The Caps come into this series against the third-place Bruins as somewhat surprising underdogs, with not a lot of experts (or “experts”) giving them much of a shot against big, bad Boston. They put together a hard-fought opening game
Here’s Saturday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: The Caps’ resiliency. While the Caps were already facing a bit of an uphill battle, and more of one after losing Vanecek, the team picked up that same “us against the world” mentality that has carried them all season and got the scrappy win.
Minus: Vanecek’s injury. The Caps’ ongoing goaltending fiasco continues after their rookie backup-turned playoff starter left the game midway through the first period. Here’s hoping it’s nothing too
And now, this:
A few more notes on the game:
- The Caps came out of the locker room clearly looking to set a physical tone early, laying out a series of huge hits to start the game. Ovechkin in particular was throwing the body around, absolutely steamrolling Krejci (right after steamrolling his own teammate in Backstrom... remember, Ovi, red jersey good, black jersey bad). If you ever wanted to get newly returned fans into a playoff game right away, that’s the way to do it.
- Early in the first, a broken stick for Charlie McAvoy led to an odd-man rush and the Caps’ first tally of the night. Nice awareness by the second line of Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie and Daniel Sprong to create a three-on-two out of McAvoy’s bad luck, and after a pretty passing play, Wilson placed a gorgeous shot over Tuukka Rask’s left shoulder to get the Caps on top by one. Wilson scoring not only the first Caps goal of the series but the first playoff goal of the 2021 postseason is just... high comedy.
- That comedy turned to tragedy a few minutes later, when a shot off the faceoff by Jake DeBrusk caught Vitek Vanecek by surprise, slipping past him for the tying goal. As if the goal-against wasn’t bad enough, Vanecek appeared to injure himself on the play and came out of the game.
- The Caps’ penalty-killers were on point in the first, killing off a forehead-slapping delay-of-game call on John Carlson (who has played better hockey games in his career, to say the least) and a tripping minor on Justin Schultz later in the period. They weren’t perfect tonight, of course... but more on that later.
- After an otherwise solid, if eventful, first period, the second started with a bit of a cloud over it after the Caps put word out that Vanecek was done for the night. Craig Anderson, it’s your team now.
- This is a resilient bunch, though, and bad news in net wasn’t going to deter them for long. They struck back about halfway through the second when Alex Ovechkin appeared to deflect a Brenden Dillon point shot past Rask for the 2-1 lead. He’d have to settle for an assist, though, as the goal was later credited to known goal-scorer Brenden Dillon.
- With new Cap Anthony Mantha picking up an assist on Dillon’s goal, and Daniel Sprong getting a helper on Wilson’s first-period tally, each picked up his first career playoff point in his respective postseason debut. Not a bad start.
- It was a rough sequence of events for the Caps in the last few minutes of the second, when Michael Raffl’s hustle to negate an icing call was inexplicably ruled an icing anyway. The Bruins were then able to get the Bergeron line out for the faceoff, and as they were creating chaos around the net, drew a penalty on Dmitry Orlov. They then got a series of lucky bounces and ricochets to eventually put the puck (barely) in the net to tie things up at two.
- The officials really made their presence known in this one, and not in a good way. There were some questionable calls, and questionable non-calls, from both the referees and the linesmen. All you ever want, especially in the playoffs, is consistency - and that was missing tonight.
- With regulation proving to not be enough time, the Caps embarked on a favorite pastime of the franchise, and that is overtime playoff hockey. Thankfully it was shortlived - and happy! - with T.J. Oshie getting a shot through to the net and Nic Dowd tipping it past Rask in the first overtime.
And with that, the Caps take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 Monday!