ReCap of last night's game, Capitals 2, Islanders 1
Going to have to start calling them the Cardiac Caps!
That was an exciting game to say the least. Did I or did I not say the Islanders were a dangerous team? Well, last night they proved it. I don't mind telling you for most of the night I was scared. Had it not been for Michal Neuvirth that game could have been 3-1 the other way or worse.
So 3:14 into the game, Nino Niederreiter (wasn't he a character in Empire Strikes Back?) a Swiss import made Swiss cheese out of the Caps' defense. More on that in a second. Just a short while before that we were treated to D.J. King's first regular season fight. It didn't look like much at the beginning as he and Trevor Gillies were getting their bearings but then they just went at it! While Gillies looked to be the winner, I think King did fairly well for himself and we can expect him to continue to add that layer of toughness they so desperately needed last year.
Niederreiter scores and I'm worried. Old man Doug Weight saucered a pass to him in the slot, and bang! I've heard good things about him, but I hadn't seen him play yet. Turns out everybody was right. He's pretty good with the puck and he was a threat to score nearly every time he had the puck in the offensive zone. We'll be hearing more from this kid, assuming he sticks. Oh yeah, guess who got a plus point on that goal--ex-cap Milan Jurcina. Who knew he had a point shot? Wished he could have used it more when he was in D.C.
So the rest of the period goes on then into the second and I'm still worried. Why? Well mainly because the Caps haven't scored yet. And why haven't the Caps scored yet? Because Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson is standing on his head. The man just turned 41 two days ago. Joe B and Locker put up some sort of graphic during the game about goalies who played into their 40s. Locker made some sort of comment about "getting better with age" which made Mrs. Blueliner groan loudly. I won't say why because I know she's reading this and I am likely to get killed as it is for saying this much. Time-honored advice guys--you NEVER talk about a woman's age...if you want to live, that is.
But I mean there was nothing going to get past Roli, he was that on his game. Fourteen shots he stopped in the second period alone. The last time I saw him play like this was when he helped the 2006 Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final. That's not to say he's a mediocre goalie, far from it, but that's how on fire he looked that night. He keeps this up and maybe just maybe the Isles have a chance at the eight-spot.
Well the fifteenth Caps shot comes from nobody else than Alex Ovechkin. And I swear to you if you look at the replay it is almost EXACTLY like his first goal he got against the Devils. Four guys around him and he lets go a stiff off-wing wrister...and it's in! This after a nice setup from Nicklas Backstrom. I'm out of my chair, but I have to keep it down as Mrs. B and the kids have already gone to bed (with a stern warning to me to keep the noise level down). It doesn't occur to me until later that the team got 15 shots in the second after the Bruce put Backstrom and OV back together again.
You can't blame the Bruce and staff for that experiment though. If you're a regular reader to the Power Play Point blog, you know I'm not exactly a big fan of Mr. Boudreau's coaching. But sometimes, even with good players, you need to shake things up when someone's in a funk. Life is no different. How many times have we all decided to shake up the routine, if just for a little bit, to break the monotony? Anyway, the point here is that Backis seemed to be slightly snakebit--after three games he hadn't registered so much as a point. Put him back in his usual setup and he's on the board.
Third period starts and, like Monday, it's tied. One good thing about the game so far was that the penalty kill still had a zero in front of it, as in zero conversions against. Unfortunately, the power play also had a zero...as in zero goals in three chances. You got the feeling something was going to give in this game before it was over. Sure enough it did.
The Islanders came out with intensity, storming the crease as often as they could, but Neuvirth stood tall when he had to. The defense seemed to be playing a "bend-but-don't-break" mentality. I don't know how, but they managed to stop them. The scariest part was the last penalty kill. Can't remember if the Islanders got a whole lot going in terms of scoring chances. I just wanted the streak to continue, silly though it sounds.
