Blue Jackets-Capitals recap

For a good portion of this game, you could tell that the Blue Jackets were missing their best player and captain Rick Nash. The Capitals outshot them 15-4 in the first period and continued to dominate them for most of the second. The only thing keeping it from getting worse was the best efforts of Steve Mason (and a few shots that went wide) and the Jackets managed to pull it together and tie the game late in the third with a bullet from Scottie Upshall. The Caps then finished things off in OT with the former Jacket Jason Chimera pounding in a rebound and getting Washington 101 points on the season leaving them only one behind the Flyers for first place in the East. Another OT win but the Caps played a solid game despite that. The win caps off one hell of a month for the Caps (12-3-2) but it would be nice to see some more 60 minute efforts with the playoffs only a couple weeks away.

Notes/Observations

– With Dennis Wideman out for what appears to be awhile, the great depth that our defense has is beginning to fall apart. Tyler Sloan is not someone I want getting ice-time in the playoffs so I’m praying that either Tom Poti or Mike Green will get healthy soon. That said, the D did a solid job tonight with a big workload at limiting the Jackets to only 23 shots. This was without their best player, though.

– Continuing with the defensive depth problems, John Erskine only skated one shift after fighting Jared Boll in the second period. I love fighting in the game but with three top defensemen out, I don’t think Erskine should be dropping the gloves, especially this late in the season. Scott Hannan and Jeff Schultz took A LOT of shifts tonight to make up for him being out. They had ice times over 25 minutes a piece.

– Out of the defensive corps, I thought either John Carlson or Scott Hannan had the best night. Carlson had a goal and assist on the game winner and did well on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Hannan played over 28 minutes, blocked 6 shots and was also good on the PK. These two should hopefully make the loss of Wideman less painful.

– The first line played very well early on and were by far the best territorially. Ovechkin did have a few chances tonight but didn’t finished but he was a key part in Mike Knuble’s goal. Mason cheated towards him a bit which allowed Knuble to slip in untouched next to the net and bang in the rebound from Backstrom’s shot. Knuble’s really been on fire to close out this season.

– Steve Mason did all he could to keep the Jackets in this game but he made a few critical mistakes which all resulted in goals. Three of his goals (including the game winner) were from bad rebounds and he over-committed  on Knuble’s goal. Though it would help if the Jackets defense would clear some of the rebounds because there was no one around Knuble or Chimera on their goals.

– At the other crease, Neuvirth wasn’t great tonight. 20/23 is better than most goalies but I thought he gave up a couple of bad rebounds and that Fedor Tyutin goal probably should have been stopped. Not a bad night, but not particularly good either.

– The second line had a rough night territorially despite getting quite a few offensive zone starts and Jason Arnott was 5/19 on face-offs. However, Arnott and Sturm connected on a nice goal so it wasn’t a completely rough night for them.

– Most of our goals tonight came on rebounds. You know what the folks at RMNB say, “CRASH THE NET!” Hey, it works sometimes! most times! Chimera and Laich in particular did a fine job at that and Chimera’s game-winner was the result of it.

– This was my reaction to Tyler Sloan turning the puck over behind the net resulting in a golden opportunity for the Jackets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNY8xiKgdIs

C’mon Son.

– 3rd consecutive year with 100 points for the Caps. I feel like I complain about this team too much.

Not much else to say about this game except that I hope all is well with Dennis Wideman. Hematoma’s an injury that can seriously affect a player’s career and I hope he has a successful recovery with this. Let’s also hope that some of our other defensemen can get healthy quick.

