The Caps wrapped up their three-game swing through Western Canada with a lackluster 4-2 loss to Vancouver, a game in which they were badly outshot and outplayed. Their return home might have started out a bit better, and the overall performance was improved, but the result was the same - a 4-2 loss and the first time this season in which the team has failed to collect a point in back-to-back games.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Prior to tonight's game, there was much discussion about Barry Trotz's new lines, which separated Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the first time this year... and put Joel Ward on the top line. Now, we love Joel Ward. We adore Joel Ward. We want ten Joel Wards on the team. Joel Ward should not be on the top line. For everything he brings in work ethic and strong play along the boards, he lacks it in speed, something that was painfully obvious on a number of occasions alongside the speedier Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky.
- It's hard to say that giving up four goals on 22 shots is particularly good, and Braden Holtby wasn't exactly called on to make too many sparkling saves, but he was hung out to dry by his defense at least twice tonight - and both times the puck ended up in the back of the net. The Caps have come such a long way in their defensive-zone coverage in the short time since Barry Trotz and friends took over behind the bench, to the point where it's almost jarring to see such mental lapses. Almost.
- Speaking of mental lapses... tonight's referees should probably get a refresher course in what constitutes goaltender interference. Last time I checked, it involved actually making contact with the goaltender, and unless one of the Red Wings is invisible, this ain't it. Always better when a horrible call goes in the Caps' favor instead of against them... but holy jumpin', that's a supremely horrible call.
- For much of the first and second periods, the Caps attempted a number of stretch passes to get their forwards behind the Detroit defense. Many of the passes went just off the mark, allowing the Wings to regroup and catch up. A little under seven minutes into the third, however, with the Caps on the power play, Braden Holtby executed a perfect pass up ice and directly on to the stick of Joel Ward, who dished it to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov then pulled out the moves that haven't been on display all that much so far this season, and flipped the puck past Jimmy Howard to tie the game up at one. After watching those moves... can we please get that guy some better linemates ASAP?
- The Caps had a number of chances at wide-open nets tonight - and if that didn't make you twitch just a little bit, you didn't live through the 1998 playoffs. So imagine all of our surprise when, of all people, Troy Brouwer was able to finally cash in on one late in the third. Brouwer was perfectly positioned on the play, allowing him to take advantage of one of John Carlson's nicer passes (which came about because of an even nicer zone entry by Burakovsky).
- You may have read somewhere that Red Wings games have featured the fewest special-teams goals in the League to this point, with just three total - they've scored two power-play goals and given up one. Well, the Caps weren't about to let that trend continue, as tonight's game featured a power-play goal for each team, with Brouwer just one second shy of making it an even three.
- The Caps have had an up-and-down relationship with the game's first twenty minutes so far this season - it seems as if they either keep teams to a handful of shots in the opening period or they allow a deluge of shots-against. Tonight was one of the former, with the home team ceding just three shots by the Red Wings and holding a lopsided advantage in Corsi events, 22 to nine. It actually marks the fourth time in nine games in which the Caps gave up six or fewer first-period shots, and with just 22 shots-against
- It's great that Alex Ovechkin was able to find the net again, with 13 shot attempts on the night, but the back of that net once again eluded him and it was another fruitless outing for the captain - his fifth-straight without a point. For those keeping track (and who are we kidding, everyone is) that's the first time he's gone that long without a goal or an assist in his career. That said... if there's anyone about whom we shouldn't worry when it comes to putting up points, it's the captain. He'll get that scoring touch back.
- Of course, it matters very little that the team is cutting down on shots-against when the shots they do give up come off of turnovers, and Detroit's first and second goals were both a result of exactly that. Whether it was Marcus Johansson bobbling the puck instead of clearing the zone, or the Brooks Orpik turnover that turned into the Burakovsky turnover that turned into the game-tying goal, those small moments of sloppy play doomed the Caps tonight.
- Carlson has had a rough start to the season - at least in the defensive zone, where he's been on the ice (and at times largely responsible) for 11 of the 25 goals the Caps have given up this season - only Brooks Orpik (12) has been on for more among Caps' defensemen. Their underlying stats aren't that bad considering that they're often tasked with the other teams' top lines, and there is something about playing with Orpik that seems to free up Carlson's offensive side... but still, perhaps it's time to break up the all-American duo. At least for a little while.
Despite a strong start and a brief lead, the Caps were unable to get out of their own way and as a result have their first back-to-back losses of the Barry Trotz era. Maybe it was the retooled line combinations (which could use some work, and we have some thoughts), or just the continued growing pains of a team in transition - either way, thanks to some untimely mistakes and a continued lack of offense, they couldn't seem to hang on to a game they had well in hand early on.