Sunday, April 15, 2012

All Tied Up

Capitals 2, Bruins 1 2OT Series tied 1-1
Game Summary - Event Summary

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Braden Holtby probably did not think his first two games in the NHL playoffs, the story line would follow him. The way the 22 year old played for the Capitals in the first two games has the series all tied up between Washington and the Boston Bruins. Just add a couple more overtime periods to the mix and a goal by Nick Backstrom early in the second overtime, and the Caps go back home tonight with the series tied at one game a piece with their 2-1 double overtime victory.

Troy Brouwer got things started for the Capitals in scoring for the series. Late in the second period, Alex Ovechkin was once again stifled along the boards, but he threw a shot at the net. After a few bounces, the Bruin defender Greg Zanon was afraid to cover the puck in the crease and Tim Thomas did not want to get his stick in the face of the sprawling Zanon. Brouwer, who was cutting hard to the net, found the loose puck and jabbed it under Thomas for the first goal of the series for the Capitals.

The goal looked like it had the legs to hold up as the game winner, but an unfortunate bounce off Jeff Schultz's leg and some hustle by Bruin forward Benoit Pouloit, the Bruins were able to tie the game with seven minutes left in the third.

While chances did come for both teams, it seemed neither side was willing to relent their defensive strategy. Credit Dale Hunter for mixing up some of the defensive make up often going to a one - four trap, to a one-two-two, and even yes a Tampa inspired one-three-one at times. But teams were working hard to keep chances minimal for the other team. And that carried over into the overtime periods.

But after a seemingly harmless shot by Backstrom that forced an early faceoff draw in the second overtime to the right of Thomas, fortunes changed for the Caps. They even lost the face off draw. Marcus Johansson showed some skilled stick work to take the puck off of a Bruins defender's stick while being tied up by another player. When he knocked the puck free, he pulled it back to an open Backstrom who buried the bouncing pass near side on Thomas.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The one-up-manship between Thomas and Holtby stole the show. Matching at times shot for shot, both goaltenders where able to keep their respective teams in this game. With the win in overtime, Holtby now ties Tim Thomas with a .83 goals against average and leads the league in save percentage with a .973. He stopped 43 shots in this game and had a .977 save percentage.

Hunter did make a switch in lines for Game 2, putting Johansson up on the second line to play with Backstrom and Alex Semin and putting Jason Chimera back on the third line. The move did make the second line a bit more of a threat. Hunter also tried to find ways of getting Ovechkin out from under foot of Zdeno Chara, often double shifting the left winger or throwing him out with different lines to create more space for him.

When he was not concerned with hitting, Ovechkin turned his focus in Game 2 towards shots. He would get 3 shots on net and still got some physical play in with 5 hits. Jay Beagle had a few good chances to score himself, leading the team with 6 shots on Thomas.

The Caps' PK once again impressed, killing off the only two penalties they took. But the power play again struggled going 0 for 3 which included seeing Chara sit for two minutes. Although they failed to score a power play goal, the Caps did see some momentum (and shots) come their way because of it.

While the PP struggled, the Caps' overall defense was spectacular at times. When it faltered, Holtby was there with the save. Karl Alzner played his best game thus far in the post season, earning the game's second star. He was a +1, with an assist to boot. He also lead everyone on the ice, Caps and Bruins, in blocked shots with 5. He was spectacular as a shut down defenseman paired with John Carlson. The pair were able to keep the Bruins' top line to just nine shots, 0 goals, 0 assists.

The Caps also shored up the faceoff dot a little. They mostly went with three men in the faceoff dot in Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Beagle. Overall the strategy worked as the Capitals won 53% of their faceoffs. The game winning goal came off of a faceoff loss.

The Capitals are in a really good position coming back to the phone booth with a win at hand. Making it into a five game series, they are hoping to feed off of the home crowd energy on Monday night.

Caps Notes:
  • Alex Ovechkin has never been held with out a point in two straight playoff games in his career. He had an assist tonight.
  • Per Caps PR: The Capitals are 8-6 all-time in the playoffs in Game 2’s when trailing 1-0 in a series. Since 2006, teams that win Game 2 of a series have gone on to win 38 of those 55 series (.691 winning percentage).
  • Mike Green led all Caps in ice time (33:28) and led the team in plus/minus with a +2. He had 4 shots on net, had 3 hits and 3 blocked shots.

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