It was a team that couldn’t score (1.80 goals per game), couldn’t keep other teams from scoring (5.00 goals against per game), had traveled more than 5,000 miles for five games and had not yet played a game at home this season.
Yeah, that worked. The Washington Capitals looked for all the world like a team set on playing golf in April, going meekly into the night with a 2-0 loss to the Rangers. The game was not nearly as close as the final score indicated. The Rangers fought the Caps to a draw in the first period, overwhelmed them in the second (a 21-6 edge in shots, a 2-0 edge in goals), and strangled them in the third.
The Rangers got all they needed in the second period. At 4-on-4, John Moore had time and space, using all of the latter and taking precious little of the former to snap a quick release shot over the left shoulder of goalie Braden Holtby, off the crossbar, and into the net to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 12:05.
Less than two minutes later, Ryan Callahan provided what insurance the Rangers would need with the help of sloppy defense from the Caps. Ryan McDonagh started the play by taking a shot that went wide to Holtby’s right. Callahan skated into the corner to retrieve the puck and send it along the end boards to Derick Brassard. While Brassard was moving the puck along to Brad Richards in the other corner, Callahan took advantage of some lackadaisical defense from John Carlson, who turned away from Callahan and left him with a clear line to the front of the net. Richards found Callahan who took the puck, skated through the crease, and then flicked the puck past Holtby uncontested.
Henrik Lundqvist made it all stand up, turning away all 22 shots he faced to shutout the Capitals for the third straight time going back to last spring’s opening round playoff series.
-- For the record, the last goal the Caps scored against Lundqvist came off the stick of Mike Ribeiro at the 9:24 mark of overtime in Game 5 of last spring’s playoff series against the Rangers. Among current Capitals, Joel Ward has the last goal against Lundqvist, a power play goal earlier in that same game.
-- The Caps were outshot 31-16 at even strength. The top line had five ES shots on goal, Alex Ovechkin recording four of them. Does anyone even bother defending Nicklas Backstrom or Marcus Johansson at this point?
-- Ovechkin had eight shots on goal. The rest of the forwards combined? Nine.
-- Six power play shots on goal…Ovechkin had four of them. See a pattern here? Think that pattern is working?
-- Well, at least the Caps ended a streak of three straight games in which a player got his first NHL goal. Jesper Fast had one shot on goal.
-- Martin Erat had 6:20 in ice time. Ten shifts. I made more trips to the refrigerator in this game to refresh my carbonated adult beverages.
-- Hey second line… three shots on goal? Really?
-- But give Brooks Laich of that second line some credit. He might have been the only Capital not wearing goalie pads and not named “Ovechkin” giving an honest effort out there. He had all three of those shots on goal for the second line, drew two penalties, had six shot attempts, had two hits, and blocked two shots.
-- The Caps are the only team in the Metro Division without a point against Metro Division teams (0-2-0).
-- Coming into this game the Rangers had been outscored at even strength, 20-5…yes, 20-5. Last in the league in 5-on-5 goals scored to goals allowed ratio. They outscored the Caps, 2-0. The Caps have now been outscored at evens by an 18-8 margin.
-- 22 shots on goal, 22 shots blocked. Maybe it’s just a Caps thing against this team. The Rangers averaged 16.4 blocks per game in five games coming into this one.
-- Coming into this game the Rangers allowed more goals in the second period than any other team (it’s still true), and the Caps had the sixth highest number of second period goals, yet the Rangers outscored the Caps, 2-0 in the middle frame.
-- The NHL awards three stars for each game. The Rangers had all three in this one (Lundqvist, Richards, and Callahan). Truth be told, if the game had five stars awarded would any of the Caps have earned any of them? Eight? Ten?
In the end… Don’t let the score fool you. The Rangers are not an explosive team. They are opportunistic, and when they get an advantage leave the details to Henrik Lundqvist. That makes the final score seem closer than it was. A couple of wide open chances for Joel Ward aside, were the Caps really all that close to scoring a goal in this game? From our chair, no. Some of that is Lundqvist, but the Caps didn’t make it all that hard on him, either.
The Caps are 2-0-0 against the province of Alberta, 0-5-0 against the rest of North America. As far as this game was concerned, watching the House vote on C-SPAN to reopen the Federal government was more thrilling. Going forward with this team, it is nothing but questions. Are they trying too hard to force the offense through Ovechkin? Does the second line work? Will Marcus Johansson ever take another shot on goal? Would anyone notice if Martin Erat ducked out and went to Ben’s Chili Bowl for a half smoke? Can the Caps schedule more games against teams from Alberta?