Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Back to the Dance

Sasha deked us into the playoffs Tuesday.  Word.
The Washington Capitals pulled a rabbit out of the hat tonight, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout inside Wells Fargo Center by a final score of 5-4.  Missing Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott, and Mike Green, Washington took advantage of some horrid early goaltending by Sergei Bobrovsky to take a 3-0 lead, but after Bobrovsky was pulled in favor of Brian Boucher, watched the lead evaporate and then saw themselves fall behind with five minutes left.  Marcus Johansson was able to equalize for the Caps about 100 seconds later, however, and Alexander Semin scored the winning goal in the shootout to secure Washington's fourth consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  With the win and Tampa's loss tonight, the Capitals pulled seven points clear of the Bolts at the top of the Southeast Division, though the Lightning do hold a game in hand. Since the Bruins won tonight was well, DC's lead over them for second in the Eastern Conference remained at five points; Boston holds two games in hand.

The Flyers got a great chance early when an over commitment by Karl Alzner caused an odd man rush, but Michal Neuvirth was able to get across in time to keep Scott Hartnell's shot out.  Philadelphia continued to press the Washington defense as the early stages of the game passed, getting some good open looks, but were fought off by some timely shot blocks and two nice saves from Neuvirth again.  Inside 13 minutes remaining, however, the Capitals got a break when Nicklas Backstrom collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in on Sergei Bobrovsky, putting a shot through his seven-hole for a 1-0 lead at 7:52. Things got better for the Caps soon after when Scott Hartnell was sent off for high-sticking at 8:26.  After an awful start to the man advantage, Alexander Semin was then sent off for a four-minute high-sticking infraction, evening out play at 9:40.  After some uneventful four-on-for action, the Flyers got an extended power play, generating amazing chances in close, and Michal Neuvirth was spectacular to deny them their equalizer early in their man advantage.  With some more excellent penalty killing, the Caps were able to eliminate the rest of the power play, and got a nice rush up ice of their own, but that was snuffed out by Bobrovsky.  About three minutes later, however, the Capitals extended their lead to 2 when Mike Knuble cashed a goal in front off a great pass from Marcus Johansson down low following a great forecheck; the goal came at 17:46.  The Caps were then awarded another power play at 19:24 when Daniel Carcillo was boxed for cross-checking, but Washington was unable to convert in 36 seconds, and the period ended with DC up 2-0.
On the power play to start the second period, the Caps were able to extend their lead to 3-0 at 1:22 when Dennis Wideman blasted a slapshot past Bobrovsky from the point; the goal earned Bobrovsky an early shower, as he gave way to Brian Boucher.  After the goalie change, the Flyers began to come at the Caps harder, and they earned themselves another power play when Jay Beagle was given the gate for holding at 3:54.  Philadelphia got off to a poor start on their power play and never recovered, as Washington killed off the penalty with ease. The Flyers would break back at 8:05, however, when Kris Versteeg banked a crossing pass into the back of the Washington net off of Dennis Wideman's skate to draw within two.  Philadelphia then really got going, pinning the Caps in their own zone for extended periods, owning the puck, but Michal Neuvirth was somehow able to withstand the onslaught.  The Capitals were then able to get a couple chances in front, but Boucher was able to keep the deficit at two on his first real test of the night.  But the Flyers would not stay quiet, hitting a goalpost on an odd-man rush soon after and establishing more dominating forecheck pressure.  Philadelphia was rewarded with only 33.8 seconds left when Claude Giroux buried a one-timer from the circle off a beautiful pass from Andreas Nodl to draw within one, certainly not how the Caps wanted to end the third period. The remaining half minute expired without incident, setting up a very interesting final period.
The third period got off to a relatively slow start compared to the first two, but the Flyers again were able to get a great chance in close on Neuvirth after about three minutes, but the Czech rookie was able to hold off Daniel Carcillo on the doorstep.  Philadelphia continued to up the pressure as the period continued, controlling the puck in the Caps' zone and getting excellent shots in front, but somehow the Capitals were able to hold them off with a combination a goal post, some heroic shot-blocking, and a couple of nice saves from Michal Neuvirth. Inside 11 minutes remaining in the frame, Philadelphia again cranked up their pressure, and were rewarded when Claude Giroux forced a horrid turnover by Jeff Schultz, and Andreas Nodl finished to equalize at 9:58.  Now totally on their heels, the Capitals continued to let the Flyers carry play to them, and again were very lucky to not give up a fourth goal to give Philadelphia the lead.  But the Flyers finally broke through for their lead goal at 14:15 when Daniel Briere tipped a slapshot past Neuvirth on the doorstep, completing the Washington meltdown. After another dominating shift by the Flyers, however, the Capitals got their equalizer when Marcus Johansson  one-timed a pass from Mike Knuble through Boucher at 16:41.  As the period wound down, the Flyers set up another dominating shift, but Michal Neuvirth was able to keep their attack at bay and earn them a point, as the game headed to overtime tied up at 4.
The Flyers got the first chance in the extra frame, but were denied by a brilliant Neuvirth leg save.  Washington came back with a few chances off the sticks of Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Smein, but could not break through.  The teams alternated chances for the next two minutes of overtime, but could not score, and the game headed to a shootout.
In the shootout, Daniel Briere opened the scoring in the first round, but Matt Hendricks equalized with a beautiful move.  After Claude Giroux missed on his attempt, Nicklas Backstrom put the visitors ahead 2-1, meaning a stop on Danny Briere would mean a Caps win.  Briere was able to score, however, giving the chance for Alexander Semin to walk off with a win.  Sasha did just that, roofing the puck backhand, and the Capitals clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth.


OK, let's not kid ourselves here.  While I am very impressed with the resolve that the Capitals showed tonight without three of their best players, the Flyers absolutely dominated this game from the drop of the puck.  It only LOOKED like the Caps were dominating early because Sergei Bobrovsky was doing his best impersonation of a slice of Swiss cheese in the goal.  Don't get me wrong, this is still a huge win, one that I am very happy with, but it's not like we walked in and stomped on the best team in the East - and make no mistake, the Flyers are the best team in the East.  Fine, Enough negativity.  I wear myself out sometimes.

Michal Neuvirth deserved better.  While not his best night by any stretch, the rookie did play well and gave his team a chance to win.  The only goal he really had a chance of stopping was the first one, and even that one went off a Capital skate: the second he couldn't see the pass, the third was a blatant turnover that lead to a wide open shot in front of his cage, and the fourth was a perfect deflection off a perfect pass.  His defense did not do him any favors tonight, and he was certainly a big factor in the game.  I think we'll see Varlamov on Friday, though.

Mike Knuble had another great game, his second three point outing in a row, and how has scored 20 or more goals in eight consecutive seasons.  The elder statesman of the Washington forward corps had a goal and two assists and again looked rejuvenated by the presence of Marcus Johansson on his line.  He was wreaking havoc in front of the Flyers net all night, using his body well, and again looked to have some speed that just wasn't there earlier this year.  Well done, 22. Keep it up, eh?

The Capitals will return to Washington tonight, where they will practice tomorrow and Thursday before leaving for Ottawa on Thursday afternoon.  Their next game will come north of the border on Friday night in Ottawa against the Senators; that game is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with this recap. Happy that Sasha was able to pull it out, but hope he doesn't wait so long next time.