Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Way Cool Game Ends - Final Score Caps 3 - Bruins 1

Well the "Beast of the East", the Conference leading Boston Bruins came to the Verizon Center tonight to play the Washington Capitals. At the end of regulation play, after a fast paced game, the Capitals had captured a two point victory. Two of the Caps previously injured players returned to the line up tonight: Alexander Semin and Tom Poti. Both played solid games tonight and figured in the outcome. The lineup was once again jumbled. Five "call ups": Alexandre Giroux, Oscar Osala, Karl Alzner, Tyler Sloan and Sean Collins, all played tonight and played well tonight. All things considered if you have to be dealing with injuries and making call ups to your AHL affiliate, it's better to be calling up the AHL's leading and number three goal scorers, Giroux and Osala respectively, than many other alternatives. However, the two biggest stories of the night were probably: the super play of Caps goalie Brent Johnson; and "the game within the game" battle/match-up between Alexander Ovechkin and Zdeno Chara. Brent Johnson stopped 33 of 34 shots, a save percentage of 0.970, including at least three "totally awesome" saves that robbed the Bruins and kept the Caps in the game during the first two periods.

The Capitals came out and started the game "ready to play." However just 41 seconds into the game Caps defenseman Shoane Morrisonn ended up in the penalty box with a high sticking penalty. That situation turned into a 4 on 4 and then a power play for the Capitals, when Stephane Yelle took an interference penalty at the 2:17 mark. The Caps went onto the power play at 2:41 and at 3:53 Nicklas Backstrom scored his ninth goal of the season, assisted by Alexander Ovechkin and Vicktor Kozlov. The period ended with the Caps up 1-0 despite being out shot 14-6. The difference at that point a power play goal, solid team play getting the puck into the Bruins' zone deep, and a nice save or two by Johnnie.

When the second period got underway, the Caps initially picked up where they left off, playing tight, crisp, committed hockey. At the 4:52 mark, Alexandre Giroux crashed the net during a scoring chance that was instigated by Vicktor Kozlov. Giroux was on the doorstep and "banged the biscuit into the basket" putting the Caps up 2-0. However late in the period the Caps got a little sloppy and Chara sprung Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic on a 2-1 breakaway that Kessel played superbly. Kessel made a move and then a great, crisp cross ice pass to Lucic, when the puck hit Lucic's stick he was looking at about half the net open, and he made a "wicked fast" writ shot that found the top shelf behind Johnnie. Once again the period ended with Caps holding a 1 goal lead.

The Capitals appeared to come out of the locker room for the third period determined to play the final period like they played the first period. All four lines and three defense pairs played the third period with drive and passion keeping the Bruins off their game. The Giroux-Nylander-Kozlov line kept the pressure up and at 1:22 Giroux was sprung on a 1-0 breakaway. He was hooked from behind and awarded a penalty shot. Unfortunately, he failed to score shooting the puck just wide of the net after seeming to have beaten Manny Fernandez. The Caps played intensely for the remainder of the period but couldn't get the puck past Fernandz and the score stayed 2-1 Caps. Then at 19:08, with Fernendez on the bench in favor of an extra Bruins skater, Alexander Semin played solid two way hockey, dug the puck off the boards in the Caps own end and started a breakout with Alex Ovechkin. Semin then fed Ovechkin who notched his 15th goal of the season when he put the puck into the Bruins' empty net. Despite the Bruins calling a timeout and attempting to regroup, the Capitals kept the momentum and the game ended in regulation caps 3 - Bruins 1.
Notable stats from tonight's game: shots on goal - Bruins 34, Caps 26; hits - Bruins 31, Caps 29; faceoff win % - Caps 61, Bruins 39; takeaways - Caps 14, Bruins 10; Giveaways - Bruins 12, Caps 18; blocked shots - Caps 18, Bruins 13. Notable plays of the night: 1) Milan Jurcina's stuff of Phil Kessel on the Caps doorstep at about the 15:00 mark of the third period. 2) Kozlov's great setup that led to Giroux's goal. 3) Several of the plays by the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin line, especially in the first period. 4) The save Johnson made stuffing the Bruins and giving us all a scare that he had gotten hurt again. Notable Caps performances of the night: 1) Brent Johnson definitely deserved the #1 star of the night that he received. 2) Alexandre Giroux definitely deserved the #2 star of the night he got for his game winning goal as well as his +1, 3 shots, 3 hits, in his 13 shift, 10:14 TOI appearance. 3) Alex Ovechkin had 2 points - a goal and an assist, spent 19:44 on the ice, led the Caps with 5 shots and 4 hits in 21 shifts and could easily have been the third star of the evening. 4) Tom Poti - led the Caps in ice time with 29 shifts and 22:01 TOI, Poti also had an assist, 2 hits and 2 takeaways in his first game back in the line-up. 5)Alexander Semin had a solid first night back notching an assist, a hit and two take aways. 6) Karl Alzner was +2 in 20:44 TOI/27 shifts; Alzner 2 hits, a takeaway and blocked 3 shots. 7) Vicktor Kozlov had a 2 point night, took 4 shots and had 2 takeaways. 8) Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon both won 11 faceoffs each. Overall it was a very good night for the Capitals with the exception of the giveaways which continue to plague the Caps. Of course you'd have to expect that to win against the Bruins, the way they are playing now, any team would need to play sold hockey all night long.
As far as the "guess the lines" and pairing contest - the actual Caps lineup for this game were as follows:
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Semin (YES!!!)
Giroux - Nylander - Kozlov
Osala - Steckel - Laich
Brashear - Gordon - Bradley

Poti(YES!!!!) - Sloan
Jurcina - Alzner
Collins - Morrisonn.
So even though my predictions weren't that close, they weren't that far off - except for my wishful thinking to get Mike Green back into the lineup. Solid play by all the Caps tonight enabled a more even distribution of the minutes played across the entire roster and that's probably good for the injury situation the Caps are now dealing with.
Next up, the Ottawa Senators at "the phone booth" on Friday.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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