Three Stars

1. John Carlson

2. Scottie Upshall

3. Jason Chimera

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How To Be A Sports Fan

How To Become A Sports Fan

So you’ve decided to start following sports? Good decision. Watching sports can be a fun stress reliever and a fun activity to do with friends during your spare time. To make things easier for you, I’ve prepared this guide so you can fit in with the rest of the fanatics that you’re bound to encounter. Let’s go through some basic steps first:

Part 1: Choosing a team

Here’s one of the more difficult tasks because following a team is part of the fun with following sports. It makes watching games unnecessarily stressful and sometimes exhilarating if they are victorious. Now, no one likes someone who is flaky about choosing teams and changes allegiances so take your time with this decision. How you find your team, you ask? Well, there are many ways you can go about it; you can choose to follow the club that hails from the city nearest to you because there’s a chance you have an attachment to that city. Another method is following whichever club your family or friends root for because that would make getting familiar with this team a lot easier. Another option is finding a team on your own by watching some games and deciding which team fits your style best. Or you could do what a lot of people do and choose whichever squad has the most appealing colors, nickname or even uniforms. The point is, it’s all up to you!

Part 2: Dedication

Now that you’ve chosen your squad, it’s time for you to dedicate your sports life to them. You do have options of how much dedication you are willing to give to your team but let’s get into that later. Right now, let’s talk about how much blood, sweat and tears you are willing to put into your new team. You are to watch as many games as you can. There are some cases where your “real life” will get in the way of following your team (this applies greatly for every sports that have 3-4 games a week) but those instances should be far and in between. You are to buy as much overpriced merchandise as you can to showcase the love for your team as bold and shamelessly as possible. You are also to stay loyal to your team no matter what. Not doing as such will have you labeled as a “bandwagoner,” the greatest sin of mankind. It is also important to stand up for your team when someone criticized him. Even if that person’s argument is valid and coherent, you can not accept someone bad-mouthing the club that you support. Your team comes first, the sport comes second. Always.

Part 3: Learning the game

Most people want to jump into fandom quickly before learning the exact rules of the game and that’s just fine! You can still learn the game and be a fan at the same time. Just watching the game is the best way to pick it up and learning as you go along but there are plenty of places on the Internet where you can learn things and get flamed along with it. The best part comes later when you learn enough to act condescending towards other newcomers! What if you don’t feel like learning the game and just want to see the results so you can brag to everyone? That’s fine too. In fact, it’s encouraged! Which brings us to the next subject…

Part 4: Rivalries

This may be the most fun part of following sports, hating on rival teams. The games against them are likely more tense than any other game of the year outside of the playoffs. One important thing about rivals is that them and their fans are scum. It doesn’t matter how nice of people they are, you do not associate with them, talk to them or compliment them. They are the enemy and every time you play them it is a war. You are to insult the team, their fans and being irrational is completely fine. After all, these rival fans are nothing but a bunch of filthy bandwagoners who don’t deserve respect no matter who they are. Am I correct? Also constantly reminding these scumbags how much better fans you are than others is encouraged because it is bound to get under their skin. You are always on a quest to prove why you and your team are better than the dreaded rivals.

Part 5: Game Time

Nothing is more exciting than game day. You count down the hours, minutes and seconds until you can see your team again and spend 2-4 hours with your eyes fixated on the screen watching them in action. Multi-tasking isn’t encouraged because we know that the real world can be put aside when your team is on. They come first, remember? It doesn’t matter if you have a big report due the next day or have to be up at 5 AM when your team is playing a late game. If you can manage to get tickets to see a game in person, you treasure that moment forever. If they win it’s even more special. Watching on the television gives you more options, though especially in the digital age. You can go on twitter and post updates despite your team’s account likely posting the same thing. It is also great for venting if people do not like to unleash their frustration in person. Needless to say, this is one of the most exciting parts of following sports.

Part 6: Winning and Losing

When your team wins, your day is made and you are in a good mood for the rest of the night. You are free to brag, gloat about how inferior another team is with no restrictions on what you can and can’t say. When your team loses, your day is ruined. You are devastated that your faithful warriors lost the competition and will go on with your head down the rest of the day. When it’s a playoff loss, you may find yourself in a funk for days because of how your team has failed you.

Part 7: Time Investment

The more deep you go into the world of sports you find yourself to be obsessed no matter which part of the game you’re interested in. And that’s completely fine! You’re not obsessed, you’re passionate about your team or you might be passionate about sports in general depending on what kind of fan you are. Sometimes you could find yourself up at ungodly hours doing research or watching highlights to get the complete lowdown so you may become an expert someday. There is no limit of how much you can budget your time with sports.