And then, something of a disaster as I saw Mike Green heading towards the locker room, not to return. Yuck, now what? They've already got Poti out, now Green? Crud, this is going to require a call-up or something. This is exactly what Pepper and Waxman have discussed on segments of Japers' Rink radio--what will happen should the defense corps get hit with injuries? Well we're about to find out soon. By the way, for those of you that haven't tuned in yet, I highly recommend it. It's good stuff.
I'm thinking we're headed into overtime again when Blake Comeau of the Islanders shoved somebody down pretty hard. Obvious roughing call. All right--another power play chance. This was probably going to be the last one in the game, so it was time to make the best of it. It didn't take long--Ovechkin quarterbacked it from the point and sent a blast on net. It bounced of Backstrom's skate....
FINALLY! A POWER PLAY GOAL!!!!!!!!!
The game wasn't over yet. Not by a longshot. The Islanders were still scrapping, throwing everything they could at the Caps. For some reason though they waited a bit too long to pull Roloson for the extra attacker. He didn't come out until less than a minute was left. Wouldn't you know we were all drooling for the empty-netter but it wasn't to be. It didn't matter as the clock ticked down and D.C. has another one in the "W" column.
So first the good news. First and foremost, Nicky's back on the scoresheet for 2010-11. Awesomeness. Say what you want about how he got the goal. What have I said before? Sometimes all it takes is being in the right place at the right time. And he got an assist on the first one to boot (no pun intended).
Even more good news...the Penalty Kill is still perfect. Now 15 for 15, the new "active" approach is definitely working. Of course nothing lasts forever, but if this is an indication of things to come, I think the playoffs are going to look a lot better. Of course when you talk penalty killing you can't leave out your best penalty killer--your goalie. Michal Neuvirth, like the Bruce said earlier in the year, just keeps getting better each game. He's got the right demeanor about him, you can tell by his body language that he's into the game, but he's not unnecessarily spent like Varlamov tended to be at times last year. Not necessarily saying he's better conditioned, just that he seems to be able to handle the heavy workload without as much wear and tear. To be sure, he'll need to be spelled off to stay fresh.
Not sure if anyone else on other blogs have mentioned him, but I will--Boyd Gordon showed a lot of grit last night. For those of you who doubted, I hope he showed you something as well be cause he definitely belongs.
All right deep breath time...heeeeeeere's the bad.
The beginning--Another game, another first goal given up. That's three out of four games it's happened. Yes it is still only the first week, but it's not a good trend. While they're getting the wins now, this team doesn't always play well from behind.
Power Play--Yes they scored and won the game but it took them many tries to get there. This is a power play that was a 1 for 4 guarantee last year. Good within the bad though--now that they've gotten the first one out of the way, the rest should be easy right? Right???
Injuries--As was mentioned, Marcus Johansson is day-to-day. So is Tom Poti and that's where the concerns lie, mostly. Now that Mike Green's status is at best questionable, that leaves two gaping holes in the defense corps. So now there's Alzner, Erskine, Sloan, Carlson, and Schultz. In other words a phone call to Hershey will need to be made if no one is feeling better before Saturday. Unless of course they want to pull a Lamoriello special and dress less than than 18 skaters. The Bears have a good lineup to be sure, but are any of their backliners ready for full time NHL duty? Obviously I'm not counting Sheldon Souray among them. Unfortunately my guess would be no, but it doesn't matter. Barring a trade (highly unlikely) or a waiver pickup (even less likely) we're left with either Sean Collins, Brian Fahey, or even Lawrence Nycholat. No pressure, boys.
So ends our first week of 2010-11. Barring an interruption for just about any reason imaginable, I should have a first-week evaluation of the whole team in time for Saturday's game against the Predators. Three wins after a turkey of an opener and I'm feeling good, but it's only week one and there's still some kinks to be worked out. Since it's the weekend I'll hopefully have a preview of the game as well. This coming week should be interesting--there's a home-and-home series against Boston Tuesday and Thursday.
I'd like to wind up this entry with a special thank you to my daughter, who, in her own way, is helping to keep things going here at the Power Play Point. You're truly one of the joys of my life. I love you!