The last time the Washington Capitals defeated the San Jose Sharks in October 1993, the Caps iced a line-up with promising stars such as Peter Bondra, Steve Konowalchuk and Pat Peake; team captain Dale Hunter was still serving his infamous 20-game suspension; and the Sharks were a fledgling two-year old franchise playing in the brand-new San Jose Arena (now HP Pavilion). Since that fateful night over 18 years ago, the Caps have been winless in the last 11 games played in the Bay Area, with the previous eight games being full-blown losses.
Well, make that nine. Despite playing their third game in four nights, San Jose wore down a depleted Caps squad, collected goals from three defensemen, and drubbed the Caps 5-2. The loss drops the Caps to 10th place in the Eastern Conference and continues to highlight their struggles on the road.
Ten more notes on the game:
- No Backstrom, mo' problems. Having Brooks Laich center the first line didn't work out very well tonight. The trio of Laich-Ovechkin-Brouwer was collectively -6 and finished -24 in CORSI. Get well soon Nick!
- The news gets worse. Mike Green missed the last half of the game after taking a brutal check in the second period. If the Caps do not move to a retriever model, he will simply not last the season with the punishment he routinely takes. It's time the team did more to protect their investment.
- Tomas Vokoun let in four goals tonight, but it's tough to blame him for any of them. San Jose out-worked the Caps tonight and peppered him with 38 shots. This loss isn't on him.
- Was the Sharks first goal fluky? Yes. The slapshot deflected off Roman Hamrlik, hit the backboard, caromed off of Vokoun and routed itself into the goal. Was it deserved? Some may complain that it wasn't, but it's hard to argue that the Sharks didn't sustain solid pressure in the Caps zone for several shifts. Their hard work was simply rewarded with a well-deserved goal. If the Caps routinely work that hard, they will be rewarded similarly.
- Dennis Wideman continued to show his high-risk, high-reward personality. A goal, an assist, two shots and six blocks sounds like an all-star night, except he was also on the ice for two Sharks goals, including one where he was horribly out of position. He also took a momentum-changing penalty late in the second period. Vintage Wides.
- The Caps took a lot of flak for not responding to Rene Bourque's elbow on Backstrom from Tuesday's Flames game. So how did the team react when Brad Winchester charged Alex Semin? Alex Ovechkin went after him, nullifying a Caps power play and taking the Caps best player off the ice. Guess what happened next? The Sharks scored on the ensuing 4-on-4, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic embarassing the Caps and making the score 4-2.
- Speaking of that sequence, Dale Hunter had Wideman, Dmitry Orlov, Semin and Marcus Johansson on the ice for the 4-on-4. Against many teams, that quartet's speed and skill can cause opponents to back off and play conservatively. San Jose is not one of those teams. When you can ice a skilled line-up like the Sharks can, it may behoove the Caps to put a less risky line-up out there.
- Putting some focus back on the positives, the Caps did play a great road first period, doing just about everything right except scoring goals. They limited scoring chances and they won the puck posession battle. They stopped doing that as the game wore on, but if the Caps can consistently play that way on a night-in/night-out basis, they'll end their road woes.
- Dmitry Orlov may have leapfrogged John Ersine and Jeff Schultz on the depth chart, but he only logged 12:36 of ice time tonight, despite the team skating with five defenesemen for half the game. For better or worse, Coach Hunter is really riding his top four guys. The concern is whether it's sustainable over the course of an entire season, specifically with 37-year old Roman Hamrlik.
- Joel Ward, welcome back to the scorer's club! Twenty-five games is a long time to go without scoring.
The Caps need to pick themselves back up quickly and head south on I-5 to face a desperate Los Angeles Kings squad that has not met expectations this season. It will be an interesting matchup between two teams that were predicted to be their respective conference's best team, but currently find themselves out of playoff position. The Caps also venture to an arena that hasn't been too kind to them, and they may have to play without Nick Backstrom and Mike Green. If there is someone in the line-up who can step up and fill the void, now is as good a time as ever to do so.