The Capitals continued their road trip on Saturday night, facing the Canucks in Vancouver. The game looked every part the mismatch one might have thought at the start of the season - the visitors, very good through 40 and defended the lead adequately in the final 20, with the Canucks never really threatening the Caps, despite a close scoreline for most of the game.
Here's Saturday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: The new-look lines. Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist in under 20 seconds late in the first, and T.J. Oshie scored an insurance marker late in the third after some good work by Andre Burakovsky.
- Minus: The Capitals were not as strong in the first half of the third as they were in the first 40 minutes of the game.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Capitals dominated both shot quantity and quality in this one. It wasn’t a perfect game, but for about 50 minutes of this game, it was close to it. Washington got in on the forecheck and disrupted Vancouver’s breakout, cycled, won puck battles, got the puck to the front of the net with traffic, and limited the Canucks’ effectiveness when they were on the attack (which, for most of the game, was dependent on the counterattack).
- The Caps started the game strong—the Canucks didn’t have possession of the puck in the Caps’ end in the first 150 seconds—but didn’t really start taking over the game until the latter stages of the first. They tallied two goals in quick succession. Marcus Johansson reached behind him to tip in a point shot from Matt Niskanen, then Evgeny Kuznetsov made a great backhand pass to Tom Wilson, who sniped the top corner for his first of the year.
- Jannik Hansen got one back for Vancouver in the waning seconds of the first. Philipp Grubauer stopped a point shot but gave up a juicy rebound to Hansen, whose wobbly shot got through.
- Grubauer had a good game for the most part. He made a couple of fantastic saves on two-on-ones. In the first, he slid across to rob Sven Baertschi, and in the second, he got across to stop Daniel Sedin. (In both cases, the Caps got caught being too aggressive in the offensive zone, and Dmitry Orlov failed to stop the pass on the 2-on-1.) Grubauer also made some nice saves in the first half of the third period to preserve the Caps’ 3-2 lead.
- The Capitals were again strong in the second, and their dominance of the “dirty areas” paid off again. About four minutes in, they had a goal disallowed on a scramble in the crease due to goalie interference. Four minutes later, Washington got its third goal. On the power play, Nicklas Backstrom passed to Johansson on the goal line, who one-timed a pass to T.J. Oshie for a quick shot. Oshie hit the post, but Johansson reacted quickly to swat in the rebound.
- Vancouver again got to within one. Jake Virtanen created some space for a shot and Grubauer made the save. Baertschi tried to put the rebound in, and although it didn’t go in, it went to an open Bo Horvat at the side of the net for an easy tap-in.
- The Canucks started to look a little better in the third, and although it took them awhile to even attempt a shot, they were a little crisper and disrupted the Capitals a little better. They got two or three very dangerous looks on the power play, but Grubauer made the saves, and the Capitals got back in rhythm.
- Aside from an offensive-zone penalty in the first, Oshie’s stick work was top-notch in this game, between spin moves, dekes, and shots. In the second, he hit the post (Johansson tapped in the rebound), and with two and a half minutes to go in the third, he got his goal. Andre Burakovsky (who also had a nice game) skated up the right wing, got past Brandon Sutter, and laid a pass on a tee for Oshie, who ripped a shot into the top corner.
- Oshie, Burakovsky, and Lars Eller each played a little under 10 minutes at 5v5 and had the team’s best Corsi ratings to show for it (among forwards; Brooks Orpik led the way overall). But it was a balanced effort—only Zach Sanford finished under 50% (and by one shot at that), while no Canuck finished over 50%.
- Karl Alzner was credited with an empty-net goal after his clearing attempt caromed off the boards, down the ice, and into the net.
There’s not a whole lot to say after games like this. It wasn’t as close as the long-time 3-2 scoreline might imply. Even though none of the Caps really brought their ‘A+’ game, everyone brought at least a ‘B’ or so (where ‘C’ is an average game for that player), and if you can do that on a regular basis, you’ll win a lot of games in convincing fashion.