Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Caps - Panthers Recap

After missing the Ottawa game, I'm back with a recap for the Capitals franchise-record setting win over the Panthers. The Caps have now opened the season with five straight wins for the first time in franchise history, including a franchise-best four wins at home. To cap it off, they earned a shutout against a division foe that demolished the Tampa Bay Lightning the night before. Johansson (PP), Semin, and Chimera (EN) scored while Vokoun earned the shutout. Here are my five thoughts:
  • Tonight, as just about everybod
    That's a good goalie. You'll get a treat for
    the shutout when we get back to the locker room.
    y who would possibly be reading this knows, was a sort of homecoming for a couple players. Vokoun and Wideman were with the Panthers last year, and Matt Bradley was one of the most loved players on the Capitals for years. Tomas Fleischmann was one of the many players who suffered under Boudreau's line changing regime, getting shipped off to Colorado last year before signing with Florida this off-season. Jose Theodore, a member of the rotating door cast of goaltenders for Washington for two years, got the night off for Florida. For Vokoun and Wideman, it was a good night: Vokoun got his first shutout as a Capital and Wideman extended his points streak to five games. "Flash" had a decent game and saw a couple scoring chances, while "Brads" finished a -1 for the evening. I hope they have success in their careers, just as long as things go like tonight any time they play the Caps.

  • Marcus Johansson scored on Washington's only power play of the night, giving him three scores on the season. This was his first non-wraparound goal, but it wasn't too far off. MoJo saw that Ovechkin was double covered in addition to having a good look at the net, and decided to just try and force it in the corner by Markstrom's left side, and in the five-hole it went. The sophomore Swede is showing some of that offensive prowess that everyone talked about last year (but that I never really saw translate into anything other than a solidly mediocre season), and I am man enough to admit I may have been wrong about him. Let's not get too excited, though: as was noted by Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin, the goal should have been an easy one to stop. Goalies today do not close off the posts quite like they used to, especially guys playing their first ever NHL game. He may have three goals, but temper expectations as they were close goals that all should have been stopped. But kudos to the kid for having the awareness to see that they actually would go in and making the necessary moves.

  • While he got his second straight game winner, Johansson is still leaving the second line center debate open a bit with his faceoff percentage. He only won 1 of 7 on the dot tonight. If he keeps up his goal scoring and his faceoff percentage, I see no reason why he shouldn't be moved to wing later on this season. The team really has too many centers, and on any given night you have at least two playing wing. Backstrom and Laich struggled a bit tonight, too, winning only 10 of their 26 combined faceoffs. The fourth line, made up of three natural centers in Perreault, Hendricks, and Halpern, lost only one faceoff. Perreault won both of his, Hendricks his only attempt, and Halpern won 8 of 9. Much has been said, often times by me, of how little faceoffs can actually mean in the context of a team's offense, but it is still something to keep an eye on since they do affect puck possession.

  • There have been games when you read the stats and see something like "Capitals shut outopponent and hold them to 20 shots," but think to yourself "Yeah, but it probably wasn't pretty." Tonight was not one of those games. The boys in red played the ever-elusive 60 minute game, and it really showed. The shot totals (32-20) and the score (3-0) are representative of that, and the score could easily have been even more lopsided than it was. While keeping up that kind of play for the remaining 77 games of the regular season could take a physical toll on the team, this is the kind of effort they will need in the postseason. It is refreshing to finally see it and know they can do it, now they just need to keep it up.
  • Florida must have been a little shocked at the lack of penalties. They scored four powerplay goals last night and got a shorty to boot. Tonight the Caps and Cats combined for three penalties total - two on us, one on them. Definitely another tribute to how well both teams played tonight. For years, Florida has been at the bottom of the bottom tier, but they have started this season strong and pose a legitimate threat as a dark-horse playoff contender. Markstrom played very well in net tonight, stopping 29 shots for a .923 save percentage. And if history is any indicator, he could challenge Theodore for starts for much of the season. The Panthers have a good future ahead. Add another team to the list challenging the South-Least Division nickname. Now if only the Jets would get on board the playoff train....
Now that the Caps have beaten three division opponents, a Cup-favorite team in the Penguins, and a man-I-wish-we-had-their-draft-spot team in the Senators, they go on the road to face the Flyers on Thursday before hosting the Western Conference's undefeated Red Wings on Saturday. It was a good win against a respectable team, but now is not the time to relax by any means. Five down, seventy-seven to go. Now for your NHL.com highlights:

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