Who needs Alex Ovechkin anyway?
Ovie was thrown out of the game early in the third period after ramming Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta into the board and being assessed a 5-minute major with a game misconduct. The Caps were clinging to a 1-0 lead at the time, and even without Ovie -- who had scored the lone goal to that point -- the Caps held on for a 2-0 win.
Semyon Varlamov's shutout ended the Caps' three-game losing streak, and we hope it's only coincidence that the team appears to have better luck with Ovie off the ice.
With or without him, though, it was Varly that carried the day. After struggling terribly earlier in the season, Varly's found a bit of a groove. He's looked sharper in his last few starts, and his 25 stops last night raised his overall save percentage to a solid .922. Even better, he's at 9-1-2 on the season. When he plays, the Caps earn points.
He got a lot of support from the blueliners on the team who outworked, out-hustled and out-skated Buffalo, keeping their chances to a minimum. This was especially true during the 5-minute major. Buffalo failed to gain any momentum, and never really controlled play during the power play -- helped, of course, by the penalty they took in the middle of it, breaking the extended PP into two shorter ones.
As shaky as the team has been lately, it was a comforting win. They're still an engine that's not firing correctly. They can win with offense. They can win with defense. They can win with a little bit of grit and muscle. And they can win with a little bit of finesse.
But they're never all those things at any one time. They get a flash here or a flash there. They've got enough talent to win despite all that, but if they're ever able to get the offense and defense in synch, and everyone to go all-out, the team could be scary good.
But they're not there yet, even if they have one of the top records in the league.