It's been another crazy week last week at work but I did manage to attend the Devils Game on Monday and the Sharks game on Thursday. Last night's game wasn't mine, it was one of my STH partners' games. Overall, the Caps have accomplished what they needed to do to get things back on track. As of now the Caps have played 8 games - 7 against 2009 playoff teams and they have 10 points - that's 0.625 hockey and on pace for 103 points. Being on pace to break 103 points while playing against the better teams in the league, "ain't too shabby," as they say.
Last week, I figured the Caps needed 11 of 16 points during the final 8 games in the month of October. This past week, they've captured 5 of the 11 points and now need to capture at least 6 points of the possible 10 available. Through their first 8 games of the season, the Caps have been playing 0.625 hockey and if they at least stay on that track they'll capture 7 points which would give them 17 points for the month. However, given the strength of schedule it's entirely feasible for the Caps to capture 8 or even run the table and get all 10. Even more important than the recent results is the fact the Capitals are doing what they need to do to ensure they get two points in every game.
Prior to the game against the Devils, I thought to win the Caps needed to stay out of the box and take what the Devils give them, the Caps also needed to out shoot the Devils in all three periods and out score them in at least two of the three periods. Finally I said "the Caps can't give up any softies and play all 60 minutes." The Caps didn't stay out of the box - taking 5 minor penalties; out shot the Devils in only one of the three periods in regulation, and outscored the Devils in only one of the three periods of the game - the result, they managed to come away with just one point in a shootout loss; but it wasn't for lack of trying as Martin Brodeur had to lasso some real good scoring chances so the Devils could "win" the second period.
Prior to the game against the San Jose Sharks, I felt the Caps needed to contain Dany Heatley and play smart hockey. My conclusion was "San Jose won't beat themselves, the Caps need to beat them." The Caps did all that, the line of Semin - Backstrom - Laich kept Heatley - Thorton - Setoguchi bottled up all evening. Heatley finished the game -1, 3 SOG, 1 miss and 2 takeaways in 20:27 TOI; Thorton -1, 1 attempt that missed the net, 1 blocked shot, 12 of 21 in the faceoff circle in 20:02 TOI; Setoguchi 2 SOG, 2 attempts blocked, one hit, +/- even in 16:36 TOI. After taking 5 minor penalties in the first period, the Sharks settled down and did not beat themselves. Further in spite of giving the Caps 5 power plays in the first and yielding a power play goal to the Caps, the first period ended tied 1-1. The Sharks still made the Caps work to beat them in the second and third periods. The Caps responded as needed and won both periods and the game. The end result Caps Win 4-1 and get two points.
Looking ahead to last night's game against the Predators, I forecasted "It'll be important for the Caps to strike first, keep the home crowd in it and outwork the Preds, it'll also be important for the Caps to stay focused on hockey and that can be hard during an extended home stand like this coming week will be." The Caps held to the plan and script out working and out shooting the Preds until Pred Goalie Dan Ellis decided to become a stonewall in the second period and Caps phenom Semyon Varlamov had a minor lapse and gave up two goals, at least one of which he'd want back every time. In the end though this hard fought tight game ended in a shoot out victory for Caps when Varly came through stopping all three Preds shooters while Alexander Ovechkin got a gimmick hat trick. The result two points Caps, one point Nashville.
Overall last week I said "Five of the six available points from these next three opponents - all 2009 playoff teams - would go a long, long way to getting back on track but it's probably too much to ask, " - well all I can say is thank you hockey gods; thank you Caps! If I had an Aircraft Carrier around I'd be tempted to post a banner saying "Mission Accomplished", nah probably premature on that eh given it's only October - though being premature never seemed to be an issue with posting such banners on warships around this town before. Now a four day break before taking on the resurgent Atlanta Thrashers who are just two points behind the Capitals and are playing 0.800 hockey having started the season 4-1-0. Should be a good SE Division opener for the Capitals as it will be the first of two meetings against the Bluebirds this month.
LETS GO CAPS!!!