The Capitals started this game in an uncharacteristically fast manner, with Mike Cazzola’s line putting immediate pressure on Coventry. The Capitals generated a number of attempts and shots on the Blaze goaltender Kevin Nastiuk, and a frustrated Coventry coach called a timeout. After fast flowing, up-down action, Marek Tvrdon put the Capitals up 1-0 after sliding the puck underneath the five-hole of Nastiuk from a nice feed from Dylan Anderson. Throughout the period, the Capitals kept up their high octane sustained possession and pressure, and never let up until the horn blew. Pavel Shegalo made a number of nice saves, including a flashing glove save against Blaze forward Marc-Olivier Vallerand. Shegalo has clearly worked on his rebound control, as he appeared to be more effective at stopping second attempts. Additionally, the Capitals generated much more high quality scoring chances than the Blaze in the period, which contributed to their dominance. During the end of the period, the Capitals were assessed a penalty for too many men on the ice, and the Blaze would take their powerplay into the second period.
Score after one: Capitals 1 Blaze 0
This period was all Capitals. In what could be their best period of the season so far, the Capitals killed off the powerplay that Coventry started off with, during which Pavel Shegalo continued to make key save after save. Coventry’s Ross Venus then went to the box for slashing after two and a half minutes of play, and the Capitals made them pay. After a controlled entry, Pavel Vorobyev fired a laser of a wrist shot that beat Nastiuk high blocker side. Shortly after the goal, Coventry would take another penalty, this time Ryan Dingle for high sticking. The Capitals unfortunately, were unable to convert before taking a penalty of their own. The penalty kill, led by captain Michael D’Orazio, shut down the Blaze’s effectiveness in the slot, and Pavel Shegalo continued to look dominant in net. Then, with the period half way over, the Capitals would find a third goal through Marek Tvrdon, who received a wonderful cross ice pass from Mike Cazzola, firing a one-timer past Nastiuk. This wsas Tvrdon’s second goal of the game, and his 8th of the season. On 13 minutes, the Capitals would again be penalized, and again they killed off the Blaze powerplay. Shegalo then made his best save of the game, reaching behind him to make the stick save to deny the Blaze their first. Late in the period, Coventry’s Danick Paquette dropped his gloves in attempt to fight newly resigned Capitals defenceman Nikita Kolesnikovs, but was not accepted, yet Paquette continued to throw punches at Kolesnikovs. This would result in a 10 minute game misconduct for Paquette, and a Capitals powerplay. Shortly after, however, Mike D’Orazio would go to the box for hooking, resulting in 4 on 4 hockey for the rest of the period.
Score after two: Capitals 3 Blaze 0
Coventry would win the faceoff at centre ice, and immediately exert pressure on the Capitals net. However, as he has throughout this game, Shegalo was up to the task. The Capitals would go to the powerplay 2:27 into the period as Edgars Bebris was called for interference. They were unable to capitalise on the powerplay, however, and play would resume at a fairly balanced rate, with action flowing from the Blaze zone to the Capitals zone regularly. The Capitals added an exclamation point to the game with a breakaway goal 8:12 into the third, as Sergei Banashkov faked a forehand shot to go backhand and slide the puck past Nastiuk and into the net. During the middle to early late stages of the period, Coventry would establish a bit of control in the Capitals’ zone, and after a number of shots on goal were able to score through Adam Courchaine, as he poked the puck past Shegalo’s pad after receiving a pass from Marc-Olivier Vallerand, unfortunately denying Shegalo a shutout. The Blaze would add a second goal through Vallerand with a minute remaining in the game. Though the Capitals appeared to lose focus at the end of the period, they were nonetheless able to hang on, and recorded their first win in 13 games. Pavel Vorobyev sealed the win with an empty net goal.
Final Score: Capitals 5 Blaze 2
- Much improved team defensive positioning, brilliant goaltending
In past articles, I critiqued the Capitals for showing lacklustre awareness and sensibility on defence both in their own zone and in the opponent’s zone. This, however, changed dramatically tonight. The Capitals must have focused on this in training, because they always appeared to be at the right place at the right time. Even on the goals the Blaze scored, they were at least there to put pressure on the opponent forwards unlike previous matches. I thought in particular Konstantin Teslyukevich and Michael D’Orazio showed great defensive awareness and made great defensive plays. “I couldn’t tell you what clicked, but it did click [tonight],” D’Orazio stated. “We’re gonna have to build on that and find consistency in our game.”
Additionally, goaltender Pavel Shegalo played perhaps his best game this season, stopping 26 of 28 shots on his net. The 24-year-old Russian stood on his head tonight, making brilliant save after save, and controlling rebounds, something he did not do very well in past games. “I think he takes a lot of criticism,” alternate captain Mike Cazzola remarked. “I thought he’s been good for us all year long.” The Capitals also fixed their faceoff woes, winning 26/57 faceoff attempts, good for 46% effectiveness.
2. Creative passing plays really click
Passes which the Capitals made tonight worked to undo the Blaze defence, as they split them apart, and created a lot of high percentage scoring opportunities. These are plays that I saw the Capitals attempting to make over the last few matches, but that were either inaccurate or were misread by the players. However, tonight, chemistry seemed to form between the new line combinations, and this showed on the scoreboard.
3. Oh Captain my Captain
Perhaps a factor that contributed to the Capitals’ newly found success and confidence is the return of captain Michael D’Orazio. Previously out injured, the 27-year-old Canadian defenceman played a fantastic game tonight, and looks to have given the rest of the squad confidence. “I think anytime the skipper comes back into the line-up it builds confidence from the back-up,” Mike Cazzola said. “I know when I’m on the ice with him, I can take that chance offensively and if we score, that’s great.”
The Capitals are away to Braehead for the next match on the 25th of November.
Image Courtesy of Edinburgh Capitals