(The Capitals taste the agony of the defeat. Or in the case of John Carlson, the agony of de-butt.)
If HBO wanted an award-winning episode of “24/7,” they got it Thursday. There was drama, action, suspense, heroes, villains and a hostile environment to tie it all together. The Pittsburgh Penguins escaped Verizon Center with a 3-2 shootout victory, but the Washington Capitals put up a fight in what was a proper prelude to next week’s Winter Classic. Next week’s episode of the miniseries will be a can’t-miss episode just as long as it doesn’t pull a “Sopranos” and cut to black suddenly.
- The Capitals finally got a goal on the power play, but they are still struggling to score with the man advantage. The Caps are 2-for-20 in their last five games and haven’t scored multiple power plays goal in a game since November 26. Overpassing has become a huge problem; the Caps seem to spend most of their times setting up shots instead of firing them. You can’t score if you can’t shoot.
- Mike Green scored the power play goal in question, netting his first goal since November 14. You could tell by looking at the expression on his face after he scored that it was a weight off of his shoulders. Green’s swagger definitely returned Thursday; he played 34:03 of a 65-minute hockey game, had six shots and eight hits. His fancy deke in overtime might have crossed the goal line, but we will never know. But what we do know is that Green’s presence breeds confidence in the entire team.
- Speaking of power plays and scoring chances, the Capitals are still not scoring even-strength goals. Both goals Thursday came in non-5 v. 5 situations; Green’s power play goal and Mike Knuble’s shorthanded goal gave the Capitals life, but more often than not, games are played at even strength (no brainer there). The Caps sit at 10th in the NHL with 67 even strength goals, but it doesn’t seem like that over the past few weeks. Perhaps that comes from the fact that during their losing streak, Washington only scored 11 times and eight of them were at even strength, equalling one 5 v. 5 goal per game. For the most part, the Caps’ scoring touch has returned, but it’s still too far away from the desired results.
- Alex Ovechkin, where art thou? We can talk about Alex Semin’s disappearing, too, but Ovechkin’s lack of production is frightening. In regards to Semin, he leads the team in goals with 18, but hasn’t scored in about three weeks. Anyways, Ovechkin made his presence felt with five big hits, including the opening hit on Malkin, but to be blunt, Ovechkin isn’t being paid to hit people. He’s being paid to score and he’s not. Ovechkin is on pace for 27 goals this season, which would be a career low by 19. He is on pace for 60 assists, a career high, but assisting is Nicklas Backstrom’s job (that’s a different story). Ovechkin is not playing well lately and the captain must lead by example.
- Before the season started, ESPN made a bold prediction during its fantasy preview. It said that Michal Neuvirth would supplant Semyon Varlamov as the starting goaltender. That prediction is rapidly becoming reality. Neuvirth was sensational in making 25 huge saves. He stopped Evgeni Malkin on a penalty shot, stopped four of Sidney Crosby’s five shots and kept the Capitals in the shootout. Arturs Irbe mentioned during this week’s episode of “24/7” that there will come a time when either Neuvy or Varly will have to step up and be the guy. Neuvirth is in the lead in that regard.
Thursday’s game should have people foaming at the mouth for next Saturday’s Winter Classic. But before you salivate all over your holiday sweater, we wish you all a Merry Christmas. May your holiday be full of cheer. And Caps gear.