With both teams coming off of shutout losses and both teams possessing some serious firepower (albeit somewhat dormant on the Washington side of the ledger), the expectations for this one were that it would be a great all-around game - fast-paced, stars being stars, perhaps some great goaltending to back it up.
To some extent, it delivered. The Caps matched the Canucks in intensity for some of the night and appeared to have some jump in their step, which is more than one could say about their last few outings. Unfortunately some ill-advised lapses, continued power play woes and the ongoing inability of the Caps' big guns to fire straight combined with Vancouver's ability to outwork, outplay and outscore them, and the Canucks roll out of DC two points firmly in hand.
Ten more notes on the game:
- There were times tonight where it looked like the vintage Caps were back. One such moment was the play that led to the opening goal of the night, a crisp passing sequence that started with John Carlson's deft drop-pass to Boyd Gordon, continued with Gordon's great breakout pass to Matt Hendricks, and finished with Hendricks rifling it by Roberto Luongo.
- The second was the ridiculous Swede-to-Swede sequence late in the game that saw Nicklas Backstrom find his countryman Marcus Johansson with a cross-ice pass we've seen so many times - but not much lately. It gave the Caps life and cut the lead to one with plenty of time to even it up.
- Unfortunately there were more plays that screamed circa 2011 Caps than those that inspired nostalgia for teams gone by. Case in point: Jason Chimera’s ill-advised "fancy" move at center ice that not only made him look like an idiot, it eventually ended up in the back of the Caps’ net. Doing that anytime is not a good idea; doing it when a Sedin is on the ice? Awful.
- You’d probably like to see Mike Green not take himself out of position to lay a hit on Hansen in that situation. By the time Green made contact the pass was already up ice and on Daniel Sedin’s stick, with 52 unable to get back and leaving Chimera - the guy who started the whole sequence - to try and hustle back in a futile attempt to cover.
- You’d also probably like to see David Steckel challenge the point a bit more on the power play and do so without using his 6’5" frame to screen his goaltender. Oops.
- Back to Green, he absolutely deserved to be whistled for a trip on that shorthanded breakaway late in the second period. Because as the rule states, if you hit the puck first it's a penalty. Or...wait, that can’t be right. Can it, McCreary?
- Hey, the power play was powerless. In other news, water still wet, sky still blue...
- How about young Marcus Johansson? One of the bright spots on the night and on the season, he just seems more confident and more aggressive every game. His goal to give the Caps hope late in the game was his third in the last three games and a reward for being one of the few Caps to play hard all night long.
- We’ve been saying for weeks now that Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t looked quite like himself. Tonight he came pretty darn close, with a team-leading five shots on net (including a breakaway chance that just needed to get up an inch or two), a gorgeous assist on Johansson’s goal and a bit more speed in his step than we’ve seen of late. He topped it all off with a stellar 19 wins on 24 faceoffs (79%). Hopefully that breakout game is just around the corner.
- Scary moment when Steckel and Eric Fehr collided near the blue line. Scarier was the amount of pain Fehr appeared to be on the bench afterward, and the fact that he left the game with what they’re calling an "upper body injury". Get well soon, Fehrsie.
Sure, there were some bad bounces. And bad luck seems to follow this team these days, there’s no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, this team needs to figure out that it doesn’t come down to bad bounces or bad luck...it comes down to bad work ethic. The game is 60 minutes long, and against a team as talented as Vancouver taking even a minute or two of the sixty off puts you in a hole that is just too hard to climb out of - especially when you can’t score.
The time to figure that out is now.