Postseason Notebook -- March
The sixth in a seven-part series that looks back on the Caps' '07-08 season
Back-to-Back Broken – The Caps’ Mar. 1 loss to the Leafs marked the first time Washington had dropped a game in the second of back-to-back contests since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench on Nov. 22. Washington dropped to 7-1-2 in the second of back-to-back games under Boudreau, and 8-5-3 in such situations on the season.
Back on the Beam – Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin ended a seven-game goal drought – the longest of his NHL career – with a first period goal against Toronto’s Vesa Toskala on Mar. 1. The goal was Ovechkin’s 49th of the season.
Mixing it Up – Heading into the Mar. 1 contest with the Leafs, the Caps had used three different starting goaltenders –Brent Johnson, Olie Kolzig and Cristobal Huet – in their previous three games, and the trio allowed a total of three goals in those three games.
Prior to this week, the last time the Capitals had three different starting goaltenders in as many games was Nov. 8-12, 2005 when Olie Kolzig, Frederic Cassivi and Brent Johnson faced Toronto, New Jersey and New Jersey, respectively. The Caps lost all three of those games and surrendered a total of 13 goals in the process.
The three goals in three games is the fewest allowed by Washington in a three-game span since they surrendered just two goals in the first three games of the 2007-08 season.
50/50 – Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season at 6:18 of the first period in the Boston game, joining Dennis Maruk and Peter Bondra as the only players in Washington Capitals history to notch a pair of 50-goal seasons.
Ovechkin also joined Pavel Bure, Dany Heatley and Jaromir Jagr as the fourth player in this decade to record two 50-goal campaigns.
The Caps left winger also added two more goals and a pair of assists in notching the second five-point game of his NHL career. In doing so, he recorded the fifth hat trick of his career, matched his single-season career high in goals (52) and regained the NHL scoring lead, moving two points ahead of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who has 88 points. Both Ovechkin and Malkin have played in 67 games and have 15 remaining.
Finally, Ovechkin joined some elite and exclusive company in netting his 50th goal of the season in the same game in which he recorded a hat trick. He joins Wayne Gretzky on that list. The man known simply as “The Great One” is the only other player ever to achieve the feat, and he did it three times.
Power Switch – Washington’s power play struggled in the 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Mar. 1, but the Caps’ extra-man unit was back on the beam two nights later in a 10-2 romp over the Bruins.
Washington went 4-for-7 with the extra man against the B’s, and Ovechkin added to his league-leading total with his 18th power play strike of the season. Brooks Laich enjoyed his second two-goal game in a span of a week, and tallied both of his goals in this game on the power play.
Matt Bradley netted the Caps’ 10th and final goal of the night on the power play. The goal was Bradley’s first power play goal in his NHL career and it came in his 396th game in the league.
Brash Bouts – Donald Brashear fought Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Shawn Thornton in the Mar. 3 game, Brashear’s 10th and 11th fights of the season. Brashear had 14 fights in the 2006-07 season and 10 in 2005-06.
Monday marked the first time that Brashear fought twice in the same game since he went with the Rangers’ Colton Orr and Brendan Shanahan on Dec. 30, 2006.
Math Problem – Coming into a Mar. 9 home game against the Penguins, the Caps still held control of their own playoff destiny. Trailing the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes by seven points, Washington had two games in hand and two games remaining with Carolina. Win those four games, and the Caps would be one point ahead of the Canes. All Washington would need to do would be to match Carolina’s performance outside those games the rest of the way.
The game against Pittsburgh – a heartbreaking 4-2 loss – was one of those games in hand. After that setback the Caps still trailed Carolina by seven points with only 12 games remaining on the schedule and one game in hand. Winning both games against Carolina and the game in hand would draw the Caps to within one, but the Caps would now need outside help to surpass the Canes in the standings.
“Obviously, it puts a damper on it,” stated Boudreau after the game. “We still have a goal in mind of how many games we've had to win to get in the playoffs. Now we give ourselves less chance of error, that's all.
“We were talking yesterday about that sense of urgency. You know exactly where you think you have to go. If you're looking at Carolina, they're seven [points] ahead of us right now. We have two games against them, one in hand, those three you have to win and just hope a little bit. You gotta believe there's a chance they're going to lose a game before the end of the year.
“We haven't had a great run of five, six, seven [wins] in a row the whole year. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not going to happen. We're that close. We could have won all four games this week, which we thought was the toughest part of our schedule. We just gotta keep our heads up.”
Missed it by That Much – Washington’s streak of 48 games without suffering consecutive regulation losses came to an end on Mar. 9 with the loss to the Pens. The streak was the longest of its kind in the NHL this season, and it was 28 seconds away from matching the longest such streak in franchise history.
continued on page 2 | go to page 3