Part 8: Types of Fans; Which One Are You?

In the sports world, there are a lot of different kinds of fans out there depending on how dedicated they are, how well they handle losses or how much time they invest in their team. Let’s go through them:

Hardcore Super Fan: The most dedicated of them all. This character is pretty much a 10 on every subject mentioned in the above section. He sticks by his team through the tough years and still believes that “this will be the year that his team wins it.” Blind optimism carries him even if his team isn’t that good and he knows it. Losses still devastate him and wins still thrill him.

Obsessed fan: Whether he/she is obsessed with the team’s history, players, merchandise, pictures, jerseys, etc. They only focus on the team they follow and nothing else. Every game is a big event even if they are only watching it on TV. Devastating losses and exciting wins also apply to this fan.

Notorious Loudmouth: This fan will never pass up the chance to talk up his/her team no matter what and it increases whenever they face a rival or a team in the playoffs. He/she lives by being a nuisance to rival fans by insulting their players and fans (with no regards to homophobic and sexist remarks) while building up how great their team is in the process. It’s fun being this fan but expect for the tables to be turned when they lose.

Jaded Pessimist: This guy has seen every heartbreaking loss in the book, has endured numerous losing seasons or just expects too much out of his/her team. Every game is stressful and tense because there’s always a feeling that their team will blow a lead or lose the game in some heartbreaking fashion. However, these losses don’t bother this fan because they’ve seen just about all of them. They take wins with a grain of salt, too because they know it’s only small in the grand scheme of things.

Internet Dwellers: These types of fans always love to get their two cents in on what’s going on with their team and want to share their thoughts about it on-line. Some are very intelligent and some aren’t. That’s the beauty of the Internet. Many even have their own blogs to share their own thoughts. It’s always the best when a team is going through a rough patch and one of these guys seems to know “what exactly is wrong with x team” and the solution to the problem.

Casual Fan: They like sports and watch them for fun but don’t follow them seriously. Sometimes that changes when they find out their team’s in the playoffs but they tend to stay level-headed through the bad and good times.

Longtime Fan: Here we see people who have been followers of a sport for awhile but tend to not like it when people suddenly become interested in their beloved sport. They despise bandwagoners and focus on why these ignorant people will never understand their game instead of helping them learn about it. It’s okay though because they only have to deal with them a few times a year.

Rational Fan Who Is Knowledgeable and Provides Objective View: Where’s the fun in that?

So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to following sports. Whether this sport be baseball, hockey, football, soccer, basketball or whatever you want, this guide should be a helpful tool to get you started.

Pythagorean Expectations Using Even Strength Data

This is a method used by baseball statisticians to calculate how many games a team “should” have won in a season. I thought it would be a fun idea to apply this to the NHL this season. The formula takes the number of runs scored by the team, squares it and then divides by the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. With that, we get a winning percentage and we multiply that by the number of games in the season and get the number of games a team “should” have won. For hockey, we used goals for and goals against for this formula. For instance, the Caps have scored 201 goals this season and have allowed 177. The formula would be 201^2/(201^2+177^2) and we get a winning percentage of .563, which equals 46 expected wins. Here’s how the league would look.

Team G GA Percentage Expected Wins Points
VAN 243 170 0.671 55 110
BOS 224 173 0.626 51 103
PHI 235 194 0.595 49 98
NYR 210 178 0.582 48 95
CHI 234 199 0.580 48 95
PIT 209 180 0.574 47 94
DET 238 209 0.565 46 93
WSH 201 177 0.563 46 92
SJS 219 194 0.560 46 92
NSH 196 175 0.556 46 91
LAK 198 179 0.550 45 90
BUF 217 209 0.519 43 85
PHX 215 208 0.517 42 85
CGY 226 219 0.516 42 85
MTL 197 193 0.510 42 84
DAL 203 204 0.498 41 82
TBL 217 222 0.489 40 80
ANA 210 215 0.488 40 80
STL 208 214 0.486 40 80
CAR 207 219 0.472 39 77
MIN 186 208 0.444 36 73
FLA 181 203 0.443 36 73
CBJ 196 223 0.436 36 71
NYI 206 236 0.432 35 71
TOR 197 227 0.430 35 70
ATL 205 239 0.424 35 70
NJD 152 187 0.398 33 65
COL 202 261 0.375 31 61
OTT 173 228 0.365 30 60
EDM 178 240 0.355 29 58

