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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Recap 12/20 vs Nashville Predators

A win.  Now there's a novel concept.

Okay, I'll dispense with my usual sarcasm because that was actually a damn good game the nation's Capitals played last night.  So I'm happy.  Or should I be?  Forget it, I'll just enjoy this one and wait to see what happens Friday against the Devils.  But before that....

Here's something for the "I-can't-believe-it's-finally-happened" category: Roman Hamrlik got an assist.  For those of you who are rubbing you eyes and not believing it, let me say it again.  Roman Hamrlik got an assist last night.  Only took him what 28 games to do it?  Better late than never I suppose.

How about that goal by the Captain?  Slowly but surely he's getting back into form; in the closest thing I can scrape together as a scoring streak he's got goals in three out of the last six games.  Kind of a convoluted version of a scoring streak, but right now I'll take it.  Even better, as opposed to they type of goals he was scoring earlier in the year, he used his speed and skill to undress rookie defenseman Jonathon Blum at the blueline, race into the zone and slip it past Anders Lindback.  Classic. More of that, and quick!  And let the haters be damned....

Even more good news is the fact that Alexander Semin scored.  This will make back-to-back games for Sasha.  Like I said, grasping at streaks here, but I'll take it.  The goal capped off a schizophrenic night for Semin as he had earlier been called for an inexplicable boarding penalty against Jordin Tootoo.  I don't know about you, but Tootoo is the LAST guy I would want to mess with. Kinda like trying to punch a fire hydrant.  As has been said, Sasha taketh, and Sasha giveth back.

Loved the setup on that goal by Marcus Johansson.  A pretty crisscross pass to Semin who unleashed that patented, smooth-as-silk wrister that tucked in just over Lindback's glove and under the crossbar.  Funny thing was, wasn't Alex Ovechkin supposed to be on Johansson's opposite wing?  Not that I'm complaining but that was Coach Hunter's plan so I understood it. In any case, MJ90 may not have scored himself but he had a pretty good game collecting two assists.

The star of the game was, as he has been all season, was Nicklas Backstrom.  A workman like goal he got by crashing the net and following through on a wraparound.  He also started the breakout that led to Semin's goal.  In fact, about the only thing his line would do wrong would be not clearing the zone in the fifth minute of the the third, which led to the lone Nashville goal.  The loss of Mike Green may be hampering, but were it not for Backstrom's consistent play, it's safe to say the season would pretty much be in the toilet.

Have to mention Michal Neuvirth of course, Neuvy just keeps chugging along, making the timely saves, even looking spectacular at times.  He stopped 20 out of 21 and never seemed to be out of sync, even when his team had those long sustained drives in the other end.  Hot hand indeed. This spells bad news for Tomas Vokoun naturally (and my fantasy hopes too!) but at this point it's no contest who the Caps would rather play in front of.

Even the special teams chimed in, with the Penalty Kill unit continuing their awesome work.  They completely stifled what has been the NHL's best power play over the past month.  The Caps have now gone five full games without giving up a power play goal.  Yes that includes that horrible game against the Flyers.  Meanwhile, the power play added a marker from Troy Brouwer to improve to 17.2% efficiency.  This puts them in the extreme center of the league.  Of course, assuming they survive to play for the Cup, this can always change.

On a personal note--THANK YOU FOR THE PIZZA, TROY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My coworkers enjoyed it.

The Caps have certainly had dominating performances before in the season so far. So while personally I'm still skeptical about their having finally turned the corner, I'm willing to hold out more than a little hope. Consider that, with the exception of the Flyers game, the Caps have given up no more than two goals in each contest.  The defense has adapted and the offense seems to be catching up.  But we all know the Caps need to play better than .500 hockey if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

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