Capitals-Lightning recap

Some people (including a few players) were calling tonight’s game against the Lightning a “must win” for the Caps and while I think it’s still too early to declare any game a “must win,” getting a win over the Lightning is huge for the Capitals right now. Dwayne Roloson, The Lightning shut them out the last two meetings and are slowly increasing their lead in the Southeast Division so the Capitals needed a victory over them to keep pace and they did just that tonight. Despite giving up an early goal, it was one of the more solid games the Caps played this season in terms of forechecking and defense. It was also the first time we scored 5 goals since December 21st, 2010.

Thoughts/Observations:

– I have always said that the team is more likely to win when their star players are contributing and both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had 4 point games. 1 goal and 3 assists for Ovechkin and 2 goals and 2 assists for Backstrom. Brooks Laich also scored his 10th goal of the season.

– Remember how Dwayne Roloson seemed unbeatable the first two games? I said that it was mostly due to the Caps not getting any traffic in front of the net and making him work for the saves. That wasn’t the case this time and it started with Matt Hendricks crashing the net and getting in Roloson’s face early in the game. Shortly after that, the Caps scored to tie the game and things got easier as they went along. Roloson still had to stand on his head at times but Hendricks played a big part in getting Roli’s focus off early.

– The Caps was 1/4 tonight but it looked the best that it has in awhile. They were cycling the puck well, generating chances, forechecking hard and creating traffic in front of the net and eventually it paid off with a goal. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in the next few weeks.

– The duo assigned to Ovechkin’s line were Mike Lundin and Mattias Ohlund and both of them looked very…mortal for lack of a better word. This year, we’ve seen numerous defensive duos shadow Ovechkin and Backstrom to prevent them from getting any room and that wasn’t he case tonight as the first line had room to create a lot of chances.

– It’s easier to play with a lead than behind, that’s a given but it’s especially obvious when you watched tonight’s game and the Caps extremely conservative break-out strategy of holding the puck in their own zone until a Lightning player charged at them and it allowed them to enter the offensive zone with ease. Of course, Tampa made it a lot easier on us with how much time they were giving Green/Carlson/Erskine to work with in their own zone. Definitely a good strategy to help preserve a lead and generate offensive chances.

– Penalty kill was 3/4 tonight but it really could have been a lot worse had it not been for Semyon Varlamov and a few lucky bounces.

– Tried to avoid mentioning about how Carlson/Alzner did against Stamkos’ line but I think I’ll just mention it anyway since I’m in a good move. Stamkos, St. Louis and Downie had a combined 6 shots and zero points tonight. Great work from those two again.

– Speaking of Downie, I was thinking that DJ King would be active to keep him in check but Hendricks did his job of squaring off with him and held his own pretty well, in my opinion. It’s almost as if we don’t need King at all and he’s just wasting a roster space. Cough.

– Mathieu Perreault tallied a helper on Laich’s first goal with some unreal effort to get the puck to #21 while being surrounded by two Bolts defenders. Continues to play well after a call-up but that’s usually how it works with him.

Not the biggest win of the year but a good statement game from a team looking to claim the #1 spot in the division back. If they play like they did tonight against top level teams, then they might find themselves back in that position soon. However, we’ve seen plenty of good performances from the Caps this season but can they build off this one? We’ll see.

Three Stars:
1. Nicklas Backstrom

2. Alex Ovechkin

3. Jason Chimera

 

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