I watched today's Caps/Flyers game in two chunks; the first period live, and the rest of the game after the kids were in bed. And it kind of felt like two different pieces (well, maybe even three).
I didn't have a good feel, though, before it even started. First, Erskine was finally back from injury. Well, that one is a little mixed. But the other part was that Grabo was down with "flu-like symptoms". And that put Beagle up to the second line, which is not good. Beagle is where scoring chances go to die (for both teams); that's not bad on the fourth line, but you really don't want it happening on the higher ones.
The first period, it felt like the Caps were doing very well, mostly keeping play at the Flyers' end of the ice. And I think they mostly were, although Fenwick disagrees on that. It felt like they kept play there, and just didn't manage to control the puck cleanly and get shots away. Maybe that's a delusion, but that's how it felt. Fenwick says that the Caps were never ahead, though.
But they were putting pressure on, and got a second power play halfway through the period. And on this one, they got some sustained zone time (for the only time on the power play, all game). And after working it around, Backstrom sent a puck across the goal (from OV's normal position) and it was deflected in. It was originally credited to MarJo (who was waiting at the far post), but changed (after the game) to be credited to OV (who was charging in from between the circles).
It looked like the Caps were going to escape the first with that lead, but Giroux scored one in the final minute from out in front to tie the game up.
From there, it was pretty solidly the Flyers' game until about halfway through the third period. It got so bad, that I almost turned it off when Voracek scored to make it 4-1 early in the third. My normal rule is to watch until a four-goal margin, but since this was the third period, I almost broke it. And I'm glad I didn't, although it took almost eight minutes more for me to feel like that was even marginally a good choice.
That's when Green sent a fairly innocuous-looking snap shot into the net, blocker-side-high, from the point.
Five minutes later, Dima got his first of the season off of a draw, where the defenseman, Grossman, nicely screened Mason. Because of the screen, Mason didn't see it until it was only a few feet in front of him, and in it went, glove-side high.
Things were getting more exciting and stressful into the final minute. Gru had been pulled already, but went back in for a center-ice faceoff after the puck deflected onto the bench. The Caps won the faceoff, and sent it in deep. Gru ran for the bench as Mason went behind the net to play the puck. Mason's attempted clear went right to Ward, who passed in to the center (attempting to hit either Green or Carlson at the point, I think) and hit OV almost in stride. OV sent a quick wrister into the side of the net before Mason could get completely set to complete the come-back.
Despite the excitement of that, the remaining forty-eight seconds were mostly spent trying to lock in the automatic standing point with getting to overtime, although the Caps did get one more good chance.
But it went into overtime, with the normal Caps (2013-14 edition) result: a shootout. But this one, thankfully, was much more merciful than Florida. It was resolved in the normal three rounds, with Fehr and Backstrom providing the scores and Gru stopping two.
Although Gru getting the start surprised me quite a bit (yes, he's been good, but doesn't have nearly the record of Holtby), and despite the third goal being pretty bad, Gru had a solid game. He had two really amazing saves against Philly's power play, and generally looked comfortable.
OV didn't seem all that great, but still managed a pair of goals and a bone-crunching hit early in the first. And that game-tying goal was his 399th; let's hope he can get his 400th in Philly on Tuesday.
Dima had a really good game again; he should really be ahead of Erskine.
Erskine, though, to his credit, looked pretty good. At least, the few times I noticed him (and I figure it's a good thing if I don't notice him) he was making the right play. Honestly, though, I think I'd feel better with Schmidt. Sad, but true.
Anyway, that was the good and bad of the game. Next is the Flyers again, in Philly, on Tuesday. Go Caps!