Let's just get it out in the open--this year's Florida Panthers are clearly not last year's Florida Panthers. Any evidence to the contrary should have been thrown away after last night.
I'm feeling frustrated yet hopeful. The game quickly turned into a disaster after about a period and a half, something I've seen more than once in watching gazillions of Caps games. Sad but true. So I flipped away from it for a while because it was just too awful to watch. Turns out it was Holiday Special night. Nice of Channel 7 to cut out a piece of the classic Charlie Brown Christmas. Blah.
So being the masochist that I am, I flipped back to the game. Did the Caps play like they were defeated? Surprisingly no. Even more surprising was the furious comeback they launched from the last minute of the second period to the end of the game
Too bad it wasn't enough. Or that it didn't happen earlier. You have to wonder why hasn't this team learned to put together a 60-minute effort in most of its games.
It all started with a Cody Eakin goal that was classic. Matthieu Perreault used his speed to set things up in Gretzky's office while Mike Knuble set the screen. Perreault eventually zipped a pass to Cody Eakin who was waiting in the high slot. Eakin's shot made it through the maze of Mike Knuble and his defender and into the net.
We should all be a bit perturbed that the first line was actually the worst line. All three finished with minus 2 each, though Alexander Ovechkin managed four shots and four hits. Anytime you guys want to chime in would be nice.
John Erskine collected a whopping 17 penalty minutes in his fight with Bracken Kearns and therefore got to watch a good chunk of the game from the locker room. Keep it up John and you'll pass Alexander Semin in no time.
The goaltending....ehh. Not sure what the mentality was with starting Neuvirth other than he happened to have the hot hand. If you can call a win against Ottawa hot. But he looked way below average last night. The Mike Santorelli goal in particular was suspect. I'm not sure if there's an injury or what's going on but this is far less than acceptable even from a backup. It's also far below how Neuvy played last year, begging the question...what happened?
For all the things we've heard about the new emphasis on man-marking, how was it that Tomas Fleischmann was allowed to walk through all five Capitals skaters in the offensive zone then dished off to Steven Weiss for what would inevitably turn out to be the game winner? I guess I should be thankful though. Both Steven Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov had a great game which vaulted my fantasy team from fourth in my league to a second place tie.
Speaking of great performances how about John Carlson? Eight shots, three assists, a plus three and he even took a faceoff (he lost). Can't ask for much more than that. Except to have that in every game if possible.
The good thing to take away from all this is that indeed the Caps are very capable of a comeback. So what we thought was a dormant and anemic offense is obviously very much alive. And this without a lick of a contribution from the top line. Good news for when everything finally comes together--which it will.
In closing, I just want to say I truly appreciate the sense of history and tradition that Dale Hunter brings now that he's calling the shots from behind the bench. But this whole thing of bringing up who he's fought with in the past that he's either coaching with or against now is getting old. I mean, it was funny maybe the first few times it was mentioned. Not only is it no longer funny, it's just plain irrelevant.
Looking for win number three against the Sens tomorrow night. Maybe the third times a charm. Just hope it's better than watching what happened in Sunrise.