Following a couple disappointing losses to division rivals, the Washington Capitals took their game to Ottawa, against a team they've beaten twice this year. Despite the bad taste left from the last couple games, the Caps had a chance to finish .500 on the road trip, something we've noted would be an impressive feat for this team. Although they had an early shot advantage, the Caps ended up down 2 goals after the first period. With one goal from a forward not named Alex in the last 7 games, and Alex Ovechkin in the press box, things didn't look good. Well things didn't get better in the second period an Ottawa doubled their lead. The Caps came out and pushed the play in the third period, finally solving Craig Anderson, but at the end of the day 4 goals is simply too much to overcome in the third period of any NHL game, even for a team with an above-average offense.
Ten more notes on the game:
- However you slice it, this was an ugly game. The shot totals look good and the two goals in the third provide some comfort for those looking to find a silver lining. But the special teams were bad, the breakdowns were bad, the goaltending wasn't good, and the offense wasn't creating many quality chances (wasting several power plays in the process) despite out-shooting the Senators.
- As the season advances with the Caps on the outside looking in, despite many opportunities to take a playoff spot, the discussion starts to look toward the future rather than the present. Are the days when this core formed an elite team over? Has the proverbial window shut? Oh please leave the ventana open, Frederico Lorca is dead and gone.
- Power plays, once again, played a big role in this game. With the Senators going 2/3 and the Caps going 1/5, it's not hard to see how better special teams play from the Caps could have swung the game in their favor. But as bad as their special teams have been on the road, there was no reason to think that would happen.
- Let's focus on the positives, Mike Green's hip check early in the second period. It was great to see him moving well and asserting himself physically, and it's always fun to see opposing players fly through the air. The team managed to score 2 goals in the third to make the game respectable, unlike some of the games earlier in the year when they got down by several goals early. Michal Neuvirth looked good once he got in the game. That takes care of the positives...
- At least we know the Caps players like being in DC. Why else would Dennis Wideman and Tomas Vokoun so blatantly try to drive down their trade value mere hours after we discussed their possible return?
- You love to see players continue to bring their A game and contribute however they can even when they're having a tough night on the score sheet. Halfway through the second period Troy Brouwer gave us all an example. Despite having been on the ice for all 3 goals against, he still dug deep to show some veteran leadership by arguing an offsides to the point of a 2 minute minor. You like to see the guys still have some fight even when down three goals. Yeah... that line also sounded stupid when TSN said it during the broadcast.
- Orlov breaks his stick. Wideman becomes a turnstile. The game was over.
- Fans frequently complain about reffing and it just sounds like sour grapes. Tonight, however, I think all fans can agree on one thing. How did Tomas Vokoun not draw the pass interference on that first goal? Throw the damn flag, ref.
- For years Caps fans have stuck by the team through thick and thin. Back in 2007 when the playoffs seemed impossible, we were there. Back in 2010 when the Caps were the most exciting team in the league, we were there. Unbelievably, however, there are still some Caps fans that have never experienced regular season ineptitude, only the playoff variety. Well soak it up. I know the feeling, this is the real thing, you can't refuse the embrace.
- So Erik Karlsson had a pretty nice game (following a 4 point game against the New York Islanders), and he's having a pretty great season. I just have to ask the question, are Caps fans supposed to drop to our knees and fawn after spending two years listening to everyone with a keyboard tell us how one-dimensional Mike Green is?
The road trip has mercifully ended, and now the Caps return to Verizon Center for 7 of the next 9 games. The way the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference look, they aren't out of the playoff race yet. But they'll need to be almost perfect at home if they're continue to lose 75% of the available points on the road. Can they do it? Sure. But when they are dressing one legitimate offensive threat in their top six forwards it doesn't seem like the solution is around the corner. The teams of '08-'11 always (only?) seemed to respond to the urgency created by do-or-die situations; they always seemed like they were capable of even more than what they were showing. We don't have that same feeling this time around. health would be a nice start, but with no timetable for Nicklas Backstrom's return it's not something anyone should be counting on. Do-or-die time is upon us, let's see how they respond.