Maybe my standards are just artificially low because the Caps have been going through a prolonged rough patch. However, while there is certainly more work to be done - it seems like the Caps have an extra bounce in their stride again. It looks like they have that energy and confidence they were lacking - at least there is a lot more of it there than any time of recent memory. It looks like game-by-game, Dale Hunter's system is starting to sink in. There are indeed signs of life from the boys in red.
While Neuvy looked relatively good given how he's been playing, I thought he should have had Ottawa's first goal. I also don't like the fact that the game went to OT. The Caps should have closed this out in regulation. But, obviously, if it's going to go to OT - it might as well end the way it did :). Our PP needs to get back on track if we are truly going to be an elite team - and right now it is just heinous. I thought given the amount of pressure we put on Craig Anderson - our ability to finish chances is still lacking. Of course, having chances to not convert on is a huge step forward from simply not having any scoring chances.
All that said, much, much better. Backstrom's goal was a sick wrister. Brouwer's goal came from a beautiful chain of passes (Ovi and Wideman get the assists). And, Brooks Laich's goal was just blazing speed from him as well as Jason Chimera. For a "defensive system", there was certainly a lot of offensive pressure and offensive beauty generated by the Caps. That alleviates a big concern of mine (which I address in my last post). The Caps had 35 shots on goal, many of them high quality. A little more confidence from their finishers - and this very well could have been a 4-1 or 5-2 decisive win. Good thing the Caps have a chance to pull that feat off vs. Ottawa on Wednesday in Ontario.......
The Caps also never trailed in this game. That only happened one time during the month of November (4-3 OT win vs. Winnipeg on 11/23/11 -- ok, they never trailed New Jersey at home on 11/12 until they lost the shootout -- call that what you want). The Caps only committed one penalty and it was in the first period (a very blatant slash by Jason Chimera on Daniel Alfredsson). Jeff Halpern was 7 for 8 from the faceoff dot. Only one Capital was a - in the +/- category (John Carlson, -1). Alex Ovechkin had a respectable 4 shots on goal, including one breakaway (Laich had 6 SOG and Chimera had 5). In addition to scoring the team's second goal, Troy Brouwer led the Caps with 6 hits.
Many other bloggers/analysts have pointed out the shorter shift lengths for the Caps - especially on the penalty kill. The penalty kill looked good (as did the Capitals' ability to not need many penalty kills). So, I guess the special teams area of improvement would be the dreaded power play.
Long story short - a shitload of progress tonight. The Caps still need to get back to work. They have still been playing poorly more often than they have played well.
But, they have something to build on and Huntsy has his first win as an NHL coach. Let's roll the dice and see what it gets us on Monday night - with the big tilt vs. the SE Division's leading team, the Washington Capitals alumni club of South Florida......I mean the Florida Panthers.