It was a busy week for the Capitals…well, actually, no it wasn’t....
Ten Caps Games to Remember in 2011-12
Now that the season’s end is far enough away for us to get over the sting of defeat, it’s time to look back on what we enjoyed about the 2011-12 season, plus playoffs.
10) Winnipeg Jets at Washington Capitals, November 23, 2011
This was the final win in the Bruce Boudreau era and it was a barn burner. Alexander Semin started the scoring on an assist from his fellow Alex just five minutes into the game and Winnepeg didn’t wait to answer, tying the game 8 minutes later with a goal from their Captain Andrew Ladd. Jason Chimera and Kyle Wellwood both scored later in the first frame, from very close range, to make it 2-2 after 1. Backstrom broke the tie 3 minutes and change into the second on a rebound to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead that they would hold into the third period. Little would tie it to end the scoring in regulation 8 minutes into the third. In the extra session it was great hustle by Jason Chimera, using his seemingly unmatchable speed to help win a puck battle and then set up in front of the net for the GWG and one of the more memorable goal celebrations of the year.
9) Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins, March 10, 2012
It was a stunning conclusion to a game seven… Wait no, getting ahead of myself here. The Capitals had just ended a 3 game losing streak in the previous game with a 3-2 OT win against Tampa Bay and looked like the momentum carried over when Semin scored off a rebound 8 minutes into the first. The trend continued after an outstanding battle in front of the net by Matt Hendricks to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead 25 seconds later. The Capitals seemed to be in complete control of the defending cup Champs until a goal by Milan Lucic cut the lead in half with six seconds left in the period. Brad Marchand followed up on Lucic’s late first period goal by scoring early in the second on a breakaway caused by a bad line change by the Capitals and the B’s showed the Caps why they’d won the Cup the previous year. The run was answered by Jay Beagle nearly 7 minutes later as he took a beautiful pass from Alexander Semin from the side boards and one timed it passed Tim Thomas. Finally Brooks Laich put the game on ice with a PPG deflection securing the win for the Capitals despite a late goal by Johnny Boychuck in the third. The game overall showed that the Capitals were able to stop streaks before they got too bad and that they were able to take it to one of the top teams in the East after being criticized for inconsistent play since the Boudreau firing.
8.) Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins, October 13, 2011
What kind of top ten list if it didn’t include a game against the Penguins? Now it wasn’t one of the “Ovechkin vs Crosby” matchups as Crosby was still on the shelf from the hits by David Steckel and Victor Hedman in January that caused his concussion but that didn’t stop the two teams from going at each other in their first meeting of the season. James Neil started the scoring with a one timer from the right faceoff circle and just squeezed through Tomas Vokoun’s pads. The Penguins were able to hold the lead for the rest of the period, but it was only a matter of time before”The Penguin Killer” Mike Knuble struck. He pulled a power move and drove hard to the net from behind the goal line and managed to snake the puck through former teammate Brent Johnson and knot the game up at one. The remainder of the second was scoring chance after scoring chance by both teams, each of them getting oddman rushes that both netminders were able to successfully stop. The tie was Broken after Mike Green fired a shot from the point and hit the crossbar. He thought he scored, and acted as such. After a review it showed that Alex Ovechkin deflected the puck under the crossbar and out of the net to give the good guys a one goal lead. The Capitals took a late penalty and Jame Neal continued his one man scoring onslaught by cashing in on a powerplay goal on the rush courtesy of an Evgeny Malkin pass to tie it up late. The game inevitably went into Overtime and it was Soon to be All-Star Dennis Wideman scorching Brent Johnson for the win and getting an extension on the Capitals early year win streak.
