F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 12/16/11 at 01:08 PM ET
To say that the Capital’s goaltending has been subpar in the first third of the season would be a bit of an understatement. Tomas Vokoun, who I thought would be a revelation in net, has struggled to find his rhythm. While his numbers aren’t awful, 12-8; 2.81; .906, Tomas has yet to be good enough to steal games for the Caps. Neuvirth, meanwhile, was has been downright bad. Yes, he was hung out to dry in a few games under Bruce, but this still has not been the Neuvy that we saw last year. Last night in Winnipeg, Michal took a big step to returning to form.
Neuvirth stopped all 26 shots the Jets threw out him, en route to his first shutout of the season and his 5th career. At times, he was the only thing keeping the Caps in the game, specifically a first period that saw the Jets outshoot the Caps 14-7 and outchance them 8-4. Even as the Caps’ offense came to life in the second half of the game, Michal was needed as the Jets were able to muster up a few odd-man rushes. Even better than his statline was how he looked on the ice. He was out challenging, something he had not done consistently since the first game of the season. Although I still believe Vokoun can succeed, I think that Neuvirth has probably earned the next few starts. It very well could be that Neuvirth’s poor play was simply a result of the injury he picked up in the first week of the season. Hopefully Neuvirth’s resurgence will push Vokoun to find his stride.
While Neuvirth did stop all 26 shots, he was not responsible for keeping out what would have been a 27th shot on net. That credit goes straight to Dennis Wideman. After Knuble flubbed up a shorthanded 2-on-1, the Jets stormed back with a 3-on-2. Blake Wheeler fed Bryan Little for a one-timer that Neuvirth had a 0% chance of stopping. Luckily he didn’t have to as Dennis Wideman kicked out the skate for a nifty kick save. Given the Caps’ penchant for getting down on themselves after surrendering a goal, that might have been the most crucial play of the game.
It may have taken 30 games, but Alex Ovechkin was finally a hero for the Caps, thanks to his 10th goal of the season that broke a scoreless tie after 58+ minutes. Taking a drop pass from Johansson, Ovechkin fired one of his patented wristers through Pavelec. The key word there being through. This was not a situation where Ovi simply picked a corner and sniped it. Instead the goal was a simple result of his shot being too hot for Pavelec to stop, despite getting a piece of it. While Ovi may still have the fire, I wonder whether he still has the accuracy. Two years ago Ovechkin would have put that puck right under the crossbar.
The Capitals travel south to Denver to do battle against Semyon Varlamov and the Colorado Avalanche. As a longtime member of #TeamVarly, it will be bittersweet for me. Let’s see if the Caps can get above .500 under Hunter while helping themselves to a higher 1st round pick. Remember that the Caps traded Varly’s rights to Colorado for a 1st rounder. Given Varlamov’s number, 10-13-1; 3.14; .896, the Caps look to make-out well in this deal.
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About F Street Faithful
Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.