In what was pretty much a playoff atmosphere at the sold out Verizon Center Tuesday night, Caps goalie Jose Theodore stopped 33 of 34 shots as well as all three Flyers in the shootout to help the Caps beat Philadelphia, 2-1. Theodore was outstanding, as was Flyers goalie Martin Biron, and he has now won six straight starts and the Caps have won seven straight games and 12 of 13 with their only loss being the 7-1 defeat in Philadelphia on December 20th. Viktor Kozlov had the only shootout goal going first and used a beautiful move to set up a backhand shot that he put past Biron.
This game featured the league’s top two goal scorers in Alexander Ovechkin and Jeff Carter and both did their best to score but were denied. Carter had eight shots on net while the Great #8 had five and with Buffalo’s Tomas Vanek netting his 27th tally of the season there is now a three way tie for the NHL goal scoring lead.
Here are some random thoughts on tonight’s game:
Alexander Semin doesn’t look fully healed from his back injury as he was tentative in some areas on the ice, especially along the boards. He did, however, make a great play to set Nicklas Backstrom up for the only Caps goal on the power play two minutes and ten seconds into the game
Michael Nylander continues to disappoint although I thought the hooking call on him to start the third period, which led to Philly’s game tying goal, wasn’t a penalty because it appeared that #92 got all stick and no glove on the replays I viewed. Bad call referees once again! Nylander has definitely lost a step and at the money this team is paying him ($5.5M this year and next, then $3.5M in 2010-11) they need more production from him. Nylander only had 13:08 of ice time so clearly Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau is not playing him at a level commensurate with what he is being paid.
Ovechkin didn’t have one of his better games but he was still a force on the ice. Flyers defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, who are one of the best defensive pairs in the league, did a very good job of not giving the Great #8 space tonight. Ovechkin hit the right post in the shootout and his eight game home goal scoring streak was snapped.
The Caps and Flyers are two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference but they have been built a little differently. The Caps have been built primarily through the draft with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Semin, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, and Karl Alzner all being first round draft picks while the Flyers have been put together by obtaining Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Scott Hartnell, and Scott Upshall all via trades. Top two forwards Carter and team captain Mike Richards, however, were both Philadelphia first round draft choices.
If forward Sergei Fedorov returns this weekend and noone else gets hurt then defensemen Tom Poti will likely go on retroactive LTIR to allow the team to stay under the salary cap. This would buy GM George McPhee another week to make a deal that would allow them to keep Alzner up with the big club. If Nylander can’t be moved, and his high salary makes that difficult, then defensemen Shaone Morrisonn, who is a restricted free agent this summer and reportedly wants $3M a season, is the likely trade candidate. Btw, Alzner played 21:59 of ice time tonight while Morrisonn only logged 14:51. Green led all Caps defensemen with 27:37 of ice time and Schultz logged 23:06.
Boudreau thought that the Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, and Donald Brashear line was his most effective one in the Flyers game. That line did a great job of cycling the puck and wearing out the Flyers defensemen.
With the Boston Bruins losing tonight the Caps trail them by only five points for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Caps still lead the Carolina Hurricanes, who won their fourth straight game Tuesday, by 10 points in the Southeast Division. The Caps are now 18-1-1 at home.
There were not alot of Flyer fans at the game tonight, at least they weren’t that loud. Now if only the Penguins fans can be kept out of Verizon Center as well in the future!
When Nestor and I were talking to Caps Marketing Director Joe Dupriest after the first period he told us that there are only about 25,000 tickets left for the REST of the Caps season. The Caps have 21 home games remaining so only about 1,000 are available a game so get your tickets now if you want to see Ovechkin and company in person.
I will have more Caps coverage over the next couple of days. I had a chance to talk with Gordon and rookie defensemen Sean Collins after the game. Also, I will provide my first half of the season grades for each player prior to the Columbus game so please check back tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday.
Programming Note: Drew will have forward and team captain Chris Clark on the air with him at 845am on Wednesday.