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What's Missing for the Capitals Against Pittsburgh?

Once upon a time, not too long ago, the Caps fared quite well against the Penguins. Over the last two years, they have not. What's missing?

Clyde Caplan/

The science of hockey is a developing discipline. And that is a good thing. Sometimes, though, you look about at a club that just cannot seem to get it done against another, and you lift your eyes off the computer screen to ask, "what's missing?"

When the Washington Capitals lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, 4-0, it was the fourth loss in a row to their arch rivals over the past two seasons. Generally speaking, the games have not been close - a 6-3 loss at home last February 3rd, followed up by a 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh four days later. There was the 2-1 loss on March 19th, but last night the Caps returned to their ugly recent trend against this team.

What's missing?

Before last season, things were not like this, at least over a 12-game stretch over a three-year period. In the 2009-2010 through 2011-2012 seasons, the Caps faced the Penguins 12 times and posted a record of 9-1-2. They outscored the Penguins, 37-24 (not including shootout goals), their power play was 8-for-25 (25.0 percent), and their penalty kill was 41-for-46 (89.1 percent).

Not all of that performance can be attributed to one player, but one player was a common ingredient in those games. It is a level of performance the Caps are not getting now, but certainly could use. In those games, and he played in all of them, this player was 8-3-11 and had goals in seven of the nine wins. He had points in eight of them. He had two of the eight power play goals and a shorthanded goal, to boot. He is what the Caps had in posting that 9-1-2 record against Pittsburgh, but they seem to lack him -- or a reasonable facsimile -- at the moment. A veteran who just had a knack against that team.

The Caps need to find their Mike Knuble.

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