If you are not watching the Washington Capitals these days you are missing out. Tuesday night in Boston the Caps defeated the Bruins, 4-1, and set a franchise record with their 11th straight victory thanks primarily to a monster goaltending performance by Jose Theodore (41 saves). The best skater on the ice was defenseman Tom Poti, who went to college at nearby Boston University, and #3 set up two goals (2 assists), was on the ice for every Caps tally (+4), and logged 6:28 of penalty killing time (played 21:11 overall). All three Washington goals, before Alexander Ovechkin’s empty net clincher, came from right in front of Boston’s Tim Thomas (22 saves) as Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, and Boyd Gordon all got “points from the paint’ to pace the Capitals offense. The Caps, who played fairly poorly in 30 of the first 40 minutes, are now a staggering 38-12-6 (82 points) and they lead the entire Eastern Conference by at least 10 points! They are 14-1 since Ovechkin was named team captain back on Tuesday, January 5th.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis:
$4.5 Million Man on Fire: The night the Caps last lost a game, a 7-4 stinker in Tampa, I tweeted (@Emfrank123) that is was time for the guy making $4.5M to step up in net. Since that game #60 is 8-0 and up until tonight the game he played against the Detroit Red Wings back on January 19th, where he stopped 44 of 46 shots, was his best as a Cap. However, having seen the highlights of this contest against the Bruins again after watching it live, I am ranking this performance as #1 by Jose as a Capital. The Caps had numerous defensive zone breakdowns and Theo was hung out to dry several times but he would only be beaten on a Bruins 5 on 3 power play tally. Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler had at least four golden opportunities and were denied plus David Krejci (who scored the only B’s goal) received a questionable penalty shot but when Jose challenged him #46 fired wide. Theodore has a history of playing his best hockey in the final year of his contract and guess what? This is the last season of his two year deal with the Capitals.
“Jose was tremendous. They had so many more quality chances than we did,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau on his goalie.
Caps No Shows in First period: The Bruins came into this one having lost seven straight contests and 11 of their last 13 games. They had not won a game in 2010 but you couldn’t tell that by the way they played most of the first 40 minutes. Boston thoroughly outplayed the Caps in period one but only had a single tally to show for it, thanks to Theodore. Poti also was one of the few Capitals to have a good first period, one in which Washington took four penalites, two of which overlapped for 41 seconds and Boston took only eight seconds to convert for their only goal of the evening. Overall the Bruins had 6 power plays in the contest and Washington needs to get back to being more disciplined.
“I thought they played to win and they kept coming at us but I thought they got frustrated. We hung around in the first period when they had four power plays and I figured if they didn’t have a two goal lead after one then we got a chance to win it,” commented Boudreau on the Bruins effort.
Third Period Domination: Much like they did in Pittsburgh on January 21, the Caps took control in the final period of a contest that was tied and denied Boston the lead in a game they should have been winning. Alexander Semin, who was having an off night up until that point primarily due to three stick infractions, made a super pass to Laich in the slot to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. 2:47 after that Poti, who had set up Knuble’s first tally by pinching down on the left wing boards and centering the puck, did the same thing except from the right wing boards and Gordon potted his first tally in 11 games to make it 3-1 to stun the hometown Bruins and their fans.
“When you have really skilled players they can go along all game normal and then be difference makers and he is one of those guys that when you need it he will make the great play whether he has had success or whether he has taken three hooking penalties,” added Boudreau on Semin.
Washington knows how to win: Let’s face it, the Caps really didn’t have a right to win this one after their lackluster opening period but in hockey, a goalie can keep a team in it, and that is what happened on Tuesday night. Add to the fact that this highly skilled Washington team continues to mature and seems to just know how to win you end up with an 11 game club record winning streak.
“We didn’t play really well yet found a way to win because [the players] believed that they could win,” finished Boudreau.
There isn’t a whole lot to add to this one, several Caps did not have good games tonight so it doesn’t make much sense to pick at this guy or that guy. Theodore and Poti really stood out and they deserve the accolades for the victory and were my (and officially the NHL’s) number one and two stars, respectively. Laich was my third star but a guy like Gordon, who scored a big goal and killed 4:12 of Bruins power play time had a nice night as well.
Next up for the Caps are the New York Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden (Comcast HD). Rangers GM Glen Sather just made a big trade with the Calgary Flames getting center Olli Jokinen and the tough Brandon Prust for stiff Ales Kotalik and snake bitten Christopher Higgins so I expect the Blueshirts to be pumped up to try and prevent the Caps from winning their 12th straight. But for tonight (and tomorrow), we can all say, “The Caps go to 11!”