Coming into tonight’s game, the bottom half of the Washington Capital‘s defense corpse had a grand total of 19 games of experience. 19-year-old Connor Carrick had 18 of those games. Patrick Wey and Julien Brouilette were recalled from AHL Hershey earlier today, and Brouilette was playing his first ever NHL game after over 400 games in the minors. Against a red-hot Winnipeg Jets team, and with a defense that has been suspect all season, it seemed a recipe for disaster.
Troy Brouwer made sure that those fears would be put to rest, as he notched two goals in the contest.
Not only did the inexperience on the blue line not play a factor in the game, but Wey and Brouilette both tallied assists in the contest. Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 40th goal of the season. He’s the first player this season to accomplish that feat. Rookie Tom Wilson also dented the twine.
It was a win the Capitals badly needed. Although they were only three points out of both the final Wild Card and Metropolitan division spot, they have been floundering for the past couple of months. With 24 games left, and the third hardest schedule after the Olympic break, they need to get every point they can from now until the end of the season. With a game against division rivals the New Jersey Devils coming up on Saturday, they have a chance to take destiny into their own hands before the break. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to get into the top eight before the break, since the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators both won tonight.
Michal Neuvrith was scheduled to make his fourth-straight start, but illness kept him out of the lineup. It’s unfortunate, because it seems that whenever Neuvrith starts to get momentum, some type of illness or injury derails his progress. Braden Holtby stepped up to the plate and did a fantastic job, hopefully gaining confidence in the process. Although goaltending has been a point of controversy this season, it really has been an unwarranted scapegoat, as the defense has been hanging them out to dry more often than not.
Time will still tell whether the Capitals are a playoff team or not. Until then, they will hope the Olympic break will give them time to mend their wounded players, but until then they can at least rest for a night knowing their call-up rookies can handle themselves for the time being.