The Canucks at the top shouldn’t be a surprise, but the Eastern Conference has a few surprises with the top three teams being the Bruins, Flyers and Rangers. The Rangers near the top is interesting because they have 87 points right now with 8 shootout victories. However, the Rangers also have only 5 overtime losses, which shows that they aren’t relying a lot on charity points to get into the playoffs. Their position here indicates that they are a good team that’s somewhat underperformed this year.

The Hawks are at #2 in the West despite barely hanging onto a playoff spot right now. This could be because of their bad record in close games and bad luck in the shootout.

Let’s see how the chart looks using only even strength goals.

Team G GA Percentage Expected Wins Expected Points
BOS 182 130 0.662 54 109
VAN 174 131 0.638 52 105
PHI 190 146 0.629 52 103
NSH 159 134 0.585 48 96
NYR 162 137 0.583 48 96
PIT 163 139 0.579 47 95
PHX 171 147 0.575 47 94
WSH 160 138 0.573 47 94
CHI 174 151 0.570 47 94
SJS 155 144 0.537 44 88
LAK 152 142 0.534 44 88
DET 174 164 0.530 43 87
BUF 168 161 0.521 43 85
MTL 146 143 0.510 42 84
DAL 154 151 0.510 42 84
CGY 170 170 0.500 41 82
STL 163 165 0.494 41 81
ANA 154 163 0.472 39 77
CBJ 157 167 0.469 38 77
CAR 158 170 0.463 38 76
FLA 148 166 0.443 36 73
TOR 149 170 0.434 36 71
ATL 155 179 0.429 35 70
TBL 151 175 0.427 35 70
NYI 158 186 0.419 34 69
MIN 136 162 0.413 34 68
EDM 142 173 0.403 33 66
COL 156 194 0.393 32 64
NJD 119 150 0.386 32 63
OTT 132 184 0.340 28 56

Here we have the Bruins at the top, Nashville as the second best team in the West and the Lightning as a bottom-10 team. Huh? It’s indicating that the Lightning are 21 points better than they should be, which I’m finding hard to believe. Tampa Bay has given up a lot of goals (though it’s decreased since Dwayne Roloson joined) so they end up looking like a worse team than they actually are here. Tampa’s 6th ranked powerplay was also subtracted which also makes them look worse. Same thing happened with Chicago and their top ranked powerplay.

Then you have teams like Boston and Nashville who benefit from great goaltending and look better than they actually are here. Not that either are bad teams but I would have a hard time saying that the Preds are the 2nd best team in the West. Thus, it seems that it’s better to use this formula for overall data rather than just even strength.

This is a nice method to judge how well a team has played but goals and goals against aren’t everything when judging a team. I usually prefer adding in shot/corsi/fenwick data along with save and shooting percentages to see how lucky a team has gotten. I might try to adjust these totals in a later post by factoring in shooting percentages to see which teams have gotten lucky and which ones haven’t. Also looking at clear victories (wins decided by more than one goal) and OT/one-goal games is another idea.

Capitals-Senators recap

How was your Friday night? Mine could have been better. Decided to stay in and watch one of the dullest and poorest officiating games I can remember seeing in recent memory. The Caps have no one to blame but themselves for letting the Ottawa Senators shut them out 2-0 but the awful officiating, numerous icing penalties and minimal action after the first period really made this game borderline unwatchable. Of course, it didn’t help that the Caps looked kind of lifeless for most of the game and all of their best chances either went wide or were shut down by Craig Anderson. I have to hand it to the Sens, though because they are definitely playing better right now but still, this isn’t a game I would point to if you’re looking to get someone into hockey. Oh well, nothing to do but throw it in the trash and look forward to tomorrow’s game against the Canadiens. Hopefully a better result.

