When the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs took the ice on Tuesday night, they averaged nine goals a game on offense between them. That alone made the matchup one that could feature a lot of goals. Things did not turn out that way as the Leafs took a low-scoring duel by a 2-0 margin at Capital One Arena.
And even that final score did not capture how close to the vest this game was played. The teams went scoreless for the first 45 minutes before Toronto took the lead. The Caps were unable to clear the puck out of their own end, and Morgan Rielly settled the puck just inside the Caps’ blue line. His shot bounced through to goalie Braden Holtby, who made the original save. He left the rebound just out of reach, though, and Connor Brown stuffed it between the pads at the 5:53 mark of the period to make it 1-0.
That was all the Leafs needed, but they added an empty net goal by Nazem Kadri in the last minute, and Frederik Andersen stopped all 30 shot he faced for the win in the 2-0 shutout.
-- The last time the Capitals were shutout on this ice sheet was also a 2-0 score, that coming in Game 7 of last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins to end their season. Ironic, ain’t it?
-- Brooks Orpik had almost half the blocked shots (four) that the Caps recorded for the evening (nine).
-- This was the first time in Capitals history that they were shut out by Toronto on home ice. The last time the Maple Leafs shut out the Caps was in a 3-0 Leafs win in Toronto on March 6, 2007.
-- The Caps did hold Auston Matthews to one shot on goal and just three shot attempts in 17 minutes of ice time.
-- Tyler Graovac got a sweater for this one, but it might not have to be laundered. He skated just 3:19 before he left in the second period with an upper-body injury.
-- Hey kids, buck up. The Caps were 3-2-1 after six games last season, just as they were before this game to start this season. Then again, the Caps didn’t lose their second home game until their sixth contest on home ice in Game 12 of the season. They are just 1-2-0 on home ice at the moment.
-- John Carlson had seven shot attempts. That’s the good news; he’s being active from the back end in the offensive zone. The bad news is, only two of those seven attempts made it to the net. Five were blocked.
-- Andre Burakovsky showed signs of life. He had four shots on goal, a number not seen since Opening Night in Ottawa. He had a total of two shots on goal in his last four games before this one.
-- The Caps hit the 30-shot mark for the first time this season. And wouldn’t you know it would come while getting shut out. The hockey gods have an odd sense of humor.
-- Braden Holtby has brushed off that iffy game against Ottawa to open the season. Since then he has a goals against average of 1.77 and, after stopping 28 of 29 shots last night, a .945 save percentage in four appearances. Unfortunately for Holtby and the Caps, his record in those four games is 2-2-0.
In the end…
There was good and bad to take away from this game. The good…they stopped a very productive offensive team cold. One goal allowed against a goaltender 45 minutes into the game against a team averaging more than five goals a game can’t be considered bad. But the bad…failing to score on home ice against a team allowing almost four goals a game. At some point, the bottom six and defense have to show something on offense. Not every night, but from time to time. They haven’t done much so far, and it was on display last night.
The early schedule for this season is not kind to the Capitals, and it gets more difficult over the next two weeks. Four of their next five games are on the road, three of them coming in their annual trip to western Canada. What is more, four of those games will be played in two back-to-back sets, at Detroit and against Florida, and at Edmonton and at Calgary next week. If the Caps cannot find a way to put more pieces of their game together over more games, they could find themselves looking up at a lot of teams by the time they wrap up their first dozen games of the season in Alberta next week.