(Photo credit: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images)
The Capitals entered tonight’s matchup with the New York Islanders disappointed from Tuesday’s overtime loss in Philadelphia, but once the puck dropped, it was clear what they were after. They played a full 60 minutes of hockey in tonight’s 2-1 victory in Long Island (which is to be expected all the time, but wonderful just the same). Beginning the game at an energetic pace allowed for an early, confidence boosting goal and solid goaltending by an often concern-inducing Holtby were the keys to success.
- Boudreau’s new top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Chimera was superb tonight with a combined two goals, three assists and a combined plus-6. Chimera capitalized on a tip-in from some excellent passing work by his linemates. The “Legendary Beast” is an asset to many different line combinations with his speed and aggressiveness and as we all know, Backstrom and Ovechkin have unreal chemistry. It would do Boudreau well to continue to experiment with this trio.
- Backstrom scored his first goal since the game versus St. Louis on December 1st, 2010. Since that time over seven weeks have passed, the Caps experienced and recovered from an eight-game losing streak and the Winter Classic has come and gone (along with the HBO cameras). His confidence with passing seems to have returned and a bit of net-crashing didn’t hurt either.
- Resident neurotic goaltender Braden Holtby had his best NHL start to date, stopping 24 of 25 shots. Oddities aside, it’s good to know he can step up to the plate when one of the mainstays in net is otherwise incapacitated. He seemed to stay closer to the crease, something that should remain a habit until his skill set is more established at this level of play.
- Tonight saw the second time in as many games that both D.J. King and Matt Hendricks were both in the lineup, mostly due to injuries. However, King had less than three and a half minutes of ice time and was rather invisible. Hendricks, on the other hand, had several good hits and continued to impress with his enthusiasm.
Saturday, the Caps head north of the border to Toronto where they will face the Maple Leafs on Hockey Night In Canada. The Leafs may not seem like a challenge on paper, but they have surprised before, so the Caps will need to remain on their toes.