There wasn't going to be any way around the fact that the story of this game was going to be the matchup between last season's Presidents' Trophy winners and the team that upset them in the playoffs, even for Caps fans who knew no matter what the outcome was, the game could only mean so much. That being said, it was awfully nice to see the Capitals no only come out and win, but do so by playing a well-rounded game, and by playing hard.
The two points are most likely going to be fairly negligible when the end of the season comes around, but a solid win against the team that knocked you out last year, while you're coming out of a slump, and immediately preceding the biggest regular-season game of the year - well, that might not be.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Obviously most of the discussion about centers and the Capitals this year has been about who's going to play the position, what their odds of being successful are, whether the team needs to look outside the organization for help; thing of that nature. Lost, at times, in that discussion is just how lucky we are as Caps fans to have a guy like Nicklas Backstrom suiting up for our favorite team every night. There aren't many guys who could have made that first period pass and created the team's second goal.
- ...of course, being able to pass the puck to a guy like Mike Green helps you create goals, too. There aren't too many defensemen who can finish like that, either.
- Very good night out of Eric Fehr, who was getting to the net, taking shots, battling for the puck, and even mixing up with the opposition a little. Despite the underwhelming season-long numbers, these games seem to be coming more and more often for the right winger, who has always had the potential, but has had trouble with consistency.
- The way P.K. Subban stood over Jason Chimera after his first period hit on the Caps' winger was enough to make me wish D.J. King were healthy and dressed for the night.
- So did Travis Moen's hit from behind on John Erskine. That's the dirtiest play in hockey, aside of a suckerpunch or a slewfoot, and I cringe any time I see someone get hit like that.
- Everyone who knew Jay Beagle was capable of pulling off that move, raise your hand. Yeah, me either.
- Whether it was adjusting to a new system, adjusting to new teammates, or just a general funk, Scott Hannan was simply not very good when he first joined the Capitals. Tonight's game - his thirteenth with Washington - may have been his best, or at least his most consistent, since joining the team, borderline penalty notwithstanding.
- You have to love the effort on the part of Mike Knuble late in this game. Those little things to knock some time off the clock and keep the puck away from your team's net aren't the most fun things to do in this game, but they sure are useful.
- It's not as though he's played a ton of NHL minutes or anything, but at this point, I don't have any idea what to make of Andrew Gordon. Some nights he looked like he could be a really useful third-line energy guy who could occasionally chip in on offense; some nights he's invisible. Whether that's a guy adjusting to the NHL or indicative of something more is a question only time can answer for sure.
- Hats off to the Capitals' centermen tonight. Washington won 69% of the game's drawn, and no Cap who took more than three draws finished below 64%. A special nod goes to Backstrom, who was successful on 10 of his 12 draws.
So, the Caps come away with a solid win, a shutout, and about as much vengeance for last spring as they could have realistically hoped for. And, just as importantly, they've primed themselves for the Winter Classic.