On their third try of the season the Washington Capitals finally have a seven game winning streak following a 7-2 rout of the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. The win was sparked by a four goal first period, including two in the final two minutes to break open a 2-1 contest. Alexander Semin continued his torrid play notching two goals, the second of which was absolutely amazing, while big defenseman John Erskine had a super effort chipping in a goal and an assist. Goaltender Jose Theodore (18 saves) started this one but left after two periods due to a lower body injury (day to day). Michal Neuvirth came in for the third period and thwarted all 11 shots he faced. The Caps are now 34-12-6 (74 points) and lead the Eastern Conference by five points.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis of yet another Caps impressive performance:
If I told you that Mike Green and Alexander Ovechkin did not have a single point despite Washington scoring seven goals then you would probably immediately sign me up for drug testing, however, on Long Island on Tuesday night that was the case. Green (+2 in 23:03 of ice time) and the Great #8 (Even with 10 shots on goal in 20:51 of play) did play well but it was the rest of the crew that kept lighting the lamp for Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s squad.
“Getting seven goals and Ovie and Green didn’t get a point, that says you have good balance on the team,” commented Boudreau after the victory.
Yes, the Caps offense is rolling and they are 21-7 in the past 28 games averaging 4.11 goals per game in the process (Thanks to Mike Vogel - @VogsCaps on Twitter – for that stat). Washington’s offense was in high gear in this one and Boudreau recognized it right from the outset of this one.
“You could just see it in the first period because we were moving the puck so well. I didn’t know how many goals we were gonna allow because they hit two or three posts but I knew we were gonna score tonight based on how the offense was moving the puck,” said Boudreau of a sizzling offensive machine that has scored 198 goals this season, while no other NHL team has more than 175 (thanks to Nate Ewell, Caps Senior Media Director, for that stat, which does NOT include shootout goals)!
The Caps lead the NHL in goal differential (Goals For – Goals Against) at +57, are 10-1 since Ovechkin became team captain, and have the same 10-1 mark since Boudreau began the current forward lines configuration that he has stuck with throughout that 11 game run (8-19-22, 21-14-28, 25-9-16, 15-39-10). WOW!
“I am touching wood all of the time. Hope we can continue. Things are going well right now. Even strength we were +5 tonight and that is why everyone’s plus minus is getting so much better,” added Boudreau on his high powered club.
For Erskine, this was one outstanding performance by a tough blue liner not known for his offense at the NHL level. #4 made a great play around an Islanders defenseman to set up Brendan Morrison for the first Caps goal (the result of another big face-off win) and his tally early in the second period through the five hole of Rick DiPietro (had just come on in relief of starter Dwayne Roloson) off of an excellent Eric Fehr pass was a super smart pinch down that really took away any chance of an Islanders comeback.
“I was very happy for him, there are not too many guys that work harder than him and he finally gets rewarded. You always think he should have more because he’s got a good shot and has good offensive instincts and in junior he was an offensive defenseman. He was on top of his game,” said the 2007-08 NHL Coach of the Year on Erskine.
Semin, who is as skilled as anyone in the NHL, just continues to play at a high level and on his first goal, the Caps second of the night, he skated like a shark in blood infested waters while the New York defenders gave him time and space and #28 made them pay with a super wrister top shelf by a stunned Roloson. #28′s second goal, however, will be a highlight watched over and over again. After rookie defenseman Karl Alzner made a nice rush up the ice with the puck late in the first period and then was alertly able to knock it deep in the Islanders zone on the right wing boards, New York threw the puck up the boards again out to center ice. Semin then grabbed it at the red line, turned on the jets as he skated through the two Islanders defensemen, tried to pass it in front, and somehow backhanded it past Roloson after it hit a New York defenseman in front and came back to himwith just under six seconds left to end the goalie’s night.
“The [second] goal he scored tonight was pretty dynamic, there is not too many people that can do that. He has so much skill and I don’t know what else to say,” finished Boudreau.
Washington outshot the Islanders 33-31 and controlled the puck for the majority of the game yet the power plays were 5-2 in favor of New York. Sometimes I wonder what game the officials are watching because it seems night in and night out the Caps are on the short end of the stick on manpower advantages yet they are carrying the play? I imagine Caps GM Geogre McPhee and Boudreau are addressing that issue with the NHL Officiating upper management because it seems that Washington is continually called for ticky tacky infractions (such as the Green goalie interference penalty where Roloson did his best Fall Guy impersonation) yet the same or even worse penalties are not whistled on their opponents. I am at a loss on how to explain this one other than poor officiating.
As for the Islanders, who were playing well coming into this one and are just a point out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference, they just didn’t have it tonight. Rookie John Tavares, #1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft, appears to have hit the wall and could really use the Olympic break. In addition, they lost one of their top d-men when Jack Hillen took an Ovechkin shot in the face late in the first period with the score 2-1, Caps. Had the puck not rolled on the Great #8 it would have been a goal and Hillen would have not been injured (the Isles d-man was taken to the hospital immediately for evaluation).
Washington faces the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at 7pm at the Verizon Center. The Ducks lost 2-1 in Atlanta on Tuesday night so both teams travel tonight before playing on the second half of back to back contests. The Ducks are tied for 10th place in the Western Conference at 24-22-7 and are led by a powerful first line of Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry. #1 goalie Jonas Hiller got the start in the loss to the Thrashers on Tuesday night but their back-up goalie, who will likely go on Wednesday night, is 2007 Stanley Cup Winner, Jean-Sebastian Giguere. If Theodore is unable to go on Wednesday, the Caps can call up Braden Holtby from Hershey, who is 15-2-1 with a league-leading 1.82 GAA and a .935 save percentage in the AHL, to backup Neuvirth. The other option would be Bears back-up goalie Jason Bacashihua, who is 8-2-1 with a 2.81 GAA and .901 save percentage. Neuvirth played well in a somewhat wide open third period in which the Islanders had several quality chances.
Notes: The Caps raised over $285,000 for Washington Capitals Charities on Sunday night at Caps Care Casino night in Alexandria. For a link on the event, check out Emily Karol’s blog on it, courtesy of the Russian Machine Never Breaks website…Washington has had a seven game winning streak in each of Boudreau’s three seasons with the Capitals…TSN’ Daren Dreger released his top 10 players likely to be traded list tonight with Ilya Kovalchuk of the Thrashers no surprise at #1 and Ray Whitney of Carolina at second. On-air on WNST this past Saturday, I told Section 410 host Eric Aaronson that I thought the Caps do not really need to do anything major trade wise and will likely look to make some depth moves. The level of intensity goes up significantly in the post season and that increases the likelihood of injuries. Many people have called for the Caps to add a physical defenseman or a backup goalie, but I still stand by my assertion that one or two forwards are needed most for depth or for potential match-ups, particularly at center ice. I won’t be surprised if McPhee adds a defenseman or a goalie but I will be really surprised if they do not add any forwards at the trade deadline given the injury history of some of the guys in the current top 12 forward roster positions.