TORONTO, CANADA - NOVEMBER 19: The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate the goal by Phil Kessel #81 against the Washington Capitals during NHL action at The Air Canada Centre November 19, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Following a dreadful performance against the Winnipeg Jets, the Caps continued their road trip, facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last time the Caps played as poorly as they did against the Jets, they were rewarded with a bag skate. Knowing that you can't go back to that well too often, and groping for an answer, Bruce Boudreau gave the boys a day off the ice yesterday, hoping they would recharge and come out fresh. And the result? A performance that was even worse than the last one. The Caps let in a goal early in the first period, then again in the final minute of the first, then took a penalty in the first minute of the second, letting in a goal on that Toronto power play, and then another in the final minute of the second period, and a goal in the final minute of the 3rd period (Congrats, David Steckel, you really were the Caps' 9th most valuable player). And that wasn't even all the goals they conceded on the night.
Ten more notes on the game:
- In the midst of a slump you need to simplify your game and get back to basics. But the Caps refused to do that from the get go. Men were hanging on to the puck for too long, making extra passes, and not investing on winning battles. Jeff Schultz let a Maple Leaf skater skate right up to him and take the puck away to start the scoring, and it didn't get much better from there. Get the fundamentals right, and then after a while you can work on points for style. Like the club tie, and the firm handshake, a certain look in your eye and an easy smile.
- The Caps have now been blown out by two straight opponents that most expect to be on the playoff bubble, at best, when the season is in its final weeks. Between these two games, and the many blown leads and dreadful third periods, questions will remain about the team's killer instinct. You have to be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed. And then, moving in silently, down wind and out of sight, you gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking.
- So far this season the Caps have had a tough time against starters, but have been pretty good against backups. Tonight they made Jonas Gustavsson look like a starter.
- Alex Semin took another penalty. That's 7 games straight, for those keeping track at home.
- Lest we get too negative, let's take a moment to remember that the Caps are still first in the division (pending the result of the Florida Panthers game, if Florida gets a point, the Caps are only second in the division). The Caps won't be this bad all year, and our money is still on the Caps to win the Southeast Division, though the division bell has been rung.
- Last year the slump came in December, but this isn't the first time we've seen horrible Caps hockey around Thanksgiving. We're awfully close to the anniversary of the day Bruce Boudreau took over as the Caps coach. The sun is the same in a relative way but they're older. Shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.
- Power Plays weren't exactly the difference in the game tonight, but when the other team goes 3/5 and you go 0/5, you can't exactly expect to win too many games.
- Ignoring the results, win or lose, Caps fans have wanted to see the development of good habits; or at least the absence of bad habits. We've wanted to see something that would make us think this year won't end like last year. We're left with the same thoughts and questions year after year, running over the same old ground. What have we found? The same old fears.
- Nowadays the fashionable thing to do is either opine on why Alex Ovechkin is having such a tough season (or kick him when he's down). Lot's of people have suggested that he isn't having much fun anymore and his spark is lost, including Jim Hughson all night tonight. We've got a little message for our Captain: Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun? Now there's a look in your eyes like black holes in the sky. You were caught on the crossroad of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze. Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
- Karl Alzner is still a stud. +1 in a 7-1 loss. Baller.
As painful as it's been, it was only one game (two games?). The Caps live to play another day. That day will be Monday, back at home, against the Phoenix Coyotes. And we Caps fans will be there. Encumbered forever by desire and ambition, there's a hunger still unsatisifed. Our weary eyes will stray to the Verizon Center, though down this road we've been so many times. Go Caps!