A lucky bounce cost the Capitals a win in Boston on Tuesday as the current top two seeds in the Eastern Conference played a very entertaining game in Beantown that resulted in the Bruins coming out on top, 3-2, in overtime. David Krejci’s goal, during a four on three power play, that went in off of Caps defensemen Shaone Morrisonn’s leg and into the net 1:55 into the extra session was the game winner. Boston received the power play because center Nicklas Backstrom, after being robbed by Boston goalie Tim Thomas at the other end on the rebound try of an Alexander Ovechkin shot, was late coming back down the ice, and was forced to take down Bruin defensemen Zdeno Chara in the slot giving the B’s a difficult to defend four on three advantage.
For those who saw this one tonight there was a lot of end to end action and I thought the Caps carried the play for most of the night, but there were definitely spurts where the Bruins had the Caps on their heels. Both goalies, Jose Theodore of the Caps (25 saves) and Thomas (34 saves) of the Burins, were very good tonight with Thomas deserving of the games number one star. Theodore did make some huge saves for the Caps and he can’t be faulted on the game winner.
The scariest part of the night was a short term injury to Ovechkin, who was hooked by Bruins defensemen Zdeno Chara, and it caused the Great #8 to go hard to the ice and slide into the boards awkwardly. Ovie stayed on the ice for several minutes, made his way to the bench, then stood up and tried to lift his right arm above his head, and then exited down the tunnel with 5:35 to go in the second period. The good news seemed to be that Ovechkin (1 assist in the game) wasn’t hurt too bad because he slammed his helmet and gloves to the ground using both arms as he headed for the locker room. When the third period commenced the Great #8 was back on the bench and he played the rest of the game with no apparent sign of injury, although I’m sure he will be sore on Wednesday. Also, Alexander Semin got clipped under the chin just 14 seconds into the third period by Boston forward Chuck Kobasew but he was able to play on as well.
The bad news for the Caps tonight was once again their special teams. The Washington power play went officially 0 for 6 but I will call it 1 for 6 because their first goal of the night came just as Marc Savard’s penalty was expiring (Mike Green notched his 13th tally of the year with a point blast to the upper corner). But that would be the high point of the evening for the Washington man advantage. On that first power play the Caps worked the puck around and pumped shot after shot on Thomas but in the remaining five power plays they reverted to the “pass it around the perimeter” style that doesn’t get results. There were numerous times in the game that Washington players passed up what appeared to be quality scoring chances so I am sure Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau, for what will seem like the thousandth time this year, will tell his guys to shoot more (only Ovechkin seems to get that message) and stop trying to be so cute with the puck.
The penalty kill was better at times but at the end of the night when you look at the scoresheet the B’s were 2 for 5 and it is now nine straight games that the Caps have given up a power play goal. The second power play goal, the game winner, was a fluky bounce, but the first Boston power play goal by Savard came after a failed Semin clear. Speaking of bad clears, the Bruins first goal by Scott Thornton was the result of a terrible Ovechkin giveaway. Thornton would skate in pretty much alone on Theodore and beat him with a backhand over the shoulder while #60 was down in the butterfly. I thought that was probably one Theo should have had but it was a great shot (speaking of which, I wish more Caps would use the backhander because it is a very difficult shot for a goalie to stop).
The Caps are now 30-15-4 and did get a point tonight but they trail the Conference leading Bruins by 11 points. As for the Southeast Division race, with Carolina losing and Florida winning Tuesday, the Caps lead that by 12 points over the Panthers but Florida has two games in hand. Washington’s hold on second place in the East, however, was reduced to only one point as the New Jersey Devils beat the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, Tuesday night. The Devils have a game in hand on the Caps as well.
The Caps now have the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings coming to town on Saturday afternoon followed by a date on Super Bowl Sunday with the Ottawa Senators at the Verizon Cener. After those two games the Caps go to New Jersey on Tuesday and then host the Los Angeles Kings next Thursday. Where am I going with this? Well at that point the Caps will have 29 games left in the season and 16 of them are against teams in their own division, so if Washington wants one of the top two spots, and first place is looking out of reach the way Boston is going, they will need to clean up on their Southeastern rivals.
By the way, rookie defensemen Karl Alzner, who was sent down to Hershey last weekend, was recalled today and played 19:12 of ice time in Boston. Tom Poti, who has been on long term injured reserve with a groin injury, was expected to return on Tuesday but did not. Morrisonn, who had been out on defense due to injury as well, returned to play so the Caps are close to getting back to full strength. Forwards Eric Fehr and David Steckel were the scratches tonight and Michael Nylander, who was a healthy scratch in Ottawa last week, played and did score his fifth goal of the season late in the first period. Nylander, Tomas Fleischmann, and Chris Clark played on a line together on Tuesday night and played fairly well. I actually thought Clark skated as well as he has all season showing some speed at times but he did take a careless penalty on a Washington three on two rush in the first period when he ran into Thomas and was rightfully called for goalie interference. The Caps have to figure out a way to cut down on the number of penalties they are taking.
In closing, with only 36 days before the March 4th trade deadline there will be lots of speculation on what the Caps need to do to make a deep run into the playoffs and possibly win the Stanley Cup. John Feinstein of the Washington Post wrote on Monday that he thinks the Caps need a goalie but based on the market the ONLY guy I think that could be available that is an upgrade over Theodore would be Nikolai Khabibulin of Chicago, who won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Khabibulin, however, makes $6.75M this year so the Caps, who already have salary cap issues, would have to jettison a couple of high priced players to make that work. Personally, I think Theodore is going to have to be the man to carry Washington deep into the playoffs and he is very capable. As for what I think the Caps could use at the trade deadline (and as we all know GM George McPhee did a masterful job last year getting Sergei Fedorov, Cristobal Huet, and Matt Cooke on deal day), I would like to see a physical forward who can go to the net be added and another defensemen, who is physical but can still skate, be brought into the mix. The NHL season is about to get really interesting…