Tonight the Capitals played an opponent they should have handled easily and let the game get closer than it should have been. Again. They took far too many penalties, many of which were unneccesary. Again. They failed to ratchet up their game and lock down a win when they had the lead against an inferior opponent. Again. The team lacked the level of cohesion and constant pressure a team full of players this skilled should have. Again.
It'd be convenient to blame the poor performance on the injuries and illnesses keeping some of the regulars out of the lineup, but the reality is to do so would be an excuse, and not an explanation, especially considering that Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin both played well.
Bruce Boudreau wasn't hesitant to use the whip this week in practice, skating his players hard and letting them know in no uncertain terms that he was unhappy with them. So far that approach doesn't seem to have worked. It'll be interesting to see where Gabby goes from here.
Ten additional thoughts on tonight's game:
- You always want secondary scoring, and it doesn't get much more secondary than Eric Fehr, , Chris Clark, Jeff Schultz, and Matt Bradley.
- For all the offense the Caps created, they simply weren't able to sustained pressure as often or as strongly as they should have been able to. Scoring off nice plays on the rush and on the powerplay is all well and good, but a truely dominant team is one that controls the game by keeping the puck in the opponent's end.
- Eric Fehr has now played six games against the Atlanta Thrashers in the last twelve-plus months. In those six games he has five goals. Apparently Eric Fehr:Atlanta Thrashers :: David Steckel:Tampa Bay Lightning.
- Even at the NHL level Ilya Kovalchuk's first goal and the several other plays where he was caught out of position - not so much. looks pretty good in the offensive zone. The defensive zone - as evidenced by his weak clear that led to
- If Nik Antropov fought Keith Aucoin, I'd take the young man from Waltham. It ain't the size of the dog in the fight...
- Speaking of Antropov, last spring we wondered how the big Russian didn't "get called for interference and/or diving a half dozen times a game". Not much has changed since then.
- Eric Fehr's spend a lot more time in front of the opposition's net this season. Which is a good thing, because that's where he's going to need to live if he's going to have consistent, long-term success in the NHL.
- The good news: Semyon Varlamov's glove-hand troubles seem to be gone. The bad news: he has apparently replaced them with five-hole troubles.
- For a while I was ready to praise Milan Jurcina with the old "I didn't notice him - and that's a good thing" line. And then the penalties started...
- I never thought I'd say this, but I miss the Thrashers' light blue jerseys.
In their next opponent the Capitals face a 1-4-3 team that just picked up their first win via the shootout. Here's hoping for the same result - and a different recap.