This team just keeps on showing me new things every game. I guess you can teach a (not so) old dog new tricks. Just hope there are many more like this.
And by like this I mean a complete and total solid effort at both ends of the ice from beginning to end, top to bottom. Nick Backstrom's two goals and Michal Neuvirth's 29-save masterpiece certainly led the way. Got to give props to the whole team, however, and I want to point out some great individual efforts within that:
Matt Hendricks--opened the scoring and got what turned out to be the game winner. Equally as important is how he got it--by working hard and positioning himself just right. This is why he belongs on the team.
Mike Green--was quite literally all over the ice. The idiot statisticians in Carolina forgot to credit him with at least a couple of hits that I saw him pick up. No matter. Finished at +1 and was probably the best defenseman on the ice, the only blemish on his game being a questionable penalty at the end. Oh and that wipeout and subsequent penalty after that, but still....
John Erskine--played not only his usual tough game but also played smartly as well. Kept his game simple and effective. 1 A and +1. Here's hoping he can put together more games like this.
David Steckel--won his usual compliment of faceoffs and his gritty play in front of the net helped set up the game winner. Finally looks like he's ready to play.
Mike Knuble--Cam Ward got to know his face...and his other body parts because he spent as much time as he could camped out in front of his net. As a result, he collected 2 A and looks to be back on his game again.
Jeff Schultz--Sergeant Steady continues to quietly keep things clean in his end, racking up another +2 in his bank account and even getting a couple shots on net. Is proving to be the perfect compliment to Mike Green's offensive style.
I can't think of any Cap that had a really bad game. If I was disappointed in anything I had figured that this game would have a lot more hitting in it. Not that it was completely missing, but games against Carolina are always intense. This one...not so much. It wouldn't have mattered, though. Come to think of it, Ovechkin did have that boarding penalty--not exactly one of his finer moments. Funny how Carolina could have used that as a rallying point but did not.
So what do we take away from this game? Something very important. THIS is how you win the type of game that is often played in the playoffs--close, tight games with a fair amount of scoring chances at both ends. Chances are if you can consistently play and win this type of game, you can go far in the playoffs. Both Chicago and Philadelphia proved that last year. The Caps didn't overwhelm anybody with their talent and their offensive game--and they didn't have to. Most importantly, Neuvirth was there every single time he needed to be. I still like this guy's demeanor--I have no idea why part of the knock on him is that he doesn't look like he's mentally into the game. Neuvy is focused and motivated, and he doesn't need to hit you over the head with that.
Hard work leading to gritty goals, solid defense, good puck movement, and flawless goaltending. I was never too nervous about the game looking at this team, they just looked so in control. Oh yeah, the penalty kill was perfect again. Solid game from beginning to end.
Sounds like a winner to me. Keep it up, gents!