Columbus feeling blue from OV/MarJo double-team

I didn't watch all of the Caps game last night; I was putting the new wheels on my bike (finding that I didn't have enough vertical clearance for the 28mm tires meant I had to put the tires on twice, so it took considerably longer than it should have).  Anyway, I had watched the first period live, but that delayed me until late enough that I was too tired to watch the third period on delay.

I didn't miss much, though.  In fact, I wouldn't have missed much skipping the second period.

The game opened decisively, with MarJo putting the Caps on the board.  The goal was a bit of a weird one; Brouwer had gotten the puck up top, in the middle, and threw it towards the goal, where MarJo was headed.  The puck bounced around a bit between defenders and goalie, with MarJo swooping in, kicking it across the net to his stick, and calmly sliding the biscuit into the basket.

It took only six minutes for the Caps to strike again, this time on a 5-on-3 advantage (hey, another advantage of Trotz over Oates; the Caps can score 5-on-3).  It was a normal OV PPG one-timer.

The Jackets cut the advantage in half two minutes later, when Atkinson took a one-timer shot off a clean face-off win, but the Caps still seemed fully in control.

And they asserted more of that control several minutes later when OV intercepted the puck in neutral (hey, he's playing defense now... how about that?), facing his own net.  His second touch was a pass backwards to Backstrom cutting across the ice, who sent a one-touch back-pass to Beagle, charging up the other side.  OV, meanwhile, has skated around behind Beagle and took the very nice drop pass (I don't take back any of what I've said about Beagle and scoring chances, but this was a beautiful drop pass) for a quick slap shot to the upper corner.  Gorgeous play from start to finish.  The Jackets never came close to recovering from the turnover.

So the period ended with the Caps ahead 3-1, and leading in shots 13-5 (and frankly, it felt less even than that).  So there was definitely some temptation to head straight to bed after finishing with the bike.

But I did turn on the second, and though Columbus scored the only goal for the period, and even though play was much more even than in the first, it still didn't feel like Columbus had any chance of winning (especially not the way they've been brutalized by injuries).  So I went to bed there.

Therefore, I missed Hartnell's breakaway (off a steal from a Beagle pass.  Making up for the nice drop-pass earlier, I guess) that rang off the crossbar, and, with five minutes left, MarJo's insurance goal.  He broke into the zone, dropped to Bura, kept skating around, and Bura hit him with a return pass as he was going behind the net.  He carried it around and scored on a wraparound (looking much like one of a couple of goals he scored two seasons ago).  Nice eyes by Bura to see it developing.

A couple of notes of interest.  I've noticed the Caps, this season, have gone to a different configuration on a 5-on-3.  They lay it out like a big X.  OV and Green at the points, Brouwer at the apex, Backstrom on the goal-line, right, and Ward on the goal-line, left.  I hadn't realized that was the configuration at the time, but this is what Ward scored one of his power-play goals on, several games ago.  I had wondered how he got that pass in that position, and now we know.  It's just a set position.

And to get back to MarJo a bit.  It was hard not to see last season as a disappointment, even though most of his lack of scoring was due to an abysmally low (unsustainably so, especially accounting for where the shots were originating) shooting percentage.  This season, he's shooting more, and scoring on a higher percentage.  There was no reason to suspect he'd be tied for the team lead in goals at this point (nor is there any reason to expect him to sustain that position) in the season, but there was certainly room for a lot of optimism.  Especially when he compared favorably, at the beginning of the season, to several eventual Hart Trophy winners at that age.

Anyway, he's looked fantastic so far, and not just on those goals.  He also drew one of the penalties (the second, I believe) that led to the 5-on-3.  And it's certainly fair to attribute some of his success to being centered by Bura (conversely, MarJo is a significant factor in Bura looking so good, as well).

All that said, next game is Friday against New Jersey.  The Devils aren't nearly as hot as they were the last time the two faced off, but they're certainly not ones with whom to be trifled.

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