Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals reflect on Thursday night’s 4-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets and prepare for tonight’s rematch against them at MTS Centre [7 p.m., CSN].
What it means: Very little, unless the Capitals win tonight. With Thursday night’s win the Caps improved to 13-16-1 and sit in a three-way tie for 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings with the Lightning and Flyers, who are also 13-16-1. The Caps are now five points behind the Rangers and Hurricanes, who own identical 15-13-2 marks. With a regulation win tonight the Caps would close within five points of the Jets and within three points of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Needing a streak: The Caps have not won two games in a row since March 5 and March 7 when they concluded their 8-3-0 run with wins over the Bruins and Panthers. Since then they’ve gone 3-5-0.
Challenging Ovi: Alex Ovechkin had one of his most complete games of the season, scoring one goal, assisting on two others, recording a team-high five shots and delivering three teeth-rattling hits. Two of those body blows came in the second period when he rolled over forward Bryan Little, then knocked defenseman Mark Stuart out of the game with a thunderous check.
“We need him to work that hard every game,” Caps right wing Troy Brouwer told the Washington Post after the game. “Sometimes you don’t feel as involved in the game as other nights. Tonight right away he was in there, making good hits, finishing his checks, he was around the puck all night and he’s dangerous that way.”
An angry Noel: The Jets have been shut out by a combined score of 7-0 in their two games against the Caps on home ice and that left coach Claude Noel an angry man. “They’re playing chess,” he said of the Capitals. “We’re playing checkers.” Noel didn’t stop there. Asked again about his team’s listless performance, he shot back, “What do you want to do, beat up on your players, and cut their heads off and their hands off and say, ‘You guys are bad?”
“You think they enjoy playing like this? Have you ever been on a team like this? It is very frustrating. It’s not something you do by design as a player. It’s certainly not something you do by design as coaches. We’re all responsible.”
That said, expect a more snarly Jets team tonight.
Finally healthy: Thursday night marked the first time this season Brooks Laich and Mike Green played in the same game. Green logged 22:44 of ice time alongside Dmitry Orlov and finished with two shots, three blocks and a plus-2 rating. Green has not played back-to-back games since aggravating his groin injury on Feb. 27 in Philadelphia. It will be determined later today whether he will play tonight. Laich worked on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Brouwer and logged 14:11 in ice time, recording one assist, one shot and winning four of his six faceoffs.
Crabb on waivers: To make room for Green on the 23-man roster the Caps made fourth-line winger Joy Crabb a non-roster player. Crabb will go on waivers at noon on Friday. Teams have until noon on Saturday to claim him. If Crabb goes unclaimed the Caps will send him to AHL Hershey and $900,000 of his $950,000 salary will be removed from their salary cap.
Scratch sheet: In addition to Crabb, the Caps made forwards Wojtek Wolski and Aaron Volpatti and defenseman Jeff Schultz healthy scratches on Thursday night.
No looking back: The Capitals did not spend a lot of time celebrating Thursday night’s victory, saying the true test comes tonight in Game 2 of the back-to-back set. “That’s the point of the season where we’re at,” said Braden Holtby, who stopped 20 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and seventh of his career. “We have to do it every night, this game is over now. It’s in the past. We move on.”