|I'm thinking the exact same thing - WTF?|
First off, my apologies for not blogging the past two games. I was in Vermont with a couple of my best friends and was unable to get any internet, at all. From what I gathered, though, I did not miss much, because the Caps dropped two games this week they absolutely had to win. How does Dwayne Roloson manage to have two good games so far in his career as a member of the Lightning, and both have come in the form of shutouts against the Capitals? Yuck.
And guess what? The Capitals continued their losing ways tonight, falling to the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks by a final score of 4-2. With the loss, the Capitals stay in 6th in the Eastern Conference with Montreal idle. However, with the Devils pasting the Lightning 5-2 late in the third, the Caps will only remain two points out of the Southeast Division lead after the conclusion of tonight's play.
The Capitals got off to a poor start once again, letting up multiple early shots and scoring chances and having to be bailed out by Semyon Varlamov early. The Caps had an early chance of their own however when Nicklas Backstrom broke in on Roberto Luongo alone on a breakaway, but was stopped by the Canucks goaltender. The Caps then did something that they hadn't done in almost two weeks, by scoring first when Matt Hendricks took a Boyd Gordon lead pass and beat Luongo on a breakaway of his own to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage. However, the Canucks fired back quickly, tying up the score just over two minutes later when Alex Edler bombed a slapshot through a maze that found the back of the net on Semyon Varlamov. The Canucks continued to press for the remainder of the period, but Varlamov stood tall with 14 saves, and the teams headed to the dressing rooms tied at 1. In the second, however, the Canucks took control of the game. Jason Chimera took a roughing penalty three minutes into the frame and the NHL's best power play made no mistake as Christian Ehrhoff let loose a blast from the point that Varlamov let squeak through his legs for a 2-1 Vancouver advantage. The Canucks had the Caps on their heels after that, continually pressing the Caps zone, but were unable to break through despite another power play opportunity, and the Caps got little going on the other end. Then Daniel Sedin broke in on a breakaway and scored to put the Canucks ahead 3-1, which took almost all of the wind out the the Caps' sails. They were gifted two consecutive power plays late in the frame, but were unable to score and gain any momentum back. In the third, the Caps came out with more energy than before and got another power play, but Luongo stood tall in the Vancouver cage to keep the Caps from scoring again. Washington continued to press, and were finally rewarded at 9:21 when Marcus Johansson took a pass from Nick Backstrom and buried a one-timer past Luongo to bring the Caps within 1. The Caps continued to gain momentum, playing with a real sense of urgency, but could not break through Lunogo again in the final 10 minutes of the game. Daniel Sedin rounded out the scoring with an empty netter inside the 19 minute mark to end the game.
Same song, different verse. The Caps have hit another rut after a promising stretch over the end of December and the earlier stages of this month. They are playing lazy, undisciplined hockey and only play with a sense of urgency when they are losing, not the mark of a winning hockey team. If they want any chance at winning the division, let alone anything in the playoffs, their attitude has got to change.
The Caps' best players are not their best players. My friend Ben Ross texted me during the game that he feels more comfortable with Hendricks, Gordon, and Steckel out there than he does Ovie's line. And he is totally right. Nicklas Backstrom is not what he needs to be. Ovechkin is not what he needs to be. And Mike Green is sacrificing his offense for defense. Those players need to step up for the Caps. You keep thinking that it is going to happen, but it just hasn't.
The power play is in shambles. My high school team had better zone entries. There is no puck support and the Caps' big guns always look to pass instead of shoot, which is unbelievably frustrating to watch. If Boudreau is going to stick with the defense-oriented trap at even strength, the power play has got to score some goals, or the Caps are sunk worse than the Titanic.
The Caps will practice tomorrow at 10:30 before taking on the Senators at home on Sunday in a game that they really have to win before they travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday to take on the conference-leading Flyers.