After Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Bruins, Bruce Boudreau responded to the lack of offense by mixing up the lines and challenging his top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble to simply be better.
At times it seemed to have worked. Marcus Johansson's promotion to the second line turned out to be surprisingly successful, the first line generated some decent chances and 39 shots ended up on net... but at the end of the night, the result was the same. And with another uneven performance by the Caps and with Tim Thomas playing the hero for the second straight game, the Caps head home with their first losing streak of the season firmly in hand.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Okay, let's just get this part over with quickly, like ripping off a bandage. Tim Thomas was a stud, okay? There, I said it. Yes, fine, 38 saves on 39 shots is pretty darn impressive, especially when 8 of those shots are coming off the stick of one Alex Ovechkin. Thomas was seeing everything (which is a problem) and stopping everything he saw (which is an all too familiar problem).
- Of course we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the fact that, despite a solid game, Tim Thomas didn't finish the evening on a perfect note. Heh. Sure, the scoresheet may say that Jason Chimera's goal late in the third was unassisted, but that was a big, fat, juicy assist for Thomas. Reminiscent of Johan Hedberg's beautiful pass right to Brooks Laich back at the Caps' home opener, no? Too bad it couldn't have happened a few more times...
- Despite not getting much help in his first full game of the season, Semyon Varlamov put up a valiant effort of his own in net for the Caps. Rebounds were a bit too juicy at times, but he looked relatively comfortable and wasn't caught scrambling around all that much.
- So...remember those heady days of the perfect penalty kill? Yeah, those are gone. Part of the success of the PK to this point was the Caps' ability to roll four units, with short shifts and aggressive clears keeping anyone from getting too winded. That's great, except when you don't clear the puck, get hemmed in your own zone and can't change. The Bruins figured it out and abused it, piercing the Caps for not one, not two, but three goals with the extra man. Ouch.
- Before tonight's game, there was some apprehension about Marcus Johansson's debut on the second line - and rightly so, as the youngster had just 6 NHL games under his belt coming into this one. Apparently we had nothing to worry about, as Marcus settled in just fine alongside Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich. The second line was consistently one of the best all night as a result, with Johansson helping to create some excellent plays and even finishing with a very respectable five faceoff wins in nine chances.
- It's somewhat shocking that we're seven games into the season and we're still talking about the power play's failure to connect, but there it is. Another rough night with the extra man goes in the books, as what was once a strength has now apparently become a weakness. When Mike Green was healthy it seemed like the power play was starting to come back to life; with him out, you start to see just how much they miss him.
- Earlier today Boudreau addressed the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of his top trio, saying "those guys have to be able to do it". And they did...something. Not sure it was 'it', but they certainly generated more chances than they have in previous games and combined for a whopping 17 shots on goal. Still, they seemed a little off and once again were dinged for a minus-one each.
- Every single center who took more than one draw finished with a win percentage of at least 50%... except one. So congrats, Flash, on your impressive three faceoff wins. Kudos.
- I certainly hope everyone was taking notes while Bruce was screaming at his troops halfway through the game, because some of those words will be on a quiz at the end of the season.
- Looking at the shot totals alone, it would seem the Caps had a pretty even game, with a lucky thirteen shots fired on the Boston net every period like clockwork. Certainly didn't feel that even, however, as the Caps came out strong early on but once again faltered in the second period before coming on slightly late in the game. Same song, different town...and it's getting old.
Two games against the Bruins and just two goals against - total - to show for it. Worse than the two, however, is the zero...as in zero power play goals, zero points for the top six forwards, and zero points. You can use the excuse of a hot goalie once more and you can claim that the team is getting better at the little things, but in the end it doesn't change the shape of that zero.
Too early to panic, of course, and with the Caps hopefully getting a few bodies back sooner rather than later the tide could change, but it's hard to overlook the fact that these are points the Caps should have captured - and simply didn't.