Well, that was rather fun. The Capitals entered “Le Centre Bell” tonight looking to make their eight-game winning streak one higher and they did just that. The last time the Caps were in Montreal, they were in the midst of a first-round playoff tailspin, but the “power kill” did not prevail this time around. The 4-2 victory opened with a wild first period and was followed by solid play from both ends. Neither Caps fans nor Montreal’s rather vocal supporters have forgotten last April’s series and neither did the teams, both of whom played at an intense pace for all 60 minutes. With nine straight wins and a tied franchise record six straight road wins, the Caps seem to be finally coming into their own and not a moment too soon. They may only be first in the East for a brief, shining moment, but it feels darn good.
- Marcus Johansson may have just played his best game in a Capitals sweater to date. He opened the scoring on a power play (artfully drawn by John Carlson) at just 1:06 of the first period and provided the game-winning tally midway through the third. Johansson’s speed and defensive skills were also on display, using his backcheck to ward off the Habs’ diminutive, but often powerful offense. He was the first star of the night and deservedly so. The injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Arnott have given MJ90 the chance to prove himself at the NHL level, showing excellent chemistry with Ovechkin and others. Let’s face it: Our MoJo is so dope.
- The power play continues to show improvement. The two PP goals on the night from Johansson and Mike Knuble, respectively, were a welcome change from recent trends. Having John Carlson and Dennis Wideman manning the points with Alex Ovechkin in front of the net seems to be more effective than having the Great 8 on quarterback duty. In addition, tonight’s 41 shots on goal ties this season’s high on the road. Shoot the puck, crash the net, score goals. It’s science.
- Rather than be a broken record and continue beleaguering the Capitals’ undisciplined play, let’s focus on how effective and aggressive the penalty killing was tonight. Although many of the penalties were inadvisable, the Caps had several shorthanded chances and stayed on top of Montreal’s power play units. While this is not a substitute for taking less penalties, it seems as if this team is finally coming to a balance when it comes to their special teams.
Tomorrow the fans will be calling for Wings. Granted, not the ones from Glory Days, but the ones from Detroit. The Red Wings remain dominant as ever, and the Caps will have to dig deeper than usual to take their win streak to double digits, especially on the tail end of back-to-back road games. They haven’t beaten the Wings at the Joe since 2003. March Madness has taken over D.C., so the Caps will need to store their energy on this longer than average road trip it they want to retain a higher standing come playoffs.