Caps win in ugly fashion
In response to an awful 0-2 Canadian road trip against Edmonton and Vancouver where the Caps defense, penalty killing and transition game looked inept, Coach Bruce Boudreau made several changes to the line up against the Anaheim Ducks. He brought up Cody Eakin from the Hershey Bears to man the wing on the 2nd line with Marcus Johansson and Alexander Semin while demoting Mike Knuble from that line to the 4th line with Matt Hendricks and Matthieu Perreault. Jeff Halpern sat in the press box while Perreault played center on the 4th line.
The defensive pairing changes were even more dramatic since Boudreau broke up John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Not that they played that well in Canada together. He paired Alzner with Jeff Schultz and put John Erskine (nice to have you back John!) with Carlson. Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik played together again.
Not that all the lines stayed intact because...for the first 28:59 of the game the Ducks owned the Caps and put on a clinic on how to pass - shoot - score - forecheck - pressure - and keep the puck in their offensive zone. On 11 shots during that time, the Ducks netted three goals, two from Teemu Selanne and one from Saku Koivou. The first Selanne goal happened on an atrocious mistake by Wideman throwing the puck to Hamrlik right in front of Voukoun and Selanne took advantage. That line pairing, with Hamrlik playing minus-3 hockey, stunk it up badly.
The Caps continued to look lost trying to get the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone, just like in their last two games. It's so obvious when Mike Green is out of the Caps lineup because he's their most effective defenseman at moving the puck up the ice. How many times in this game did you watch the Caps passing around behind the net and in front of Voukoun because they couldn't get past the Ducks. Ugh.
In the last half of the second period, the Caps woke up and flurried around the Ducks netminder, Jonas Hiller, and netted two goals in a little over three minutes. Brooks Laich threw a great pass to Joel Ward and he got it past Hiller. Wideman helped to make up for his atrocious play in the first period by blasting the second goal past Hiller.
In the 3rd period, the Caps 24th placed penalty killing unit got to work about eight minutes into the period on Voukoun's tripping penalty (he looked shaky tonight, too). Corey Perry got a goal after stabbing at the puck in Voukoun's net about three or four times. Once again, the Caps got caught looking around at the puck instead of moving bodies out of the net. Another problem area for them.
Troy Brouwer got the Caps within one at 11:42 in the 3rd. Nicklas Backstrom tied the game with a wicked wrister with 42-seconds left. Boudreau left the Alexes - Ovechkin and Semin - on the bench while Backstrom played the extra man with Chimera, Laich and Ward. Smart move on Boudreau's part to bench the Russians as I trust the third line more to get the job done, when needed. With the Russians, not so much, particularly, with how Ovie played tonight. He needs to step it up, become a better two-way player and realize he's getting nowhere with that barreling toward the net, curl and drag move, as he doesn't have enough space anymore to make that play. He hasn't in a long time.
Backstrom netted the game winner halfway through the overtime period by signaling to Ovie to stay behind him instead of barreling in again. Backie had an outstanding game and was awarded the first star.
So, Boudreau, for the first time in his tenure, sent a message to his star, by limiting his ice time. I never thought I'd see the day. I hope it motivates Ovie. Regardless, all of the Caps need to play better and as a team.
Bottom line from tonight's game:
- Caps got lucky, as they played an overall lousy game, and Hiller helped them out by letting in some softies.
- Caps don't play well against teams with good forechecking pressure like Vancouver and Anaheim. That's not going to fly in April, May and June just like it didn't last April against Tampa Bay.
The Caps head out for a two game road trip this weekend against the Hurricanes and Islanders. I hope they play better than they did these last three games.
Let's go Caps!