Caps-Pens recap

Remember how I said in my preview that there is a reason why this rivalry gets so much hype? Because whenever the Pens and Caps play eachother, it’s usually an even-sided, highly competitive game with a lot of uninterrupted action. That’s what we got with tonight’s game. Unfortunately, it had to end with one of the least thrilling endings with a shootout. It was definitely one of those games you wish could end in a tie simply because no team deserved to win and no team deserved to lose. In the end, both teams get a point and the fans got a very exciting prelude to the Winter Classic in a week. Hopefully that will have a better ending than this, though.

Thoughts/Observations

– Marc-Andre Fleury and Michal Neuvirth were playing out of their minds tonight, the former clearly outperforming the latter, though. I’ve watched a good chunk of Pens games before but I think tonight was the best I’ve ever seen Fleury play. He stopped nearly everything thrown his way and a few of them were done in dazzling fashion. The best moment was clearly his stop on Mike Green in overtime, though. Had that gone in, it would have been a goal of the year candidate, instead it’s a save of the year candidate. Neuvirth had a few great ones in his own end but the biggest one was him denying Evgeni Malkin on a penalty shot to keep it a 1-0 game.

– Another thing I loved about this game was all the physical play and fast paced action. Hits were 35-33 in favor of the Caps and Ovechkin got things started early by drilling Malkin in the first period. After that, it was open season for pretty much every player on the ice. Green was on the receiving end of a few of those hits. Either way, I highly enjoyed the physical play of this game.

– Speaking of Green, I think him and Scott Hannan had their best game as a tandem this season. The two of them did a great job of containing Malkin’s line and Green led the team in blocked shots. He also logged 34 minutes of ice time, scored on the powerplay and almost scored the game winning goal. I don’t like him playing that much per game but this was probably the best I’ve seen him all season.

– I also mentioned in my preview that Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik would play a huge factor tonight. Let’s see, Letang was a force on the Pens powerplay, set up Crosby’s goal and blocked three shots while Orpik led the Pens with 9 hits. He also played great on the penalty kill. Another thing I said was Zbyneck Michalek hasn’t been great this year, well he was great tonight. 5 blocked shots and he was all over Backstrom tonight.

– The special teams were a mixed bag for me. On one hand, we scored a key goal on the powerplay but also missed on a lot of opportunities with one of them coming at the beginning of the game. The Capitals had an early powerplay after dominating the Pens early. They didn’t score and the Pens responded by scoring on their first shot of the game. See what happens when you don’t capitalize on those chances? On a good note, our penalty kill was perfect and led to a shorthanded goal by Mike Knuble which was set up nicely by Brooks Laich.

– John Carlson and Karl Alzner really did all they could to stop Sidney Crosby’s line but you leave him open next to the net, then there’s a good chance he’ll make you pay. That’s what happened on the first goal. There was also some poor net coverage on Chris Kunitz’ goal which could have been avoided. Other than that, the duo did a fine job.

– Boudreau seems to be struggling to find chemistry with a lot of these lines. It started off by putting Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault on the top line with Alex Ovechkin. That didn’t last long. Semin and Backstrom soon moved up to that line and then they were changed again. Also, Andrew Gordon only had a handful of shifts tonight, which is about what I expected despite his great game against New Jersey. It’s just odd the bottom-six guys aren’t getting rewarded for good play because they are clearly getting the job done while the “stars” of the team aren’t.

Hopefully the actual Winter Classic is this great and has a better ending, one that ends in regulation.

Three Stars

1. Marc-Andre Fleury

2. Michal Neuvirth

3. Mike Green

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