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. If you missed them, check out the game story from the 5-3 win over Buffalo with more on Jason Chimera snapping his 27-game goal-scoring drought.
>> Steve Oleksy was ready and willing to fight. Sabres veteran agitator Steve Ott had been pestering Washington’s star players Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom repeatedly throughout the game and finally, in the third period, it seemed as though the rookie had his chance.
“Obviously he was trying to take liberties on Ovi and Backstrom there. He was playing that game the whole night,” Oleksy said. “And then we got tangled up in front and we were in a pretty tight position and he asks me to go.”
But when Ott asked Oleksy to fight, he had no real intention of doing so. Oleksy dropped the gloves and landed a few punches, but Ott never dropped his own and skated away after drawing a roughing minor.
Ott, 30, has a reputation for baiting opponents in that fashion to give his team a power play. The Capitals coaching staff told Oleksy about Ott’s act, but a fighter can’t risk his opponent getting the jump in a bout either.
“Yeah it’s a tough position,” Oleksy said. “Any fighter will tell ya, when you’re in tight with a quick drop, if he comes through with one and I’m not ready, it only takes one at this level. The guys are too strong and throw too hard. You have to be ready whenever.”
So Oleksy, who was playing in just his eighth NHL game, didn’t let Ott have the head start but wound up in the box for two minutes with the Sabres pressing. Coach Adam Oates said he believes in a situation like the one between Ott and Oleksy, both players should get penalties before one is singled out.
“Disappointing the call, quite honestly. Steve Ott’s been doing that for years. If anything give them two each,” Oates said. “When a player engages you there’s certain rules about fighting where some guys try and get the first punch in and for those guys they got to be ready so that doesn’t happen to them. And that’s why it should be two each. You know, get out of here.”
>> Before he displayed his acting skills, Ott tried to stir things up against Backstrom. In the opening minutes of the third period, he started pushing and shoving Backstrom off a faceoff in an attempt to rough up the Capitals’ star center. Ovechkin intervened with a face wash, pulled Ott away and the ruckus resulted in a pileup in the middle of the ice.
They both wound up with roughing minors and Mike Ribeiro said it certainly wasn’t a bad thing to see the star winger go defend a teammate.
“He can do that. Ovi’s pretty big,” Ribeiro said. “I think it’s important to keep your key players [safe]. Obviously we’re without [John Erskine] in the lineup; some teams might think they’re stronger than they are. To have the captain step up like that, I think it’s just great for the team.”
Late in the game Ott targeted Backstrom again, flipping the center’s helmet.
“That should be 10 minutes, get out of here,” Oates said. “You let those guys do that and then you wonder why we yell. Very frustrating.”
>> For the third time in six games the Capitals found themselves down to only five defensemen. Ott cross checked Tom Poti in the back in the second period, aggravating the back injury that sidelined the veteran defenseman against Carolina on March 12.
Poti played just 7:38 before the injury and didn’t return to the contest. With the limited number of defensemen, ice time skyrocketed again. John Carlson led the team with 30:15.
“Those minutes are gonna catch up to us,” Oates said.
>> Let’s backtrack for a moment because Ribeiro made an interesting point. Perhaps opposing teams look at the Capitals without their most physically imposing player and biggest fighter and see an opportunity to intimidate.
The Bruins play everyone tough but they certainly roughed up Washington on Saturday and then Ott tested the boundaries. It should be interesting to see how the Capitals respond moving forward if other teams follow suit, they certainly could use more of the pack mentality they had against Buffalo.
Speaking of that game against the Bruins, Ribeiro was asked about his bout with Brad Marchand after the win against Buffalo. His reflections of his first NHL fight were too good not to share even if the game was two days ago.
“I was like Mayweather there,” Ribeiro quipped. “I dropped the gloves a few times [in my career] but by then a lot of times guys just come in and just take over. He kind of jumped me a little bit, so I had no choice [but] to drop it. I guess it was fun to get a fight. I felt like he couldn’t reach me with those arms. I wasn’t too nervous about it.”
>> With less than 10 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game and an empty net at the other end Braden Holtby did what any savvy puck-handling goaltender would do and took aim at the wide open net.
“You see a lot of the goalies when I was growing up – it was the thing to do. They’re scoring goals, and you know, it’d be something that I would like to do some day,” Holtby said. “I don’t ever want to put the team in jeopardy by trying it. Hopefully someday – someday it happens.”
Holtby said he would only try to score if the Capitals had a two-goal lead in the final 30 seconds of a game, anything closer and he might risk his team’s chances. He’s never practiced trying to score a goal himself but he attempts it every once in a while.
“I hit the post in Hershey once,” Holtby said. “That was as close as I could get.”