Watched the Caps playoff opener against the Bruins tonight; was thinking that coming in as a consensus underdog might be good for the team.
Well, they started out in full-on rope-a-dope mode. The only time they really got out of it in the first period was when they were on the power play (which didn't go particularly well). Shots for the period ended up 9-5 B's, with scoring chances 2-1 Caps. And nobody found the back of the net. So the rope-a-dope seemed reasonably effective.
The second period did not go nearly so well. It wasn't helped by spending over six minutes on the penalty kill. But the results were pretty terrible: shots 17-2, scoring chances 10-0. Ouch! But Holtby (and some good luck) kept them in the game, as, again, nothing found the twine.
The third period actually went pretty well for the Caps; they were carrying the play for most of the period, with shots 9-3 in their favor. But they set a record they would have preferred to have left alone, as it was the first time the team ever went into overtime scoreless, in the playoffs.
As a heavy underdog, playing away from home, it's not a terrible place to be, but it isn't great, either.
They carried their good play into the overtime, but when they had a near miss kicked to the corner, the defense did not get back fast enough on the counterattack to be able to interfere with Kelly's shot. Holtby probably should have had it, as there was nothing interfering with his vision and it wasn't from particularly close in, but he didn't. It's hard to get upset, though, as he did a fabulous job getting the team to that point.
So, no big surprises on the game, but still a disappointing result.
As I said, Holtby looked very good, and kept them in a game they had no business taking to overtime. Carlson looked pretty good as well. I was glad to see Ward back in the lineup. He had a quiet game, but looked good whenever I noticed him. Perreault also had a good game, getting one of the team's better chances; he was just unable to spin around quickly enough to get the shot off.
The team as a whole did a lot better on giveaways tonight, as they kept the total in single digits.
The Penalty Kill did a good job all night (not great, as they didn't clear often enough, but not bad). The power play was only so-so, although there was a big difference between the first and third period opportunities. The one in the first wasn't good, but the one in the third wasn't too bad.
What really bothered me was the same thing that has been bothering me for a while; they're just spending way too much time playing defense. They need to play in the offensive zone more often. Granted, with Boston, that won't be easy, but they need to do it.
We'll see; they've got until Saturday afternoon to work on it.