Postgame Notebook: Capitals 4, Thrashers 2
Kid Stuff –
We’re not sure how or why Caps goaltender Simeon Varlamov was not named one of the game’s three stars in Washington’s 4-2 victory over the Thrashers in Atlanta on Tuesday, but he was arguably the best player on the ice for either team. Varlamov did earn the Caps’ hardhat for his efforts, and he also ran his record to an impressive 4-0-1 in this, his rookie season in the NHL.
Varlamov made 29 saves on the night, many of them splendid. He was victimized only by a giveaway right in front of him that resulted in a Rich Peverley goal and Marty Reasoner’s nifty deflection of a Tobias Enstrom point shot.
With Tuesday’s win, Varlamov now has a 2.37 GAA and a .918 save pct. in his six NHL appearances (five starts).
The Case For Varly –
Given Jose Theodore’s struggles against the Thrashers this season – particularly at Philips Arena – it’s not surprising that Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau opted to go with 20-year-old rookie Varlamov in goal for Tuesday’s game in Atlanta.
Theodore is 2-1 against the Thrashers this season, but he has a 4.93 GAA and an .808 save pct. against Atlanta. The numbers are even more pronounced in the two games at Philips Arena.
He was pulled in both previous starts in Atlanta this season, and was 0-1 with a 7.68 GAA and a .778 save pct. in those two outings.
Theodore’s struggles in Atlanta this season are uncharacteristic. During his NHL career, he is 5-2 with a 2.42 GAA and a .917 save pct. at Philips Arena.
Winning in Atlanta –
Tuesday’s win over the Thrashers pushed Washington’s record against Atlanta to 4-2 on the season, but it was the Caps’ first win this season in three tries at Philips Arena. Washington lost the season opener here by a 7-4 score on October 10 and fell by a 5-1 count in its most recent visit on March 16.
Tuesday’s win was the Capitals’ first in Atlanta since March 21, 2008, when they authored a four-goal three-period to claim a 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Thrashers. That victory was the first of seven straight that closed the 2007-08 regular season and propelled the Caps to a Southeast Division title.
Nice To Have You –
Both Brian Pothier and Jeff Schultz
collected assists in Tuesday’s win over Atlanta, marking the first time since Feb. 28 that two different Caps defensemen besides Mike Green
collected points in the same game.
Washington went 16 games without having two defensemen aside from Green collect a point in the same game. On Feb. 28 in a 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins, Schultz and Tom Poti
both picked up helpers.
Ovechkin Watch –
Ovechkin’s first period assist on Alexander Semin
’s goal was the left winger’s first point at Philips Arena this season. Ovechkin added another assist later on a Sergei Fedorov goal, pushing his point total to 108 (55 goals, 53 assists) on the season.
Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin started the night leading the NHL in scoring with 108 points. He also picked up two assists in the Penguins’ 6-4 win at Tampa Bay. Malkin maintains his two-point lead over Ovechkin for the Art Ross Trophy. Both players have two games remaining.
Caps Killers –
Washington’s power play has received a great deal of acclaim of late, and deservedly so. The Caps’ power play has a chance to finish the season as the league’s best power play unit, a distinction the Capitals have never achieved in their history.
Although the Caps’ penalty killing corps has certainly had its share of ups and downs during the course of the regular season, the team’s shorthanded outfit has been excellent of late.
In each of the last two games, the Caps killed off six Atlanta power plays. Over the Capitals’ last nine games, the penalty killing unit has been successful on 35 of its 39 missions (89.7%).
The team’s recent string of shorthanded success has pushed it to 18th overall in the league this season with a kill rate of 80.6%.
900 Club –
Caps radio play-by-play man Steve Kolbe called the 900th regular game of his NHL career on Tuesday in Atlanta. Kolbe took over behind the microphone for the Capitals at the start of the 1997-98 season. Along with the legendary Ron Weber, Kolbe is one of only two radio voices the Caps have ever had in their three and a half decade history.
First Flash –
Caps left wing Tomas Fleischmann started the scoring with his 19th goal of the season on Tuesday. It marked the second consecutive game in which Fleischmann has scored the game’s first goal.
Well Behaved –
Atlanta committed just one minor penalty in Tuesday’s game, tying a club mark for fewest penalties committed in a game. The Thrashers have achieved the feat five times now. Tuesday’s one-penalty game was Atlanta’s first since 2003.
Where The Action Is –
All six goals scored in Tuesday’s game came at even strength and rookie Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian was on the ice for all six of them. The teenaged blueliner skated 21:51 on the night and was credited with four takeaways and two blocked shots in addition to his minus-2 on the evening.
Hidden Gem –
Atlanta center Rich Peverley scored the Thrashers’ first goal, roofing a nifty backhander over Varlamov’s right shoulder midway through the first period.
Although he was never signed to a Washington contract, Peverley began his pro career in the Caps’ chain.
Upon completing his collegiate career at St. Lawrence University after the 2003-04 season, the undrafted Peverley turned pro with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays – the Caps’ affiliate in that league – in 2004-05. He scored 30 goals and totaled 58 points in 69 games with the Rays, and also got into a single game with the AHL Portland Pirates, then the Caps’ affiliate in that league.
Peverley played for the 2005-06 Milwaukee Admirals, the team the Hershey Bears vanquished in the Calder Cup finals that season. Peverley was invited to Nashville’s training camp in the fall of 2006, and was signed to a two-year deal midway through the 2006-07 season. He made his NHL debut with the Preds that season, getting into 13 games.
In parts of three seasons in Nashville, Peverley totaled seven goals and 20 points in 73 games. Placed on waivers earlier this season, Peverley was claimed by Atlanta on Jan. 10. Since then, he has been a terrific find for a team that has been starving for a scoring line center.
Including his goal against the Caps on Tuesday, Peverley has 13 goals and 33 points and is plus-17 in 37 games since joining the Thrashers. After playing about 12 minutes a night with the Predators, Peverley is getting 19 minutes a night with Atlanta.
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