The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins came to Capital One Arena on Wednesday night, handing the Capitals their second loss in a row 3-2 in an unending cacophony of penalty whistles so shrill that I’m surely now deaf.
Here's Wednesday night's Plus/Minus:
Plus: Rookie defenseman Christian Djoos recorded a goal and an assist in his first-ever NHL game! Way to be, rook!
Minus: The Capitals’ defense desperately needs rookies like Christian Djoos to step up right the hell now, because this blue line is u-u-u-ugly.
And now, this...
Braden Holtby will not live his life by your set of rules. pic.twitter.com/gSUpmrI6d3— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) October 12, 2017
Ten more notes on the game:
- Knock, knock. Who’s there? YOUR ENEMY. The Pittsburgh Penguins got their mustard-y fingers all over the doors of Capital One Arena and found their way in, just in time for puck drop on the 61st meeting of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. After last postseason's....ahem....unfortunate incident, would the Capitals have payback in store for the Penguins?
2. As a hockey coach is wont to do early in the season, head coach Barry Trotz is still shuffling his bottom lines like an Enron accountant. Tonight, 23-year-old Swedish defenseman Christian Djoos, a former 7th-round pick, made his NHL debut in place of Taylor Chorney on the third defensive pair, and Tyler Graovac was Grao-BACK, slotting in for Aussie wunderkind Nathan Walker on the fourth line.
3. Kris Letang, whose last name translates to "The Sex," got the scoring going for the Penguins, finishing a net-front scuffle of frightful nonsense by potting it into the back of the net to make it 1-0 Pittsburgh after just five minutes. Aaron Ness, who currently has the worst Penalties Taken to Penalties Drawn ratio in the NHL (-4), was on the ice for the goal.
4. Late in the period, Matt Niskanen badly butchered his first touch of the puck and let Carl Hagelin streak past him into the offensive zone on a breakaway. Braden Holtby came careening out of the net nearly all the way to the blue line and snatched the puck, hagglin' his way to a no-goal. By covering the puck with his glove, he took a Delay of Game penalty, though. One of many the Caps would have to weather throughout the night.
5. The 1-0 score stuck until halfway through the second period, when Patric Hornqvist gave the Pens their second power play goal on ANOTHER net-front scuffle the Capitals defense couldn't manage to clear. This time, it was NHL greenhorn Christian Djoos in the box, and that's a bad look for a kid trying to crack a roster. It was 2-0 Pittsburgh halfway through the game.
6. BUT JUST LIKE THAT, THE ROOKIE REDEEMED HIMSELF, blasting home a righteous one-timer from the right circle off a perfect heads-up feed from Lars Eller. The score would stand at 2-1 Pittsburgh heading into the third and final period.
7. Unfortunately, the third period began with the Capitals on their SIXTH penalty kill of the night, and the Penguins would score their THIRD power play goal of the night. Brooks Orpik stood in front of the crease like a daggone statue while NOT watching his man, Conor Sheary, slip behind him and into enough space to easily pound home a Justin Schultz feed. It was 3-1 Penguins.
8. Just when all seemed lost, The Captain, Alex Ovechkin, a man made out of unobtainium and the finest octuple-filtered potato vodka, brought the Capitals back within one off a feed from Christian Djoos. Ovechkin notched his eighth(!) goal of the season, and Djoos banked his second point of the night for, as the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan called it, a “Djoos Deuce.”
9. It wasn’t enough though, as Washington’s atrociously hole-filled blue line had already sunk the ship. Aaron Ness saw just 8:21 of ice time, and frankly I would be surprised if we saw him again any time soon. Djoos, for his part, notched 13:20 of ice time, a vast improvement over the 10-something minutes Trotz entrusted to Ness and Chorney last game.
10. Penalties were really the story of this game, both Washington’s propensity to take them (6) and to not score when Pittsburgh took them (0/4). The Caps were utterly buried in a stinky vulcanized pile of penalties, giving up 3/6, and both special teams units will need to improve if Washington wants to get back into the win column.
There are some....issues....this team will need to solve before it can consistently shut down high-flying teams like Pittsburgh. The Capitals get back to work on Friday in New Jersey against the Devils.