I'm not going to go all Toronto on you and pretend that how we played had nothing to do with quality of competition, but after seeing Florida stomp all over Tampa Bay the night before, I had to admit I was a little nervous. Turns out there was absolutely nothing to be worried about at all, except for the usual--getting out of our way, because lord knows the Panthers were.
That was some of the best hockey I've seen from the Caps since the season opened, and arguably before that as well, so I'm going to get excited if I want to, dammit. I know it's only October, but if I can't get worked up, what am I watching hockey for anyway?
Let's not beat around the bush here. The Washington Capitals are amazing.
So since it's suddenly become trendy for everyone to throw their backup goalies against us, the Panthers start Jakob Markstrom, a baby goalie in his first ever full NHL game. Aw.
Let's crush him.
Telestrator says he needs to be on the "mark".
I see what you did there.
That's not even the media fixation for this game here, though. Nope. I bet you can guess what is. Hint: it starts with "does" and ends with "Sasha care". That's right, the ignominious return of Matt Bradley the Trash Talker, Who We Used To Love. In fact overall, this is a kind of awkward ex-girlfriend game altogether, we've got all sorts of Caps alum on our ice, from Bradley to Jose Theodore to Tomas Fleischmann. They're all looking good--Bradley is interviewed and says he's really excited to be a Florida Panther. I think he's lying.
We're on fire from the very first shift, and in fact there's a legitimate scoring chance within the first thirty seconds of play, monster one-timer from Ovechkin that Markstrom gets a piece of. Welcome to the NHL, kid.
Announcers say Markstrom is "big down low." Rude.
Scottie Upshall doesn't give a fuck about your stickhandling rules, if there is a guy going by him and he has no other way to stop them, he is going to trip them. Stick goes up, Hendricks keeps his legs moving, and we have got ourselves a power play.
For about the first half of it, it's a lot of setup, a lot of keepaway passing and not a lot of shots on goal. Then Ovechkin moves, in what apparently could be construed as a semi-attacking sort of motion in the general direction of the goal--and the defense does what defense generally does in this situation and employs what's known as the holy shit, Ovechkin! cover him, cover him! play. Ovechkin draws basically every Panther on the ice, leaving Johansson--well, not an easy shot, but one he's capable of burying.
So speaking of trends this season--severe angle goals, am I right? They're getting through. Severe angle goals. Tell your friends.
1-0 Capitals, and after about another minute of aggressive play from us, I realize that I have not even seen Vokoun yet--the first time the puck comes down into our zone for more than three seconds, I am mildly surprised to remember that we have a net down there that, at least in theory, could be scored on.
Oh hey there, 29. You look bored.
The Panthers buzz around for a moment, and I get the feeling they would really like a goal. They can't have one. On the way back the other direction, Jason Chimera decides that it's time for Jack Skille to die. Now, Jack Skille is leading the league in my favorite hockey names to say, but that doesn't mean this isn't a fun hit to watch.
Announcers observe that it's tough to get power plays when you don't have the puck. Correct. Somehow, though, the Panthers manage, though it's more or less Hamrlik committing a penalty on Upshall, who was just about to commit a penalty. Oh well.
Penalty kill is going reasonably well, we're preventing just fine, but then Matt Hendricks all of the sudden decides to be the most aggressive person in the world, battles the puck away shorthanded, takes it and runs. No real scoring chance for him, but the Panthers spend pretty much the rest of the time chasing the puck and only get set up in the last few seconds. No shots on the power play. None.
Panthers try to get some shit going, Green responds by falling on top of them. Good defensive play, sir.
In the second period, the Panthers have decided that they don't like spending all period pinned in their own zone, and valiantly try to do something about that. Flash tries to do the Johansson and stuff it in from behind the net and gets stoned by Vokoun, gets another shot away and Vokoun gets a piece of it. All right, all right, Fleischmann. Calm down, we noticed you.
As soon as we start to move the puck again, Perrault gives it away for free like we're running a charity here--Vokoun makes the save, Bradley tries to put away the rebound, and there's a Bradley/Semin pileup in front of the net. Awkward. HEY SO ABOUT THAT APOLOGY. WHILE I HAVE YOU HERE.
