On Saturday, the Washington Capitals took to the road for the first time this season. It was quite a challenge to open the road portion of the season, facing the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, but when all was said and done, the Caps skated off with a 4-0 win, and the sound echoing through the arena was not the "T-u-u-u-u-k" one might have heard for a Tuukka Rask save early in the game, but boos from the home faithful... no sweeter soundtrack for a road game.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Shutouts are often team efforts; this one was pretty much all Braden Holtby's. Although the shot total was not severe, 29 in all, there were moments, especially early. Holtby stopped 14 shots in the first period, including one after a ghastly turnover by John Carlson in the tenth minute. From the corner to Holtby's right, Carlson threw the puck through the middle where Chris Kelly picked it off in the slot. His shot was gloved by Holtby, setting a tone for the rest of the evening as far as Caps goaltending was concerned. Tonight's shutout gives Braden Holtby 12 on his career, in his 107th NHL game. For comparison's sake, here's how long it took a handful of goalies widely regarded as elite: Henrik Lundqvist, 150 games; Tuukka Rask, 109 games; Jonathan Quick, 145 games; Cory Schneider, 118 games; Carey Price, 195 games.
- It was the first shutout by the Capitals in Boston since December 2, 2000. In that one, Steve Konowalchuk and Joe Reekie scored goals, and Olaf Kolzig stopped all 23 shots he faced in a 2-0 Caps win. In 21 games in Boston since that shutout going into Saturday's game the Caps were 6-9-4 with two ties, but 6-3-0 in their last nine regular season visits to Boston (including tonight), and they have won five of the last six regular season meetings between the clubs overall.
- In our own preview of this game we noted that the Bruins were an ornery bunch, but not stupid. Stupid seeped into their game on Saturday night. In the first period Bobby Robins went knee-on-knee with Matt Niskanen, then as play continued and a delayed penalty call coming, Robins went after Michael Latta in an attempt to even up the penalty calls. Those two wrestled briefly, but Robins could not get Latta to take an extra two minutes, and on the ensuing power play it was Troy Brouwer winning a draw to start the play and Alex Ovechkin finishing it with a one-timer. Elapsed time: eight seconds.
- That stupid stuff for the Bruins wasn't confined to the early part of the game. Late in the third period, after Mike Green checked Milan Lucic to the ice at the Caps' blue line, Lucic got up, skated across the ice and cross-checked Green, taking a penalty with 3:37 left and the Bruins down three goals. Any glimmer of hope the Bruins might have had went poof with that stunt.
- The second power-play goal for the Capitals was one we suspect no Caps fan would have predicted a month ago... not so much that the goal was scored by Mike Green, but that the assists came from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, the first assist for each rookie this season and Burakovsky's first NHL helper. Kuznetsov almost doubled his ice time (11:07) over what he had in Thursday's opener against Montreal (6:36). Meanwhile, Burakovsky had a pair of assists, getting his second on Joel Ward's goal to close out the scoring with 1:14 left (Kuznetsov lost what would have been his second assist on the evening when credit for the goal was changed from John Carlson to Ward).
- The power play was both more effective (2-for-4) and more efficient (two goals on six shots in 4:43 of power play time) than it was against Montreal (0-for-5, four shots in 6:56). That is to be expected, even if the improvement came at the expense of a fine defensive team such as Boston. And on the flip side, the Caps blanked the Bruins at the other end, with four fruitless power-play opportunities. That makes 9-for-9 in two games, a better start than last season when the Caps allowed power play goals in four of their first five games (15-for-19 penalty killing).
- In the second period Brooks Laich took a Torey Krug shot off his leg during a Bruins power play. Despite being in considerable discomfort, Laich finished the shift and even tried to block another shot before the Caps iced the puck. Fifty-two seconds after he took the shot off his leg, he was finally able to get off the ice. Scary moment, but it seems he's okay as he returned to finish the game and finished the night with 16:30 of ice time.
- Even-strength ice time was parceled out relatively evenly among the top five defensemen, ranging from 15:30 (Green) to 17:19 (Brooks Orpik). Spreading ice time among the three pairs like that (Nate Schmidt was sixth in this group with 13:55) was not something the Caps could do to good effect last season.
- With two goals, Alex Ovechkin completed his 86th career multi-goal game, the most of any player since he came into the league in the 2005-2006 season. Next in line? Jarome Iginla, with 63 multi-goal games.
- With the loss, Tuukka Rask's career record against the Caps is now 1-4-3, 3.13, .882. It is the fewest wins, worst goals against average, and worst save percentage Rask has against any Eastern Conference team (not including Detroit, which came into the East only last season).
The Caps dominated play for long stretches against Montreal in the season opener and only got one standings point to show for it. Against Boston the Caps were dominated (62.7 percent Corsi/64.7 percent Fenwick in favor of Boston at 5-on-5). It goes to show that the possession statistics are fickle at times and best read over a series of games. This was a night when skill won out, that of the Captain and the goalie that is often overlooked. If Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby can combine for nights like this frequently, it will be a fine season ahead.