I watched last night's Caps game in Buffalo after putting the kids to bed.
There was definitely some drama going in, as Laich had missed yesterday's skate, and it was unknown whether that was going to keep him out. He did end up playing, happily, and even looked good at times (he's seemed very hit-and-miss this season, with an awful lot of missing).
Holtby was in net, which was good, with the rest of the defense the same. Offensively, Wellman was still up for Grabovski. Happily for the Caps, Miller got the night off for the Sabres.
The game got off to a fairly slow start, with little going on for the first couple minutes. But Ellis tripped Erat in trying to recover from being badly burned, giving the Caps an early power play. The Caps lost the subsequent draw, but brought the puck back down and got Enroth to freeze the shot. OV tried to go back to the bench (apparently to change his gloves), but wasn't allowed by the refs. He came back, corralled the puck Brouwer had bumped back to him, and fired it between a defender's legs and into the top-left corner of the net.
A minute later, the Caps were back in the offensive end, when Green flung a shot towards the net. It made it through the traffic, and Green was credited with his sixth of the season, but replay review showed that the puck hit OV's pants on its way in. (And I'd never noticed before, but that deflection meant OV got credited with a shot and Green didn't, even though OV wasn't even trying to touch the puck. Interesting.)
A big flurry by the Sabres a couple minutes later, culminating in a rush up-ice. Holtby made the first two stops, but OV (in good position) failed to hinder Ehrhoff at all, and Ehrhoff put it over Holtby's leg for the score.
That finished out the scoring in the first, though the Caps had a strong edge in Fenwick the rest of the way.
An early penalty against Dima led to a lot of zone time for the Sabres, resulting in a Hodgson goal two minutes into the second.
That motivated the Caps to take over the game for several minutes, leading to Green breaking into the zone with the puck, getting Enroth to commit to him, then skating the puck around the net and scoring on the reverse layup (in off of Enroth, I think). I should also note that that was a dominant shift by the fourth line, leading to that. Their next shift was also excellent, with great forechecking. Indeed, Wilson looked better than he had in quite a while; he was definitely trying to show his ability to generate chances, not to hit hard or chuck knuckles.
Carlson had a really bad pinch, though, just after that, leading quickly to Verrone getting his first goal. Alzner made a good initial stop of the rush, and pushed it all the way to the boards. But all five Caps went to that side, leaving Verrone all alone, next to the goal, on the other side. So when Foligno's pass came across, he had an empty net and time. Not a frequent combination. (And, for those keeping score at home, that was one minute, two seconds after Green's goal.)
A few minutes later, though, Brouwer drew a hooking penalty to give the Caps another power play. OV got the puck in his normal position, but with no shot, so he threw it all the way across (through three defenders) to Erat, who quickly fed Brouwer in his normal position for the score. Nicely done, all the way around.
That finished out the scoring in the second (in fact, it almost finished out the shooting, too; there was only one more unblocked shot attempt over the last three minutes) with the Caps again having a one goal lead.
Buffalo, who'd been dominated for most of the game up to this point, put together a heck of a seven minute (or so) stretch, ending with Hodgson stealing the puck from Chimmer (drawing a penalty in the process), faking out the defender (not a good play by Alzner here, either), and putting a backhander over Holtby's shoulder for his second of the game. Very nice play by Hodgson, very poor one by Chimmer; in particular, Chimmer pled his case over the penalty call while Hodgson skated in on the net.
Play, the rest of the way, was pretty even, until they got to overtime. There, the Caps took over, with Green cementing his "Game Over" nickname one minute in. But that whole minute was some very nice 4-on-4 play by the Caps.
This game really felt like a dominant one (and 5v5 close FF% corroborates that (64.2%)), but there were some terrible mistakes a few times in there. Plus, another case of the Caps giving one back right after scoring.
Erskine and Carrick were serious anchors on the Caps possession numbers. The other four defenders were 58-65% CF, while Erskine and Carrick were 29%. Ouch. Why are Oleksy and Schmidt in Hershey, again? And why the hell were Erskine and Carrick getting most of their starts in the defensive end (83%)?!?
Wellman has looked pretty decent in his two games. Not like a driver of play, of course (which Grabo can be), but not like an anchor either. That's better than I was expecting. Let's hope it continues.
The power play, of course, looked very good, with two goals on three attempts. And in those 4+ minutes, they had six attempts, four of which were on-net.
The PK, on the other hand, did not look so good. The defenders did block half of the shot attempts, which is good, I guess. But there were six in under three minutes, and that's too many. I wonder how much of that is driven by Erskine and Carrick's performance (roughly 1/4 of the total time).
Holtby, I thought, had a pretty good game, despite that terrible save percentage. He just wasn't getting much help from the defense. Two of the goals are directly attributable to the skaters, and a case could be made for a third, as well.
Anyway, overall a very good game by the Caps. They dominated for most of the game (basically, outside of the first seven minutes of the third), but they really need to concentrate more. They can't keep having breakdowns leading to quick scores like kept happening last night.
Next up are the Blue Jackets, who have finally cooled of, and are currently tied with the Caps in the standings. Go Caps!