Highlights: Capitals 4, Oilers 1
Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Caps pack/unpack their bags following Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place and prepare for Saturday night’s visit to Calgary:
Who to start: Caps goalie Braden Holtby came within 2:04 of his first shutout of the season in Thursday night’s win, and has been arguably the best player on the ice in three straight victories. But Adam Oates said Michal Neuvirth would get one of these starts on the road trip and Saturday’s seems like a good choice. Neuvirth [1-1-1] has appeared in just two of the Caps’ 10 games this season, including a 27-save effort in relief of Holtby in the Caps’ home win over Calgary on Oct. 3.
Killers: While the Caps’ power play has gotten most of the attention this season, the Caps’ penalty killers have been excellent lately. They were a perfect 3-for-3 against Edmonton and are now second in the NHL at 88.2 percent [30-for-34], behind only Colorado. Care to guess who leads the Caps in PK ice time this season? That would be John Carlson at 34:30. Next would be Karl Alzner at 27:15. Brooks Laich [24:15] and Troy Brouwer [21:34] are third and fourth, respectively and it won’t be long before one of them scores a shorty.
Green watch: After getting benched in Tuesday night’s win in Winnipeg, Caps defenseman Mike Green played 22:40, recorded three shots and blocked two others alongside rookie defense partner Nate Schmidt, who logged 19:50 in ice time. Green will be anxious to play in front of family and friends in Calgary on Saturday.
Ovi on the move: Alex Ovechkin has 10 goals after 10 games for the first time in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first player since Hockey Hall of Famer Pavel Bure to score 30 goals in 30 consecutive games, dating back to last season. Bure completed the feat in 30 games stretching over the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. We’ll have a post later today on why Ovi has a legitimate chance to set a career high in goals.
Muscle goals: Jason Chimera and Joel Ward scored even strength goals in Edmonton, driving home the point that if the Caps can get even-strength goals from their third line they are almost unbeatable. Chimera could have had a two-goal night, but Ward deflected one of his shots for his third goal of the season. Chimera was originally given credit for the goal but Ward showed him the blade of his stick and the mark the puck left before entering the net. You can bet the two will argue about that one the rest of this season.
Roll those lines: Thursday night’s lopsided win allowed Adam Oates to use all four lines and not overtax his top forwards. No one played fewer than 10 minutes a game. Rookie right wing Tom Wilson saw a season-high 11:36 on the fourth line.
Three stars: This is nit-picking, but how could Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be named third star of the game when he finished the night with no points and a minus-4 rating. Just sayin’.
Look ahead: The Caps are scheduled to practice today in Calgary, ahead of Saturday night’s 10 p.m. game at Scotiabank Saddledome. After their two-day stop in Calgary the Caps will head to Vancouver, where they’ll meet John Tortorella for the first time since getting bounced from last year’s playoffs by his former employers, the New York Rangers.