The Capitals entered tonight's game having earned standing points in six of their last seven contests, despite some on-ice performances that might not have been so deserving. But the big story (I guess) coming into this one was the return of Ray Emery and his band of ne'er-do-wells after the borderline mugging of Braden Holtby back in November (and the mugging the Caps put up on the scoreboard in response). But it was a different pair of tendy's between the posts tonight, as Phillip Grubauer and Steve Mason took their creases, meaning "retribution" would be most effectively served via goal siren.
And it was the Capitals turning on the siren three times in the final leg of the game, and then twice in the shootout, to secure a wild 5-4 victory.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Due to flulike symptoms, Mikhail Grabovski sat this one out, handing over the second line center reins to...Jay Beagle. Of course Jay Beagle. But it was actually Beagle who created the Caps best two scoring chances at even strength, one to Eric Fehr, which was blocked, and one to Troy Brouwer, which was whiffed on. Then, in the late goings, Jay Beagle won a draw, Eric Fehr kicked the puck back to Dmitry Orlov, who rifled it home. Not bad for a patchwork line who was also not on the ice for any of the Flyer's strikes.
- Adam Oates's announcement this afternoon that Phillip Grubauer would get the start over Braden Holtby came as something of a surprise, and catalyzed whispers of a possible injury to the Caps' workhorse. Then again, Grubauer has played well ever since his call up, and was exceptional on Friday evening in Sunrise. But apart from a few stellar stops on the penalty kill, it was an ugly game for Grubauer. Coming back to the earth never feels good, huh kid? But Grubauer stood tall in the shootout, and brought home the win. Good on you, kid.
- John Erskine returned to the ice for the first time since October 26th, and with him he brought an NHL-worst 1.757 GA/20. Granted, Big John had only played 102:28 5 on 5 minutes coming into today, and conventionally more ice time would be the cure for that ugly number. Or so you would think, but Erskine hadn't yet eclipsed the 7:00 TOI mark before being on for Giroux's first period goal, and his two fans on the puck in the defensive zone certainly didn't help matters. Big John was on the ice for another one besides, just for good measure. And this came despite getting 80% offensive zone starts. Some return for #4...
- Alex Ovechkin's first period assist on the power play was his 20th power play point on the season, giving him the League lead over Evgeni Malkin. Cool.
- And speaking of Marcus Johansson's power play goal, it was Nicklas Backstrom tucking away the secondary assist, giving him a point on all eight of the Caps' goals scored this week to that point. And then he notched another one on Mike Green's goal. Nine of the nine until Orlov's marker. Some week from Nick.
- This afternoon we saw one Caps defenseman who is trending upwards in Dmitry Orlov paired with a blueline buddy who seemingly headed the other way in Mike Green. Orlov was again the best D on the ice for the Caps (and nice to see him dent the twine), and if Mike Green was unspectacular, a garbage time (which ended up not being garbage time at all!) goal was at least something. Here's to hoping giving Greenie's stick a little warmth is the flame held to the gasoline trail of blueline offense.
- Pretty ugly sequence from the Carlzner tandem on Mark Streit's second goal of the season. Breaking out of the defensive zone has been an issue for this team all year— and one that Calle Johansson is ultimately responsible for— but uncontested, and with your top trio on the ice, you'd like to see, well, literally anything else.
- Speaking of defensemen, looking at their deployment it's pretty clear what roles each pairing is playing at even strength. Through two periods Carlson and Alzner had not taken a single draw in the offensive zone, whereas Dmitry Orlov had not taken a draw in the defensive zone. Certainly players have their strengths and shortcomings, and certainly a good coach will play to those strengths and minimize those shortcomings, but what does such stark contrast in deployment say about the versatility of the Caps blueliners?
- Does any team give up the zero angle bankshot goal more than the Capitals? What the hell.
- When the game got out of hand, no one pummeled Steve Mason's head like it was a melon that misbehaved. So the Caps got that going for them, which is nice...(and hey, look what happened!)
- Alex Ovechkin, you truly are something else. Two game-tying goals with the empty net in three games? Five goals and six points in the last three games. It's almost enough to allow us to look past those two even strength goals against to your name. Okay, who am I kidding...it's totally enough.
When your lineup card features Aaron Volpatti, Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle (on a scoring line), and Michael Latta, and when it doesn't feature Mikhail Grabovski, and when you have the league's worst defensemen as measured by goals against vs. ice time, and when that defenseman manages to play even more poorly in his return to the ice than his already dubious precedent, you...win?
See you in two days, Philly.