The Washington Capitals started badly, got worse, and by the end of the evening were utterly devoid of life, dropping a 5-0 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. In a perverse way, it might have been the most cohesive team effort seen from the Caps in a couple of years. To a man, to a coach, they were awful. How bad?...
-- Two goals 88 seconds apart before the game was barely five minutes old, another goal allowed in the last minute of a period, and a shorthanded goal… 4-0 after less than 26 minutes.
-- Tomas Vokoun had the briefest start of his career, lasting 5:09. He allowed two goals on seven shots. Coach Dale Hunter said he removed Vokoun to “change the momentum.” It worked. Carolina scored two more goals in the next 21 minutes. He probably meant “in favor of the Caps.”
-- Mike Green was on the ice for the first four Carolina goals. He had an excuse; it was his second game back from a lengthy absence. Explain Dennis Wideman being on for three, including Eric Staal’s breakaway shorthanded goal, when Wideman – as the last man back – dove to the ice to try to knock down an errant pass up ice by Marcus Johansson.
-- As for Johansson… in less than 15 minutes he had one shot on goal (two attempts), a giveaway, and lost 13 of 18 draws while going minus-2. He’s the number two center…
-- …unless it is Mathieu Perreault, who in less than 17 minutes had no shots on goal (two attempts) and was minus-1.
-- While the number one center – Brooks Laich – had one shot on goal (two attempts) and lost 10 of 14 draws before taking a seat for the last 10:27 of the game.
-- Then there was the captain. Alex Ovechkin… 15:43, one shot, minus-2, an equipment problem that had him in the locker room for the last six minutes of the second period and most of the third with his head buried in his hands when he was on the bench.
-- Fourteen Caps finished with minus numbers; seven Caps had penalties. Nine Caps finished with at least one shot on goal.
-- The Caps were 6-for-23 on draws in the offensive zone.
-- Carolina had more shots on Washington’s power play (two, one goal) than the Caps did (one).
-- The Caps couldn’t even get a fight right. Matt Hendricks tried with Derek Joslin, but managed only to go off with Joslin on coincidental minor roughing penalties. He got it right the second time, duking it out with Joslin when the two emerged from the box on their coincidental penalties.
-- Five straight games allowing the first goal, five straight games allowing a first period goal, five straight games not scoring one of their own in the first period. You cannot win in this league doing that.
-- Seventeen shots on goal. Along with the 24 they had against Tampa Bay, that makes 41, the same number they had in their last win, that coming against Florida last Friday.
-- Caps have three goals on their last 84 shots on goal, going back to the 5-3 loss to San Jose. A 3.6 percent shooting percentage against Jose Theodore, Mathieu Garon, and Justin Peters?
Down Goes Brown tweeted the following after the game last night…
It is interesting to go back three years and look at that, but one really need not go further at the moment than point number one:
1. Ask yourself the big question: "Can this team--as constructed--ever win a championship?" If the answer is yes -- stay the course and try to find the right formula -- if the answer is no, then plan to rebuild. Don't fake it--really do the analytics and be brutally honest. Once you have your answer, develop the game plan to try to REALLY win a championship. Always run away from experts that say, "We are just one player away." Recognize there is no easy and fast systemic fix. It will be a bumpy ride--have confidence in the plan--"trust and verify: the progress -- but don't deviate from the plan."
OK, so ask it. And for the sake of argument, take Alex Ovechkin out of the mix. Is anyone going to argue that this roster – as constructed – is ever going to win a championship? Even putting Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom back in the mix, this is not an especially deep or talented roster, at least in terms of translating depth or talent into results. How can one say otherwise when you have a whole group of forwards for whom you don’t measure the frequency of goal scoring by games or days, but by weeks and months. When defensemen seem to wander aimlessly around in their own zone. When they can’t win consecutive games on the road (they have not done so in more than two months). When they can’t take advantage of backup goaltenders (they are now 11-11-2 against backups this season). No, backups of backups. Carolina iced their number three goalie tonight with both Cam Ward and Brian Boucher injured, and were shut out.
If this team is not at their brutally honest moment, they can see it from here… 1-4-1 in their last six games, 4-7-3 in their last 14, unable to win consecutive games in their last 16 contests. Last week, Caps season-ticket planholders read this from the owner…
“I’m seeing signs that our team is beginning to adhere to Coach Hunter’s style. It’s not easy to implement new voices and significant changes during the season, but Dale’s philosophy is sinking in, and soon it will become second nature for our players.”
Beginning? After 37 games? Is this team any further along now than they were last December when they started 1-3-0 under Hunter? In those four games the Caps played four teams eligible for the playoffs – St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Florida. Now, they are losing to the Tampa Bay’s and Carolina’s of the league and looking as if they hardly care in the process. Meanwhile, St. Louis is 30-9-7 under their mid-season coaching replacement, and Anaheim is 18-11-6 under theirs. The Caps are 17-16-4 since their coaching change.
The Caps are still only one point out of a playoff spot – a tribute to parity, one supposes – and the playoffs cannot be ruled out. It just would not seem to be the way to bet.