Well, anyone think the rest of the NHL might take notice of that effor by the Washington Capitals tonight? The Boston Bruins were the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season and took their Game 7 in the second round to overtime before falling to Carolina.
And the Caps came into their building on opening night and bulldozed them. After a shaky opening eight minutes or so, Washington dominated this game in every fashion possible for a 4-1 victory. Consider:
* The Caps outshot the Bruins 34-20. Boston had 10 shots in the first 13 minutes and 10 in the final 47. The Bruins had three in the third period.
* The Caps went 2-for-4 on the power play. Brooks Laich scored both of his goals on the PP. He was on the top unit with the Young Guns, and that certainly seemed to work.
* The Caps were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penaly kill. Boston had ONE shot on the power play in 8:25 of extra-man time. Tom Poti was out there for nearly six minutes on the PK, while David Steckel and Boyd Gordon both collected more than four minutes.
* The Caps did not have a giveaway (OK, we’ve been over this. The takeaway/giveaway/hits stats are wildly inconsistent and basically crap, but they did manage the puck very well after the opening salvo by the Bruins).
* Steckel (11-for-18), Gordon (5-for-7) and Brendan Morrison (8-for-11) helped the Caps win 61 percent of the faceoffs.
“It was their home opener and they were the defending Eastern Conference [regular season] champions,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “They were obviously going to come out extremely hard with a lot of emotion. I thought we sort of weathered that storm and once we settled in and did our thing and played our game, I thought we gave them nothing in the neutral zone and defensively we played really well.”
As for some other thoughts on this one-sided affair:
* This opener was quite different than the one Jose Theodore had last season. Not only did he finish the game, he came within one Patrice Bergeron breakaway of pitching a shutout.
“I thought I was solid in the preseason and really focused, but it was nice to get that first game and just relax,” Theodore said. “They had a couple of shots early on and it just seems like I was seeing the puck well and making saves comfortably just by being in good position.”
Added Brian Pothier: “It is really important for him, just to build confidence and see pucks. He saw a lot of shots from the point tonight and he was seeing the puck, playing the angles well and he was communicating really well with his defensemen. You guys don’t see all that, but those are little things that let you know a goaltender is on his game.”
Theodore had a bit of a scare in the first minute of the game. He lost his stick and it got knocked into the corner, where it would lay for more than two minute without a whistle. He made about five aborted attempts to go get it.
“This morning I broke my stick at the end of practice and finished practice with [Alexander] Semin’s stick for like five minutes,” Theodore said. “It was a good thing I did that. At first I didn’t have a stick for so long. I was just yelling at guys to give me a stick because I couldn’t get to the corner and you don’t want to get caught with a bad goal.”
Bruce Boudreau pointed out that the guys needed to communicate better to either a) get Theodore another player’s stick or b) ice the puck to get a whistle.
* Alex Ovechkin had two goals in the team’s first 13 games last season. He also hadn’t scored a goal in an opener since his rookie year.
For the record, Ovechkin has spent 14:57 of this NHL season without being at least tied for the NHL lead in goals scored. If there are no hat tricks in the late games tonight or on Friday, who likes his chances to go wire-to-wire?
* Nicklas Backstrom did not have his best game, but he did finish with three points and was putting in some serious work at the defensive end.
Another question: Which is more likely — 70 goals for No. 8 or 100 assists for No. 19?
* Can’t say that any of the six defensemen didn’t play well, but Mike Green was pretty darn good without having a big offensive impact. He had a rough start, but the last 50 minutes or so were pretty spotless, and he made a couple of really nice plays in his own end to avert danger.
* Chris Clark and David Steckel combined to create three scoring chances in the first 30 minutes of the game — that was more than the top line had to that point. Still, Clark had only 11:04 of ice time, 21 seconds less than Quintin Laing.
If he is going to play that well, the Caps need to find him a few more minutes. Nine power plays between the two teams isn’t enough to be an excuse.