The Caps were riding a three-game winning streak heading into this weekend, a streak that came to a disappointing end by the combination of a horrible goalie gaffe and an offense that suddenly couldn't finish. Surely getting out on the road would fix all of that... right?
Instead, the Caps failed to put up much of a fight for much of tonight's game - and once again, a horrible goalie gaffe and a suddenly ineffective offense cost the Caps a couple of points, and kicked off the road trip with a resounding thud.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Conventional wisdom states that if a road team can just survive the game's opening ten minutes, they're in good shape. Well... then it was probably a bad omen that the Caps managed to weather the storm for just short of that pivotal ten-minute mark. In fact, they were just 49 seconds shy of the ten minutes when the Blues got on the board first, capitalizing on an unlucky bounce off of Mike Green into the zone, followed by a nice backhand pass by Jaden Schwartz in front of the net to a lurking Jori Lehtera.
- The Caps would get a little bit of luck going their way in the second period, when Joel Ward put a seemingly harmless shot on net only to have it dribble through Brian Elliott to break the team's shutout streak. Elliott wasn't all that sharp tonight, which makes the final score even tougher to take - the goalie wasn't unbeatable, but he didn't have to be.
- That little bit of momentum in the Caps' favor didn't last too long, as the Blues' vaunted STL line struck again - this time with Schwartz getting on the board. Tough to say exactly what Karl Alzner was doing in front of the net, but he was unable to contain Schwartz, allowing him to pick up a loose rebound in front of Justin Peters and give the Blues back their one-goal lead.
- The Blues are one of the League's best faceoff teams, winning just over 53% of their draws so far this season. So it's probably not all that surprising, particularly considering the Caps' frequent woes in the circle, that St. Louis finished the night with 38 wins in 65 draws tonight. Or that none of their centers were below 50%. Want a surprise? Only two of the Caps' centers finished over that 50% mark... Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
- Nicklas Backstrom throws a questionable hit on Steve Ott. Ryan Reaves follows him up ice, conceivably to make him pay for this transgression. Tom Wilson steps in and fights ("fights") Ryan Reaves to protect him. Because the Code... or something. Pretty sure there's a part of the Code that also is supposed to prevent goons from going after non-fighters, but it's fine. Maybe Reaves can get someone to read that part to him someday.
- Remember that miscue by Braden Holtby against the Devils that led to the only goal in the game? Good times. So good that Peters decided to pay homage to it with his own gaffe around the net, a bad turnover that resulted in a David Backes goal just 12 seconds into the third period. It wasn't the sole reason the Caps lost, of course (and like Holtby's mistake on Friday, it doesn't matter as much if the team in front of him is able to score some goals) but that proved to be a back-breaker. Perhaps Mitch Korn needs to introduce some new props into his practice repertoire...
- It would be very easy to chalk up the fact that the Caps had zero power plays to just another fun Tim Peel-officiated outing... and there was probably a little bit of that in there, let's be honest. But most of the time, having no power-play opportunities comes down to effort (or lack thereof), and the Caps simply weren't doing enough to cause the Blues to take a penalty in the first place. When you can't get one of the most penalized home teams in the League to go to the box even once, that's a problem.
- But hey, at least the Caps didn't give up any power-play goals! Taking just two minors helps, of course, but the Blues have an even more lethal power play than the Caps and they weren't able to connect - the third-straight game in which the Caps held their opponent off the scoresheet with the man advantage. Silver lining, we'll take it.
- Another bright spot for tonight was the energetic play of Wilson, who seemed no worse for wear after missing two games with a lower-body injury. He and his linemates, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, still seem to be a little bit off with their timing, but that will come with time (provided that Barry Trotz keeps his lines intact after two losses, which is not likely) and he brings a physical presence to that trio that makes them all that much more threatening. Now, if he would just lay off the fighting a bit...
- The Caps have now played four sets of back-to-back games, and are 1-3-0 in the second half of those games. Two of the three games where their opponent had more than 30 shots were the second game of two straight. And tonight they only mustered 24 shots of their own (11 of which were in the third period, when they were already down by two). Yes, back-to-backs are tough, and the Caps have had some travel mixed in there - but that's never an excuse, particularly not this early in the season. They've got 11 more of these two-in-two sets this season...this might need to be addressed, and sooner rather than later.
It's tough to pinpoint exactly what the problem is for the Caps right now. Things that were clicking before no longer seem to be doing so, and they've introduced some new, fun twists like goalie turnovers to spice things up. And while this was easily the toughest of the three games on this road trip, with the Blues now 10-1 in their last 11 games, their next two opponents aren't exactly pushovers - they'll need to take the next few days to regain their mojo if they want to avoid falling even further in the standings.