The storybook start to Bruce Boudreau's NHL coaching career continued with an impressive 5-2 win over Carolina in the coach's home debut. Two games, two impressive opponents, two wins... too bad change didn't come a little earlier.
Some notes on last night's game:
- Before the third period started, I said that the period would be very telling - would Boudreau try to hold on for the win or keep his foot on the gas? Was the team's psyche still so fragile that they'd fold like a cheap suit? To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the answers I got on the ice - the Caps came out tentative, gave up the early goal, and didn't get a shot on goal for the first ten minutes or so of the third. But whereas a week ago, they'd have found a way to lose the game, last night they found a way to hold on and win it. That, in and of itself, is somewhat telling.
- Boudreau has done two things so far that make him, by far, my favorite Caps coach since Glen Hanlon: he has used Mike Green on the power play and has scratched Jeff Schultz.
- Don't look now, but there's only one player in the League with more goals than Alex Ovechkin. He's coming for you, Ilya.
- There's also only one rookie in the League with more assists than Nicklas Backstrom (and only Chicago's two super rooks have more points).
- Boudreau's power play is now 4-for-7 and his penalty kill is 8-for-9.
- Michael Nylander had a goal and two assists, but finished the game with a minus-two rating (hard to do in a 5-2 win). We'll certainly take it, though - his two power-play helpers were borderline-magical.
- I can't remember the last time I saw as many different Caps slapping their sticks on the ice to call for the puck during a game. To me, that means two things: 1) players were more wide open than usual - a good thing, and 2) players now want the puck - a great thing.
- Matt Bradley had five hits in just 8:36 of ice time. That's called knowing your role and making the most of limited minutes.
- The Caps were killed in the faceoff circle, winning only 30 of 74 draws (41%). Viktor Kozlov, at 6-for-22 (27%) "led" the way. David Steckel, however, managed to win 10 of his 16 draws (63%).
- Boudreau has vowed to use all eight of his defensemen, and if he's looking for candidates to make room in the lineup for Schultz and Steve Eminger, Milan Jurcina and John Erskine volunteered themselves by allowing Erik Cole to split the two of them and score Carolina's first goal with eight seconds left in the second.
- Olie Kolzig made some great stops and ended up with great numbers (37 shots against, by the way, is far too many to allow), but he seemed to me to be slightly out of position and flopping around a little more than usual. Bottom line, though, is that he got the job done in the second of back-to-back games, which is important, as Boudreau has said he will lean on Kolzig more than his predecessor had.
- Of course, the save of the night belonged to Shaone Morrisonn, swatting a puck out of the crease area a split second before Ray Whitney would have slammed it home.
- Glen Wesley, who assisted on the 'Canes' second goal, played his first NHL game a month-and-a-half before Nicklas Backstrom was born.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
I knew Boudreau looked familiar.... I wonder if the Caps are in the hunt for Fabian Brunnstrom.... Wanna read something that's going to make you angry (courtesy our old buddy Larry Brooks)? Of course you do. Challenge yourself to see if you can slog through the stupidity long enough to make it to the second page of the article.
- Hart: Daniel Briere (Game-winning goal, 2A, +2)
- Ross: Sergei Gonchar, Michael Nylander, Daniel Briere (3 points each)
- Norris: Sergei Gonchar (3A, +2)
- Vezina: Marc-Andre Fleury (28-save shutout win)
- Richard: Alexander Ovechkin, Brian Gionta (2G each)
- Calder: Daniel Winnik (G, A, +2, 5 SOG)
- Aiken: Andrew Raycroft (L, 2 goals allowed on 7 shots against in just 8:24 of work)