Throughout this borderline-surreal 13-game win streak on which the Caps now find themselves following a 5-2 win over Atlanta on Friday night, there have been two constants - eye-popping offense (to the tune of 4.77 goals per game) and stellar goaltending (2.23 goals against per game and a .936 save percentage). Tonight was no different, as the Caps potted five goals and Michal Neuvirth played perhaps his most impressive game as an NHLer, stopping 43 of 45 Thrasher shots.
The Caps played with a bit of fire yet again - allowing the first goal and being outshot for the third consecutive game - but the result was the same as it has been for the last baker's dozen in a row: a win.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Let's lead off with Neuvi here. His glove (his new glove, that is) was superb, his positioning outstanding, his rebound control immaculate and his confidence evident. Moreover, he delivered the quote of the night, post-game: "Its Jose's streak i am just here to help when he gets tired." He's now stopped 78 of 81 shots against in his last two starts, perhaps not coincidentally against his country's numbers one and two netminders for the coming Olympics, and has a .959 save percentage in four appearances since getting pulled in Florida in mid-January.
- Call me conspiratorial, but I'm guessing that the "injury" that kept Neuvi out of Wednesday night's game for Hershey was related to a call from Washington saying they'd need him Friday night. Either that or he's the anti-Varlamov when it comes to healing.
- Best way to tell when this game was in the bag? Craig Laughlin likened Jason Chimera's laser of a slapshot on the Caps' fourth goal to Bobby Hull. Good morning, good afternoon, good night.
John Erskine had trouble in (or was the direct cause of) transition on more than one occasion tonight. But most notably on the evening, he "had to answer" for a squeaky-clean hit. Enough already.
- As much of a cult hero as Matt Bradley is, he's still a grinder, and that was pretty clear on at least three great chances he had tonight that he either whiffed on or put smacked the Thrashers awful logo with. He did end the evening with a helper, though, and a team-high (tied with Boyd Gordon) Corsi rating.
Eric Fehr looked a bit out of sorts, losing defensive responsibilities and ending the night with a minus-two rating (not easy to do in a 4-2 win). His line struggled early, and he never really got it in gear.
- Despite playing just two periods, Nicklas Backstrom continued his strong play with a goal and a primary assist, which matched running mate Alex Ovechkin's stat line. The two are, without a doubt, the NHL's most dangerous duo, each in the top 11 in the League in goals and top six in the League in assists.
- The Caps' penalty kill continues to boggle the mind as it's now 87.7% effective at home (3rd overall) and 72.6% on the road (29th overall).
Alexander Semin scored the eventual game-winner (on the second beautiful set-up he received from Brooks Laich on the night) and added a helper, but also coughed up the puck on the power-play and put the puck in his own net moments later after chasing down the breakaway and sliding into Neuvirth after the shot was stopped. As our buddy Bald Pollack put it on Twitter... well, check it out if you want to.
Mike Green's empty net goal, shot from his own end of the rink, was nice, but not all that impressive in light of the fact that Jeff Schultz scored one earlier in the year against Atlanta from further out... with a goalie in the net.
And so we hit the big one-three. Thirteen in a row. That's more than 15% of the regular season, and 100% amazing. But after a game that was closer than the score, one has to believe that if the team is going to push that streak to 14, they'll need a more complete effort on Sunday... or whenever their next game might be.