Devilish challenge

I actually forgot about the Devils game entirely on Saturday, but it was on the normal channel, so I was able to watch it yesterday evening after getting back from the hospital.

The lineup was the same as the Jets game right before, right down to Holtby starting in net again. On the other side, Schneider seems to have grabbed the starter's mantle from Brodeur with his excellent play, and he got the start.

And it was a frustrating game to watch (not helped by being frequently distracted by the kids). Outside of a brief flurry of chances around five or six minutes in (on the power play), they were solidly dominated all the way through the second intermission.

But Holtby brought his A game, and stopped everything thrown at him.

For the first ten minutes of the third, the Caps finally started catching up in possession, and had some excellent shifts. After that, possession was more even, although the Caps finally broke through and scored in the eleventh minute, with a Brouillette slapshot from the point finally getting past Schneider.

From there, the game was very tense, with both teams getting chances, but both goalminders standing tall. With two and a half minutes left, I was starting to think that the Caps might finally win a game without scoring three goals (it was pointed out to me, late last week, that they hadn't managed that. h/t to @Peerless, I think). But Schneider was pulled right after that, and a rough - but effective - breakout led to Erat finally scoring on the empty net (I think he kept the puck, too, which surprised me a little. First as a Cap, maybe?).

And then, almost forty seconds later, Brouwer fought hard along the boards near the red line, and got a shot off that slipped into the goal for a second empty netter.

Holtby was up to the remaining challenges as well, and got his tenth career shutout just over a minute later (despite Jersey finishing that on the power play).

The power play was not good at all. The first power play wasn't too bad, but they had only two more shots over the remaining three times on the advantage. Overall, they had nine shot attempts for (and two against), with five of those on net. A lot of credit for that goes to the NJ PK, but that isn't likely to get the job done.

On the other side, the Devils had a bit less than five minutes with the advantage, getting ten shot attempts (four on-net). Again, that isn't going to get the job done if Holtby doesn't have an awesome game.

Holtby was fantastic, and seems to be back to where he was (they seem to have given up on the experiment of having him try to play deeper in the net). I don't remember any truly spectacular saves, but he was just always where he needed to be. Awesome to see.

Overall, though, this was another not-great game for the Caps. We'll take the points without complaining, of course, but it's not boding well. The last two games were both ~46% FF 5-on-5, close. That's not going to get it done, either, unless Holtby remains near-flawless. I'd love to see that, but hope it won't be necessary (and it ain't the way to bet, regardless).

So the Caps go into the Olympic break tied for fourth in the division (ninth in Conference), with the toughest schedule in the league for March. Somehow, despite that brutal schedule, they need to make up ground on at least one team in front of them, while also getting separation from both of the teams with whom they're currently tied (because they sure ain't getting any tiebreakers). The only thing leading to any optimism at all is that they do have a better goal differential than three of the teams ahead of them (although maybe that counts shootout "goals"), but that's pretty weak tea.

But we'll see; maybe OV will win Olympic gold, leading into twenty-five goals down the stretch to drag the team, kicking and screaming, into the playoffs. And maybe Schmidt will get called up to solidify the third line (though there's really nothing to complain about with Brouillette's results so far. Hard to argue with a point-a-game defenseman), and Green and Grabo both return from injury at 100%. And Wellman could stay up, allowing Beagle to be scratched a lot.

Hey, we can hope. Go Caps!

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