- The Caps and ‘Canes entered Wednesday night tied for first in the Southeast with 18 points. It’s rare that you’d ever identify a November game as a “big” one, but with conventional wisdom suggesting that the Southeast champion likely to emerge between Washington and Carolina (they’ve won six of a possible nine Southeast titles), and with Washington prevailing in the opening mathchup on November 6, and now just six games scheduled between division foes, going up 2-0 home and away well could carry an important swagger for the Caps. Mission seriously accomplished.
- “Statement” games. If they exist, this qualified. I was particularly impressed with the opening two minutes of the third period, when the Caps were in command of the game, on the road, and with their hot goalie out of the lineup. They might have been expected to go into a shell then, but they came out and applied serious pressure on their hosts and carried the play throughout the third. It was a spectacular 60-minute effort.
- Color me mystified by Peter Laviolette’s decision to sit Cam Ward — merely one of the planet’s best goaltenders. Ward has enjoyed terrific success against the Caps in his career (10-5-0-1, pretty stellar save percentage and goals-against), and while he laid an egg against Atlanta November 9, that’s all the more reason to come back with him in a showdown game. So sayeth the blogger.
- The last thing you want to see happen to a hot goalie like BJ is an injury, however minor, but tip your hat to Jose Theodore, who came in cold with the game still very undecided, made a few stellar stops early in period 2 (particularly on Eric Staal on the doorstep) and may well have reversed some bad debut MoJo by keeping the ‘Canes at bay.
- If you thought Alexander Semin’s Player of the Month October was fluky, think again. Back in the summer, one of the storylines I identified for the Caps in 2008-09 was whether or not Alexander Semin could elevate his game to a level commensurate with his skills — that of an NHL superstar. I’ve seen enough this season to make that determination. Expect the ‘other’ Alex to be lodged at the very top of the league’s scoring leaders all season long.
- Semin was a -18 a season ago. This morning he is +17.
- Ovechkin’s slump = over. Very. Nick Backstrom, too, looks like a different player from October.
- Mike Green does have a young, aggressive offensive defenseman’s propensity to cough up the puck, but he’s now a +10 on the young season. He is a joy to watch play. Please, please, let us not Larry Murphy (NHL Hall of Famer) him.
- The Caps have won four straight, and all foes at the time of playing had winning records. This stretch goes a long way to washing away the concern of a conspicuously mediocre start through November 4. Consider, too, that some key cogs (Sergei Fedorov foremost among them) are out of the lineup. Ahead looms a home and home with New Jersey club that’s never been as vulnerable since Marty Brodeur became the Devils’ no. 1 between the pipes.