striped tops, we're happy to give credit where it's due, so kudos to Rob Martell and Justin St. Pierre for resisting the urge to cut short Caps' 5-on-3's or spend the rest of the night trying to even out what was a 5-0 first period advantage in power play opportunities for the Caps.
Eric Fehr got some early power play time, but I'm not sure he got any after his weak backchecking effort on the San Jose goal (and against the Sharks' fourth line, no less). Keith Aucoin's not blameless there either.
- The Caps still have exactly one man (Matt Bradley) who is not a top-six forward or Mike Green who has scored a goal for them through seven games. That said, the fourth line generated some opportunities tonight, but the team's going to need more from the bottom six and the rest of the defense corps (which combined for three shots on goal tonight).
With tonight's win, the Caps close out a brutal first seven games of the season in which their opponents averaged 104 points in the standings in 2008-09, and head into what, on paper, should be an easier stretch. But, of course, games aren't played on paper...