The New York Islanders came to town on Friday night, along with a few familiar faces and a few familiar foes. Would this Metro division title fight yield a knockout?
Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: It seems like Capitals fans still have plenty of love in their heart for ol’ Barry Trotz.
Minus: If Washington’s power play were any weaker lately, it might just poof out of existence entirely.
And now, this...
Ovi checking whether Trotz liked the tribute video pic.twitter.com/8qWESC6N15— HockeyKot (@hockeykot) January 19, 2019
Ten more notes on the game:
1. The Capitals came into this contest tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for first in the Metropolitan Division (59 points), and just one point of ahead of the Islanders (58). With first place in the division up for grabs, which squad would grab the brass ring?
2. Of course, if the Capitals were going to do that, it would mean snapping a 3-game losing streak, over the course of which they’ve been outscored 13-4. If, like me, you are an expert in the field of mathematics, you’ll notice that what we have here is a classic example of One Number Bigger Than The Other. The Caps would hope to reverse that “negative growth.”
3. Leading the bad guys into the barn tonight was former Capitals head coach and domed obelisk Barry Trotz, along with his assistants Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn. Trotz, you might recall, won the Stanley Cup last season with Washington, and the organization thanked him with a lovely tribute video on the jumbotron. The coach was visibly touched, and it was a nice moment of ceasefire between the two parties.
4. But there was another celebration tonight, as well! Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik was honored for playing in his 1000th career NHL game, a milestone the Caps observed by giving Orpik a Tiffany crystal(!), a silver hockey stick(!), and from the Capitals players themselves, a trip to Utah(!)(?) Congratulations, Big Double Quattro!
After the game, I asked Orpik if Utah held a special place in his heart.
“Uh, I think I’ve been once, so no. I know where it is...it’s a pretty cool spot, so it’ll be fun.” He did appreciate the tribute, however. “The ceremony was great. It was cool seeing former teammates and current teammates. But it’ll be good to try and get that in the past and try to move on and correct what’s going on here now.”
5. But then, like a chiropractor’s office, it was back to business. The first twenty minutes of this contest passed like the early years of the 1930s: depressing and largely forgettable. Washington registered just 7 shots, and no team managed to dent the twine and break through.
6. Ditto the second period, when both Washington and New York managed to kill their respective penalties. The penalty kill was one of the only bright spots for this Capitals squad tonight, as the PK went a perfect 2-for-2.
7. No team would break through the scoreless malaise until halfway through the third period. Islanders’ forward and wunderkind Mathew Barzal ripped a wrister from the blue line that Josh Bailey - not to be confused with Bedford Falls’ George Bailey - deflected down and in with his chunky padded torso. The puck got past Braden Holtby, and the Islanders were on top 1-0.
8. And just minutes later, a Capitals defensive breakdown led to a 2-on-0 the opposite direction for the Islanders, and on that clusterbuck of a play, Cal Clutterbuck cashed in to lift New York to a 2-0 lead.
9. The Capitals pulled Holtby with two minutes remaining in the contest, but the score was set in stone like Rosetta and a 2-0 Islanders victory was all she wrote.
10. With a Blue Jackets loss tonight, the New York Islanders now sit alone atop the Metropolitan Division. Look upon the present reality and weep, ye nations.
I asked a fairly unhappy Nicklas Backstrom after the game how it felt to see all those memories with Trotz & Co. again. For his part, Backstrom had no sentimentality to spare.
“It’s special for him and it’s special for the fans, I guess. But it would have felt to better to beat him, though.” Backstrom did say, however, that he quite quickly recognized the Islanders’ defensive formations. “They play the same system as we do. But at the same time, if you look at sixty minutes here, it looked like they wanted it more than us. They worked harder. They outcompeted us. We need better from all of us.” Did Backstrom see any new wrinkles in Trotz’s system from last year? “No, not really.”
The Capitals will need to figure out a way to get their power play - and overall offense - in gear before Sunday’s afternoon matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.