Friday night at the Verizon Center it was the Alexander Ovechkin show in full force as the Great #8 scored just 49 seconds into the contest and then added four more assists in the Washington Capitals 6-1 pasting of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jose Theodore (28 saves) made several super stops in the first period when the Leafs carried the play, outshooting the Caps, 14-8, yet went to the locker room down 2-0. After Washington scored twice in the first seven minutes of the second period the rout was on and the Caps improved to 29-12-6 overall.
Let’s get right to the highlights, quotes, and analysis:
Ovechkin was due for a break out evening from a scoring perspective and he now trails the NHL leader, Henrik Sedin of Vancouver, by just two points (64 to 62) but the Great #8 has played eight fewer games (due to injury and suspension). I continue to stand by my assertion that if Ovie stays healthy the rest of the way he will win the scoring title and Richard Trophy (most goals). The Caps are now 5-1 since he received the “C” and his leadership is clearly propelling this team towards the top of the standings once again after a three game lull in late December/early January. Bottom line on Ovechkin: He loves to win and he doesn’t care who gets the goals in the process.
“In the first period when he scored that goal, I said, he looks like he is on tonight. You never expect five points but I thought it was pretty good,” started Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau on the best hockey player on the planet, “He enjoys the team scoring goals as much as him scoring goals, whether he gets an assist or if he gets nothing [point-wise].”
“He’s a very exciting player. He comes to work every night. It’s fun watching him, whether it’s on TV or on the bench. It’s unbelievable and he’s a great player,” said rookie defenseman and Team USA hero in the 2010 World Junior Championships, John Carlson. Carlson, by the way, was recalled due to an injury to Brian Pothier and made it just in time for warm-ups and earned the red hard hat for his travels. “Some of the fans were here before me,” commented Carlson after the contest.
The Leafs actually played pretty well in the first period after the Caps early goal but Theodore stoned them on their opportunities and Washington buried the majority of their chances, typically a recipe for disaster for the trailing team. Toronto did have what looked to be an early tying goal disallowed when Tom Poti took a Leafs forward into the net and was called for delay of game seconds before the apparent tally. The Leafs had a second goal wiped out due to a high stick by Alex Ponikarovsky on Mike Green late in the second period that would have made it 4-2.
“After the first shift I thought they took it too us a bit and they had a bit of bad luck with the two goals disallowed. After the first period they definitely did not have the energy they had in the first period. It was like in Atlanta, when you get outshot and get up, it is pretty tough for the other team to recover,” said Boudreau about how the opening stanza set the tone for the final 40 minutes.
“It just shows their skill level. They scored on just about every chance they had. And we have to get twice as many chances to compete with a team like that. We didn’t; we had about the same number of chances. [Alex] Ovechkin makes things happen. If you play the game with a deer in the headlights kind of mold, then you’re probably going to get run over by the car – like a deer would,” said former Caps and current Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, who will also be behind the bench running Team USA in the 2010 Olympics.
Theodore improved to 12-7-4 on the season and he had a second straight strong outing and with Semyon Varlamov out you can expect #60 to continue to play for the next several contests.
“I hope those last two periods in Florida and this game that he gets confidence. He’s probably going to start on Sunday afternoon and go again. He’s a competitor. He’s been a battler and the more I’ve talked to him at the end of last year or at times this year, he says I want to compete for the position. He’s done it his whole life, being a small goaltender and the awards he’s won. It’s no surprise to me that he’s going in there and saying the heck with you guys, I’m going to be great,” said Boudreau on #60.
The Great #8 thought his goalie played well when he really needed to.
“Especially in the first period they got two power plays and he played well. We get the second goal and we start playing,” commented the two-time defending NHL MVP on the play of Theodore.
Late in the game some fireworks occurred with Colton Orr catching Green up high with a cross check that looked much worse than it actually was and then Jay Rosehill ran Carlson. The Orr hit drew the ire of all of the Caps on the ice and Shaone Morrisonn took up for his teammate by challenging one of the best fighters in the league. Jason Chimera took on Rosehill to let him know that those type of hits on a young defenseman would not be tolerated. The way the Caps stand up for each other shows that they are a tight bunch and Boudreau was quick to point that out afterwards.
