Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whew....a 2-point night

After that abomination of a game against the Flyers the other night (which, thankfully, I couldn't watch), long-time Caps fans began wondering.  Is this team just awful?  Will they ever be able to get it together, even under new coach Dale Hunter?  It seems like every season Caps teams are lacking in one way or the other - lack of talent, lack of heart or lack of coaching.  This has been the situation since 1974 and this current team is no exception.  It remains to be seen if this team can overcome its issues, such as, goaltending inconsistency, defensive breakdowns, lack of strength down the middle and high-priced talent that isn't scoring.

But, tonight, at least, the Caps accomplished what they were supposed to in beating the Jets 1-0.  Michal Neuvirth kept the Caps in the game during the first period making some beautiful saves on 14 shots on goal.  The rest of the team caught up and helped Neuvirth out in the last forty minutes, limiting them to 8 shots in the 2nd period and 3 shots in the 3rd.  It appeared like the players gained more confidence because Neuvirth bailed them out in the 1st period and they responded by shutting down the Jets the rest of the game.  Neurvirth got the first star of the game for his efforts.  It was great to see him pumping his fist and smiling under his helmet after getting the shutout.

Besides Neurvirth's performance, the highlight of the game was Marcus Johansson's drop pass to Alex Ovechkin with 1:14 left in the 3rd and watching Ovie blast the puck past Ondrej Pavelec for the game winner.  It's no secret that if Ovie isn't scoring, the Caps aren't going anywhere and he hasn't been doing much scoring lately, but he's getting a lot more shots on goal in the DH era, which is encouraging.  

It's getting easier to see Coach Hunter's system as the Caps get more adept at playing it. I like the other things Hunter is doing, too.  He rolls the appropriate personnel for the appropriate situation - no Alexander Semin out there on Ovie's line with under two minutes left in the game, no Jeff Schultz playing much, at all, lately, and no John Erskine when they need a goal to win the game (don't get me wrong, I adore Erskine for the role he's meant to play and plays well) .  Hunter hands out ice time based on performance, too, as evidenced by limiting the struggling Cody Eakin to 7:12 in the game tonight. 

Although my optimism and pessimism about this team swings wildly based on how they play on any given night, I'm happy with tonight's 1-0 win.  I'll be even happier if they make a repeat performance in Colorado on Saturday.

Let's go Caps!

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