Postgame Thoughts: Devils 3, Capitals 2, OT
The Devils are still unbeaten and continue to find different ways to get it done on a night by night basis. They struggled with penalties, partly because of Pete DeBoer, and had a rough first period for the second straight game, but came out of it 3-0-0 after an OT victory. Some thoughts…
Slow starts: It was almost like a carbon copy of the game Tuesday night in the sense that the Devils came out very sluggish and were very fortunate to not get in an early hole. The Capitals certainly jumped on them, but Martin Brodeur was the difference maker yet again. The Devils can’t keep counting on Marty to bust them out of these early-game slumps because eventually they will find a team that will put them in a 3-0 hole before they snap out of it. The word out of the locker room and after the game was making sure this doesn’t become a habit, but after two straight games, it’s clearly a concern.
Points on points on points: Speaking of that, DeBoer was very aware after the game that eventually the Devils won’t get the bounces. Until then, DeBoer said the Devils just want to “bank as many points” as they can before their luck runs out and/or Marty unbelievable early-season form turns sour. As upset as the Devils should feel about their inconsistent effort to this point, they should feel just as good about “banking” six points in three games.
Sin bin: The Devils gave the Capitals life in the third period with what felt like 20 minutes worth of penalties. The penalties allowed the Caps to get within one and eventually tie it up. DeBoer took a lot of the blame for it after the game, but it wasn’t the first time this season they’ve struggled with bad penalties. The Devils can be an excellent penalty killing team, but the more chances they take in that aspect of their game, the more times they’re going to put themselves in a hole they can’t manufacture their way out of. Thankfully, they continue to ride of the “best penalty killer being your goalie” and Marty continues to be almost ahead of the play night after night, which is really incredible if you think about it. It’s one thing to come into this season in great physical shape, but for him to have his eyes trained already and be this mentally sharp is really tremendous.
Goalie battle: If Marty Brodeur was the main reason the Caps didn’t score until the third, Michal Neuvirth was the only reason the Devils weren’t up 5-0 at that point. Neuvirth stopped the Devils point blank on short-handed rushes multiple times throughout the night and made some very big saves on the penalty kill, as well. I was skeptical of the Caps giving him another shot the night after he gave up four the Habs, but Adam Oates had trust in Neuvirth to bounce back. I’m interested to see if a night like this leads Oates to ride Neuvirth in the next few games or until he has another stinker. Braden Holtby has been far from spectacular in two starts and what I saw from Neuvirth tonight was quite impressive.
Disappearing act: Speaking of Neuvirth keeping the Caps in it — I just wonder what in the world has happened to Alex Ovechkin? He disappeared for most of the game and after the second period had just one shot in 12 minutes of ice time. When was the last time you saw him rush through the neutral zone carrying the puck and dominate a play from start to finish? Maybe someone in the KHL saw it, because I haven’t seen it since occasional flashes in last year’s playoff run. As long as he remains dormant and almost silent, you have to think the Caps will too. You can’t succeed when your captain and best offensive player goes missing for extended stretches.
Road trippin’: The Devils swept their season-opening homestand and now head on the road to play some very important games against two opponents outside of the Atlantic division. The Habs will be a bit of a trip, but the bigger test will be Boston on Tuesday. The Bruins are by far the best team the Devils will have played to this point and I’m interested to see how they match up against a more physical and aggressive team that can also match Marty’s play in net.