Tonight's game was about as much as you could hope for out of the East's top two teams, not just because the two played an evenly matched, back-and-forth game, but because the teams brought such different styles of play and worked to enforce their chosen style on the game. In the first, it was the Caps who succeeded, playing smart and controlling the tempo of the game; in the second, the Flyers had the advantage as the physical play ramped up, and with the third being back-and-forth, it's appropriate the hockey game portion of the match ended in a tie.
There might not be any big conclusions to draw from this one, but that January 18th matchup is already one to look forward to.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Remember all those times we watched Eric Fehr take long shots and wondered why? Well, now we know.
- Most of the glory is going to go to the goal scorer most of the time, especially when they notch one with a flashy wrist shot like Marcus Johansson did in the first period, but a lot of credit for that goal has to go to Jason Chimera. It's not easy to hang in there and make that pass with Chris Pronger bearing down on you from behind, and the willingness to do so is a large part of what makes Chimera as effective as he is, especially against opponents like the Flyers.
- So, even with Philadelphia in town, the Flyers coming off a tough loss, Mike Knuble out injured, and the Capitals looking like they could use some extra energy, D.J. King spends the night in the press box? This couldn't have been what George McPhee envisioned when he picked up King from this Blues this offseason. And it can't be the best way to spend $625,000 in cap space.
- John Carlson's offensive hockey sense is excellent, particularly for his age and position. Every game it seems like he's getting multiple chances in the offensive zone, yet he rarely seems to be forcing the play or taking himself out a position.
- Not as impressive? Carlson getting beat by Nikolay Zherdev late in the first. If that's just about any other defenseman on that Caps roster, a fairly large contingent of Washington fans would still be grumbling about it.
- While the Caps as a whole looked a lot better than they did on Friday, Alexander Semin had another subpar game, and how he plays over the next couple weeks is going to be something to watch. Will he bounce back strong, having genuinely turned a corner, and continuing producing like he has thus far? Or is this the beginning of a slump?
- I was pretty happy to see Scott Hartnell get sent to the box for his late whack at Michal Neuvirth, because that's the type of play hockey's better off without. Which is something I would feel less conflicted about saying if I didn't find myself wondering "Why can't the Caps have a little more of that in them?" every time I watch Hartnell play.
- Tonight may have been the best game of Marcus Johansson's fledgling NHL career. He had the confidence and slickness of the first few games of the season with a better understanding of what he can and can't do at the NHL level, and looked very solid in his 4:20 of shorthanded ice time.
- Rough night for the Mike Green-Jeff Schultz defense pairing with each guy losing a Flyer on the Andreas Nodl goal, Green giving Jeff Carter way too much space on his third period marker, and having trouble getting the puck out of the zone more than once.
- John Erskine and Tyler Sloan skated fewer than twenty combined even strength minutes. Say what you want about their respective abilities to contribute on occasion, but, for tonight at least, it looked like the Caps' coaching staff wasn't comfortable having them on the ice against a team as good as Philadelphia.
Bigger picture, it's going to be interesting to see what happens Monday against a...struggling...New Jersey team; whether the Caps respond to the challenge of the Devils the way they did the Flyers - or the way they did the Thrashers.