(Photo from ESPN)
The Washington Capitals have recently not had many 60-minute games. In their last two before tonight, they gave up 7 goals in just the first period, while only scoring 1 themselves. Tonight, however, was a different story.
The Atlanta Thrashers came to Verizon Center in desperate need of two points, so that they could get inside the playoff bubble. The Caps, meanwhile, were looking to bounce back from three straight losses. Overall, the two teams played a very tight game.
For pretty much the entire game, Atlanta had a style of play which, to my knowledge, is called the "trap" style of play, which basically chokes the play to force in to the neutral zone; usually this is used to make up for lack of offence. Atlanta's effectiveness in this resulted in a relatively small amount of Capitals breakaways... and most ended up right back in the neutral zone.
The Capitals' defense, on the other hand, had some lapses tonight that could have been costly. The worst was when Semyon Varlamov was left to fend for himself against an Atlanta breakaway that resulted in the game-tying goal. The player was not adequately defended, and that was why he scored. I will be glad when John Carlson returns from injury.
Semyon Varlamov was, in my opinion, very solid in net tonight. Thought I was amazed by the number of times the Thrashers missed the net or shot wide of the net on clear opportunities, Varly also had his share of good saves. The only shot that he let in was off a breakaway by the Thrashers that caught him off gaurd; the defense should have prevented that one. Other than that, Varly was air tight, and I'm sure Bruce Boudreau as well as the fans can sleep more easiy now that Varly, finally, appears to be back on top of his game.
Up front, I'm glad that Brooks Laich is finally back. He wore a full-face cage on his helmet, which looked like this; see photo. (Photo from ESPN) I actually kind of like the look. Everyone is definitely glad that Laich is back; he did not, however, score today.
The Capitals scored in the first and third periods of the game. The first goal was a nice long shot by Mike Green from a pass by Alex Ovechkin; the puck deflected off the stick of Nicklas Backstrom and into the net. The second Capitals goal, by Matt Bradley, allowed him to tie his career high in goals (9) as well as get the game winning goal.
My three stars of the game....
* - Matt Bradley, Washington
** - Semyon Varlamov, Washington
*** - Mike Green, Washington
- Don't look know, but quite a few Capitals are having career years;
- Ovechkin will have a high in assists and possibly points.
- Mike Green has tied his high for points.
- Brooks Laich has highs in assists, goals, and points.
- Same for Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann I think.
- Alexander Semin is 1 goal away from his career high.
- Nicklas Backstrom has gotten 30 goals for the first time in his career, as well as 90 points. His new contract will be a lot of cash for a long time, I'm thinking.
- Matt Bradley has matched his career high in goals, with 9.
- Also, expect every Caps player to set highs in plus/minus, as the team is one of the best in the NHL in overall plus/minus.
- Once again, I’m incredibly relieved that Varlamov seems to be back in his start-of-the-season form; perfect timing, right before the playoffs. Varly being back in business helps Boudreau and the fans have more confidence in the playoffs, as well as forcing Jose Theodore to perform well if he wants the starting goalie position.
- Henrik Sedin…. is still the NHL points leader. However, he now only has a three point lead over Ovechkin, compared to the four point lead he had before yesterday.
- Its also important to remember that this Capitals team was short-handed, missing many important players such as John Carlson and Brendan Morrison.
- Mathieu Perreault was hit right in the head by Atlanta defenseman Colby Armstrong (see video);
- The play was NOT penalized, even though Perreault could have been severely injured. I realize that this is technically not a “blindside” hit to the head, which is now illegal in the NHL; however, the guy pretty much punches Perreault in the face and hits him with his elbow…. while going pretty fast. The Caps and Thrashers had 2 minutes of 4-4 because of the almost-fight/rough hugging thing that Shaone Morrison and Colby Armstrong did to each other.
- Penalty kill was a good 100% yesterday; makes up for the 25% night against Ottawa.
Well then, until next time. The next Capitals game is Sunday vs the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus. Enjoy!
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