Here is the important takeaway from tonight: The Caps are one point gained (or one point lost by New Jersey) from clinching the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and home ice through the second round of the playoffs.
“It is important to us,” Brian Pothier said. “Every single game we can play at home is going to be to our advantage, and [the No. 2 seed] is our goal right now.”
Beyond that, this wasn’t a transcendent perofrmance by any stretch. The Caps outscored the Thrashers 3-1 in the first period, and then basically hung on for the final 40 minutes — mixing in some solid penalty killing and great goaltending from Simeon Varlamov to go with otherwise lacking play.
Here are some notes and quotes from the aftermath of the team’s first victory in three trips to Blueland:
* Varlamov was great. The first goal he had almost no chance on because of how quick and how close to the net the turnover by Milan Jurcina was. The second goal was a tip-in that he almost certainly stops if not for the re-direction.
He made a few fantastic saves, and he is proving to have maybe the quickest set of legs in the league. There aren’t many other guys who can snap a leg out to thwart a one-timer as fast as Varlamov can. Ilya Kovalchuk is going to go to sleep tonight wondering why he didn’t have at least two goals in this game.
“I thought [Varlamov] played really, really good,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We left him out to dry a few times.”
Added Fedorov: “He saved our [insert other word for gluteus maximus here].”
* In the first period at least, both the second line (Fleischmann-Backstrom-Kozlov) and third unit (Laich-Nylander-Fehr) put together some great shifts.
Fleischmann and Kozlov both netted goals to keep the secondary scoring theme going. Boudreau was impressed with the play of both of those guys — anyone else think having No. 19 between them might have had something to do with that?
“It is good – it is not fair to leave the scoring to the same four guys every night,” Pothier said. “To get secondary scoring is huge for us. It is going to make us even deeper and more of a threat.”
* Consider this a warning that another overblown story involving Alex Ovechkin is likely forthcoming:
The Thrashers produced a pretty funny video that ran during a stoppage in play during the first period, but Boudreau “wasn’t a fan of it.” It was staged like a mock public service announcement, with Atlanta’s Ron Hainsey narrating about the epidemic of hockey players doing bad commericals. It included a bit about Colby Armstrong and a car dealership ad he did while in Pittsburgh — and then ended with poking fun at Ovechkin’s Eastern Motors ad.
Like I said, Boudreau didn’t like it, but Ovechkin was laughing at in while standing near the bench during the stoppage of play. They also showed Ovechkin’s “dancing” from the ad after the Thrasers next goal.
* Back to hockey stuff, Ovechkin’s line (with Fedorov and Semin) did not have a very good night. They scored two times — though one was just a great individual effort by Semin and the other came off a faceoff. Otherwise, there wasn’t a lot of offense from that trio — but they were on the ice for two goals against.
“I guess we won — I don’t want to be too hard — but I don’t think we had much going,” Fedorov, who took three of the team’s six penalties, said. “The puck was bouncing off of our sticks, and it was a rare chance or moment when we played [well] together. Maybe it was the first time, maybe it wasn’t our night — I don’t know. I’m not very happy with my performance and I wasn’t really feeling my linemates. We’ve got to sort of regroup and come back with a fresh attitude or a new attitude because it didn’t feel like we played together at all.”
* Boudreau was not happy that his team took six penalties and only drew one (which was negated 47 seconds in). This was another game where the Caps didn’t draw one in the first two periods (a recurring and disturbing trend). Boudreau said it “short-changed people that don’t deserve to be short-changed.” Here’s guessing he is talking about Eric Fehr (11:09), Viktor Kozlov (10:49) and Keith Aucoin (9:31) specifically.
The Caps have what is likely to be a light practice tomorrow at St. Pete Time Forum which I may or may not make it to in time (c’mon AirTran!).