Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caps at Flyers Game Recap

What do I know about Ovechkin? Talbot was right.
Tonight was billed as a test for the Capitals and the Flyers. Both have had strong starts to the season, and both made some gutsy moves in the off-season, especially in net. They are both expected to be Cup contenders this year and likely for years down the road. Washington spent far less money on their star goalie, and it looks like money can't buy everything. After two tight periods, the Capitals dominated the Flyers in the third and silence the home crowd in Philadelphia. Perreault, Hamrlik, and Ward all got their first goals of the season while Ovechkin got two. It wasn't a perfect game, if such a thing exists, but it was a strong effort for Washington all the way through. It looked a lot like back-to-back 60-minute games, but that might have just been my eyes playing tricks on me. Anyway, here are my five thoughts:

  • While I still don't think Perreault belongs on the fourth line, he certainly does not seem to care where he plays as long as he is in the game. One of the stronger players for the Capitals tonight, he got the tying goal late in the first period after reading a pass and firing a low shot that deflected off one of the Flyer's skates and added an assist on Hamrlik's goal later on (first goal for each guy this season). All those people who claim Johansson is the more defensive-minded of the young centers have to be questioning themselves after these first few games. Perreault has yet to be on ice for a single goal against and is credited with five takeaways and zero giveaways. MoJo has been on ice for three goals against with four takeaways and two giveaways. MP85 also has three points (1-2-3) in four games, while MoJo has four points (3-1-4) in five. This is all while Johansson has seen far more ice time, so take all that as you wish six games into the season. Personally I have always been an unabashed Perreault supporter and I have seen nothing but play to vindicate my support so far. Both still need serious work winning faceoffs, with neither being even near a 40% win percentage.
  • Dennis Wideman came to the Capitals last year to help shore up an injured blue line and spark a floundering powerplay. He soon fell victim to injury with a nasty hematoma in his leg and missed most of the time he spent with Washington. Well, now he is on a six game points streak and has been one of the most valuable guys on the team in all six games. He is still subject to the occasional defensive lapse, but overall he makes this year's Caps all the more dangerous with one of the best defensive corps in the league.
  • All that time with awful teams was just Vokoun's way of preparing for nights like this. He kept the Caps in this game even more than the offense did, holding the Flyers to just one goal until they got a meaningless second tally with 14.7 seconds left. Oh yeah, that required him to stop 40 shots, with 41 coming before that last goal. He is making this team look a lot better than they probably are right now. 
  • Has the beast awoken? Ovechkin scored twice tonight, including a blast of a one-timer on the power play, bringing him to a season total of three. He still trails Chimera for the team lead... That right there should tell you just how much to read into goal-scoring trends in the first six games, but the Great 8 looked a bit more like his old self tonight. He laid out his old buddy Max "Ovechkin-is-a-Douche" Talbot for a questionable interference penalty and was putting shots on the net all night. Hopefully we'll see more of this Ovi on Saturday against the Red Wings, and throughout the season.
  • It's hard to criticize a team and coach that have a perfect record six games into the season, and after passing their first real "test" against another top-notch team... but that's what you have to do with a Cup contender. Just like I'm not sold on Perrault the fourth liner, I'm not a huge fan of Brouwer and Knuble on the 1st and 2nd lines, respectively. The 8-19-22 line has so much chemistry built up, while Semin and Knuble just clearly are not clicking. Semin in particular had a rough go of things tonight, being directly responsible for the Flyers scoring the first goal of the game. He may be trying to prove he does care after all, but playing cute little puck games on the blue line with Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux poking at the puck is asking for trouble. Brouwer said earlier today that he wanted to try and open up the ice for Alex and let him get back to his game (and become a more consistent scoring threat, himself). Obviously he was referring to Ovechkin, but I say the same attitude would work just as well with the other current Swede-Russian Alex pairing on the team. Put Knuble back where he is comfortable, and let Brouwer play his game on the second line, where he is probably more comfortable, too.
The test isn't over. Washington hosts (currently) undefeated Detroit on Saturday. The Red Wings will be playing their second game in as many days, but as of right now have not lost and lead the league in GAA. The Caps have already felled their two biggest foes in the Eastern Conference (Pitt and Philly), now they face a Western Conference dynasty. If they keep up the kind of effort we've seen so far, they'll either never lose again or all be on IR by Christmas. I give it even-up odds. highlights below:

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