Both Coach Bruce Boudreau and Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville agreed that the Capitals carried the play for the bulk of the 63 minutes and change against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon. A big reason for that, and for the eight-game winning streak, has been the Capitals’ success at bringing the play down low in the offensive zone and using their size against opponents.
While all four lines were able to establish themselves in the Chicago zone in the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime win, the third line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr (and, when Chimera was in the box with a fighting major, Matt Hendricks) stood out early and often.
All told, Laich finished with a goal, took three shots and won seven of his eight faceoffs; Fehr registered five shots on goal and helped set up his linemate’s tally; Chimera dished out three hits and managed to goad Brent Seabrook into a fight and took one of the Blackhawks’ best defensemen off the ice for five minutes in the process and Hendricks added the turnover that sparked the possession for Laich’s goal. Not a bad day’s work.
“We talk about it at practice; we want to be out of our zone in 10 seconds or less,” Laich said. “So I try and go in and try to make a hit and move the puck to one of those guys. They do a great job coming low in the zone defensively to support me and that’s where our transition starts. Both guys [Chimera and Fehr] have very good speed. Chimmer could have had a couple goals -- they’re just not going in for him right now, but both guys are playing really well.”
Part of the success of the third line, fourth, or any of them has allowed Boudreau to better balance the minutes among all the forwards. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin were the only forwards to play more than 19 minutes against the Blackhawks, but even that pales in comparason to the even ice time against the Hurricanes on Friday.
In the 2-1 win over Carolina, Ovechkin played a season-low 16:07 and the high ice time among the forwards was Laich’s 17:47.
The lines “were all good, that’s why I didn’t shorten the bench,” Boudreau said after the win Sunday. “All four lines were going. You’ll see me shorten the bench pretty easily if I deem that certain players or certain lines aren’t going, but lately, it’s been hard. You get those sheets at the end and you look and the minutes are all equal because they’re all contributing. It’s a nice thing to see. That’s why you win, because everybody contributes.”
Some odds and ends:
--Boudreau said he hadn’t seen the game-winning goal by Mike Knuble when he spoke to reporters after the game because everyone on the bench was standing up, but added that he wasn’t surprised Marcus Johansson took control of the play to create an opportunity.
“He felt responsible for them getting the tying goal even though I thought it was a pretty chintzy call,” Boudreau said.
--Nicklas Backstrom walked through the group of media members waiting to enter the dressing room afer the game and he was no longer wearing the fiberglass cast on his left wrist and thumb.
--The Capitals might still be waiting for a visit from President Obama, but they did have another special guest: DJ Pauly D. John Carlson shared the post-game picture and NHL.com’s Corey Masisak had a quote from Eric Fehr that summed up the meeting well.