The Washington Capitals traveled to Chicago for the midway point of a potentially make-or-break road trip having secured half of the points available so far. When the team is just looking to be .500 on the road you have accept 2 out of 4 points, but watching it happen was still disappointing. Things only got harder as the Chicago Blackhawks were waiting for the Caps. Unlike the last two games, Caps fans were hoping for just one point. Tonight the Capitals secured zero points and had all of the disappointment. They were jumped right off the bat and despite a brief moment of hope never really got back into the game.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Halfway through the first period the Caps had 0 shots on goal, 2 goals against, and were in a 1-2-2 with four men on the defensive side of center. It's tough to see where the offense is going to come from in a set up like that, you are essentially relying on the other team to turn the puck over. It's tough to overcome a two goal deficit against a talented team when you ask them to beat themselves.
- The Caps did get a turnover from the Hawks early in the second period. Mike Knuble provided a very nice finish from about 5 times further from the net than he's used to scoring from. Keith Aucoin made a fine play as well, but there wasn't a whole lot of offense manufactured by the Caps all night.
- Despite the lopsided nature of the game, the Knuble goal had the Caps one bounce away from tied. That would only last for five and a half minutes. Matt Hendricks and Troy Brouwer got split by Marian Hossa and then John Carlson bobbled a puck right on his stick and the result was Patrick Kane shooting in to an open net.
- It's a change to see someone other than Jonathan Toews play top line center for the 'Hawks. It's also a change to see Kane play center. Kane was a beast all night, creating problems for the Caps defense seemingly every shift with his change of pace. Playing the center's defensive role is a change for Kane, but he's a difference maker with the puck on his stick. He turned Laich around and changed up the angle on Michal Neuvirth to set up the first goal, and scored the third goal. Change.
- One of the few moments of Caps-created offense came when Alex Ovechkin scored what is probably his goal of the year. We haven't seen the puck-through-the-skates move work in a while so it's nice to see some of that old flair. It's good to see Ovechkin get some positive reinforcement going 1-on-4 without a teammate on the same side of center.
- Neuvirth's stats took a beating again tonight, and while he wasn't always spectacular (you'd like to see the rebound go somewhere other than the high slot on the first goal and you always want a goalie to find a way to stuff a wrap around) he also wasn't the problem. He was hung out to dry numerous times and the score could have easily been worse than it was. He also finally got some positive marks on the scoresheet, so we'll give him congratulations on his first NHL point.
- Hung out to dry barely begins to describe what happened tonight. The Hossa/Kane combination created more great chances than the entire Caps team did, consistently creating open looks at the net. Dale Hunter must be exasperated, because the breakdowns this team keeps making are the exact kind he's made a priority to remove, and the team seems unable to stop making them.
- Kane provided the model for "small center with great puck skills but defensive liabilities," and hopefully Mathieu Perreault was taking note. Obviously Perreault is not the same caliber player as Kane, but he needs to find a way to put his skill on display more if he's going to stick around the top 6 if/when Nicklas Backstrom gets healthy. On a team starved for goals, the skill players need to bring the skill.
- Perreault did draw the Caps' only power play on the night, and if the Caps had scored it could have changed the complexion of the game. As has been the routine on the road, the Caps didn't do much with the power play and effectively killed two of the remaining minutes in the game.
- Dmitry Orlov had a rough night, as did most of the D corps. Viktor Stalberg gave him a "welcome to the NHL" moment when he blew past him for the second goal of the game. Those things are bound to happen, but it was the cherry on the top of a terrible night of optics or Orlov. Jeff Schultz knows your pain.
The Caps don't have much time to think about this one, they're back in action tomorrow night against the Detroit Red Wings. They'll have to find a way to create some more sustained offense, and cut down on the defensive breakdowns or it won't look much prettier tonight. One way or the other, they need to find a way to pick up at least a point if they want to keep the dream of a .500 road trip alive.