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In their previous ten home openers leading up to tonight's fourth-month delayed Verizon Center debut, the Caps had a spotless 10-0-0 record, having outscored their opponents by a total of 48-21. But none of those Caps teams were dealing with learning a new coach's new systems with a mere week of training camp, and so perhaps it was unsurprising that the streak ended on Tuesday night as the Caps dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Jets.
Those extenuating circumstances aren't to excuse a poor effort, of course, but rather to add context to it. Adam Oates's Caps are a work in progress, to be sure. But to date they're lacking the progress and, at times, the work. And in this shortened season, it's going to get late early if they don't turn things around soon.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The last time Braden Holtby lost consecutive NHL games (within a single season) was in his first month in the League, way back in November of 2010. Since then, he'd followed up his 11 losses (regulation or otherwise) with 11 wins. That's called being a stopper. Tonight... not so much. And while reasonable minds could disagree as to how many of the Jets' goals on Tuesday night were on Holtby (Winnipeg shooters had far too much space all night), he wasn't sharp - again - and now has given up as many goals in two games as he did in the last six-plus games worth of the Caps/Rangers series last spring. These ain't Dale Hunter's Caps... but this ain't Dale Hunter's Braden Holtby, either.
- While Ondrej Pavelec is Winnipeg's clear-cut number-one netminder, it was perhaps a bit surprising to see him get the start after taking a shootout loss in Boston on Monday. After all, over the past two seasons, Pavelec was 0-9-0/4.13/.861 in the second of back-to-backs in which he played in both games prior to Tuesday in Washington. But the Caps didn't make life particularly difficult for Pavelec, who cruised to the 32-save win without having to make too many tough stops (though one on Jay Beagle was noteworthy).
- Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom knew they had to be better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1. Were they? Maybe marginally. The pair combined to set-up Matt Hendricks' game-opening goal (and Backstrom added a secondary helper on the late Troy Brouwer power-play tally), but were otherwise pretty quiet offensively at both even-strength and on the power-play. Oh, and they were both out on (and at least partially to blame for) the first Jets power-play goal.
- Back to Hendricks, his goal came on a beauty of a redirection with his boot, he generated decent offense all night, and his fight at the end of the second period was perhaps the most passion anyone on the team has shown through two games. You can always count on Hendricks (who answered the bell when Chris Thorburn rang it in the third)... but when he's the only guy you can count on, you're in trouble.
- And speaking of the second period... yikes. The Jets outshot the Caps 20-9 and outscored them 2-0, and it could've been worse than that. Evander Kane turned John Carlson inside-out in the neutral zone before laying a saucer pass out to Blake Wheeler for a tap-in conversion of a 2-on-1, and a last-minute power-play-looking even-strength tally was the nail in the Caps' coffin as the lead was pushed to 4-1 after 40 minutes.
- The Caps' penalty kill allowed a pair of first period goals, which put them at 4-for-9 on the season. Obviously that's beyond terrible. But a couple of abbreviated kills and a full two-minute job in the third pushed them above 50% for the campaign, so there's that. Think they could use a healthy Brooks Laich? Put it this way - no Cap played more down a man on Tuesday than Mike Ribeiro did. Not one.
- It's hard to imagine anyone doing less in a better situation than what Marcus Johansson has (not) done riding shotgun on the top line. The result? The young Swede was deservedly stapled to the bench in the third period.
- Were the Caps going to come back after cutting the lead to 4-2 (on a power-play that looked exactly like it should, by the way)? Probably not. But Ribeiro's selfish unsportsmanlike conduct penalty effectively killed even that longshot chance.
- One last point on Backstrom - when you're out there for half of the game's faceoffs, you really can't be below 40% effective. Tough night for a player who's much better than he showed.
- Stop! Hammer time. Also, stop Hamr time - he and Tomas Kundratek struggled as a defensive pairing.
And so the Caps drop to 0-2-0. It's too early to panic, of course... but when would be the right time for that? Asking for a friend...