Entering Tuesday night's game against the Flyers, the Caps were 92-5-11 since the lockout (including 26-2-1 this season) when carrying a lead into the third period. Yet after last night's collapse in the final stanza, they've now lost as many games in regulation when leading after two in 2008-09 as they did in the previous three seasons.
Take your pick on what was to blame for last night's loss. Poor discipline? The Caps committed nine minor penalties. Lack of secondary scoring? Their two goals (one of which came on the power play) came from first-liners. Shaky-at-times goaltending? Bad team defense? A lack of grit? It was all there. All of it.
At least this is happening before the trade deadline so that the personnel aspects of it (if there are seen to be any) can be addressed before it's too late. Some thoughts on the game:
- The Caps failed to score on any of their four short-handed breakaways and when given 47 seconds on 5-on-3 time, registered only one shot. They also did next to nothing with two early third period power plays. Great teams capitalize on these types of chances, and scoring on any of them might have been enough to send the Flyers home disappointed. Not scoring on any of them provided Philly the spark it needed.
- Speaking of capitalizing on a chance, the Flyers did just that on their first 5-on-3 opportunity half-way through the second period, in part due to Tom Poti's inability to clear the puck after the Caps won a huge defensive zone draw.
- Other than that, the penalty kill was 6-for-6 when it was only five-on-four.
- We're big Jeff Schultz (and Big Jeff Schultz) fans, but he was a pylon on the Aaron Asham goal (and Jose Theodore didn't exactly look good on that one either). Aaron Asham? Aaron Asham.
- John Erskine should be suspended for his "slash" to Scottie Upshall's yambag.
- Mike Green had a whopping 30:55 of ice time. Too much? It sure looked like it in the third.
- The Caps were out-hit 26-22, but it didn't seem that close, did it? Mike Richards' first period hit on Poti should've counted for three or four.
- With the Flyers missing their top blueliner, Kimmo Timonen, Alex Ovechkin had a bit more room to work with and got nine shots on (one past) Antero Niittymaki. If only that line had had a right wing who seemed even mildly interested in playing, they may have created even more offense.
My guess is that we could re-poll our question from the other day and while the results may not be vastly different, the discussion might be even more spirited. So the question is, was this just another off night or do the problems run deeper? Will the Atlanta game on Thursday provide any answers, or do we have to wait for a "real" team in Boston on Saturday? With the trade deadline a week and change away, some answers had best come soon.