When the Edmonton Oilers dealt the Washington Capitals their first loss of the season on Thursday night, Caps fans could take solace in the fact that their favored squad dominated the game at five-aside and played an exceptionally strong third period; the Caps weren't going to finish the season 82-0-0, and sometimes a team has to tip its hat to the opposing netminder and/or curse the men in stripes and move on.
For the Caps, moving on meant heading even further west for a match-up between the last two Presidents' Trophy winners in Vancouver... and a second-consecutive loss. And while there were plenty of positives to take away from Thursday night's defeat, Saturday's trip yielded little of value outside of a few offensive numbers and frequent flyer mileage.
Ten more notes on the game:
Michal Neuvirth has presumably been healthy for at least the past few days, but Tomas Vokoun got his eighth consecutive start nonetheless. Contributing factor to the elder Czech netminder's worst game since his first of the season? Probably not, though his rebound control has seemed to slip a bit in the past two games, and Vancouver's first goal was the result of a simply awful play by Vokoun handling the puck behind his own net. So when the Caps found themselves down 3-1 after twenty minutes, Bruce Boudreau had seen enough and went to his bullpen.
Alex Ovechkin had jump from the outset, going hard to the net and, unsurprisingly, being rewarded for it with the Caps' first goal, a penalty drawn early in the second, and then a power-play goal moments thereafter (from exactly where one might have expected the shot to have come). It's almost as if AO knew he was being televised across Canada... and perhaps that extra juice was a factor in his bad third period interference penalty on Alex Edler which directly led to the game-winning goal.
- If anyone was still unsure of how important Mike Green is to this Caps team, a night of watching the remaining blueliners - even the puck-movers - try to break out of the defensive zone against a good forechecking team should put those doubts to rest. Oh, and Green's replacement, Sean Collins, had a rough night, to put it mildly.
- Local (Vancouver) product Troy Brouwer was the only Cap to end the night in the black in plus-minus at plus-1. He also led the team with five hits and fired five shots on goal.
- Every time a skater misses the net on a shot on an odd-man rush, the broadcasting team notes that the shooter "would like to have that shot back" or similar (it's a contractual obligation, I think). Well, for Marcus Johansson, he actually did get a second chance at a nearly identical two-on-one shot after firing wide on the first... and buried the second.
- Did any Vegas bookmakers have a line on whether Mike Knuble would be dropped to the fourth line and then draw and score on a penalty shot? Because I'd have put a nickel on that and then retired on the winnings.
- Is "The Vancouver Head Snap" the Western Conference's version of "The Carolina Flop"? Kudos to Ryan Kesler, I suppose, for beautifully executing it and drawing a penalty on Joel Ward in the first.
- There are two easy paths to crappy penalty killing goal-against totals: committing a ton of penalties and killing penalties poorly. The Caps were guilty of the former on Thursday, the latter on Saturday. These need to be nipped in the bud, and fast.
- It's hard on a night like tonight not to sympathize with the Detroit Red Wings' heartburn over being stuck in a conference in which so many road games have a relatively obscene start time for their fans. Do any Caps fans want another few handfuls of these late starts?
- Nine games into the season, and Saturday night was the first time the Caps trailed in a game by more than a single goal at any point. Perhaps being both over-matched and out-scored will be something of a wake-up call for these Caps, as early-season flaws that may have been masked by results-to-date have been exposed.
With another tough Western Conference opponent, the Ducks, next up on the schedule, the Caps will need to get better and fast. Or simply get back to what they were doing right a week ago. Coming home might help, but Saturday night's loss wasn't about the arena or even the opponent: it was about the Caps... as most losses this season will be.