Matt Hendricks' Sorcerery Helps Capitals Snag Two Precious Points in Boston

The thing that I hate most in the NHL is the shootout. Let me specify. The thing that I hate most in the NHL is when the Washington Capitals are in a shootout. If I’m not emotionally invested in the outcome, it serves its purpose and is wonderfully entertaining. Otherwise, I’m on my feet, pacing while my heart pounds like a hailstorm on a metal roof. Not only is it far too stressful, which my doctor says I should avoid because it’s bad for my blood pressure, but it is probably the second worst way to end a hockey game, after flipping a coin. But that’s an article for another time.

While the first 40 minutes of tonight’s game were relatively uneventful, the last 25 more than made up for it. There’s an old saying that a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. It lulls you into a false sense of security, and your opponent can score two goals quicker than it takes to suit up on the locker room. However, recently Washington has been falling victim to an excessive sense of security. After Dennis Wideman and Marcus Johansson scored eight and ten minutes into the third period, respectively, the Caps collapsed into an overly defensive formation, trying to lock down Michal Neuvirth’s net. This left the Boston Bruins’ defensemen at the points with all the time in the world.  Both of Boston’s goals, 17 and 19 minutes into the third period, were generated by shots from the defense that were unfortunately tipped on their way to the net. The first puck was deflected by David Krejci, who had momentarily out-muscled John Carlson in front of the net. The second caught a piece of Troy Brouwer, whose valiant attempt to block the shot backfired horribly.

Here's a breakdown of Boston's first goal.

[caption id="attachment_147" align="aligncenter" width="603" caption="Milan Lucic carries the puck behind Washington's net. Note the four white jerseys all within ten feet of their own net."]Bruins Goal1[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_148" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Lucic continues up the boards. Washington's defense remains bunched up."]bruins goal 2[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_149" align="aligncenter" width="594" caption="Zdeno Chara catches a pass from Lucic, and has ample time to take a controlled wrist shot, which banks in off of David Krejci."]Bruins goal 3[/caption]


The Capitals exhibited this worrisome turtle-shelling in their loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday evening. I can only assume that this is at the behest of Coach Dale Hunter, who pledged a defensive reformation when he took over back in the fall. Unfortunately, as I’ve expressed before, this version of the Washington Capitals is not a team built for defense. They’re stacked with some of the most skilled forwards in the game, and notably aggressive defenseman, like Mike Green (anybody remember him?) and more recently, Wideman and rookie Dimitry Orlov.

The one positive take-away from tonight's heart-stopping shootout, other than the two points, is that we had the privilege of witnessing another of Matt Hendricks' stunning dekes. Before he knew what was going on, Bruins' goalie Tim Thomas was on his back like a helpless turtle. (Thanks to WelshHockeyFan for creating this animated GIF)

[caption id="attachment_152" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Matt Hendricks' magical moves leave Tim Thomas wondering why he even bothered to get out of bed this morning. "][/caption]

With tonight’s win, the Capitals have matched Buffalo’s 86 points, but Buffalo faces off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow evening. I only root for the Penguins in very rare circumstances, and tomorrow is one such circumstance. The Southeast-division leading Florida Panthers snatched one point in an overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild tonight, so the Caps now trail Florida by four. The Panthers have a game in hand on the Caps, so Washington has their work cut out for them in securing that third place seed.

With only four games left in Washington’s season, now seems like a good time to decide whether they want to play any more, and exactly how badly they want it.

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