Okay. It is time. We have arrived. Re-build over. We do not suck anymore and it is time to win.
Some people will be discouraged and chalk tonight's game up to things like luck...naw. Good teams win games like this. They find a way. They win despite segments of their lineup struggling to score. They win even when they don't dominate.
What a great feeling. I don't care that it was a low scoring and special teams heavy kind of game. We beat the last undefeated team in the league. We beat Alexander Ovechkin. We beat the mighty Capitals. Everyone in now on notice. Apparently there were an absolute ton of scouts in the building tonight...I'm guessing they were trying to figure out exactly what's going on here. The birth of one hell of a hockey team is what's going on here.
Also, I've figured out what has happened with our goaltending. You see, when Nik went to jail in Arizona, he was visited by former Vezina Trophy winner Jim Carey, who was able to dispose of him through some sort of Face-Off style procedure, and having rehabilitated his brain through extensive sports psychology work, returned to the NHL impersonating Nik Khabibulin to dominate once more. What a story and what luck for us!
Let there be no doubt that the Caps are an excellent hockey team. Only through seeing them live can you appreciate some of the finer elements of their skill. The way they float to the dangerous areas and always have a backwards passing option in the offensive zone is just incredible. They are patient, fast, can fire the puck and are dangerous at all times. With all that said, I think they're still decently beatable. If they face a squad that reads the play really well, and is able to think through their D system and adjust, there are a lot of passes that can be picked off. It is also possible to frustrate them and get them to stop skating if you don't play into their game. Tonight we forced the Capitals to use their sticks where they would normally use body position or skating. Our strong effort gave us enough powerplay advantage time that we scored enough goals and didn't allow Washington to get into a groove. We really did some good things to them and they couldn't cope for some time, especially in the second.
There we some very good efforts tonight, and some not so good ones. Rather than being disappointed we didn't play perfectly...such as being outshot and not scoring on the 5-on-3 or that our bottom three lines still aren't doing anything, be glad that we won without all that.
- What can you say really? On the only goal he allowed, he appeared to be interfered with and the rest of the night he was active, focused and ridiculously solid. He stared down Ovechkin several times and made some great saves. Even on the bar-rattler with little time left, I'd argue he took away everything else. He was never shaky and made some absolutely stupendous side-to-side saves. The crowd chanted his name at the end of the game, then when he was announced as first star. He acknowleged the applause and that was appreciated. What a start. He looks like a different man.
- Sign him right now to an extension. Right now. On the plane, draw up a deal and sign him. The guy has been mind-boggling and tonight was no exception. His D was excellent. He managed to carry around Theo Peckham all night and ran the powerplay point like a seasoned veteran. His shot on Eberle's game-winner was an absolute thing of beauty that I as a former defenceman just marvelled at. He took the pass, found his lane, shot hard and low to the perfect side (that shot either goes in or goes to Eberle. all day long that is a goal either way.) through a screen with an open Eberle waiting for the puck. Absolutely perfect. Before that he'd made an absolutely gross slap-pass to Eberle who then set up Hall for a beauty. This guy isn't just surviving, he's playing like a star back there for a team that needed to find a guy like him so badly. Just an amazing joy to watch.
- Pretty much the opposite of Potter unfortunately. I really like Theo...but he's been terrible and tonight was no different. The gift-wrapped second period giveaway pass to Ovechkin was just the most obvious point. He also took an early penalty, didn't impact the game physically, bobbled the puck a bunch and didn't make many good plays in his own zone where he needs to be effective. I don't know what's wrong with Theo but he looks like a totally different hockey player as well. Sit him. Petry needs to play tomorrow.
- He had a very quiet but very effective game. You can't really point to anything specific that I can recall, but there were really no mistakes from him tonight.
- I liked what he brought tonight; especially getting in the face of the Capitals forwards and even his elbow that resulted in a penalty. You do what you can against a team that good and Smid has become the kind of player that stays in the right position and never gets beat on anything weak. The only thing I'll dog him on is that I think it was him that missed the slapshot chance on the empty net.
