The last time these two teams took the Verizon Center ice, the lights were brighter, the stands were redder, and the stakes were higher, and the Capitals carried on their new-era tradition of falling flat in Game 7s in playoff series. Tonight the struggling Caps took the ice against Henrik Lundqvist and his own band of substandard skaters in a different kind of game 7: the seventh tilt on the young season, and one that offered the Capitals another chance at their first back-to-back victories of the campaign.
They didn't seize the chance.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It didn't take much reading between the lines to know that the timer was ticking on Tom Wilson's first regular season stint in the NHL. Adam Oates confirmed it earlier this week, stating that a decision would be made on the youngster before the Caps departed for their road trip starting Tuesday in Winnipeg. Wilson has shown well in terms of possession (and in terms of sticking up for his fallen homies), but a mark or two on the scorecard might be in order to justify keeping him around. Tonight Wilson added another fight to his resume, and not much else. The team is probably just slow-playing the 19-year-old. To steal a phrase from Wilson's captain, it is what it is.
- Oh, hey, Kevin Lowe was in the barn tonight. Who? The President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers (who according to Bob Mackenzie have expressed interest in Michal Neuvirth), and also a part of Hockey Canada's management team. If Lowe was hoping to get a glimpse of Neuvirth, he left disappointed, but it seems more likely he took advantage of a slow night in the league to travel East and get a peek at some Olympic hopefuls in Braden Holtby, Karl Alzner, and Mike Green (and Marc Staal on the other side, with Rick Nash sitting this one out). If nothing else, Holtby gave Lowe his best performance of the year, though you gotta think he'd like that first one back.
- Washington has established a disturbing trend this season of letting in goals within the first handful of shots on net, as we detailed earlier today. They improved upon that unflattering distinction today, as Braden Holtby made 11 saves in the first period, and another 10 in the second period (and several of the ten-bell variety) before allowing a John Moore wrister to zoom over his left shoulder at four-aside. Of course, it doesn't matter when you give up that first goal, when you don't score a first goal of your own.
- One trend that was not bucked however, was continued futility on the two man advantage, which continues to baffle us, given the squad's success on your everyday man advantage. That's now eight consecutive unsuccessful attempts. Earlier this month we decided to write the 5v3 struggles off to bad luck. I'm inclined to stand by that conclusion, as it looks like the system and intuition is functioning alright, as evidenced by Fehr having the puck on his stick with a wide open net on the last go around, and Ward with the same opportunity tonight), but man, these guys have as much finish as a concrete floor.
- I'm no coach, but if I were I'm pretty sure I'd be putting my premier scorer in a place where he could, you know, be a premier scorer. Alex Ovechkin came into the game starting 58% of his draw-started shifts in the offensive zone. Tonight he was on the ice for seven defensive zone draws before he was one for one offensive zone draw- which was won, and after which Ovechkin forced Lundqvist to make a gem of a save. I'm sure Adam Oates has his reasons, but far be it from me to even make an attempt at conjecture. Ovechkin finished the game with 5 starts in the offensive zone compared to 12 in the defensive zone. Awesome.
- Troy Brouwer's power play responsibilities are not numerous. In fact, they comprise almost entirely of one thing: taking the low-slot one-timer on a feed from the Mikhail Grabovski spot (formerly the Mike Ribeiro spot). The list of things not on that list include making needless blind passes to the other team in a scoreless game, resulting in the necessity for your best offensive threat to race down the ice and take a penalty to break up a two on one, even though that penalty would ultimately be futile because the Rangers scored on 4v4 anyway. So yeah, hopefully Troy-Boy thinks twice before dishing that particular brand of pass out when the Caps next gather round the power play table...
- Henrik Lundqvist has now shut the Capitals out for 180:00 of hockey. He shut the Caps out in Game 6 of last year's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. He did the same in Game 7. And he did it tonight. You guys sick of this butthead yet?
- For whatever reason, for long stretches of the lockout-shortened season, the second period became the Capitals' kryptonite. On Monday evening against the Oilers, it looked like that particular affliction might have finally cleared up, like a persistent patch of scaly skin. It reared its ugly head again tonight, with the Rangers scoring twice and outshooting the Caps 21-6 in the second stanza. In fact, the good guys' last shot in the period came off the stick of Alex Ovechkin...with 9:52 still left in the period. Woof.
- Lao Tzu said "If you do not change, you may end up where you are heading." It's unlikely that the Chinese philosopher was talking about the game of hockey 2000 years in the future, but, like, who knows man? It is applicable, though. Adam Oates is demonstrating Dale Hunter-like dogheadedness with his unwillingness to jostle the lines. He's got a lot of talent available to him— and given the versatility of some of his players— a lot of options. Change seems inevitable. Might be that change— particularly amongst the forward ranks— is exactly what's needed to climb out of this hole before it gets too deep.
- The Rangers blocked 22 shots tonight. Add that to the list of junk that the guys in the red shirts (me sitting on my couch, for example) are sick of seeing from the guys in the blue shirts.
I can't think of many things more embarrassing than being shut out by the same goaltender three games in a row. Especially when that goaltender was yanked and gave up six goals, respectively, in his two previous starts.
The boys in red have a few days to regroup (and hopefully reshuffle) before taking home ice on Saturday against another new division rival in the Columbus Blue Jackets.