WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Marcus Johansson #90 of the Washington Capitals and teammate Troy Brouwer #20 go after the puck against Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period at the Verizon Center on March 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals entered game 3 of the 5 game home stretch looking to avoid a two game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Philadelphia Flyers weren't just going to roll over and hand the two points to the Caps. The Caps outshot the Flyers, but the Flyers won the game after making a 4th line goal stand up.
Ten more notes on the game:
- When Troy Brouwer called out his teammates after the ugly loss to the New Jersey Devils you had to expect him to come out with a strong effort. His first period provided the energy, as he laid out Erik Gustafsson and then fought Scott Hartnell. Even among all the rough and tumble play, Brouwer was considerate enough to let Hartnell fix his hair before the throw-down started. That's Lady Byng material right there.
- Alex Ovechkin had an uneven night. He did manage to fire 7 shots, but a bad defensive shift that contributed to a goal against is tough to ignore. Ovechkin did seem to be in the middle of most of the chances the Caps had, but from a Captain who leads by example, the example set needs to be a better one.
- Lately a lot of the attention around the Caps has had to do with who wasn't getting a jersey as much as who was. Veterans Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble have spent a lot of time in the press box, lately, and they haven't exactly kept their feelings about it private. Tonight Knuble got back in the lineup, but didn't make much of an impact. Hamrlik is still looking for a sweater, but if Jeff Schultz keeps playing like he did tonight, Hamrlik may not have to wait much longer.
- Knuble showed some good effort, and was clearly battling for the puck, but he's not best utilized as a grinder, so if he can't finish on his chances to provide some secondary scoring he's not going to be able to lockdown a lineup spot. He's not the guy you expect to drive a line, but when he has a breakaway opportunity he really needs to finish.
- It seems like the Caps always manage to make backup goalies look great. Tonight, Ilya Bryzgalov was the latest backup caliber goalie to benefit from facing the Caps. Bryzgalov faced more shots than Michal Neuvirth but the Caps really didn't test him all that often. For tonight, at least, the 34 save shutout should give Bryzgalov the peace in his soul he needs to play in Philadelphia.
- Neuvirth gave the Caps a chance to win, and you can't ask your goalie for much more than that. He was a late start, but he showed swagger (even when he probably shouldn't have...) and he made plenty of big saves to keep the game close. It's always tough to see a goalie take a 1-0 loss, AKA the Jonathan Quick Special.
- Dmitry Orlov had another solid game. His passing has been getting more confident and he's continuing use his skating to make things happen offensively and defensively. We can all agree that tonight's Orlov highlight came when he chased down Maxime Talbot on a breakaway and took Talbot out with a nice body check. Always nice to see that.
- Everyone used to say the Caps were only racking up points because they feasted on the Southeast Division (despite the Caps having great win percentages against every division). Well, this year the Caps could really use some of that Southeast Division stat padding if they are going to make a run. With over 1/3 of the remaining games against division rivals, those games will go a long way toward determining whether the Caps can sneak in to the playoffs.
- As everyone following the team knows, the Caps are one of the best teams in the league at home. That hasn't been on display so far in the home stand, however. The Caps opened up with 56 scoreless minutes against the Islanders, before a mini-miracle flurry from Troy Brouwer. Then the Caps played 60 minutes of goalless hockey against the Devils. And then they followed if up with another 60 minutes of goalless hockey tonight. That isn't going to get it done for a team that absolutely has to pile up points at home.
- Dale Hunter claims he wasn't benching Ovechkin, but rather that he was line matching. While it makes sense to try to get Ovechkin out in advantageous situations, if line matching means playing Ovechkin less than Matt Hendricks or Marcus Johansson, the strategy probably needs to be re-examined.
As each game passes the desperation mounts. The Caps are still in the playoff hunt but the push up the standings that once seemed so inevitable becomes less likely. The days of talking about developing bad habits are gone, points are all that matters now. There's no more room for games with good work ethic, the majority of the shots, and a loss. The home stand is now 3/5 over, and with only 2 points picked up the Caps may make the looming road trip moot before it gets here.