- Probably his best game tonight. There was a play near the end of the game where the Capitals forecheckers were expecting him to make a panic clear and he just sat there calmly with the puck for a while...just a brilliant little play that makes the difference in one-goal games like this. He also got his shot on net and near the net several times, made some excellent little passes and played physically. He seems to be able to cross-check the hell out of people and not get called for it...which is essentially art for a defenceman. Came up pretty big when we needed him to very badly.
- There were times tonight where I almost liked Andy Sutton. Watching him throw one Capitals player into another not once but twice was one of the funnier and more impressive things I've seen. He didn't make a lot of good passes...I think he needs a new stick because even when he has time he just doesn't seem to be able to work his correctly. The penalty at the end was pretty bad...there's no reason to get your hands up there at all. He had position and just needed to make a good, solid hit. Ugh...
- Once again they played a nice, effective fourth line game. They seem to be very good at it. I was a little surprised that we didn't see more of Eager because you can certainly get the Capitals off their game through a distraction such as the kind he can provide. Petrell was once again extremely solid positionally, used his size to his advantage and contributed to the PK. He plays a broken record sort of a game and there's nothing wrong with that at all. Lander had fewer good moments in this one than he's had in the past couple games in that he didn't show a lot with the puck. He also didn't get beat, which is a plus but it seemed like he could have done more even in limited time. Good work on the PK though.
- Sam gave the puck away all night tonight, and not even trying to make plays most of the time, he was just bad. I think I counted around 10 giveaways from #89...which is totally unacceptable. He too seemed uncomfortable with his stick as he was fiddling with it between stoppages in play, but his reads are off, he can't see the passing lanes and his timing is horrible. Until he gets back up to speed, Sam either needs to be the fourth line C so Lander can go play #1 minutes in OKC, or ride the pine entirely. I actually like what Gagner brings when he plays on the fourth line, and have found in the past that it helps get him going. Couldn't hurt. Belanger was really steady defensively and especially in the third period. There were a couple times where he swooped in and skated loose pucks to safety as I'm not quite sure anyone else on our squad could. He's definitely making a difference for us even if he's not showing up on the scoresheet. I am a bit perplexed as to how useful he is on the PP...I don't see it at all. Paajarvi wasn't really a big factor tonight. I can recall him skating some pucks in decently well but he really didn't make any big plays that I can recall. There's nothing particularly wrong with this but I'm betting people will make a big deal out of it. This line actually had some solid shifts early on and seemed to be a tough match for Washington, but couldn't capitalize before the special teams parade started. I agree with getting Magnus off the PP as he's just not cut out for it right now (though that doesn't mean I like the 94-20-89 unit either...yuck)
- Smyth looked tired again...but saved his most focused and determined efforts for the defensive zone and the PK. That's where he's making a huge difference right now. He did set up a couple chances that Jones and Horcoff missed...but he wasn't effective on the powerplay and couldn't get any kind of transition game going. Horcoff did what he tends to do in games like this...miss some decent offensive chances, put up a great screen to help create a goal (Eberle's) and play really solid D. There were much fewer turnovers from him tonight and it really looked like he bore down. I'd say this was one of Jones' better games as his positioning wasn't so bad, he landed some hits and kept up to his linemates. I'm not sure where his loose-puck-chasing speed has gone exactly though...that seemed to be his trademark play last year and he's missed chances at it so far including tonight.
- I'm getting to the point where I wonder what else can be said. These guys had their hands full in terms of keeping up in the defensive zone tonight and certainly allowed some extended possessions, but again they bent without breaking. In the offensive zone...I really don't think any team can contain them when given even a little time and space. The Potter-Eberle-Hall goal (which saw #93 touch the puck before that) was a thing of beauty which we could have seen at least two more times tonight. They also set up that diagonal line play I talked about after last game and Hopkins made an absolutely sick pass through that could have been banged in. The Eberle goal was the result of a sustained effort and again, Hall touched the puck before Hopkins and Potter. These guys are playing the game in the offensive zone at a level I haven't seen live from any Oilers before. Even on quiet nights they do what they did tonight. They all have 9 points now...just wow.
I'm struggling to finish this tonight but boy was that ever great. Winning these games rather than the inevitable disappointed feeling we've left the rink with for the last several years is so satisfying. I gave a pretty huge fist-pump after this one was done. Can't wait to see these guys play again. It is a new day.