A strong start without any results on the scoreboard. A hot goalie. A confused powerplay. A failure to adapt. A night of frustration. The result? Not only a Washington loss, but a reminder that, even more than six months later, the wounds from last season's playoff exit can still be opened up rather easily.
The upside is that, unlike when the Capitals fell to the Canadiens last spring, it's only going to be a couple of days before we get to see how the team responds; to see whether they're going to be able to address their problems. Ultimately this game was still only one of 82, and the team has been saying all the right things in recent days and week. Here's hoping they'll be able to put them in practice.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The first shift for Matt Hendricks, David Steckel, Boyd Gordon line was the prototypical grind line shift: energetic, smart, and gritty, all while keeping the puck deep in the Panthers' zone. You can't ask for anything more out of guys like that, especially at the beginning of the game.
- Naturally, Tomas Vokoun was the center of attention for most of this one, as far as netminders go, but Semyon Varlamov had several strong stretches as well. It's not easy to find yourself suddenly needing to make several big saves after extended periods of play at the other end of ice.
- That said, Varly still needs to be a little more calm in the net - he left too much of the net open on the goals by Mke Santorelli and Steve Bernier, and frankly could have surrendered a couple more by overcommitting. Let's just put the issue this way - I can't imagine Michal Neuvirth being beaten on plays like that too often, let alone twice in one game
- The potential Scott Hannan-Mike Green experiment didn't really yield much in the way of results. That's not to say the pairing won't work, just to say that, with all the penalties called, there wasn't much of a chance to see how the two worked together, and specifically whether Hannan's experience and communication skill provided Green with more chances to jump up in the play. If there's a silver lining to Jeff Schultz's injury, it's that a Hannan-Green pairing should get a long look from Boudreau, something which could pay dividends in the spring.
- Speaking of Green, no one on either team was as all-over-the-place as number 52 in red. On the one hand, there's the four shots, seven hits, and a few nice blocks. But what was he doing behind the Florida net while he was killing a penalty (other than giving Karl Alzner a chance to make one of best defensive plays of the night), and when is he going to stop taking penalties every time he gets frustrated?
- Just yesterday Bruce Boudreau was giving the issues of ice time and shift length some attention, offering some hope for those of us who have been concerned with the issue for some time. Of course, no matter what happens in practice, it's hard to feel like there's really been much of a change in approach when Alex Ovechkin's in the realm of ten minutes of ice time and an average shift of ninety second in the first period of December game against Florida. Yes, it was one period in one game, and, yes, it was because the Capitals spent almost half the period on the powerplay - but that's still an awful lot, especially given the issue was just addressed.
- When Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves with Keaton Ellerby, the Caps recorded their 20th fight of the season - the same number they had all of last year.
- Even in a Caps loss, it's nice to see a guy who has gone through what David Booth has gone through back on the ice and playing well.
- You know, John Erskine is, at best, a third-pairing defenseman in the NHL, his skill level is way behind most guys on this team, and when he's bad, he's bad. But it probably wouldn't hurt if some of the other guys on this team were as aware of their own skill level and as conscious of finding ways to utilize their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.
- Tomas Vokoun deserves better than he's had in his NHL career. Period.
You have to be careful about assigning too much value to games at this point in the season, but, even given that fact, it's going to be interesting to see how the Capitals respond to another young, conservative team with a strong goalie when the Avalanche come to town on Saturday.