The Washington Capitals have not been playing with much energy or motivation lately. Last night, they had a lot of motivation to get a win: It was forward Mike Knuble’s 1000th NHL game. I attended the game and got there ultra early to help with an amazing tribute to Knuble. Here are some pictures of that tribute:
Thanks to Knuble’s Knights for organizing everything (they’re the guys dressed like knights) and to @ClydeORama for getting a ton of pictures. Here’s the link to his website. Everyone who attended the game got a button to honor Knuble’s accomplishment. Here’s a picture of it:
Also, during warmups, every Capital players wore number 22 on the back of their jerseys. Here’s a great picture from @jopierce:
The Capitals also had a pre-game ceremony to honor Mike Knuble. I was able to get some pictures, here they are:
It was really great to get to see Mike Knuble get honored for his 1,000th career game. I know that no one in the NHL has worked harder to be where they are today than Mike Knuble. His career didn’t even really start until he was 30, but he never gave up. I’ve gotten the chance to talk to him, he’s probably the most humble, down to earth athlete I’ve ever spoken to. He’s a class act and he deeply respects the game of hockey. In short, he’s the kind of hockey player that most of us would want to be.
The Capitals, clearly fired up to win a game for Knuble, came out with a lot of energy. They were making mistakes, but they kept a relentlessly quick and efficient pace throughout the entire first period. That style of play paid immediate dividends, as Alex Ovechkin was able to get on a breakaway, and Karl Alzner was able to get it up to him. Ovechkin weaved between defenders and put a beautiful low wrist shot into the back of the net. Alzner and John Carlson both got assists on Ovechkin’s goal. With his goal, Ovechkin tied Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Chimera for the team lead in goals with 11. Apparently Backstrom was offended by that because he added one at the 15:51 mark to make it 2-0 Capitals. Backstrom is now the team leader in goals with 12, and he is simply having an incredible season. Roman Hamrlik added his first assist of the year on Backstrom’s goal. He’s been looking a lot better since he was a healthy scratch due to a shoulder injury against the Penguins.
The second period did not go too well for the Capitals on offense, but the defense really did a great job and Michal Neuvirth made some huge saves. The story of the second period was the penalty kill. The Capitals played undisciplined hockey in the second period, committing three penalties, including a bench minor for too many men on ice. Each time, the penalty kill refused to budge.
The third period started off poorly for the Capitals, as a lack of communication between Alexander Semin and Neuvirth allowed the Predators to get an easy goal. Semin is partially to blame for being a little lazy, but he clearly did not see the pressure coming. That’s when Neuvirth has to let Semin know that he has to pick up the pace. Semin made up for his error with a goal of his own at the 10:21 mark. Marcus Johansson left the puck for Semin on a perfectly timed criss-cross and Semin had an easy goal. Johansson and Backstrom both got assists on that goal. The Capitals were not finished yet, as Troy Brouwer added his 9th goal of the year during a power play at the 13:46 mark to make it 4-1 Capitals. Dennis Wideman and Johansson were credited with the assists.
Overall, a very strong game from the Capitals. Probably their best overall performance of the year. Only concern was the second period, when the Capitals only mustered 3 shots on goal and allowed the Predators to get 9. The Capitals fought through that struggle, which is definitely a good thing to see. Scoring 4 goals against a team like the Predators is quite an accomplishment.
The three stars of the game were:
- Nicklas Backstrom. Goal and an assist. Somebody make this man an All-Star.
- Alex Ovechkin. Got a first period goal. Had one of those nights where I felt he could score every time he touched the puck.
- Marcus Johansson. Two assists, and his best game since Hunter took over. So far, the Marcus Johansson wing experiment is working.
I’d like to add a fourth star: every Capitals defenseman. Every blue liner had a solid game for the Capitals. Carlson and Alzner continue to be Carlzner: a two headed beast that is feared by all forwards. Even Jeff Schultz looked decent during his few minutes of ice time.
I’ll end this post by posting an interesting fact about Mike Knuble: He has scored more goals in his 30’s than Wayne Gretzky did. Knuble was a late bloomer, but man did he ever bloom.