The Caps traveled to Boston's TDNorth Garden to open their 2009 - 2010 regular season tonight. To say they opened the season with style, might actually be understatement.
The Capitals outplayed the 2008 - 2009 Eastern Conference leading point getters pretty much outplayed the Bruins in every category tonight. While the official game report shows the Bruins out hit the Capitals 32 - 14 and had 16 blocked shots to the Capitals 14; the Capitals "won" every period and had a 4 - 0 lead before the Bruins got on the scoreboard at the 7:56 mark of the third period. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect performance by Capitals #1 goalie Jose Theodore coming on what was basically a short-handed breakaway by Patrice Bergeron, that Theo almost saved but for a mildly errant rebound and great effort by the Bruins 24 year old Alternate Captain and Center. Other than that goal, Theodore stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced turning in a solid night with a 0.950 save percentage. Given eight (8) of the Bruins twenty shots on goal were from the low slot and another 4 were from good angles and within 35 feet of the goal Jose Theodore earned his money tonight against the Bruins. He also opened the season by "out-dueling" the 2008 - 2009 Vezina Trophy winner - Tim Thomas.
Thomas ended the night with a save percentage of 0.882 on the 34 shots he faced, and while he wasn't the reason the Bruins lost, he was outplayed by Theodore. All in all, it's a situation this writer is happy about, I'm not rooting against either of the Capitals two young goaltenders, I just think that for the Caps to go all the way this season, they need an experienced guy in the net. The only one on the team that fits that bill is Jose Theodore. The fact that he seems like a nice guy, hasn't jerked management around (like that guy who plays for the Blackhawks now), delivered 32 regular season wins and a 0.900 save percentage last year, and seems like a good guy, all make rooting for him pretty easy too.
The first period ended with the Caps up 1 - 0 and each team having 10 shots on goal. The only goal of the period came when Brooks Laich scored a power play goal on an excellent setup from Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Laich netted his first tally of the season on a snapshot from just outside the crease at 17:15 of an otherwise scoreless period. It sure seemed as the first period buzzer ended that this would be another of what has become typical of the Caps - Bruins games over the past three seasons, a tightly played nail-biter.
The second period opened with more of the same from the first period. The second period ended with the score Capitals 2 - Bruins 0 after the 2008 -2009 Rocket Richard winner, Alexander Ovechin, notched his first goal of the season. The Capitals first line tonight consisted of Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Ovechkin's first goal was a pretty one, Backstrom brought the puck into the zone, didn't have a good shot so passed it to Semin, who was tied up in front off the net so he made a beautiful drop pass to Ovechkin who rocketed a 29 foot wrist shot into the net behind Tim Thomas for his first even strength goal of the season at the 9:31 mark of the period. The period ended with a Bruins penalty when Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara took exception to a legal check Ovechkin laid on Mark Recchi and cross checked Ovie at the 20:00 mark of the period.
The Capitals went up 3 - 0, sixteen seconds into the third period when Brooks Laich scored his second power play goal of the night on another nice wrister on the doorstep. Then shortly thereafter at the 01:57 mark, the Great Eight scored his second of the season, at even strength to put the Capitals ahead 4 - 0. Ovechkin's second goal came on a 17 foot snapshot on a great feed from Tom Poti who took a pass from Brooks Laich, joined the rush and brought the puck in deep behind the Bruins goal line. The setup gave OV a pretty wide open left side of the net to bang the goal home. Theodore's bid for a shutout ended at the 7:56 mark of the period when the Caps allowed Patrice Bergeron to get loose on a breakaway while the Bruins were killing off their fourth and final minor penalty of the evening. The last bit of excitement in the period came in the form of a solid hockey fight between John Erskine and Shawn Thorton at the 9:43 mark of the stanza. Thorton was clearly trying to spark the Bruins and the home crowd but the Capitals also responded and kept control of the game bringing home their first regulation two point win in Boston since December 2, 2000.
Overall it was a great night for the Capitals, the only Capitals to finish the night +/- minus were Pothier, Erskine, Steckel, Laing and Clark, all of whom finished -1. However, they all had good nights as well in other respects. John Erskine had what were probably his two best scoring chances in the last two seasons and if not for a great reaction and save by Tim Thomas would have had his first goal since the 2007 - 2008 season. Brian Pothier had 16:15 TOI including 0:54 on the penalty kill, notched 2 hits and 2 blocked shots. Dave Steckel was 11 for 18 in the faceoff circle (61%) made 3 hits and had 2 takeaways. Quintin Laing had two blocked shots and Chris Clark played solidly in his 14 shifts. The Capitals great players, they played great. Led by Brooks Laich, Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, each of whom had three point nights; as well as Alexander Semin - 2 assists, +1 and Tom Poti - 1 assist, +2 on the night. The penalty killing unit for the Capitals went 100% killing all 5 minor penalties they took while the Bruins enjoyed a man advantage for 8:25 of the game. The power play unit went 0.500 scoring on two of four times the Caps were given a man advantage on the Bruins. The three stars for the game were all Washington Capitals:
1) Alexander Ovechkin
2) Brooks Laich
3) Nicklas Backstrom.
Well hockey is back and boy is it still fun to watch. I can't wait for the home opener on Saturday night. I'll be at the phone booth Rockin' The Red in Section 103 ...
LETS GO CAPS!!!