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With the mantra of late being something in the vicinity of "Moral victories are for loser", the Caps took the ice against a division opponent that's suddenly not so very far behind in the standings in the Columbus Blue Jackets, looking for a victory of the tangible variety.
They failed. They weren't even close. They lost 5-1.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Welcome back to the lineup, Martin Erat...again. He did pretty much nothing during the first period. It's almost like a non-physical winger might not thrive on a line with barrel-scraping grinders. Then, about halfway through the second period, Erat finally got some time elsewhere, and immediately notched a primary assist (and Erat's 500th NHL point) on the Caps' first goal. Appropriate forward deployment yielding productivity. Novel stuff.
- It's a testament to the struggles of the guys in front of him that Philipp Grubauer came into tonight's matchup boasting a .936 save percentage and an extremely solid 2.06 GAA, and still had a losing record. Well, both those numbers took a hit tonight, and none of the 3 goals against Grubauer before he got the hook were his fault.
- Dmitry Orlov continues to create in the offensive zone, and early in the first period faked the slapper from the point, waltzed around the challenging forward to the high slot, and put a great shot on Sergei Bobrovski. Jay Beagle scooped up the big rebound, and shoveled a backhand shot wide of the pretty much wide open cage. The Caps suffer from a severe secondary scoring deficiency, and tonight's fourth line of Tom Wilson, Beagle, and Martin Erat have combined for 1 goal (and 0 at even strength)...so were you really surprised?
- When Connor Carrick takes the ice at five aside he sees 72% of goals go against his squad. He's a negative possession player, overall and relative to his team. All of these things are forgivable for a nineteen year old who's learning as he goes. Less forgivable is the thought that as much as Carrick has struggled at 5 on 5, he'd be a reasonable option on a 3-man penalty kill unit. Nathan Horton's screen on Grubauer on James Wisniewski's PPG went completely uncontested. Not a good look, and indicative of both poor defensive depth (but we already knew that), and of questionable deployment.
- Coming into tonight's game, there were 202 NHL defensemen that skated more than 300 even strength minutes. The Caps had five of them in their lineup tonight: John Erskine, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry Orlov. Of these, only Orlov was in the top half of that 202 as measured by GA/20. Individual lapses and deficient performances can be attributed to the individuals themselves. But when you have such collective underachievement, how does it not scream "Calle Johansson." Oh, and the Caps do have a blueliner besides Orlov who's GA numbers aren't quite so awful. His name is Steve Oleksy, and he's not seeing the ice too much these days.
- As good as Orlov has been in the offensive zone, his GA numbers took a beating tonight, as he was on for two of them, and neither of them good. The second one was particularly infuriating, as Orlov made an inexplicable pinch in the neutral zone on a puck that was played off the glass, leaving Mike Green alone in defense— an undesirable scenario that we see all too often. The puck ended up behind the best, and to my memory it's at least the third such play in the last couple of weeks. There's plenty to like about Orlov, but an apparent inability to learn from his mistakes isn't one of them.
- If there was a benefit from tonight's ignoramus brand of hockey from Washington, it was getting Braden Holtby back between the pipes, after Oates's yanked Grubauer from the line of fire. Holtby was decent, stopping all the even strength shots he faced in a little less than two periods of work— Atkinson's second goal of the night was technically even strength, but with Ovechkin not yet out of the box, for all intents and purposes it was yet another relinquished PPG. But at this point it's clear the penalty killing woes don't have to do with the guys in net. Hey, maybe it's time for that "he's our #1" claim that Adam Oates has repeatedly made carry a little water.
- Marcus Johansson took his first penalty of the year. Bummer.
- Did the Capitals power play score? Click here to find out!
- We've spent a good portion of the season taking swipes at the big question: what's wrong with this team? Special teams. Even strength. Stubborn lineup requirements and restrictions. Goaltending. Overall coaching. All of these answers have seemed applicable at some point or another, and as the season steams inexorably along, and the losses continue to pile up, one answer rises above the rest: from top to bottom, this is quite simply not a very good team.
The Caps will try to put this one behind them and show up on national television against the Rangers on Sunday. National television, where so far this year they're winless in four outings.