Wednesday, November 17, 2010 9:41 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
CAPITALS PAGE CAPITALS VIDEOS
First of all, please allow me to say that having laryngitis is pretty close to the worst thing that can happen on the job for an announcer. It's a helpless feeling. I'm glad and grateful that Al Koken is able to fill-in very capably, which gives my throat another day to heal.
Whenever the Caps play the Sabres, it's a case study for which team can remain the most patient. Buffalo plays a deliberate style, which can frustrate a free-flowing team like Washington. The first period was full of whistles. The Caps did a nice job of avoiding trying to create something that wasn't there. They didn't overextend themselves.
The first half of the hockey game belonged to the home team. Bruce Boudreau tinkered with his forward lines, as he is wont to do, and the moves appeared to pay immediate dividends. The coaches like Marcus Johansson's ability to back defenders off with his speed, and put him at center with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble as his wingers.
When Boudreau moves Nicklas Backstrom, it's often with the intention of lighting a fire for either of his new wings. Since Alex Semin is rolling right now, it's safe to assume the boss was trying to get Brooks Laich cooking with that line-up adjustment.
The 5-on-3 power play goal came off a silky smooth pass from Semin which Backstrom blasted home before Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller could move a muscle.
The line of Jason Chimera, David Steckel and Matt Bradley clicked immediately tonight. Chimera is a buzz-saw on the forecheck. His best efforts may not always end up on the scoresheet, but he's very effective at what he does and was named first star tonight. All three of those guys play a very similar brand of hockey, and it would make sense for them to wear teams down over the course of a game. The fact that a pair of goals came from Steckel and Bradley was gravy.
Even though this team is on top of the standings, it has one flaw that drives people batty. Once again, with a 3-0 lead in the second period there was that nasty lapse in concentration which we have seen too often. Two quick Sabre goals made it interesting going to the third period.
Michal Neuvirth made a key save on Jason Pominville six and half minutes into the third period. The Sabres are dangerous in transition, and they almost tied the score on a quick-developing 3-on-2 break.
On a crucial third period penalty kill, Laich helped Neuvirth out with a terrific sliding blocked shot.
With only 35 seconds left and the Sabres attacking 6-on-5, the rookie goalie finished his night with a huge stop. An empty-netter from Alex Semin clinched another home ice win, a league-high 10 now in D.C.
Fingers crossed, I will have some semblance of my real voice for Atlanta Friday. I sure hope so, because I hate sitting on the bench!