The Capitals received a hero’s welcome as they returned to the Verizon Center victorious over the Penguins in the Winter Classic. However, they did not bring their winning ways back to the District. This team hasn’t seen such a low-scoring home game since 2002, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that such resistance came from a “Southleast” Division rival in Tampa Bay. The 1-0 overtime loss was a disappointment in the end, but the Caps played a solid, all-around game.
- Despite the lack of scoring throughout three periods and extra time, no player in a red jersey played under 10 minutes. There were quality chances from all fronts, although one could say the top two lines did not do enough to force a goal or five. The checking line of Hendricks, Steckel and Beagle along with the Alzner-Carlson pairing did an excellent job in shutting down Stamkos and the rest of Tampa’s offensive talent. Matt Hendricks was all over the ice tonight, getting in a scrap with notorious pest Steve Downie and delivering punches whilst blinded by his own jersey. It’s players like him who can make a difference in all kinds of situations and his play tonight had some calling for him to have an even bigger role in Washington.
- Unlike the past couple of games, Alexander Semin’s talents appeared in brief flashes throughout the game. However, his consistency continues to be an issue. Semin remains an integral part of both the Caps’ power play and penalty kill, although tonight his roles were filled by other players such as Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson. What is interesting is that while some of his other, more reliable teammates are asked to sit as a healthy scratch (see: Eric Fehr), Semin has yet to sit a game. Is Boudreau still clinging to the hope that he’ll break out again or does the Capitals brain trust not want to bench their six million dollar man?
- The real reason for the 0-0 tie after 60 minutes, however, was the play of the goaltenders. Both were in shutdown mode, stopping well over 30 shots each. Roloson was particularly impressive in his debut for the Lightning, whose initial tandem of Dan “Moneybags” Ellis and Mike Smith “is poor” has been rather disappointing. Semyon Varlamov continued his performance from the past two games, only allowing a goal on a defensive error in overtime. Knock on Ikea particleboard, but he could soon emerge as the Capitals’ number one netminder if his quality of play remains at this level.
The next two games are against our Floridian brethren down in Miami. Let’s hope tonight’s outcome will inspire a better one in the coming days.