Saturday, February 12, 2011
A NO-point afternoon -- Game 56: Kings 4 - Caps 1
The Capitals buried the needle on the suck-o-meter in losing this afternoon’s game to the Los Angeles Kings, 4-1, in what might have been their worst team effort of the season. The rooting portion of the afternoon for Caps fans lasted all of 66 seconds, the time it took for the Caps to get their only goal of the afternoon. Kings’ defenseman Willie Mitchell threw the puck across ice at the Capitals’ blue line to a wing vacated by teammate Drew Doughty. Alex Ovechkin picked it up curled into the Kings’ zone and using Doughty as a screen, he wristed the puck past goalie Jonathan Bernier’s blocker to give the Caps their earliest lead of the season on their first shot of the game.
The Caps fired 22 more shots at Bernier, none of them finding the back of the net. Meanwhile, the Kings chipped away at the Caps, eventually tying the game midway through the second period when Anze Kopitar lifted a loose puck over goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Kings then abused the Caps often in the third, registering three scores on the first seven shots they took in the period to win going away and sending the Caps away on a five-game road trip having lost two straight games on home ice and scoring one goal on 48 shots in the process.
-- Even as the Caps were taking a lead early, it didn’t look good. The Kings were establishing possession in the Caps’ zone, the Caps were chipping the puck out and failing to get or maintain any possession. It was as if the game was being played on 130 feet or so of ice, from the Kings’ blue line to the Caps’ end of the ice.
-- The reconstituted top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin recorded a combined total of eight shot attempts and four shots on goal (two in the third period as the Kings were building their lead). Not a top line level of effort.
-- So…about that second line center matter. Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson were a combined minus-3, had one shot on goal, and were five-for-12 on draws, each with 14 minutes and change in ice time.
-- Another oh-fer on the power play. That makes 11-for-105 over their last 32 games (10.5 percent). They are 11-15-6 when failing to score on the power play this season.
-- Jeff Schultz had a difficult game. He was on the ice for the first three Kings goals and looked bad in the process. But he was hardly alone. The Caps looked to be spending a lot of time looking at the puck and not taking the man on the first three Kings goals. In each instance it was a follow-up that did them in – Anze Kopitar following up a play by Wayne Simmonds, Andrei Loktionov following a play by Kyle Clifford, and Michal Handzus taking several whacks at a puck after Kopitar started things, the Caps paying no attention to Handzus as he was chopping away.
--This was the first time the Caps allowed more than two goals in regulation time since dropping a 4-2 decision to Vancouver on January 14th, breaking a ten-game streak of allowing two or fewer goals in regulation time.
-- This makes six losses in a row to Western Conference teams (0-5-1) dating back to a 4-1 win over St. Louis on December 1st. Five of the losses have come on home ice (0-4-1).
-- Officially, Anze Kopitar, Wayne Simmonds, and Willie Mitchell were the three starts of the game. For our money, Andrei Loktionov should have received a star. He seemed to be in the middle of a lot of good things for the Kings, even when they did not score. A goal, five shots on goal, three blocked shots, and four wins in seven draws. He had a solid game.
-- We thought one of the Kings’ 15-goal scorers could get well in this game, and it was Kopitar. His goal broke a ten-game streak without a goal, and it was only his second in his last 21 games. In adding an assist he had his first multi-point game since recording a pair of assists against Nashville on January 6th. He had gone 14 games without recording a multi-point game.
-- Comcast Sports Net had D.J. King as the Caps player of the game. Maybe it was because King was the only Cap who actually played the role he is supposed to play. A fight, four hits, a takeaway in 7:22 of ice time. But if King is the player of the game, well…
-- If there was another candidate for player of the game for the Caps, it could have been Matt Hendricks. Four shots on goal (led the team, with Mike Knuble) and seven hits (led the team). But if King and Hendricks are the best players of the game for the Caps, well…
-- If you were a Cap, and your name was not “David Steckel,” chances are you sucked on draws. Steckel was the only Cap who won a majority of draws (six of ten). The rest of the guys went 11-for-34 (32 percent).
-- The best way to kill penalties is not to take them in the first place. The Caps killed off the only shorthanded situation they faced. That’s four shorthanded situations faced in their last three games. Since allowing three power play goals in six chances to Florida on January 11th, the Caps are 37-for-39 on the penalty kill (94.9 percent) over 13 games.
In the end, the Caps are now in sixth place in the East (Montreal overtook them for fifth place with a 3-0 win over Toronto)...note: OK, they're still in fifth by virtue of fewer games played, but still. And now, they go on a five-game road trip, three of the games to be played on the west coast. At the moment, the Caps cannot be thought of as a Stanley Cup contender. They’re just not. The offense is derelict, the power play incompetent, and the focus absent. The defense had an off game that caught up with them when the Kings finally managed to tie the game in the second period. After that it just got worse. The Caps’ lone score came on a play that the Eastern Conference teams have figured out and taken away – the Ovechkin cut-to-the-middle wrist shot. All in all, it was a brutal effort that was one of too many this season on the part of the Caps. Enough so that any thoughts of a deep Stanley Cup run are becoming more hope than expectation.