Caps-Pens recap

After tonight’s 1-0 shutout of the Penguins, the Caps are 10-0-2 in their last 12 regular season games against Pittsburgh. Pretty impressive but that’s not taking the playoff series from 2009 into account. Either way, as a Caps fan it was very nice to see them shutout the Pens in back-to-back games and to do it in on the road was even better. Of course, you have to take into account that the Pens were forced to dress players like Ryan Craig, Brett Sterling, Joe Vitale, Brian Strait and a couple other guys many haven’t heard of before. It was an ugly win and we really have to thank Michal Neuvirth for the win, but I will take it. The victory gives the Caps a solid 3-2-0 on the road trip.

– The happiest guy on the team right now has to be Michal Neuvirth. 39 save shutout tonight and back-to-back shutouts against the Penguins. Last game, he said that “he had to shut these guys out” after hearing Dan Bylsma’s comments about him on 24/7. Well, I can imagine that Disco Dan isn’t happy that his team was shutout twice by a “shaky goaltender who isn’t very good.” Yep, his “poor rebound control” was in full force tonight as he managed to hang onto every shot the Pens threw his way. Probably his 2nd or 3rd best performance of the season. I only say that because I’m sure there was a game from October where he was better. That and he may or may not have gotten lucky on a couple shots that went off the post. Cough.

– The whole Vs. crew definitely let it be known that the Caps are playing a more defensively responsible game and they did tonight for the most part. Here’s what I want to know; why is it that this strategy seems to work only against the Penguins and no one else? Oh I know why, the Penguins didn’t try to crash the net. At least from what I observed they didn’t. Watch what the Sharks and Ducks did compared to what the Pens and Sabres did the last two games and you’ll notice a huge difference. Our forwards and defensemen did a great job of blocking shots and getting into passing lanes but the Pens would have had a lot more scoring chances if they went to the net and crowded the crease like the Ducks and Sharks did.

– The team’s zone entries are still kind of brutal to watch, especially in the 1st and 3rd period. Outshot 18-7 in the first and 14-3 in the third. Granted, the Pens were on the PP for most of the first period, but the third was played all at even strength and it felt like the ice was tilted towards our end the whole time. The team defended most of the Pens attacks well but they couldn’t establish a solid forecheck for 60% of the game.

– Powerplay was 1/3 tonight and I think the Pens had more chances than we did. The goal that was scored was just Ovechkin being himself and the more of that, the better. 1/3 sounds a lot better than 0/3, doesn’t it?

– Ovechkin was responsible for most of the offense tonight from what I watched and he was the best player tonight not named Michal Neuvirth. 8 shots on net, 20:36 of ice time and a goal. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of that in the next couple of months.

– The entire NHL is probably saying, “Matt Bradley, you are the man” right now after his huge hit on Matt Cooke. I was disappointed when I saw that Matt Hendricks was scratched tonight due to illness but Bradley did a fine job of sending Cooke a message with that hit. He also had a solid fight with Ryan Craig and was a trending topic on Twitter. Solid night, Brads.

– Zbyneck Michalek and Brooks Orpik give me a headache with their shot blocking. It helps that they are really good at it.

– You know what also gives me a headache? The defensive pairing of Tyler Sloan and John Erskine. I love what Erskine brings to the team but shit always seems to hit the fan when the duo are paired together. They gave up more chances tonight combined than any other defensive pairing and I lost count of how many times Sloan fanned on a shot. Can not wait until Mike Green is back.

– It looked like Mathieu Perreault hurt himself tonight, which is something we really don’t need right now. On the bright side, Marcus Johansson had a solid night and had an assist tally.

– You know the Penguins get under the team’s skin when Nicklas Backstrom almost fights Jordan Staal.

– Boyd Gordon got away with a bad interference call in the third and he knows it.

– These games are so much more enjoyable when Dave Strader calls them instead of Mike Emrick. Don’t you agree?

So we’re done playing the Pens this year and have a few nights off before Friday’s showdown with the New York Rangers. Let’s hope we can keep the wins coming and possibly score a couple more goals while we’re at it.

Three Stars

1. Michal Neuvirth

2. Alex Ovechkin

3. Matt Bradley

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