Photo: Gene J. Pusher/Associated Press
There are a truckload of aspects of last night’s game that make me scratch my head, or could tick me off, but I thought I’d take the high-road on this one. Here are a few of the obvious positives.
Resiliency – Coach Barry Trotz mentioned this specifically after the game, and it seems like a pretty obvious takeaway. The Caps fell down two goals on two occasions, and battled back both times to tie the game. It’s true, a loss is a loss, but the battle the Caps showed on Monday night says a lot about the team, and will bode well for post season play.
Matt Murray – Murray stymied the Caps in the playoffs last year, as the Pens parlayed his extremely hot goaltending into a Stanley Cup championship. Those days would appear to be long gone, as the Caps seemed to have figured out the young goalie. In two games played against the Caps this season, he was scored on nine times and has a save percentage of .786. In the Capitals’ 7-1 victory, he was pulled and did not finish the game.
The Third-Line – Much was made following last spring’s playoff series on how the Penguins third-line was the difference in the series. “The Bonino Line” did all the damage, as the Caps were able to shutdown the top two lines of Pittsburgh. The Caps third and fourth-lines were the better lines on Monday night.
Road Warriors – Now that the Penguins-Capitals regular season series is complete, we can do a bit of review and assessment. The Capitals handled the Penguins with ease on Verizon Center ice, winning 7-1 and 5-2. The two games in Pittsburgh were the exact opposite. Both games were tight and could have gone either way. Both games required extra time to decide, with the Capitals falling 3-2 in a shootout on opening night, and losing in Monday night’s crazy-fest, 8-7 in overtime. This also bodes well for the playoffs.
Swedeness – Both Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom continue putting points on the board for the Caps. After being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week, Backstrom has continued putting the pucks in the net and on teammates’ sticks. In his last five games alone, he has 11 points (four goals, seven assists), including a goal in last night’s game in the Steel City. Burakovsky, meanwhile has caught fire recently, and seems to have been motivated by his three healthy scratches in late December, as he has scored four goals and added three assists for seven points in 13 games played since then, and also scored a goal last night.
And one more for good measure. The rivalry may have experienced a dip in intensity in recent years, but last night’s gem brought it all back. In addition, the television ratings for the game were incredible.
Last night’s WSH-PIT 8-7 OT thriller on @NBCSN was net’s 2nd best NHL game w/ 1 home market blackout on record, up 94% vs. 1 market average
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) January 17, 2017
By Jon Sorensen
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