Alexander Ovechkin scored the game tying goal in the middle frame, then in the third period Jason Chimera beat Martin Brodeur on a shorthanded break with a beautiful move to lead the Washington Capitals to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at “The Rock” on Friday night. Marcus Johansson added an insurance tally by putting home a Karl Alzner point blast with just over nine minutes left in regulation. Rookie Adam Larsson scored the Devils only goal in the first period on Tomas Vokoun (32 saves), who was extremely solid in the victory. The Caps are now 10-4 and face the Devils at the Verizon Center in Saturday’s rematch.Here are the highlights and analysis of a grind it out Capitals victory:– Ovechkin was a force over the last 30 minutes of this game and it wasn’t because of end to end rushes and pretty passing plays. Nope, the Gr8 played what Canadian icon Don Cherry would call “North American” hockey. Alexander the Great went to the net to score his goal by being parked at the right post and putting in Dennis Wideman’s blast that initially hit Ovechkin in the stomach. After that Ovie was ultra solid defensively getting a ton of even strength ice time when Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau went to just three lines in the third period (Alex Semin and Cody Eakin were benched, but more on that later). Ovechkin was constantly moving his feet and hitting Devils all over the ice, including one on Larsson that will have Saturday’s birthday boy likely waking up in some pain. On two consecutive shifts in the third period with the lead, the Gr8 skated to center ice and dumped the puck in the offensive zone and then changed, something that tells you he is buying into what Boudreau wants his club to do with a third period lead. In addition, in the last minute he went down to block a point shot despite the two goal lead (not to mention this is a November regular season game). He also grabbed Devils tough guy David Clarkson in scrums on two separate occassions. It was a vintage captain-type performance by Ovechkin and he should be proud of how he played in this one after a poor game on Tuesday.– Vokoun was really strong after a shaky last start on Long Island. The Devils came out flying but #29 didn’t allow them to get a two goal bulge with solid positioning and good rebound control. As the game went on his teammates got better but he still had to make a few tough saves.– Boudreau has been preaching accountability, and so have the players, so when things weren’t going well for a couple of his forwards, he stopped playing them. Those two tonight were Semin and Eakin. #28 took a penalty in the first period that was a garbage call (which in my opinion was based totally on reputation), but instead of being mentally tough and coming back strong after that, the Russian enigma moped. He didn’t win one on one battles and didn’t even get a shot on net so the Caps bench boss lassoed him to the pine. Eakin just looked weaker compared to the hard working Devils. Part of that is that he is still young and physically maturing but he also wasn’t moving his feet and using his speed.“I thought a couple guys weren’t going so I shortened the bench a bit,” said Boudreau in his post game presser.– One of the big stories coming into this game was the return of Mike Green, but #52 took a cheap hit to the groin and left leg from Ryan Carter along the right wing boards late in period one. Green went down grabbing his groin area, finished the shift, and then went down the tunnel after going to the bench. He returned for one power play shift early in period two and according to Steve Whyno of The Washington Times has a “different soreness” than the right ankle injury that kept him out of the previous six games. He is day to day.– New Jersey was perfect at home on the penalty kill before this game and they did that again tonight against a very good Washington power play (3rd in NHL). The Devils prevented the Caps from getting set up in four man advantage situations and they only got five shots in those eight minutes of power play time. The Capitals passed the puck too much, especially on their first power play. Semin was set up for a perfect quick shot in the slot on a moving Brodeur (17 saves) but instead chose to wind up, wait, and then pass the puck. #28 needed to shoot there and he likely would’ve scored (and probably would’ve played a lot more too). The Caps need to get back to a simpler power play where they move the puck to the point, blast away, and go for rebounds.– On the positive side of the special teams ledger was the Caps PK unit. Washington went five for five and also scored when Chimera gathered the puck in the neutral zone, went around Larsson like he was an orange road cone, and then faked Brodeur to the ice similar to a move he put on #30 last season at the Verizon Center. Alzner and the rest of the defense did a great job of allowing Vokoun to see the shots and then they made sure no Devils forwards were able to get in position for any rebounds.