Saturday night the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins and gained two points on the league and conference leading boys from Beantown. It was a tightly played game in front of a raucous, sellout crowd that had all the elements of playoff hockey that are humanly possible for a game in January. The key matchups were as expected and despite Boston's very large and skillful defenseman Zdeno Chara keeping the Great Eight - Alexander Ovechkin contained for much of the game, the Capitals won. They won simply because the Caps won all the other key matchups, not by a tremendous amount, but they did win them decidedly. The end result is it was a two point night and the Capitals won their second game in a row.
In goal Jose Theodore played a very solid game as did Tim Thomas of Boston. Theodore stopped 23 of 24 shots and had a save percentage of 0.958 including several key stops that kept the Capitals tied or ahead. Thomas stopped 28 of 30 shots for a save percentage of 0.933 including a couple ones where he robbed the Capitals. Thomas and the Bruins did get on gift when Ovechkin fanned on a wide open right side of the net - something Caps fans aren't likely to see occur again too often over the next 12 years. However, neight he nor probably anybody else saw the slapshot that resulted in the game winning goal by Alexander Semin in the third period. The other two goals were scored on the powerplay the first by Boston's Marc Savard at the 1:49 mark of the second period to give Boston their first and only lead of the game.
Fortunately for the Capitals the Bruins lead lasted only 1:10. At the 2:42 mark of the second period Matt Lashoff was whistled off for his second minor penalty of the game. The Caps went on the powerplay and just 17 seconds later Michael Nylander found a wide open Mike Green who was pinching in as he often does. Green put the puck past Thomas into the top shelf left side of the net to tie the game back up for his 12th tally of the season. In the end Jose Theodore kept pace with the sizzling hot Tim Thomas and the "Young Guns" didn't get frustrated by the well executed 4-1 trap the Bruins often employed throughout the night. Every game with a team in front of you in the standings mattered and it was important the Capitals used the home ice advantage and the current situation with Boston's injury depleted roster. The associated Press' three stars of the game were: 1st: Alexander Semin; 2nd: John Erskine; 3rd: Tim Thomas. The Bruins will be the Caps first game after the All-Star break when the two teams meet again on Tuesday the 27th in Boston.
The Capitals next have back to back road games between now and the All-Star break. The games are against two teams that are struggling and desperate for wins: the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators. They face the Islanders today at Nassau Coliseum at 2PM in a matinee game. The Islanders have struggled with injuries to key players, particularly star goaltender Rick DiPietro all season and are at the bottom of the league standings with an overall record of 12-29-4 for 28 points. The Isles home record is at 7-12-2 and they are 1-8-1 in their last ten games. By all measures the Caps should win this game without too much trouble. The Capitals lead this season's series 2-0-0, having won the first meeting between the two teams 5-2 at Verizon Center on 12/4 and then outlasted a comeback attempt by the Islanders and win 5-4 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on 12/16.
As always though there are some variables that make this game interesting and could get in the Caps way. Per Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals Captain Chris Clark and Boyd Gordon will return to the lineup this afternoon. Backup goaltender Brent Johnson is a scratch with an injury he sustained in practice last week so the Capitals have recalled Darren Machesney from Hershey. No word on whether "Cheeser" or Jose Theodore will start for the Caps this afternoon yet, nor why it was Machesney vice Simeon Varlamov who went 2-0-0 in the two starts he's made so far this season that was recalled. To make room for Clark and Gordon, the healthy scratches will likely be Eric Fehr and David Steckel.
In addition to the injuries and shuffling on both benches, there's also the fear the Caps will have a let down after beating the Bruins, the one team they really need to beat more than any other right now in the standings, last Saturday. Hopefully, the Capitals will be pros who want to go into the All Star Break riding a 4 game winning streak and no one is taking the Isles lightly. The Islanders still have several guys who can hurt anybody on the scoreboard. This is after all the NHL and that's why they play the games on the ice not via a computer simulation.
Prediction Caps take this game 5-3. Just fifteen minutes till the puck drops...
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!