When you're talking about the NHL it can be awfully dangerous to start expecting a win. If you're a fan you run the risk of setting yourself up for disappointment and, depending just how confident you were and how adamant you were about it, setting yourself up to be embarrassed. If you're a player or a coach you run the risk of underpreparing for the game, expecting to cruise only to find yourself fighting for a point in the closing minutes. Still, with that said, there are some games you can't help but expect a team to win because there's simply no excuse for them to lose. Tonight's game, with the Caps facing a mediocre Florida team coming off an overtime game and travel, and playing without it's best forward and starting goaltender was one of those games, and the Caps delivered.
Alexander Semin, Brendan Morrison, and Semyon Varlamov are the guys who are going to stand out on the stat sheet and in the highlights, but the win really was a team effort. For the most part the goals wouldn't have happened without guys will to do the small, less glamorous jobs: winning pucks along the wall, forechecking, keeping their legs moving to draw penalties, and cycling the puck patiently and unselfishly. In a game the boys could have written off and coasted through, they came out and played the game the way it ought to be played and got the result their talent should have ensured. It's hard to ask for much more.
Ten more notes on last night's game:
- I think I speak on behalf of all Caps fans when I express my outrage at Mike Duco jumping a defenseless Alexandre Giroux. I mean, that's our job, and then only figuratively.
- Speaking of Duco: the Caps and Panthers meet again on January 13th. I'd sure love to be writing something to the effect of "Mr. Duco, meet Mr. Sugden" after that game.
- One last thought on the topic - good on the the referees for calling an aggressor penalty on that play. You don't see that called much now that the instigator's in effect, but it's an important distinction to make.
- If he never scores another point in a Washington Capitals uniform, Mike Knuble will have been worth the money just for the influence he's had on Eric Fehr.
- Every time Matt Bradley scores a goal, an angel gets its wings. For all the unheralded stuff he does for the team, is there anything better than seeing The Professor pot a goal? And isn't it somehow sweeter when it's one like tonight's where it seems like it's because of all the good karma he's built up.
- Just how dominant was Washington? In the 7:56 they were playing 4-on-5, the Caps outscored the Panthers 1-0 and were only outshot 8-5.
- Sometimes a goaltending change is a way to wake up the team; sometimes it's a punishment for the goalie. Last night's decision to yank Scott Clemmensen might have been a little of both, but it was probably more the latter. The Tomas Fleischmann goal was one that you expect your goalie to stop (even if it wasn't a bad shot).
- For a while last season John Erskine looked like he'd turned himself in to a serviceable NHL defensemen. This season, for the most part, he's just looked overmatched.
- Also from the "Just How Dominant Were the Caps?" file: Jeff Schultz had 3:18 of powerplay time.
- If you've ever bought an Ameritel copier because of the ads they run during Caps games, I'm pretty sure I hate you.
On a final note, thank you to everyone who participated in The "Free Alex" Movement. It was great to see those signs show up on CSN. It's even better to know there are so many Caps diehards frequenting the site.