Capital One Arena hosted a massacre on Saturday night, as the Washington Capitals were bewildered by the Philadelphia Flyers in a 7-2 loss.
“The league is too good to play like we did on Saturday and expect any other result,” head coach Todd Reirden said Monday morning.
And yet against the New York Islanders later in the day, the Capitals played much like they did Saturday and got the same result. They did manage to mount a bit of a comeback this time around, making the score slightly less lopsided after digging themselves a 4-1 hole, but ultimately fell to the Islanders 5-3. They’re now 2-4 in their last six games, and 1-3 in February.
Plus: The third line of Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller and Richard Panik was excellent, the lone bright spot for the Capitals. They dominated possession, with shot attempts at least three-fourths in every member of the trio’s favor. “Eye of the Tiger” blared to give fans something to get pumped up for in the rout as Eller deflected Hagelin’s wraparound pass off his skate and past Islanders goaltender Thomas Griess.
Minus: The defense. The turnovers. It’s the same story you’ve been reading too often lately. This is not a talent issue.
And now, this:
#Caps fall 5-3 to the Isles in the finale of a four-game homestand. First time they've allowed five or more goals in back-to-back home games in regulation in nearly 11 years, since March 1-3, 2009. #CapsIsles— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) February 11, 2020
More thoughts on the game:
- It was Salute to the Military Night at Capital One Arena. The Capitals gave away tickets to 500 service members, honored members of all six branches and hosted a shootout between members of USA Warriors hockey team in the second intermission.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov was injured in the second period and didn’t return after getting crushed into the boards in front of Washington’s bench by Leo Komarov. Kuznetsov fell to the ice in a fetal position before heading down the tunnel to the Capitals locker room with an apparent left shoulder injury. With things already not going that well for the Capitals, the last thing they need right now is injury problems.
- John “Johnny Norris” Carlson got himself a goal on a blast that looked for a hot second like it could have been Alex Ovechkin’s 699th career goal. It was Carlson’s 15th goal of the season, and he later added an astonishing 52nd point on the year with an assist on a power play tally by TJ Oshie. He’s putting up crazy numbers for a defenseman.
- Now let’s talk about the “defense” part of “defenseman,” which was... not good, again, as he was on the ice for — and complicit in — three of the Islanders’ five goals. On the first of Anthony Beauvillier’s opening two tallies in the first six minutes and 16 seconds, Carlson attempted a lazy poke check — or at least I think that’s what it was supposed to be — on Brock Nelson that turned into a give-and-go opening score. Then Carlson lazily skated backward as Josh Bailey enter the zone and never attempted to make a check, allowing Bailey to set up Devon Toews (who had already completely blitzed Carlson’s defensive partner Michal Kempny) for another Islanders goal. And on the Islanders’ fifth goal, Carlson was nowhere to be found.
- Two days after Braden Holtby got slammed for seven goals, on which little blame could be placed on him, he redeemed himself a bit in relief of Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov didn’t exactly get the support he needed from the team in front of him, but he did give up a weak goal or two, the second-consecutive shaky outing for the rookie netminder. With Holtby replacing him in net, the Capitals attempted to claw back into the game, potting two goals with the veteran netminder between the pipes — a 12 save effort that prompted “Holt-by” chants from the hometown crowd.
- The Capitals’ power play, which is 29th in the league since the beginning of December, continues to rely on zone entries via the “slingshot” — and the result continues to be muddled and ineffective. At some point, they’ve got to stop doing the thing that doesn’t work (although that could really apply to the power play as a whole, and many other things as well).
- Fix this. All of this.
The Capitals now go on a three-game road trip, heading out west to take on the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights. Ovechkin stills stands two goals away from 700 — and while it’s possible that this incredible achievement may come on the road, it will still be an indelible moment in NHL history.
Or, hey, maybe it will be next week at home against the Montreal Canadiens. Either way, we’ll see you here Thursday for the Caps date with the Avs. Maybe the road trip will do the Capitals some good.
Here’s the part where I sum how the game went, so here it goes: poorly.