7) New York Rangers at Washington Capitals, May 2, 2012
Yes, yes I know we lost the game, trust me I was there. There is no denying, however, that this was one of the greatest games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first period was almost everything you could ask for: Big hits, scoring chances, and top flight goaltending one would expect from Henrik Lundqvuist, and that you wouldn’t expect from playoff rookie Braden Holtby going against the team with the second best record in the NHL regular season. There was more of the same into the second period with each team pushing a little harder than they did in the first session. The scoreless tie was finally broken by Ryan Callahan when followed an airborn rebound, putting passed Holtby on a power play. Five game time minutes later, John Carlson showed why he’s earned the nickname “Captain America” when he entered the Rangers zone, lost control of the puck, regained it after Mark Staal poke checked it, and put the puck over Lunqvuist’s blocker for the tie. the remaining 9 minutes of the 2nd showed two things; how aggressive the Capitals could make Hunter Hockey look and how great Henrik Lunqvuist truly was. The signature moment was a 3 on 1 odd man rush consisting of Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, and Jason Chimera vs Mark Staal and Lundqvuist stoned Laich on his shot attempt. In the 3rd the two teams played even harder to get the lead and kill the clock once they did. The first two Overtimes were as great as two teams could play without scoring. Int he third, in the wee hours of the morning Marion Gaborik, with the freshest legs because of lack luster effort through the first two OT’s, finished another epic contest that had Cap fans adding another one to the already long one.
6) Nashville Predators at Washington Capitals, December 20, 2011
This one has a personal touch to it as it was the Capitals game the night before my 21st birthday. It was also the game I finally convinced one of my friends to go to and it was her first game. I spent the duration of warm ups explaining the game in great detail as well as telling her about the Capitals players and what she wanted to know. It seemed the team had me in their thoughts because the first goal of the game was by Ovechkin on a fantastic breakaway courtesy of “Carlznerson” (John Carlson and Karl Alzner) which put proof to my explanation that he was the best player on the team. The Caps didn’t let up on Nashville either. They continued to look for goal number 2 and found it on the stick of Nicklas Backstrom, whom I touted as one of the best centers in the league to my friend. After an Andre Kostitsyon goal early in the 3rd, Alexander Semin proved it was a “Good Sasha” night with a filthy wrister to the top shelf to put the game on ice. Happy Birthday to me!
5) Anaheim Ducks at Washington Capitals, November 1, 2011
The infamous “fat *bleep*” Game and the matchup that will now be the “Bruce Boudreau bowl” in at least the next two seasons. It was not pretty to start off. The Ducks jumped to a 2-0 lead after Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne each beat Tomas Vokoun in the 1st. The second started off as more of the same as Selanne got his second tally on the night. The run was stopped by eventual playoff hero Joel Ward on a great play for him to take the puck off a shot block and put it through Jonas Hiller’s pads to get the Capitals on the board. Later in the second Hiller went to get the puck after it was cleared down by his counterpart and almost turned it into a gaffe after it entered the no play zone and Joel Ward looked for his second tally, but after a spectacular save Dennis Wideman capitalized on the commotion with a one timed laser to cut the Ducks lead to one. The Captials run was cut short before they could find the tying goal when reigning Rocket Richard winner Corey Perry won a battle in front of the net on a powerplay to give the Ducks a 4-2 lead. Troy Brouwer was not going to give up though. He showed why the Capitals to traded a 1st round pick for him with a powerful shot that bounced off of Hiller’s glove and in to get the Capitals back within one. After the most famous lip reading of the season It was Nicklas Backstrom that tied the game to cap one of the better Capitals comebacks in recent history. In overtime the Capitals showed how much fight they had when Jeff Schultz jumped into the play, put it on net and Backstrom deposited the deflection off of Ovechkin to win it for Gabby’s first team against his future team. The score of the BB bowl is Caps 1 Ducks 0. your move Anahiem.
