F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 10/21/11 at 04:00 PM ET
The Washington Capitals continued their impressive start to the season as they handed the Philadelphia Flyers their first regulation loss of the season by a score of 6-2. Despite a second period that saw the Flyers dominating the time of possession, the Caps played a rather sound game at both ends of the ice. Even when the Flyers did go one their runs of dominance, the Caps’ defense forced them to keep the puck along the board and at the point, effectively leading to them taking some low quality shots. When the Flyers did manage to get the puck into the slot, Vokoun was magnificent as he repeatedly stone walled the Flyers forwards.
Even with the great game by Vokoun, fans have to be most pleased with the 2-goal performance by Alex Ovechkin. While we may never see Ovechkin put up the goals he used to, I think it surprised most people that it took him 6 games to record a multi-point night or score a goal that wasn’t a deflection. Ovechkin, like the majority of his teammates, has gotten progressively better over the winning streak but he needs to keep working. The days are long gone when he could just skate in the zone, fire the puck at will and expect to put up 50 goals. Both goals last night were a result of Ovechkin getting to open areas and being ready. For Ovechkin the shot volume does matter, but so does shot location and timing.
Not to draw any attention away from Ovie’s performance, but both goals were a direct result of the team changing the way it operates. Against Florida on Tuesday, the Caps repeatedly tried to execute last-minute, cross-crease passes only to have a back-checking defender pick it up or the goalie get across quick enough. Ovechkin’s first goal was a result of Backstrom not trying to feed it to him and instead just getting the puck on goal. It is much harder for teams to play the man (Ovechkin) when the puck is loose around the crease. When in doubt, aim for opposite pad and hope your teammates are crashing the net.
Ovechkin’s second goal, of the power play variety, was a result of something I have been praying they would do for a long time: shoot the one-timer. On too many occasions this season (including the 5 previous man advantages of this game), the Caps’ power play has passed the puck well, but not gotten the shot value high enough. They would make a pretty pass but the receiver would wait for the defense to shift before firing the puck. This has led to numerous blocked shots and loss of zone time. As soon as Backstrom saw Ovechkin open he fed him a perfect pass. While Ovechkin could have easily made the fancy move, and bumped it back to Backstrom, he chose to simply pull the trigger. The one-timer won’t always find the twine, but it does force the goalie to make a save before setting up. This will lead to more rebounds and forcing the penalty killers to scramble.
For the 3rd consecutive game, the Capitals have been perfect on the penalty kill. While their mix of high and low pressure on the kill is certainly contributing to this, the biggest thing I can see is that the Caps are staying out of the box. The Capitals have supplied their opponents with a combined 5 power play opportunities over the past 3 games. The Caps clearly are comfortable rolling 4 lines so the more they stay out of the box, the more they could do that. When you force a guy like Brouwer to spend time shorthanded you have to jumble lines to get him rest. This was seen last night as Semin spent a shift on the top line following a successful kill.
This game certainly gave the fans some reassurance that the Caps still had that quick-strike capability when they needed it. The important thing now is to make sure that they don’t begin to rest on the fact they can score goals when they need to. I really like that Detroit is coming to town after this game. Detroit’s defense has been stellar in their first 4 games, surrendering only 5 goals on 100 shots. The Caps cannot expect to win this game by expecting goals to come. A win against the Red Wings will require a healthy dose of grit, so expect to see a lot more of the meat and potatoes line. Detroit plays at home against Columbus tonight in a battle of the unbeaten versus the winless.
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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.