Among the many ugly statistics the Caps have compiled over the first two-thirds of the season, one of the most detrimental to the team's playoff ambitions is the fact that they entered Tuesday night's game against the Islanders on a six-game losing streak in intra-divisional games (the last five of which have come in regulation) dating back to a win over the Rangers on December 27. The result of giving away all of those points to their Metro rivals has been a drop in the Division standings from second to sixth, and a steeper hill to climb to get back into playoff positioning.
On Tuesday, the Caps had a chance to snap that streak against the only team in the Division with fewer points to date than they'd accumulated... and came up short, falling to the Isles by a 1-0 count. Disappointing? Yep. Embarrassing? Sure. Soul-crushing? Why not.
Nine more notes on the game:
- Just 2:34 into the game, the Caps' third line was having a strong shift in the Islander zone when a whistle blew the play dead. "Why?" you ask. Because Tyson Strachan and Matt Martin had decided they wanted to fight (which might be a generous way of describing Strachan's participation). Alrighty then.
- The teams traded delay of game penalties, failed power plays and eight shots and face-off wins apiece over the first twenty minutes, but there were no goals to be had. Highlights? Eric Fehr making a smart poke at the defensive blueline that led to a 2-on-1 that resulted in an ugly rebound that he put off the post and... um... a Troy Brouwer chance on a 3-on-2 break that the Isles' defense refused to step up on? Yeah, not much there.
- Brouwer drew a penalty early in the second, putting the Caps' generally lethal power-play back out on the ice against the worst penalty kill (by percentage) in hockey for a second time. This time (unlike the first) the Caps got several quality chances, but each went awry - Alex Ovechkin whiffed on an attempt from his sweet spot, Nicklas Backstrom was stopped in tight, and Brouwer pushed a puck wide from his usual position. The door, it was being knocked upon.
- It'd be nice if Dave Strader and Brian Engblom knew how to pronounce Marcus Johansson's name. Everyone knows it's like this.
- Late in the second, noted waste of an NHL jersey Matt Martin took a bit of a run at Brooks Laich, then, his thirst for flesh unsatisfied, decided he'd take an opportunity to drive Dmitry Orlov headlong into the boards. Really, though, it was the culmination of what was clearly a concerted effort by the Isles to get as physical as possible with Orlov. Good to know who's #2 on the abuse depth chart behind Mike Green, I suppose.
- Speaking of Orlov, at some point, he's gotta slow the pace at which he's turning the puck over... doesn't he?
- Early in the third, Michal Neuvirth, making his third-straight start, made a sparkling glove save on Frans Nielsen during an Islander power play... only to be beaten by a shot from the point moments later, thanks to a Strachan screen. Block it or get out of the way, Stracks - it's not that hard. (Also noteworthy on the play was John Erskine's, um, play on the puck in the corner.)
- With the Caps on a power play later in the period, Michael Grabner got hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot, which Neuvirth denied. It was a huge stop, of course, but didn't really provide the Caps with any momentum, as they frittered away the rest of the man advantage. For a team that relies on its power play for scoring, an 0-fer against the League's worst penalty kill is more than a little deflating.
- The Caps would get one more power play late in the third with a chance to tie after Ovechkin drew his second minor of the period, but it was more of the same, save for a good chance for Martin Erat (but we all know what happens to those chances). Ballgame.
As we noted earlier today, the Caps haven't yet won a game in which they've failed to score three goals, and, to an extent, that's on the goalies. But that wasn't the case on Tuesday night, as Neuvirth gave them every chance to win. They just... didn't. And so the losing streak in the Division continues, the road to the playoffs gets a bit more difficult, and the Caps are left with more questions than answers. Typical Tuesday night in the District...