Capitals 7, Maple Leafs 1
It appears reports of the Washington Capitals demise have been greatly exaggerated. On the strength of two Alexander Ovechkin goals, as well as tallies from Matt Bradley, Brian Sutherby, Jeff Schultz and Matt Pettinger (the first of the year for each) the Capitals were able to rout the Maple Leafs 7-1, despite playing without two of their top six forwards (Clark, Semin) and their top defenseman (Poti). Olaf Kolzig rebounded from allowing a goal on the first Toronto shot to stop 32 of 33, holding one of the NHL's most potent offenses to just one score.
There's really not a lot of in-depth analysis you can do after a 7-1 game most of the time. The Caps exploited the Leafs weaknesses (bad turnovers, slow defensemen, sieve-like goalies) and didn't miss their chances to put the puck in the net.
I would guess the players-only meeting in St. Louis helped a lot. There's only so much a coach can do on his one. In terms of what he sees about what to change or what needs improvement, he's only one guy. Yes, he's paid to be the go-to guy for that sort of thing but there are a lot more players than there are members of the coaching staff. Aside of that players can call one another out. Coaches can too of course, but it's classes for a coach to single a guy out in front of the whole team. On the other hand veteran players can say much worse without creating an us-versus-them mentality. Great decision by the veterans to hold the meeting at that time.
The important thing to get from a win like this is momentum. The Caps came into one of the loudest, most packed buildings in the NHL and dominated the opposition, despite being without three of the most important players - that's the type of game that can lead to big-time winning streak or a great run. Hopefully the Caps can take some momentum from the Leafs game and building on it when they face the Rangers on Thursday.
A few quick hits:
- Sutherby was wearing a 'A', an interesting decision given that he's only played this year because of injuries.
- Maybe it's unfair to criticize a guy who stopped 32 of 33 shots by the goal Kolzig let in was a softie. If you took away the goals that have made if by him by either going through the five-hole or slipping under the leg pads you could cut his GAA in half.
- Jeff Schultz's goal was his first in the NHL
(1) Alex Ovechkin (2 goals, 7 shots, +1)
(2) Matt Bradley (1 goal, 2 assists, +3)
(3) Michael Nylander (3 assists, +1)
"It's really important for our [checking line forwards] to shut the other team down. We didn't want them thinking they had to score, but it gets to a certain point where they have to contribute something down the line offensively."
"I think we deserved tonight's win."