Prior to the start of The Washington Capitals game at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Alex Ovechkin presented a Toronto boy with an autographed Ovechkin jersey and spent a few minutes talking with the youngster.
The little boy’s father was a police officer that had been killed in the line of duty, and he was attending the game with his mother. Sorry LeBron but the Great 8 proved tonight that karma is not always a– well you know the rest.
Ovechkin scored his tenth career hat trick and recent Hershey Bears call-up, Braden Holtby made 35 saves in leading the Capitals to a 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night.
Ovechkin notched goals number 17, 18, and 19 in boosting his career totals against the Leafs to 22 goals in 22 games. The Capitals also scored the first goal of the game for the second consecutive time and never looked back.
With both Caps net minders ailing with lower body injuries the Caps once again called on the young 21-year-old Holtby and like Thursday night in New York against the Islanders, he would surrender just one goal, making 35 saves.
Holtby was good on Thursday night. Saturday in Toronto he was great.
The Capitals also snapped a streak of not scoring more than three goals at 12 games. Their four-goal output was the most since scoring five in a win over the New Jersey Devils back on December-21.
It is time to finally admit that Washington is a trapping style team that looks for opportunity off creating turnovers. There aggressive and hectic fore-checking style is leading to more and more chances in front of opposing goalkeepers.
Ovechkin which has made his money firing shots past opposing goaltenders in the high slot area scored two of his goals less than five feet from Leafs starting goalie J.S. Giguere.
Ovechkin opened the scoring by tipping home a Jeff Schultz point shot 5:33 into the game. Ovechkin seemed to catch Giguere’s stick moving him out of position for the tip in but Ovechkin’s play was legal at the top of the crease and the Caps led 1-0.
Ovechkin’s second of the night gave the Caps a 2-0 lead. Mike Green’s shot from the point hit Ovechkin in front, the puck dropped directly in front of Ovie as he turned and fired. The puck ricocheted off Giguere’s stick and trickled into the net for the two-goal lead just 1:12 into the third period.
Ovechkin completed the hat trick with an empty netter, which also required work as Ovechkin had to skate past two Leafs to the puck.
It is a strange season in Washington as none of Ovechkin’s three goals would be a highlight reel goal. That goal belonged to Caps Center and instigator Matt Hendricks.
Hendricks spectacular three-deke goal occurred six minutes after Tim Brent had cut the Caps lead to 2-1. Brent’s goal occurred less than two minutes after Ovechkin gave the Caps the two-goal advantage.
Hendricks’s came within an assist of scoring a Gordie Howe hat trick. He got into a fight in the first period and scored perhaps the Capitals prettiest goal in a long time, if not the season giving the Caps a two-goal lead again.
Matt Hendricks stripped the puck from the Leafs Luke Schenn in the neutral zone skating free for a breakaway.
Hendricks skated down the center of the ice, faked a shot, pulled up, and deked around an outstretched Giguere sliding the puck in, essentially icing the game with twelve minutes remaining.
The Capitals were once again outshot but stopped the string of games of not registering at least 30 shots on goal at five games. The longest such streak in five plus years. The Shot total was 36-31 in favor of the Leafs.
Saturday’s win was also the second time in less than a week the Capitals scored three-third period goals.
In two different games this season the Caps have entered the third period with at least a two goal lead over Toronto only to allow the Leafs to tie the game and force a shootout on both occasions.
The Caps managed a win in one of those games but did not have the great goaltending in either that Holtby provided down the stretch in Saturday’s game.
Holtby stood tall in the second period, denying Tyler Bozak on a breakaway after he stole the puck from Mike Green. He also came up big on a stuff attempt by Joey Crabb at the goal line.
He also stopped Leafs sniper Phil Kessel on two great chances.
Toronto began to surge back as they did earlier this year against Washington in the third. They began to get plenty of time in the Caps offensive zone, causing the Capitals to run around, relying on Holtby to make some of his big saves.
The Capitals clamped down as Holtby bailed them out with several great stops. Holtby had this to say of how things went for him tonight, “You can usually tell before the game if you’re feeling right or not.”
Holtby said this about the play he made stopping Tyler Bozak at point blank range, ”Plays like that can go either way. They’re a matter of inches and luckily tonight it hit the top of my pad and the game kind of changed from there.”
What makes a trapping style defense especially effective is a great goalie. Traps get broken from time to time and when that happened on Saturday Holtby stood tall.
The Caps concluded a successful three game road trip tonight going 2-1 but earned points in all three games as their loss came in overtime to the Flyers on Tuesday night.
The Capitals now play five of their next seven at home. They begin that stretch on Tuesday night when the Rangers visit the big phone booth in DC.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was playing in his hometown tonight and seems to have the players in sync with this new trapping style of defense.
The Caps blocked 27 shots tonight and I cannot remember a time when the Capitals even had players back to block any shots much less 27 of them.
Boudreau said of his team’s new style of play. That’s what we’ve been doing and it’s been fairly successful, it might not be the most exciting brand of hockey in the world, but everybody seems to like winning hockey these days. That’s what we have to do.”
While watching the telecast on the NHL Network’s feed, which runs the Hockey Night in Canada’s feed it was noted several times throughout the telecast that the Capitals are a different team that is executing the trap very effectively.
It was also mentioned that while not fun to watch stars like Alex Ovechkin seem to be buying into the system.
The analyst also compared the Caps to the Red Wings trapping style of the mid to late 90′s saying that if the Caps stay disciplined in playing it, they could play a long time in the post season.
The analyst continued to say that Washington has similar talent to what Detroit had back then and is executing the trap very similarly.
That is good news Caps fans because all Detroit did was win two Stanley Cups.