Caps Blank Habs
Jose Theodore stopped all 28 shots he faced and Alexander Ovechkin scored his 13th goal of the season early in the 3rd period as the Washington “Hershey Bears” Capitals knocked off the Montreal Canadiens, 3-0, in front of a sold out Verizon Center on Friday night. Theodore earned his first shutout as a Capital and it came against the team he won the Vezina and Hart Trophy with back in 2002. For those of you following this blog lately you know I have been saying that #60 was playing well despite not having a great save percentage but as Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau will tell you, the guy is a money goalie and he wins. Tonight he was spectacular at times, especially during one five minute stretch in the second period when the Canadiens nearly tied the game at a goal. Theodore, playing behind a defense that included four guys who started the season with Hershey in the American Hockey League (AHL), did a great job of not giving up big rebounds tonight.
The winning goal actually came in the first period from Tomas Fleischmann who notched his ninth tally in 23 games after stealing a Francis Bouillon breakout pass in front of Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak and then depositing the puck into a vacant net after a fast back and forth passing play in front of the net with Michael Nylander that gave the Habs goalie no chance of making a save. Fleischmann has been a very big bright spot for Washington this season and continues to improve.
This game was very much in doubt for a long time and after a scoreless second period it took a super play by the Great #8 to give the Caps a two goal cushion just under four minutes into the third period. Ovechkin, who once again dominated play on the ice throughout the night with his linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov, came out of the corner with the puck after getting it from Backstrom, raced to the net and simply power stuffed it by Halak.
All in all this was a very good win and one of the big reasons is that seven guys from the opening night roster are out with injuries: Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Sergei Fedorov, Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine, and Chris Clark. None of these guys are expected back until at least Tuesday at home against Florida (Schultz and Clark are on long term injury and will be out at least 10 games).
Here are more thoughts on the game and the team in no particular order:
-Ovechkin now has points in 10 straight games and has 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in that span.
-Halak played very well for Montreal in net and his best save of the night was a quick ranging right pad save on Kozlov after Ovechkin set him up nicely on a two on one break in the second period.
-Defensemen Karl Alzner, Sami Lepisto, Tyler Sloan, and Bryan Helmer all started the season in Hershey. By the way, the Bears beat Albany tonight, 3-2, despite having seven of their players up with the Caps. This says alot about the organization’s depth and also is another reason why the decision to have both the Caps and Hershey Bears play the same system is a GREAT one. When guys get called up they know exactly what is needed to be done and don’t have to change the way they play.
-Alzner, who switched from #47 to #27 tonight (and that is a sign he could be sticking around for a long time) had 23:22 of ice time and was paired with Milan Jurcina. Jurcina is playing his best hockey of the season and his strong play was rewarded with 23:39 of ice time (which led the team), the most he’s had all season.
-Washington’s third goal was a beautiful deflection of a Lepisto point shot by Dave Steckel that was created by some fierce forechecking by Steckel, Brooks Laich, and Matt Bradley. The goal came less than a minute after the Caps failed to score on a 102 second five on three power play.
-The Caps maintained their three point lead on the Carolina Hurricanes, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in OT today, in the Southeast Division and they still have a game in hand on the Canes. Washington is now 13-7-3 for 29 points overall. The Caps are 9-0-1 at the Verizon Center this season.
-The Caps play in Columbus, who lost 5-3 in Detroit tonight, on Saturday night. The Blue Jackets have some good young forwards in Rick Nash, Derrick Brassard, and Jakub Voracek so the inexperienced Washington defense will have its hands full. In goal Brent Johnson will likely start for the Caps and Columbus will probably turn to Steve Mason, who is 4-2 with a .908 save percentage this season. Game time is 7pm.
-Knock on some serious wood, but I don’t think any Caps player was injured tonight.