What should Caps do with red-hot Grubauer?

What should Caps do with red-hot Grubauer?
December 21, 2013, 8:30 am
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400th goal puts Ovechkin in special company

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts from the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night at PNC Arena:

How it happened: Marcus Johansson, John Carlson and Troy Brouwer scored power-play goals and Alex Ovechkin scored into an empty net for his 400th goal in his 634th game. Nicklas Backstrom assisted on all four goals to lead the Caps to their fourth win in five games.

What it means: With 41 points, the Caps moved six points ahead of the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division. The Canes fell to fourth place, which puts the Caps five points ahead of the third-place Flyers. 

Johansson injured: Johansson suffered a lower body injury with 1:18 remaining in the second period and did not return. We’ll provide an update today after the Caps’ 11 a.m. optional morning skate. If Johansson and center Michael Latta [lower body] are unavailable, look for Casey Wellman to play his second game with the Caps this season.

Grubi-rific: Despite Backstrom’s four-assist night, Caps goaltender Philipp Grubauer was the game’s first star Friday night in Raleigh, stopping 39 of 41 shots to improve to 4-0-1 with a 2.05 GAA and .940 save percentage. The 22-year-old German rookie stopped Jeff Skinner on an early breakaway, then robbed Jordan Staal with a glove save to keep the Caps in the game. Grubauer is making it difficult for the Caps to send him back to Hershey and his strong play presents Adam Oates with a difficult decision tonight against the Devils, who are expected to start Marty Brodeur.

[RELATED: Alex Ovechkin scores his 400th goal]

Ovi’s next quest: Now that Ovechkin is the sixth fastest player to reach 400 goals, his next chase is to score 50 in 50. He has 29 goals in 33 games this season and would need to score 21 in his next 17 games to reach that milestone. Dating back to last season Ovechkin has 52 goals in his last 56 regular-season games. “I didn't feel like I would be in this position when I started playing in the NHL," Ovechkin told reporters in Raleigh. “Of course I wanted to be, but thanks goes to my coaches and [teammates]. Without them, I can’t reach those numbers.”

Helping hands: Backstrom’s four assists gives him 12 helpers in his last five games and pushed him into the league lead in that category with 33, one more than Sidney Crosby. Backstrom is now tied for third in the NHL in points with 41, one ahead of Ovechkin, seven behind Patrick Kane and 10 behind Crosby. Backstrom has had three or more assists 23 times in his career.

What’s next: The Capitals take on Jaromir Jagr and the New Jersey Devils tonight at VerizonCenter, where they’ll try to win for the fourth straight time. They follow with a day off on Sunday and a visit from Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks on Monday.