Penguins-Capitals recap

Pens-Caps games are always known for their intensity and playoff-like atmosphere. Today’s game was a bit different from that. Not that it wasn’t entertaining but for the first 20 minutes, there definitely wasn’t as much tension and back-and-forth action as there were in other meetings and the absence of two certain Penguins players has a lot to do with that. I understand the Pens were playing with a weakened forward corps but you can’t blame Caps fans for getting excited about shutting them out today. That said, I think some people need to act like they’ve been there, if you know what I’m saying.

Onto the actual game, after the game against Montreal on Tuesday, I made a post on another forum saying that this is basically “do or die” time for Bruce Boudreau. It looked like the team hadn’t learned their lesson from last season and were making the same mistakes they have all year and if Boudreau were to be fired, it would happen before March. Since then, the Caps played two of their best games this season and both were against playoff teams so for now, it’s not looking like he’s going anywhere if the team keeps it up.

Thoughts/Observations:

– The Penguins forward corps may have been depleted but I think their defense is actually one of the strongest in the league. Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik were outstanding today at keeping Ovechkin’s line in check. Them and Fleury should be able to keep them in enough games this season.

– Now that I’ve complimented the Pens, it’s time to do some complaining, Matt Cooke’s knee-on-knee on Ovechkin was definitely a low blow. Then again, I still believe that Ovechkin’s hit on Gonchar in the playoffs in 09 was incidental and this one looked blatantly intentional to me. That’s all the complaining I’ll do about it for now. Also, I notice Matt Bradley try to challenge Cooke a few times. I love Brads sticking up for his teammate but I’d rather see someone else try to “send a message” to Cooke. That’s not a knock on Brads at all but more of not wanting him to get busted open again.

– Mike Green is listed as day-to-day with a “headache” according to Boudreau, which is fine for now because I thought he may have broken his jaw after taking that Orpik slapshot late in the first period. The defense played well after he left the game but I hope he isn’t seriously injured because it’s a big loss whenever you lose a guy who plays 20+ minutes a game. That and it weakens an already struggling powerplay (0/4 today). Also of note, Orpik went over to the Caps bench after the game to ask about Green. Class move.

– I think I saw Jay Beagle playing with the 2nd line with Perreault and Laich for some of the game. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but their strong forecheck resulted in a goal so I guess I can’t complain. Also, Perreault made a great play to set up Laich on that goal. It’s been 3 games since his call-up so I’m keeping that in mind.

– Strong defensive game for Washington. Most of the Pens chances were one and done and they gave Michal Neuvirth a very light workload today. He did just about all he was asked of him but I think more credit goes to the guys in front of him for keeping the Pens chances limited.

– Aside from the bad powerplay, I thought Washington did a great job at generating scoring chances today but I noticed more from the bottom six players than the top lines. Perreault and Johansson in particular really stood out to me.

– I forgot how much I hate NBC’s broadcasts. Emrick exercising how well he knows the English language, McGuire yelling about how he knows about where every player went to college, when they were drafted, where they played junior hockey, the constant goofy camera angels and endless sponsorship announcements among other things. I’ll take CSN over this every day. However, it was nice that Olcyzk and McGuire were highlighting Matt Hendricks since I think he’s been a big part of this team and gets overlooked as a fourth liner.

– How did the refs not see Mike Knuble get high-sticked by Paul Martin? It was right in front of the benches and Knuble was cut open. Didn’t affect the outcome so I’ll leave the complaining at that.

– David Steckel fought pretty well for a guy who doesn’t do it often. Tim Wallace wasn’t exactly the guy I expected the Pens to send after him, though. Also, I twitter searched “Steckel” after the fight and saw many “KILL STECKEL!” statuses. Reminded me of how much I hate hockey fans sometimes.

Two wins against playoff teams in a row is definitely a good start to the 2nd half of the season and these were two of the strongest games we’ve played all season. Most people know that I haven’t been the most confident in this team this season but if we keep winning games like this then that will change.

Three Stars:
1. Brooks Laich

2. Michal Neuvirth

3. Marc-Andre Fleury

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