Last night's game was another with big between-period transitions. So big, that I wonder if mid-game transitions might be one of Trotz's strengths, as a coach.
The game started out really well, with a nice Brouwer rush down the right side, and OV cleaning up his rebound in pretty fashion, resulting in a goal only thirty-six seconds into the game. But the rest of the period was basically all New Jersey.
The only exception was a nice rush, again down the right side, by Chris Brown, but he capped it himself with a laser of a shot to the roof of the net. Quite unexpected from him (for me, at least).
The rest of the period, though, was New Jersey just attacking in waves. Tons of zone time, a lot of shots, and a couple of power plays. Plus two goals, both on point shots from rookie Severson.
Aside from those two shots (both heavily screened by OV as he attempted blocks), Holtby was unbelievably good. Seriously, he had at least three "I can't believe he got that" stops (two on Cammalleri, and one on Jagr from point-blank. The latter was at the tail-end of a gorgeous run of four straight one-touch passes across the zone by the Devils).
So, almost completely undeserved, the Caps took a tie into the intermission.
The second period was actually even more unbalanced than the first, but in the opposite direction, ending with the Caps leading in shots on goal. There was much less scoring, however, as only MarJo was able to find the netting. Good on him for firing the shot; last year he probably wouldn't have.
The third period also went the Caps way, although not by as much, shot-wise. But less than a minute in, Backstrom extended the lead by deflecting a Niskanen point shot to the near side of the net (it was headed across), and that was pretty much the end of the game seeming competitive.
Ward got on the scoreboard a couple minutes later, and his shot off the back boards, off the back of Schneider's skate, sent Corey to the bench. Clemmenson finished it respectably, although he was beaten by a seeing-eye wrister from Burakovsky five and a half minutes later.
That was it for the scoring, and I think the Caps were the only ones to threaten, thereafter, despite the Devils getting the only remaining power play.
The top line definitely deserves mention for kudos, as they were the three top shooters in the game, with thirteen shots between them.
The team, as a whole, deserves praise for keeping the shots against down (after the abysmal first period, especially). The team hasn't allowed more than thirty shots in a game yet, which is impressive. Maybe that investment in D is paying off.
The PK improved a little bit. I don't think they've yet managed to kill a penalty without allowing a shot, but they did drop below two shots per PK for the night. That's still not great, but it's definitely improvement.
The power play continues to look lethal, even when OV's getting a breather. That latter is especially impressive. The Devils actually kept OV from getting any great shots off, but the Caps responded to the pressure there by feeding the interior. They didn't get any goals off those attempts, but they did get a number of good chances. I feel good about it.
And Burakovsky continues to play beyond his years. He took Nick's spot on the power play for a bit, and looked very calm and controlled in doing it. Again, I was skeptical, but he's making a believer out of me (of course, a point a game will do that). The big question remaining with him is how he'll respond when things go less well. If he doesn't get discouraged, then he should stay at that position for the rest of the season.
Laich moved up to Bura's wing, with Fehr dropping back to center Ward and Chimmer. Those moves both worked well, with Laich getting a pair of assists, and the third line doing yeoman's work against the Devils top line.
Basically, there was nothing not to like about last night's game. And nothing really to dislike about how the season's gone, so far. The Caps opponents, so far, are 12-6-1 (10-4-1 in non-Caps games), so the Caps are getting it done against some pretty stiff competition.
The book on the Caps, though, for the entire OV era, is that they play to the level of their competition. So we'll have to see how they respond to Florida coming to town on Saturday (with the Panthers putting Montoya in goal, according to a reporter on Twitter). If they play hard, we'll know that Trotz has really instilled a new mentality in the team. If not... well, we'll try not to dwell on it.