Saturday, December 26, 2009
By Joe Beninati
You have to be impressed with the total team performance tonight. The Capitals stayed focused from the first face off to the last and that's the type of concentration necessary to beat an elite team like the Devils with an all-world goalie like Martin Brodeur.
I thought Michal Neuvirth was the sharper net minder in the first five minutes. The caps young apprentice is playing so well these last three games that it allows the Caps to not have to worry about rushing Semyon Varlamov back from his injury. Neuvirth's rebound control was excellent, he rarely put himself in any trouble by leaving loose pucks near the crease.
His defenders were also top notch throughout the night. D.C.'s blue liners won a ton of board battles in this contest and that physical edge helped the home team win for the first time in four tries vs. New Jersey.
The Verizon Center crowd was amazing tonight. While they kept up the holiday spirit in the stands, the Caps came out roaring in the first period.
Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin are all working so well together. Enemy defenders have to be on full alert. Ovechkin and Backstrom put up three points a piece.
Nicklas has to be strongly considered for the NHL's first star in December. His backhand goal on Brodeur was done with one silky move, the kind of play a player makes when he's extremely confident in what he's doing.
There were so many positives in this game. The penalty killers shut down the Devils on four straight power plays to keep things secure. David Steckel won 15 of 21 face offs. Chris Clark made at least three fine defensive plays. Mike Green and Matt Bradley chipped in with goals.
All-in-all, it was a first rate victory for a team anxious to claim first place standings in its conference. The Caps deserve plenty of praise tonight.