Last night was a 2 point night, unfortunately I missed the entire game as we took our son back to college on Long Island and between a later than planned start in the morning and "mis-underestimating" the duration of the trip back, we walked back into the house probably about 20 minutes or so after the buzzer sounded ending the third period with the Capitals up 7-4. Another two point night and this one with Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz all in the press box. So I've spent part of today, after playing what was my first and probably will be my last round of golf for 2009, reviewing the game recaps and buzz around the Caps "blogsphere".
So how did I do on my predictions, I wondered... my predictions were:
1) Final score Caps 4 - Panthers 2; - wrong 7-4 wasn't even close...
2) Semin has at least a two point night; - wrong Semin didn't score but did has 2 of the Caps 3 minor penalties, played 19:10
3) Backstrom has at least a two point night; - correct, Backy had two assists, he also had another monster night in the faceoff circle, as did David Steckel.
4) Knuble scores a goal; - I'm taking this one as correct since he had two goals, and two assists - MONSTER night for Knuble..
5) Somebody we don't expect, probably Erskine scores a goal;and - I'm taking this one as correct since Quintin Laing scored his second, I'd love for things to change and me and the rest of us Caps fans to be able to expect Laing to score but right now, it's an unexpected thing we all love to see.
6) Shoane Morrisonn is indeed, wrongly, suspended for two games... wrong on that one, thankfully, oh and Shaone Morrisonn had a good game for the stats sheet perspective at least.
So how did the Caps score 7 goals with two of the four "young guns" in the press box? Well it was a team effort, 13 different Capitals had at least one point. To review: Mike Knuble had a monster night with two goals and two assists. Tomas Fleischmann also had a big night scoring a pair of goals. Brooks Laich, Quintin Laing and Mathieu Perreault (scoring his first career NHL goal) also added markers for the Capitals. In fact everyone in the lineup except Milan Jurcina, John Erskine, Alexander Semin, Tyler Sloan and Dave Steckel. How Steckel didn't end up with at least a point in a game where he won 11 of 18 faceoffs is a question I'll not understand having not seen the game but whatever. In any case I'll continue to predict for Alexander Semin to have a good night, and safely assume that Steckel will win faceoffs until the stars align and it happens on the same night.
In any case next up or the Capitals will be the Islanders at Verizon Center on Wednesday evening so there's plenty of time to muse about a lot of things. My first muse is to point out that the Caps have started November the way they ended October, playing 0.600+ hockey. In other words the Capitals continue on pace for another 100+ point season. Further, the past two games have helped address the whole secondary scoring discussion. Through 17 games the Caps now have 7 players on track for 20+ goal seasons: 1) Alexander Ovechkin; 2) Brooks Laich; 3) Alexander Semin; 4) Brendan Morrison; 5) Mike Knuble; 6) Tomas Fleischmann; and 7) Nicklas Backstrom. Others who are on track for career years as far as NHL regular season goal production include: Matt Bradley who is on pace for 14+ goals this season; Quintin Laing who is on pace for 10 goals; and Tyler Sloan who is also on pace for 10 goals. Add to that a hopefully rejuvenated Mike Green who finds his scoring touch and strengthens the power play when he returns to the line up and you'll have a team with 10 guys you really have to worry about lighting the lamp when they are on the ice for the Capitals.
Across the board, the Capitals are looking pretty solid. Ovechkin is on pace for a 110+ point season and even with a a multi-week healing period this month is still likely to once again be in the running for the scoring titles. Alexander Semin, maligned of late is on track for 33 goals and 38 assists - 70+ points. Brooks Laich is on track for a career year - 33 goals and 53 assists - 80+ points. Nicklas Backstrom is on track for 19 or 20 goals, and 82 assists - a 100 point season, it's worthwhile to note that Backstrom's assists totals continue to grow seemingly regardless of who he skates with. Tomas Fleischman appears well on his way to a 20+ goal/30+ point season... and the list goes on. The other good news seems to be that you can't ignore that both Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison are at least as good or better than the guys they replaced in the line-up, Kozlov and Federov, in regards to production.
Offensive production doesn't appear to be much of an issue for the Caps, thanks to last night's 7-4 win over the panthers, the Capitals lead the league in goals scored with 65 goals for. Another interesting point to note is only 3 teams have a better GF-GA differential then the Capitals have to date (the Caps are +13): San Jose: + 19; the New York Rangers: + 15; Colorado: +15. Interestingly right now with 24 points in 17 games the Caps are fourth in the league's overall standings and second in the Eastern Conference. In the Southeast Division the Caps are 7 points in front of the second place Tampa Bay Lightning however the Lightning have two games in hand on the Caps so if we were tracking this "baseball style" the Caps would only be 2 1/2 games up on the boys from Tampa.
Another look in baseball "lingo" at what the Caps have been doing so far this season, overall for the season the Caps are playing 0.706 hockey on the year. If you project that to season's end the Caps are on track for a 115+ point season. Let that sink in - if you don't understand why you go to Verizon Center and come away roundly disappointed if the Caps don't win, you need only realize the Caps are currently playing 0.722 hockey at home. That's a long way from the early years of the "rebuild" for those of us who lived through those recent "slow years."
To be sure the Capitals are now dealing with a spate of injuries and the season and playoffs assuming they make them will go much more smoothly when they get healthy but this team is really cooking with gas and finding ways to win on most nights. The other positive trend of late has been the Capitals are playing more disciplined hockey and taking fewer penalties in games, at least the last two, and last night they didn't take any penalties during the Third Period. That has to continue if the Caps are to keep up their current winning trend.
Wednesday should be a good game, the Islanders and the Caps have already had two close games and the Islanders came away with an OT win when the teams last met on October 30th at Verizon Center. The Caps and we Caps fans will be looking for a 2 point, regulation win night...
LETS GO CAPS!!!