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Capitals vs. Avalanche Recap: A Mile Not So High

The good guys took the ice at 5,280 feet, looking for points in their sixth straight tussle. They met with disappointment at the hands of Semyon Varlamov and a regressing power play.

Doug Pensinger

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The Caps didn't have much time to dwell on what can probably fairly be labeled as the most frustrating and disappointing loss of the young season, as they skated onto Pepsi Center ice looking for points in a sixth consecutive game. If predisposed to narrative, one might assert that these are the type of games that offer a glimpse of a team's mettle, or heart, or what-they're-made-of.

But standing in their way were the NHL's best team by record, and a team that'd already taken the Caps to task earlier this season. In the end, familiar face Semyon Varlamov was too much for the Caps, and their points streak met it's terminus at five.

Ten more notes on the game, none of which are about the Caps' 5v3, because you already know:

  • Remember when we identified the Caps' early-game troubles? Seems they've still got a bit of work to in that regard, as Patrick Roy's boys found the back of the net before the game was three minutes old (and were only an inch away from doing it about thirty seconds before). It looked like Patrick Bordeleau's stick might have been above the cross bar when it tipped a Cody McLeod back hander past Braden Holtby, but the referees determined that was not the case, and the referee's determination is the only determination that manners. Or something.
  • The Avalanche came into tonight's tussle with the 2nd fewest power play opportunities in the league. Having surrendered two markers in Phoenix last night, the Caps' penalty killers were looking to reclaim their seat atop the penalty killing throne from the usurping Vancouver Canucks. The Caps were successful in their only three chances, in what continues to be the biggest turn-around story from last season to the present.
  • Remember when we identified Braden Holtby's success under fire? After the first period he'd faced 12 shots, and it was looking like another 30+ shot outing for ol' Holtby. By the second period buzzer he'd seen a total of 28 shots and it was all but a certainty. Holtby finished facing 36 shots and, all things considered, turned in an alright performance. Unfortunately, alright performances count for nothing more'n a hill of beans.
  • Speaking of shots, the Avalanche put 8 pucks on net before the Capitals notched a single one, and out-attempted the good guys to the tune of 22-8. In the second the Caps got buzzing with 16 shots of their own, but did nothing to stem the flow on the other side of the ice, as the Avs responded with 16 of their own. Largely due to a significant advantage in power play opportunities, and perhaps to score effects as well, the Capitals evened out the shot count by game's end, but Semyon Varlamov was up to the task.
  • Last night in Phoenix the first line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Martin Erat took only two offensive zone draws (compared to six d-zone and six neutral zone draws). If you thought Washington's most dangerous weapons would get some more favorable looks tonight in Semyon Varlamov's turf, well, you'd be right. The top dogs saw 85% of their draws in the offensive zone tonight.
  • But even after an uninspiring first stanza, there was still room to hope, right? The second period was coming up after all, where coming into tonight's game the Capitals had outscored opponents to the tune of 29-14. The good guys did light the lamp, but they also saw the bad guys do the same. An even 30-15 through 18 second periods. 200% ain't bad, right?
  • Maybe it was renewed proximity to their fiery ex-teammate Mike Ribeiro that has the Capitals' forward hot under the collar, but Jason Chimera's unsportsmanlike conduct in the second period marks the second time in two games that a Caps' skater has been penalized for yapping at the zebras. Yeah, the penalty kill unit has been effective, but needless minors is an invitation for trouble, and a habit best nipped in the bud.
  • Seems like a bit of bit of a scheduling misfortune that the Caps should draw the Coyotes and the Avalanche on the road on back-to-back nights, who between them have lost only two games in regulation at home. Given the tough sledding, you might think that coming out the back-to-back with two points would've been something of a victory, and that makes the choke in the desert all the more regretful.
  • Remember when we identified that the Capitals tend to be a bit overquick when it comes to neutralizing their own achievements? Yeah, third line, we're looking at you. Speaking of the third line, Joel Ward's 8th goal of the season was his 5th marker at even strength, tying him with his opposite winger Jason Chimera. If you add Mikhail Grabovski's 3 even strength markers, the third line as it is currently comprised is responsible for about 40% (13/33) of this team's even strength production.
  • And then the sight of Alex Ovechkin sprawled unmoving on the ice after face-to-advertisement meeting with the boards, trainers gathered 'round, put everything in perspective. O captain, my captain, it was great to see you back out there for your next shift, regardless of how this one turned out.
It was a pretty run of the mill night when you boil it down: the Caps were out matched by an ex-player, got down early, gave a goal back right after scoring one, botched a 5v3, and Carlzner was out on the ice for an even strength goal against.

They'll have a few days to regroup before rejoining divisional play on Tuesday against the Blue Jackets where they will hopefully avoid dipping back below .500.

Game highlights: