After facing three-straight Southeast Division opponents and concluding a 14-game string of games against Eastern Conference opponents (against whom they rang up a 10-2-2 record), the Caps took their show on the road to face a Western Conference team for the first time since October. And what the team perhaps understandably lacked in emotion facing a rare opponent they made up for with great goaltending and timely goal-scoring en route to a 4-1 win in St. Louis.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Semyon Varlamov is as locked-in right now as he has been at any point in his NHL career. Watching him track pucks to his glove, stick, blocker, mask - whatever - tonight was an absolute treat, and his diving stop on Brad Boyes on a first period St. Louis powerplay was magnificent. Since returning from Hershey, he's 4-0-0/1.22/.957 (and if Tom Poti had tied up Eric Staal on Sunday, those last two numbers would read 0.98/.965) and has stopped 110 of 115 shots against. But Michal Neuvirth is definitely starting tomorrow night, right, Bruce?
- Nicklas Backstrom took a few pages out of his linemates' playbooks tonight, getting an assist via a rebounded shot on goal (à la Alex Ovechkin) on Brooks Laich's tally, scoring on a rebound of a Mike Knuble shot (as Knuble himself has so many times), leading the team in shots (like AO), and then sealing the game with an empty netter (as Ovechkin has frequently done over the past few years). Good to see he's learning.
- The big story heading into the game, of course, was the Caps facing Jaroslav Halak for the first time since last spring. Halak was, well, mortal, which was a welcome change from the last few times Caps fans saw him.
- One of the other eagerly anticipated (for some) storylines heading into the game was the possible totally spontaneous, unplanned fight that might occur between former Blue D.J. King and his one-time teammate Cam Janssen. And... Janssen was scratched. Yawn. But kudos to King for picking up his first point as a Cap on Boyd Gordon's fluky score.
- Speaking of Gordo's goal, it was his first of the year, leaving Jeff Schultz as the only Cap with ten games played who has yet to dent the twine. C'mon, Sarge.
- And speaking of Schultz, the team (with a special shout out to Alexander Semin) did a fabulous job killing off his third-period penalty, made all the more impressive given that they were without Double Nickel and Poti (who didn't play in the third period).
Mike Green had a noticeably off night, failing to register a shot on goal or a blocked shot and getting dinged with an awful Corsi/Fenwick. He's clearly not at 100 percent, and one wonders if he will get there at some point this season.
- Over the last two games, the Caps have drawn just two penalties (St. Loo's too many men doesn't count) and they've had more power play opportunities than their opponents just three times in the last 11 games (which is as many times as they've received just one power play in a game over that span). Just sayin'.
- Former Caps prospect Stefan Della Rovere made his NHL debut and played just 6:47, which was apparently enough time for him to post the worst Corsi/Fenwick on the team.
- Semin was held without a shot on goal for the first time since March 5, 2008. I guess that's one way to be sure not to add to the "number of shots he's fired at Halak without scoring" stat.
And so it's off to Big D to face the Stars, where the hockey world will see Scott Hannan in a Caps uniform for the first time... and a red-hot Washington Capitals team.