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It was a game that started slowly, at a pace that favored the grinding Blue Jackets. But the Caps weathered some early difficulties and slowly, inexorably tilted the ice toward the Columbus end of the ice. The new guys -- Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie -- got the goals, and Braden Holtby made the saves to preserve the win.
Here's Friday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Diligence. John Tortorella teams play with energy and with the aim of frustrating opponents by blocking shots and playing below the opposition goal line. The Caps came out looking as if they lacked energy, but they worked through it over the first ten minutes and dominated possession thereafter.
- Minus: Those first ten minutes. The Blue Jackets were salsa dancing around in the Caps’ end while the Caps were waltzing.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The first period started sluggishly for the Caps, who did not record a shot attempt in the first 5:43 of the game and did not post their first shot on goal until the 6:40 mark. They did tilt the ice in the other direction as the period wore on, out-attempting Columbus, 15-11, over the last 14:17 of the first period.
- Alex Ovechkin’s firing control was out of whack in the first. He had four missed shots on six attempts. And, it took him 9:14 for him to record his first shot attempt of the game. Over the next 29:14 – less than half a game – he recorded nine shot attempts. He finished the game with 12 shot attempts – two on goal, five blocked, and five misses. He was splattering pucks all over the place, but he was a Gatling gun in doing it.
- The league has to do some serious thinking about the goalie interference criteria, when a goalie is prevented from performing his job, when an opponent is truly forced into a goalie. The instance that resulted in the Columbus goal was just a hot mess. Was Boone Jenner pushed into Braden Holtby? Was it enough to prevent Holtby from doing his job? Will Dudley Do-right save Nell from Snidely Whiplash? The league needs to sort this stuff out.
- Jason Chimera might be edging into his mid-30’s, but boy, he still has a pair of wheels. There were several instances of his just leaving Columbus defenders at the blue line as he was chasing pucks down the wing.
- At 9:59 of the second period, the line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, and T.J. Oshie was assembled and deployed on the ice. The "BOO" line (just in time for trick or treaters) was crisp on the 3-on-1 break that resulted in the game-winning goal, Ovechkin cruising down the left side, sliding the puck across to Backstrom, who eased back to create a passing lane to Oshie skating down the middle. Bang!
- Justin Williams is a pro. After you play long enough in the league, you figure out that the game is a lot easier when you let the puck come to you. He found a void at the top of the right wing circle and just sat down (literally) in the empty space to convert a pass from Marcus Johansson into the game’s first goal.
- Don’t look now, but after starting the season without a point in his first seven games, Karl Alzner has points in his last two contests after recording an assist on the Williams goal tonight.
- The fourth line. Uh, still needs work. Brooks Laich had no points, one shot attempt, lost four of five draws. Michael Latta skated seven shifts for the game, none in the last ten minutes. Andre Burakovsky was shaken up, skated one shift in the third period, and sat out the last 10:22 of the contest. The Caps were down to three lines in the last ten minutes, which might be a problem, given that they play again tomorrow night.
- Braden Holtby stopped all 29 shots on which he was not interfered. Given that the opponent was coming into the game on a two-game winning streak, scoring seven goals in the process, it was probably Holtby’s best game of the young season.
- The Caps had 28 shots on goal, but only two came off sticks of defensemen. Brooks Orpik and John Carlson were the only blueliners to get pucks to the net. That might not be quite as surprising as Evgeny Kuznetsov failing to record a single shot attempt in 18 minutes of ice time.
And now, this...