The Capitals entered tonight’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning leading the Southeast Division by the narrowest of margins. By taking the down the Bolts in the shootout, they have doubled that margin to a whopping two points. Nothing to celebrate just yet, but this fifth straight win for the Caps puts them in a position to pull away from the pack and earn their fourth straight division title. As the season comes down to the wire, this team can ill-afford any mistakes, but in true Cardiac Caps fashion, they figured out a way to come out with the two points.
- By allowing the first goal and taking a string of penalties, the Caps have developed a bad habit of playing an undisciplined first period. Despite an improved defense and penalty killing, their three infractions in the opening frame cost them with Sean Bergenheim’s power play goal. Fortunately, this was their only goal against, but enough to leave fans on the edge of their seats until late in the game.
- Alexander Semin played one of his best games all season tonight. Although his game is based in offensive skill, the District’s greatest enigma was rather multi-faceted, providing some crucial backchecking and getting truculent on behalf of his teammates. The bongos didn’t need to make a comeback, however. In addition, his game-tying goal is the reason the Caps remain in first place and weren’t shut out by Dwayne Roloson for a third time. Although Semin’s inconsistency leaves many frustrated, after his performance tonight it would be difficult to say that he does not care.
- Despite the thrilling win, there were some tense moments on the Capitals bench. Michal Neuvirth was replaced in goal by Braden Holtby after being hit in the mask and Nicklas Backstrom appears to have aggravated his broken thumb, despite being 7 for 7 in face-offs. Braden Holtby was stellar in relief, coming up with big saves when it really counted and allowing no goals through the remainder of regulation, overtime and the shootout. Backstrom should be okay, but knowing his trademark Volvo-like toughness, it would be surprising if he were not back on the ice next practice.
- Five wins in a row is the best streak that the Capitals have had since late October/early November, but all of those games have been decided by one goal, overtime or otherwise. This is too close of a margin. The Caps need to regain some of their offensive spark in order to boost their confidence and rank in the conference standings. Their defense has been bolstered as of late, but there has to be a healthy balance between the two to insure long-term success. Whether Boudreau and the rest of the brain trust has discovered that remains to be seen.
- New Guy Report: Dennis Wideman clocked the most ice time tonight at just over 28 minutes. He logged significant time on the power play (the most of any player other than Alex Ovechkin) and shorthanded, likely in relief of John Carlson, who has been showing signs of wear with Mike Green sidelined. In addition, he recorded an assist on Semin’s tally. Sturm had one shot on net, Arnott had none, and missed a golden scoring opportunity in the third
Wednesday marks the Caps’ annual tilt with the Edmonton Oilers. While dead last in the Western Conference with an astounding 54 points, their young talents (minus Taylor Hall) still pose some offensive threat. Every game is a must-win at this point for this hockey team, and there’s nothing wrong with striking a little oil along the way.