Honestly, this loss means absolutely nothing to me, and it shouldn't bother you, either. Nikolai Khabibulin partied like it was 2004 tonight, and sometimes these things just happen. You get beaten by a goaltender when you outplay an inferior team. And make no mistake, the Oilers are an inferior team. But as you can tell from my quip above, they are not the worst team in the league anymore. Frankly, it's not even close. And with the news that the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (details here), is staying up for the entire year, they're not going to go away. That line is going to be terrorizing the Western Conference for the next 73 games as well as the next 15 years.
But enough gushing about the Oilers. This is a Caps blog, and last night, the Caps got beat. So what went wrong, besides Khabibulin playing out of his mind? Don't you dare panic.
Too many penalties. If you take nine penalties in a game, whether they were actual penalties or not, you're going to lose, especially against a team with so much talent up front as the Oilers. That's a discipline problem that lies deeper than one game, but you get these games from time to time where you literally can't do anything without getting called. Despite that fact, though, this is a trend that can't go on. Don't let the referees take over the game, adapt your game. No more excuses.
Stationary power plays. On the Caps' 6-on-4 power play late in regulation that gave them a golden opportunity to tie the game, Nicklas Backstrom won the faceoff cleanly and got the puck to Dennis Wideman. Over the next 30 seconds, I counted nine passes and not a single shot towards the net. The Caps talk and talk about shooting more on the power play, and when they do it, it works. However, they usually do it when they're already winning or the power play isn't crucial. They have to get that shoot first mentality on ALL of their power plays, because when the playoffs roll around, there are going to be a ton of critical late game man advantages that they have to be better on.
One positive note: the team defense Thursday night must have been spectacular, with only nineteen shots allowed, the lowest total of the season. Though the Caps had been winning before, they had been giving up way too many shots, and that was remedied against the Oilers. When you give up 19 shots in a game with Tomas Vokoun in Nets, you're going to win most of the time.
So, I say: 7-1 ain't too shabby. On to the next one.