Remarkably, for a time it looked like the Capitals were just continuing where they left off after Friday's 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the Rangers. The Islanders got the first 11 shots on goal tonight, scored the first two goals and had a few chances (Nielsen here, Grabner there) early in the second period to make it 3- or 4-0. Instead, Michael Neuvirth made the saves, Al Montoya didn't on Brooks Laich, and it was back to being a losable game at 2-1.
By the final horn, the good will from a dominant first period and the season's first sellout felt a little hollow. But I can't help going a little easy on this group's performance, given the massive experience deficit on the young injury replacement blueline. As Bruce Boudreau said during his timeout after Travis Hamonic made it 2-0:
"Quite frankly, I was telling them we stink," Boudreau said. "We were being embarrassed by a bunch of 22- and 23-year-olds. We were lucky, up to that point, that it wasn't 5-0."
Notes from an Inverse Comeback
- I learned long ago not to read anything into young D-men's early games, especially since their coaches usually put them in sheltered situations. But so far, Mark Katic's play (just 11:52 tonight) hasn't worried me. He has certainly been sheltered though, deployed against the weaker lines.
- What does worry me is the continued hex on the blueline. Seriously, Bruno Gervais takes a puck in the face while on the bench? And early on, no less. Then minutes later Travis Hamonic scares us all by going down with a puck in the uncomfortables? Thankfully, both returned to play full games, but it's unbelievable how often the defensemen take fluke injuries that make me go, "Here we go again."
- On that note, Mark Streit is practicing and will be cleared for contact Wednesday, according to the MSG+ broadcast.
- Fortunately I didn't have the Capitals feed -- it was Jiggsy, baby -- but it sounds like those of you who did heard some things you don't like (which is neither new nor unexpected, sadly). If the Caps guys really questioned Hamonic's injury after he took one in the valuables, well I don't even know what to say.
- By the way, the rule on stopping play is to wait until the injured player's team gets possession, unless it's an injury where it looks like immediate attention is required. Think back to Chris Neil a couple of weeks ago, who lay on the ice as the Islanders scored.
- I'd say this was Montoya's first game where all of the goals were stoppable, although the Knuble goal was a bit of a defensive mess and the game-winner was a Semin wrist shot, which is never easy. (The timing of those two, changing it from a 2-1 lead to a 3-2 deficit in just three minutes, was what really killed) But it was that Laich goal -- itself off a neutral zone turnover -- that was most stoppable. With only 22 shots faced, tonight dings Montoya's averages a little closer back to earth.
- Speaking of nice wrist shots and sweet rushes, Kyle Okposo's pull across from the wing to the top of the slot, shooting in stride for the first goal, was a nice play we'd all like to see more often.
- Hamonic's goal, meanwhile, was a hilarious floater that was guided in by John Carlson's glove. Not that Hamonic won't gladly take it.
- Crazy Hornick trivia of the night: "The Caps needed a victory tonight to have more points than the Isles over the last three months. Since December 1, Washington is 16-14-8 for 40 points and the Isles are 18-20-3 for 39 points (18-14-3 since December 16)."
- Also from the magic stat man: "Three straight crowds over 13,000 for the first time in nearly two years." Baby steps. You know what fills seats and sells beer? Not charging as much to get in the door, as we're seeing in recent weeks.
- FIG Winner: NHL_Fan was one of many to pick Okposo and the assist, but had the closest time.
A lament from J.P. at Japers' Rink that sounds all too familiar:
So Zenon Konopka to try to shift the momentum with the Caps down 2-0, but no Cap will do anything when Derek Stepan knocks their Norris Finalist out of the game with an upper-arm-to-the-melon a night earlier. Got it.will fight (and get pounded by)
This is what I mean when I say every fanbase experiences this puzzled lament. And while it might feel like the Isles are past that stage -- was Pittsburgh the final volley? -- I'm sure such occasions will happen again. I know a bunch of us believe it has to do with the bizarre enforcer culture and the inconsistent discipline system that Colin Campbell has perpetuated. No one knows what's a serious crime anymore, and no one knows who the law is, and no one knows whether they'll be part of a new crime if they decide they should be part of the law.
A lingering takeaway for me tonight is the Rob Schremp - Josh Bailey - Blake Comeau line, which might as well be The Enigma Line. We know this already, it's nothing new. We'll find out if it's to be altered by force when we learn whether Schremp's been claimed.
Bailey I trust and have pretty confident hopes for, and Comeau I want kept around despite warts in his game. It's just frustrating how hard it is to find the right partners for all three. Tonight, with some of the line juggling, it looked like Jack Capuano was searching for partners for everyone.
Meanwhile, despite lots of one-goal games and the Isles playing the Caps tough, the Caps are an easy 10-0-3 against the Isles in the last 13 games. Don't suppose the challenge to reverse that gets any easier Tuesday in D.C.
Not Only But Also
...The Sound Tigers had an ugly loss tonight, but Michael Fornabaio's description of Mark Wotton losing it (for good reason, it sounds like) is pretty entertaining.
With all the trade insanity around the league, plus Schremp on waivers, who knows what tomorrow brings? Well, at least a prospect report, for one...