October 12, 2008

Blackhawks Vs Capitals 10/11/2008 Review

2007-2008 Southeast Division Champions Banner Raising
Chris Clark, Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov - October 11, 2008

Blackhawks 2 - Capitals 4

The Washington Capitals raised the 2007-2008 Southeast Division Champions banner, and then pulled off a brilliant come from behind win in their sold out home opener last night. Jose Theodore returned to form in net, while Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin led the Caps to victory over Nikolai Khabibulin and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Both teams were looking for their first win after losing their season openers in embarrassing fashion the night before. Both teams saw their new number one goaltenders cough up four goals each in those contests, but only Washington had the courage to put their guy back in action the very next game. The Capitals will have to wait until next season to get a crack at former teammate Cristobal Huet, unless both teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this season.

Capitals celebrate Matt Bradley's 1st Period Goal

Chicago's Kris Versteeg scored the game's first goal right after the opening faceoff, which probably didn't help restore the confidence of Theodore and Washington's defenseman. Jose looked much sharper after he made a few nice stops early in this fast paced game. At the other end Nikolai, who hadn't seen any preseason action, was looking as good as ever. Theodore had to fend off twice as many shots as Khabibulin as the period quickly passed it's midway point. Contrary to Friday night's overactive officials, the referees working this game seemed to have an aversion to calling penalties in the first frame. At 11:41, Jack Skille sent a hard wrister short side past Theodore, putting the Blackhawks ahead 2-0. Jose didn't let it get to him, and he continued to show improvement as the game went on. The Caps' defense improved toward the end of the first as well. Most notably, John Erskine made a couple of nice plays, including a possibly goal saving poke check on Jonathan Toews about four minutes before the end of the period. It was Matt Bradley who got Washington's offense going, scoring off a good pass by David Steckel at 13:26. It was a bad line change by the Blackhawks, that led to to the turnover in the neutral zone.

After a couple amazing saves on Washington's Russian wingers by Khabibulin to start off the second period, Alex Ovechikin evened up the score. Backchecking in the neutral zone, Ovie gained control of the puck and drove toward the net. He easily slid the biscuit past Khabibulin for his first goal of the season. The quick tempo of the game continued intermittently through the second, as the ref's did take time to catch one of several too many men on the ice screw ups by Chicago. The Blackhawks had trouble with line changes all night long. Steckel had to head back to the penalty box for tripping just after getting out from another penalty, because the Hawks' Dave Bolland was able to sell his act without trying very hard. There were seven stoppages in play during the second, bringing back bad memories of the whistle happy fellas in stripes from the evening before.

Capitals celebrate Brooks Laich's Game Winning 3rd Period Goal

The ref's seemed to have left their whistles in the dressing room, during the third period. The one penalty (tripping) for which referee Bill McCreary did award two minutes in the box to Ovechkin, with 25.2 seconds left in the game, was completely imaginary. The official that should've been by the Blackhawk's net when Brooks Laich scored the Caps' third and game winning goal was Dean Morton. But, he watched the high traffic action in front of the net from a corner. Meanwhile, Brooks sent the puck into the net with a backhand shot, while being tripped by defenseman Brian Campbell. Morton then casually skated over to where he should've been. Unable to determine what happened, the officials went to video review before calling it a goal. Washington controlled the puck, and were in the offensive zone for most of the time remaining from that point on. After the puck had been briefly cleared, defenseman Jeff Schultz collected the puck behind the Caps' net and chipped it up the boards to Ovechkin. Alex took it into the Blackhawks end, skated cross ice and snapped in his second goal of the game, with 1:36 left on the clock.

The instant the game ended, Theodore was clearly relieved to get the win. He put in a fine effort, showing he can be counted on to come back from a bad outing and play very well. It's always preferable to do well in the home opener. Now we can all be in a good mood for a couple days anyway. The Vancouver Canucks skate into town on Monday.

All Photos - Luis M. Alvarez / AP

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