Two undefeated hockey teams hit the ice at the Verizon Center on Saturday night but when the smoke settled it was the Washington Capitals who will remain the last team in the NHL with a perfect record as they blitzed the Detroit Red Wings, 7-1. The Caps once again rode the excellent goaltending of Tomas Vokoun (32 saves) plus Mike Green scored two power play goals and added two assists, despite taking a puck in the chin in the first period and getting several stitches, in the rout. The victory pushes the Capitals to a 7-0 record while Detroit falls to 5-1.
Here are the quotes, highlights, and analysis from a contest that saw 14 different Washington players get at least a point:
– As everyone knows, goaltending is huge in hockey. Vokoun was outstanding again while Ty Conklin did not fare well for the Wings. However, it is much harder to stop pucks when players are constantly in your face and that is what the Capitals did on Saturday while Detroit, who were missing Tomas Holmstrom, did not do in return. Therefore, it is natural that the Caps goalie had a better game. Conklin likely would want the fourth goal back, which came from Mathieu Perreault after the Wings net minder allowed a long blast from Matt Hendricks to trickle through his pads, but other than that one, he didn’t have a lot of help. Troy Brouwer (1 assist) continues to pay dividends going to the front of the net and he was screening Conklin on both of Green’s power play tallies.
“I’m sitting behind the bench and going that’s one fantastic team. The first 10 minutes, it came at you in waves. They are so fast and they know where everybody is. The difference was our goalie was better than their goalie tonight. I think they just ran out of steam, with their second game in two nights, in the second period,” said a humble and complimentary Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau afterwards. However, when he watches the film, I think he’ll see that his club paid the price in front of the net much more than Detroit and that is a good reason why his goalie performed better.
– As Boudreau mentioned above, the Wings did come out fast and they are a great skating team. But given that they played the night before, if Washington was able to weather the early storm, then I thought they would have a huge advantage being the fresher team. Detroit nearly scored first when Henrik Zetterberg set up Pavel Datsyuk for a great chance in front but when #13 made an extra move to try and tuck the biscuit by Vokoun, either the puck hit the skate of the Caps goalie or the Wings Dan Cleary. It was a break for the Capitals and they took advantage of that because I felt like they carried the play for the last 15 minutes or so of the opening stanza. That first period ended with Washington up 2-0 and Mike Knuble hit the post with three seconds left on the power play otherwise it would have been three-zip.
– Speaking of the power play and special teams, the Caps went 2 for 4 on the man advantage and that aspect of the game continues to get better for Washington. Boudreau and assistant coach Dean Evason seemed to have gotten the players to buy into a more simple approach by getting the pucks to the point and firing away with traffic in front. The addition of Brouwer really helps that and moving Alexander Ovechkin (2 assists, +1) off of the point has improved things too. With the Gr8 down low, either in the slot or on the half wall, the opposing team is paying more attention to him and that is opening up more point shots for the Caps. With both Green and Dennis Wideman in the lineup plus capable d-shooters Roman Hamrlik and John Carlson who can man the points, the power play is becoming much more dangerous. Besides Brouwer and Ovechkin the Caps have used Knuble and Laich in front as well. This also creates more room for Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 1 assist) to make plays and #19’s saucer pass to Green on the game’s first tally was a highly skilled thing of beauty.
– Detroit had their chances to get back in the game in the middle frame when Washington got into penalty trouble. The Wings only tally came on a 5 on 3 power play and shortly thereafter the boys from Motown received another 38 second five on three situation. However, Vokoun made a huge save at the side of the net and Detroit didn’t get any other opportunities since the Caps did a great job of keeping the Wings to the outside. It was some superb penalty killing by the Capitals that pretty much sealed the Wings fate in that second period.
“I thought the penalty killing was extraordinary. Even though it doesn’t show up, it was 1-for-4, and those two 5-on-3’s were difference makers. We took four penalties in about eight minutes there and it could’ve very well been 3-3 in a heartbeat,” said Boudreau about a critical stretch in period two, when Detroit was trying to get back in the game after trailing 3-0.
– The Perreault tally with seven seconds left in period two was the nail in the coffin for the Caps and the Wings pretty much mailed it in for the final 20 minutes. #85 had another super game and he scored his second goal, Washington’s sixth, from the slot right off of a faceoff win. Jeff Halpern and Hendricks (2 assists) got the helpers on that one. If Perreault can continue to provide energy and stay healthy, then he can be very effective playing 10 to 12 minutes a game for Boudreau and company.
– The final shot tally will say 33-25 in favor of Detroit but I thought that Washington, except for the opening five minutes and a 10 minute stretch in period two when the Wings had four power plays and generated six shots on goal, dominated the contest. The Wings are fast but the Caps, with speedsters like Marcus Johansson (1 goal) and Jason Chimera, were able to generate speed through the neutral zone and create many scoring opportunities. Yes, Vokoun was good, but this was a team effort and if the Capitals keep getting bodies to the front of the opposing cage while keeping the shooting lanes clear for their own goalie, then they are going to be a very difficult team to beat.
Notes: Detroit won the faceoff battle 34-29. MJ90 was 7-5, Halpern was 6-3, while Perreault went 3-1. On the down side was Laich at 6-14 and Backstrom lost 8 of 12 draws…Green led the Caps with 22:09 of ice time. He left for stitches late in period one, but even still, #52 is having to play less minutes because this roster is very balanced…Nicklas Lidstrom played in his 1500th NHL game on Saturday and had an assist…The Caps are off until next Thursday when they play in Edmonton.