Tim Thomas didn’t win the Conn Smythe Trophy as 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff MVP for nothing and on Sunday at the Verizon Center he showed once again why the Boston Bruins are the defending NHL Champions. Thomas’ stellar play in goal (35 saves) propelled the B’s to a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Super Bowl Sunday.
Despite the loss, there were a lot of positives once again for Washington (27-21-4). They outshot Boston, 36-30, but more importantly, they had a slight edge in scoring chances despite trailing 2-0 after 40 minutes. Alexander Semin had a clean breakaway that Thomas thwarted and Alexander Ovechkin missed a mostly open net in period one while the Bruins converted on a Dennis Wideman mistake in the Caps end that left Milan Lucic all alone in front of Tomas Vokoun (26 saves) and they notched a Brad Marchand tally when Washington had three players behind their own net to Boston’s lone Patrice Bergeron. Somehow #37 was able to get the puck to #63 at the side of the net for a tap in with Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Brooks Laich all in the vicinity of the Bruins center. Getting both defensemen caught behind the net is a no-no in hockey no matter what the system, but especially in a man to man defense, and that mental mistake was costly.
This contest was different than Saturday’s tilt in Montreal where there wasn’t a whole lot of skating room on the ice. With both teams having played on Saturday the game was more open and it was entertaining hockey. An undermanned Capitals squad managed to hold its’ own against the defending champs and if not for Thomas this game could have easily been a Washington victory.
“Yeah, we did have some good [chances]. Thomas played a pretty good game. He made some big saves as he usually does. It’s frustrating when you see that you do have a chance to score and it doesn’t go in. Ovie had that open net and I don’t know exactly what kept it out there. It’s gonna happen, that’s a good team over there. You can’t really give them a whole lot without paying for it. For what we did give them we paid for it,” added Alzner.
The really bad news for the Capitals is they may have lost another one of their top players when Laich crashed hard into the boards with Dennis Seidenberg in period two. #21 went to the ice and crawled towards the Washington bench before being helped through the door and then down the tunnel. Amazingly the assistant captain came out to test his leg at the next timeout but he immediately went back down the runway to the locker room. Brooks will be re-evaluated on Monday and based on the replay his left knee is likely the issue.
With Nicklas Backstrom already out due to a concussion and no true second line center on the roster the Laich situation, if serious, could be a killer for the Capitals playoff chances. But injuries are a part of sports and guys like Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, and Jeff Halpern will have to step their respective games up even more. In addition, General Manager George McPhee will have more pressure on him to add some forwards at the trade deadline, which is just three weeks away (February 27th). Mike Green’s successful return from surgery is another key piece to the playoff puzzle since having 52 in the lineup changes the entire dynamic for the Caps on the back end.
But back to today’s game, Thomas was superb and when a goalie is on, he is tough to beat. That was the case with Boston today, as it was last June when #30 was the difference between the B’s and the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Capitals had their chances on Sunday and could have moved back into first place in the Southeast Division with a victory. Now they’ll have to wait until Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers at the Verizon Center to try and do that again, and likely without one of their leaders and top players in Laich.
Notes: Marcus Johansson had the only Capitals goal with just under eight minutes to go. MJ90 actually was trying to pass to Joel Ward but that attempt hit Seidenberg’s skate and went in the net…speaking of skates, it sure looked to me that Tyler Seguin’s goal, Boston’s third, went in off of his skate. #19 appeared to have turned his skate to accept the pass and the biscuit banked in off of it. It may have hit his stick but the baffling thing to me was why the game wasn’t delayed while the replay was thoroughly reviewed by the supposed wizards in Toronto?…not only is the lack of centers hurting Washington’s ability to break out of their own zone, it is really starting to show up in the faceoff column. Boston demolished the Caps from the dot, 43-24…Dmitry Orlov, who broke his nose when hit by the puck in Montreal on Saturday, took another one to the face on Sunday. Talk about bad luck!