With the 2013 portion of the 2013-14 season in the books, the first half of the Caps' season wrapping up on Thursday night with a visit from familiar foe Carolina and Washington owning a 20-win/20-loss record, the Caps were presented with the perfect narrative opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew - should old acquaintance be forgot and so on.
Sure enough, the Caps continued their modest turn around in puck possession, but many of their old habits remain and were front and center en route to a 4-3 overtime loss. Guess those New Year's resolutions haven't all taken hold yet.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The game picked up where the last two left off, with the Caps playing pretty well and grabbing an edge in puck possession... but having nothing to show for it. In fact, the Caps had 13 of the game's first 18 shot attempts, before surrendering 11 of the next 15. Still, the Caps had a 13-6 edge in even-strength shots in the first period, which is a welcome change (even if at the end of the period the Caps had run their streak of snake bites to two goals on 100 shots over the prior seven stanzas).
- Welcome back to the lineup, Brooks Laich! On his third shift of the game, Laich cross-checked former teammate Alexander Semin in the neutral zone while killing a penalty (a somewhat unfortunate Too Many Men that might not get called if it doesn't hit Martin Erat coming off the bench before Mikhail Grabovski was on it). Laich's penalty was every bit as bad as it sounds, and on the ensuing 5-on-3, Nicklas Backstrom broke his stick on a failed clear, leaving the Caps to essentially defend a 5-on-2.5. They couldn't. Jeff Skinner beat Philipp Grubauer, who couldn't make a desperation stop on the 'Canes winger.
- Early in the second, Alex Ovechkin broke that incredibly long four-game goal-less streak with a shot that ticked off of Ron Hainsey's stick at the point of release. The game was tied... and about to go totally bonkers.
- Because the Caps are still the Caps, Manny Malhotra answered the Ovechkin tally 55 seconds later. Because the Caps are still the Caps, Troy Brouwer answered the Malhotra goal 1:18 later. Then Ovechkin got a penalty shot that he flubbed 38 seconds later. Then Steve Oleksy scored 14 seconds after that. And finally, because the Caps are still the Caps, Skinner potted his second goal 40 seconds later. For those of you keeping score at home, that's five goals and a failed penalty shot in 3:45 of game time (and, hey look, another three-goal period for the good guys). Yowza.
- The story of the day was the shuffling of the Caps' top-two lines and the return of Laich (to the fourth line), leaving the third line unchanged. The wingers on that line - Jason Chimera and Joel Ward - were super in the first period, posting a perfect Fenwick percentage on seven shot attempts for, none against. During that onslaught, however, they managed to be on the ice for both Carolina goals. The third line might not be a top shutdown line, but it simply has to be a better after-a-goal line. Has to be.
- On that second Hurricanes goal, John Erskine got caught pinching in from the point. Don't pinch in from the point, John Erskine.
- It was a small play that could easily have gone unnoticed, but midway through the third, Dmitry Orlov picked up a puck deep in his own end and skated it out, through the neutral zone and into Carolina territory. It was a gorgeous rush that didn't amount to much of anything, but it's the kind of thing Orlov is capable of... and something that Adam Oates apparently discourages. It would be more than just a shame to deny that part of Orlov's game.
- A scoreless third gave way to overtime, where an ill-advised Ovechkin pass and ill-advised Orlov pinch led to a three-on-one the other way that Skinner would convert. Ballgame.
- Grubauer wasn't at his best, and it'd be easy to blame a heavy workload for that, but the reality is that he's a 22-year-old rookie playing behind a woeful defense, and that .938 save percentage was never going to last forever. That said, it's seriously time to get one (or both) of the Caps' other goalies some action. F'real though. Not kidding.
- John Carlson. America. Dig it.
So, to no one's surprise, the 2014 Caps look a lot like the 2013 Caps - flashes of it all coming together, flashes of it all falling apart, solid play and mind-numbing mistakes... and little reason to predict what will come next with any confidence.
- Corsi-Optimized Capitals Lines: New Year's Edition
- The Noon Number: Shuffling the Deck Up Top
- Sittin' at the End of the (Capitals) Bar: Auld Lang Syne, Part III
- Thursday Caps Clips: 'Canes @ Caps Game Day
- Team USA Announces Olympic Roster
- Clydes Shots: Fans of 2013
- Washington Capitals Year in Pictures 2013