“We don’t exactly have the toughest team in the world. When teams take liberties, we come in as a group. This is a group that cares about each other. When somebody hits one, they hit them all. I’m all for protecting our guys. We don’t start a lot of this stuff, but we’re there. It doesn’t matter how tough the guy is, we want to protect our guys and that’s what we have to do,” said Boudreau.
As mentioned above, on first glance the Orr hit looked dirty, but I’ve gone back and watched it several times, discussed it with a couple of other hockey experts and have come to the conclusion that the Leafs tough guy did not intend to deliver a cheap shot. To be honest, if he wanted to really clean 52’s clock he could have done so, but he was looking into the corner and the contact was nearly coincidental. Boudreau concurred with that analysis.
“I’ve watched Colton Orr for a lot of years and it didn’t look like a vicous check and that he was trying to cross check Mike. It looked like he was kind of taken a back. But it looked pretty bad,” added Boudreau on the cross check on Green.
Last night on NHL On the Fly Gary Green said that the Caps are dominant and there is noone close to them offensively in the NHL. Want some supporting evidence of that, then check out these stats below?:
- Eric Fehr scored his 12th goal of the season at 17:51 of the first period. With the goal, Fehr matched his career high for goals in a season set last year with the Capitals in 61 games.
- With two assists, Nicklas Backstrom now has points in five straight games (five goals, four assists), his longest point streak of the season.
- Chimera registered his first point at Verizon Center with an assist on Fehr’s first period goal. Chimera has a four-game point streak (two goals, three assists) and two goals and four assists total in his eight games with the Capitals.
- Mike Knuble scored his 11th and 12th goals of the season in the second period, his third two-goal game of the season. Knuble now has six goals in his last eight games. On the season nine Capitals have combined for 33 two-goal games, but no hat tricks yet. Entering tonight, no other team had more than 23 multiple-goal games.
- Tomas Fleischmann scored his 16th goal of the season on the power play at 6:47 of the third period. Fleischmann has 16 goals despite missing the first 11 games of the season and is just three goals shy of his career high, set last season.
- Tom Poti scored his second goal of the season (all in the last four games) at 11:06 of the third period to give the Caps a 6-1 lead. The Capitals have scored six or more goals in a game seven times this season, and have a record of 7-0-0 in those contests.
- Alexander Semin had two assists in the contest for his 16th multiple-point game of the season. Semin now has nine points (five goals, four assists) in his last six games.
- Green had two assists in the contest and now has points in seven straight games (three goals, five assists, +6), and 11 of the last 12 (six goals, 10 assists, +9). He leads all NHL defensemen in goals and points.
Other notes: The Leafs only goal came on the power play in the second period but it was pretty much a 5 on 3 as Dave Steckel blocked a shot up high and played the time from the block until the Toronto goal with just one hand on his stick. Steckel would leave the game but return in the third period. Tyler Sloan did not play at all in the last 9:57 of the contest and according to Caps personnel the injury is not serious and he is just banged up. Apparently John Erskine, who has been out injured, practiced pretty hard and should be able to go on Sunday. If Erskine, Pothier, and Sloan all can’t go, then Karl Alzner would likely be recalled from Hershey. The Caps were 2 for 5 on the power play while the Leafs went 1 for 7 with a manpower advantage. The Caps do need to try and cut down on the number of penalties they have been taking.
Down on the farm: The Hershey Bears destroyed the Albany River Rats, 10-4, on Friday night and have now won 13 of their last 14 games so the defending AHL Calder Cup Champions are on fire. Try and catch a game up at the Giant Center, if you can, especially during the Olympic break in February (there is a WNST puck bus available).
Next up for the Caps are the Flyers on Sunday at 3pm at the Verizon Center, then they get the Detroit Red Wings here on Tuesday at 7pm and you can circle your calendar for Thursday night’s tilt against the Penguins in Pittsburgh (btw, check out JapersRink.com for details on a Caps viewing party down in Virginia).