Aaaand that's about all the signs of life we see from Florida that we see for another good few minutes. Quiet stadium. I feel calmer than I have in any game so far. Not sure if that's a good thing.
Vokoun's thoughts: do we have eggs? Maybe I should pick up some eggs on the way home. Eggs and milk.
Green gets a HUGE chance, Markstrom somehow gets across. How is it fair that their goalie is 6'6 and covers literally like all of the whole net? This has to be cheating somehow. Chimera gets a great shot too, no goal. I am starting to find Markstrom a little more irritating than adorable.
All five Capitals decide to crash the net at once, Markstrom saves. We are throwing away chances right and left. We've got chances to spare, apparently capitalizing on them is not even necessary.
Vokoun's thoughts: Ho hum. I wonder if anyone has a crossword puzzle?
Skille tries to go for Perrault, but oh no, we have learned our lessons about letting our little guys fight. Hendricks gets in the middle of it, there's some yelling and shoving. Skille takes a penalty, so does Hendricks. Four on four.
Then there's a weird play where Mike Green gets hit by Kulekov, sends off a perfect pass anyway like it's no big deal, and then the moment I take my eyes off him, he's suddenly crumpling to the ice, and getting up way, way too slow. Oh no! Head injury? Knee injury?
According to Joe B, he got hit "right in the produce section".
I hope he is all right. There are some Caps parts that should never be injured.
Semin knows that we are distressed about this, and that the only way to draw our attention away from Mike Green's produce section is to score. This is no problem for Semin.
Wrist shot city. Semin all day long. Can we have a giant banner that comes down fromt he ceiling that says "Sasha cares"? Also confetti.
What's up, Matt Bradley.
We've got energy now, we remember about scoring goals, and how much we like it. Semin especially seems to have recalled this, and is holding a stickhandling clinic in the Panther's end, but Markstrom makes the save by flopping on it. The Goalie Guild says he's a pouncer.
Oh yeah. I see it.
Mike Green is back out on the ice, apparently recovered, and Vokoun is getting some action finally, has to make a few good saves. Panthers would really, really, really like to score. Perhaps they have forgotten about Tomas Vokoun. He's swallowing everything--at one point gets out of the net after the puck so aggressively that he basically tabletops Mike Green.
Mike Green is having a rough night.
Semin takes it back in, being so very scoring threat. Panthers are frantic. Nobody likes to be shut out. They are in full-on "just get ONE" mode, but it's not happening for them.
One last breath of air for Florida when we take a penalty because Roman Hamrlik is an interfering interferer tonight. It's cool, let's give Vokoun something to do. We can feel the shutout in our bones, but I am trying not to jinx it by saying it out loud. This proves difficult, as I am excitable.
Our PK is the most unassailable of solid fucking objects. Campbell with some pretty stick work. It occurs to me yet again that the whole of this team is so much less than the sum of its parts, there's some talented people playing hockey in Florida.
Unfortunately, they are still playing in Florida. We'll see how the Frankenteam finally pulls together, but for now, they have got nothing on us.
Somehow we get a 3-on-2 shorthanded. I don't know how we do these things. The penalty dies, and they pull their goalie for an extra attacker, which is a nice try and all but unfortunately, we are entirely too awesome. Chimera gets past the Panthers, shoots at the net from like forty feet and somehow actually makes it.
Fuck yes. Your Capitals goal leader, Jason Chimera.
5 and 0. Shutout Vokoun.
Haters can no longer feasibly hate.
All quiet on the Ovechkin front, but it's okay. The rest of the team is clicking--we can wait. He's Ovechkin, he can have all the time he needs.
Even better, Bradley and Semin apparently talked after the game, Bradley apologized, and they hugged it out. This is so good to hear--Bradley may not be a Cap anymore, but we loved him when he was here, and now that things are settled between him and Semin, we can cautiously welcome him back into our hearts. Because say what you will about Semin, but I have no complaints--sure, he can be frustrating sometimes, and he can be a diva. But he's our diva.
Five and oh, Caps fans. I know it's still October, but this is something to be proud of. Flyers Thursday, meaning we're going head to head with the other team in the league that feels like they're on top of the world right now, who feels like they can't be beat, and we get to see who's right about that.
My money's on us.
Let's go Caps.