No Vitek Vanecek, no Ilya Samsonov, no problem for the Capitals who won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Boston Bruins 3-2 in overtime on Saturday behind Craig Anderson in net and Nic Dowd's overtime winner.
Here is how the win happened.
Possession is a big part of Boston's game and a major reason why the Bruins were so effective defensively despite a largely unproven blue line. On Saturday, the Caps flipped that script. Suddenly, they were the team dominating possession and keeping the puck away from Boston.
Washington finished the game with a 51.4% Corsi For as they kept the puck off the stick of the Bruins for much of the game which limited their offensive opportunities. Boston managed only 26 shots on goal which was key given the goaltending situation.
The Caps came out with a physical game plan with a number of big hits early in the game. As noted, they also played a possession-heavy style for much of the game. It is much easier to stick to your game plan if you are not chasing the game and Tom Wilson made sure the Caps did not have to do that with a goal just 6:22 in.
Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy broke his stick at the blue line allowing a quick counter by the Caps. Daniel Sprong launched the breakout and T.J. Oshie and Wilson passed back and forth until Wilson fired a shot to the top corner for the 1-0 lead.
The 'imperfection' line
It was expected that the Conor Sheary, Lars Eller, Michael Raffl line would matchup against Boston's "perfection line" and that was the case on Saturday. Round 1 of the matchup went to Eller and Co. as they managed to keep Boston's top line - Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak - off the scoreboard.
Vitek Vanecek's first career NHL playoff start was limited to just 13:10 as he was injured on Jake DeBrusk's goal and had to come out of the game. That meant the Caps had to turn to the 39-year-old Anderson and he did a hell of a job.
Anderson made 21 saves in the win and looked very comfortable in net, more comfortable than you would expect for a goalie coming on cold who has played in just four games this season and who last played a playoff game in 2017. Granted - that was a double overtime Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins where a win would have taken the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Final. Anderson has seen it all.
Nic Dowd's OT winner
Dowd's career season continued as he was in front of the net to deflect in a shot from T.J. Oshie for the overtime winner. That's the kind of key depth scoring the Caps just did not get the last two years in first round playoff exits. That will be a big boost for them if they can continue to rely on players like Dowd for key offensive contributions in the series and throughout the postseason.