While it seemed reasonable for the Washington Capitals to look past their Tuesday opponent, the New Jersey Devils, in favor of their long-awaited game with the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday, it’s a good thing that they didn’t. After an eight-game losing streak, the Capitals needed to build some sort of momentum. The Caps did just that in a 5-1 rout of the lowly Devils. Many things happened, like Andrew Gordon scoring his first career NHL goal and possibly his first male kiss. But the most important aspect of this game is that the Capitals now remember what it’s like to be themselves again.
- Looking at the scoresheet, it is evident that the grinders came to play. Gordon scored his first NHL goal and his AHL teammate, Jay Beagle, scored the game-winning goal. Jason Chimera bested both Martin Brodeur and Mark Fayne to score on a breakaway. John Carlson netted his second slap shot goal against Brodeur and Mike Knuble did what “n00bs” does best: scoring a deflection goal by crashing the net. David Steckel’s point-blank shot set up Beagle’s tally, too. At the end of the night, these six players combined for a plus-12 and 16 of Washington’s 28 shots. It’s great when the secondary scorers can get into the mix.*
- That asterisk is there because the aforementioned players are really no longer secondary scorers. The usual suspects of Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are missing in action. Their recent struggles are documented, but to put them into perspective, these four had a combined 10 shots and just one point on an Ovechkin assist. These four players have now become secondary scorers, if scorers at all. If that doesn’t weird you out, it should.
- In fact, the first line isn’t doing much of anything these days. They weren’t forechecking and the Devils spent several shifts controlling the puck in the offensive zone with 8-19-28 on the ice. Their game seems stale on just about every level and that must change soon.
- Steckel, Backstrom and Marcus Johansson all had terrific nights backchecking. Stecks had a pair of takeaways and won 78 percent of his faceoffs while Johansson had perhaps his best game as a Capital. We knew he could play defense, but how about those moves he pulled around defenders in the second and third period? He is starting to gain confidence offensively and you could tell tonight. Backstrom’s line might be struggling, but he isn’t to blame. He played hard on both sides of the ice while Semin and Ovechkin did plenty of standing around.
- Carlson had fewer minutes, but more shifts than Green tonight. The trust the coaching staff has in him means some of the pressure (and wear and tear) is off Green.
- The power play continues to struggle. The Capitals were 0-for-5 Tuesday and even had a lengthy 5-on-3 opportunity. Coincidentally, at the end of the power play in question, Knuble scored. How a power play composed of such prolific scorers can ever struggle is beyond reason. The Caps will need to find their man advantage scoring touch.
With a 2-0 record to start the week, the Capitals have much to be excited about. But the biggest game of the season thus far comes Thursday. If the Caps can bring this type of a game to Verizon Center in less than 48 hours, the Penguins will be in for a surprise. Plus, we all know that we want to see what a Caps win would be like on “24/7.”