It's often said that the most dangerous teams to play are the teams that have nothing to lose - and the Ottawa Senators, firmly ensconced in the bottom third of the standings, would be one of those teams. Recently hot (and finally getting some competent goaltending), this was a team against whom the Caps would need to bring their best.
Unfortunately it just wasn't in them to do so tonight. While not the worst effort they've put forth, they just didn't seem to have that extra bit of energy/net presence/luck needed to earn them two points. And when you mix in a little bit of hot goaltending and a few...shall we say questionable calls...it just wasn't enough.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Right from the start the focus in this one was on the Caps' goaltending situation, as once again the goaltender who was supposed to start was unable to go. Tonight it was Michal Neuvirth calling in sick and forcing Semyon Varlamov into his first action since early February. The last minute understudy was good but not great in his return to the net, victimized by a questionable call on the first goal (more on that in a sec) and giving up one he probably needs to stop on the second.
- Tales of Bad Officiating, Chapter 1: Strange moment in the first period, as Matt Hendricks was bloodied by David Hale's high stick along the boards. Initially it appeared it would draw a call, and Hale was led to the penalty box; then it got weird, as Hale was released soon after. The explanation given by refs Kelly Sutherland and Stephane Auger? They thought it was a skate, not a stick, that cut Hendricks. No call, no penalty, no logic...but hey, that Hale must be one bendy dude.
- Craig Anderson must have heard all the muttering coming from CapsNation about his new contract, because he seemed particularly interested in earning himself a shutout tonight and turned aside all 31 shots the Caps threw at him. Maybe they should have dressed someone up as an Ice Girl to distract him...
- Tales of Bad Officiating, Chapter 2: It really is a shame that you can't review interference, because it did appear like Colin Greening was interfering with Varlamov on Ottawa's first goal. And that he used his skate to direct the puck into the net. Moral of the story there: kicking the puck in is sometimes okay; kicking the goalie in is also sometimes okay. Got it.
- With a number of the big guns still on the shelf, others needed to step up - and one who did was Brooks Laich, who seemed to be everywhere tonight. His seven shots on goal led all Caps (and was nearly a third of Ottawa's entire shot total) and he brought some grit along the boards, providing the energy that was missing at times from the rest of his teamamates.
- And then there's Alexander Semin, another guy who we'd love to see step up with Ovechkin and friends out. Yeah, we're still waiting. It did appear that his "hooking" call was helped along by the Senator he "hooked" holding his stick, and he did generate one of the better scoring chances on a breakaway out of the box, but there were also the shots when a pass would have sufficed, the too-fancy stickhandling when a simple play would have been more beneficial, the turnovers...need we go on?
- Tales of Bad Officiating, Chapter 3: The boarding minor assessed to Matt Bradley in the third would absolutely have been the right call had he not been at least five feet from the boards and had he not connected shoulder on shoulder. But yeah, other than that stuff...
- And of course, as we all know, every clean hit must be avenged with a fight. Nothing like having your face gush blood in front of your family and friends for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
- If you think the Caps got slightly handled in the faceoff circle, you'd be wrong. They didn't get slightly handled, they were absolutely eviscerated, winning just 19 of the 51 draws on the evening (37%). Only Boyd Gordon finished with a win percentage higher than 50% and it was a slim margin, going 8-for-15, while Marcus Johansson won just one of the ten draws that he took.
- Rough sequence for Karl Alzner on Ottawa's second goal - first, he and Varly appeared to have some initial miscommunication on the play. Then he was unable to get the puck past Milan Michalek along the wall. And after that, he's unable to get to the front of the net quickly enough to impact Erik Condra's shot.
Refereeing and hot goalies and injured players aside, a loss is a loss. And so we move onward and upward...or at least further eastward...to Montreal, where the questions swirl around this team's ability to carry on without some of their marquee players.
And of course there's another big question hanging over this one: who gets the call in net?