The Caps entered Tuesday night's game against the visiting Canadiens trying to avoid an 0-3 start to this shortened 2013 season. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they were hoping to avoid an 0-3 start. Because the requisite effort, once again, wasn't there and the result was predictable - a 4-1 loss that probably wasn't even as close as the score.
Over the course of a season, even a shortened one, a three-game losing streak can be brushed aside if it's just a bump in the road. But right now, there's little reason to think the road is passable, as the Caps have been outscored 14-6 over three games and haven't been good at even-strength or on either special teams unit. If and when things get better, it may be hard to trace many of the roots thereof to these first three games.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It's pretty simple - a team with what appears, at least for now, to be a horrendous penalty kill cannot afford to take bad penalties. But there was Alex Ovechkin needlessly interfering with Andrei Markov roughly half a mile from the puck (after a good backcheck, no less), then Troy Brouwer flipping the puck off the rink 25 seconds into the ensuing penalty kill. Montreal 1-0 after a 5-on-3 goal a minute-and-a-half later. Then Matt Hendricks got dinged (questionably) for interfering with Carey Price 200 feet from the Caps net less than a minute later. Montreal 2-0.
- Michal Neuvirth had a good first period and was actually pretty good in the second as well. But at this point you could probably put Neuvirth and Braden Holtby next to each other in net and have minimal success, the defensive coverage has been so bad. A fifteen-minute span of the second period turned a scoreless game into a 4-0 blowout and that was that.
- Back to the penalty kill. Conventional wisdom: the team misses Brooks Laich enormously. Smarter take: the team misses Dean Evason enormously.
- As for the defense, the Caps' top pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson has had a rough start to the season, with Alzner on the ice for eight goals-against through eight periods (five on the penalty kill) and Carlson on for nine over that span (six on the PK). With struggles like that, it's not surprising that Adam Oates split the two up for the third period.
- Over the past day or so, much was made of Mathieu Perreault's disappointment with his ice time, and how he and the team were dealing with it. Oates's answer? He spoke with and then started Perreault, and the pivot ended up with more ice time than in games one and two combined, including a good chunk of power-play time. That's quite a (welcome) departure from how Oates's predecessor handled things.
- Mike Green led the Caps with 12 shot attempts (5 of which made it on net). Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom combined for 12 attempts (4 on goal). As long as the top line does nothing, this team will do nothing.
- Late in the third, Joey Crabb finally ruined Price's shutout bid. That makes two goals apiece for third- and fourth-liners, with opening night second-liners Troy Brouwer and Wojtek Wolski adding the other two. Again, nothing from the first line.
- Rene Bourque can still kick rocks. #neverforget
- Positive? The Caps won 55% of the game's faceoffs. Yeah, we're grasping.
- The last time the Caps allowed 14 goals over a three-game span was November 23 -26, 2011. The last of those three games was Bruce Boudreau's final night behind the Caps bench. So it's not just your imagination - this has been some kind of terrible.
To put a three-game losing streak during a 48-game season in perspective, it's roughly the equivalent of losing five-straight in an 82-game campaign. The last time the Caps did that, in 2010-11 (when they dropped eight in-a-row), they finished first in the Eastern Conference. So there's time. But right now, there's little indication that time is going to do anything but deliver more of the same.