Sometimes, you wonder if Mike Knuble really is 39.
In Saturday’s game against Ottawa, for example, Knuble finished the game with two assists, but he also tied with Troy Brouwer for most hits (4) by a Capitals player in the game. Knuble now has three points on the season, and all this is after he showed up many of the young guns in the training camp conditioning test.
Knuble’s quiet contributions Saturday helped add some life to a generally sub-par performance by the Capitals against Ottawa, although the win was unique in the Capitals’ season so far because it came in regulation.
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau had told the media the morning of game day that if the Caps won 82 games in overtime, he’d take it.
“I’m not gonna be fussy and sitting here and [say], “Now we have to be pretty to win,’” Boudreau said. “We have to be satisfied with getting the win and getting better as the process of the season goes along.”
The good news: the Capitals advanced to 4-0 with their regulation win against the now 1-4 Ottawa Senators.
The win, however, was packaged about as attractively as Lady Gaga in a meat dress. The Capitals were outshot 34 to 26, and the one goal they did give up in the 2-1 contest looked like a comedy routine—four Capitals around the net and a sprawling Tomas Vokoun weren’t able to make the stop. The Capitals’ faceoff percentage was at only 46 percent. The Capitals did manage a power play goal, but much of the man advantage was spent skating in their own end.
Still, a win is a win. Especially in October.
“I’d rather be 4-0 ugly, then 0-4 trying to feel good about yourself,” Knuble said. “We always have things to work on. We’ll be a better team in a month, and we were just happy that we know we have room to grow. We’re not playing our best hockey in October, but our record looks pretty good.”
There are a few areas, however, where the Capitals can pat themselves on the back.
The first was the ability to stay out of the penalty box for most of the night. Ottawa had the best power play percentage in the league going into Saturday’s game, and the Capitals only gave them one chance to use it on a Karl Alzner boarding penalty early in the first.
Boudreau was particularly pleased with his team’s discipline on the penalty front.
“I thought we were disciplined, we didn’t want to take … penalties against them, we didn’t do that,” Boudreau said.
The second was the Swedish contingent. Nicklas Backstrom found the net on a power play in the first period off feeds from Alexander Semin and Knuble. Later in the first period, second-line center Marcus Johansson followed up Backstrom’s goal with a wraparound beauty of his own.
“He and Nick are a good 1-2 right now, because Nick’s east-west, and he’s real crafty that way, and Marcus is more north-south,” Knuble said. “Kind of a good little contrast in centermen.”
Backstrom’s 5 points now leads the Capitals. And after Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin’s decline in numbers last year, it’s a positive sign for the Capitals to have the first-line center off to a strong start.
As for Ovechkin?
“Nobody’s worried about him,” Knuble said. “He works hard on scoring every day. … He’ll end up with his 40-plus by the end of the year. … Teams make him work, make him work for everything he gets. He’s got to work for every inch on the ice