– In closing, after the initial Devils push in period one and part of period two, the Caps seemed to be the stronger team despite the final shots imbalance (33-20). The Capitals three lines were skating well but more importantly, the five remaining defensemen, Wideman, Alzner, John Carlson, Roman Hamrlik, and John Erskine were excellent in their own end. Washington has the type of personnel that can wear a club out over 60 minutes and I believe that is what happened in this game. It is a recipe they used against the Ducks last week and one that works when your goaltender is playing well, like Vokoun was tonight.Notes: Semin only played 8:25 and Eakin 7:07. Officially Green logged 7:44 of ice time, but they credited him with two shifts in the 2nd period when he only played one…Wideman led all Caps players with a beastly 27:11 of ice time. Carlson and Alzner played 23:32 and 22:14, respectively, while Erkine and Hamrlik both received just over 17 minutes of ice time. #44’s ice time of 17:31 was his lowest total of the season and only the 4th time in 14 games he’s been under 20 minutes. Given the way he’s played lately, the reduction makes sense…Jeff Schultz was the healthy defensive scratch and Mathieu Perreault the lone healthy forward…Washington lost the face-off battle 24-22 but Nicklas Backstrom (1 assist) went 12-8 and had the key draw win on the Ovechkin goal…the NHL Off Ice officials who work Devils games only credited Ovechkin with two hits so I am not sure exactly what sporting event they were watching tonight.
5 Chelsea’s dominance of the Premier League this season has been impressive, but while Diego Costa’s red-hot form in front of goal sees him take massive plaudits for the Blues’ rise to prominence, the real orchestrator of their success has been another summer signing.Cesc Fabregas’ arrival at Stamford Bridge during the summer was initially met with some consternation, given the manner with which he left Barcelona and considering his strong affiliation with Arsenal.His seamless transition into Jose Mourinho’s starting XI has been nothing short of sensational though, and with the Spaniard in the centre of the pitch Chelsea have taken on a new level of efficiency that they seemed to lack last year.It should come as a slight concern then that Mourinho has revealed that his midfield magician will be absent for the next three weeks with a thigh injury sustained in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool.The international break has come at the perfect time in that regard, but with league fixtures to come against West Brom and Sunderland, as well as a hugely important away trip to Schalke in the Champions League, how much will the Blues miss Fabregas?The former Barcelona man has been at the heart of everything Chelsea do this season and statistically speaking he is head and shoulders above everyone else at Stamford Bridge. His nine league assists is not only a Premier League high, but a European best joint with Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne, but that only scratches the surface of what he has offered.Fabregas was once uttered as Barcelona’s future replacement for Xavi, but his constant chopping and changing position resulted in him never really being allowed to develop his game further in this role. At Chelsea however, he has been given licence to do so and is clearly flourishing. Cesc Fabregas has been a hit at Chelsea 5 Indeed, only Matic (19) and just two Chelsea defenders (Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic) have made more interceptions that Fabregas, who has recorded 10 so far.A glance through the Chelsea ranks reveals no player capable of recording anywhere near the figures and influence that Fabregas has had. John Obi Mikel has a reputation for his passing, but remains woefully inconsistent, while Ramires seems to lack the discipline to perform the Fabregas role adequately.It looks increasingly likely that Chelsea will secure the league title at a canter, so his brief absence will probably not hinder their march forward too much, but if he continues in this vein, then he will be the reason for the Blues return to the summit of England.Chelsea fans, do you agree? Who do you think has been your best player this season? Comment below… 5 5 5 Operating in his comfortable central position, Fabregas has been the conduit of nearly every Chelsea move, notching up 878 passes – 154 more than his closest teammate – of which 780 have been successful, and creating 32 goalscoring opportunities, 11 more than the Blues’ next most creative player Eden Hazard.While his influence in attack is most greatly felt – 64 per-cent of his passes have come in the opposition half – Fabregas has also bolstered Chelsea’s defensive play as part of a formidable partnership with Nemanja Matic.