Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rookie Night At VC

Capitals 5, Devils 1
Game Summary

The Washington Capitals looked to continue their hard work ethic after winning in Ottawa a few nights ago. That was apparent by the strong first shift where a returning Alex Semin joined in an aggressive forecheck and kept the New Jersey Devils inside their own zone for almost the entire first minute of the game. The hard work would pay off as the young guys helped the Caps win their second straight as they beat the Marty Brodeur and the Devils 5-1.

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
It was a belated happy birthday gift for Andrew Gordon who opened the scoring for the Caps as well as getting his first career NHL goal. Another young Capital, Jay Beagle, would also tally along with Jason Chimera, rookie defenseman John Carlson and vet Mike Knuble added to the Caps' win. Michal Neuvirth made 35 stops to earn his second win in his second start in a row.

The first period would be a tight checking affair with both teams trying to keep each others star players from getting too much room. It would be the kind of game where the grinders would have to show some production. A. Gordon, who has been like a yo-yo being sent to Hershey only to be recalled again, would work to get to the front of the net where Marcus Johansson found him from the boards. The puck slipped five hole and the young player would get his first ever NHL tally.

The Devils didn't sit back though. Early in the second period, Matt Bradley was tagged with a hooking call. New Jersey would score with the extra man after Danius Zubrus made the perfect screen on Neuvirth and Patrick Elias' shot it the heel of Neuvirth's glove and into the net.

But the Caps did not deflate. In fact the grinders seemed to work even harder to make sure the tally would change in the same period. It would pay off just over five minutes later as the Caps' checking line would score, Beagle with the tally. Chimera would score on a break away even after being hooked. The hard working Chim would finally score by going top shelf on Broudeur.

Alex Ovechkin, at times, looked as if he was more on the checking line than the top line. He was working hard along the boards, battling in front of the net. While the Devils were able keep Ovechkin from getting any clean shots on net (1 shot on net, with three shots blocked and 6 missing the net), a poke check by a Devil defender forced the puck from Ovi's stick. But Carlson following the play had a juicy puck just sitting there and he made no mistake beating Brodeur high glove side.

Mike Knuble would add the finally tally after the Caps power play gained the momentum in the third. But by that time, the game had been already decided. The goal explosion in the second period sealed the win for the Caps as they went back to their staunch defense to finish up the game. The dominating play urged the fans to cheer "We want Pittsburgh!" The Penguins come to town Thursday night.

The Capitals continued their strategy of keeping the play simple. Get the puck in deep and let their aggressive forecheck create chances. It work to a tee against the Devils. It would be the most complete game for the Caps, but the only negative marks the Caps had was their failure to score on the power play.

The Devils were called for 5 minor penalties, but the Caps were unable to score. New Jersey does have a top ten penalty kill in the league and the Caps couldn't crack them even with 1:18 of 5 on 3 time. Often standing still, the power play has been lacking of late. Most of what they do has been predictable, but it just might be a sign of the top guns are still struggling to find a way to score. Knuble's goal was the result of the momentum the Caps had because of the power play, but a goal with the extra man would have demoralized the Devils.

In contrast, the PK did okay. They only allowed one goal in 4 chances. Their aggressive style of play with a man down seems to be working well so far for the Caps.

Neuvirth played another solid game, often stabbing at pucks with his glove. Although he had a couple bad rebounds, the Caps' defense were their to help in this game and eve scrums in front of the net seemed to take a Capital bounce. Neuvy was there for the rest to make the save.

Mike Green still looks like he is bothered by his injury. He just seems a step behind the play and often is throwing the puck at where he thinks his teammates are instead of playing with his head up and reading the plays correctly. But as Green struggles, the kids are maturing quickly.

Caps' fan with a Christmas wish.
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
Carlson had a goal and an assist tonight and had a team high +4 tonight. Johannson used his speed to create havoc on the slower Devil defensemen. His legs created A. Gordon's goal and also nearly caught them sleeping to carry the puck right to the blue paint.

Next up for the Capitals are the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. It will be their first meeting of the season and it will set the stage for NHL's Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

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