Postgame Notebook 11-23-07
Minutes after setting up the Swedish rookie for the first overtime game-winning tally of his NHL career, Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin snuck up on Backstrom, who is celebrating his 20th birthday today. Ovie wound up and caught the kid flush in the face with a shaving cream pie. After enjoying the first multiple-point game of his 22-game NHL career, Backstrom found himself peeling pillows of the stuff off his face, out of his eyes and off his hair.
Ovechkin was on the receiving end of a Jeff Halpern shaving cream pie in Boston late in the 2005-06 season, on the night he reached the 100-point plateau.
“Halpy [got me],” remembers Ovechkin. “That was shocking. So I got [Backstrom], and he was shocked, too.”
Backstrom will take all the shaving cream his teammates can fire his way if they follow three-point efforts and Washington wins.
“It was my best game in points,” says Backstrom. “I scored one and had two assists. I actually feel pretty good and the whole team is feeling good, I think. We played pretty good the whole game.”
Ever had a better birthday than this one, Nicklas?
“Oh, I don’t think so. I think this is my best one.”
The B-Team – Caps fans got their first look at Bruce Boudreau’s inspired coaching on Friday. Few coaches would have put Backstrom between Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley, but that’s how Boudreau had them lined up at Thursday’s practice and in Friday’s game.
“The fourth line was great tonight,” says Boudreau. “You tell me a shift where Brash and Brads and Nicklas had the puck in our zone and I won’t know it. I thought they were the best line on the ice, because every time they got the puck deep they outhit the other team.
“I think it was great for Nick because he’s playing with two big guys, so he is going to be protected pretty good and he’s going to have the puck, and they’re going to go to the net. I think it’s a pretty good combination.
Brashear scored his first goal of the season, and Backstrom his second. The trio combined to put up a plus-4, two goals, two assists and is registered four of Washington’s 11 hits on the night. Brashear and Bradley saw limited ice time, but Backstrom logged 13:45 because he saw also saw duty on both special teams.
Four in a Row – Following Ron Wilson, Bruce Cassidy and Glen Hanlon, Boudreau became the fourth straight Caps head coach to win in his first game behind the team’s bench. The 14th coach in Caps history, Boudreau’s victory raises the first-game record of those 14 men to 7-7 overall.
“It feels kinda cool,” says Boudreau, of having an NHL win under his belt. “This has been a good 24 hours. I think the mindset of the team today was that they weren’t going to give in. That’s all credit to them and the leadership in the room, because it would have been very easy when you’ve got a 3-0 lead and you seem to be controlling the game and they come back to tie it to just say, ‘Oh man, here we go again.’ But their mindset was pretty good.
“We talked about adversity and it makes you stronger. The good players overcome adversity. It’s easy to sit there and feel sorry for yourself when bad things happen to you. But the mentally strong person is usually the person that succeeds. No matter what happens, it was 1-0 after the first and we were still winning by one after the second. So it was a real positive period for the team.”
Symbolic Starters? – Upstairs, we thought Washington’s starting lineup trio of Dave Steckel with Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich was a symbolic threesome of forwards chosen especially by Boudreau to start for the Caps in the new bench boss’s first NHL game. All three players were integral cogs on Boudreau’s 2006 Calder Cup championship team.
As it turned out, not so much.
“No, I just figured they’d start [Daniel] Briere,” Boudreau said sheepishly after the game. “That was my first mistake and the game hadn’t even started.”
“He wanted to put us together as a checking line because we were familiar with his system and we had played for him in Hershey,” relates Laich, “so he wanted us matched up with Briere.
“We got out there and the anthem was going on, and looked at him like, ‘Should we change, should we change?’ because they didn’t have Briere out there. And he [said], ‘Ah no, just stay out there on the ice.’ It ended up working out. I don’t know if he got away from his game plan or not, but it ended up working out for us.”
Road Killer – Caps netminder Olie Kolzig has struggled on home ice this season, posting a 2-6 record, a 3.41 goals against average and an .873 save pct. in his eight home starts. Since posting a 2-0 shutout over the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 6 at Verizon Center, Kolzig has a 1-6 record on home ice. But he has been money on the road this season.
After Friday night’s win in Philly, Kolzig is 4-4 in his eight road starts. He has a 2.35 goals against average and a .923 save pct. on the road in 2007-08.
Minute Man – A key point in the game came midway through the first period when the Caps were forced to kill off a two-man disadvantage of 1:45 in length. Boudreau sent out Gordon, Steckel and Tom Poti to handle the chore. Later, Laich and Matt Pettinger replaced Gordon and Steckel, and still later the original forward duo came out to finish off the kill.
Poti was out for virtually the entire 5-on-3, skating continuously for 1:42 before finally getting a breather with three seconds left. Poti logged 26:57 on the night, with 10:41 of that coming in the game’s first period.
Killing With the Kid – Backstrom entered Friday’s game with an average of just six seconds of penalty killing time per game this season. He skated 1:22 in shorthanded ice time during Friday’s win over the Flyers.
House of Horrors – Friday’s win was Washington’s third straight victory in the City of Brotherly Love, a feat the Caps have not accomplished in nearly 14 years, since they won three in a row at the old Spectrum from Dec. 9, 1993 to Jan. 29, 1994.
Not Killed by the Power Play – Philadelphia’s first goal of Friday’s game came on a power play. The 4-3 victory for Washington marked the first time this season that the Caps won a game in which they surrendered a power play goal. The Caps are now 1-11 in games in which they’ve given up a power play goal.
Second First Against Philly – Caps winger Donald Brashear skated for the Flyers for four seasons before joining the Capitals as a free agent in the summer of 2006. Last season, Brashear scored his first goal as a Capital against his former Flyer teammates on Jan. 9. On Friday, he scored his first goal of the season against his former club for the second consecutive season.
Can’t Keep a Good Man Down – The Flyers did a good job of neutralizing Ovechkin for much of the game, but he generated some strong chances in the third period and picked up his lone point of the game with the assist on Backstrom’s game-winner.
Ovechkin has now picked up at least a point in 18 of Washington’s 22 games this season and has a seven-game scoring streak (five goals, three assists) working. In the four games in which Ovechkin has not scored a point, Washington has a total of just two goals and is 0-3-1.
Friday’s four-goal output is the most Washington has managed this season without Ovechkin lighting the lamp.
Rare Deuce – When Chris Clark converted a Viktor Kozlov feed early in the second period of Friday’s game with the Flyers, it marked the first time in 323:39 that the Capitals had a two-goal lead in any game.
300 Club – Congratulations to Pettinger, who played in the 300th game of his NHL career in Philadelphia on Friday.
On This Date in NHL History – A pair of notable former Caps netted their first NHL tallies on Nov. 23, both doing so with other NHL teams. Montreal defenseman Rod Langway scored his first NHL goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on this date in 1977. Former Caps forward Randy Burridge scored his first NHL goal on this date in 1985 against the Flyers, doing so while a member of the Boston Bruins.