Remember when third periods late in the Boudreau era were hold-on-for-dear-life and cover-your-eyes stanzas? Suddenly, under Coach Hunter, they are statement frames for the Caps. Production, derived from patience, slow but steady absorption of a radically new system, and increasing confidence, appears to arriving.
A few quick thoughts:
- Is the Beast back? In a modest 18 minutes of ice time last night the Gr8 pumped 7 shots on the Senators’ cage, and they were all of the quality variety. It was vintage Ovi. Since the coaching change he has certainly been more an impactful performer, but last night he seemed to put it all together at last, and that dazzling, game-changing tally — and I think it belongs among his 10 best tallies ever as a Cap — may represent his personal crossing of the rubicon this season.
- Can someone please get Brooks Laich a stick that actually stays in one piece on the penalty kill?
- Props to Dale Hunter for trying out that Halpern/Johannson/Brouwer combination. That was, to my knowledge, one of the few combinations we hadn’t seen yet in Washington, but it was a nice mix of veteran experience and younger spark.
- Karl Alzner’s paycheck should get a bonus; there was one moment (I think it was on the penalty kill) where he threw his body on the right half of the goal line because Vokoun left it exposed while there was significant traffic and a battle for the puck going on in front of the net.
- More thoughts Ovi: I haven’t seen him play quite like that since before John Wall joined the Wizards. He’s actually getting to the net again on occasion when he charges into the offensive zone by himself, from out wide, where he generates lethal speed on a bull-rush, and his goal was a beautiful mix of skill, will, cunning, and flair. Ovechkin flair — which of course is unlike anyone else’s in hockey. He’ll probably be a stronger player for going through this protracted slump.
- 44 shots on goal. Not bad. A power play goal. Not bad. Still lots of work to do on the PK (bad). Allowing Ottawa to score on the power play to make it 4-3 late, needlessly injecting drama into the evening, falls (again) at the stick of the undisciplined and unpredictable Alexander Semin, but a crazy shot from John Carlson in his own zone that hit an empty net was a pretty fun way to get insurance.
- On Semin: Just as we may have witnessed Alexander Ovechkin chart a positive and productive new course with last night’s effort, I’m left wondering just how much more the new coach has to see of Ovechkin’s countryman before an ultimate verdict is rendered. At 4-2 deep in the third on the road, the game needs to go in lockdown, and that’s not a task you look to #28 to carry out.
- It’s actually difficult for me to pick a favorite goal in this game: the beauty by Ovechkin, the gorgeous pass by Laich to Backstrom as they came flying towards the net and the successful shot by Nick, and a somewhat similar goal off a pass from Johannson to Brouwer.
Perhaps a statement win for Dale Hunter. A relief win for the fanbase. Most importantly, perhaps: a night we’ll look back on and say, “That’s when Ovi got his groove back.”