Notes/Observations:

– According to referees Stephane Auger and Kelly Sutherland, Hendricks was clipped high with the skate of David Hale mid-way through the first period. Nevermind the fact that in the replay you could clearly see that Hale hit Hendricks with his stick from trying to avoid a hit. It was also the first time in a while I saw a referee signal a penalty, send someone to the box and then tell him to leave the box. They also thought that boarding is when you hit a player hard from inside the face-off circle and send him crashing into the boards. The Senators first goal I’ll let slide even though it looked like he kicked it into Varlamov’s pad and then it ricocheted back in. They initially ruled it a goal and there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it. However, goaltender interference wasn’t in their minds at the time either. Why isn’t that play reviewable, by the way? I usually refrain from griping at the officials since they have a tough job but this was one of the worst officiated games I have ever seen. I should have expected it from Auger, though.

– Matt Bradley absolutely didn’t need to fight Zack Smith after hitting Patrick Wiercoch but he did anyway and got busted open pretty badly. Seeing players having to face “retribution” for clean hits like that just pisses me off.

– Craig Anderson had 31 saves en route to his shutout tonight and he had to look great in a few spots tonight. Made three or four impressive stops during a netmouth scramble and stopped a couple of breakaways, as well. Still think his contract was a bad idea but this team looks a lot more confident with him between the pipes.

– Semyon Varlamov looked decent in his first game back. 21 saves on 23 shots isn’t the best stat-line and he had a couple of bad rebounds but not a terrible outing for him by any means. I wonder if we start him in the game against Montreal tomorrow if Neuvirth is still feeling ill or if we use a call-up to give Braden Holtby the nod. Can anyone remember a time when all three goalies were healthy on this team?

– Not a good night at the face-off circle for everyone. Most brutal was Johansson’s 1/10 but Backstrom’s 7/20 rate isn’t exactly pretty either

– The top two lines seemed to have a good night territorial-wise. I did notice most of the chances were coming from either Brooks Laich or Alexander Semin. Still doesn’t mean much if you can’t finish them, though.

– You certainly can’t say the Caps didn’t try. Outshot the Sens 12-5 in the final frame but they seemed to lose their legs by the third period and it didn’t seem like they could generate a lot of chances.

– Cory Clouston may still have a job next season since he’s getting this Ottawa team that’s way out of the playoff picture to play tough every night.

Like I said, nothing to see here. Let’s forget about this and just move onto the next game….

Three Stars

1. Craig Anderson

2. Erik Condra

3. Jason Spezza

Capitals-Senators preview

The Caps last two stops on this road trip are the in Great White North with a game against the Ottawa Senators tonight and the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow. I’m hoping that if we win tonight, it’s a little more decisive than the one over Philadelphia on Tuesday. Not that I’m sneezing at two points but it’s tough to say that the Caps were the better team that night. As everyone probably knows, Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott are sitting out for at least the next couple of games. Also out is Eric Fehr who suffered a lower body injury (hopefully way less serious than the last time). I’ve also heard news that Mike Green might be out for the beginning of the playoffs, too. Obviously, it’s not good to have players hurt but think of this as an opportunity for guys like Dennis Wideman, Alex Semin, Marco Sturm and Marus Johansson to fill-in for them and show them that they can be ready for the playoffs. Wideman and Johansson have done a great job so far while Semin’s been on-and-off and Sturm is probably only in the lineup because of injuries. Let’s see how the latter two do in the next few games. Semin’s had a very good history against Ottawa (12 goals, 21 points in 16 games) and this is a good game for him to get out of his slump.

