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Capitals vs. Canucks Recap: End of the Honeymoon

The Caps had arguably their worst performance of the Trotz era, falling to Vancouver, 4-2.

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[GameCenter - Ice Tracker - Game Summary - Event Summary - Shot Report - Faceoff Summary - Play-by-Play - Home TOI - Visitor TOI - Advanced Stats at: war-on-ice, hockeystats, Natural Stat Trick]

The Capitals haven't won in Vancouver since February 2001, and sluggish, sloppy play (especially in the first period) ensured that streak continued. The team did manage to score the game's opening goal, but after falling behind by two in the second, couldn't generate enough offense to tie the game.

Relative to what has become the norm under Trotz, it wasn't a terribly inspiring performance.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Caps' streak of holding opponents under 30 shots came to an end on Sunday. The Canucks—who came into Sunday ranked 2nd in the league in shots per game–registered 14 in the first period alone en route to 34 total, as the Capitals came out sluggish and sloppy. Unlike Vancouver, Washington had trouble connected passes to move the puck up the ice—and since so many of the Caps' exit plays involved moving the puck through the middle of the ice, the Canucks got plenty of scoring chances off those miscues.
  • John Carlson got the festivities started with a giveaway to Radim Vrbata in the slot about 30 seconds into the game. Carlson also had another dangerous giveaway later in the first period. Midway through the second, he collided hard with the boards in a race for an icing with Derek Dorsett in a play that (thankfully) didn't end up as bad as it could have been. Later in the second, on the penalty kill Carlson tried to bat a rebound out of the slot, but instead, put it off Radim Vrbata to Henrik Sedin at the side of the net, who scored. And to cap his night, Carlson took a delay-of-game penalty with under two minutes to go and the Caps down by one. Something about Vancouver may simply not sit right with visiting Americans.
  • Carlson was far from the only guilty party. In the first, for example, Evgeny Kuznetsov dangled at his own blueline and got pickpocketed by Linden Vey, who got a great scoring chance as a result. Late in the second, on a penalty kill, Joel Ward lost the puck on a curl-and-drag in the Vancouver end as the Caps were looking for a change, resulting in a four-on-two for Vancouver and a great scoring chance for Alex Edler. Carlson, Kuznetsov, and Ward all had decent-to-good games, but mistakes in those sorts of situations can be costly.
  • Justin Peters bailed the Caps out in the first. He stopped all 14 shots he faced and made multiple sparkling saves throughout the game. He may want Henrik Sedin's goal back, but all-in-all, though it wasn't always pretty, it was a fine performance from Washington's backup goalie.
  • The Caps flipped the script to start the second. Within seconds of the opening draw, Eric Fehr had a breakaway, and Washington didn't stop there. It outshot Vancouver 7-1 to open the period and got on the board first. Troy Brouwer won an offensive-zone draw back to Nate Schmidt, who went back across to Mike Green. He threw a puck across the slot. It was deflected by Luca Sbisa and gloved down by Andre Burakovsky, who fed Marcus Johansson in the slot for a quick shot and a goal. The entire sequence took just eight seconds.
  • The Canucks scored on three consecutive shots late in the second. After Peters made a nice save on Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin corralled the puck off a crazy bounce and banked it in off Peters. A couple of shifts later, the Caps got caught up the ice off a messy line change, and Nick Bonino scored on a two-on-one. Less than 30 seconds later, Sbisa fired a shot from the point into the top corner.
  • Although he's been guilty of taking bad penalties in the past, Liam O'Brien gave the team just what it needed before the period was out on Sunday. He headed for the slot and tipped a Mike Green shot past Ryan Miller for his first goal in the NHL. O'Brien led the Caps in shots on goal (five) and Corsi (+7) in just eight minutes of work.
  • Alex Ovechkin was involved without the puck on his stick early in the game, laying a couple of big hits and diving back to impede Henrik Sedin on a great scoring chance. That said, he only had two shots on goal on the night and had a very difficult time head-to-head with Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, who did a great job getting their sticks in passing and shooting lanes all night. Washington needs more from its best player.
  • He might have been able to add more had the Caps gotten more power play time. They only spent a little over two minutes on the power play—Vancouver was whistled for two infractions, both of which came while it was on the power play. Ovechkin did get a couple of nice looks on Washington's abbreviated power play near the start of the third, but he put both shots wide. Vancouver, meanwhile, got five power plays. After there were no calls through 25 minutes, one might have expected the referees to let the more borderline infractions go, but the Caps
  • Green and Schmidt continued to make a case for more ice time. They were both on for two goals for and no goals against. Green picked assists on both Washington goals, and while Schmidt was held off the scoresheet, he did post blueline-leading possession numbers and made a nice defensive play on Henrik Sedin on a 2-on-1. That pair was pretty good in limited minutes last year and has been solid again so far this year. Matt Niskanen, on the other hand, had a forgettable outing.

At the end of the day, the good times weren't going to last forever. Eventually, the team would have a rough outing. The bigger question is how it will respond. Through the first seven games, Washington posted the second-best score-adjusted possession numbers in the league; if the Caps' next seven games are like those first seven, there's nothing to worry about. But if Willie Desjardins and the Canucks exposed a real flaw in the Caps' system, well, Trotz and the Capitals have a couple of days to figure things out before hosting Detroit on Wednesday.

Game highlights: