Alexander Ovechkin took over the opening of the 2009-10 NHL season on VERSUS scoring two goals and adding an assist as the Washington Capitals blasted the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in Beantown on Thursday night. The Great #8 was all over the ice skating, hitting, and shooting and the two-time defending NHL MVP made it clear that all of those people picking the Penguins Evgeni Malkin to take the Hart Trophy this season better think twice about that.
Brooks Laich had two tap-in goals and center Nicklas Backstrom was his usual awesome self setting up three goals with his outstanding passing. Alexander Semin also added two assists as Washington’s highly skilled superstars came to play against a team that won the Eastern Conference last regular season.
This game was scoreless for most of the first period and the Bruins came out flying early and carried a good bit of the play but they could not solve Caps goalie Jose Theodore (19 saves), who looked sharp and was very aggressive in net challenging shooters. #60 did not give up many rebounds and he was aided a couple of times by the Bruins shooting wide and a quick whistle that might have saved Washington a goal.
It was Laich’s power play goal that made it 1-0 with 2:45 remaining in the first period on a great passing play from Ovechkin and Backstrom that got Washington going. With most other players you would think that #19’s pass was really an intended shot that missed wide but anyone who watches Nicklas play game in and game out knows that he purposely put that puck just wide of Thomas and the net to allow Laich to corral it and backhand dunk it home.
From there the Caps seemed to get stronger and stronger throughout the game and midway through the second period the skill of the Caps allowed them to push their lead to two goals. Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green alertly rushed the puck up the ice as Boston was changing players and he deftly dropped it for Backstrom as #52 crossed the blue line and then went towards the net. Backstrom, who sometimes I really think has eyes in the back of his head, sent a beautiful cross ice pass to Semin who left a no look drop pass to the steaking Great #8, who took one stride and blasted it by a stunned Tim Thomas (30 saves). It was an absolutely beautiful goal.
Then with the second period winding down and the Caps clearly dominating the play 2008-09 Norris Trophy winner, Zdeno Chara, took a stupid cross-checking penalty against the Great #8 after Alexander the Great had put a clean hit on the 41 year-old Mark Recchi. Once again a legal physcial play led to retaliation; something I think needs to removed from the game and is gutless. Washington really made the Bruins pay for Chara’s boneheaded move to start the third period when just 16 seconds in Laich got his second slam dunk goal after Semin made another sensational pass to set up Backstrom all alone in front. Thomas, who hopes to be the #1 goalie for Team USA in the Olympics in February, did make a great initial save on Backstrom but #21 quickly gobbled up the rebound and knocked it in the net to pretty much take the life out of Boston.
Ovechkin then totally sealed the deal for the Caps just 91 seconds later when defenseman Tom Poti led the rush into the offensive zone, took the puck below the goal line, and then sent a nice pass into the slot. The darting Great #8 then outmuscled Bruins forward Milan Lucic getting his stick in perfect position and one timed Poti’s pass into the net past Thomas and that had the young Lucic wondering what had just happened.
Here are some other thoughts, notes, and facts on the game:
The Caps power play went 2 for 4 and they killed off all five penalties they took so special teams was a huge key in the win.
About the only real negative was the goal Washington gave up when Dave Steckel turned the puck over at the Bruins blueline and both Capitals defensemen, John Erskine and Brian Pothier, were caught too far up ice and that allowed Patrice Bergeron to have a clean breakaway on Theodore. #60, by not committing on Bergeron, initially appeared to make the save but #37 stayed with the puck and backhanded it past Theo to rob him of a shutout.
Washington won the face-off battle 30-19.
Most likely incorrect stat of the night: Washington had 0 giveaways to Boston’s 6??
Erskine and Shawn Thornton fought at 9:43 of the third period. I called it a draw.
Mike Green led all Caps in ice time with 24:12 logged.
I knew about Mike Knuble’s even strength and power play abilities but didn’t realize how good of a penalty killer he can be. #22 had 1:42 of shorthanded time and his ability in that regard gives Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau another option at forward. Steckel, Boyd Gordon, Poti, and Milan Jurcina were the Caps #1 PK unit tonight while Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green, and Laich were the #1 power play unit.
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin was Boudreau’s number one line and their play tonight made Bruce look like a genius for putting them together for this contest.
Quintin Laing had a very good game in his role as third line forward. He hustles (but isn’t very fast) and throws his body around all over the place to make plays. The only problem is he does it so much that he ends up in some awkward positions making his chance of getting injured much higher than other players.
The scratches were Tyler Sloan and Jeff Schultz on defense and Michael Nylander at forward (no surprise there and apparently there should be some resolution to this saga soon).
The Caps had not won in regulaton in Boston since December 2nd, 2000 before tonight’s assault on the Bruins.
Next up for the Caps is their home opener on Saturday night at the Verizon Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7pm. Washington will raise their second straight Southeast Division Champions banner before opening face-off. The game is sold out but is available on Comcast and on Hockey Night in Canada in the Great White North.