One of the virtues of having undergraduate associates is that they can be assigned to monitor West Coast games while we old geezers hit the hay around period two for work in the morning. Take it away, night owls:
- It is hard to make a definitive decision for or against the Av’s third jersey in this corner. It looks as if it harkens back to a more classic era but the strange color scheme makes it look like a bad Arena Football League or IHL sweater. Pucksandbooks astutely pointed out (before he went to bed) that there is a very Atlanta Thrashers look to them, which begs the question: why would you want to look anything like a largely unsuccessful franchise?
- The Caps continued their first period dominance with two unanswered goals in the first frame. They have now outscored their opponents 43-17 in the first 20 minutes.
- Both callups continued the trend of making an immediate impact as soon as they hit the ice. Birthday boy Kyle Wilson had an assist on his first shift and almost had a goal on his second. Later he added another assist. He looked most comfortable in his NHL debut. Meanwhile, Karl Alzner authored quick and accurate tape-to-tape passes and played super solid positionally. We shouldn’t be surprised by this any more, though, as Quintin Laing, Matthieu Perreault, Keith Aucoin, and Jay Beagle all were called up and had reliable if not strong stints with the team. Moreover, callups from Hershey never seem out of place, or uncertain of their assignments, in Bruce Boudreau’s system, precisely because it’s one that’s instituted organization-wide. Even the parent and affiliate practice sessions mirror one another down to the drill and minute.
- When Alex Ovechkin isn’t shooting, his passing game is *ON*. He set up Knuble’s goal completely unselfishly on a play he’d normally shoot on, just as he set up Backstrom’s two-goal game against Toronto. Looks like Crosby’s becoming a better goal scorer this season and Ovechkin’s playmaking skills are blossoming this campaign too.
- Theodore, on again, off again, on again: he looked strong last night and he looked strong against Carolina. Whatever was bothering him last month has certainly not been in his coconut much lately. Doubters may disagree, but his “poor” performances seem to include more defensive errors than we see with Semyon Varlamov in net. Do you think it’s possible that the team plays differently in front of the two goalies to any degree — even subconsciously?
- Interminable goal reviews not only rob hockey games of their flow but often halt the momentum one team is enjoying. A new glacier formed in the Rocky Mountains in the time it took Toronto to adjudicate Brooks Laich’s kick-in goal, and seconds after play finally resumed the Caps out on the ice didn’t quite seem to be moving their legs as before, and Eric Fehr went to the sin bin for holding on that shift.
- While there was so much good in this period, the hit on Green just can’t be ignored. It is clear to me that Green is viewed as one of the Caps “can’t lose” players, that he’s irreplaceable. In my mind there is no question that the hit was dirty, and warrants a sizable suspension (not holding my breath for that). Koci led with a shoulder to the head, and I don’t think it was any coincidence that it occurred after the Caps were up 5-0.
- Keeping the foot on the gas was the theme of this period. Earlier in the year Coach Bruce Boudreau said the team needed to learn how to win 3-0 and not 9-0. Watching them this season, I think the way that the team wins 3-0 is by actually winning 9-0. If they stop gunning for the net or playing their elite playmaking style it seems like they get caught flat-footed and on their heels a lot.
- A tip of the victory glass to John Erskine. The quiet big man wasted no time seeking retribution for the hit on his teammate. At the start of the season many were worried about the team’s toughness after Donald Brashear left, and there are very legitimate questions as to whether having two “middleweights” carry out the enforcing is an adequate substitute, but there can be no denying the vigilance and guts of Erskine and Matt Bradley.
- The Avs looked flat without the puck. With the puck, only a couple of their lines were buzzing, but if this was a first-place team playing tonight, that was pretty pitiful. Duchene and O’Reilly, really, were nowhere to be seen. Thumbs up to the D tonight for keeping them quiet.
- Erskine’s game really picked up in this period. Over the past few weeks he’s been one of the safest players for the Caps, always funneling the puck deep in the offensive zone and digging deep in the defensive corners. Locker mentioned his minutes were up because Morrisonn only played five minutes the whole game, but did a lot with them including sticking up for his buddy Mike Green.
- A shift for the ages: with about seven-and-a-half minutes left in the second stanza the Caps’ fourth line of Chris Clark, Dave Steckel, and Matt Bradley pinned the Avs in their own end for a seeming eternity, outhustling and out-playmaking their hosts at every turn. Ultimately they scored, too. The game was already 4-0 Caps before the goal. The effort and production on that shift seemed a microcosm of the entire night.
- Forget Flash, he’s on Fire. He really wanted to get that hattrick, and the way he was shakin’ and bakin’ made him look like he was hell-bent on scoring his third. Unlucky to not get it in the end, but if he keeps up the way he’s been playing, it’ll happen really soon, I bet.
- What does it say about the Caps scouting and coaching that they can seamlessly switch forwards and d-men in and out of the front three and back two? That was a positively emergency bit of personnel movement required by Gabby in the game’s second half — they were down to just three D at one point! And they surrendered just the lone goal to the Avs. Amazing.
- When Joe B and Locker have nothing else to say about how the Caps thoroughly crushed the Avs, well . . . there really isn’t.
- The Lisa Hillary Christmas sweater back in the Comcast studio looked a heck of a lot better than the Avs’ third sweater.