Capitals-Penguins instant analysis

Capitals-Penguins instant analysis
January 2, 2011, 3:50 am
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Saturday, January 1, 2010, 10:49 p.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Staff writer
CSNwashington.com

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PITTSBURGH Five observations from the Capitals 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins under the lights at Heinz Field.

1. Anybody else up for nine more of these Capitals-Penguins (two regular season, seven playoffs) when the conditions are ideal and played indoors? Even with the game taking on a choppy style pucks bouncing all over the place and rain falling throughout the second period the Capitals and Penguins continue to play at a high level during their match-ups. Just wait until more is on the line.

2. Alex Ovechkin started the game with a bang, planting Zbynek Michalek into the rear boards that a pane of glass needed to be repaired. But overall, it was an uneven game for No. 8 he had five shots and just that one hit through 40 minutes (and was a minus-1). If the teams meet in the postseason, Ovechkin has to figure out a way to combat the Penguins defensive pairing of Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang.

3. Has the last three games allowed Bruce Boudreau to gain some clarity with his goal-tending situation? Semyon Varlamov played his third straight strong game, stopping all 16 first-period shots and flashing a consistent glove hand. The game could serve as a break-through for Varlamov. Tonight was only the second time he faced Pittsburgh since the Game 7 blowout loss two years ago.

4. A reason to feel good about the Capitals penalty kill is the new blood instilled since this time last year. Getting key PK time in the second period were four players new since last Jan. 1 forwards Matt Hendricks and Marcus Johansson and defenseman John Carlson and rearguard Karl Alzner is now an every-game presence. Pittsburgh was shut out with the man advantage.

5. Now that the Winter Classic hoopla has been completed, its time for the Capitals to get back to their main business taking control of the Southeast Division. The next five games could go some way toward that task: Tampa Bay, Florida, at Florida, at Tampa Bay and vs. Vancouver. The Lightning keeps hanging around but the Capitals won their last meeting 6-0 the day after Thanksgiving; Florida is 5-3-2 in its last 10 and handed the Capitals a 3-0 loss last month; and Vancouver entered Saturday second in the Western Conference. The Capitals 3-0 post-Christmas record could very well be a sign that theyre hitting their stride.

Contact Ryan at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com