(Photo credit: Greg Flume/Getty Images)
The consensus in the locker room after Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks was that the Capitals played their game in the third period. The 20-minute effort against the NHL’s best team failed Friday, but on Sunday, the Capitals decided to test that theory once again against the Ottawa Senators. Finding themselves down 1-0 just 1:12 into the game, the Capitals dragged through the next 38:48 before finding their offensive spark. Brooks Laich, John Carlson and Jason Chimera scored within 6:16 (including the first two 45 seconds apart) to lead the Capitals to an important 3-1 win over the Senators in a game that even George McPhee knew shouldn’t have been theirs.
- Chimera earned the hard hat for his stellar play (one goal, three SOG, two hits), but if any player deserves the hard hat for the week, it’s Marcus Johansson. In a career-high 22:16 TOI, Johansson, playing in a new role on the right side of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, had some of the team’s best chances (including a point-blank shot from the slot that he missed wide, but it happens). In the last four games, Johansson has three goals and looks to be getting in a grove. Despite losing four of nine faceoffs, MJ90 has been improving, which can only mean good things.
- Michal Neuvirth played an outstanding game. After shaking off the early goal, Neuvirth stopped 22 straight shots and kept the Capitals within striking distance. In his last two starts (Sunday, 1/11 v. Florida), Neuvirth has shown the same flashes of brilliance that earned him NHL Rookie of the Month honors in October. Semyon Varlamov’s job is not safe at all. Perhaps a “nice little battle” is on our hands?
- The power play scored! Excitement aside, the Capitals went 1-for-2 on the PP, which means that they are still without multi-PP goals in a game since November 26. Yet, there are some definite positive signs; there wasn’t as much passing as we are used to seeing. If there’s any proof that simplicity works, take a look at John Carlson’s first career PP goal. Faceoff draw, boom. Simplify.
- As per usual, Bruce Boudreau changed lines. A lot. Just look at the starting lineup. Switching up lines to solve scoring problems seems reasonable for now, but chemistry is just as important. And unlike scoring goals, chemistry problems can’t be fixed that way.
The Caps face a big test Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Eastern Conference’s top team. Washington didn’t fare so well against the Western Conference’s best last week, but a win against an inter-conference opponent will be a much bigger statement, considering that the space between No. 1 and No. 9 is shrinking.