Hopefully all of those other Caps were just imitating (thanks Marshall!), because what happened Saturday in their 5-0 shellacking of the Florida Panthers is a vindication of what George McPhee said this week when he announced that he would basically let the team play its way out of its funk.
It was just one game, true, but it came at a time when a great performance was desperately needed. Had the Caps gone even another game or two without a win, both the players and any fans who still think the season can be salvaged may have started to give up hope.
But last night featured a veritable checklist of things we needed to see from the Caps. Let’s delve into them some more:
- Braden Holtby pitched a shutout
Both Holtby and Michal Neuvirth have been given chances to take the horse by the reins, so to speak, when it comes to the number one goaltending job. Neither did so, although Neuvirth had some moments in some games.
Holtby did it much more emphatically against Florida, setting the tone early by denying Kris Versteeg on a two-on-one and generally looking much more in control than in his previous starts. Adam Oates has already given indications that he’ll ride the hot goalie, and since the Caps play the Panthers again on Tuesday, we should see Holtby between the pipes again. He earned it.
- Some secondary scoring showed up
- Alex Ovechkin scored… at even strength!
You didn’t really think Ovi was going to go 48 games without a five-on-five tally, right? The captain led the way with five shots and finally broke through without the man advantage.
McPhee said he felt Ovechkin had been playing better the four games prior to Saturday night, and it’s hard to argue with that opinion. He also logged a ton of ice time, playing over 20 minutes. Some of that was because the Caps stayed out of the box for the most part, which would make this list except they’ve been more disciplined for multiple games now.
- John Erskine was back in the lineup
I’ve read some hockey writers say that Erskine wouldn’t be a top-four guy on a better team. Maybe so, but the Caps definitely missed him while he was serving his suspension. They just don’t have anyone else on the blueline who can keep opponents honest in quite the same way.
Hopefully Erskine leaves vicious elbow shots to MMA fighters from here on out. We can all agree to stick to watching him beat up George Parros in a legitimate fight instead.
That was fun. Now for the obligatory dose of reality: The Caps remain in last place in the NHL, four points out of eighth place despite playing two more games than the Carolina Hurricanes. There’s a three-game road trip on tap that includes a stop at high-scoring Tampa Bay and a visit to a New York Rangers team that seems to have shaken off its own slow start.
It’s a lot more fun to watch and write when things are going right. Washington needs to take some momentum on the road or it will be right back to the doom and gloom. If these are the real Caps, at last, let’s hope they keep standing up.