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Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Goose Egg'd Again

Varly's return could not spark the Caps Friday night.
The Washington Capitals failed to show up tonight in Ottawa, getting beaten by a final score of 2-0 inside Scotiabank Place by the worst team in the East.  Washington ran into a hot goalie and was the victim of some poor officiating, but still looked listless at times and were unable to overcome an undermanned Senators squad, being shut out for the tenth time this year (as opposed to once last year).  Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves in his return to the Capitals lineup after missing more than a month with a knee injury for the Capitals.  With the loss, the Capitals remain seven points clear of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Southeast Division, as the Bolts lost to Carolina tonight, but Tampa also has a game in hand.  The Capitals also remained four points ahead of idle Boston for second in the East, though the Bruins now hold two games in hand.

The game got off to a relatively slow start, with three stoppages in the first 90 seconds and little offensive pressure, though there was a fight at 2:52 betweeen DJ King and Francis Lessard.  Ottawa drew a power play soon after the fight, however, when Scott Hannan was boxed for cross-checking at 3:11.  Semyon Varlamov was pressed into action early in the power play with a couple of nice saves, and the penalty killers stood tall for the rest of the penalty to kill off the chance.  After the penalty expired, the Caps got a little offensive pressure on the Ottawa defense, but weren't able to penetrate Craig Anderson and his defense. The game continued at a bit of a back and forth pace for the next four minutes or so, with neither team getting much going, but the Capitals then got a nice offensive zone shift from their top line, though nothing came of it.  The Senators cam right back, though, forcing a great save from Varlamov on an odd-man rush and then setting up some impressive pressure of their own that had the Capitals defense reeling, as they were forced to ice the puck twice in the span of a minute. The Capitals then caught a break, however, when Erik Condra was sent off for high-sticking Matt Hendricks at 17:34 for the first Washington power play of the game.  The power play was fruitless, however, with only a two shots and little sustained zone time on the attack.  After the penalty expired, the remaining 34 seconds expired without incident, and the first period ended with the Sens and Caps deadlocked at 0.
The Senators got of to a good start in the second period, as Jesse Winchester broke in on a breakaway just nine seconds in, but Varlamov was able to flash out the pad in time to deny Ottawa from taking the lead.  About three minutes later, however, Alexander Semin was penalized for hooking at 3:39, which gave Ottawa their second power play of the game.  The Caps killed off the penalty easily, and Semin broke in alone right after he was set free from the box, but Anderson made a great save on him and then on Brooks Laich soon after to keep the game tied.  Washington was soon awarded a power play of their own, however, when Chris Neil was boxed for interference at 7:04.  The Capital power play got off to a great start with marvelous chances on Anderson, but the Ottawa goalie made several spectacular saves to keep Washington off the board, and the Senators killed off the penalty.  Soon after, the Senators got another good period of pressure, and it payed off at 13:25 when Colin Greening forced a puck through Varlamov for a 1-0 Ottawa lead.  The goal was reviewed to see if the puck was kicked in, but the call stood, and the Senators then came out hard soon after to put the Caps on their heels again.  The Capitals defense was able to hold off the hard onslaught that came at them, but then, instead of pushing back, allowed the game to drop into a lull as Ottawa attempted to start shutting the game down.  The rest of the period ran out without anything significant, and Ottawa took a 1-0 lead to the locker room after the middle stanza.
The Capitals got off to a good start in the critical third period, taking shots at Anderson early, but the Ottawa goalie was again up to the task.  The Senators then broke right back, and took a 2-0 lead when Milan Michalek stole a puck in the corner and fed it in front to Erik Condra, who beat Varlamov five-hole at 2:12. Washington tried to get something going right after the goal, but began to be totally shut down by the Senators, who had no trouble stopping them in the neutral zone and preventing many good shots on Anderson.  Washington was awarded a power play at 7:43 when Nick Foligno was boxed for kneeing Alexander Semin, but again, the power play was fruitless and the Capitals got nothing going on the stout Ottawa defense.  As the third period wore on, DC kept trying to set up more offensive pressure, but simply were unable to as the clock began to tick away.  With about seven minutes left, Matt Bradley took a boarding penalty in the corner, but it was negated when Zack Smith instigated a fight with the Professor right after the hit.  Now desperate, the Capitals again tried to break through Anderson again, but the Senators goalie was simply magnificent on every shot.  Dennis Wideman then took a slashing call to try to break up a breakaway at 15:32, which effectively ended DC's comeback hopes.  The Senators then just bled out the last two and a half minutes, and the Caps were shut out for the tenth time this season.

Observations:

Yuck.  This, Caps fans, is what you call "playing down to the competition."  The Senators are the worst team in the Eastern Conference.  They are missing their best defenseman and their captain, who is their best forward.  You would think that the Capitals might win this game rather easily, coming off a win over the best team in the East on Tuesday.  You would be wrong.  Washington made mistakes all night and showed the inability to finish that has plagued them all year.  Craig Anderson was good, but the Caps still should have beaten him.  This was a terrible, terrible loss.

Semyon Varlamov looked okay tonight.  The Russian had no chance on the first, and deciding, goal, as he was both interfered with and the puck was kicked into the net, but the second one has GOT to be stopped.  That goal took away all of the momentum that the Caps have built over the first part of the third period and ended the game on a night where it was going to take a miracle to beat Craig Anderson anyway.  I'm not about to pin this loss on a guy who hasn't played in over four weeks, because he played well at times, but if he wants to be the man in the playoffs, he has to be better.  Period.

If I had to take a positive?  Marcus Johansson...again.  The young Swedish pivot was all over the place, driving his legs and using his speed to try and create plays all night, though he was a miserable 1-for-10 in the faceoff circle.  He was so good that Bruce Boudreau even yanked Nicklas Backstrom from the top line center role late in the game and put MoJo there instead.  This kid is for real, and if the Capitals all come back healthy, the trio of him, Backstrom, and Arnott is going to be a pretty awesome lineup down the middle.  That is, if, the Capitals can get healthy.

No time to dwell on this pathetic showing as the Capitals are right back in action Saturday night against the Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada.  The Canadiens, playing their last Saturday night home game of the year in front of their always raucous fans, will be attempting to recover from a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of the Bruins on Thursday.  Think that atmosphere will be electric?

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