|Brooks Laich got the show really rolling with this goal.|
The games they win are tight ones. Sure, it puts my heart in my throat for 150 minutes, but it is most definitely better for the Capitals in the long haul. Let's face it, the Capitals coasted for their last 15 games of last season. They were not used to playing in tight games, because they were in like ten all season. Not anymore. Even the games they lose are by one goal (unless they play the Rangers). And when they win, they do it with their shutdown defense and goaltending. They are learning how to win the tight games that really matter, and they proved it again against Tampa.
Alex Ovechkin is slowly buy very surely awakening from his season-long slumber. Ovie is all over the place every game, and his energy is getting back to his absurdly boundless levels again. He has power in his stride, he is working to the inside more, and he is using his most valuable asset whenever he can: his cannon of a shot. He has seven points during the win streak, and you can just tell that he is about to break out in a massive way. I highly doubt you need me to tell you this, but I will anyway: that's going to be huge.
The trade deadline acquisitions are fitting in seamlessly. Okay, so Dennis Wideman is the occasional adventure in the defensive zone. Alright, Jason Arnott struggles in the faceoff circle. And maybe Marco Sturm has difficulty finishing. I don't care. All three of these guys have contributed very well to the Capitals, who haven't lost since they joined the team. Wideman logs a ton of reliable minutes on the back end as he does his best Mike Green impression. Arnott is a big, physical center who can clog up the middle of the ice on defense and bust out some offense when he needs to. And Sturm is a speedy player who provides the Capitals shorthanded depth and a third line winger to mentor Marcus Johansson on his line. All this for David Steckel, a fringe prospect, and two draft picks? Me likey.
This team never, ever, ever quits. Now, at least. In December, if the Capitals are losing that game against the Islanders at Verizon Center? They lose. They lose tonight, too. They roll over, blame it on the other team's hot goalie. They don't get better in the third period and make it their best, they begin to fade as they get more and more frustrated. That team is gone. The Capitals dominated the third period. They were pressuring Tampa into the ground the entire frame, and they got rewarded with a beutiful goal from Alexander Semin. Whaddaya know?
All of these things said, however, the Division is by no means even close to being a wrap. In fact, the Bolts can tie the Capitals in points with a win in their next game. The Capitals have to keep the foot on the gas, as they host Edmonton, Carolina, and Chicago this week, and none of these are going to be easy games. There is plenty more work to be done. But we have a reason for true optimism. We haven't had that in a long time. Huzzah!