There's a certain joy that comes from watching a short-on-talent, long-on-effort team like the 2009-10 New York Islanders. Don't get me wrong - we Caps fans are very lucky that we get to watch guys like Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Nicklas Backstrom wear our team's colors, and we're even luckier that the hometown team is legitimate Cup contender. But watching a group of guys bust their humps all night, throw themselves in front of shots, bear down and wins faceoffs, and park themselves in front of the opposing goaltender in the hope that they can eek out a win against a significantly more skilled team...that reminds me of why I fell in love with this game in the first place. Plus, truth be told, it feels pretty darn good to watch your team win against a team like that.
It's going to be a long season for the Islanders and their fans, but if the guys in Uniondale put forth an effort like they did tonight every night, they're going to be a very easy team to pull for.
Ten additional thoughts on last night's game:
- If someone picks their knee up on Mike Green, every other Capital on the ice should be racing to be the first one to get their gloves off, instigator penalty be damned.
- Speaking of the hit on Green: in his rookie season, Alex Ovechkin took a spear from the Penguin's Ryan Whitney on January 25th. On February 3rd, George McPhee traded AHL defenseman Dwayne Zinger to the Phoenix Coyotes for Doug Doull. Doull played two games for the Capitals that season, the second of which was a February 11th matchup against the Penguins where he finished the night with two fights and 14 total penalty minutes before being sent to Hershey for the rest of the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see McPhee make a similar move before Friday's Caps/Isles rematch.
- Speaking of Green, I could watch his goal twenty times without getting tired of it. Beautiful. Trying to single-handedly skate through the Islanders' neutral zone trap, turning the puck over, and having it lead to a two-on-three? Not so much.
- It won't make most highlight reels because it didn't lead to a goal, or even a great scoring chance, but Nicklas Backstrom had a great play about halfway through the first period where deftly redirected a neutral zone pass to Alex Ovechkin. The kid's vision and hockey sense are unreal.
- There are only two ways a team gets an odd-man rush when they're shorthanded: a fortuitous bounce or some really half-assed backchecking on the part of their opponent. The latter was the case on Radek Martinek's goal. Simply unacceptable. Just because you're up a man doesn't mean you can afford to stop playing defense.
- You know how you know you stink? Andy Sutton's part of your team's shutdown pairing.
- Speaking of Sutton, you know the Islanders might have won that game if he'd bothered to play defense rather than try and show the world what a badass he was by knocking Ovechkin into the Islanders net.
- Here's an example of how dubious subjective statistics can be: on Thursday the Capitals and Thrashers were credited with a combined 17 hits; tonight the Capitals and Islanders were credited with a combined 53.
- I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Jeff Schultz is a totally different player when he plays with confidence.
- Brutal night for the Caps in the faceoff dot. The team only won 30% of the game's draws, only one of its 16 defensive zone draws, and no Caps player won more faceoffs than they lost. Again, just brutal.
Finally, let's give a shout out to Jose Theodore for a very solid night. Not a ton of highlight reel stuff per se, but a great job of giving his team a chance to win and a well-earned check mark in the 'W' column for the netminder.