Thursday, November 8, 2007

Caps Over Sens 4-1

Capitals 4, Senators 1

The Capitals came into Ottawa Thursday night in last place in the Eastern Conference and beat the NHL-leading Senators (now 13-2-0) in a 4-1 game at Scotiabank Place.

Going into this game I don't think anyone could have said they expected the Capitals to win, but I had a sneaking suspicion the team stood a better chance than most gave them. My logic? Everything has gone right for the Senators so far this season and nothing had gone right for the Capitals. Given that it just seemed like things were going to have to turn around a bit.

The struggling offense picked up four goals and in honor of a decent offensive output I'm going to break down each goal:

  1. 12:10 in Period 2. Kozlov from Ovechkin; Morrisonn. You could tell Kozlov was relieved after his goal - the look on his face just said "finally". By his reaction I immediately thought to myself 'This could be the play that gets him back on track'.
  2. 14:27 in Period 2. Backstrom from Kozlov; Nylander. Hats off to Backstrom for getting his first NHL goal. And speaking of reactions, how about his? First career NHL goal, out of midair, off the goalie's back, to put his struggling team ahead 2-0 and he gets up and skates off the ice like nothing happened. This is the same kid who's played with more poise than most veterans and who when asked if he'd seen the monuments in the D.C. responded "I came here to play hockey. I want to see the rink." He's going to be something special. He was at least a little happy about things though - I saw him crack a smile on the bench afterwards.
  3. 17:55 in Period 2. Fleischmann from Kozlov. Flash's goal was beautiful, as was the pass from Kozlov to set it up. What was interested was how the Sens broadcast highlighted Fleischmann's play leading up to his goal. He came off the bench, streaked into the play and called for the puck. That's a kind of confidence he simply didn't have at the season's outset.
  4. 16:14 of Period 3. Ovechkin from Laich. In terms of this game it was just icing on the cake. But Ovechkin had only one point in the previous four games coming into tonight; hopefully this gets him going again.
It's not like the game was a shootout though. The Caps held the potent (even without
Jason Spezza) Senators offense to just one goal on 28 shots. The Sens were also 0-5 on the powerplay. Kolzig was solid through the first two frames but really shined in the third period.

In the standings this is only two points but in the larger scheme of things it could be a lot more than that for the Capitals. The Caps were able to beat the best team in the NHL, on the road, without two of their top six forwards. And it isn't like the Caps barely managed to squeeze out a victory - they outshot the Senators and were the better team (see quote below). What this does is serve as proof to the Capitals that they can beat anybody in the NHL, and the way things have gone this team needs that confidence boost.

The key now is going to be taking that confidence and the solid effort in this game and using it build momentum. The Caps may only be 6-9-1, but they're also two points out of the eight spot in the East and four points out of the fifth spot. If the team is able to pick up momentum and go on a run, winning several games in a row, five out of six, seven out of nine or something like that they'll be in a nice spot. Obviously in any case there's a lot of hockey left in the 2007-08 season but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice to be sitting at a playoff spot after 25 or 30 games.

Next up? Tampa Bay (1-7 -0 on the road), Saturday night, in D.C.

The Senators' television announcers were full of good points about the Capitals tonight:
  • "I don't think it's fair to judge this team without their captain Chris Clark and Alexander Semin."
  • "You have to feel like this is a better team that their record indicates."
  • "If just one or two bounces go the Capitals way in close games this season, they're looking a lot better."
I wish some Capitals fans (particularly those calling for the heads of Hanlon and McPhee) could realize this. However I think my favorite Sens' announcers quote was this:
The Capitals [fully] deserved the win. They were the better team tonight.

Quick Hits
  • A number of the Caps younger players who I thought had looked shaky are looking better every game, particularly Schultz and Fleischmann. I'm willing to bet it has a lot to do with Glen Hanlon.
  • Chris Bourque has looked real solid so far. He can obviously skate, looks like he has a good skill set, seems like a smart player and doesn't shy away from contact. It's not like he came out of nowhere though - he was picked 34th overall despite being only 5'6'' or 5'7'' before people realized just how much the game would change to make size less important after the lockout. I don't know that he's ready for full time NHL duty yet once Semin and Clark come back but he sure doesn't seem far away.
  • Anton Volchenkov left in the first with a leg injury after being hit by an Ovechkin shot. While it didn't go in the net at least this time Ovechkin manged to injure someone on the other team.

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