Saturday, November 01, 2008

A NO-point night: Sabres 5 - Caps 0

It was a team effort.

On a night when Brent Johnson was the most effective Cap, that’s about the best you can say about a 5-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in which the Caps were never competitive…at all…ever…in 60 minutes of, well, play (I guess).

Johnson was the one on the end of the bench in the baseball cap.

You’d like to think that this loss was just a stinker, but you know, this is getting to be a concern. That’s 13 goals allowed in the last three games and the fourth time in ten games this year that the Caps have allowed five or more goals. This is not, by any measure you’d care to use, as much as a competent defensive team. They’re bad, and there isn’t any way to sugar coat that. From the goaltender out, they are a poor defensive team. Tonight was no exeception…

Twice, the Sabres scored in the last minute of regulation. In 30 periods of regulation play so far this season, the Caps have surrendered a goal in the first or last minute of eight of them. That’s eight goals of the 33 that the Caps have surrendered. It’s happened five times in nine periods in the last three games. That’s just a lack of attention. Keep that up, and there won’t be any “rocking the red” in April.

Of course, giving up goals in the last minute of play has its complement – Thomas Vanek (did the Caps not cover this guy in the pre-game meetings?) scored on the first shot of the game.

Only two skaters – John Erskine and David Steckel – stayed out of the minus column. Even Shaone Morrisonn (who left with an injury after only 6:03 of playing time) managed to finish with a -1.

The Caps just yielded too much of the ice to the Sabres. The five goals were scored from a combined total of 61 feet. That wasn’t as much a case of a lack of physicality in close as it was just not covering or keeping up with guys.

Here is another indicator of that…the Caps had only seven blocked shots. No one was close enough to a Sabre to get in the way; there were just too many rushes and open looks.

Of the 29 shots the Caps took, 16 of them were from above the circles. Any wonder why Ryan Miller pitched a shutout?

The Caps are 0-3-1 in games in which they score fewer than four goals. That’s an indicator that goalies aren’t stealing any games. Of course, the only way a goalie steals a game when his team doesn’t score is in a Gimmick. But if the Caps have to score four to win on a nightly basis…well, like we said, there won’t be any “rocking the red” in April.

We’re convinced…Nicklas Backstrom has an injury. That has to be it.

Did Viktor Kozlov dress tonight?

Oh, let’s just say it…the top line was awful tonight. No points, four shots (three by Backstrom), -3. If Ovechkin is that important, he shouldn’t win a Hart, he should get a Nobel Prize for Hockey.

It’s the fourth time in ten games that the Caps have had to kill off at least seven shorthanded situations (the number tonight was eight). That’s just too much time expending a lot of energy and getting out of the substitution rhythm.

Here’s an example of balance. The teams were relatively even in shots (Washington led, 29-27), but while the Caps had a total of 11 skaters taking shots, the Sabres had nine with multiple shots, none with more than four. Buffalo played its game, the Caps did not.

There were 56 faceoffs in the game. Derek Roy took 25 of them for the Sabres (he won 13, the only Sabre to win a majority of his draws). That just strikes us as an odd result.

And here is your bedtime stat…since the lockout, of the 24 teams making the playoffs out of the Eastern Conference only five have won fewer than 20 road games. Only one – the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2005-2006 – finished the season with a below-.500 road record. The Caps are 2-4-0 away from Verizon Center.

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