How cool would it be to be an Ovechkin-sweatered Capitals’ supporter, ticketed to a Hockey Night in Canada affair between the Caps and a Great White North club way far away from D.C., and to be standing in a beer line just moments after the Gr8 has broken Canuck hearts in the building with jaw-dropping virtuosity, as he did in last night’s second period? We saw such a fella on the Comcast cameras late last night, during the second intermission, not long after Ovi’s two power play strikes just 12 seconds apart ignited an inferno of a second stanza against the host Flames. I wanted to be magically teleported to the Alberta Plains in that moment, and be in the company of that Caps’ fan — especially if he was ordering an Alexander Keith’s.
Bruce Boudreau has his misgivings about pairing Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin together. He recognizes their other worldly skill set, and how destructive it can be when it’s in synch, but he also believes that that massive sum of skill is the line’s undoing at times — that it leads the unit to get “too cute” and undermine its game-breaking threat. Well, after the Saturday night pre-Halloween massacre in Alberta, Gabby may just have to keep it together a while. Ten points between that trio last night.
- The Caps scored five of their six second-period goals in just 10 minutes and 12 seconds of skating time, and they put six markers past a world-class talent in Miikka Kiprusoff with just 21 shots.
- Success out West, even in the Ovechkin era, has been terribly difficult for the Caps to achieve, and the opening 10 minutes of Saturday night offered the sort of script we’ve become accustomed to seeing from these games. The Caps looked tentative, jittery, deprived of poise. A bad bounce or two went against them. They got beaten badly on draws, with eerie regularity, and wide swaths of ice were open for Flames’ forwards to skate through and get deadly looks at Michal Neuvirth. The hosts got a leg up early, rousing a raucous crowd. It really looked grim for the guests. “It was a rocky beginning but a great end,” Boudreau noted afterward. The season-long disappointing power play (4 for 38 entering play Saturday night) at last delivered, Nick Backstrom gorgeously converting a sublime Mike Green cross-ice feed, and in halving a 2-0 deficit before the intermission the Caps gave themselves a competitive pulse.
- It was a bit of a breakout game for Mike Green, who scored his first goal on the campaign and added 2 assists. Early on he played that fancy-pants style that infuriates coaches and fans alike, dropping no-look passes in the neutral zone and firing presumptive passes to unmanned point positions. Then he simplified his game and beautifully blended wise decisionmaking with his elite skill set. “Anytime we’re working hard, we’re getting opportunities to score. When we’re sitting back and making those lazy plays, that’s when we get in trouble and we have no chemistry,” Green said. “Tonight everybody was working hard, and that’s why we had the momentum to go and win.”
- Last night was my first real good look at Flames’ center Curtis Glencross, about whom many nice things have seen said in the new season (Grapes sang his praises during ‘Coach’s Corner’ last night). He’s ruggedly built, and he appears to have some offensive upside — he went for 15 and 18 a year ago in 67 games for the Flames. With a wee bit more speed he’d remind you of Brooks Laich, perhaps. But the tripping penalty he took on Mike Green early in the second period last night, with his team already down a man, was devastating. It allowed Ovechkin to steal all of the Halloween candy from all of the Calgary children in attendance.
- It’s easy to lose sight of a winning goalie’s effort in a blowout, but Michal Neuvirth made more surreal stops last night, and one or two of them came with the game not yet determined. Indeed, he authored a split-pad stuffing along the pipes in the first period with his club already down 2-0. That may have saved the night.
- That Alexander Semin curl-and-skate-blade-slide around Jarome Iginla in the third period was so so . . . Semin, so so slick.
- Eric Fehr was a healthy scratch Saturday night, and I rank among those who expected much bigger things from him in 2010-11. It’s not so much that his production is wildly off (2 and 2 in 10 games), it’s his play away from the puck I think that has been noticeably disappointing. The Caps need more jam in front of the opposing net, and Fehr has jam in his game.
- I really liked what Comcast’s Craig Laughlin offered as parting reflection in the broadcast: “This must be a carry-over game,” he opined. Yes the Caps don’t play again until Wednesday, but Laughlin’s right, they must find a way to make Saturday night more than a singular statement affair, and stake out a set of inspired efforts back home against a tough slate next week. The Leafs are improved, Boston has humiliated the Caps twice already, and the season’s biggest game to date arrives Sunday, with a visit from the Flyers.