The Caps need confidence desperately. Hopefully, their 5-3 win in Ottawa will give them some of it back. They scored on a power play, finally, after blowing a 5 on 3. Alex Ovechkin scored a goal after turning away from the d-man, stopping in an instant, sending ice shavings into the air, and lifting a wrist shot past Craig Anderson. Troy Brouwer scored 15-seconds later on a pretty pass from Marcus Johansson. Brouwer got the Gordie Howe hat trick tonight - a goal, an assist and a fight (nice fight for Brouwer, too). And, the Caps survived a late third period penalty to Joel Ward, after giving up a goal on an Alexander Semin hooking penalty.
There were times during this game that I still yelled at the TV and threw things around my room, like the hooking penalty to Semin and the goal five seconds later or the John Erskin/Tomas Vokoun out of position Ottawa goal. But, this team appears to be getting better in the Dale Hunter era and, I guess, for right now, that's good enough. It's either that or give up on this team and I'm not ready to do that yet. Hunter hasn't had enough time.
Hunter's nine day era hasn't been easy. Caps lost two 2-1 games to St Louis and Pittsburgh, lost to Florida 5-4 (an ugly game), beat Ottawa 3-2 in OT and beat Ottawa tonight 5-2. The Caps confidence has been visibly missing for a while and neither goalie is playing well enough to bail out the team, although Tomas Vokoun played a strong game in net tonight. But, there have been encouraging signs that the Caps are starting to turning things around like:
- Ovie played a monster game tonight and is playing inspired hockey again. Hunter's increasing Ovie's minutes and it's helping. Ovie's getting more chances and more shots. An added bonus is seeing Ovie pressuring in the d-zone. That's never happened.
- Hunter is implementing a 1-2-2 trap type system to cut down on goals against and it has done that, although Florida nailed the Caps for five goals. The Caps are playing much more structured and disciplined hockey, in general, including using shorter passes in their transition game. Those cross-ice, fifty-foot passes have mostly led to the puck going back to the d-zone so I'm happy to see less of those.
- Jeff Schultz only played 3:55 because "he didn't fit the game," according to Hunter. Hmmm, they were down a goal in the 3rd period and Hunter wanted his offensive d-men out there. John Erskine wasn't out there either. Interesting...
- Although they don't consistently play sixty minutes of hockey yet, see first period against Florida and various times tonight, they're still playing more aggressively, winning puck battles, hustling, and hitting.
Toronto comes to town on Friday.
Let's go Caps!