4) Detriot Red Wings at Washington Capitals, October 22, 2011
The final game the league best 7-0-0 start the Caps went on to start the season. The night started off with Vokoun robbing Pavel Datsyuk early in the first to set the tone for the goaltending that night which Vokoun would maintain for the next 60 minutes. Later in the period, Green snapped a one timer from the faceoff dot on the power play to start the scoring and minutes later Marcus Johansson would notch the GWG off a turnover. The rest of the night just proved to show how great the Capitals could work together as a unit, especially after the passing clinic that set up Green’s second PPG of the night in the 2nd period. Nicklas Kronwall would break up the Capitals scoring party on a Red Wings powerplay, but after that the Capitals continued their tear with two goals from Mathieu Perrault and a goal a piece from Ward and Backstrom. It was almost an homage to the Presidents Trophy team from two years prior that set the scoreboard on fire every time they took the ice. We could have used more of these games.
3) Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins, Eastern Qtrs Game 2 April, 14, 2012
The second game of the Bruins/Capitals series was much like the first. Low scoring and topped with stellar goaltending by Veniza, Conn Smythe, and Stanley Cup winner Tim Thomas and rookie goalie Braden Holbty. Neither netminder was keen on allowing the first goal, especially after Game ended in a 1-0 score with the only goal coming in Overtime. Troy Brouwer helped out his goalie in this duel by not giving up on a puck and tapping it between Thomas’ pads before he could cover it up for a face off. Beyond Brouwer’s goal the game was filled with hard checking, most noticeably where ever Ovechkin went when Dennis Seidenburg was on the ice as the two connected with each other on several big hits during the series. In the third the game would become all new again with Benoit Pouliot tying it. This time more than one OT was needed when the goalie duel continued with the game all even, including a masterful save by Tim Thomas on Jay Beagle in the first OT that would have given the Capitals a tied series sooner, but that honor was left to #19. In the 2nd extra period Backstrom won an offensive zone draw and his fellow Swede Marcus Johansson beat two Bruins to the puck and fed it to the open center and he beat Tim Thomas with a wrister to make the trip back to DC a little sweeter with the series tied 1-1.
2) New York Rangers at Washington Capitals, Eastern Conf. Semis May 5, 2012
Two days after the #7 game on the list the Capitals were looking for revenge and they got what they needed from their, formerly Young, guns. The Captain started the scoring with a trademark one timer over the glove of Henrik Lunqvuist unassisted after a battle in the corner led the rangers to just try and get the puck out only to put it on platter for arguably the most dangerous scorer in the league. Anton Anisimov matched Ovechkin’s tally early in the second by getting to the front of the net and getting a rebound chance passed Holtby. Nicklas Backstrom was not happy with that however, and in possibly the most complete play of the entire NHL season. Backstrm followed the puck into the corner and delivered and counter hit to Anisimov sent to the Chimera on the other side of the zone then made it back to the front of the net to give the Capitals the lead. Gaborik would tie the game later on a washed out icing and lack of communication but the third young gun to score on the day, Mike Green, notched the game winner on a power play slap shot.
1) Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins, Eastern qtrs Game 7 April 25, 2012
The one game of the year that will be immortalized in Capitals history. Game 7 isn’t uncharted territory for these Capitals, this being the 5th game 7 since the end of the rebuild, but it wasn’t always a fun place to be. The nervousness on the part of the Capitals fan base was relieved when Matt Hendricks deflected the puck passed Thomas on a John Carlson shot to give the Capitals the first goal of the game, in which they won every game when doing so. This had to be Braden Holtby’s best game of the series despite letting in his only goal after getting a piece of it. he defense of the Capitals was also stellar and on offense they wer hungry and pushing like team that was used to scoring a ton of goals. at the end of regulation Someone had to be a hero. Throughout the year fans had been making goats of various people on the team. Wideman, despite being an All star, had his level of play decline from his midseason standard, Jeff Schultz had been a goat for years along with his usual defense partner Mike Green due to injuries. One of the most notable goats was Joel ward, signed with the Capitals during free agency to a big contract for his postseason scoring in Nashville the year before. Well a goat turned into a legend in OT. Joel ward followed a Mike Knuble drive to the net and scored on the rebound to send the Cup champs home for the summer and putting himself up there with his coach at the time Dale Hunter with a series winning goal in Overtime. Way to go Joel.