Sabres-Capitals recap

I wasn’t completely sure how this game would turn out from the moment the puck dropped. The Caps were playing with 2 AHL defensemen against a team fighting for a playoff spot and starting their AHL goalie. Oh, and Bill McCreary was officiating his final game. Basically, it was one of those “Expect the unexpected” games and it certainly lived up to that reputation. Mike Knuble struck 37 seconds into the game followed by Alex Semin knocking in a rebound five minutes later. It looked like the Caps had the Sabres’ D and Jonas Enroth on the ropes but then the Sabres responded with two quick goals to tie the game. Both were very ugly on part of Michal Neuvirth. After that, it was a evenly leveled game for the most part with the Caps and Sabres trading chances and then some bad mistakes occurred for both teams. A bad line change for Washington resulted in Paul Gaustad getting a mini-breakaway and scoring. Then Brad Boyes took a high-sticking penalty and Knuble deflected a Brooks Laich past Enroth. Then on a Sabres powerplay, John Carlson collided with Neuvirth and inadvertently knocked the puck into the net as a result. The Caps then got another powerplay and Jason Arnott banged in a rebound to tie the game and force OT where Alex Ovechkin netted his 30th of the year to put this one in the books. The shot bounced off at least two Sabres and was weak on Enroth’s part.

The Caps have now reclaimed first in the Eastern Conference back from the Flyers but how they fare in the playoffs is still a mystery to me. Neuvirth certainly didn’t win me over with the goals he let in tonight but the powerplay came up big when it mattered, which is something positive we can take out of this game along with a lot of other things. The two points is nice, too.

Notes/Observations:

– Some odd line combos for the team tonight but they seemed to work well. Territorially, the best line was Sturm-Backstrom-Semin and they generated 13 shots total. I definitely think that they were the most productive line in terms of generating chances but Ovechkin-Johansson-Knuble produced the most points. Ovechkin had 7 of their 9 shots, though and he was on-ice with Backstrom when they scored the game winner. They also didn’t do that well territorially. I’m not completely sold on Chimera on the fourth line but he added some hustle to that trio but I think the third line suits him best. Hopefully we can settle on some good lines before the next couple of weeks.

– “Shaky” is how I thought Neuvirth played. 34 saves on 38 shots isn’t “bad” per se but the first two goals he let in need to be stopped, especially that one from Drew Stafford. He didn’t look that comfortable playing the puck all night and gave up some terrible rebounds, too. Lucky for him, Buffalo wasn’t doing much in terms of getting to them. He still made a few big saves in OT and late in the game so it wasn’t all bad from him. I don’t think he’s solidified himself as the #1 goalie going into the playoffs.

– Injuries continue as Tyler Sloan had to leave the game mid-way through. It’s bad enough that we had to re-call Sean Collins due to injuries despite having 9 defensemen under contract. You could definitely tell that we were having defensive depth issues since the Sabres generated 35 shots and 4 goals and a couple could have been avoided with more solid defensive play. Having your own d-man colliding into your goalie probably didn’t help either.

– Alex Semin must have been taking lessons from Mike Knuble in practice because that goal he scored looked like it was straight out of #22’s repertoire.

– I didn’t notice anything egregious that McCreary missed in the first two periods but that was one of the longest stretches of play that I didn’t see a penalty called against either team. He did miss a slash against Rob Niedermeyer which apparently injured Semin’s wrist.

– Marcus Johansson had a rough night. -2 rating and only 4/15 at faceoffs. His Swedish mate, Backstrom had a 3-point night however.

– What a huge time for Jason Arnott to score his 400th goal. Back-handed a beauty of a goal past Enroth to tie the game. Great acquisition by McPhee to get him.

– The powerplay came up big when it mattered tonight, which is huge going forward. 2/2 and both goals tied the game. Also, the puck movement and possession during that time was outstanding. Been waiting awhile to see that from this team.

– Tyler Myers made a bad pass that allowed Knuble and Carlson’s two-on-one but I thought he had a good game outside of that. He was a force whenever Ovechkin was on the ice and did his best to shut him down.

– Ovechkin’s dance after the game winner. Someone make a gif of it.  Pronto.

– Dear Bruce Boudreau, never separate Hannan and Schultz. These two work very well as a tandem.

Another game, another OT victory and unfortunately another injury to a defenseman. Let’s hope we can get healthy and fast because time is running it out. It is nice that we are winning games despite the injuries but there are still some noticeable mistakes, which is expected.

Three Stars:

1. Alex Ovechkin

2. Nick Backstrom

3. Alex Semin

 

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