Strong Start – The Capitals struggled through the first few minutes of Thursday’s season opener against the Bruins in Boston, but goaltender Jose Theodore was sharp between the pipes He made several strong stops early to keep the Bruins at bay until Washington could find its legs and get its offense on track.
Once the Caps did that, there was no looking back. They thwarted the Bruins 4-1, getting a great team effort for the final 50 minutes or so. Boston had 10 shots on Theodore in the game’s first 13 minutes; it managed just 10 more over the final 47 minutes of the contest,
Before the game, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau explained his decision to start Theodore in the opener.
“Just because he has had success in this building before,” said Boudreau. “He plays good and he’s had a good camp. If people want to say, ‘Okay, look at the [pre-season] record,’ [Semyon Varlamov] had a 3-0 record and Jose was 0-2 but [he played in] a 2-1 game and a goal in the last minute where we had about five errors on it. He’s been just so much better than he was at this time last year and I want to give him the opportunity to see if it’s for real.”
Heading into Thursday night’s season opener in Boston, Theodore was 6-6-1 with two shutouts, a 2.49 GAA and a .926 save pct. lifetime at TD Garden.
“They always come out strong here,” said Theodore of the Bruins. “They had a couple of shots early on, and right there I could feel that I was seeing the puck well and my positioning was good. So I felt really comfortable out there. The guys did a great job by respecting the game plan, scoring big goals at key moments and playing good with the lead. Obviously the first period was key, I think.”
The Capitals defeated Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in regulation for the first time ever in Boston. Entering Thursday night’s game, Thomas had a career mark of 5-0-2 with a 2.08 GAA and a .933 save pct. against the Capitals in Boston.
Deuces and Treys – Two players – Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin – supplied all of Washington’s offense, scoring two goals each. Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom each had three assists, and Laich and Ovechkin each added a helper to give the Caps four players with three-point nights.
Laich Locked and Loaded – Dating back to the end of the 2008-09 regular season, Laich now has a pair of two-goal games in his last three games. He has scored six goals in his last five regular season games, and he has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last half-dozen regular season tilts.
Young Guns Blazing – Ovechkin’s first goal of the year was a thing of beauty, and one of those rare goals in which three players were worthy of drawing assists. Mike Green took the puck into the Boston zone, left a drop pass for Nicklas Backstrom, who promptly pushed the puck across to Alexander Semin. Semin made a nifty backhand pass to tee it up for Ovechkin, who cruised into the high slot like a shark getting a whiff of blood in the water. Ovechkin’s shot beat Thomas cleanly. All four Young Guns touched the puck within a span of just two or three seconds, leaving the Bruins’ collective head spinning.
Ovi In The Opener – Ovechkin started his career with a pair of goals in Washington’s 3-2 win over Columbus on Oct. 5, 2005, the last time the Caps opened the season at home. Tonight’s goal against the Bruins marked the first time he has scored in a season-opening contest since. Ovechkin had a combined total of one assist in the Caps’ last three opening night contests prior to tonight.
Local Ties – Half of Washington’s eight-man defense corps has ties to the Bruins or the Boston area. Washington blueliners Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina were obtained in trades with the Bruins and Caps rearguards Tom Poti (Worcester, Mass.) and Brian Pothier (New Bedford, Mass.) were born and raised in the area.
It was Pothier’s first game here since Jan. 3, 2008 when he suffered a concussion after absorbing a hit from Boston winger Milan Lucic.
“Yeah, it was a little different,” Pothier admitted afterwards of this trip to Boston. “There were some mixed emotions to be honest with you. I don’t know what it was but I just felt a little unsettled. I’m not sure why. There’s a lot of history here; it seems like I get hurt a lot here. I’ve had more stitches and broken things and concussions in this rink than anywhere.
“Once I got into the game and settled in, I felt great.”
No Lumber – Theodore played most of the first 2:16 without his goaltender’s stick. The paddle was off in the corner to his right, having slipped out of his hands during an early goalmouth scramble. Theodore made do with defenseman Shaone Morrisonn’s stick until the game’s first stoppage of play at 2:16.
