Enjoy that, everyone. (RNO)
The Washington Capitals won their sixth game in a row on Thursday night, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes by a final score of 3-1 inside Verizon Center. After a poor start that saw them down 1-0 early, the Caps got goals from Troy Brouwer, Mike Green, and then Brouwer again to seal off a victory. Braden Holtby made 43 saves in his return to the crease, helping to steal a win. The Caps’ record is now 22-17-2, good for 46 points, which has them in the Southeast Division lead by two points with a game in hand. Their playoff chances are now about 85%, according to SportsClubStats.
This game got off to a very slow start for the Capitals, who were badly outplayed, outshot, and out possessed in the opening frame. They were shut out in shots early for the first ten minutes or so while allowing the Hurricanes had 11. But Holtby, after allowing an early goal, shut the door and allowed his team to climb back in to the game and then hold the lead for a big two points. Slow starts are bad, but recovering from them like this is very good indeed.
Braden Holtby, starting his first game in the last three, was absolutely stupendous following a shaky first five minutes of the game. Several of his 43 saves were stellar, and he made 29 saves in the final two frames in a masterful performance. Despite two great games from Michal Neuvirth in the last week, Holtby showed why he is the number one goaltender on the team and coupled with Neuvirth’s play, again showed how this team has a true treasure trove of talent in its netminding corps.
Another assist for Nicklas Backstrom, who, along with Alex Ovechkin, has really just been en fugeo over the last month and a half. Now up to 43 points and 37 assists in 41 games, the Caps’ slick top center has re-established himself as an elite all-around player in this League and will be key to anything the Capitals plan to do this spring. Filed in the obvious folder, of course, but it’s still great to see him producing again across the board after a less than stellar stretch. He’s good.
Troy Brouwer’s two goals were his first in two weeks and were a good sign from the Caps’ second-line winger, as basically his entire line has fallen silent recently as Ovechkin’s unit carries the team at even strength. It’s not all Brouwer’s fault that the coaching staff thinks Aaron Volpatti should play top-six minutes instead of Wojtek Wolski, which hurts him, but you still expect a bit more from Mike Ribeiro, who has also gone ice cold recently. But no matter (kind of), because he scored tonight and his line looked a little bit better. Still, if the Capitals are to win anything that matters, the second line needs to be better. Much better. That will be helped by the return of Martin Erat, Brooks Laich, and Joel Ward to balalnce out the lineup a little bit.
Mike Green scored another goal on Thursday, and certainly seems to be "back" after another injury. He's been nothing short of remarkable over the last three weeks, and looks every part the elite offensive defenseman that we all know that he can be. Well, most of us. He certainly has some faults, but I still can't believe that some people wanted to trade him for Douglas Murray two summers ago.
Overall, another impressive win from this team as they continue to gun for a highly improbable, as of a month ago, playoff run. They can’t rely on Holtby every night, but they are still playing well and taking advantage of their weak Division and the free-falling Canes to keep the third spot in the Conference under a vice-like grip. There are still several issues with them overall, such as injuries and some defensive breakdowns, but another two points means less worrying and more celebrating of this amazing turnaround. Let’s go!
The Caps will practice on Friday before meeting the Lightning in Washington on Saturday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.