Five thoughts on the Capitals’ 5-4 shootout win against the Jets

October 23, 2013

Braden Holtby stops Winnipeg Jets’ Bryan Little during the third period Tuesday night. (AP/Trevor Hagan)

It wasn’t pretty but the Capitals will take the two points from their 5-4 shootout win in Winnipeg Tuesday night and try to learn a few lessons, limiting turnovers and better timing pinches among them, in the process.

Five thoughts on Washington’s win over the Jets.

1. Whose power play was it again? Washington’s power play is the best in the league and typically an intimidating thing for any opponent to face but the Jets made it look easy. Winnipeg snatched passes away, tied up the Capitals’ most potent offensive threats and turned the tables to create at least as many chances shorthanded as the visitors did on the man-advantage. According to the official scoresheet, Washington recorded eight shots on the power play Tuesday night. The Jets fired seven short-handed.

Bryan Little recorded a short-handed goal in the second period to tie the contest at 1-1 and the Jets added a second goal just over a minute later by Grant Clitsome. While the second tally was at even strength, the momentum came from Winnipeg’s aggressive kill.

There were likely two aspects to the Jets’ success: their familiarity with Washington’s power play from last year and the Capitals being less crisp than usual.

“We was too casual and we didn’t play at all how we have to play,” Alex Ovechkin said of the power play. “Yeah, we got one goal but we can get three or four goals. We know what we have to do out there.”

Coach Adam Oates used the word “casual” as well when describing what went wrong on the power play and added that “the urgency wasn’t there”.

Troy Brouwer, who recorded Washington’s lone power play goal (1-for-5) of the night off an incredible play by Nicklas Backstrom, said the Jets were making reads and disrupting the unit in a way that seemed to speak to their understanding of what the Capitals were trying to do.

“We saw them a lot last year and I think we had good success against them last season, even this year in preseason. They’ve just seen enough of us that they might have caught on to a few things we were doing, jumping on passes,” Brouwer said. “They anticipated well out there and then we made a couple poor decisions, which we rarely do, but we did tonight and it cost us a few chances and a goal.”

2. Backstrom’s play. The victory might not have been pretty overall but that setup sure was. He pulled the puck around Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom, faking out both Ondrej Pavelec and Zach Bogosian in the process, before sending a feed over to Brouwer for the layup. It was Backstrom’s ninth assist and 10th point of the season.

Here’s the video.

3. Heavy workload for Holtby. The Capitals netminder felt the need to speak up after Winnipeg fired 30 shots on goal against him – 46 total attempts counting blocks and misses – in the first 40 minutes of the contest.

“I think everyone here wants to win and I don’t think we were putting in an effort to win a game after the second,” Holtby said. “I thought we did a much better job in the third. The shootout spoke for itself and our guys bailed me out so it goes both ways.”

His point is well taken, but on this night without Holtby’s effort through regulation and overtime the Capitals might not have had the chance to secure two points. His comments in the second period resonated with his teammates. While they didn’t play a perfect game in the third, the wake-up call was necessary.

“He came in after the second period and expressed how unhappy he was and I think guys listened,” Brouwer said. “We’ve still got to tighten it up and we’ve got to make his job easier. He’s doing a great job but we’ve got to cut down, 47 shots is way, way too many in a game.”

While the Capitals don’t mind giving up long-range, perimeter shots there was little excuse for the volume of odd-man rushes that Holtby had to face. Sure, Winnipeg derailed some of its own opportunities but it’s hard to think the Capitals wanted them to get that many. The Jets finished the game with 82 total attempted shots.

4. Eight and nine. It took Alex Ovechkin 22 games to record nine goals last season. He hit that mark Tuesday night, in Washington’s ninth contest of the year, and now sits atop the league in goals scored with two more than Sidney Crosby, Patrick Marleau, Alexander Steen and Tomas Hertl, who are all tied with seven.

Ovechkin’s first goal of the night came after Marcus Johansson sprung him on a breakaway. He pulled the puck to his left and backhanded a shot past an out-of-position Pavelec. The second followed a faceoff win by Johansson, who after two assists in Winnipeg has eight on the year.

It was quite the demonstration of offensive confidence by Ovechkin, who did his part to help overcome the errors elsewhere.

Here’s goal No. 8

And No. 9

5. Grabovski and the third line. For the most part this season, the third line has been able to establish a cycle game and generate offensive zone time regardless of whether Eric Fehr or Mikhail Grabovski has centered it. That’s a testament to the compatibility of wingers Jason Chimera and Joel Ward, who both like to play tough along the boards, and the ability of either center to jump on board with that straightforward objective.

In the first period when not much was going right for the Capitals, it was mainly the third line that spent time in Winnipeg’s zone without coughing the puck up. The group was rewarded in the second when a solid shift led to Mikhail Grabovski snatching a puck out of traffic in front for a 1-0 Washington lead. It was also his first goal since the season opener.

 

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Katie Carrera | October 23, 2013