It had to end sometime; we all knew that. In fact, we could see it coming and just about every one of the problems the Capitals have had over their last few games showed up tonight, and this time skill and a late comeback wasn't enough to overcome them. The defensive breakdowns were frequent and severe -- to a man the the defense corps was mediocre-at-best in the Caps end, the forwards weren't doing a ton, and the Canadiens wound up with 39 shots on goal. The team took penalties they simply didn't need to. Aside of Brooks Laich, the secondary scoring did next to nothing. And, of course, the team was playing catch up almost the entire night, giving up a goal just 36 seconds in.
In short, it was the loss we all expected, but not the one we hoped for and not the one this team deserved. When you're on a run like this, you hope to go down to a team that's simply better on that night; a team you can look at after the game and say, "That was a hell of game gentlemen. We gave it our all, but you simply bested us, and although our streak's over now I can't say you didn't deserve the two points tonight". The Caps will have a hard time doing that, and that's a shame.
But you know what? This last month of Caps hockey is something we're going to talk about for years, and even if it's over now, that's something pretty special.
Ten additional thoughts on tonight's game:
- No matter how I try to rationalize it or explain it away, I'm not able to come to terms with the fact that Alex Ovechkin's second period goal was waived off (video here). If the referees wanted to call incidental contact on the play and hence call no goal, that would have been fine. What doesn't make sense to me is that the referee who was less than ten feet from the play emphatically called a goal on the play, and yet the goal was waived off after a discussion among the officials. What could have possibly been said in that huddle to change anything? Oh well, at least at the end of the day one thing's certain: Alexander Ovechkin is a Grade A bad ass...
- A bad ass with supreme skill that is, as evidenced by his work (along with that of Mike Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green) on Washington's second goal. Seriously, I can't even get the guys to make plays like that on my Xbox.
- Simply a superb night for Brooks Laich, who notched his first career hat trick, scoring three excellent and distinctly different goals: going to the net as is his specialty, with a laser of a wrist shot (off an excellent to decision to call his own name, despite the temptation to dish to Alexander Semin), and with a nifty move in tight that reminded me even grinders at the NHL level have infinitely more skill than I could ever dream of.
- A special shout out has to go to Jose Theodore who performed admirably coming in off the bench in what could be gently described as a "hostile environment". The scoresheet might not show it, but without Theo making some great stops, there's no way this game gets to overtime.
- It's kind of cool that Craig Laughlin likes to give the guys nicknames and try to connect with fans, but something tells me "Double Deuce" isn't going to work as a nickname for Mike Knuble.
- Rough night for Brendan Morrison, who was -2 with a pair of penalties and is now -5 with just one point (an assist) in his last three games and saw just 12:26 of ice time. If there's one guy on the Caps who looks like they need the upcoming time off, it's B-Mo.
- I understand the game went in to overtime, and I understand history was on the line, but I have to admit I'm still not comfortable seeing Alex Ovechkin skating 29:30 when the team has a game the following day, even if 9:24 of it came on the powerplay.
- I don't know if it's an issue of being the visiting team or if it was just a bad night, but if Tomas Fleischmann has many more outings where he only wins 21% of his faceoffs, he's going to become a liability at the center position.
- How porous was the Caps' defense? Coming into tonight's game Tom Pyatt had 18 shots on goal in 19 games. He had seven tonight. And that didn't even lead Canadiens players.
- On a final note, thoughts and prayers for Montreal's Josh Gorges, whose injury was about as scary an incident you're ever likely to see on the ice. Here's hoping we hear some good news on that front sooner rather than later.
The question now is: how are the Capitals going to respond to losing their streak? Are they going to come out with a vengeance tomorrow night in Ottawa and on Saturday against the Blues, or are they going to coast in to the Olympic Break?