For the first time since Bruce Boudreau took over for Glen Hanlon behind the bench more than three years ago, the Washington Capitals have lost five consecutive games after being bested by the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Saturday night. Perhaps more unsettling, the Caps dropped all four games on a homestand that had at one point looked like a golden opportunity to rack up the points and stretch out its Southeast Division lead. The Caps have now lost four games in regulation at Verizon Center this season after just five such occurrences in 2009-10. Maybe getting back out on the road is what will cure what currently ails the defending Presidents' Trophy winners.
Ten more notes on the game:
Mike Vogel pointed a finger at the team's five-on-five play as a primary reason for the recent slide, but the Caps' less-than-impressive play in that area extends beyond the past handful of games - the Caps had the League's best ratio of goals-for to goals-against at five-aside last year, but are barely above even this season. Tonight the Caps were outscored two-to-one at five-on-five, but nearly doubled up the Avs in even-strength shots on goal (37 to 20). It's too simplistic to pin these struggles on any one player, but if you had to pick a guy whose under-performance most impacts the team in this area, it'd probably be Mike Green (who, of course, didn't play tonight).
- There are any number of words that could fairly be used to describe Alexander Semin's second-period cross-check to John-Michael Liles' melon, but we'll go with "selfish." For a player on a team having trouble scoring to react to a not atypical bit of contact with a stick foul like that is simply unacceptable and might very well earn Semin a game off - either League- or Boudreau-imposed - to think about it. Oh, and Semin has no goals in his last six games. Hope you sold high, poolies.
- When a team is without its top defensive pair and facing the League's most potent offense (seriously), the margin for error in the defensive zone is awfully slim, so poor coverage (Tom Poti) and soft goals (Michal Neuvirth), are tough to overcome.
- One of tonight's big story lines was Tomas Fleischmann and Scott Hannan facing their former teams less than two weeks after they were traded for one another. And while neither did much (they were a combined minus-three), former Av Matt Hendricks stole the whole "facing his former team" story line with his big third-period power-play goal, five hits and four shots on goal. He might have been the best player in red.
Matt Bradley's second period fight with Cody McLeod gives them more fighting majors on the season (21) than they had all of last season... and that's with D.J. King chucking knuckles just three times.
- Flu-ridden Nicklas Backstrom went 4-for-19 in the face-off circle tonight... and led all forwards in ice time with just over 25 minutes and Corsi. He gets a big-time "A" for effort.
- Congrats to Mike Knuble on his 250th goal - quite an accomplishment for a guy who only had 50 on his 30th birthday.
Alex Ovechkin had a team-high five hits and attempted ten shots (three of which ended up on net). But he's now played 31 games on the season and has a power-play goal in just one of them. That's a mind-boggling number (as is the fact that the Caps had just three shots on goal in 5:30 of power-play time tonight).
- With Green and Jeff Schultz out of the lineup, the duo of John Carlson and Karl Alzner were leaned upon and responded, playing big minutes (Carlson led all skaters with 26:01) and quite well at that. There's one of your silver linings.
- Avs' assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk looks no different than he did a dozen years ago. What a hockey player that guy was.
So there's some good news and some bad news following this one. The good news? The Caps get to get right back out there tomorrow night for yet another chance to right the ship. The bad news? The Caps have to get right back out there tomorrow night for yet another chance to right the ship. It's sure to be an interesting 24 hours.