Know Your Enemy: Ottawa Senators

For the better part of the year, the Sens were an awful team. They are sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference due to a disastrous beginning and middle part of the season which saw them being out-shot and out-scored nightly. The off-season signing of Sergei Gonchar proved to be a bad one as he has looked considerably slower this year and his -15 rating shows that. The emergence of Erik Karlsson as the team’s powerplay quarterback has almost made his signing look unnecessary. They are also saddled with bad contracts to Pacal Leclaire, Chris Neil and now Chris Philips as some of GM Bryan Murray’s signings haven’t helped the team at all. He did make a good trade by sending Brian Elliot to Ottawa for Craig Anderson (then followed it by giving him a stupid contract) and getting a decent return for tw0-way centers Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly but he also traded Alexei Kovalev and Jarkko Ruutu for basically nothing and decided to re-sign Chris Phillips instead of trading him. You get some good and a lot of bad with Murray. The Sens have been playing better since the arrival of Anderson and some of the call-ups from Binghampton have done well and they are coming off a win against the Rangers last night so let’s not mark this one down as an easy win.

News/Notes:

Craig Anderson stopped 40 of 42 shots last time he played the Caps (as a member of the Colorado Avalanche) and has a .940 save percentage since joining Ottawa. They rewarded him with a 4-year deal worth about $3+ mil in cap space per season. Yeesh, and thought the Niemi contract was bad. At least this is after Leclaire’s contract goes off the books. Anderson has done well for himself, though but I think it’s too early to give him a 4-year deal considering they have Robin Lehner in their system.

– Speaking of the Sens farm system, there’s some great defense prospects sitting there (Jared Cowen, David Rundblad, Peter Wiercioch) but we’ll only get to see Wiercioch tonight.

– Bobby Butler and Erik Condra have both done pretty solid since being called up from Binghampton. They’ve definitely earned a look for the Sens next year. Also, Ryan Shannon’s been giving the Sens a lot for his contract’s value. When he’s your second line center, that’s a bad sign.

– Michal Neuvirth is feeling ill so Semyon Varlamov will get his first start since February tonight. Remember how Varly’s first start since coming off his groin injury last year ended? Yeah, let’s hope that tonight goes nothing like it.

– So much talk about Washington’s scoring troubles this season but then I look at the Sens top goal-scorers and see that Jason Spezza is sitting at the top……..with 16 goals. He’s missed about 20 games, too. I bet he misses Dany Heatley right now. Or a goal scorer in general besides Milan Michalek.

– Over/under how many minutes the King/Beagle/Hendricks line gets tonight. I’m going to say that Hendricks is the only one to have even close to 10 minutes because he’ll be on the PK unit. King will probably fight Chris Neil and have more PIM’s than ice time again.

Lines:
Washington

Laich-Backstrom-Semin

Chimera-Johansson-Knuble

Sturm-Gordon-Bradley

Clark-Beagle-Hendricks

Alzner-Carlson

Schultz-Wideman

Erskine-Hannan

Varlamov

Ottawa

Greening-Spezza-Butler

Michalek-Shannon-Condra

Folingo-Smith-Neil

Svatos-Winchester-Lassard

Phillips-Lee

Hale-Karlsson

Kuba-Wiencioch

Anderson

 

Got a chance to see the Caps practice at Kettler today. I got there kind of late but it was definitely a really cool experience to see them practicing in person. I also got to meet Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Jay Beagle shortly but I didn’t talk to them too long because I didn’t want to bug them too much. I’m pretty sure I saw Tom Poti practicing but wearing a “no contact” jersey which could mean he might be back soon. I remember Boudreau saying that “it’s a low process” so we’ll see what happens.

I checked out the team store while I was there since I’ve heard that they have more stuff than you can find at Modell’s and online. That claim is definitely true. Player t-shirts from almost every notable player. Even guys like Bradley, Perreault and Hendricks had shirts there, which was pretty cool. I picked up an Alzner one. They also had jerseys from guys I didn’t expect them to (Hendricks, Fehr, Perreault) and there was even Jason Arnott jersey’s too. Tons of other Caps swag there and it’s not that long of a drive from where I live so I’ll definitely try to go there again in the not so distant future. It was really cool just to see the players practice and meet them briefly.

I’ll have a post about zone-starts coming up soon.

