Capitals Hangover: Winners in the ‘Peg

NHL: Washington Capitals at Winnipeg Jets
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Pulse check! Everybody still with us? Those crazy Cardiac Caps were at it again last night, providing us entirely too much excitement past our bedtimes. It’s easy to wake up a little cranky after a game like this, what with the frustration of losing three one-goal leads and yet another almost-hapless defensive effort unfolding a time zone away, but that’s the thing about the Capitals Hangover. Call it Jet lag, even. No matter how well-prepared we think we are, there’s always a new type of glorious pain in store for us. Last night, that pain came as a result of a failure to maintain momentum and break out. And yet, here we are, on the heels of a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory, in which we were treated to some marvelous goaltending and prolific goal scoring. Hold on to your butts, kids. This one’s gonna be a doozy. Lock and load, Caps Hillions.
  • In 2008, Bruce Boudreau, big-time hockey coach, warned Capitals fans everywhere what to expect of the team under his command. Those parameters read something like this: high-scoring, little to no defense. Though Gabby’s days in D.C. are long gone, it would seem as though the Ghosts of Capitals Past hopped aboard the team bus for at least the first tilt of this five-game road swing, because that’s what we saw last night. Let’s go deeper.
  • In a game during which a total of eight regulation goals were scored, the first period numbers read like this: . Last night’s first frame saw a whole bunch of nothing offensively, with Winnipeg dominating most of the flow, edging the Caps in shots on goal, 11-9. That’s not to say that the initial twenty minutes were a complete dud, though. With ten-bell saves from Holtby and Pavelec, including a backdoor full-split robbery of Nicklas Backstrom, we were all but set up for a goalie’s duel.
  • And then Grabovski happened, opening the scoring at 3:11 of the second frame. It was an ugly goal, but one of the most beautiful ugly goals you’ll see. After a defensive jugglefest in front of Pavelec, Grabo cashed in his fourth of the season, proving that good things happen when you go to the net. He was also the Caps’ horse in the faceoff dot, performing at a for-all-intents-and-purposes adequate 54%.
  • John Erskine made a slick defensive play on one of the games many two-on-ones. Don’t jinx it by talking about it.
  • Marcus Johansson is shooting the puck. He rattled off a (relatively) staggering three shots towards Pavelec, with a couple more clanging iron. We’re talking considerable scoring opportunities from a guy who’s been, up until now, stuck in the sidekick zone. One could only hope that it’s a matter of time before something goes in, but as long as he keeps up the point production (2 A last night), the Mojo stays a-workin’.
  • Nicklas Backstrom is some kind of Swedish sorcerer with hands of silk and locks of gold. His assist on Troy Brouwer’s go-ahead Pouwer Play goal at 4:56 of the third period was a thing of absolute beauty, perhaps the most toe-draggin’est, head-turnin’est, helper since, well, Steve Oleksy’s from the other night, but nobody remembers that.
  • Part of me wishes for the Caps to lay an egg more often, if only it meant that we’d be treated to an immediate adrenaline shot courtesy of Dr. Alexander Ovechkin. Following Grant Clitsome’s go-ahead howitzer at 8:31 of the second period, the captain turned on the Ovi Show. After battling for the puck at center ice, Ovechkin motored out a breakaway towards Pavelec. An ambivalence overtook Caps fans everywhere, as it had been so long since the Ocho had gone in alone in regulation. He caught Pavelec leaning. Tie game. A mere two minute and twelve seconds later, Ovi did that other thing he does, firing a shot home off the faceoff. You didn’t think it was over, now, did you?
  • Of course it wasn’t. And as long as goal scoring is a part of hockey, so shall be defense. Last night, there wasn’t much of it to write home about that wasn’t on the shoulders of Braden Holtby. Send the kids to the other room, because I’m about to say some bad words. Words like “takeaway” and “shorthanded” and “poop”. Now, we as human must at some point or another come to terms with the fact that other humans aren’t perfect. We shouldn’t expect a career night every time the guys suit up. What we should expect from our professionals, however, is that they leave us with some sort of confidence in their ability to not stand flatfooted as the opposition enters the zone at will. Winnipeg dominated the takeaway column 9-1, proving that they not only skated harder, but worked harder. Lots of pucks at feet were not claimed by the good guys, with the D.C. defensive corps taking the brunt of the blame. Giving up shorthanded goals is bad. Plain and simple. Consistently struggling to defend the blue line on the power play is unforgivable. Luckily, the former only happened once. The latter, however, could have killed the Caps last night. Poop.
  • Judging by his performance last night, it’s only a matter of time before Mike Green announces an injury or a child.
  • It’s tough to ask for much more from Braden Holtby than the numbers he put up last night. Each of his 43 saves were necessary, as the Caps struggled to clean it up in front of him.
  • Skillz! As last night’s six-rounder progressed deeper into the twilight zone, we were treated to a bevy of spectacular saves and timely goals. Just not at the same time. Were one to look at the results of each attempt, it would appear as though a couple of brick walls were removed halfway through. Backstrom, Brouwer, and Laich all netted some sweet, sweet action before Marty Erat patiently pushed one five-hole on Pavelec and put a cap on a wild evening.
  • Tom Wilson interfered on Blake Wheeler in the second period, a seemingly unnecessary penalty that proved that the kid might just be as imperfect as his age would suggest. Go West, young man.
  • With four games remaining in the road swing, the boys look to rack up their second consecutive victory against Edmonton, their third straight overall. Edmonton can’t seem to put up defense, but neither can the Caps. Expect another barnburner as Washington continues its westward push. And you thought you were tired this morning.

GIF of the Night

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‘Til next time, take two pills before bed and hydrate thoroughly.