To get satisfaction from a 2-2-1 road trip, and feel good about a 2-1 shootout loss in Philadelphia is definitely a sign of the times for the Washington Capitals, and speaks volumes about their season in terms of being a disappointment. However, you must take the good with the bad, and earning just one point isn't anything like kissing your sister in this case, especially with just eight games remaining.
The feeling the Caps must of had is much the same feeling that one would get from finding a five or 10 dollar bill these days. Especially if you have found these economic times to be tough as most Americans have.
If you have felt the economic crunch then you know how it feels to find a few extra dollars, and you can believe the Capitals felt the same way about earning five of a possible ten points on their longest road trip of the season, and how they feel about picking up just one point in Philly last night.
Finding a small amount of money when your broke is a good feeling, not overwhelming, but still leaves you desperate to have more of it, and that’s probably how the Capitals feel heading back home tonight to start a three game home stand. Washington earned just half the available points on the trip, but they hope returning home helps them earn all of them now.
The Capitals playoff push continues as they host the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon center and Washington is looking to even the season series against the Jets in the teams’ final matchup, as Washington is 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.
It appears that winning their fifth straight Southeast title will be a long shot. Washington currently trails Florida by four points in the division, and with their point in Philly last night, the Caps currently hold a one-point lead over the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Winnipeg, 4-5-1 in its last 10 games, trails Washington by five points in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals couldn’t have picked a better time of the year to play their best road hockey in terms of the final result. Prior to this five game swing, the Capitals were a combined 3-8-2 on road trips of three or more games. With a 2-2-1 trip, the Caps won twice on the road during the same trip for the first time this season.
This has to be a huge boost to the Capitals confidence who will fail to win at least 20 games away from the nation’s capital for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Washington has won an average of 22-road games during the past four seasons. However, with only three road contests remaining this season, the best Washington can do is finish with 17 victories away from the "Big Phone Booth". The Capitals are just 14-20-4 this season away from home.
THE GREAT 8 REUNION TOUR:
Reunions of any kind either turn out bad, or good. Rarely is there an in-between or grey area. The reunion Alex Ovechkin’s shot is currently enjoying with the back of opposing nets around the NHL is a beautiful site to the eyes of Caps fans.
Ovie scored his 33rd goal on the game’s first shift Thursday night, and it held up for Washington until they lost in the shootout. Ovechkin is back within the ranks of the league’s top scorers as he is currently eighth in the NHL, just two behind four players for fifth.
The Great 8 continued his personal quest of blistering the Flyers. He now has 23 goals and 38 points in just 26 career games against Philadelphia, and the news gets better from there. With Winnipeg coming to town tonight, Ovechkin has recorded more points against Winnipeg than any other team in the NHL during his career. Ovie has collected 67 points (32-G-35-A) in 47 games against the Jets franchise since joining the league in 2005-06. The good news for the Capitals is that their captain gets better as the game goes on, and with Ovechkin’s style of play, the following is an impressive stat.
Alex Ovechkin’s point production has increased with each period this season. He’s accounted for 16 points each in the first and second periods with his highest point total coming in the third period (22). Ovechkin has also added three overtime points.
Ovie now has four goals in his last three games, and six in his last five. If indeed Ovechkin is getting better as the season goes on, and becoming more comfortable in Dale Hunters system, maybe he, as well as his team , will start to peak just as the calendar hits April -12, the likely first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season on March 18 in Chicago and added goals 31 and 32 on March 19 at Detroit. The Great 8 becomes the ninth player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in their first seven seasons in the league and also becomes just the third player in the league to have scored 30 or more goals every season since 2005-06 (Ovechkin’s rookie season).
HOLTBY LOOKS LIKE HE BELONGS AND PLAYS LIKE IT TOO:
Caps rookie goalie Braden Holtby has been magnificent once again this season as call-up from the Hershey Bears, the Capitals top minor league affiliate. If you listen to Braden talk, watch Braden Holtby play, and pay close attention to how the Capitals respond in front of him, it’s clear this kid is the real deal.
Following last night’s contest, in which Holtby allowed one goal, two during the shootout, and just four goals total in 125 minutes of work spanning back-to-back games, while facing the sixth-best and third-best offensive teams in the league, and in their buildings, he sounded like a man that had beaten like a drum.
"It was terrible,” the rookie net minder said following the game. “Those two goals [including the shootout winner] aren't even near good goals for the players that scored. Those just shouldn't go in. We should have won 1 - 0 and all I can really do is look at it tomorrow and make sure that I improve."
All No.70 has done with his opportunity during the past two seasons is win impressively. Holtby is 11-3-3 with a .927 save percentage and 2.01 goals against average. He’s won some huge games including Monday night’s contest in a hot humid Joe Louis arena in Detroit.
What would the Caps have to lose by riding the kid as long as they can? If he falters, then replace him with Michael Neuvirth or Tomas Vokoun when he’s healthy. What is the absolute worst that could happen if the cards are played right, he is sent back to Hershey, or becomes the next Annti Niemi, Cam Ward or Ken Dryden, meaning, he wins the Stanley Cup as rookie? No harm no foul.
SEMIN AND BACKSTROM SKLATE TODAY:
According to the Washington Post this morning, Winger Alexander Semin, who missed Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss in Philadelphia with a lower-body injury, was among the first players on the ice. He fired shots and, at one point, appeared to skate at full speed during one drill.
Semin was joined on the ice by forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Cody Eakin, defensemen John Erskine and Dmitry Orlov and goalies Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun.
For Backstrom, this marks the 10th time in 11 days the center has skated in an attempt to return from a concussion that has sidelined him since Jan. 7. Vokoun, who has not played in a week because of a nagging groin muscle injury, took rapid-fire shots from Semin. The drill required Vokoun to go down into his butterfly position and pop back up to his skates repeatedly.
TONIGHT’S GAME IN SHORT:
Winnipeg has won three of the first five meetings between the two teams, including a 3-2 victory at the hard to play in MTS Center last Friday. The teams have split the two games in Washington, both of which went past regulation.
Playing at home, and on the road is a Jekyll and Hyde situation for the jets. At the MTS Center, the Jets 23-11-4, but away from Manitoba, Winnipeg owns the worst road record in the eastern conference at 11-20-4. Tuesday's visit to Pittsburgh to kick off their current game road trip was certainly no picnic for the Jets. The red-hot Penguins scored at will, beating them 8-4, and handing the Jets their second straight loss. The Penguins scored eight goals against Winnipeg in both of the Jets' visits to Pittsburgh, making Friday's game even more important.
"I don't know at this time of the year that you need a lot of motivation," Coach Claude Noel said. "Your guys, I think all your players, they sense what's happening. You don't have to draw pictures for them."
Washington is 16-9-1 in its last 26 games against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. Alexander Semin recorded a goal and an assist vs. Winnipeg on Feb. 9 and has 38 points (20g-18a) in 36 career games against the Jets.
Speaking of the other Alex, Alexander Semin recorded the 399th and 400th assists of his career on Monday at Detroit and now has five points (one goal, four assists) in his last six games. Semin ranks 15th all-time in points in Capitals history and ranks tied for 19th in points among Russian-born players in NHL history.
Jason Chimera’s goal on Monday in Detroit was his 17th goal of the season, matching his single-season career high established with Columbus in 2005-06. He currently ranks fourth on the team in goals scored this season. Chimera also picked up an assist in the game. He now has 34 points on the season, two shy of his career best of 36 set in 2006-07 with the Blue Jackets.
Washington leads 38-24-5-6, entering the 74th meeting (23-8-3-2 at home).