“It’s not a good feeling that’s for sure, when you don’t have a stick. I was anxious to get a whistle or get any kind of stick, forward, defenseman or anything. But hopefully it’s not going to happen again.”
The Way Back Machine – Washington’s last regulation win in this building came on Dec. 2, 2000 when the Ron Wilson-coached Caps defeated the Bruins, 2-0. Steve Konowalchuk and Joe Reekie supplied the offense for Washington in that game as Olie Kolzig bested Boston goaltender Peter Skudra for his second shutout of the season. Among the skaters in the lineup for the Bruins that night was right winger Mike Knuble. A fourth-liner in those days, Knuble skated 8:44 that night.
Special Delivery – The Capitals were 2-for-4 on the power play in Thursday’s opener, firing seven shots toward Tim Thomas in a span of just 3:25 with the extra man. Ovechkin skated 3:12 of that 3:25 during which Washington enjoyed the man advantage.
The Caps killed off all five Boston power play bids, limiting the Bruins to one meager shot on goal in 8:25 worth of shorthanded time. Tom Poti (5:51) led Caps defenders in shorthanded ice time while David Steckel (4:39) paced the forwards in that category.
Circle Work – Washington was masterful in the face-off circle on Thursday night, winning 30 of 49 draws (61%) on the night. Brendan Morrison (73%) Boyd Gordon (71%), Steckel (61%) and Laich (60%) were all at 60% or better for the game.
Work To Do – Defenseman John Erskine earned the season’s first postgame hardhat designation. Erskine skated 17:42 on the night, laid a pair hits, blocked a couple of shots and took a couple of shots in a sequence immediately after exiting the penalty box. He also dropped the mitts and fought Boston’s Shawn Thornton in the third period.
Erskine came within a whisker of scoring just after serving a minor penalty early in the second period. He notched the game-winning goal for the Caps in a 3-1 season-opening triumph at Atlanta two years ago.
Quote of the Night – Laich, when asked if he knew the Caps signed Mike Knuble to score the kind of goals from down low that Laich scored on Thursday: “So what was I supposed to do, quit doing it now? I know why I get paid, too.”
Taking The Show On The Road – Tonight’s game marked the fourth straight season in which Washington has opened the campaign on the road. It’s the second longest streak of its kind in franchise history; the Caps played eight straight openers on the road from 1981-87.
Only the Montreal Canadiens have a longer current streak of more consecutive openers on the road than Washington. The Habs opened up their 2009-10 season in Toronto on Thursday, marking the ninth straight season in which they played their initial game of the season away from Montreal.
Recching Ball – Bruins winger Mark Recchi is 41 and he is now the active leader among all NHL players in career assists (897) and points (1,442). He ranks second among active players in games played (1,490) and fourth in goals (545). Recchi has amassed a significant portion of those totals against Washington over the years. he has 108 career points against the Caps, tied with Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne for the most ever against Washington.
Phantom Helpers – From our perch high above the TD Garden sheet, it sure looked like Boston’s Patrice Bergeron should have been credited with an unassisted goal when he notched the Bruins’ lone tally of the night at 7:56 of the third period. He pounced on a Washington turnover along the wall at the Capitals’ line and took off on a breakaway, just barely tucking the puck beneath Theodore’s right pad. But somehow Steve Begin and Mark Stuart both drew assists on the play.
Streak Snapped – The Capitals snapped a scoring streak by Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara. Chara had picked up a point in each of his last 10 games (four goals, seven assists) against the Capitals. That streak was tied for the longest current scoring streak by an NHL defenseman against a specific opponent. Green has scored in each of his last 10 games against Tampa Bay, and Ottawa’s Filip Kuba (formerly of Tampa Bay) also has a 10-game scoring streak in the works against the Lightning.
By The Numbers – Nine of Washington’s 13 blocked shots on the night came from the defense, with five of the team’s six different blueliners chipping in with at least one … Ovechkin finished with five shots on goal. He had eight other bids blocked – accounting for half of Boston’s total of 16 blocked shots on the night – and missed the net with another try … The Caps put up a goose-egg on the NHL’s official real time scoring stats in one key category: giveaways … Four Boston blueliners (Dennis Wideman, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Derek Morris) logged more than 20 minutes worth of ice time in the opener.