The Washington Capitals are going through such a profound defense-oriented transformation that people have developed the habit of calling them the “Trapitals.” As a person who enjoys splicing two words together to make puns, I approve of the nickname. (The method, however, makes one worry about the entertainment value of the playoffs. If the Capitals really decide to ditch their all-out attack for the same old shell, we might be in store for some real clutching-and-grabbing come April.)
Then again, you cannot go into a shell unless you have a goalie who’s up to the task. Michal Neuvirth once again refuted Dan Bylsma’s “shaky” claims from the HBO “24/7” series as he shut out the Penguins offense for the second game in a row. Of course, it could be that the Caps simply have their media-fed rival’s number, as Pittsburgh has only scored three goals in their four games against the Caps this season.
Neuvirth made 39 saves to earn that goose egg, while Alex Ovechkin unleashed an absolute howler to beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the game’s only tally. Fleury was pretty alert in making 23 stops, but had no chance against that Ovechkin shot.
This win places the Capitals one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Southeast Division crown, although the Bolts hold two more wins and two more games in hand. Washington finished a challenging five-game road trip 3-2.
It’s tough to question the Penguins’ hustle, but they better hope that the acquisition of James Neal helps spark their offense. They showed a lot of grit and hard work in this game, giving the Capitals a run for their money while pounding pucks at Neuvirth, but there has been a glaring lack of offense without their go-to centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. On the bright side, Pittsburgh remains in fourth place with 77 points, the second highest total in the East.