How big was the 3-2 win in Ottawa on Sunday night that ended the seven-game losing streak? It was so big that the Capitals on ice celebration following the victory looked like they had just eliminated the Senators in Game Seven in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In fact, I stuck around to see if the teams would shake hands at center ice.
While any win during a seven-game losing is a big win, Washington didn't seem to play much differently than they had in many of the games in which they lost seven in a row. They fell behind 2-0 in the first period and even Boudreau said he still thinks the third period in Boston in which they peppered Bruins goalie Tim Thomas with 26 shots, has been their best period during the streak.
Boudreau said following the morning skate yesterday, “I thought the last two periods were really good Sunday night against Ottawa,” "but I don’t care if we won 54 games or what last year, I don’t think we’ve ever played a better third period than we did in Boston.
The Caps gave up three first period goals and only Tim Thomas's efforts in net prevented a Washington comeback win. The Caps went onto lose their seventh straight 3-2.
They earned the win on Sunday but let’s face it, the Ottawa Senators are not the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals have a chance to continue to get well this evening when the 9-21-2 New Jersey Devils come into the big phone booth in downtown Washington.
The Caps continued to start slow, spotting Ottawa a two-goal lead in the first period as the Caps were once again outshot, 9-8 and outscored, 2-0 in the opening stanza.
I can't wait for Wednesday's 24/7 HBO episode to see what Bruce Boudreau said between the first and second periods. If Boudreau's intermission talk was anything like the talks he has been giving and have been shown on HBO's 24/7, the speech will be a can't-miss on Wednesday’s episode.
The intermission and the second period may have been the biggest this season for Boudreau. There were whispers beginning to creep out in the NHL that Boudreau may be in trouble behind the bench. His job security was mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Networks, NHL on the Fly as well as the Versus network by studio analyst.
A loss to the offensively and defensively challenged Senators would have no doubt amped up the talk. Losing to the Devils at home tonight wouldn’t be a good idea either. If not for the New York Islanders, the Devils would own the NHL's worst record. Like the Capitals, the Devils have just two wins in their last 10 games.
Washington is 1-1 vs. New Jersey this season. The Caps beat them 7-2 in the third game of the year in Washington and lost 5-0 in New Jersey back in November.
The Devils are the worst offensive team in the NHL, scoring just 58 goals through 32 games. They are the only team in the NHL averaging under two goals a game at 1.75 and have scored one goal or less in exactly half of their games.
The Devils are led by future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. Brodeur has struggled right along with his team this season. Brodeur suffered an injury that kept him sidelined for 10 games and has not looked sharp at times in net. In Brodeur's last start against Atlanta he was pulled after giving up four goals on just 15 shots. A game the Devils would lose 7-1.
Brodeur has already been named as tonight’s starter, his sixth straight. Brodeur is still a future Hall of Fame goalie that can shut a team down on some nights. He has three shutouts this season, including a 3-0, 29-save gem over the Canadians in Montreal earlier this season.
I don't think Sunday's win has removed Boudreau from the hot seat just yet. His team must win tonight against the Devils at home. The Caps have lost five straight at the Verizon Center with the last win at home coming back on November 28th. The Caps beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout victory.
The Caps caught a bit of a scheduling break with the game against the struggling Senators on Sunday and now the nine-win Devils tonight. The scheduling break stops after tonight. Washington's next five games are against teams that all have winning records, including two against the NHL's second best team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Having won its first game in 18 days on Sunday and with the upcoming schedule, the Caps seem to be in what feels like a midseason must-win situation tonight. Losing to New Jersey at home would deflate whatever confidence Washington picked up on Sunday night. Having no confidence heading into their next five games would not be good for Bruce Boudreau.
If you pay attention to other sports then you saw the Orlando Magic overhaul their roster with two big trades on Saturday. Unprecedented for a winning team, the Magic are in second place and considered one of the five best teams in the NBA's eastern conference. They had lost five of their last six games and knew they were not capable of winning an NBA title with its current roster.
In that case the players were the issue not the coach.
The Caps roster does not seem to be the problem or what concerns me. The problem seems to be how this roster is responding, or not responding to Boudreau.
A loss tonight and the Capitals may have to follow the Magic's lead of overhauling a few things. I don't think it would be the roster that gets the overhaul and if these players really like playing for Boudreau as much as they have come out and said recently then they better start a new streak tonight by winning two in a row against a nine-win team at home.