Monday, December 13, 2010

A NO-point night -- Game 32: Rangers 7 - Caps 0

The Caps have been shut out by worse scores than the 7-0 whitewashing they endured at the hands of the New York Rangers tonight, but not since they lost a 10-0 decision in Toronto… in February of 1977.

That’s right, it has been almost 34 years since the Caps had to take a beating worse than the one they took tonight. A gallon of gas was 65 cents, a load of bread cost 36 cents, and you could buy a new Ford for less than $5,000.

It was the perfect storm of suck that conspired to leave the Caps gasping for air as they lost their sixth straight game… second game in two nights (although it was for the Rangers, too), missing their top two defensemen, playing a team that might have been especially motivated given their recent failures on home ice against the Caps, and a flu bug snaking through the locker room.

You could tell it might not be a pleasant evening when Brandon Prust – he of the ten career goals and 382 penalty minutes in 147 career games – opened the scoring with barely two minutes left in the first period.

When Artem Anisimov scored 59 seconds into the second period, using the Ovechkinesque wrister through the defenseman’s legs and over the goalie’s glove move, you had that queasy feeling this was not going to end well. After Marion Gaborik scored on a deflection – only his second power play goal of the season -- you knew it was going to end badly.

The Rangers made quick work of the Caps in the second, scoring four goals on only ten shots. After that, it was only a matter of whether the Rangers would help Henrik Lundqvist get his fifth shutout of the season among his 13 wins. The Caps managed to send 12 shots his way, but none got through, and the Caps skated off to their worst loss in quite some time.

Other stuff…

-- Two goals on three shots wrapped around the first intermission, three goals on six shots in extending that sequence, and two goals on two shots in the third period. Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

-- The Caps outshot the Rangers 31-20, out hit them 28-26, won the faceoff duel 32-24. No comfort there.

-- Every Cap was “minus” except Eric Fehr. We think even Tomas Fleischmann was a minus-2.

-- From the things had better even out eventually file, Scott Hannan joined the Caps in their game against Dallas on December 2nd. Since then the Caps are 0-5-1 and have allowed 22 goals in those six games. Hannan is 0-0-0, minus-7 (minus-3 tonight), and has been on the ice for nine goals against (six of the last ten scored against Washington).

-- Two hands…on the one hand, Alex Ovechkin had ten shot attempts (four on goal), seven hits, and a fight. Then, with the game out of hand, he still was crowding the net looking to get a deflection or a loose puck and took a shot off his knee ending his night. He can’t be faulted for effort. On the other hand, Ovechkin isn’t being paid for effort, he is being paid for results, and he has two goals in his last 14 games, two power play goals all season (both against Calgary on October 30th, 22 games ago and that being one of only two multi-goal games this year).

-- Who scores games in New York? Three giveaways combined for the two teams?

-- Five straight games allowing three or more goals, six straight allowing at least one power play goal (75.0 percent PK). Uh, about that improved defense…

-- Not that the offense is doing anything… eight goals in six games. This is a team that averaged almost eight goals every six periods last season.

-- The power play is now 3-for-26 on this six-game losing streak.

-- We like Matt Hendricks – a lot. There isn’t any give up in his game, and he does whatever he has to do to keep or get the energy level going. But he cannot be, as he has been in this streak, the best player for the Caps night in and night out. If he is, we’re right back in 2006.

-- On this six-game losing streak the Young Guns are 2-7-9, minus-9, and that is with Mike Green missing the last two games.

-- Brooks Laich extended his own streak without a goal to six games, and he has only two in his last 17. That’s four goals for the top five scorers on this team over the losing streak.

-- At this point in the proceedings we would make a joke about the alternate goalie gambit going to Braden Holtby for a turn – Semyon Varlamov being the latest contestant not to grab his opportunity by the throat (three straight losses, 13 goals on 85 shots faced). But Holtby was lit up for five goals on 30 shots in a 5-3 Hershey loss to Charlotte tonight. Here is your odd Holtby stat… he has allowed 21 goals this season for the Bears in ten appearances, almost half of them in two games – five against Charlotte tonight and five more on November 28th… against Charlotte.

-- You would never mention this when a team is winning, but when they are in a streak like this it is fair game… are there too many distractions around this team?

This was an historic game for the Caps. From our perusal of the media guide, only four times in team history have they been shut out by a wider margin, all of them coming in the desperate days when the Caps were the doormats for the NHL. Well, this team isn’t anyone’s doormat. Some folks might have been of a mind that the one thing this team hasn’t had to solve until it had to in the playoffs was a sense of adversity. Well, they got their wish. This qualifies as adversity. Whether the Caps –players and coaches – can find a way to fight their way through this is going to be a measure of the maturity we hoped they obtained over the past three years.

But if we’re having this same conversation around, say, the Winter Classic, then one would have to wonder long and hard if this team – talented though it might be – is constitutionally capable of winning when it matters.


mattymatty said...

Is it jumping the gun to say if the team is playing like this in a month Boudreau should be fired?

The Peerless said...

There is the part of me that says everyone on this team gets this year as a "last chance." If the Caps don't go far in the playoffs, then the window on this team will have closed -- the moment will have passed it by in favor of the Penguins, Blackhawks, and whoever does win the Cup this year.

And if that happens, then I would expect a clean sweep -- GM, coaches, and a lot of players whose contracts are up.

Jack Hazard said...

"We think even Tomas Fleischmann was a minus-2."

I approve.

Anonymous said...

1) How far is: ..."far into the playoffs" Is winning one or 2 rounds acceptable at this point?
2) I say if they fail to make the conference finals then BB needs to be replaced(if not sooner)
3) I'd say he shouild go now, but as the Post article says I'm in a 25% minority

The Peerless said...

@ Anonymous...

"How far is: ..."far into the playoffs" Is winning one or 2 rounds acceptable at this point?"

There isn't a team in the East likely to make the playoffs that can't beat the Caps. By the same token, there isn't a team in the East likely to make the playoffs that the Caps can't beat.

For me, it comes down to this; the Caps have been bounced out of the playoffs the last three seasons claiming to have taken away a lesson from the defeat. Well...

Lesson 1: Don't let Game 7 come down to one play (Flyers winning in OT in 2008). The Caps scratched and clawed through Game 7 against the Rangers to win Game 7 of that series, but didn't show up in Game 7 of the Penguin series...

Lesson 2: Experience counts. That was the takeaway from the Penguin series in 2009, but it didn't mean a thing when it came to applying the lesson in the Montreal series.

Lesson 3: Close a team out. Losing a 3-1 lead is common in Caps history, but it doesn't make it any more acceptable.

This year, the Caps should have the experience (it isn't a "young" team anymore at important positions, except goaltender), they should be well-schooled in Game 7, and they should have the bad taste of gagging on a 3-1 lead fresh in their mouths.

So, if it's one-and-done, then clean house. If two-and-through...ditto. If they lose in a conference final, I think it all depends on how they go. Losing a 2-0 or 3-1 lead is not acceptable, nor is losing to a "hot goalie." Teams that win close opponents out, and they fight through hot goalies.

The fact is, the window is closing rapidly on this team. It is likely to look very different next year, even if they win. There are a lot of FAs who won't be back, and in my opinion this is the year. If they fail this year, I think we can lay to rest any further talk of the inevitability of a Cup in the Ovechkin era. They might do it, but I can't see how you would pick them to do it.