One would think that returning to the relatively safe confines of Verizon Center, against an opponent that has proven to be one of the better teams in the West so far, the Caps would have a little jump in their collective steps and be ready to go against a very good Dallas team.
Instead the home team lacked intensity, lacked effort, lacked defensive awareness and offensive prowess and everything else we've come to expect early in this season - and as a result dropped their second straight game, their first on home ice, and their fourth overall.
Unsettling? You betcha.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Through the first eight games the Caps had only given up four or more goals in a game once - and they won that game. Since then? Four times in their last five games, including tonight. The absence of Mike Green is palpable, sure, but this team should be built well enough to be able to withstand losing him for at least a few games...right?
- Hard to really pin much of this 5-2 loss on Michal Neuvirth, who was hung out to dry for long stretches in the first and third periods, holding his team in the game at times while they scrambled around. Not a huge fan of the rebound on the eventual fourth goal, but after bailing his defense out time and time again they failed to return the favor.
- This was a game of huge momentum swings early on, and nothing kills the momentum of a game-tying goal late in a period like an even later go-ahead goal less than two minutes later. As the first period wound down the Caps got stuck scrambling in their own end, Michael Ryder turned Roman Hamrlik inside-out and just like that the Caps headed into the locker room down a goal.
- Eric Nystrom probably isn't going to score a prettier goal than the one he scored to put the Stars up by three in the third period. Would've been nice if he could have saved it for another opponent...but hey, at least his parents were in the building to see it. So that's nice.
- The third line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward has been given some pretty tough defensive tasks this season and risen to the occasion every time. Tonight...well, not so much, at least early on as the Jamie Benn-Loui Eriksson-Ryder line ran the show for much of the opening frame - although the line wasn't out as a unit for either of the first two goals, so that's something. Also something that they were brought (relatively) under control as the game progressed.
- If you want to find a happy moment from tonight's game, the blast from the point by John Carlson to tie up the game in the second was one of those perfectly executed plays that reminds us of three things: 1) Marcus Johansson can, in fact, win key faceoffs; 2) Cody Eakin is still playing quite well and made a nice play to get the puck out to the point; and 3) Carlson has a bomb of a shot that he needs to use more.
- Now wave bye-bye to that happy moment, because the memory was almost instantly erased when the Stars struck just as the Caps killed off a lingering penalty from the second period. That one started with a Caps' faceoff win, too, by the way...now if only Hamrlik had remembered to change out of his cement skates before the game. Hindsight.
- Hamrlik in general continues to have a rough start in a Capitals uniform, finding himself on ice for three of the five Dallas goals (and culpable on at least two) while throwing in another penalty to squelch whatever meager comeback the Caps had in the dying minutes of the game. Please, Hamr, don't hurt us.
- For some players in this League, a pass like the one Nicklas Backstrom made to set up Alexander Semin's first period tally would make their personal highlight reel. For Backstrom? Just another night at the office. Doesn't get old, but it's never a surprise, either.
- Speaking of Semin, he was easily one of the Caps' better players early in the game, scoring his first goal exactly three weeks after his last one to tie the game (albeit briefly) and showing off his forechecking and defensive abilities in the first period. Then he, like the team, began to unravel and took two bad penalties - including one that may have shifted momentum for Dallas and turned a one-goal game into a slaughter. Sasha giveth, Sasha taketh away...
The watchword for this team all summer and throughout the early stages of the season has been accountability. Every player, to a man, is held accountable for his actions; every player, to a man, is expected to work hard every night.
So what do you do when almost every player, to a man, fails to show up for the second straight game?
That's the question facing Bruce Boudreau right now, and it's not an easy one to answer. Sure, he'll (hopefully) have Mike Green back in the fold within the next game or two - and that's no small thing - but red-hot Dallas should have gotten some competitive juices flowing, and it didn't. The lack of effort against an opponent like this needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, regardless of name and salary. Because this kind of effort won't fly later in the season.