Cycle Killer

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

A turning point in Thursday’s Caps-Panthers game came early in the second period when Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth suffered a lower body injury that forced him to leave the game. The Caps led 1-0 at that point, and everyone in the building knew that Florida’s game plan would be to get as many pucks at Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who had just come on in relief of Neuvirth. Washington prevented that from occurring by taking the play to the Panthers in their own end, and – better yet – by scoring two goals in a span of exactly two minutes. The second of those two goals came on a grinding, hard-working, cycling shift in which Washington wore down the Panther defenders and ran them around a bit in their own end. Even if the Caps hadn’t been able to score or draw a penalty on that shift, it would have been considered a success simply because of the sustained attack zone time, an element that has been lacking from Washington’s game at times this season. The shift started with Keith Aucoin, Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer up front and Mike Green and Roman Hamrlik on the blueline for Washington. Aucoin lost the offensive zone draw, but the Caps soon regained possession and began working the puck around the wall in the Florida end. A Green shot was stopped, and another Green bit went wide. Perreault wnet off the ice and Laich came on, drifting into the slot as Aucoin took the puck down low on the left side. Laich had his stick cocked and ready, and Aucoin saw him and fed him. Laich unleashed a one-timer that beat ex-Caps goalie Jose Theodore and extended Washington’s lead to 3-0. “We knew that they were going to come hard once Neuvy went down and they’d try to get a lot of shots on a young goalie like Holtby,” says Aucoin. “We wanted to make sure that we continued to get the puck deep and continued to get shots. We felt that if we got the puck to the net, the rebounds were going to be there. That’s what happened on [Alex Ovechkin’s] goal. “A lot of times after you score a goal, the next shift is the one of the bigger shifts and the coming shifts that are coming after that. I think we were the second shift after the goal. We went out there and had a good cycle shift going there; we wanted to continue cycling and getting pucks to the net. We had the cycle shift going there and I saw Brooksie wide open in front and he made a great shot.” The goal ended up being the game-winner; the Cats scored once in the second and again early in the third. Alexander Semin struck with just over a minute left in regulation to give the Caps some needed breathing room. The Caps showed that the best defense is offense, something they’d do well to exercise going forward. Jay Beagle scored the game’s first goal for Washington in similar fashion. “I think that we’ve been seeing a lot of that,” says Caps defenseman John Carlson. “It’s great for us. We’re great below the dots; we’re great below the circles. It’s been on the board every day to try to get better at that and try to do that more because it wears teams down. I know I don’t like running around in the [defensive] zone for 45 seconds. People get lackadaisical and that’s when we can score.”

next up:

Caps Await Playoff Fate

January 14, 2013

With a Washington win over the Rangers in New York on Saturday and a regulation win by the Carolina Hurricanes over the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Capitals would win a fifth straight Southeast Division title. The division title in and of itself is relatively meaningless, but it does provide

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