Washington Capitals: The Biggest Week Of The Season So Far
This past week could well prove to be the most important of year so far for the Washington Capitals. It all started in Chicago.
Facing a fellow challenger for the President’s Trophy, the Caps found themselves down 3-0, without captain Alex Ovechkin, and looking like lost little kids, with just one period to try to turn things around. Cue Nick Backstrom to take centre stage. Backstrom and the Caps awesome power play quickly got one back for the Capitals, and then scored just a second after the end of a 5-on-3 chance. Eric Fehr’s great run of form continued with the game-tying goal, and finally, Backstrom rounded off the comeback. Once again the Caps showed their mettle without Ovechkin, but the most important thing was a victory against the very good Blackhawks. Theodore was solid in goal; he couldn’t really do anything about the Hawks’ goals, although the defense once again looked shaky before yet another offensive bail-out.
After Ovechkin was given a two-game suspension (the more I think about it the more I agree with the decision), it was the Florida Panthers to feel the wrath of the Capitals, led by…Brendan Morrison? Yes, that’s right. Goalless in 16 games, and only one in the past 31, stuck in a prolonged slump, B-Mo notched a goal and two assists in the kind of performance that will have given him a real chance of cementing a spot in the line-up for the run-in. Before the game Coach Boudreau said he was starting to decide on the line-up he would stick with down the stretch, and after being a healthy scratch for the Blackhawks game, Morrison was definitely on the outside looking in. The Caps put 7 past the Panthers, Eric Fehr once again finding the net with the game-winner, and Brooks Laich also shone with a two-goal, three-point night. And in the race for the number one goalie spot, Jose Theodore chalked up his 25th win of the season.
In the second of the two Ovechkinless games, the Capitals offense looked good once again against the Hurricanes. This time, Joe Corvo was the star, netting two goals against his former teammates. The problem was defense. Chad Larose was allowed a breakaway goal after both Green and Corvo pinched in from the point, leaving the Caps 3-2 down late in the third. Fortunately, Eric Fehr just keeps scoring at the moment and his quick shot from Brendan Morrison’s set up found the corner of the goal with 10 seconds on the clock. But another defensive lapse, this time from Green and Schultz, gave Ray Whitney too much time to net the game-winner. Varlamov had another average game in net, still looking below his pre-injury standard, further strengthening Theodore’s case for the number one spot.
A lot has been found from these three games. First, the Caps again showed they are just fine without Ovechkin. Second, Brendan Morrison brought himself storming back into the coaches’ plans for the playoffs. Third, the Caps defense once again showed they need a lot of work to be a Cup-winning defense. And finally, Jose Theodore seems to be just one good game away from firmly cementing his place as the starting goalie for the playoffs.