The Washington Capitals have started their post-Olympic schedule the same way they ended its pre-Olympic counterpart: with two consecutive wins, combining for only their second four-game win streak on the year. And with only 21 regular season games remaining, and with the wide open Eastern Conference playoff picture on both division and wildcard levels, there couldn't be better time for the Caps to earn their first five-game win streak on the campaign. Especially with an opportunity to leapfrog their opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, in the standings, into playoff position.
Those things did not happen because of course, as the Flyers complete a three goal comeback in overtime to win 5-4.
Ten more notes on the game:
- In continuing this year's theme of "No Idea What to Expect in Goal" (both on the ice and inside the decision making behind the coach's desk), Braden Holtby got the surprise nod despite the rare back-to-back matinee— and those 38 shots he faced yesterday was no meager workload. Turned out to be a good decision, as Holtby was solid all game, and at times plainly brilliant. The Flyers ended up with 5 goals, but could have easily doubled that number if not for Holtby. Though you'd obviously like to see him have that one in OT...
- My goodness, how about that shift from Troy Brouwer, the previously injured Martin Erat, and Marcus Johansson to set up Dmitry Orlov for the game's opening tally? An absolutely clinic in cycling the puck, capped off by a corner-picking bomb from Orlov. Full marks all the way around, chaps. Orlov fired another one past Steve Mason in the second period, earning the first multi-goal performance of his career. Nice one, Orly. The ridiculous 5 minute major you took in the third period...not so much.
- And since the trade deadline is right around the corner, and because Martin Erat is Martin Erat, here are a couple of caveats on the play of, uh, Martin Erat. His assist on Orlov's goal made him the Capitals second-highest even-strength assist getter. It was also his seventh point in nine games. Do with that information what you please.
- When Claude Giroux rifled a snapshot over Holtby's shoulder to tie the game at one, the Flyers became the third consecutive team to notch a power play goal against the Capitals. The great 2-minute 5v3 kill yesterday afternoon in Boston notwithstanding, the penalty kill remains a weakness. The Caps are slated to see some fantastic power plays to close out the season. Conventional wisdom might lead you to believe that limiting the freebies would increase chances for success...
- If you had a sneaking suspicion that the Caps' post-break brand of hockey is different from what preceded it, what more evidence do you need than Marcus Johansson driving the net mouth and scoring at evens? And what a pass from Jason Chimera to set that one up...
- Seriously, how is this not a goal? Abso-freaking-lutely ridiculous, and it ended up having a major impact on a game with major playoff implications. If the NHL was a dog, I'd swat it on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
- One disturbing trend, which existed before the break, but has been even more noticeable in the 3 games since returning, is a penchant for sloppy breakouts of their own zone. Holtby's two best saves of this game— the toe on Wayne Simmons and the poke check on Giroux— came at the end of sequences where the Caps had the puck in their own end. This particular brand of incompetence was on display in Boston yesterday too, but Holtby's stellar play has masked it, insofar as it can be measured by damage done. Still, file the ineffectual breakouts under: Things That Must Not Go On.
- Only moments after a nasty bit of miscommunication between Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson allowed Adam Hall to score shorthanded a tie the game at 2, it was Mike Green, Joel Ward, and Jay Beagle hooking up to give the Caps the lead back. Nice to see one of those quick strike goals go the Caps way for once— only about 25 more before they break even!
- In a pre-game interview with Pierre McGuire, when Brooks Laich was asked what the Caps' foil to the Flyer's aggressive play would be, he answered "possession.' The numbers show the Flyers "winning" the possession battle, but with even strength scoring skewed 4-1 in favor of the good guys, we oughta be comfortable notching that one as a game plan well-executed. Unfortunately for the Capitals (today, anyway), there's more to the sport than 5v5, and they were dominated in all other game situations.
- Adam Oates was one of the best face-off men in the history of the NHL. Today, his squad was absolutely bludgeoned in the dot. Yikes.