Michal Neuvirth make a save on the bewildered $100 million dollar man (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett).
It’s easy to forget about John Carlson.
The rookie Washington Capitals defenseman logs 20 minutes a night, rarely makes stone-headed blunders and chips in the occasional pressure on transition.
Yet as the Caps nudge ever closer to clinching a fourth straight Southeast Division championship, Carlson’s rock-solid contributions are becoming increasingly harder to ignore.
The New Jersey native had two assists, logged almost 23 minutes of ice time and played nearly flawless hockey in a 3-0 shutout win of the New Jersey Devils. The win tied the Capitals for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers and made an improbable New Jersey playoff bid seem even more unlikely.
Despite moving into third-place on the all-time Washington Capitals points list for rookies, Carlson was not named one of the three stars of the night. Yet his sharp work while joining the attack led to two goals, and his steadiness in the back helped the brilliant Michal Neuvirth register his fourth shutout and third since February 4.
It was a rough night for legendary Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. The 38 year-old gave up three goals on just 12 shots, including a slap shot goal by Jeff Schultz, of all people, with 13:50 to go in the first period. It was Schultz’s first goal in more than a year, and ensured the Capitals would actually have a lead at the end of the first period. I nearly passed out, suffering from total shock that Washington would not need to rally on this night.
Later, Alex Ovechkin and Carlson would get into the act, setting up Mike Knuble about as brilliantly as can be. Somehow, Ovechkin lasered a cross-ice pass right onto Carlson’s stick. He centered the puck to Knuble, who beat Brodeur rather easily with 15:58 to go in the second period.
After the Capitals killed off a four-minute double-minor penalty on Matt Hendricks for high-sticking, Knuble sealed it with a snapshot redirection courtesy of a feed from Ovechkin. Carlson, of course, started the play off in transition by finding the Great Eight.
Capitals fans are generally enthusiastic about the idea of having Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom signed long-term. But Carlson, 21, sure looks like he’s well on his way to becoming one of the top American defensemen of his era. His mom, apparently, is also of significance. She fed several of the players at St. Patrick’s Day feast Thursday, complete with every type of meat imaginable and salad to help digestion. Joe B. sounded like he was considering eating his own arm while rehashing the menu options.
Onto the notes:
The Capitals dealt the playoff hopes of the resurgent New Jersey Devils a crippling blow with a 3-0 win Friday night. Sure, Knuble scored twice, Ovechkin had two crafty assists and Neuvirth stopped everything coming his way. Yet Carlson stood out on a night when the Capitals continued to play short key defensemen in the quest to lock up a fourth straight Southeast Division title.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg, Chris Gordon and Ian Oland.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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