If it ends up being a Philly-Washington conference final, the Eastern Conference champion might as well start digging a grave now to bury the battered bodies. That was a grueling 65-plus minutes of hockey last night between the two teams, and the Caps definitely got the worst of the physical play in the 3rd. The fact that Jason Chimera isn’t seeing stars right now and Scott Hannan is still walking (at least, we think both those things are true) is a testament to superhuman toughness.
A few quick notes, since the shootout took me way past my writing deadline and bedtime:
— So the Caps blew a 3-0 lead, yes, but here’s the good news: they’ve dispelled any OT/shootout jinx, they are now scoring on the power play (thanks, Dennis Wideman), and they have a surprise shootout sniper in Matt Hendricks, who led off for the Capitals and scored. They ended up walking away with two points on a 5-4 shootout score, all minus Alex Ovechkin’s services as the captain rests. If there is an MVP to the Caps’ season right now, it’s a tossup between Hendy and Jason Arnott.
— Individual Performances: Mike Knuble’s goal gave him 20 for the season, and he also had two assists. 106.7 The FAN’s Sky Kerstein tweeted Knuble’s postgame reaction to his eighth straight season of 20 or more goals: “Caps Knuble said he was worried he wasn’t going to get to get 20 goals this season, 7 year streak going you don’t want it to end.” Rookie Marcus Johansson had an assist and the game-tying goal—his point total from the past three months has more than doubled over his first three. Nicklas Backstrom had a goal, an assist, and a shootout tally.
On the other end of last night’s individual performance bench were Alexander Semin and Dennis Wideman. Semin looked like Paris Hilton at Goodwill during regulation, but, after earning more penalty minutes than anyone on the team, was responsible for the Capitals’ win with his shootout goal. Wideman, meanwhile, got a power play tally, but was more than helpful to the Flyers in their scoring chances. Just ask Homer McFanboy.
— On Neuvirth’s performance/Caps goaltending: Neuvirth stopped 29 of 33 shots through OT and 2 of 3 in the shootout, but was part of what looked like a disjointed Caps team for most of the 3rd. Frankly, this #1 goaltending issue has been exhausted these past few weeks more than Albert Haynesworth trying to pass a physical. Let Philly fret about a goaltending debate for once instead.
I will, however, share a quote that came to my mind when I watched the Caps – including the goaltender—scramble for most of the 3rd. It’s a quote from Braden Holtby, actually, during camp way back in September:
“A lot of the best leaders in hockey are goaltenders, because they’re going to have to be your best player when it comes down to it.”