Caps-Flyers recap

When the Caps took a 3-0 lead over the Flyers in the second period, you had to think that it wouldn’t last. The Flyers had been dominating Washington in terms of generating chances but were trailing due to bad goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and Michal Neuvirth having to make a few big saves. Things were eventually going to go in the Flyers favor if they kept hammering the Caps like were, and they did. Caps were pinned in their own zone for a good part of the second and third period, which resulted in the Flyers getting back into the game and eventually taking a 4-3 lead. Some people were shocked and others saw it coming from a mile away. Thankfully for Washington, Marcus Johansson connected on a great pass from Mike Knuble to tie the game and the Caps were able to close things out in a shootout.

Call me crazy, but I think the Flyers-Caps games this season have been more exciting than Pens-Caps games. Lots of comebacks, lead changes, great pace to every game and each game needed OT or a shootout to determine the winner. That’s not always a good thing in moral standards seeing how this game really should have ended in a tie and neither team deserved an extra point for winning a skills competition but it is what it is. Caps have games in Ottawa and Montreal left on this road trip.

Notes/Observations:

– Let’s get this out of the way first; Bobrovsky was awful. That Nicklas Backstrom goal shouldn’t have gone in. Neither should have Dennis Wideman’s and you could make a case for Knuble’s goal needing to be stopped, too. Definitely put the Flyers in a hole early and they were able to come back from it but they may have not even needed to if he played better.

– I’d say our best line tonight was Chimera-Johansson-Knuble seeing how they produced the most points and were arguably the best territorially. Knuble was definitely the most effective as he had a 3 point night with an ugly goal and a beauty of an assist on Johansson’s marker. It does help when you have more offensive draws than any other line, though.

– Whenever Alex Ovechkin is hurt, it’s a chance for Alexander Semin to step up in his place and he usually does that or completely fails and tonight was the latter. Claude Giroux roughed him up the entire game and he started the contest off by committing a brutal double minor penalty. However, he also scored the shootout winner so I suppose I shouldn’t be too upset.

– The defense was a mixed bag. I thought John Carlson played pretty well (6 blocked shots, 27 minutes of ice time) while his partner, Karl Alzner kind of struggled and Carlson picked up the slack. That two-on-one at the beginning of the game that he shut down was a key example. Dennis Wideman scored his first goal as a Cap, did well on the powerplay and played solid early. However, the Flyers first goal went off his skate, he had three giveaways and made a couple of rough turnovers. Speaking of turnovers, Jeff Schultz’s pass to Andreas Nodl was absolutely brutal but I thought Schultz did well on the penalty kill. Like I said, a mixed bag.

– Michal Neuvirth was good at times tonight in stopping 29/33 shots. He did a good job of hanging in there late in the game to get the win and the defense on at least three of the goals was awful so I can’t fully blame him. Needless to say, the goaltending job for the playoffs is still his for now but let’s see how Varlamov does later in the week.

– Nodl-Giroux-Carter destroyed us tonight and they were the Flyers best line. They forechecked very hard and generated the most chances for the Flyers from what I noticed. Oddly enough, their weakest line was VanRiemsdyk-Richards-Versteeg. Only line with a negative corsi or Fenwick rating. That’s not counting Carcillo-Betts-Powe, seeing how they skated for less than 10 minutes a piece.

– Andrej Mezsaros was a real workhorse for the Flyers tonight. Skated almost 30 minutes, led the team in hits, shots and was a key reason the Flyers kept maintaining pressure. Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn also played a decent game but the former made a bad change on Backstrom’s goal and both lost Johansson on his goal.

– Matty Hendricks = secret weapon. His shootout goal was absolutely filthy.

– Who needs David Steckel when we have Boyd Gordon? He’s been excellent on the penalty kill since the deadline and continued to be tonight. He’s not as good as Stecks is at face-offs but he’s still very good in that area. Oh, and he doesn’t cost $1.1 mil a year.

Again, the Caps probably didn’t deserve to win this game but at the end of the day, we’re going back to the playoffs. Let’s just hope we see better efforts in the 2nd and 3rd periods in April. The lack of Ovechkin and Arnott definitely played a factor a little.