With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here.
From last night, check out the game story on Washington’s 5-0 win over the Panthers and more on Braden Holtby’s fourth career shutout.
>> The Capitals’ 5-0 win over Florida offered the best look to date of what a full game under Coach Adam Oates’s system should look like: only a few scoring chances for the opposition, a goaltender able to see most of the shots he faces, all four lines rolling and pressing on the forecheck and dominant puck possession.
“Very close,” Oates said when asked if the performance was a look at how he wants the team to play. “Obviously, I still think there are things we can clean up, as you can every game. But we did a lot of things well, we didn’t give them a lot of chances, which is the goal. [Holtby] made the one save we needed and that was obviously big for him and our team.”
It certainly didn’t hurt that the Capitals entered the game with a renewed sense of purpose. Players were loose at the morning skate and several Capitals acknowledged that there was more confidence in their play against Florida than there has been at other times this season.
“Well, like, be honest with you I have feelings right away we gonna play well. Because the intense here was unbelievable,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Like, everybody was focusing. It was not joking around. Like that’s how we have to play.”
>> Arguably the best line of the night was a trio of players who never skated together on the same unit before: Mathieu Perreault centering a line with Eric Fehr on the left wing and Joel Ward on the right.
Saturday morning Perreault was excited not only to get back in the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch for five straight games but to play with big wingers who would be able to work the puck along the boards and help fuel the cycle. It worked just as well as he thought it would. They were able to contribute two goals (Ward and Perreault) in addition to executing strong shifts all night that helped Washington keep the gas pedal down against the Panthers.
“I liked it. It worked good tonight,” Perreault said. “It was the first time playing – actually [with] two righties. I don’t mind that there. It seems like they’re always on their one-timer side when I get the puck and I looked up. So, no, it was good tonight. Hopefully we can get some more of that.”
(More to come on this line a little later on the blog)
>> The Ovechkin even-strength-goal watch has officially come to a close. He scored his first five-on-five tally of the year off a faceoff win by Mike Ribeiro put the Capitals up 4-0 early in the third period.
Regardless of who scored the goals, though, perhaps the most impressive part of the victory was how the Capitals didn’t let up once they started rolling. They’ve had problems closing out teams this year, but there was no room for Florida to force its way back into the game.
“We talked about it after the second period,” Oates said. “You know they’re going to keep pressing and it’s one of the things we talked about a week ago: You have to learn how to continue on and play well throughout the game and we did, and we got the big goal – Ovi’s goal on the faceoff – and it was good.”
Said Troy Brouwer: “We wanted to close out tonight as quickly as possible. We’ve let teams linger around and as a result we’ve gotten no points out of those games. So tonight, it was very important to us to try and continue to get momentum in our direction, continue to get shifts in their zone, get chances and ultimately score a couple more goals and put some distance between us and them.”
>> The key now, of course, is for the Capitals to not take a step back after getting this important win. Following each of their first two wins this season, Washington lost at least its next two games. That’s a trend they can’t afford to continue.
“It’s only one win, obviously we needed [it]. They get [Sunday] off and then Monday we’ve got to go back to work,” Oates said. “We got play [Florida] again Tuesday and the games keep coming. Enjoy the moment and then get back to work.”
This particular victory won’t mean much if the Capitals can’t build on it this week, which means the slate of road games coming up looms large. Washington visits the Panthers Tuesday, then it’s on to face the high-flying Lightning on Thursday and a trip to New York to see the Rangers on Sunday.
“It was very important game, divisional game. We back on track,” Ovechkin said. “And again – one game, it’s over. We have to be focused the next game.”