Thursday night was slated to be another big test for the 5-0 Washington Capitals as they traveled to Philadelphia to take on the despised Flyers and the team passed with flying colors. Alexander Ovechkin had two goals and Tomas Vokoun made 40 saves as the Caps routed a Philly team that looked stunned by a hard working Washington squad. Mathieu Perreault, Roman Hamrlik, and Joel Ward also tallied for Washington while Claude Giroux opened the scoring with a breakaway goal and Sean Couturier potted a meaningless tally with 14 seconds left for the Flyers. The Caps are now 6-0 and will take on the currently undefeated Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. The 4-0 Wings face Columbus at “The Joe” on Friday night before traveling to DC.
Here are the highlights and analysis of the Caps crushing win from the Philadelphia Greater Library Wells Fargo Center:
- Remember when the Washington Capitals were characterized as being a “perimeter” team? Not anymore. The off season additons of Troy Brouwer, Ward, and Jeff Halpern have helped give Bruce Boudreau more bodies to join Brooks Laich, Mike Knuble, and Matt Hendricks in front of opposing goalies and the work ethic of the new guys is rubbing off on the rest of the team. Oveckhkin scored the key goal in the contest by going to the net to bang home a Nicklas Backstrom (2 assists) wraparound attempt late in the first period and on every Washington tally they had players in front of Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (23 saves). On Ovechkin’s PP goal to make it 4-1, the Gr8 moved to the slot beating his old name calling friend Max Talbot to the prime shooting position and he quickly fired one by Bryzgalov with Brouwer providing a great screen. That goal was sandwiched around two other tallies with traffic in front in a 2:25 span that would soon send Flyers fans to the parking lot.
- There were portions of this game where Philadelphia carried the play, primarily in the middle frame, but Vokoun was solid in net and the Washington defense did a stellar job of keeping Flyers forwards away from the front of the goal. Mike Green was outstanding on the backline and he and Hamrlik are developing some nice chemistry. The Karl Alzner and John Carlson duo turned in their normal solid performance and Jeff Schultz (1 assist) had his best game of the season paired with Dennis Wideman. The Caps were only credited with 12 blocked shots on this night but that was because they had the puck for the majority of the game and also because they were doing a good job positionally, which allowed Vokoun to make his saves look routine.
- I’ve been talking about the resurgence of Backstrom and #19 was outstanding on Thursday. He looks a step quicker this year and his upper body strength is much greater than it was in 2010-11. I am really liking Brouwer up on that top line as Ovechkin and #20 can pound opposing defensemen, which allows Backstrom to have more room and make plays.
- Alexander Semin didn’t have his best game giving away the puck in a 4 on 4 situation in the first period that led to Giroux’s breakaway marker. #28 was -2 with only 1 shot on net but the Caps didn’t need him in this one. #28 had been very good in the first five games this season but had an off night on Broad Street.
- Ovechkin was called for a questionable interference penalty when he blew up Talbot behind the Caps net shortly before Giroux’s goal and a Backstrom tally was also wiped out due to incidental contact by Ovie on the Flyers cage minder. In addition, Laich was blatantly cut up high twice but the zebras, Tim Peel and Kevin Pollock, only called one of them as a double minor. The good news on this night was that Washington was so good as a team they easily overcame a couple of referees who seem to be watching another channel, and I am being nice there.
- So what looked to be a tough tilt, and Bryzgalov has historically been trouble for the Caps, turned into a laugher for Washington. The Caps hopefully continue to learn that opposing goalies can’t stone you if you keep going to the front of the net. With the big, hard working forwards Caps GM George McPhee has assembled on this year’s club, the offensive numbers should go up after a down 2010-11 in Washington. This is a very good Capitals team that is coming together nicely. It is only six games in, and there are plenty of areas to continue to improve in (such as second period long line changes), but this start is unlike any other in Caps history. This team has three solid d-pairs and four good sets of forwards and that allows Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau to basically roll the lines, something that should pay dividends in the spring.
Notes: Halpern was 6-1 on face-offs while Hendricks was 3-0…#26 had the shot block of the night taking one right on the crest in the second period. Rumor has it Hendricks eats “Quarry” for breakfast…Perreault had a nice night with a goal and an assist in 12:01 of ice time. He was also 4-3 on face-offs…the Caps lost the face-off battle 31-28 (Johansson was 2-8)…the Caps were 1-6 on the power play and they were 2-2 on the penalty kill…Flyers center Bryaden Schenn, who belongs in the AHL at this young age, was -3…Jaromir Jagr was a total non factor in the game, perhaps he was thinking about his NFL picks this weekend?…Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Vokoun were the game’s three stars as chosen by the Philadelphia media.