Enjoying the friendly confines of the home crowd, the Washington Capitals made the trip worth their while a little sweeter, crushing the Flyers 5-1 with exceptional teamwork from the usual suspects.
Alex Ovechkin continues to anoint himself, as the best player in the NHL, earning player of the game status with many notable "whoa, how did he do that?" moves. Ovie got the party started with another patented wrister, scoring a short-handed goal, through the legs of a helpless Flyers defenseman at the 15:00 minute mark of the 1st Period.
Throughout the night, the good guys punished Philly into submission, with superior skating and great leadership.
Coach Bruce Boudreau added his own spin on the drama that is hockey life in the pros, by giving longtime C Sergei Federov the nod at playing defense. Federov finished his evening notching 2 assists, first hooking up with youngsters, RW Tomas "Flash" Fleischmann, and C/LW Chris Bourque, and then later in the 3rd Period with RW Eric Fehr and D Jeff Schultz.
Asked in a post game interview, his impressions of how Federov responded to the old but new assignment, Boudreau was favorable, but cautionary.
"He was way too excited. But I liked what I saw from Sergei. We expect him to settle down, and who knows what's going to happen. It's exciting stuff."
Looking to stay healthy is also a concern, heading into the regular season for the Southeastern defending champs, so it was a pleasure to watch the poise and heady play from No. 17 Chris Clark. He gets my vote for best individual maneuver of the game, by scoring on a wraparound shot off the glass, then off Flyers starting goalie, Jean-Sebastian Aubin's right skate and in the net.
The second period flamer, and first power play goal, was beautifully executed, and should be noted, because this one was scored by someone not named Ovechkin. Ovie was credited with an assist, but let me be the one to argue the case, that that was all C.C's instinct for the puck.
In true Caps fashion, several of his teammates shared in the glory, slapping gloves and padding the helmet of Clarkie in appreciation.
And, of course, what's the No. 1 reason most fans go nuts for live action hockey? Yes, indeed it's the fisticuffs. They want to see jaw crunching, hair flying, mouth bleeding punches.
Enter the enforcer and fan favorite, D Donald Brashear. Brash earned a total of 17 penalty minutes, tangling with LW Riley Cote, only four minutes and 14 seconds into the second period. All Cote had to do was delay a long stare in Brashear's direction and it was game on. The skirmish sent Cote off to the sin bin for seven minutes (two minutes for roughing and five minutes for fighting.)
Brashear was deemed the lesser of the two evils, and earned the five for fighting penalty as well. And in the waning moments of the debacle in DC, Cote and Brashear were sent packing generating 10 minute misconduct penalties. Ah these are the moments we hockey hedonists crave.
Perhaps the largest question for the Caps to answer, before the games begin to count, lies in the play of newly signed netminder, Jose Theodore. On this night, he didn't have to break a sweat until the middle part of the second period. The Flyers snuck in three shots after the first period, while the Caps took a 2-0 lead on eight shots against Aubin.
Their lone goal was scored on the power play, led by Caps nemesis, C Daniel Briere at 5:18 into the third period. The crowd was surprised it counted, because Referee Kevin Pollock hesitated to signal it was a good goal. Remember that red light is reason to cheer in hockey town.
Even so, Theodore was rock steady finishing his performance, stopping 17 shots. Theodore needs to return to his days in Canada to make it through under Boudreau's guidance. Gabby is a winner, and in DC it's about results. Just believe, baby.
The Caps have their Gretsky, but they have a lot more to add to this season's storyline if they can build on the chemistry of last year's run to the playoffs. They have grit, heart and what Boudreau calls "tremendous drive" to push the boundaries of their own skills.
It's almost here. Mark your calendars, folks. Hotlanta is going to get thrashed.
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