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)
That brooks guy is a hoot. Just like the Jagr photo, the laughs never end.
Wonder how Pittsburgh got all those draft picks as well? Must've been cause of Mario...
1) Brooks is apparently in a dream world(again) Thinking the rangers deserve all star players because they happen to play in the NHL's biggest market
2) Earth to Larry: The Caps will have Oveckin's services for a MINIMUM of 4 additional years after this one. Likely well past that.
3) However it IS time for Ted/GMGM to get that deal signed sealed and delivered. Many others have signed their extensions. Erase that possible distraction sooner rather than later
Thirty-seven shots is a bit deceptive: The Canes took a lot of 40-foot wristers.
I was thinking about the third period too: They looked like a team unsure of how to protect a lead in the third what with allllllll those icing calls. Just uncomfy because they haven't been there much, I think/hope.
BB and Olie said in post-game interviews that they're (the Caps) keeping things simple right now: just play your heart out, have fun. The changes from BB in his first two games are small: PP, PK and a more aggressive forecheck. Olie expects more changes once the Caps and BB get some good practice sessions in.
Hopefully BB can address protecting a league/getting insurance goals as well as the D, which hasn't been too bad these two games but does lack. Oh, and more scoring at 5 on 5. As much as I liked the Caps' PP last night I'd feel more comfortable with some even-strength goals.
Honestly, if Kevin Lowe believed Thomas Vanek to be worth four first-round draft picks last summer, any number of GMs with cap space to accommodate an annual hit of up to $10M per surely will feel the same way about the dynamic 22-year-old Ovechkin. He has registered 112 goals and 221 points in his first 184 NHL games.
"If one crazy, stupid, desperate GM did something that failed and for which he widely ridiculed, many others will line up to do the same!"
Focality, beggars can't be choosers. I'm just happy to see them get any goals period. Let's hope this intensity of play keeps up.
I also think his assessment that the 2004 draft was a two player draft. Yeah, if we exclude Rostislav Olesz, Andrej Meszaros, Chris Campol, Ladisalv Smid, Drew Stafford, Wojtek Wolski (!)Travis Zajac and our own Mike Green
No disagreement there, Rage.
Agreed, too, dmg. Imagine if other GMs started signing goalies to 15-year contracts just because the Isles did it. Whatever Lowe or Snow do isn't indicative of how the league operates, although some worry (at The Hockey News) that GMs locking up players early on multi-year contracts (McCabe, Spezza, etc.) may be a mistake on their parts.
At least the Caps don't have McCabe! Olie would break several sticks a game or throw one down the ice like Roy did a few seasons ago (in Denver vs. Caps; Oates and Bonzai on the team back then).
Like many Caps fans I've been patient and eager to see this team rebuild itself around star Ovechkin. What we've seen in these last two games gives us both a look at how they played in the first three games of this season as well as possibilities for turning the season around under BB (get above .500 and form the basis for a definite style of play). That they've been able to win despite the opposition attempting a comeback speaks volumes. It was also great to hear the home crowd cheering.
Re: my post above. I meant to say "protect a lead...," not "protect a league." Too late for that (e.g., Bettman).
Larry Brooks is just another big market elitist. It's not enough for him that his team can get more national coverage even when they suck compared to the second tier markets. DC doesn't have a population of 22 million to help them fill up the arena every night. And if memory servers me, the Capitals used to frequently sell out the old Capital Centre back when they were out in the suburbs.
I am still trying to figure out how a team "earns" a draft pick. If losing the most games in a season counts, the Caps are certainly "earning" that first pick for next summer.
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