[AP Recap - Game Summary - Event Summary - WashingtonCaps.com Postgame]
Bruce Boudreau, after tonight's 4-1 loss to Colorado, remarked, "We just didn’t have it. We had nothing. We were horrible."
Fact, fact and fact.
Hey, it happens. But it's the frequency with which these "efforts" are happening that is more than a little disconcerting.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Boudreau wouldn't agree that the Caps have a tendency at times to play down to the level of their opponents, going as far as to chide the reporter asking the question, but if Friday night's "effort" wasn't playing down to the opponent's level (or, more accurately, far beneath it), then the Caps are simply not a good team. Take your pick.
The Caps let a team with the fewest points in the Western Conference come into their barn and dictate play from the opening faceoff, outshooting their hosts 20-16 through two periods. They let a goalie whose save percentage and goals against average don't even make the top thirty in a thirty-team league have his best road game in two months. They let a lead-footed defenseman score his first goal in 106 games and look like the "other" 52 on the ice in the process. They didn't get pucks deep, attempted more hopelessly unsuccessful Hail Mary passes than an October's worth of Sundays, and didn't get big saves when they needed them. For forty-plus minutes, the Caps were playing as if they figured they could keep the game close and they'd get a power play on which Mike Green would score or Alex Ovechkin would do something spectacular in the last five minutes and, two points later, everyone would forget what came before. But that didn't happen. This one got away.
The Caps still have a brilliant record, especially at the Verizon Center. They still, of course, have brilliant players having brilliant seasons. And tonight wasn't without a few bright spots (the penalty kill and faceoffs, to name two). But if they're not worried about the way they've played some of the League's lesser lights, they're fooling themselves, because the difference between the Avs, Kings, Oilers, et. al. and whomever they're going to draw in the first round of the playoffs might be a lot less than they think.
The last time the Caps put up a stinker like this was against Edmonton a month ago. Besides being a home game against a Northwest Division opponent, the other thing that that game had in common with tonight's is that the next game on the schedule was Pittsburgh. We all know of the circus that's involved every time the Caps and Pens square off, so perhaps there was a bit of looking ahead on Friday night, which makes Sunday's game the biggest game of the year for the Caps: a reeling top rival... at home... on national television... a chance to make the statement that the Caps are a contender, and a team that takes care of business and wins the games it should win in the fashion in which it should win them.
But if they don't prevail on Sunday, it certainly won't be because the Caps played down to the level of their competition. Because they don't do that. That question is not a good question.