Monday, January 18, 2010

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

ovechkin gets ready for his sixth career penalty shot

"We just want to give fans free chicken wings and give them free food, you know?" said Ovechkin after the Washington Capitals put away the Philadelphia Flyers for the third time this season. He made it sound simple, despite the fact that it was his first career goal via penalty shot, after five previous attempts. His shootout percentage is marginally better (1 for 5 this year), but the decision to award a penalty shot for Coburn's actions during Ovechkin's late breakaway had some in the stands wishing for a traditional two-minute power play.

Ovechkin's 30th goal wasn't the story of the game however; that distinction belonged to Brooks Laich who snapped an eighteen game scoring drought after a one-on-one video session with Coach Boudreau.

"We went through the shifts from the Toronto game and at the end of it we discussed what we saw. And the term he used was 'You’re kind of just existing out there.' And the term I used was that 'It kind of looked uninspired' – the way I was playing," Laich told the media after being named first star of the game. He scored twice, once short-handed and once even strength, and added an assist in the 5-3 undressing of a Philly team that is trying desperately to climb into a playoff position before April.

Laich certainly wasn't just existing on the ice during the matinee matchup. After his first goal, which tied the game at two, he played his position solidly and relentless, resulting in the short-hander against a Flyers squad that has allowed six other SHG this season.

knuble in his office

Since coming back from a broken pinky finger, Mike Knuble had been slow to get back into form. But, in the last week, "Noobs" has netted five goals in five games, working to a +2 overall, and virtually none of those goals were from more than five feet away from the net.

Since switching Tomas Fleischmann to a center position and pairing him with Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin, Coach Boudreau seems to have finally found a happy medium with his lines. As much as he's known for switching things up every game, and oftentimes during a game, the 8-19-22, 28-14-21 and 16-9-25 lines seem to have clicked and as such, have persisted for over five games (which is likely a record for Boudreau's Capitals). The only line that has seen change is the fourth line, as Boyd Gordon and Quintin Laing have been in and out of the lineup.
backstrom waits patiently for the flyers to begin a breakout

Maybe not coincidentally, the Capitals have won four of the last five games, and scored an average of 5.6 goals per game. The last time the Capitals scored fewer than four goals? Their loss to the Los Angeles Kings on January 2nd. In that span, Capitals faithful at Verizon Center have netted free wings in the Glory Days promotion three times of a possible four (only four goals were scored on the Canadiens on January 5th).

It's been said that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Looks like the exception to that rule is if you're a Caps fan!

The real test for the team is coming up in the next week. The Stanley Cup finalist Detroit Red Wings come to town tomorrow night, and then the Capitals visit the Cup winning Penguins on Thursday. The week wraps up back at home with the Phoenix Coyotes -- a surprise of the season with 61 points as of this writing -- coming to DC. If the Capitals are going to contend for the Cup in a serious fashion, these next three games will illuminate strengths and weaknesses for sure. And the Coyotes game is the next Caps on Tap bar crawl, so it will be entertaining in more ways than one! :)

For some other enlightening reading on the Flyers/Capitals matchup, check out : The Examiner, Japers Rink, Rock The Red, Washington Post and Russian Machine Never Breaks.

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