WINNIPEG, CANADA - NOVEMBER 17: Bryan Little #18 and Evander Kane #9 of the Winnipeg Jets react to Kane's goal, as Joel Ward #42 of the Washington Capitals skates between them in NHL action at the MTS Centre on November 17, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
On Tuesday night the Capitals played a strong game against a good team, got excellent goaltending, a little timely goal-scoring and just came up a little short. Two nights later, the same thing happened again.
...at least in a world where "same" means "exact opposite".
A game that got off to a promising start, with a rare and beautiful Alexander Semin tally, quickly spiraled into disorganized, disinterested chaos. This was a team the Caps should have been able to beat - but "should have" doesn't win games. Something that's becoming all too clear this season.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Being able to hit the net on a two-on-zero (!) breakaway is pretty important; being able to recover from the rebound off the boards and get back in time to stop the transition going the other way, even more so. The Caps didn't, and weren't, and it led to the backbreaking third goal for Winnipeg.
- Evander Kane, congratulations on achieving official "Cap-Killer" status! Your complimentary membership card, pin, and welcome letter from Jon Sim are in the mail.
- Congratulations also of course go out to Alexander Semin, who picked up a minor penalty in his career-high sixth straight game. Weagle-shaped confetti and Russian curse words all around, huzzah!
- Cody Eakin has had some good moments and some great shifts since getting the call from Hershey earlier this month, but at some point in recent games he's begun to decline and it's become apparent that he just may not be ready for full-time NHL action. It might be time to get him back to the Bears and get Mathieu Perreault back in the lineup.
- After a game like this it's not easy to find positives, but one positive we can take from this definitely has to be the play of Marcus Johansson, who continues to blossom. On a night where most of his teammates seemed sluggish, he was a bundle of energy darting around the ice creating chances. And hey, he was on the good side of 50% in the faceoff circle! Baby steps.
- Regression, thy name is John Carlson, who once again looked lost (at best) tonight and was one of many Caps standing around staring at the puck on Kane's first goal of the night. His teammates aren't off the hook for that, but it stood out as yet another moment that goes differently last season for #74.
- Even someone like Joel Ward, who up until now has seemingly always made the right plays, struggled at times tonight. The second Winnipeg goal - and eventual game-winner - came about as a result of the strange decision by Ward to wheel back around into his own zone with the puck instead of making the simple clear. The result? A turnover along the boards, a pass to Kane, and a goal (that yes, Michal Neuvirth needs to stop).
- Caps might have caught a little break on their first and only goal of the night, as they appeared to be offside (or at least pretty darn close) only to have it waved off. Nice passing play to set up the goal, though...and that's a shot only a handful of guys not named Alexander Semin could make, by the way; minor penalty aside, Semin had himself a decent little game. Next time bring the team, Sasha.
- A goal by Blake Wheeler? Who on EARTH would have called something like that?
- Perhaps Michal Neuvirth came into training camp hoping to challenge for the starting goaltender job, but if it hadn't slipped away before the ink was dry on Tomas Vokoun's contract it certainly seems to be now. Since opening night, Neuvirth is 1-3-1, with a 3.37 GAA and a save percentage of .883. How do you say "ouch" in Czech?
There's no way to sugarcoat it - this team is floundering right now, and it can't all be pinned on the absence of Mike Green or the presence of a hot goaltender at the other end of the rink. There don't seem to be any easy solutions or palatable answers to what ails a team with this much talent.
The good news, if you really want to find it, is that it is only November - and if there's ever a time to roll out the crappy games, it's now.
The bad news? Unlike last year, when the team was trapped in the losing streak from hell, the losses they're accumulating aren't of the "they played hard but just couldn't get the bounces" variety. They're not losing despite their play, they're losing because of it; this isn't bad luck, it's bad hockey.
And that's not good, no matter the time of year.