Obvious point of the day....This article's theme: Vehicles
In what was supposed to be a juggernaut of a season, it's become apparent that the Washington Capitals are going to treat their fans to the oddest roller coaster ride ever. And that's saying something coming from a 34- year fan. Win one game, lose two...Win two games, lose three, then win another game. Their master plan is either to confuse the hell out of everybody or maybe it's that they have no plan whatsoever.
Last night, thank goodness, they came away with a win. But no one would be sure until the last few seconds ticked off, which is seemingly the way the Caps like it. That they can still win the close ones or at least keep games close after the sickening performance against the Flyers earlier this week is encouraging.
Dale Hunter is a master at keeping things simple. Mark your man, win your battles, do all the little things right. Keep your end clean, zip it out of your zone and the scoring chances will come. Can't make it much simpler than that. Last night's game was probably the most perfect example of that. Except that the Caps weren't getting it done--at either end, at least not in the first half of the game. Somehow they still managed to get the result. As usual I will explain as only as I can.
If you saw just the first period, you were probably wondering when the Caps would ever get out of their zone. The Jets doubled up the Caps in shots and looked dangerous on just about every scoring chance. There was only one thing that kept the Caps from yet another rout--Michal Neuvirth's goaltending. More on this later.
Neuvy did have some help. Help from a Wideman. Dennis lived up to his last name and spread himself wide in order to stop a shot that was going to be a sure goal. He should have finished a plus one even without being on the ice for the game winner. The Jets' Mark Stuart would return the favor with an equally spectacular block in the third period on Marcus Johansson.
I hate to harp on the refs too much, but is it possible they were intimidated by the crowd? Three straight power plays for the Jets...one of them called by a Linesman? Sounds a bit suspect to me.
Beautiful goal by the Captain. And it all started with a fantastic takeaway in the neutral zone by Nick Backstrom. Add in some dazzling skating and stickhandling by Marcus Johansson and you have a game winner. The kid's got wheels better than a Ferrari that's for sure. All finished off by a well placed shot that slipped in the old five-hole. Not to be a downer, but it ain't exactly a good thing when it takes Ovie 30 games to reach double digits. Just saying. Is he out of the slump? Who the hell knows, but scoring a goal with 74 seconds left in a game is a good sign.
The most satisfying moment? That raucous crowd being silenced at the end of the game. OK, I get that they simply boo everything the opposing team does to try and get under their skin. But I still say it makes them look foolish. A lot like a virgin who's finally gotten the hottest girl and has no clue what to do with them. Besides, did it do any good? Obviously not--look who got the goal. We get it--you're happy to have your team back. Now shut up about it.
Michal Neuvirth was the star of the game, stopping all 26 shots. I think it's too early to say he's played himself back into being at least a 1A and not the backup, but a shutout is a damn fine start. Especially with the kind of saves he was making--the kind that defy logic. All of those "how-did-he-get-over-there-so-fast" saves in the first period set the tone for the game. It goes without saying--no confidence in the man in net spells disaster. That other Czech goalie hasn't exactly inspired confidence lately that's for sure. But Neuvy's got the juice to carry the load, and much like a reliable pickup truck he won't look flashy doing it but he'll get the job done right.
So we can still win the close ones. And both teams that gave us the horrible beatdowns (Toronto and Winnipeg) we got them back. But we're far from figuring out where this team is headed. The All Star break is a month and a half away. That would be a good opportunity to do a bit of house cleaning as all the passengers should be sorted out by then. Until then, the ride just keeps going.